The highest rate of relapse for someone in recovery from substance use disorder happens in the transition between treatment and home. And while relapse is a normal part of the recovery process, it is usually unexpected, devastating, and difficult for families to navigate.
The good news is there are steps families can take to help improve their loved ones’ chances of achieving lasting recovery.
You can start by avoiding these three mistakes:
Mistake #1: Thinking treatment is the end
Of course, you wish treatment was the end. It’s no doubt been a long and difficult journey to get here, and treatment has been your light at the end of the tunnel. But thinking of treatment as the end is a false and unrealistic expectation that will only keep this cycle going. The reality is treatment is just the first step.
Whether your loved one is in treatment, 30, 60, or 90 days, it’s going to go by really fast. And while you definitely want to take a sigh of relief, it’s important for you to know your loved one is not going to be magically cured. You need to understand that it doesn’t work like that.
Mistake #2: Not having a recovery plan
When treatment starts to get uncomfortable for your loved one (and trust me, it will), they may call you and want to shorten their stay. How are you going to handle that? What’s the recommended arc of care? What does it take in treatment to recover? What does it take after treatment to recover?
What is the long-term recovery plan, and how are you going to support it?
Getting answers to these questions when your loved one goes to treatment is crucial. As is learning the truth about addiction and what is really going on. Because it’s not about the drugs and alcohol. Your loved one getting sober isn’t recovery. They need to learn how to live in the discomfort that comes when the drugs and alcohol are gone, and the best place to do that is inside treatment. Having a recovery plan in place (and sticking to it) allows you to be best prepared to support them in a way that is actually helpful.
Mistake #3: Spilling your stuff onto them
With healthy recovery, you learning how to manage your own stuff is just as important as your loved one learning how to cope without drugs and alcohol. We know addiction impacts every single person that’s close to it. You’re likely angry, hurt, and confused—it’s a lot of stuff to unpack. But it’s your stuff, not theirs.
Their addiction didn’t do this to you. Their addiction is to them, and you’re in proximity to it. You’re going to want to unpack all that comes with that for yourself so your anger, hurt, and confusion is managed by you and with you and not spilling over on them.
If what I walked through in this post sounds complicated or too hard, we have the education, empowering tools, and community support available to help you. Through strengthening the family system, we can help your loved one stay in treatment longer and make it through that transition home.