Knowing the right ways to respond to your loved one recovering from substance abuse can be challenging. It is easy to respond in ways that are not helpful or even harmful. When your loved one is coming home from rehab, it can be unclear how you should be supporting or helping them. This is an important time, and we all want to make the journey to recovery successful.

The Foundation: Be Calm

We will address five specific ways to help transition from rehab to the home below, but the first thing is to be calm. While you are here to support your loved ones, their recovery is not your responsibility. Your responsibility is to be faithful in supporting them as wisely and healthily as you can. Their recovery itself is connected to their response and actions. Do not take more upon your shoulders than you are supposed to take.

Being calm also means being prepared. Simply by reading this, you are already moving in the right direction–you are showing that you desire to learn and be prepared to help your loved one on this journey. Preparation allows you to make wise choices and get ahead of potential problems. The journey will not be smooth, and it will not be without problems. Know this and make peace with it. There will be easy days, and there will be hard days. Preparation and a level head will make the hard days manageable.

Five Ways to Prepare for Your Loved One

Boundaries[1] [2]

While coming home from rehab marks a significant victory in the path of defeating addiction, it is also only the beginning of the journey. Rehab is not a magic pill that removes problems but rather a safe and secure way of starting a new path. Because of these things, boundaries will be essential for anyone returning home from rehab. There are generally pretty strict rules and structures designed to help keep the addicted individual on the right path in rehab. Returning home means there likely is no need for something quite so rigid anymore, but this does not mean that no rules or structure are needed. You and your loved one must have a conversation early on about the boundaries in the home. Sometimes this includes things like the loved one having a chore list, a schedule, accountability when going out, or things of this nature. Usually, it is helpful to gently and lovingly express firm boundaries early on but to allow more freedom and flexibility as things move forward.

A Safe Environment[3]

It is essential that the home and environment the loved one returns to is safe. This can mean different things. The obvious one is safe from physical harm, which of course, should be in place for the loved one. Additionally, a safe environment means one in which the loved one can feel the love and support of their family. Safety also means protection from temptations, to the extent that you and/or the family can do this. Obviously, there must be a balance between helping and supporting your loved one and ensuring your own sustainability and health (after all, you can only help as much as you have the mental health and energy to do so). There will be inconveniences in your life to create a safe environment, but you must be careful to protect yourself mentally and physically. This may sometimes be inconvenient and difficult for your loved one recovering, and finding this balance is where the difficulty and challenge lies.

Signs of Relapse[4]

One of the most challenging aspects of helping a loved one after rehab is the threat and reality of possible relapse. Again, it is important to remember that your loved one’s recovery is not finally your responsibility. However, there may be signs of a possible relapse that allow you to seek further help. Some of the signs include the following:

  • Fixation on the past, especially times in which the substance had been abused
  • The return of friends or family connected to substance abuse for the loved one or who have encouraged it previously.
  • Sudden negative changes in behavior
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies

Returning to our foundational principle, it is important to remain calm if you should see any or multiple of these items. Observe, do your best to understand, and seek advice or wisdom from a counselor for further steps. Sometimes confrontation is needed, but sometimes this can push your loved one further away and back towards the abused substance. While you are not responsible for the choices they make, you do have opportunities to be more or less effective in guiding them in the right direction.

Support and Judgment[5] [6]

Finding the right ways to be supportive while avoiding the negative elements of judgment can be a difficult part of welcoming your loved one home from rehab. As we have already laid out above, there are various ways of supporting your loved ones and their journey. This often requires the balance of being supportive without enabling or allowing them to take advantage of you. Sometimes judgment and judgmental attitudes can slip into this process, though. This can be very subtle but is definitely felt by your loved one. One way this manifests is in your beliefs about their guilt and responsibility for their substance abuse or in your wanting them to know how much you are sacrificing to help them. While these things are true somehow, they are not the right attitude for us to help people. Support comes from a place of love. Love looks at someone who is struggling without labeling them as guilty for their faults. They have things they struggle with, like everyone else, including you. Their problems are more pronounced or less socially desirable, but they are human and struggling at the bottom. Love and support can be aware of their problems and still approach from empathy rather than judgment.

Education

This way of preparing for your loved one coming home is likely the easiest to understand but can be easily overlooked. Especially if you have never struggled with substance abuse, it won’t be easy to understand what your loved one is going through. Reading and learning about the nature of substance abuse, withdrawal symptoms, the specific substance abused by your loved one, and reading articles like this one are all ways of preparing for your loved one’s arrival. Your loved ones may not fully appreciate what you are doing early on, but they will see and appreciate the love and support you display in the long one.

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