There are many phases in recovery, but returning from a substance abuse treatment program will likely be one of the most difficult steps for people in recovery. They’re still unsure of themselves and about what the future will hold. Returning to familiar environments may also be triggering as it reminds them of their addiction.
It’s likely that you’re also nervous about their return as well. You may worry that they will relapse or feel apprehensive about them returning to your shared home. But, knowing how to help an addict after rehab can help them to ease into this transition.
It can also help you to understand this new phase in your life and how to cope with it. As your loved one’s life changes, so will yours. Change can be challenging, but with preparation, knowledge, and support it’s certainly manageable.
Want to learn how to help an addict after they return from rehab? You may be surprised to discover that it has more to do with caring for yourself than helping them directly.
Read on to discover helpful ways to support a person in recovery after they return from rehab.
How to Help an Addict in Recovery
“Keep your side of the street clean” is a common saying in recovery communities. It means doing what’s best for you and not blaming others for your actions or feelings. When a loved one returns home from rehab, it’s important to remember that their recovery needs to be for them.
Their recovery can’t be dependent on a relationship, job, or any other circumstance outside of themselves. This is because the recovering addict needs to find stability in their sobriety and themselves under any and all situations. While it’s tempting to want to assert that their recovery is for your relationship, their recovery needs to be solely for themselves.
The dynamic of your relationship will change and it’s important that you feel grounded, confident, and supported as well. You also need to “keep your side of the street clean” to be a healthy person in their recovery.
Explore the following ways to help an addict in recovery while also taking care of yourself.
1. Get Informed
Learn as much as you can about recovery. Doing so will help you to relate to them better. They will also feel more comfortable talking about their recovery if you understand the recovery process as well.
Being informed, however, doesn’t mean excusing or rationalizing bad behavior. It can, however, help you to accept that it’s not personal and could be temporary. Get informed by reading recovery literature, joining a support group, or by researching online.
2. Practice Self-Care
As your loved one enters recovery, it’s an act of self-care. Throughout the recovery process, your loved one will be learning how to accept and manage their emotions, overcome their triggers, and practice self-care.
Understand that self-care isn’t selfish. Practicing self-care for yourself will also help you to feel more stable, self-assured, and more at ease. Practice self-care by seeing a variety of friends and family, taking time for yourself, or doing something you love to do.
It’s likely that your loved one will seem busy with recovery at first, so it’s essential to practice self-care and get busy yourself to avoid feeling resentful or lonely.
3. Provide a Safe Environment
Your loved one needs to feel safe in their home and around their family and friends. Offer them support by not having alcohol or any other substances in the house. You could also ask others to not bring these substances into the home.
4. Get Support for Yourself
Most likely, your loved one’s addiction took up a lot of your time and mental energy. When your loved one is in recovery, it’s a good idea to get support for yourself. In a support group like Al-Anon, you can discuss your feelings openly and learn how to cope better.
Support groups also help you to understand boundaries and how to navigate circumstances with your loved one in recovery. For example, if your loved one relapses, your support group can help you be prepared for the next step and how to react. This will give you more confidence and clarity so that your happiness and well-being doesn’t rest on whether or not they stay sober.
5. Try to Let Go of the Past
Your loved one’s past addiction will be a challenging subject for them and for you. The past is likely riddled with many strong emotions, which can be overwhelming. Healing takes place in small increments and won’t happen overnight.
Until you and your loved one are both in a healthy place, try to let go of the past. Feel free to deal with the past on your own, but avoid bringing up the past to your loved one during a conversation. While it may be tempting to use the past to alter their behavior, vent your frustration, or scare them into recovery it’s likely that these conversations will be unproductive.
You and your loved one both need something to look forward to in the future and be happy about. There’s no need to “fix” the past or fix the issues between you all at once. Trust, understanding, and healing will come in time, so resist the urge to rebuild it all at once. Focus on the present and the future to encourage them along the way.
If you feel emotionally triggered or upset, then try to politely walk away and tell them that you can have a conversation when you feel better. To feel better, use your support system and practice self-care.
6. Provide Encouragement and Support
We all enjoy a pat on the back for a job well done. Be supportive of your loved one’s recovery by sincerely pointing out the positive changes you’ve noticed, telling them you’re proud, and expressing how much you love them. Encourage their recovery by supporting them in whatever they need to do to stay sober such as going to meetings.
7. Be Patient and Know Your Boundaries
The recovery process takes time. It’s not likely you’ll see a complete personality change overnight. Your loved one likely will have up’s and down’s that they need to work through.
This is where the boundary setting is important. The first step in setting boundaries is separating your needs from theirs. Your boundaries keep you safe and they keep you stable; they are not meant as a punishment for the other person even if they feel like it is.
For example, decide in advance what your boundary will be if your loved one relapses. You might decide that they need to move out or that you will no longer financially support them.
Your loved one may not like when you enforce your boundaries, but try not to take their reaction personally. Remind yourself that boundaries are essential for your well-being and having boundaries keeps you safe.
Taking Care of You: How to Help an Addict
Knowing how to help an addict can help you to get more clarity on how to support their recovery and yourself. Your well-being is just as important as theirs, and it’s never your responsibility to keep them sober.
If your loved one relapses, don’t blame yourself. It’s natural to wish that your loved one could stay sober, but ultimately it’s their responsibility. Anyone getting sober needs to do it for themselves which means that it’s disempowering to blame anyone or any condition for their relapse.
Want to learn more about the value of family support during recovery? Check out our blog post to learn more.