How to prepare for a loved one coming home from rehab

Preparing for a loved one coming home from rehab

Your partner or child has been away for a few weeks at an inpatient rehab centre, and it’s time for them to come home. It’s natural to feel apprehensive and afraid. Their homecoming is as hard on you and your family as it is for them.

Knowing what to expect and having a plan to help them transition back to daily life. Your loved one has to walk this journey on their own, but knowing they have your love and support will help keep them on track.

Before they come home

An inpatient addiction treatment programme isn’t a magical cure and between 40 to 60 percent of people who go to rehab relapse. The more prepared you are for your loved one’s recovery journey, the better. You can do a few things to prep yourself and your home for their return and help them maintain sobriety.

Read: Guidelines for living with someone with substance use disorder

Prepare yourself

Remember the 3 C’s of addiction: you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.

There is no point in blaming yourself or pointing fingers at people or situations that may have caused your loved one to develop an addiction. They can only recover by moving forward, so must you. Accept what has happened and focus on a brighter future.

It might help if you write down a few things you should or should not do when they return home. If you feel overwhelmed and unsure of yourself in the days and weeks that follow, you can revisit your notes and remind yourself what they need from you most.

Do this:

  • Set and maintain firm boundaries for their return to daily life; learn to say no
  • Create a recovery plan together with your loved one that includes outpatient therapy
  • Establish a daily routine to keep them busy and distracted from negative thoughts
  • Get the whole family involved in fun activities, exercise and eating healthy, balanced meals
  • Show them unconditional love without smothering them
  • Keep conversations honest and open
  • Be patient with your loved one and yourself; let them earn your trust
  • Give them the time and space they need to adapt to life without substances
  • Find a support group to help navigate this journey
  • Trust your instincts if you suspect they have relapsed

Don’t do this:

  • Live in fear they will relapse; trust the process
  • Bring up the past; don’t point fingers or judge
  • Put pressure on them; avoid nagging and criticism
  • Try to control them; they have to walk this journey on their own
  • Do too much for them; allow them to take responsibility for their life
  • Blame yourself

Prepare your home

Create a homely, welcoming environment

Creating a homely, welcoming environment for a loved one coming home from rehab

Your loved one has been away from home for a long time at a rehab centre that might have felt isolating and strange. Clear out the clutter, buy fresh linen and towels, tidy up their room and get rid of or put away any reminders of their drug or alcohol abuse past.

Have a plan for temptations

Locking up or not having any prescription pills or alcohol in your home makes sense, but it isn’t always practical. Your loved one will face temptations when they leave the house and they’ll have to use the tools they were given in rehab to deal with triggers that may lead to relapse.

Ask your loved one how you should handle the situation with pills or alcohol at home. Have an honest conversation with them before they get home and have a plan to decrease triggers in the days and weeks that follow their return.

Set up a daily routine

Keeping busy and following a structured routine is an integral part of an inpatient addiction treatment programme. It’s essential your loved one keeps this up when they return home, so they don’t get bored and restless. Have a plan ready for their homecoming; it doesn’t work if you wing it.

Make a list of chores and things they can do to help, so they know what is expected of them from the day they arrive home. Discuss the daily routine with them when they get home and get their buy-in without making them feel under attack or pressure. Hopefully, they will do what is expected of them without you nagging them.

Prepare to eat healthy, balanced meals

Following a healthy, balanced diet is essential for addiction recovery. Meals should include a combination of whole grains, protein, vegetables and fruit. It’s a good idea to get rid of junk food in the house and fill up your pantry with healthy options. Firstly, it’ll ensure your loved one maintains the nutritious eating regime established in rehab, and healthy food choices will prevent cravings. A healthy, balanced diet promotes neuroplasticity, quality sleep, higher energy levels and stronger bodies.

Plan your meals and when you’ll have them

Preparing to eat healthy by planning your meals

Inpatient addiction treatment revolves around a structured daily routine that includes set meal times. Addiction is a chronic brain disease, and structure and routine promote neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to grow and rejuvenate new neuron pathways. A structured daily schedule helps avoid boredom, anxiety and restless energy from setting in and becoming a problem.

Buy some plants

It’s well known that plants in the home have healing benefits. Plants help lower blood pressure and anxiety levels, promote a sense of calm and improve productivity. If your loved one feels relaxed and calm at home, they’ll feel better about themselves.

Why it’s essential to estabilish boundaries

Establishing boundaries is a crucial part of addiction recovery. Your loved one understands this because that was what they experienced during rehab, and boundaries help maintain a sense of control and clarity for everyone.

Recovery rules and boundaries are your responsibility because they determine the relationship you want with your spouse or child going forward, how you expect them to behave and what will not be tolerated. Boundaries in addiction recovery not only protect the other person, but they also protect you.

What is the difference between boundaries and rules?

Boundaries are where you draw the line in terms of your values and expectations of the other person. They create a ringfence around your emotional and physical wellbeing. Firm boundaries protect you and your family and improve the outcome of addiction recovery for your loved one.

Rules are a set of non-negotiable limits and lay out what is expected of your loved one in recovery. Boundaries are limits that you set yourself within a relationship.

Boundaries and rules must be communicated and enforced. When your loved one crosses the line, there must be consequences. If boundaries and rules are weak or fluid, they have no use. They are based on your individual needs and what is needed to maintain control and harmony in your home. Boundaries and rules are not moulded around your loved one, and they cannot be easily manipulated or shifted.

Common recovery boundaries

  • I will not allow you to disrupt peace and harmony in my home
  • I will not allow you to use drugs or alcohol in my home, around family members and me
  • your friends are not welcome if they do not respect my rules
  • any friends who use alcohol or drugs are not welcome in my home
  • I will not cover for you or make excuses to protect you
  • I will not be insulted, criticised or treated with contempt
  • I will not give you any more money
  • I will not bail you out of jail if you are arrested

Common recovery rules

  • who can visit your loved one at home
  • is smoking or vaping allowed in your home
  • foul language will not be tolerated in discussions or arguments
  • when, where and how long you are allowed out to see friends
  • schedule for meals, exercise and activities
  • what financial support you will offer
  • what outpatient recovery support programme they will attend
  • can they use your car or other personal items
  • random urine drug testing will be conducted

How to stop enabling your loved one to prevent a relapse

It’s natural to want to help someone you love to live a happier, more fulfilling life after struggling with an addiction. However, you could do more harm than good if you fall into the trap of enabling their behaviour.

Enabling is a pattern of behaviour within a relationship or family that excuses, ignores, denies or justifies an addict’s behaviour. Enablers avoid facing the harsh reality that a loved one has a substance use disorder and they allow the addiction to progress by consciously or unconsciously covering for the person, cleaning up their mess, financing the habit and not making them responsible for their problems.

Bear in mind that between 40 to 60 percent of people participating in an addiction treatment programme will relapse. It’s recommended you spend time with a family therapist who can help you answer the question, “Am I enabling my loved one’s behaviour?”

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself in the meanwhile:

  • do I blame other people and situations for their behaviour?
  • do I ignore behaviour that are signs of drug or alcohol use?
  • do I make excuses for their behaviour?
  • do I avoid discussing problems we’re having at home?
  • do I clean up their mess, like bailing them out of jail or paying off their debt?
  • do I put their needs before my own?
  • do I set rules and then let them break them with no consequences?
  • do I set ultimatums but rarely follow through?
  • do I back my spouse or other family members when they disregard the rules?
  • do I fund their habit by giving them money when they ask for it?
  • do I hide my feelings and put on a brave front?

The only way to stop enabling your loved one is to hand back responsibility and control to them. Your loved one will not learn to take responsibility for their life choices if they don’t bear the consequences of their actions.

There is a fine line between loving and helping someone and enabling them. If you are an enabler, changing your attitude and stopping your behaviour is easier said than done. This is why you need the help of a professional addiction care specialist. Individual or group family therapy sessions provide you with the tools you need to help but not enable your loved one. Family psychotherapy also helps you manage the guilt and shame you may be feeling.

We’re here to help.

Contact us today if you’d like a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained mental health and addiction care professionals at Centres for Health & Healing.

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