Rehab was the first big step, but now it’s time for recovery. The excitement of feeling empowered by being sober is the honeymoon phase when people just out of treatment are optimistic but may have unrealistic expectations. It’s also a time of adjustment for family members who don’t know what to expect.
Plan for Success During RecoveryKnowing what to do when a loved one comes home after a month or more at a residential facility helps ease the transition. One of the most important tasks at hand is to sit down as a family and agree on responsibilities. Fresh out of treatment, a person in recovery needs a schedule and a plan for free time. Preventing relapse takes realistic expectations of what a person can handle at work, school or at home. On the flip side, this isn’t a time for imposing strict rules or a rigid schedule. Just as addiction treatment works by involving the addict at every step, recovery takes the same involvement. It’s up to the person in recovery to manage her time and figure out the best ways to avoid stress and temptation. She’s the one who knows best how to manage ups and downs.
While it’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, family members need to remain supportive but realistic. People tend to hope for the best and fear the worst – and be completely unsure of their new role in a family member’s life. Yes, it’s a tightrope walk for everyone involved, but it’s time for the person in recovery to take chances while family members act as a the safety net.
Some families, especially a family with an adolescent just out of rehab, want to develop a list of goals and consequences. The agreement may include an expectation of certain grades or goal of looking for work. Developing a list of goals and a timeline to achieve them helps everyone understand what’s expected and know if or when things get off track.
Without careful planning the best intentions destabilize an already tenuous situation. As the family prepares to be a true support to a loved one in recovery, here are 10 things to avoid to improve a loved one’s ability to remain clean and sober:
- Don’t nag. It’s natural to want to encourage a loved one to make positive choices, but he may see repeated comments about ways to fill time – or not fill time – as intrusive.
- Don’t force him to deal with old issues. In time, everyone begins work on the problems that occurred during active addiction, but in early recovery, he needs to focus on stabilizing himself first.
- Don’t continually remind him of how his addiction hurt the family or individual members. He knows. He was there. He’s heard it before. Right now, the focus needs to remain on the positive things he’s done and is doing.
- Don’t try to make his choices for him. He has to make his own mistakes, choose his new direction in life, and make personal connections with others all on his own.
- Don’t “clean up” his messes. If he makes a mistake, don’t try to remove the consequences for him.
- Don’t take on the responsibility of saving him. Ultimately, no one else can stop someone from relapsing if that’s what he’s going to do. He must make his own choices.
- Don’t refuse to believe anything he says. There were trust issues during his active addiction, and there may be trust issues going forward – but there may not be either. Give him the benefit of the doubt but don’t trust blindly.
- Don’t avoid giving him positive support and encouragement. Keep comments upbeat and encouraging and notice when he makes positive changes or when his choices serve him – and others – well.
- Don’t accompany him every time he leaves the house. He needs space and freedom to make good choices for himself without someone standing over him.
- Don’t check his phone. Or his car. Or his bag. Or his wallet. He has a right to privacy and past actions are not necessarily an indication of future choices.
Research shows one of the most common reasons families fall short during recovery is due to a lack of information. Family members who are involved with a loved one during treatment, ideally through family therapy sessions, learn about the challenges of addiction and recovery. To give a loved one the best chance, a family needs to rebuild trust and work through misunderstandings. Talking about what’s going on helps avoid pent-up emotions. Something as simple as a daily family meal is a good time to check up regularly and show each other love.
Addiction Treatment and After Care
If your family member has not yet been to rehab, the best way to help him out of addiction is to connect him with effective, evidence-based treatment. Contact us at Michael’s House today to learn more about how we can help your loved one begin the healing process after addiction.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.) Session 5: Roadmap for Recovery. PowerPoint Presentation. Retrieved. Apr. 3, 2017 from https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA12-4153/roadmap_for_recovery.ppt.
 Bennett, Carole. (2010). My Loved One Is Getting Out of Rehab – Now What? The Huffington Post. Retrieved Apr. 3, 2017 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carole-bennett/my-loved-one-is-getting-o_b_509277.html.
 EnglandKennedy, E. S., & Horton, S. (2011). “Everything that I thought that they would be, they weren’t:” Family systems as support and impediment to recovery. Social Science & Medicine. Retrieved Apr. 3, 2017 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953611004461.