How to Help a Loved One After Rehab
After a loved one returns from rehab, families will likely deal with a mix of emotions. While many just want things to go back to normal, the process of recovery (for the individual and the family) is a lifelong one. When your loved one comes home, they are not “cured.” Addictions must be faced on a daily basis. Think of recovery not as a final destination, but a journey with the potential for missteps. Nonetheless, there are many things you can do to help a loved one after rehab.
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What Should I Expect After My Love One Returns from Rehab?
After a loved one returns from rehab, you can expect things to be different, for a time. Recovery can be a vulnerable, confusing, and awkward time for people. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has outlined four points that can best support an individual in recovery.
|Health||Managing one’s disease/symptoms (i.e. abstaining from use of substances) and making healthy choices that promote physical and emotional well-being|
|Home||Having a stable place to live|
|Purpose||Conducting meaningful daily activities|
|Community||Having relationships that provide support, friendship, love, and hope|
Initially, medical professionals recommend that family members educate themselves about addiction – including the specific substance use disorder (SUD) their loved one suffers from. Learning more about how substances affect your loved one can help you understand their mindset and why addiction is considered a chronic disorder. Alcoholism, an Opioid addiction, and a Meth addiction are all different, and individuals act differently when under the influence of each of these substances. Educating yourself will also help you recognize potential triggers and bad influences. To get started, clear your home of any alcohol or stimulants/intoxicants.
Next, once you’ve set boundaries, you can encourage your loved one to take up some healthy habits to avoid triggers. Most 12-step groups (like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) urge individuals to exercise and participate in activities that keep the mind busy.
Keep communication open with your loved one and be patient. Also, it’s beneficial to be honest and non-judgmental with your loved one. Your trust may have been damaged by the effects of his or her SUD, but working to rebuild these relationships is a vital part of recovery.
Life After Rehab
After returning from rehab, your loved one may need to attend meetings regularly as part of an outpatient rehab program or a support group. During this time, your loved one will need to continue focusing on their sobriety and avoiding stressors that may cause them to relapse. It’s important not to mistake this period of essential self-care as selfishness. Don’t take it personally. As your loved one’s recovery progresses, they will begin to focus on mending other aspects of their life (including relationships, work, and hobbies).
Expect to develop a routine after rehab. Most rehab facilities maintain firm schedules so patients can build habits that contribute to substance-free lives. Studies show that people are more likely to drink or use drugs when they are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
Living with a loved one with a SUD isn’t easy. If you find that you too need support through the transition after rehab, consider attending Al-Anon support group meetings (for the families of those with a SUD), or individual or family counseling.
Al-Anon’s rules for living with a person with a SUD are:
Do not suffer because of the actions or reactions of other people.
Do not allow yourself to be used or abused in the interest of another’s recovery.
Do not do for others what they should do for themselves.
Do not manipulate situations so others will eat, go to bed, pay bills, etc.
Do not cover up for other’s mistakes or misdeeds.
Do not create a crisis.
Do not prevent a crisis if it is in the natural course of events.
Source: Al-Anon Family Groups
Lastly, when living with a person with a SUD, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of relapse. While relapse can happen at any time and should not be met with criticism or judgment, there are a few steps you can take to help your loved one.
How Do I Recognize the Signs of Relapse?
Ordinarily, when someone relapses, there are signs you may be able to spot. For instance, if your loved one begins to reminisce about the “good old days” when they were abusing substances, this could be a sign of potential relapse. If your loved one starts to reconnect with friends who abuse substances or revisit places associated with their addiction, that can also be a sign of relapse.
Other signs of a potential relapse include:
- Sudden changes in behavior or attitude
- Stop attending 12-step or support group meetings
- Losing interest in hobbies
- Keeping secrets or attempting to hide something
How Do I Convince Someone to Go Back to Rehab?
It’s important for family members to remember that relapse is often a part of the recovery process. Few people quit “cold turkey,” and it can be deadly to do so without medical supervision. Once an individual relapses into abusing substances, it’s important they get help as soon as possible. Like other chronic disorders, addiction cannot be treated without medical assistance.
If you believe a loved one has relapsed, approach them calmly, sincerely, and without judgment. Do not confront someone when they are under the influence of a substance. Refrain from accusatory statements. Instead, ask open-ended questions and actively listen – a more constructive strategy than being in “attack mode.” Furthermore, avoid emotional appeals as they tend to make people feel guilty. Feelings of guilt commonly lead to substance abuse as individuals try to “escape” their problems.
When convincing someone to get help, addiction professionals recommend open conversation between two people (so the individual does not feel cornered). Explain to your loved one how a relapse doesn’t mean they can’t get back on track. Suggest they reach out to their sponsor, if they have one. Otherwise, they can contact an outpatient addiction center to receive ongoing support.
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Addiction does not go into remission nor does it disappear over time. Helping a loved one after rehab means providing continual, lifelong support and love. While you cannot do the work of recovery for your loved one, you can encourage them on their journey and help them avoid SUD triggers.
If it’s time for your loved one to reenter addiction treatment, or you need more information about rehab facilities, contact a dedicated recovery specialist today.
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