How to Respond When a Loved One Wants to Come Home Early From Rehab
Recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is not an easy process. It takes all of one’s focus and energy to learn how to live a substance-free life, to detox safely and to work through the emotions that bubble up in the process. Residential rehab facilities provide the perfect environment for a recovering addict to get a fresh start in a safe, healthy and supportive environment.
However, many residential facilities have strict rules. For example, some do not allow you to visit or talk to your loved one for a certain amount of time. Others may prohibit phone calls but allow you to write letters.
There are a variety of reasons for such limited contact, but the primary reason is to prevent damaging arguments from occurring during a time when both you and your loved one are feeling vulnerable. When your friend or family member is experiencing withdrawal, she may feel depressed, angry or just plain moody as a side effect. A rehab facility provides a safe space for her to express these feelings and to work through them. A tense conversation with you might have the opposite effect, as much as you’d like to think otherwise.
Still, eventually you will be allowed to visit your loved one, participate in joint counseling sessions and speak over the phone. This will happen once your loved one is more positive and seems to be making good progress.
However, it’s possible that your loved one will still be depressed when you talk to her. She may be experiencing homesickness. She may be angry and uncommitted to the recovery process. No matter what her exact reason, she might say something to the effect of, “Come get me right now!”
She might say that she has already recovered, even though there are still weeks left to go in her treatment program. She might say that doesn’t like the facility and just wants to come home. She might even be flat-out angry with you and threaten to never speak to you again unless you get her out of there. She may cajole you in any way she can in order to make you feel guilty enough to meet her demands.
This isn’t the reaction you had hoped for when your loved one finally entered rehab. So does it mean all hope is lost? Not at all. She is simply experiencing one of the many challenging stages of recovery. Getting through it and sticking to the treatment program is tantamount.
So how should you respond?
No matter how down-in-the-dumps, angry or upset your loved one is, don’t mirror her attitude. It’s important to stay positive and to express hope for the future. Remind her that things will get better. The first stages of recovery are the hardest and most intense, so things can only look up from there.
Note how far your loved one has already come and encourage her to keep moving forward. Remind her that you will be waiting for her when she completes her rehab program, but that she needs to complete the program to understand how to live life as a recovering addict or alcoholic.
Also remind her that she is surrounded by healthcare professionals who are skilled at helping addicts or alcoholics detox safely and navigate the stages of recovery. These caregivers are better equipped to address any symptoms or concerns than you are, so encourage your loved one to turn to them for assistance.
Acknowledge Your Loved One’s Feelings
The desire to come home early from rehab may be rooted in a number of emotions: fear, resentment, mental or physical pain, insecurity, etc. Try to understand which of these feelings is motivating your loved one to give up or to come home early. Be careful not to put words in her mouth, but do acknowledge her feelings and show that you understand how scary or painful rehab can be. Tell her that you will, of course, be visiting as soon as you’re allowed to, and that you can spend some time together then, but in the meantime you will not be taking her home early.
Stand Your Ground
Don’t give in. When your loved one does come home after fully completing rehab, you will need to establish boundaries. You may have inadvertently enabled your loved one when she was actively abusing drugs or alcohol, and firm rules will help both of you from regressing to this potentially damaging relationship.
Just like your loved one, you also need to learn a new way to live life post-rehab. This means standing your ground and employing tough love when needed. Start now by not bringing your loved one home early from rehab, staying positive and being supportive in healthy, constructive ways. Research shows that people with addiction have a better chance staying sober when helped by a loved one.