7 Ways To Help A Loved One After Rehab

Leaving rehab is a time of transition, when a person comes out of the safe ‘cocoon’ of the treatment center, and returns to the ‘real’ world, with its challenges and uncertainties. It is a time to put into practice the tools they have acquired and the things they have learned, as they continue their recovery journey on the outside.

Rehab can be the beginning of a new life,’ says Bryan Alzate from United Recovery California. It is often, also, a journey into uncharted territory, both for the person coming home and their family and friends. The way forward will not always be smooth, and the person will need support as they navigate the weeks and months that lie ahead. Fortunately, being supportive need not be a complicated task. Here are seven ways to help a loved one after rehab.

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Prepare For Their Return

The first thing you can do is to try and educate yourself as much as possible on the condition of your loved one, and understand better the ‘nature of the beast’ they are struggling with.

In particular, it’s important to understand that substance use disorders (SUDs), are not just ‘bad habits’, but medical conditions which require ongoing vigilance and appropriate measures throughout a person’s life if they are to be successfully managed. Your loved one will have default responses to certain situations, triggers, emotional patterns, and so on, all of which could lead them back to using.

If your loved one is coming back to live with you, try and make the home as welcoming as possible for a fresh start. This is important, both symbolically and in practice – the more you and your loved one can feel they’re not just coming back to the same old space, the better. If there were places your loved one used to utilize (a bedroom, a corner of the yard), try and change the furniture, add new plants, or contribute any touch to make the space seem renewed and conducive to new beginnings.

It goes without saying you should keep your home free of temptations – alcohol for example. Keep your standards of tidiness and cleanliness high, and gently ensure your loved one participates in keeping the home nice – an orderly living space (and personal hygiene) are important basics of living clean and sober.

Adopt A Supportive, But Flexible And Sensible Attitude

It’s important to make your loved one feel they have your unconditional support. Let them know how proud you are of them for completing rehab, and that you are there for them on this next stage of their recovery. Be careful not to overwhelm them with expectations, pressure, or by wanting to rush things.

“Easy does it,” and “One day at a time,” are key phrases of 12-step groups – don’t tell your loved one, “Now you’re home and well again, we can do x, y and z!” First things first; your loved one will need to find their feet, and take things at their own pace. Avoid lecturing them, and hold back on exorcizing past wrongs or conflicts – people are still raw and can be a little fragile after leaving rehab. Difficult conversations can wait. Also, give your loved one their space, and avoid too many questions.

Set Boundaries, Agree On Rules, Keep Rituals

When supporting a loved one, it is important to remember that you are neither medical personnel nor their therapist. It is important to establish certain boundaries, to protect all parties involved. It can be reassuring for your loved one to know you will not pry, or venture into their space, or into sensitive topics, beyond reasonable limits.

For your part, you need to make it clear that, in the new context of post-rehab sobriety and recovery, you will not be emotionally manipulated or used for any purpose. Your loved one has the tools and the ongoing help they need, and you can help but not shoulder their burden.

Rules can help in maintaining an orderly routine, for example, meals taken at fixed times or eating dinner together. Rehab life follows an orderly routine, recreating at least part of that can be stabilizing for both your loved one and yourself.

Certain rituals in daily life can be helpful also. If your loved one mentions anything they found helpful in rehab, you can continue it at home – a group check-in with family members each morning, for example, can be a great way for everyone to voice feelings and preoccupations, and avoid emotional build-up. Things like weekly pizza night or a Sunday family bike ride can be things to look forward to during the week.

Put Support In Place

Once out of rehab, your loved one has to learn to stand on their own two feet. You can help by making sure they connect with support groups or contacts that can accompany them on their recovery journey. The 12-step meetings are held throughout the US and bring together sufferers of substance abuse from all horizons to form a strong support community.

But, don’t forget yourself in the process – being there for a loved one in recovery can be draining as you witness their ups and downs, and you may want to connect with other families with members in similar predicaments, such as Al-Anon. This will help you feel you are not alone.

If your loved one is continuing any form of treatment with a professional, be supportive as they pursue their course of therapy.

Healthy Lifestyle And Habits

While it is not your place to impose any habits on your loved one, it can be beneficial to assist them in creating a lifestyle that supports their body and mind. Healthy and adequate nutrition is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Encourage your loved one’s endeavors if they show an interest in practices that are recognized as having a positive effect on mind and body: yoga, tai chi, or meditation.

Your job is not to push anything on your loved one, but you can suggest and support ways in which they can integrate healthy changes into their life. You can’t force a loved one to adopt new habits, but you can support them, and encourage them to view it as an exploratory journey. Balanced body chemistry and physical health make an immeasurable difference to a person’s overall well-being.

Find Purpose And Direction

Nobody wants to get clean and sober only to return to a life where they feel purposeless and without direction. Your loved one makes you think, “OK, I’m not using, but what now?” They need to feel they are returning to a life worth living. Encourage them if they show signs of wanting to learn a new skill or venture out into a new work experience. This aspect of recovery is often neglected. The focus can be on not using or drinking, but such an approach gives nothing you love to look forward to. Assisting in creating a brighter vision for the future is invaluable.

Encouraging them in their work, or towards learning a new skill, or reorienting their life is important on the path to becoming a useful member of society once more. Helping a loved one return to the outside world after rehab is no easy task. With goodwill and knowledge, you can certainly help your loved ones on their way.

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