You’re excited about your loved one leaving rehab to come home. You may be feeling many other emotions as well: optimism, anxiety, hope, resentment. Your loved one feels the same mix of emotions. Often, they are excited about being home and empowered, knowing they made it through treatment. At the same time, they may have some unrealistic expectations and hopes during early recovery.
As someone who wants to see your loved one thrive, it’s critical that you provide support and avoid a few common mistakes. Though you’re not responsible for their actions, what you do, say, and expect can play a role in their success.
#1: Focus on the Future and Not the Past
It’s easy to become caught up in the “I wish you would have listened to me” type of conversation. Yet that’s just going to put your loved one in a hopeless or resentful state of mind. Don’t force your loved one to deal with old issues now. In early recovery, the primary goal is stabilization. Encourage your loved one to continue to work on the past with their therapist in ongoing outpatient care. Trust that the time will come for family or couples therapy as well.
#2: Expect Stress and Frustration Through This Process
Though it is stressful for families to welcome a recovering loved one back home, it’s far more worrisome and difficult for your loved one than it is for you. If you expect things to be easy and simple, chances are good you’re setting yourself up for failures and heartbreak. Instead, know that this time will be trying. Focus day by day on just helping your loved one to get through these first months with confidence.
#3: Avoid Asking Your Loved One Too Many Questions
Too many questions, no matter how well intended, can feel like nagging. Of course, you want to know what happened during treatment and what things they talked about with their therapist. Yet the more questions you ask, the more pressure you create. During treatment, therapists help people to learn to deal with emotions and gain more control over how those emotions impact their behavior. No one is obligated to share with anyone else what they discuss in therapy. If you’re having a hard time letting your loved one manage their own recovery, consider working with your own therapist to learn how to let go.
#4: Don’t Fix Problems for Your Loved One
Lies, cheating, using drugs or alcohol, or otherwise making excuses for someone is not going to help them and may make it much more difficult for them to be successful. If they struggle with being late for work, encourage them, but don’t lie for them. Don’t cover up for them when they fail to meet personal responsibilities. Instead, offer to help them get back to work or school by teaching them how to create a daily schedule, how to manage their time, how to budget, etc. Most importantly, if you suspect they may be using substances again, encourage them to get back into treatment. You cannot fix it for them.
#5: Express Love, Concern, and Support for Your Loved One
It always feels good to know someone loves you, even when you’ve been through some very difficult times. A person leaving addiction treatment feels as though it’s them versus the world. Make sure they know that you’re there for emotional support. You cannot do recovery for them, but you can support them with statements like, “I believe in you” and “I’m behind your efforts to build a healthy life.” Find ways to have fun together, too.
#6: Create and Respect Boundaries
One of the best steps families can take is to create boundaries for their loved ones, such as not lying for them. But families need to establish boundaries for themselves as well. Work together to create these rules. Here are some important things to consider.
- You don’t need to know where they are or what they are doing at all times. Build trust.
- Expect that there will be no substance use. If there is use, then your loved one cannot live with you, though you will help them to get back to treatment.
- Establish boundaries for responsibilities. What will they be responsible for doing? What will you be responsible for doing?
- Agree to show respect to each other, even in arguments. Avoid hateful words or sarcasm.
- Agree to support each other through difficult moments without judgment.
#7: Take Care of You, Too
It’s easy to become overwhelmed in these first few months and not put much attention on yourself. Yet this will be a trying process as your family works to become aligned with a new lifestyle. Give yourself breaks. Speak to your own therapist about the experiences you’re having.
If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction or having difficulty navigating recovery, reach out to our admissions counselors here in Sevierville, Tennessee. English Mountain Recovery offers a whole continuum of personalized care, and we can help you determine the best path forward.