Rehab may be a critical time of transition for a recovering addict, but aftercare is equally important in helping an individual shift back into a normal life, free from addictive substances.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health in 2012 found that 8.5 percent of the US population had personally dealt with a substance struggle. However, only about 2.5 million people actually received professional help. Not only does that mean many people are trying to cope with an addiction on their own, but those who have chosen to enter rehab are taking a big step to put their lives back together again.
Recovery isn’t a process someone can go through alone, though. It takes dedicated support and discipline to learn to live sober. Consider these ways to show your support and help the ones you care about survive after rehab.
1. Create a drug- and alcohol-free environment.
Recovering addicts are vulnerable to relapse, especially in the first three months home. Having a temptation-free environment is essential to helping them on their road to recovery. If alcohol is kept in the house, you must make a lifestyle change to remove this while they recover. Set up some sort of environmental structure. One of the hardest transitions will be going from a place of complete structure and separation to one that is oftentimes unstructured and open to outside influences.
2. Develop community support.
Encourage them to join a support group. It’s important that they can meet with people who understand what they are struggling with and who can encourage them to stay strong. Make sure time is set aside to reconnect with your family and close family friends. Not only do they need to be reminded that their mistakes can be overcome, but they need a level of accountability only those close by can provide.
3. Learn to talk openly with them.
This is a very emotional time for them and for yourself. If they talk about temptations, don’t come down hard on them. Allow them to share their struggle with you, and be open to sharing your concerns. They can handle it. Remember, some sort of conflict led them to take drugs or alcohol in the first place. If they haven’t learned to process their emotions and work through conflict and stress, they will be tempted to return to their addiction. Don’t bring up past hurts. You are all starting new chapters in your relationship, and reminding them of how they have hurt you only hinders their ability to recover.
4. Build other healthy habits.
While they need space to adjust and settle back into a normal routine of life, it is important that they keep busy so they don’t dwell on the bad choices they made or end up falling back into the crowd they hung with before. Encourage them to take up old hobbies like sports or arts or encourage them to find new interests like cooking or blogging. This requires patience, but it’s important they have something to focus their attention on.
5. Take things one day at a time.
Recovering addicts will have good days and bad days. They may even lapse back into taking an addictive substance. It’s important not to see them as hopeless. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 to 60 percent of recovering drug addicts experience at least one relapse. If you find your loved ones have relapsed, reconnect them with a counselor or sponsor right away. Be an encouragement to them by not reminding them of their failures. Recovery isn’t easy, but it is possible.
6. Set up your own support system with friends, other family members, or external support groups.
Supporting a recovering addict can be emotionally and mentally draining at times. Set aside time to support yourself, to share your own frustrations and stresses with others who understand what you are going through. If you don’t support yourself, it will only make you less able to support recovering addicts as they start over.
The road out of addiction may feel like a long one sometimes, but it gets easier as you travel it together. Learning to be free from drugs and alcohol requires a complete lifestyle change, but it is a change that people cannot make on their own. It means taking the hard steps along with them. They need you to support them in this critical season in their lives as they begin to rebuild and live a life of sobriety.