Rehab is just the first stage of the journey an individual must travel to return to a normal life in recovery. When loved ones return from a treatment center, friends and family may be unsure about what kind of support to provide and when they should step back to allow individuals to manage the situation on their own.
Treatment has provided these individuals with a number of strategies and tools to manage their emotions and cravings, and they should be allowed to utilize these tools for their everyday needs. Addiction experts recommend a number of actions you can take to help your loved one navigate the post-treatment period after coming home.
Good Planning Can Support Successful Outcomes
The post-treatment period is a sensitive time not only for addicts but also for everyone around them. Friends and family may have experienced lying, theft and a variety of other negative behaviors that they must try to put aside in the interests of making a new start.
The recovering individual has a big job to do that includes learning to cope with everyday frustrations and failures without the crutch of the substance. You can help the individual develop a workable plan for daily life. This could include a list of daily responsibilities and a schedule for attending meetings or counseling sessions, but it should also include a period of free time for reflection and personal enjoyment. These activities should always be based on reasonable expectations for the individual at their current state of ability.
The structure of a daily schedule can provide stability and encourage positive use of time. Of course, individuals should be directly involved in creating a workable schedule for themselves. Adolescents who have completed treatment may require a bit more supervision in developing goals and understanding consequences.
Resolve to Avoid Nagging
Everyone knows that nagging can have a countereffect. Being constantly nagged can arouse feelings of resentment and resistance, which can have the opposite effect you would want in an individual trying to rebuild a productive life. Moms, in particular, often find themselves constantly reminding their adult children in recovery to do certain things and perform beneficial tasks. However, you should resist this impulse whenever possible.
The recovering addict is working on developing inner controls and positive habits. This effort can be undermined by the constant nagging of loved ones. Step back and allow the person to develop these skills gradually while you praise their positive actions.
Leave Old Issues in the Past
Friends and family can provide support for the recovering individual by avoiding any mention of issues that may have occurred during the period of addiction. There may be a number of problems that existed previous to the substance use and may have even contributed to it. However, stabilizing their behavior and actions in normal life should be the main task being handled by the individual in recovery.
After they have some mastery of coping strategies in the present, a look back into previous problems can begin. Loved ones can help prevent recovering addicts from falling into old patterns by encouraging them to implement their treatment strategies while moving toward the future with a more hopeful, positive outlook.
Avoid Mentioning How Addiction Has Hurt the Family and Others
The behaviors associated with substance use and addiction often cause severe damage to relationships and can lead to social embarrassment for family members and friends. If the addiction has gone on for a period of time, the number of these occasions may be significant and may even be in quite recent memory. However, it’s helpful to not mention how much family members or friends have been affected by these events.
Chances are that the recovering individual remembers these incidents very clearly and is dealing with the resulting shame and distress. If you avoid emphasizing this aspect of the past, you can help your loved one stabilize during the initial recovery period. If old resentments continue to affect the relationship, counseling as a group can be a good option. Studies show that family therapy can be a helpful measure for dealing with the lingering resentment and trust issues that have been caused by addiction.
Resist the Urge to Make Decisions for Him or Her
Family members often have to resist the urge to manage the recovering addict in the same way that they have had to do in the past. This is important because this type of behavior takes responsibility out of the hands of the individual who really needs the practical experience of making daily decisions and applying the techniques that will help maintain sobriety.
Family and friends can be available to act as a sounding board and support, but they should avoid imposing their own views on how the individual should progress. These decisions need to be done at the individual’s own pace and in a manner that is comfortable for him or her.
Don’t Clean Up the Consequences of Mistakes
Developing a successful strategy for maintaining sobriety can be an up-and-down process. Everyone’s life is different, and each person must learn to manage a variety of emotions and circumstances that arise daily. Mistakes will be made by the recovering addict. These mistakes may include not attending meetings, not taking medication, taking on a stressful job too quickly or fraternizing with people from the past.
Your task is to allow these mistakes to happen without running in to “fix” the situation in some way. Let recovering individuals experience the consequences of their actions and determine the remedy on their own terms. Of course, you can be on hand to listen and be the sounding board for ideas.
Don’t Take On Responsibility for Bad Decisions
When the inevitable mistakes occur, parents, siblings and close friends often want to rush in to help restore the situation for the person in recovery. Although this may make them feel better, it can be a mistake for the addicted person. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is one of the most essential concepts of addiction treatment.
If the person has crashed the car, lost a job or failed to maintain a relationship, those closest to him should get out of the way and allow the recovering individual the space to take responsibility for the problem. Although the situation may seem like a step backward, it presents an important opportunity for addicts to learn how to manage their lives effectively.
In some cases, the setback may be a relapse into substance use. Relapses are common during recovery and are not a sign that treatment has failed. In fact, it is often an impetus to learn more effective skills for recovery. In this case, you should support decisions that are made and encourage the person to do whatever is necessary to repair the situation.
Begin to Rebuild Trust
The process of rebuilding trust in a relationship can be a tenuous one. Particularly in cases when the addiction has gone on for years, there may have been many breaches of trust that leave resentment, disappointment and even fear about being hurt again. These feelings are normal and should be acknowledged and admitted.
All parties should be aware that the rebuilding of trust can only occur over a period of time. When needed, group or individual counseling can help manage these emotions. Providing an honest and encouraging environment helps re-establish these bonds, and it can be a particularly important part of the recovery process for the individual.
Look for Opportunities to Praise and Encourage
The period after treatment can be one that provokes tension and anxiety for all involved. Maintaining realistic expectations can help alleviate the stress so that everyone can feel more comfortable during the initial steps of rebuilding a normal life. If you make a point of looking for positive actions, you will have opportunities to give praise to the individual.
You can also take note of daily actions that advance their recovery strategy and use them to encourage the individual to continue these efforts. If you stay alert to anything positive in the person’s daily life, you can use these incidents to encourage and praise.
Don’t Follow Him or Her Around
Parents, siblings and close friends may feel compelled to stay close to the recovering addict to prevent them from spending time with bad companions and ensure that he or she does not fall into past bad habits. However, the freedom to make one’s own decisions and exercise one’s own inner controls is a fundamental learning task for those in recovery. The process may include testing limits and performing actions in certain ways that seem unusual to the non-addicted person.
Allow loved ones in recovery the space to test their new sobriety in non-threatening ways. This allows them to become more confident in their own actions and decisions. The development of this confidence is an important feature of a successful recovery.
Avoid Intrusions on Privacy
After the negative behaviors involved with addiction, suspicion can be strong in family members and friends. However, it’s important to avoid checking up on the addict by looking at their cellphone texts or listening in on conversations. Intrusions on privacy can only lead to misunderstandings and stress in the relationship. Trust must be re-established organically, and this means respecting the privacy of the individual as you would any other person.
Make Positive New Memories
Families and friends can often heal the emotional breaches that develop from addiction by creating new positive memories that help reinforce bonds with the individual who is recovering. Simple activities such as having a pizza-and-a-movie night, walking through the woods together or cooking a favorite meal can cement relationships and bring a feeling of normalcy that everyone can value. Even painting a room, doing a crossword puzzle or waxing the car together can be a moment of solidarity and stability.
When awkward moments occur, learn to laugh them off with a joke or just change the subject. Keeping the occasion positive and comfortable should be the main goal. The joy in life comes from small moments that are shared and appreciated, so creating them for your loved one in recovery can be both helpful and enjoyable for everyone involved.
By providing emotional support and encouragement during the many difficulties of rebuilding a normal life after addiction, family and friends can be a critical factor for success in the post-treatment period. However, it is essentially the task of the individual to do the daily work of maintaining sobriety using the skills they have learned in rehab to navigate the process. Providing a positive and honest environment in which the person can use these new skills can help them sustain a successful recovery over the long term.