How Families Can Support Their Loved Ones After Rehab

A person’s recovery journey doesn’t end once they finish treatment. As a family member or friend of someone going through rehab, you can be there for that person by showing you care, educating yourself about addiction, and encouraging healthy behaviors. This article will take a closer look at these and other ways of supporting a loved one after they’ve completed rehab.

Aftercare Planning: Post-Treatment Support

Completing a rehab program for drug or alcohol addiction is a tremendous milestone that every patient and their loved ones should be proud of. However, even the most successful treatment outcomes can’t be confused with cures. That’s because addiction doesn’t exist in black and white. It’s best thought of as a disease that must be managed on an ongoing basis—even when symptoms aren’t present.

Following treatment, people may struggle to create new habits that don’t include drugs or alcohol. They may need to try different therapies or medications to find out what works best for them. And, unfortunately, they may relapse, if the temptation of their addiction becomes too strong to ignore.

That’s why developing a robust aftercare plan is essential to sustaining long-term recovery. Through aftercare, patients can continue working on the relapse prevention skills they gained in rehab and get ongoing support.

The Role of Compassion in Recovery

Because no two patients are alike, there is no universally appropriate post-treatment support approach that guarantees positive results. Some patients benefit from a “tough love” approach, while others thrive in a more comprehensive and supportive environment.

One thing we do know, however, is that addiction and shame are intimately connected. Studies suggest that people who feel shame about their substance abuse may be more likely to dropout of treatment programs or relapse after rehab.1,2

This same body of research shows that self-acceptance and compassion are associated with better treatment outcomes and sustained recovery.2

10 Tips for Supporting a Loved One After Rehab

Compassion—especially in the case of post-treatment support—is often easier said than done. Though hope and expectations at this point may be high, family members often still carry feelings of anger, shame, embarrassment, and other negative emotions in response to their loved one’s addiction.

But fostering a supportive recovery community is fundamental to their success. Below are 10 tips for creating a more compassionate environment—even in the presence of these potential emotions.

Study the disease of addiction.

The more you understand about the biological nature of addiction and our current scientific understanding of it, the easier it will be to disassociate your loved one from their condition in order to treat them more compassionately.

Continue attending family support groups with your loved one.

Addiction is never just about one person; it affects the entire family. For this reason, it’s important that families and other loved ones play an active role in post-rehab treatment and support. Family members should attend groups with their loved one and seek support for themselves in 12-step groups like Al-Anon.

Al-Anon peer groups help family members learn how to provide appropriate supports while setting appropriate limits.

Be present without judgment.

Learn to sit with uncomfortable topics in order to give your loved one the space needed to express negative feelings regarding addiction and recovery without feeling judged.

Remove disease triggers.

Think of a dieter who tries to lose weight with a cupboard full of sweets. Help minimize temptation for your loved one by removing drugs and alcohol from the home in order to create a substance-free environment post-treatment.

Additionally, consider eliminating your own recreational substance use (or at least stopping the usage of substances around your loved one) to further reduce potential triggers.

Identify and remove expressions of contempt.

Anger is an understandable response to a loved one’s addiction, yet, as we learned above, shame does more harm than good when supporting recovery. Be aware of behaviors like eye-rolling or sarcastic responses—whether conscious or subconscious—and work on releasing the anger driving them and replacing them with more supportive actions.

If necessary, consider seeking out therapy on your own to release your anger. Doing so gives you the space to explore and express your own emotional responses in a healthy way.

Encourage healthy behaviors.

Ensure your loved one has access to healthy food, and encourage them to exercise with you, as appropriate. Some evidence suggests that strength training and cardiovascular exercise can support substance abuse treatment by replacing the pleasurable sensations of drug or alcohol use with “natural highs.”

Possible opportunities for supporting your loved one include:

  • Stocking their kitchen with healthy groceries.
  • Suggesting healthier options when deciding where to dine out together.
  • Inviting them out for a walk.
  • Taking part in a sport or other activity they enjoyed before addiction.
  • Accompanying them to the gym.

Extend these healthy behaviors to yourself as well. It isn’t selfish to practice self-care. By prioritizing your own health and well-being by eating well, exercising, and getting sufficient rest, you’ll be better able to provide your loved one with the support they need in recovery.

Create healthy boundaries for yourself.

Even after treatment, loving someone who has struggled with addiction can be demanding. They may feel scared about the potential for relapse, embarrassed by their actions during addiction, or even angry about the effort required to maintain sobriety. These and other negative emotions can cause patients to lash out or to engage in manipulative or destructive behaviors.

The impulse to help someone we love is understandable. However, family members must learn to set healthy boundaries, rather than enable these dysfunctional behaviors. Counselors and support programs can be useful resources for identifying codependent tendencies and learning to set healthy boundaries.

Watch for warning signs of relapse.

Though many families want to believe rehab is a cure, the potential always exists that those struggling with addiction may relapse.

Relapse is not a sign of treatment failure, but rather an indication that a person’s treatment plan needs to be adjusted. Some people may need to return to rehab to maintain their recovery and get back on track.

The risk of relapse can increase during times of exceptional stress, or when triggers and past connections to old friends and places arise that are associated with drug and alcohol use. Pay attention to signs that indicate your loved one’s sobriety is slipping, so you can take loving, proactive action.

Stay positive.

Praise your loved one’s decision to seek treatment and stay sober, rather than focusing on your negative memories associated with their addiction.

Be patient.

Above all, be patient with your loved one. Addiction is a complex disease—treating it takes time.

Addiction takes over the brain and compels people to behave in ways that don’t reflect their core values or who they really are. Fortunately, when substances are removed, much of that will be resolved but it often takes time (sometimes years) for the brain to fully recover.

Find Recovery Support at Greenhouse Treatment

Whether your loved one is just starting their recovery journey or finishing treatment, we are here to support you along the way.

At Greenhouse Treatment Center, we provide different types of addiction treatment designed to help people better understand the disease of addiction and develop the skills needed to sustain long-term recovery. In addition, our aftercare planning begins on Day 1, to ensure people have the resources and community for continued support once they complete rehab.

To learn more about the addiction programs and various rehab payment options (including using health insurance to pay for rehab) offered at our Texas addiction treatment center in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, call us at today. You can also find out whether we accept your insurance and verify your benefits by quickly filling out this confidential .

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