Receiving a loved one home from treatment can be a confusing time for the individual in early recovery and his or her loved ones. The love and support of friends and family members significantly enhance the potential for long-term abstinence from illicit substances. Here’s what to expect when your loved one comes home from a substance abuse treatment program and how you can help.

My Loved One Finished Treatment—Now What?

Addiction is a powerful mental health disease that changes the structure of the brain and how it functions. During treatment, several methods of therapy are utilized to correct thought patterns, treat co-occurring disorders and enhance self-care.

Anger management, communication, accountability, and healthy habits for the mind and body are focal points in treatment that are often easy to spot in loved ones at home in early recovery.

Transitioning from a treatment center in which daily interactions revolve around healing one’s addiction to a home environment where a trigger could be around any corner can be unnerving, but a healthy support system at home is a significant benefit to his or her fortitude.

Loved ones may recognize healthier lifestyle choices, such as physical activity and healthier diet choices. Strict boundary adherence and flawless dedication to aftercare shows a commitment to sobriety once they are home from treatment.

Supporting Versus Enabling

For many who feel compelled to help their addicted loved one in any way they can, it’s difficult to recognize when “help” turns to “hurt.” If you care for a recovering person who recently returned home from treatment and you’re not sure if your help is hurting his or her recovery, here are a few of the questions that Dr. Karen Khaleghi, Ph.D. suggests that you ask yourself:

• Do you find yourself resenting the responsibilities you take on?

• Do you consistently put your own needs and desires aside in order to help someone else?

• Do you ever feel fearful that not doing something will cause a blow-up, make the person leave you, or even result in violence?

• Do you continue to offer help when it is never appreciated or acknowledged?

Supporting a hard-earned recovery by allowing your loved one to take responsibility for personal actions is crucial to long-term recovery. Encourage him or her to attend meetings or refer to the aftercare plan crafted in treatment. These can help to reinstate the conviction for sobriety attained in treatment after a loved one has returned home from rehab.

If you find that it is difficult to break away from actions that are enabling an addicted loved one, you could be co-dependent.

Individual therapy and support meetings for friends and family of addicts, such as Co-Dependents Anonymous, is available for co-dependents, which is recommended to further heal family members affected by the disease of addiction.

Welcoming a Recovered Loved One Back Home

Those who will be living with a recovering alcoholic or addict just home from treatment should be prepared to make some changes when it’s time for the return home from rehab. No alcohol should be in the home and medications should be locked away. The risk of relapse is highest in early recovery; keeping these substances inaccessible decreases the risk of relapse.
Carole Bennett, MA discusses the importance of a recovery plan for the early days after treatment. “It is important to do this recovery contract together and in writing. This way, neither of you can say that they didn’t ‘understand’ what was said, or what was expected.”

A recovery plan should include expectations of the newly clean and sober person as well as the method he or she intends to use to reach them, a date that you will check in with the individual and consequences if expectations are not met. In addition, family members should dedicate time together to engage in active and fun activities for deeper healing.

Further, it’s important for family members to gain an understanding of addiction and to learn the signs of a possible relapse before welcoming your loved one home from treatment. Mood changes, lost interest in aftercare, isolation, and rationalization are signs that a relapse could be happening soon.

Long-Term Recovery

Honest and open communication is vital in the healing of previous distress in your relationship. Working through misunderstandings respectfully goes a long way in rebuilding a relationship with your loved one and also helps to heal old wounds. Recognition for how far he or she has come often means a lot to one in recovery; take opportunities to acknowledge your observations out loud.

Encouraging your loved one to make sober friends and go to group therapy meetings are also great ways to support your loved one in their journey. However, avoid bringing up the past whenever possible and stay away from the blame-game. You may have several questions about your loved one’s return, how to set healthy boundaries, or what is the best living arrangement for your loved one now that they are in recovery. Remember, progress, not perfection.

You have a unique opportunity to strengthen your loved one’s chance for long-term recovery through love and support when he or she returns from the treatment center.