04 Mar What Can I Do for My Son When He Returns From Rehab?
Rehab provides the tools you need to overcome addiction, but putting them into practice outside of the confines of a residential treatment center isn’t always easy. A recent question featured on The Fix from the mother of a teenager struggling with marijuana and alcohol addiction addresses the issue: “What can I do to help my son when he returns from rehab?” The answer, provided by addiction expert Doreen Maller, MFT, PhD, covers some important points and makes valuable reading for anybody whose child—or other loved one—will be returning from rehab.
Help Yourself to Help Your Loved One
The first essential point is that you need to help yourself, too. Addiction should be considered a family issue, and getting yourself support is a vital step if you haven’t done so already. This is always advised, but it’s especially important if you’ve been isolated or lonely while your loved one is in recovery. Additionally, you’ve undoubtedly been under a lot of strain, and while your son or loved one is away, make sure you find time to recuperate, rest and spend positive time with other family members. It may seem self-indulgent, but that’s exactly what you need. It’s easy to forget that addiction doesn’t just affect the individual directly involved; it takes its toll on the whole family.
Learn About Addiction and Recovery
Understanding the process your son, daughter or loved one is going through is also extremely useful. You don’t need to become an expert, but it helps to engage with the treatment program and to learn about the related issues. Co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse is very common, which makes your loved one at risk of switching to another substance or behavior after returning (known as “cross addiction”) and there is also a chance you may develop “co-dependency.” Addiction is a complicated issue, but the more you understand about it and what the recovery process is really like, the more you’ll be prepared for what’s to come. Don’t turn it into a full-time job for yourself, but try to read up on the issues.
Residential Rehab and Structure
The biggest concern with leaving residential rehab is the huge difference between life in a treatment center and life at home. The most immediately relevant concern is structure. At a residential rehab center, there are clearly defined rules and a full schedule of treatment and activities for each day. At home, while there are probably rules, the regular routine is often absent. Establish some ground rules for when he or she returns and make sure they’re clearly communicated.
An outpatient program, aftercare program or sober living facility can also help with the transition. These are less intensive treatment programs that enable your loved one to maintain the correct mindset while transitioning back into sober life. The problem is that returning home means returning to the environment where the issue began, complete with triggers and cues to use that may lead him or her to fall back into old habits. Remaining in some form of treatment during this challenging phase helps him learn to implement the skills and techniques from rehab in an everyday setting. It offers regular reminders of the vital lessons from residential treatment and provides vital ongoing support as any new issues arise. Most treatment providers will be able to help you look for this type of less-intensive support.
Finally, you should remember that you can only do so much. The “Three Cs” from Al-Anon are important to keep in mind: you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it. Relapse is sadly a common feature of addiction, and if it does happen, don’t blame yourself. No matter what you do for your son, daughter or loved one, relapse is still a possibility. However, if you heed Maller’s advice, the chances of a slip-up will be kept to an absolute minimum.
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