When a loved one enters an addiction treatment center or rehab for an alcohol or substance use disorder, family and loved ones are often relieved. Loved ones are grateful that they have finally decided to get help. Many sigh a welcomed sigh of relief, knowing their loved one is now safe and hoping dark days are behind them for good.
Individuals with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD) who go into treatment often leave clinical treatment hardly recognizable compared to when they enter. During treatment, many finally get an understanding of their addiction, triggers, co-occurring disorders, family dynamics, themselves, and more. Effective treatment programs not only examine the causes of an AUD or SUD but also teach healthy, effective coping skills to replace alcohol or drugs.
Futures Recovery Healthcare not only helps individuals with all of these issues, but we also work with clients and their families to create an effective plan for life outside of rehab. Many people who have been to rehab for alcohol or rehab for drugs, leave with knowledge, confidence, and a new lease on life. However, for many, there is also a good bit of fear when the day comes that they walk out of the doors they once feared to enter. Having a plan—with components proven to work—can help ease this trepidation.
Many think that getting to rehab is the most difficult part of recovery. Reaching out for help and getting help for an AUD or SUD is the first—often most difficult—step in recovery and getting sober. But, it’s important to understand that living in long-term, sustained recovery takes work, willingness, honesty, and being open-minded. For many, the real battle to stay sober begins on the day they leave the safety of treatment for addiction.
If you have a loved one who is currently in treatment, recently out of treatment, or about to go into treatment you may be wondering what will happen and how it will be when they leave. And while each person has their own unique recovery journey and story, there are some things both the person leaving rehab and their loved ones can do to support them as they navigate life sober.
For many, this will be the first time in many years that they have faced life free from alcohol or other substances. For others, they may have been in rehab before and have a little or a lot of time sober in the past but are now trying again. Either way, there are specific ways to support anyone out of rehab.
First Days Out of Rehab
When people get out of rehab there is usually a mix of emotions. From excitement and feeling like they are getting a shot at life again to fearful and apprehensive, the emotions of someone just out of rehab can run the gauntlet. So too, can the feelings of their loved ones.
For some, they have what is referred to as a ‘pink cloud’ experience when it comes to getting sober. This means they are happy, optimistic, and soaring with excitement about their newly found sobriety. This may last for various periods of time and for the lucky few it will be their story of recovery.
However, for others, there isn’t a pink cloud or these feelings. They may be more fearful, doubtful, and reluctant when it comes to recovery. The good news is that no matter which category a person may fall, both can stay sober for the long haul with the right tools.
And, you can help.
Tip 1: You Are Not Responsible
The first step in helping someone stay sober out of rehab is to realize it is their responsibility to do so and not yours. There are ways you can provide support but it is the decision of your loved one, not you.
Chances are if you have a loved one with an addiction issue, you probably have felt some sense of responsibility to help them or take care of them. There are probably unresolved issues depending on your relationship with that person.
AUD or SUD are both types of mental health disorders that impact not only the person with the issue but can also cause serious problems and pain with family and loved ones. When it comes to AUD or SUD, there can also be concerns at work or school and in the community.
This type of mental health disorder usually impacts more than just the person with the problem. Often families are left in chaos, employers are left wondering what happened, friends (the ones who are left) are disillusioned and untrusting, and often there are legal problems that result in concerns in the community.
Tip 2: Take Care of Yourself
It’s important to understand that many times the best way to help your loved one who is just out of rehab is to take care of yourself—particularly issues that are connected to your loved one’s addiction. For some, this means individual counseling or therapy, for others, support groups or talking to your church’s religious leaders is what works. No matter what it is, it’s vital to address these issues.
Many times the dynamics in the family unit or in relationships can be ‘triggers’ for someone in recovery. A good treatment center will help the person in recovery to become aware of these triggers and also employ coping techniques for when they arise. However, it’s also vitally important for you to be sure you are working on your own issues. This will help you to have new coping skills and also help to reduce the ‘triggers’.
This important piece of the recovery puzzle can start when you choose an addiction treatment center. When you are looking for treatment for a loved one for an AUD or SUD, it’s important to take a look at if the family of the person in treatment plays a role. Some treatment centers make the family a part of the process from day one and keep in touch with them even after clinical treatment is over.
At Futures, we involve the families and loved ones of our patients from the beginning if all agree. They are part of their loved one’s journey and even begin to learn about the disease of addiction and what they should do to heal themselves.
This healing for family and friends is vital. You can find support at 12-step groups like Al-Anon/Ala-teen and other support groups like Celebrate Recovery (a Christ-centered 12-step program).
Tip 3: Choose the Right Treatment Center
As mentioned, reaching out for help and getting into treatment can be one of the most challenging steps for anyone who is living with any type of addiction. You want to make the most out of time in treatment and that means being certain you choose the best rehab for you or your loved one.
Certain things to consider include:
- Types of therapy used (look for evidence-based treatment programs)
- Specialized treatment of other co-occurring disorders (it’s vital to treat any other mental health disorder at the same time)
- Family therapy (some may need this, others may not)
- Specialized programming needs such as treatment tracks for trauma, first responders, those who have relapsed before, those in the public eye for whom privacy is a must, etc.
- Support group exposure such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Refuge Recovery, SMART Recovery, etc.
- Strong and active alumni programs
- Strategic support for the family during clinical treatment as well as afterward
While it’s tempting to jump at the first treatment center with an open bed, it’s important to be sure that the treatment center chosen offers treatment programs and options that will address all of your or your loved one’s issues associated with their AUD or SUD.
It’s important to note here that you should not delay treatment until you find the ‘perfect’ treatment center. This is why doing your homework and knowing the options ahead of time can be very helpful. Most treatment centers are happy to talk with those seeking treatment as well as their loved ones. Speaking with a few different treatment centers will help you to make the best decision.
At Futures, we are devoted to helping all those who come to us find the best treatment option for them. This means if we aren’t a good fit, we will connect you with options that are. As a leader in the addiction treatment space, Futures’ team members maintain relationships with various other treatment centers and resources in the community which we utilize to help anyone who wants to get help.
Tip 4: Know the Signs of Relapse
Anyone who is closely tied to someone with an AUD or SUD probably knows what addiction looks like as well as the signs that your loved one is drinking or using drugs. When it comes to relapse many of these signs are the same.
However, there are some ‘pre-relapse’ indicators to consider. First, it’s important to understand that many people who are in active addiction will isolate. For this reason, the support groups and being actively involved in them are crucial for long-term, sustainable recovery.
If your loved one gets out of treatment and starts attending support groups such as AA or others this is a great start. However, if you begin to notice that they stop attending, cut down on attendance within the first year out of treatment pay attention. Many times when a person is about to relapse they begin to put distance between themselves and other sober individuals. They also may begin to hang out with friends who they drank with or did other substances with prior to treatment.
Additionally, they may begin to isolate themselves. Addiction can be an isolating disease full of shame. When it comes to relapse, this couldn’t be more accurate. After attending rehab and being sober for a period of time (even if it was just in rehab) there is an increased sense of shame if alcohol or drugs are used again.
It’s also important to watch for other signs such as changes in behaviors or habits, return to unhealthy coping skills, stopping therapy, etc. None of these means that a relapse is definite, but they can indicate they are straying from the program needed to maintain sobriety.
If you do see any of these signs, it’s important to not take responsibility for your loved one—no matter how hard that may be. As mentioned, staying in recovery is solely up to the individual. This is why it’s vital for you to establish your own support system. Groups like Ala-Non/Ala-Teen have proven to be tremendously helpful because there are other group members who have most likely experienced many of the things you may including the relapse of a loved one.
Tip 5: Establish a Plan
There are thousands of people who leave rehab and stay sober for the rest of their lives. There are others who will relapse but go on to find long-term sobriety. No matter what happens when your loved one leaves clinical treatment there is always hope.
While you don’t want to expect relapse, it’s important to have a plan ‘just in case.’ Many times having a plan that you know will be helpful for both you and your loved one if they do relapse can help to ease some of the stress when they are out of treatment.
Working with the treatment center your loved one attends is a great place to create this plan. The professionals will know not only what will help, but they also know your loved one and will be able to customize the plan based on their unique needs and situation.
If you or a loved one need help to stop drinking or using drugs Futures is here for you. Our caring, compassionate team is ready to help you take the first step and get help. Contact us online or call us at 866-804-2098.