Supporting a Loved One Returning From Treatment

When a loved one admits to an addiction to drugs or alcohol, professional treatment is usually the resulting course of action. Often, this treatment involves an inpatient stay at a rehabilitation facility, where the addicted person will undergo intensive behavioral therapy to examine the issues involved with the addiction and to learn new ways of coping with life. After navigating the treatment process, it will be time to reintegrate into society to begin life post-rehab. Leaving treatment and returning to outside life can be challenging for a person who is battling an addiction, and it can also post unique challenges for those closest to them.

What to Expect

Because every person and every addiction are unique, every recovery is also unique. Recovering from an addiction is hard work. Patients usually experience myriad intense emotions that can change quickly and frequently. Examination of the feelings that motivate addictive behaviors can be brutal at times, and the addicted person may feel angry or sad. Some people lash out at others in anger, while others feel depressed. Some people may become quiet and distant during recovery as well.

Understanding Treatment

Navigating the stages of recovery can be an all-consuming and overwhelming process for an addicted person. This could be the first time your loved one has been fully free of the effects of drugs or alcohol for an extended time. This means that many everyday situations and occurrences will feel different or even foreign when they experience them in a sober state. It may take time for your loved one to adjust to these changes, and you may need to make some adjustments as well.

When someone is an inpatient at an addiction facility, days are very structured and filled with a variety of positive activities. Patients usually have different types of therapy sessions scheduled at specific times of the day as well as meals, snacks, visits, outings, and other activities that fill all of their waking hours. Transitioning from this type of environment to a less confined lifestyle after rehabilitation can feel scary for many people. The addicted person suddenly has full responsibility for all of their choices and actions again, which takes time to get used to.

Coping After Inpatient Treatment

Part of inpatient rehabilitation involves preparing patients for discharge. Counselors help patients develop comprehensive plans for their continued sobriety to help with the transition. These plans usually involve education about the typical feelings and experiences that people go through after discharge. Counselors also help patients plan specific actions to take when they are faced with stressful situations that could trigger a relapse. These coping mechanisms are designed to take the place of the addictive behavior that has been stopped.

How Family and Friends Can Help

Family and friends can help a loved one adjust successfully to sobriety after inpatient rehabilitation. Family members in particular often feel very afraid of a relapse, and they want to do anything possible to help the addicted person avoid this. While this interest and investment are admirable, it’s best to realize that sobriety will always be the addicted person’s choice. You can’t prevent a relapse, and you can’t cause one, either. Immediately after discharge, you might meet with them to ask about their needs and expectations so you can provide the desired emotional support. Strive to be honest and straightforward with them. It’s also helpful to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on your loved one, especially during the first weeks and months, when recovery needs to be their top priority. Your loved one must have the freedom to devote time to therapy and meetings, so avoid scheduling other commitments if they will interfere with these activities. Be as encouraging and understanding as possible as your loved one navigates the first days, weeks, and months of sobriety. Showing that you care with your interest and positive support will likely be an important part of your loved one’s recovery.