Families of addicts need to learn how to help an addict recover post-rehab successfully. Unfortunately, it’s something my family didn’t research or prepare for before my return home. Honestly, I wish they had and were shocked by several insensitive behaviors and situations. However, I understand that they didn’t (don’t) know any better. That’s a big part of my purpose in sharing these ways to help an addict recover. So that other families won’t repeat the same mistakes. Additionally, to share a warning about rehab and the recovery process.
A Quick Warning About Finding a Rehab to Help an Addict Recover
The sad reality is that many rehab centers don’t rehabilitate and are only a place to dry out. So be prepared for your loved ones to tell you about their awful experiences. Don’t be surprised by reports of abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, drug rehabs across the globe are failing addicts horribly. I’ve been to two and never received drug rehab treatment or relapse prevention planning.
One was a 30 days program (state-rehab) that left the drug addicts in a room unsupervised all day (7 am-8 pm) except for one hour. During that hour, we had lectures about drugs and alcohol abuse. However, that is it. There was zero drug addiction rehabilitation and I read books for 30 days to pass time. Also, I relapsed two days after leaving, but I learned how shooting dope was more bang for your buck, and I went for it with my relapse.
The second was a Scientology front group posing as a drug rehabilitation treatment center. So basically, my dad called an addiction hotline on the front page of Google and was on the phone with a con man who dug into his pockets for forty-thousand dollars. So instead of rehab, I was indoctrinated with the Church of Scientology books and practices and became a practicing Scientologist without consent.
Too many people went home, overdosed, and died, partly because they didn’t receive drug rehabilitation services. So be diligent about the details of services administration at the treatment facilities. Their scam rehabs do not use the 12-steps, denounce drug addiction as a disease, and call it a choice. So hang up immediately if the person on the hotline says any of that or has a New-Life Detoxification sauna program!
Help an Addict Recover With a Sober Environment
The most important way to help an addict recover is by ensuring they’re coming home to a sober environment. Unfortunately, the worst environment for an addict to recover in is their old stomping grounds. Being surrounded by all their old hangouts and homies is detrimental to their recovery. So consider one of these two options for your loved one instead.
Make a Move
How much does their life mean to you? Look, I get it. That question is harsh and insensitive. But with facts reporting a 40-60% relapse rate, drastic times call for save their life measures. Consider moving to help an addict recover more efficiently by giving them a fresh start in a new environment. Away from all of the who and what they know.
I’ve heard people dismiss this solution as being a situation of running from your problems. So what? Grab your Nikes and just do it. They’re not running from something. They’re running towards it. Give them a fighting chance. A huge part of my success was relocation.
Is moving absolutely out of the question? I understand. For many, it simply is not possible. People are deeply rooted in their support networks, families, careers, and other environmental influences. Furthermore, it’s impossible without financial resources. So take a look at sober living options instead.
Sober living homes are residences used for transitioning into sobriety before going home. There are generally four levels for recovery residences, and the National Alliance regulates them for Recovery Residences (NARR).
Level 1 Recovery Houses
These resemble the Oxford house model and offer minor services and accountability. It’s a social approach governed by a charter and a set of rules before being accepted into the recovery home. Those in recovery operate the homes. In addition, all members vote on new members and regulations.
There isn’t outside management or supervision. Weekly 12-step meetings are common, but typically there aren’t other recovery services. However, they are encouraged and often required while living in level one residences.
Level 2 Recovery Houses
Unlike level one residences, level two recovery homes usually elect a supervisor to monitor and ensure people follow the rules. Furthermore, there is strict adherence to mandatory drug testing.
Level 3 Recovery Houses
Unlike level one and two recovery residences, level three operates with paid staff. Additionally, they incorporate parts of clinical treatment, including counseling. As a result, level three recovery houses tend to be more structured with greater accountability.
Level 4 Recovery Houses
These recovery houses use a clinical approach for aftercare treatment and are known as TCs or therapeutic communities. They are inpatient facilities that include onsite counseling, peer-support groups, and a structured treatment plan that residents adhere to faithfully. Unlike other recovery houses, level four homes typically don’t allow residents to come and go as they please. Furthermore, they won’t be able to work full-time (if at all) because of structured recovery activities in their day to avoid relapse.
Help an Addict Recover by Cleaning up Their Living Space
If helping an addict recover means coming home is their only option after rehab, then at the very least, clean up their living space. Don’t overlook this step. I realize you may not want to invade their privacy and perhaps fear what you might find. But if you don’t ensure they’re coming home to a clean environment, I can almost guarantee they will discover things that could trigger a relapse.
For Example, in My Return Home
When I came home after seven months, my room wasn’t clean, and I found multiple pieces of tin foil with charred heroin remnants. Also, I discovered drug baggies with unscraped black-tar heroin residue, muscle relaxers, a methadone pill, dirty needles, broken straws, and plastic pen barrels. Those are all very triggering, and I wish they hadn’t been there.
Go into their room or their home and clean it up. Then, for every unhealthy item, you remove from an addict’s environment, try replacing it with something to encourage health and recovery—for example, comfy pajamas, slippers, recovery artwork, and journals.
Gifts that promote comfort will be well received. However, do not give cash, gift cards, or anything overly extravagant. Those gifts may not help an addict recover and are often returned, traded, or sold for dope. Don’t enable them to relapse quickly.
Additionally, you could put together a welcome home care package for them. What would be on their list? Show them that you pay attention to their little things, simple passions, and tiny joys. Remind them that you know who they are in a time when they may feel uncertain of who they are themselves.
If a care package isn’t their style, do what you can to make their welcome home encouraging and memorable. You know them best. Chauffer them to get a tattoo to commemorate their commitment to sobriety. Celebrate them and their progress. Make their sobriety a big fucking deal by showing them how proud you are.
Help an Addict Recover by Creating a Support Network
Helping an addict recover means immediately reconnecting them with people who are recovering and can relate. One of the most significant commonalities among addicts is the need to be listened to and understood. So don’t wait for your loved one to come home before finding resources within your community to help guide their recovery in a healthy direction.
The purpose of these support groups is to get clean and stay sober. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to find fellowship with sober people because rehab is not a cure for drug addiction. An addict’s recovery journey isn’t over after going to a treatment center. Their road to recovery is a lifelong process and has only begun.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and help an addict recover is to come together and heal as a family. The first step in building their support system is having your support system. Addiction is a family disease; therefore, the family often needs treatment programs and family therapy.
These family treatment programs will help you understand drug addiction and substance abuse. Also, they will give you the tools to stop enabling behaviors detrimental to your loved ones’ sobriety.
There are recovery meetings for recovering addicts and their families every day. Both in-person and virtual. In addition, there are inclusive meetings for specific groups, including religious, LGBTQIA+, and drug-specific meetings. For example, AA is Alcoholics Anonymous, but the program variations cater to an individual’s drug of choice (DOC). There are 12-step alternatives including Smart Recovery and Women in Sobriety. I’ve created a meetings directory to help you find meetings for recovering addicts and family member meetings.
In addition, researching this for your loved ones before they come home from rehab is excellent. Coming home to well-researched options in front of them will help them remain more grounded and focused on their sobriety.
For example, don’t allow them to wind up at a predominantly older male meeting when they are a 21-year-old struggling gay woman. Get it? That experience might detour them from going to another one which could devastate their chances of successfully remaining sober.
Help an Addict Recover by Changing Enabling Behaviors
Enabling means different things to different people, but it spells disaster. The worst thing you can do is to continue supporting them in their old addictive ways. Drug addicts are manipulators, and the drug addict you love is no different. So regardless of their guilt tactics or repetitive, please stand firm with your bottom line.
What is your bottom line? Please write it down. What manipulative tactics were you falling victim to before their recovery? Don’t forget them. Was there an intervention? Were letters read with expectations and boundaries? Those boundaries need to be reiterated and enforced.
If you didn’t establish your relationship boundaries and bottom line before rehab, it’s essential to do so before you help an addict recover at home. Every family member within the house needs to give their bottom line.
Don’t finance their homes and cars, allowing them to use their cash for drinking and drugging. Do not authorize them on your bank account or cosign a line of credit. And above all, do not give them money! They could relapse within minutes. They gave a million reasons why they needed it before and will provide you with a million more.
Finally, don’t make me repeat the 40-60% relapse statistics, with closer to 72-88% relapse rates for opioid use disorders. There is not a damn thing that they should be able to do to convince you that they’re not part of that statistic. It should take months, even years, for them to reestablish that trust. They are liars in recovery too. Don’t forget that.
However, you should help an addict recover with financial means that allow them to re-establish themselves within society. For example, if you pay for a dance or art class, college, or another extracurricular activity to encourage growth by engaging in their passions, please do it.
But don’t hand them the cash or write them a check. Swipe your card for the purchase. If you can help with a modest vehicle or a place to call home without enabling them to finance drugs, by all means, help them out of their struggle. Life is hard. So make it much easier to lead productive lives by educating yourself and understanding what is helpful and what hurts.
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Help an Addict Recover With A Homecare Recovery Plan
After seeking out the best recovery meetings and programs in your community, you will need help. Who is in the addict’s circle that is sober and willing to assist in their recovery journey? A family member, or spouse? Does your recovering addict have sober friends that are up for taking care of your loved one’s rides to meetings?
Building Their Support Team
Network with people who can ensure they get to meetings and other support resources. Create a rotation schedule and share it with the team. Supporters should be willing to attend the meetings. But also understand if the addict doesn’t want you to come inside. They might need privacy to be vulnerable with what they share. Please give them the support they need and bring a book to read in the car.
Additionally, find online programs, books, videos, therapy, a mentor, or whatever it takes to implement some after rehab sobriety care. There needs to be a concrete plan in place. Otherwise, they have free time and quickly return to old habits to fill that time.
Building Their Routine
Regardless of the length of their rehab stay, there’s a good chance your addict is coming home institutionalized. Unfortunately, nobody told me what to expect, and it’s because they were clueless about there being a transitional period. When I came home from state rehab, I felt highly discombobulated. Furthermore, there was overwhelming loneliness and relentless quiet that was deafening.
Everyone in my environment resumed life as usual, and I had nothing and no one to engage me. Moreover, I was unemployed and had no routine or schedule enforced. My parents scheduled their two-week vacation out of state the day after I came home, and two days later, I relapsed. Don’t do that, and educate yourself about drug abuse and family treatment options.
Implement a routine for them to come home that includes meals, meetings, chores, adulting responsibilities, family time, and journaling. Routine is imperative for mental health and sobriety success.
What Institutionalized Looks Like
When I got home, I was no longer around a bunch of loud people 24 hours a day. Realistically, I loathed the juvenile antics of my rehab peers during my stay. But once I was home, I couldn’t sit still. It was too quiet. At rehab, Captain crunch berries and caramel apple suckers became daily staples. After I got home, I found myself still eating them. We used cups for our cereal. So I continued this behavior at home.
So help an addict recover by asking them how they are doing with adjusting to being outside. Talk to them about institutionalization and explain that it’s normal for them to be experiencing the overwhelming confusion they may face. Listen to them and try to understand and overcome whatever their new little oddities are coming back and adjusting to the world. It takes time to resume normal.
Help an Addict Recover With Therapy Health Services
Trauma is the gateway drug, and leaving it unresolved is potential for relapse. If you have the resources to help them get therapy, that is the best gift you could give them. There are in-person or virtual therapy options for mental health appointments. If you choose to try online therapy, here is a coupon for 20% off. There are several different therapies to experience healing. Your therapist will be able to guide your direction.
Additionally, getting help from a mental health professional is the only way to be diagnosed with a mental illness that medication helps. It’s common for a recovering addict to have a disorder or mental illness. So this is an important step. Group and family therapy are other mental health services that benefit an addict’s recovery process. Always do your research involving online and family therapy programs. So you make the best decision for your loved one.
Put Your Own Drugs and Alcohol Away to Help an Addict Recover
Don’t downplay the severity of their drug addiction. It’s a disease or chronic illness. So it’s best to avoid drinking and drugging around your loved one. That means even something as simple as taking a pill, especially if it’s a prescription medicine. So it’s prescribed, and you don’t have a problem abusing them. But don’t pull the bottle out and pop the damn thing. It’s insensitive and not bright.
Also, don’t give commentary on the medications you’re taking. It may not seem like a big deal, but talking about your hysterectomy, hip surgery, or whatever else that caused you to be on a prescription drug for pain, and discussing the fact that you’re on them, is cruel. Finally, we don’t need to know that you’re popping our DOC; if you’re not careful, we might swipe it.
Don’t put pressure on them to justify your alcohol use in their beginning stages of recovery. It’s unfair to ask them if it’s all right to drink alcohol. They’ve only recently re-entered the real world. There is a common misconception about drug addiction; if alcohol weren’t your DOC, it wouldn’t lead to alcohol abuse.
So if you can’t have them over without having a drink, you might consider taking a closer look at yourself. Why would you jeopardize their sobriety in any way? Instead, help them avoid relapse by being sober in their company.
Hide Your Drugs
Help an addict recover by putting your fucking drugs away. It doesn’t matter if the drug you use is their DOC or not. Drugs are drugs, mmm kay? They will do them. They will do them all until they’re back using the one that put them into rehab in the first place. On my second day home from Scientology camp, I opened the cupboard to my sister’s full bottle of Percocet! It’s much easier to avoid substance abuse if you don’t supply the substances.
It still rattles me to think about what may have happened had I not been stronger that day. Immediately, I screamed for my sister to come to collect them, and she complied. However, she tossed them into her dresser drawer with zero regards for the reality I was watching. She knows nothing about drug abuse or addiction recovery. The memory of them being there tempted me a few times over the years; she doesn’t even know it.
Educate Yourself About Relapse to Help an Addict Recover
One more time for the people in the back, relapse statistics are at 40-60%. With closer to a 72-88% relapse rate for opiate addiction. Don’t be naive about what relapse looks and sounds like.
Warning Signs of a Relapse
- Your loved one starts associating with people from when they were using.
- They begin reliving their war stories but refer to them affectionately as the good old days.
- They start losing interest in their hobbies, passions, and friends.
- You catch your loved one telling lies.
- They’ve become depressed and isolated.
- They’re beginning to badmouth the recovery process and its programs.
- Their attitude and behaviors start changing, and not for the best.
- They stop attending meetings if they’re in 12-step recovery.
Common Triggers of Relapse
- Chronic Illness
- Interacting with People Using Drugs and Alcohol
- Old Scenery and Hangouts
- Physical Pain
- Poor Mental Health
Final Thoughts for How to Help an Addict Recover
Addiction is a commonality that plagues the population regardless of financial status, race, or creed. Therefore, we must work together to understand better this affliction that disables many of us while advocating for change and working towards rehabilitation reform. Remember that sobriety is a lifelong process, and substance dependence doesn’t disappear. So have a prevention plan to avoid relapse.
I’ve gone to rehab twice and never received drug treatment or counseling (as promised) from both facilities. Please research and be careful where you send your loved ones for help. Taking care of your loved one’s basic needs is excellent, but don’t give money and expensive gifts in the initial stages of recovery.
Getting professional therapy for a loved one’s mental health is essential for mental illness and substance abuse. Family member treatment programs are the best at helping you understand your loved one’s drug use disorder. Also, it teaches you how to help an addict recover without enabling them.
I hope you gained insight into what this recovering addict needed in the way of help with recovery so that you choose the best treatment options: research both inpatient and outpatient services. Your loved one is already blessed to have someone like you who is trying to understand substance abuse and addiction recovery. You’re amazing. Be sure to speak with your loved ones about their boundaries and help encourage them later if they start to slip.
Above all, pray about it. Keep praying every day while they’re in treatment and after they return home. I believe that by the grace of God, I am alive and heroin-free. Despite my rehab experiences and thoughtless welcome home. I am a recovering addict as of 09-27-2013. Please share this resource and spread the love. Thank you, That genuinely makes my day.
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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.