The transition from the safe haven of a treatment center to the impact of the real world requires a shared mindset between loved ones.
A Family Affair
For the individual completing treatment, as well as his or her loved ones, trying to balance hope with past disappointment, optimism with realistic expectations, and an onslaught of feelings with careful consideration creates a high wire act few people can navigate with ease. So these dos and don’ts may be helpful as you approach the days and weeks after treatment.
When someone completes treatment for addiction, it’s a crucial step toward positive life changes. But the keyword is “step.” Addiction takes months or years to develop, and thus, recovery takes considerable time as well. Many other actions are necessary to achieve full wellness. Consider these steps to maintain a balance of expectations.
If you’re completing a recovery program, remember to:
Be patient. Consider your journey to this point and all you’ve accomplished so far. Each day you’re learning what being clean feels like. As you continue to understand what factors led to the point of addiction, you’ll need to stay mindful and focused on what keeps you well.
Use open, honest communication. It’s important to process thoughts and feelings in healthful ways. Constructive conversations—both positive and negative—are part of the healing process and affirm your place in the world as a whole being.
Learn the facts about addiction. Seek to understand your condition and how it impacted you and your loved ones. This knowledge gives you better control over your circumstances. Make sure to follow your aftercare plan and ask for help if necessary.
Understand the importance of forgiveness. Going to rehab to recover from addiction was a crucial first step for wellness. While rehabilitation may help you physically, allow the mental and emotional lessons learned during treatment to help move you to a state of forgiveness—of yourself and of individuals you believe may have wronged you or whom you wronged. This state shifts the power of understanding.
If you’re the loved one of someone released from treatment, remember to:
Be patient. At times, you may feel as though you’ve exhausted your patience with a loved one caught in the quagmire of addiction. Continue to recognize and acknowledge the journey to wellness, and show your support. Consider joining a group of like-minded individuals who understand what you’re going through, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
Stay open to thoughts and feelings. Your loved one may have to process a lot of disturbing thoughts and feelings after leaving a rehab facility—and some might be directed at you. Allow for the healing journey to include ways to change behaviors and mend old hurts. In addition, allow yourself a path of direct communication to share your emotions with your loved one.
Learn the facts about addiction. Take time to understand your loved one’s addiction and why recovery will take time.
Understand the importance of forgiveness. You’ve likely experienced a number of serious situations with your loved one. Recognize that by forgiving him or her and encouraging a healing path, you’re providing unconditional love and support for the recovery journey—for both of you.
When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the world he or she lives in is often distorted. In this way, there are many knee-jerk reactions and toxic behaviors that can threaten the recovery process. Keep these important factors in mind.
If you’re completing a recovery program, avoid:
The definition of “normal.” If you’re leaving rehab, you’re not the same person now that you were before treatment. Relying on a typical definition of “normal” is setting up a series of expectations that may be overwhelming. Look to the present to inform how things should be.
Judgement. Your past behaviors may dictate much of what you feel now. Tread carefully and be aware of certain triggers and how to handle them without catapulting into blame or guilt.
Hiding drugs or alcohol. A slip into previous behavior such as trying to hide substances will only increase feelings of guilt and shame. If you feel you’re relapsing, reach out to a supportive counselor, sponsor, or loved one right away.
The misconception of immediate recovery. Overcoming drug or alcohol addiction is complicated, and more than 40 percent of people relapse. If this happens to you, it may mean your treatment needs to be adjusted, or you need a longer program. Remember: you haven’t failed, but it’s imperative to refine the recovery process.
If you’re the loved one of someone released from treatment, avoid:
The definition of “normal”. Allow for the fact that your loved one is changing every day from a person who was addicted to someone recovering from addiction. This means that who he or she was before may not be the same post-rehab.
Judgement. Keep an open mind during the recovery process. It would be easy—and some might say justified—to preach, nag, or lecture during this time, but it’s unlikely these approaches will change your loved one’s behavior.
Hiding drugs or alcohol. You’re not a warden. If you come upon drugs or alcohol and suspect your loved one is suffering a relapse, promptly address this in a direct manner. The misconception of immediate recovery. Adjusting your expectations to the difficulty of rehabilitation helps you gain a better understanding of what your loved one is going through and why it’s complicated. It’s not a moral failing if he or she relapses and needs further treatment.
Above All Else: Show Compassion
Compassion for yourself and other people is a primary asset during the recovery process. We all make mistakes. If we desire to learn from our mistakes and seek a better path of wellness, the support of one another in the post-rehab world is a vital component of success.
Great Oaks Recovery: Post-Rehab Do’s and Don’ts for Loved Ones.
Al Anon Active Board: Do’s and Don’ts.