When someone you love is in recovery, you want to do everything you can to support their journey to wellness and sobriety. Perhaps no time is more crucial for showing your support than when the person you care about emerges from rehab.
What can you do to encourage their ongoing sobriety? What should you avoid to keep from triggering a relapse? Here are five smart tips to support your loved ones after rehab.
1. Recognize and Address Signs of Relapse
Contrary to popular belief, relapse doesn’t typically happen in response to exposure to the desired substance. Instead, a gradual change in attitudes and habits precedes using again. Please don’t blame yourself if your loved one backslides after seeing you order a drink when out to eat. It probably had nothing to do with your beverage — the changes began well before the fateful dining experience.
However, you can do much to ensure your loved one’s ongoing sobriety after rehab by coordinating with their care team on a post-treatment plan. Although this program often consists of outpatient visits, counselors and other professionals can only do so much. They also need reliable friends who model a healthy lifestyle and encourage them to stay the course.
Please pay attention to the following signs in your loved one, and take action. If you aren’t sure what to do, contact their treatment team for advice.
- Elevated stress: Is your loved one experiencing added pressure at work? Are they facing economic hardship? Please lend extra support, as the stress can trigger a relapse.
- Return of withdrawal behaviors: It’s one thing if your loved one skips Zumba to attend their child’s soccer match. However, if they start begging off every invitation, it may be time to intervene.
- Behavioral changes: Does your formerly perky loved one now appear sullen and detached? Pay particular attention if they become defensive when you ask them about the change in their behavior. Please don’t accuse — phrase your inquiry as an offer to help.
- Loss of structure: If your loved one typically sleeps until noon, they might simply be a night owl. However, if an early bird suddenly stops getting out of bed in the morning, pay heed.
2. Get Involved With Healthy Activities
One of the best ways to support your loved ones after rehab is by participating in healthy activities with them. Fitness-based hobbies are ideal because exercise produces endorphins, natural body chemicals that help improve mood and numb mild pain. Why not sign up for an adventure race together now that vaccines have put social events back on the calendar?
If your friend is a bit more laid back, a gentler physical activity might fit the bill, like some yoga forms. This mind-body exercise encourages your friend to practice mindfulness, allowing them to slow down and examine their thoughts. It could help them overcome some of the “stinkin-thinkin” that leads to a relapse.
3. Help Them Reconnect With the Community
If your loved one’s addiction led to legal trouble or public embarrassment, they might hesitate to reconnect with old friends and others in the community. However, isolation can put them at risk of relapse.
Please make every effort to involve your loved one in social activities. Have you been thinking of volunteering at an animal shelter or joining an Adopt-a-Highway cleanup crew? Please invite them along. Performing acts of kindness produces tons of happy neurotransmitters that reduce their inhibitions and help them reconnect with the rest of the do-good crew.
Please don’t leave them out of family gatherings if alcohol is present unless they specifically request this accommodation. Socialization is critical to maintaining recovery. Instead, ensure you have various non-alcoholic beverages on hand and activities that don’t involve drinking.
4. Provide Support Without Enabling
What do you do when your loved one asks you for money after rehab? It all depends on the nature of the request.
If your loved one suffered financially because of their addiction, they might need your support. However, it’s risky to write a blank check — it could provide the means they need to relapse. Please remember, it’s okay to demand accountability and cut off supply if you are unsure. Ask why they need $100 and hesitate if they become defensive.
Things become even trickier when their living arrangement comes into play — you don’t want them out on the street or staying with people who fuel their habit. However, you don’t want to enable them or potentially endanger you or others in your home. You may need to coordinate an intervention with their treatment team that involves returning them to in-patient care.
5. Monitor Your Mental Health
Please don’t neglect your mental health while supporting your loved one after rehab. It’s draining to think about someone else’s needs seemingly every hour of the day. You’re human — you deserve care, too.
Schedule at least 30 minutes each day to indulge in self-care. It might mean losing yourself with a novel as you sink into a bubble bath or relaxing for a solo meditation and yoga session. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, please remember it’s healthy to reach out for help. If you are in touch with your loved one’s treatment team, they can probably recommend a therapist specializing in helping family members of those struggling with addiction.
Support Your Loved Ones After Rehab With These Smart Tips
Rehab is often the first step on a long recovery road. Support your loved ones as they commence the next part of their journey with these five tips.