Helping a loved one adjust to life after rehab

Living with someone that has an addiction is certainly not easy. But when your loved one finally acknowledges they have and issue and accept to undergo treatment, it feels like a breath of fresh air. But you need to keep in mind that recovery is a lifetime journey, and they won’t come out of the treatment facility magically cured. In fact, one of the most important things they learn in rehab is how to come to peace with the fact that addiction will be a part of their everyday life and the struggle does not completely disappear, but it becomes easier to control in time.

Once they get out of rehab, patients need to adjust to the outside life and they need all the support they can get. If you want to help a loved one readjust to life after rehab, here’s what you can do. 

Discuss with everyone in the house first

For a recovering patient, receiving support from all those close to them is very important to aid their recovery. This is why, before they come home, you need to ensure everyone in the house is on the same page. If it’s just you and them in the house, you can skip this step, but if you also live with other people, be them, family or roommates, you need to make sure they understand the situation. 

Sit everyone down and have a serious chat about the rules of the house. For the person arriving home to feel safe, they need as little exposure to the substance that got them here as possible. If that is alcohol, for example, make sure you don’t have any in the house that could tempt them. 

Prepare a safe space for them

If the person used to live in the house before, then this is not going to be much of an issue, as they can simply reclaim their room. But if you are waiting for someone that has never lived here before, you need to make sure they have a separate room they can call their own. 

Individuals that have just come back from rehab may have a hard time socializing or adjusting to their new life, so they need a space to retreat to and calm their mind when the situation asks for it. They need to feel safe and secure there, so don’t force them to spend too much time with the family in the living room if they don’t want to. 

Include them in social activities

When they first come home, your loved one may want to spend more time alone or avoid social gatherings. Respect their decision, but make sure they know they will be more than welcomed to join the family whenever they feel like it.

If they start isolating themselves, either because they are anxious or ashamed, don’t force them, but do try to show support and encourage them to get out of their room and socialize. However, make sure you are not exposing them to situations that may be too much to handle, such as parties where alcohol is involved. But if you are throwing a picnic in the park, for example, encourage them to come and start rekindling relationships with others. 

Show support

Treatment for patients with addiction does not stop after they leave the treatment facility. They still have to go to meetings, support groups, and therapists and they may have to do that for a long time. You need to be supportive and encourage them to continue treatment for as long as necessary. Make sure they do not miss their appointments and let them know you are here to help. Seeking professional help was an important step, so make sure they know how proud you are. 

Transition to “regular” life may sometimes be difficult and they need all the support they can get. If they are struggling, don’t push them too far. Let them go through this at their own pace, otherwise, depression and anxiety may kick in. They already feel enough pressure, don’t make it more difficult by attempting to rush things. 

Encourage them to take up new hobbies

Part of going back to their regular life is doing things they are passionate about. This will make the transition much easier and keeps them entertained. Encourage them to take this time and discover their passions. They can start by going back to their old hobbies, something they are familiar with, so they get a sense of normality in their life. 

Suggest they also start pursuing new passions, so that they keep challenging themselves and even start making new friends. Signing up for practical or academic courses will help them meet new people, learn a new skill or even set a new professional direction. 

Discuss and set boundaries

You need to show support to your loved one, but this does not mean you need to stop caring about yourself. While it is ok to help them out for a while, until they get back on their feet, this does not mean they can rely on you for everything.

Sit down, discuss your expectations and be clear about what is going to happen if they are not met. You will both have expectations that need to be met. Maybe they want you to give them more space, or you expect them to start looking for a job after a while. Talk things out and reach middle ground. 

Learn to spot signs of relapse

Relapse can happen at any moment and your loved one may be too ashamed to tell you. To avoid them getting back to old habits, you need to learn to recognize signs of relapse

Do they start acting weird or unlike themselves? Are they looking more stressed, but keep saying nothing is wrong? Do they start going back to their compulsive behavior? These are all signs a relapse may happen soon. Encourage them to talk about it, sit them down and explain to them that you support and understand them. Suggest taking this up to their therapist and encourage them to continue treatment.



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