Returning to Life after Prison

Returning to Life after Prison

The moment your loved one’s drug-related incarceration began, you knew your life would forever be changed. Over the course of the jail term, you have seen firsthand the evidence of their desire to change their life. Now it is time for them to return home and you sense your life is about to change again. You wonder what you can do to ease their transition back into life. What assistance can you give them to help them stay sober and return to the community?

Expect Changes

No matter how long your loved one has been incarcerated, or what type of prison they were in, you need to be aware that they will return to you different than they left, often in more ways than one. If they were battling an addiction before they were sent to prison and are coming home clean and sober, their behaviors may be significantly different now. This may not be the best time to address any of your concerns over previous choices. Certainly your emotions and feelings are valid and should be discussed, but not necessarily when they are first coming home.

Additionally, depending on how long they served time, the world around them may be significantly unusual for them. Technology changes so rapidly, that even something as common as a DVD player, satellite dish, or even a plasma television may be completely foreign. It can be overwhelming and frustrating to not understand how to use what everyone else considers a basic appliance. Be prepared to make considerations for this.

Understand From Where They Are Coming

Not only is your loved one the same but different, they are also coming from a place that was rarely quiet, rarely safe, and where they were rarely alone. Transitioning back into a home environment is going to take some time. Be cautious in how you approach them for the first few weeks. If at all possible, make a noise when you enter a room they are in alone so they are aware you are coming. Do not attempt to hug them or tap them from behind if they do not know you are there because their fight or flight response may very well kick in. Help them adjust to quiet time in small increments as well as loud, noisy situations.

Establish Support

Another way you will be able to help ease their transition is to line up as much support ahead of time as possible. If possible, visit with many local employers to explore their hiring practices. Verify ahead of time what impact your loved one’s sentence will have on their ability to be hired, particularly if it was a felony. Have some possible employment opportunities ready to discuss with them but do not make decisions for them. They need to be involved in selecting a job they feel comfortable with, applying for it, going for the interview and being hired; it will go a long way in helping them restore a sense of control over their life.

You can also arrange support by ensuring you have schedules for addiction recovery meeting times and counseling sessions they may need to attend. Although they may have been clean and sober for some time, it was while they were in prison. Now that they are home, unknown stressors of returning to their life, or even familiar temptations from their previous life, may create situations where they could be persuaded to return to their addiction. Regular attendance at recovery meetings and counseling sessions can help curb this.

Thinking of the Small Things

As you are preparing for those first few weeks and months your loved one returns home, there are also several smaller elements you can consider.

  • Shop for your loved one ahead of time so they do not have to deal with the stress of going to a shopping mall or other crowded location.
  • Seek their opinion on foods they have been craving and understand if their favorites have changed while they were away.
  • Help them recognize the fact that they have power in making choices. Simple things such as toothpaste, what clothes to wear, or simply what time to go to sleep.
  • Encourage your loved one to engage their spirituality on a daily basis with regular attendance in worship. Go with them so this is something you can grow in together.
  • Establish that you understand your loved one is free from prison, but they are not completely free from the system. Acknowledge it will be a part of your lives in order to limit the stress they may feel in future situations.

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