Returning home after treatment is a tricky time for both the person in recovery and the family. Everyone wants things to go well but no one is really sure what will happen next. Your loved one may have been away for months and although you have probably been in contact, living under the same roof again will take some adjustment. You want to be as supportive as possible, but it’s not always easy to know how. If you’re loved one is returning home after addiction treatment, here are some ways you can help.
Before the person gets home, it’s a good idea to clean the house. The top priority is to get rid of any drugs, alcohol, or paraphernalia that might still be there. However, coming home to a clean space has psychological benefit as well. It shows you made an effort to make them feel welcome. Coming home to a clean house also makes you feel like you’re getting a fresh start rather than coming home in the middle of things.
In addition to cleaning the house, do what you can to welcome your loved one home. They've been through a lot and feeling welcome at home sets the right tone going forward. Maybe consider having a meal or some other low-key way to celebrate.
Ideally, you will have learned a lot about addiction by participating in your loved one’s treatment, both in family therapy and through the treatment center’s educational resources. However, you can never learn too much about addiction. Do some research. Read books about addiction by experts and read memoirs of people who have overcome addiction so you can better understand the dynamics of addiction and recovery. The more you know, the more you will be able to help.
Everyone, including the person in recovery, hopes that treatment has pretty much fixed the problem and life will be more or less normal from now on. However, it’s rarely that simple. There will inevitably be ups and downs, which may include slip-ups and relapses. If this does happen, keep in mind it’s not a disaster, but rather a common occurrence. Many people sustain a long recovery after several relapses. The important thing to do is help your loved one get sober again as soon as possible. However, even if your loved one doesn’t slip up or relapse, there will be problems. It’s not easy to figure out a new way to live and it’s not easy to figure out a new way to live together. Although they will have worked on any co-occurring conditions in treatment, you usually can’t erase years of anxiety, depression, OCD, or anything else in a matter of months. Those issues will improve, but it may take years. There also may be lingering problems from before treatment, such as debts or legal problems. The bottom line is there is good reason to be cautiously optimistic that life will be better after treatment, but it’s a process, not a magic cure.
One of the most difficult things to work out after treatment is setting and respecting boundaries. Ideally, you will have worked on this in family therapy during treatment, but when you’re living together, you actually have to make it work in practice. It may be particularly hard for you because you feel a responsibility to help keep your loved one on track, but you also have to learn to trust them and give them space. They may be overly sensitive to attempts by others to control her or they might slip back into manipulative habits. It’s not always easy to know where to draw the line. The essential thing is to recognize you are both individuals free to make your own decisions and mistakes. Keep your lines of communication open and be willing to forgive if necessary.
Your loved one needs space both literally and figuratively. If it’s your child, parent, or another relative, for example, they should have their own room and feel like their privacy is respected. This shows trust and they may often benefit from time to themselves. Figuratively, they need space to be their own person. It’s a good idea to involve them in the family’s social life, but also don’t be upset if they have other priorities sometimes. Understand that they may sometimes have to prioritize 12-Step meetings, spending time with sober friends, or doing other things related to recovery, at least for a while.
We typically think of enabling behavior as giving someone money for drugs or alcohol or covering up for behavior caused by their substance use. However, you can enable bad behavior in other ways. For example, if you’re always covering for their mistakes or taking over responsibilities, you’re still shielding them from the negative consequences of her negligence, even if it’s not related to substance use. Part of recovery is learning to be accountable for your actions, so don’t allow yourself to fall back into enabling patterns even if they are still sober.
While recovery is challenging for the person coming home, it can also be challenging for the family. You may often feel unsure whether you’re being too suspicious, not suspicious enough, too helpful, giving too much or too little space, whether you’re justified in being angry about certain things or not. You may just feel stressed over the inevitable difficulties of having a loved one who is still finding their way in recovery. Don’t hesitate to seek help for yourself. If you haven’t already, consider going to Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings for families of people with substance use disorders. Just because your loved one is in recovery doesn’t mean you don’t need support. You may also want to consider seeing a therapist. Not only will this help you deal with the situation more effectively, but you may have some issues of your own to resolve, which will also help your loved one in recovery.
Offering a full range of recovery and mental health services, Valiant Living offers "Expanded Recovery" to enrich our clients’ lives in mind, body, and spirit. Through evidence-based therapy options and the endless adventure of Colorado, Valiant fosters connection, encouraging clients to get connected to themselves, their peers, their families, and their higher power. With the power of recovery, clients are restored to full health and experience life-changing healing. Call us today for more information: 303-536-5463