When a loved one who has a substance use disorder decides to enter into treatment it can be both a relief and a challenging time. You may feel helpless and confused about how to best support them while they are in rehab and how to navigate their sobriety once they come home.
Because you are a loved one, you are an important part of their recovery. One of the most valuable tools for an addict in recovery is the support they get from their friends and family who care about them and want to see them get and stay sober.
Here are a few things you can do when you’re able to communicate with, visit, and prepare for them to come home after rehab.
Support Your Loved Ones by Writing Them Letters
If you are able, write letters, send cards and care packages to your loved one while they are in treatment. Stay positive and supportive in your communication. It may be tempting to share the hurt, betrayal, and fear you have felt; but, your loved one needs positivity and support during this time in their recovery. There will be time for you to communicate your feelings as they progress in their treatment. Take the time to share your emotions in a positive way. Receiving mail while in rehab lets your loved one know that you’re still there for them, still care about them, and will continue to support them when they have completed treatment. And it provides a way for you to support but have boundaries. Boundaries are important because some addicts in treatment will use their time to manipulate others. As you write your letters and send your packages, make sure you are encouraging them to be successful and not quit.
Encourage Them to Stay in Treatment
As a supporter of someone in treatment, you may feel that the job was done once they entered into the facility. But in truth, your loved one will likely struggle with the decision to stay in treatment and will probably continue to need encouragement from you that they’re doing the right thing. You can help them to stay committed by encouraging them and reminding them of the reasons why they are there. An addicts mind is not well and not functioning properly. Their addiction or their fear of getting sober may lead them to want to leave treatment. No one likes to face the consequences of an addiction, both personally and relationally. This is where it is important for you as the support structure to do everything you can to encourage them to stay in treatment. This may include positive reinforcement, boundary setting, or offering consequences if they leave. The goal is to get them to stay in treatment “till the miracle happens” as they say. Engage with the staff at the treatment center if you have questions on how you should support your loved one.
If the rehab center provides family therapy, do your best to attend these sessions. This shows not only your commitment to their sobriety, but that you support and love them and care about their health and well-being through the good and bad times. It may also help you and your loved one learn to communicate better with one another, with the help of a mental health counselor familiar with addiction and the potential stress on family dynamics it can cause.
What To Do When A Loved One Comes Home From Rehab
After your loved one has completed treatment, the real work begins of rebuilding their life sober. There’s a good chance that they will find this transition difficult and even overwhelming at times. In fact, if they do not find this transition difficult, it may be a red flag that they are using or in danger of using. Either way, your support is a valuable part of their reintegration into society and their ongoing recovery. Some ways to help your loved one stay sober include:
- Encourage sobriety. The nature of addiction means that people cannot limit their consumption of drugs or alcohol and have “just one” drink, for example. Encourage them to stay away from all drug and alcohol use. Provide an environment in which they can succeed. Don’t use substances while in their presence, avoid situations where substances will be used, and let them know that abstinence is the key to recovery. Seek to offer them a way to see that life is fun and doable without substances.
- Help build coping skills. Stress is a part of life, and we can’t avoid it. However, learning coping skills can help us get through the difficult parts of life. Be there to listen, to talk with them, and help them process stressful experiences. Remind them of coping strategies they learned while in rehab and encourage them to turn to those when life gets tough.
- Encourage your loved one to attend support groups. There are many NA, AA, or other support groups available in almost every community to help those living with recovery from a substance use disorder. Many rehab centers hold alumni events. These groups are an important part of recovery, as they let your loved one know they are not alone in the struggle and have the support of others who have walked a similar path.
Finding Support for Your Loved Ones
Having a loved one with substance use disorder can be a lonely, confusing experience. Know you are not alone — there are supports available not only for your loved one but for you, too. Look for Nar-Anon or Al-Anon meetings in your area. These meetings are intended for family and friends of those living with addiction, and can provide you with information and social supports you need to help your loved one and get support for yourself, too.