What to Expect When a Loved One Returns From Rehab

Adjustment Period

Even if your loved one has made great progress in recovery and is fully dedicated to leading a clean and sober life, and picking up the pieces at home, there will be a period of readjustment for everyone involved. It’s important to give everyone time and space to adjust at their own pace – even yourself – maintaining open communication along the way. It is normal for your loved one in recovery to experience a range of emotions, from fear to depression to great joy. It is also normal for family members to experience that same range of emotions as well. It will take time for everyone to work out the new dynamic and overcome the issues that began during active addiction.

Bottom line: Don’t expect everything to go back to how it was prior to addiction right away. Readjustment takes time, and some things may need to be different permanently. Like everything else, it will take some time to adjust to life after rehab and find the new normal.

Letting Go of an Expected Outcome

Obviously, you deeply want your loved one to stay clean and sober, to thrive in recovery, and to again be a loving and positive part of the family. That may very well occur, and it is likely the goal of your loved one too, but at the end of the day, it is not your fight and you cannot control what will happen. There are, however, ways you can support your loved one positively in recovery. For example, you may choose to:

  • Attend 12-Step meetings with your loved one.
  • Attend 12-Step family meetings on your own to learn more about addiction and recovery.
  • Attend family therapy sessions with your loved one to work through past issues and manage current challenges.
  • Attend personal therapy sessions for objective guidance on a personal level.

Bottom line: You can be a positive part of recovery for someone who is working hard to stay sober, but you cannot make someone stay sober if that is not a personal focus and goal for that person.

Rebuilding Trust

Addiction is destructive and can tear apart the bonds between close family members. Addiction is a psychological as well as a medical disorder; it causes compulsive use of drugs and alcohol and compels the person to sacrifice everything, including personal well-being and the well-being of others, in order to maintain addiction.

Many family members talk about working toward trusting their loved ones with money in recovery or learning how to feel safe with them emotionally. It can take time and the assistance of therapeutic professionals, but it is well worth the effort.

Bottom line: Trust is not a gift, but something that is earned especially when it has been damaged by addiction. The time invested in healing, both together and individually, will help both parties to rebuild trust again.

Prioritizing Your Health

Though it may often feel that your focus has been on your loved one’s addiction and how that has impacted that person and others in the family, in order to move forward, you will need to pay attention to your own physical and mental health as well. If you are not strong and functional, you will be unable to care for others effectively. Thus, it is recommended that after your loved one returns home from drug rehab, you make an effort to:

  • Maintain regular check-ups for yourself at the doctor and dentist.
  • Address any acute medical issues or ongoing physical symptoms immediately.
  • Maintain a regular exercise regimen.
  • Prioritize quality sleep.
  • Eat healthfully.
  • Spend time with friends and people who are distant from your situation at home.
  • Develop a support group in the community of family members who support people in recovery.

Bottom line: Your health and well-being are just as valuable as your loved one in recovery and other members of the family. Don’t undervalue yourself.

Handling Relapse

Though it is not necessarily a component of recovery, there is no cure for addiction, and addiction is, by nature, a chronic disorder that is often characterized by relapse. Though the goal is to avoid relapse, it’s important that families have a plan in place to manage the situation should it arise after addiction treatment. Each family will need to come up with a plan that works for them, but it may include components such as:

Hope for the Future

There are no guarantees when a loved one returns home from drug rehab. While you cannot control your loved one’s choices, you can control your own. Treatment, if needed, can be a fresh start for you as well as your family member in recovery.

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