The do’s and don’ts: When a loved one returns from rehab

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Addiction is a lifetime battle. While this battle is largely fought and won during a treatment program in a rehab facility, the war itself is far from over.

When your loved one returns home after rehab, it’s the beginning of a new chapter, and it’s a new chance for them to implement the management techniques learned through rehab. 

But, much like anything, we need each other for love and support, every single day. To give your loved one the best chance of avoiding relapse, then, there are a few do’s and don’ts worth noting. 

Here goes…


Educate yourself

While you may not have an addiction to substances yourself, it’s still important to study up on how drugs, alcohol and mental health problems begin to form, and the signs and symptoms to watch for should your loved one relapse. 

Not only will this help you spot warning signs early on, but it’ll also help develop empathy and compassion for what your loved one is likely going through. 


Communication lies at the heart of everything we do. Without it, we’d be nothing. Whether it’s positive reinforcement or concern about your loved one’s behavior, it’s vital that you learn how to communicate your own feelings in a mutually respectful way. After all, saying something is better than saying nothing at all. 

Be patient

Patience really is a virtue, and it’s going to take some time for your loved one to adapt to their old world with their new habits. Frustrations may be high, and some things will inevitably need to change around the house. 

Just remember: Recovery is a lifetime process, not a ‘fix all’ destination. Work with your loved ones, not against them. 

Show love

As cheesy as it may be to say, we all need love in our lives. Through COVID-19 – when we may not be able to see friends or head outside and do the things that ground us – this is more important than ever. 

Loneliness and feeling stressed are two of the biggest risk factors for relapse. By showing your love and support to your loved one, you can reduce these feelings and promote happy, healthy feelings of compassion instead. 



There’s no room for judgement when a person returns from rehab, there’s only room for support. By judging someone who is returning home after a period in rehab, you are giving them reasons to feel isolated and shamed by their addiction. Unfortunately, it’s these feelings that perpetuate addiction and make matters worse. 

Apply pressure to ‘be better’

Rehab is just one part of a person’s recovery experience. Post-rehab reintegration is another. This is where you must step up to the plate to support your loved one, but that doesn’t mean applying pressure on them to ‘be better’. 

Recognize that recovery is a lifelong process and remain patient and empathetic. This is the best chance you have of ensuring long-term sobriety. 

Bring up the past

What’s done is done, and the person before rehab is likely not the same person after. Be sure to avoid bringing up past negative experiences or reminiscing about ‘how bad it used to be’. If you do this, you’re constantly reminding your loved one of the mistakes they made and the shame they felt. This isn’t conducive to a successful recovery. 

Be afraid of triggering a relapse

Tiptoeing around your loved one because you fear that what you say or do may trigger a relapse is unproductive for everyone. It’s not up to you to decide if, how and when relapse occurs. It’s not up to you to take on the responsibility of someone else’s recovery experience, either. 

As a loved one, the only thing you have to do is show up, show love and be there. The rest is up to them.

Don’t think of rehab as a cure

Addiction is a chronic illness. Your loved one may be sober now, but they are not cured in the sense that addiction will never be an issue again.

Just as a diabetic must take insulin and manage blood sugar with diet and exercise, a recovering addict needs to remain vigilant to stay on top of relapse triggers.

Rehab sets the foundation for a successful recovery. It’s not a quick fix. If your loved one does relapse, give us a call and find out how you can help, and what your options are.

About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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