It’s important for families of addicts to learn how to successfully help an addict recover post-rehab. It’s something my family didn’t research or prepare for prior to my return home. Honestly, I wish they had and was shocked by several insensitive behaviors and situations I was put into.
However, I understand that they didn’t (don’t) know any better. And that’s a big part of my purpose in sharing these ways to help an addict recover. So that other families won’t repeat the same mistakes.
My heroin recovery story involves an unusual detour. Instead of drug rehab, my family was conned into sending me to a Scientology Front Group.
Perhaps if they had been in touch with a legitimate facility, they may have been informed and guided in their own recovery process. Unfortunately, that never happened.
Addiction is a commonality that plagues the population regardless of financial status, race or creed. It is imperative that we work together to better understanding this affliction that disables so many of us while advocating for change and working towards rehabilitation reform.
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Ensure a Sober Environment
The most important way to help an addict recover is by ensuring they’re coming home to a sober environment. In fact, the worst environment for an addict to recover in is their old stomping grounds.
Being surrounded by all of their old hangouts and homies can be absolutely detrimental to their recovery. Consider one of these two options for your loved one instead.
Make a Move
How much does their life mean to you? Look, I get it. That question is harsh and insensitive. But with facts reporting a 40-60% relapse rate, drastic times call for save their life measures.
Consider moving to help an addict recover more easily by providing them with a fresh start in a new environment.
I’ve heard people dismiss this solution as being a situation of running from your problems. What? Grab your Nikes and just do it. They’re not running from something, they’re running towards it.
Is moving absolutely out of the question? I understand. For many, it simply is not possible. People are deeply rooted in their network of support, families, careers, and other environmental influences. Furthermore, it’s impossible without financial resources.
If that’s your situation then find a reputable sober living program. Sober living homes are residences used for transitioning into sobriety before going home. There are generally four levels for recovery residences regulated by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR).
Level 1 Recovery Houses
These resemble the Oxford house model and offer the least services and accountability. It’s a social approach method governed by a charter and set of rules agreed upon before being accepted into the recovery home. The homes are essentially run by those in recovery and all members vote on new members and regulations.
There isn’t outside management or supervision. Weekly 12-step meetings are common but typically, other recovery services aren’t provided. However, they are encouraged and often, required while living in level one residences.
Level 2 Recovery Houses
Unlike level one residences, level two recovery homes are usually elect a supervisor to monitor and ensure rules are being followed. Furthermore, mandatory drug tests are strictly enforced.
Level 3 Recovery Houses
Unlike level one and two recovery residences, level three is usually operated by paid staff. Additionally, they incorporate parts of clinical treatment including counseling. Level three recovery houses tend to be more structured with greater accountability.
Level 4 Recovery Houses
These recovery houses use a clinical approach for aftercare treatment and are often referred to as TC’s, or therapeutic communities. They are inpatient facilities that include onsite counseling, peer-support groups, and a structured treatment plan for residents to adhere to. Unlike other recovery houses, level four homes typically don’t allow residents to come and go as they please. Furthermore, they won’t be able to work full-time (if at all) because of structured recovery activities in their day.
Clean up Their Living Space
If helping an addict recover means coming home is their only option after rehab then at the very least, clean up their living space!
Don’t overlook this step. I realize you may not want to invade their privacy and perhaps fear what you might find. But if you don’t ensure they’re coming home to a clean environment, I can almost guarantee they will find things that could trigger a relapse.
My Return Home
When I came home from my seven months away, my room was much worse than when I had left it. Unfortunately, my cat was neglected and his litter box was not well-maintained. As a result, my fairly new, pillow-top queen was destroyed.
Furthermore, my many piles of clutter had become biohazards and I had to throw everything away. I was angry and honestly couldn’t fully believe this was my homecoming.
Additionally, while cleaning up my cat urine soaked hoard, I found multiple pieces of tin foil with charred heroin remnants. I’m not joking and that isn’t all. I discovered drug baggies with unscraped residue, muscle relaxers, a methadone pill, dirty needles, broken straws, and plastic pen barrels. Those are all very triggering and I wish they hadn’t been there.
Even a homeless junkie has something in that backpack they have hanging off their shoulders. Get rid of it! Go into their room or their home and clean it up. For every unhealthy item that you remove from an addict’s environment, try replacing it with something to encourage health and recovery.
Create a Recovery Space
Obviously, my family fucked up. And that is putting it nicely. By the grace of God, those circumstances didn’t trigger a relapse. Ultimately, coming home to an immaculate room with a few new welcoming additions would have been more ideal. Clutter and chaos are enemies to recovery and mental health.
Environmental Ideas to Promote Health and Recovery
- Essential Oil Diffuser
- Knowledge and Growth
- Journal & Pens
- Comfortable Pajamas
- Bath Set
- A Sobriety Gift Acknowledging Recovery
Gifts that promote comfort will be well received. Do not give cash, gift cards, or anything overly extravagant. Those gifts may not help an addict recover and are often returned, traded, or sold for dope.
Additionally, you should put together a welcome home care package for them. What would be on their list of comfort items? Keep it simple but thoughtful and find gifts that represent them.
Show them that you pay attention to their little things, simple passions, and tiny joys. Remind them that you know who they are in a time when they may feel uncertain of who they are themselves.
If a care package isn’t their style then do what you can to make their welcome home encouraging and special. You know them best. Are they a loner? Book them a spa day alone and let them have that time to be pampered quietly. Chauffer them to get that tattoo or piercing to commemorate their commitment to sobriety. Celebrate them and their progress.
Find a Support Group
Helping an addict recover means immediately reconnecting them with people who are also recovering and can relate. One of the biggest commonalities among addicts is the need to be listened to and understood.
Don’t wait for your loved one to come home before finding resources within your community to help guide their recovery in a healthy direction.
The purpose of these support groups is to get clean and stay sober! Additionally, it’s an opportunity to find fellowship with people working towards the same goal of sobriety.
Way too many rehab centers don’t rehabilitate at all and are only a place to dry out. Be prepared for your loved one to tell you about their awful experiences. Don’t be surprised by reports of abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, drug rehabs across the globe are failing addicts horribly.
Furthermore, rehab is not a cure for drug addiction. An addict’s journey isn’t over after rehab. Their road to recovery has only just begun.
Finding the Right Meetings
Honestly, I can think of nothing more loving than doing that work and research for them and ensuring that they have plenty of well-researched options in front of them when they get home. It will help them to remain more grounded and focused on their sobriety. Regardless of the experiences and possible trauma they endured at rehab.
Have you been to a recovery meeting? Attending a meeting is a great way to gain understanding about what your addict has and will continue to go through on their road to recovery.
Did you know that there are recovery meetings every day? In fact, there are meetings designed for specific groups including LGTBQ, gender exclusive, and meetings revolving around an addicts drug of choice (DOC). Help them by finding, researching, and sharing those resources with your newly recovered addict.
Don’t allow them to wind up at a meeting that is predominantly older men when they are a 21-year-old struggling gay woman. Get it? That experience might detour them from going to another meeting. And that could devastate their chances of successfully remaining sober.
Recovery In-Person Meeting Resources
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Gal- AA LGBTQ
- International Alcoholics Anonymous by Country
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Gay and Sober Meetings
- Marijuana Anonymous
- Cocaine Anonymous
- Crystal Meth Anonymous
- Heroin Anonymous
Online and Phone Recovery Meeting Resources
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Marijuana Anonymous
- Cocaine Anonymous
- In The Rooms Online Meetings Almost Every Hour
Check out several meetings that help an addict recover and create an addiction resource for their welcome home care package.
Another program that may benefit the addict you love is called Celebrate Recovery. It’s a Christ-centered 12-step program that focuses on helping with addiction, in all its forms. These groups typically meet in churches for an hour or more, once a week.
Family Program and Meeting Resources
These resources provide recovery for families and friends of addicts. Addiction is a family disease and everyone needs help with recovery. One of the best things you can do for yourself and to help an addict recover is to come together and heal as a family.
- Al-Anon for Families and Friends of Alcoholics
- Nar-Anon for Families and Friends of Drug Addicts
- Families Anonymous
- SMART Recovery Family and Friends
- Parents of Addicted Loved Ones a Christian Run Program
- GRASP for Families Lost Loved Ones to Addiction and Overdose
- NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness
Alternatives to the 12-Steps
For some people, AA/NA meetings aren’t the answer and that’s ok. There are several alternatives to 12-steps to help an addict recover.
Women for Sobriety (WFS) helps women find their individual path to recovery through the discovery of self. They’re an abstinence-based self-help program dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. WFS isn’t affiliated with any other recovery organization and stands on their own philosophy and principles.
Offering a variety of recovery tools that guide women in developing coping skills. Focusing on both spiritual and emotional growth. Furthermore, they work on self-esteem and living a healthy and abstinent lifestyle.
SMART Recovery is a community of people and families working together, globally, to resolve addictive problems. They have free group discussion meetings where people learn from each other.
SMART Recovery utilizes a self-empowering approach based on the most accurate science regarding recovery. People discover and develop the power to change themselves and go on to lead healthier and sober lifestyles. They’re guided by their science-based 4-Point Program®.
LifeRing believes you have the power to overcome addiction and encourages it through secular recovery. Their approach is compatible with a variety of other abstinence-based treatment. And many of their participants are active in other programs. The LifeRing approach believes you are the best person to design your own program and works with you in doing so. Meetings can be face to face or online.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety is a collection of programs that are autonomous from each other. SOS offers individuals alternatives to spirituality based recovery programs. And they host both online and real-world meetings to help people overcoming all forms of addiction.
These programs provide support for people who aren’t spiritual and are looking for alternatives to religious-based teachings and a call to a higher power.
Establish a Homecare Recovery Plan
After seeking out the best recovery meetings and programs in your community, you’re going to need help! Who is in the addict’s circle of friends and family that is sober and willing to assist in their journey?
Building Their Support Team
Network with people who are able to make sure they get to meetings and other support resources. Create a rotation schedule and share it with the team. Supporters should be willing to attend the meetings. But also understand if the addict would rather they not come in with them. Give them the support they need and bring a book to read in the car.
Additionally, find online programs, books, videos, therapy, a mentor, or whatever it takes to implement some after rehab sobriety care. There needs to be a substantial plan in place. Otherwise, all they have is time and they quickly return to old habits for filling that time.
Building Their Routine
Regardless of the length of their rehab stay, there’s a good chance your addict is coming home institutionalized. Nobody told me what to expect and it’s because they were clueless about there being a transitional period.
When I came home from state rehab, I felt extremely discombobulated. Furthermore, there was overwhelming loneliness and relentless quiet that was deafening.
Everyone in my environment resumed life as normal and I had nothing and no one to engage me. I was unemployed and had no routine or schedule enforced.
My parents scheduled their two-week vacation out of state the day after I came home. My sister (and roommate) was consumed by her online gaming addiction and spent all of her time on a computer with a headset talking to people all over the world and ignoring me.
Implement a routine for them to come home to that can include things like meals, meetings, chores, basic responsibilities, family time, church, journaling, etc. Routine is imperative for success.
What Institutionalized Looks Like
When I got home, I was no longer around a bunch of loud people for 24 hours a day. Realistically, as much as I loathed the juvenile antics of my rehab peers during my stay, once home, I couldn’t sit still. It was too quiet.
Every morning during breakfast, the girls at rehab would play the three TechN9ne videos available OnDemand. For the three days prior to my relapse, I got up every morning and listened to the music I’d once found obnoxious. My day did not feel normal without those videos.
At rehab, this cereal and these suckers became daily staples. After I got home, I found myself still eating them. In rehab, we used cups for our cereal. I continued this behavior. Despite the fact I was home and didn’t use to sit around with a lollipop in my mouth all day it felt weird without one. So I continued to suck on them all day long.
My sister has never done drugs, and has never been to jail or rehab and didn’t have any idea what I was going through. While I attempted to get her to understand she dismissed the videos I played as noise and retreated back to doing her online life. It hurt and I felt confused and alone.
So help an addict recover by asking them how they are doing with adjusting to being outside. Talk to them about institutionalization and explain it’s common and that it’s normal for them to be experiencing the overwhelming confusion they may be faced with.
Listen to them and try to understand and overcome whatever their new little oddities are coming back and adjusting to the world.
Create a Therapy Wellness Plan
My family didn’t consider my mental health or emotional wellbeing upon my release. The pain and anguish associated with the underlying issues that are now opened up need to be expressed in healthy ways or it will manifest in unhealthy behaviors again.
Help an addict recover by financing and supporting their therapy. Many addicts have trauma and abuse that they need to process and work through.
Employ a therapist that can help them to do that. A trained professional is the best chance of finding the right tools and methods an addict needs for their recovery process.
Let Them Match With TalkSpace
TalkSpace features over 5000 licensed therapists and is close to 80% cheaper than face-to-face therapy. There are different monthly plans to choose from. Including text, video, and audio messaging and options for live online sessions.
Build a Foundation of Trust
Trust needs to be earned and not given back freely. Remember, drug rehab is not a cure for drug addiction. Drug addicts are master manipulators and often con their loved ones because of their disease. Proceed with caution and take baby steps.
If they were lying to you before they went away then they are liars and have already established that they’re capable of lying to you.
Importance of Time
Regardless of how honest they appear to be in their newfound recovery, they need to earn back that trust. Do not give it too freely. I know you want to trust them but don’t.
Extending too much trust to them, in the beginning, can be debilitating for their chance at recovery. They may internalize things and start to believe that you’re not concerned with their sobriety.
Even if they don’t want to lie to you, they’re still battling a disease and with relapse statistics being as high as 72-88%, after 12-36 months opiate detoxification, it’s important that you do not give trust blindly. Coming home is only the beginning of a long road of recovery ahead.
A common phenomenon when attending rehabilitation programs is rehab romances and they’re unhealthy. Drug addicts are codependent and shouldn’t date right away. Especially, during the beginning withdrawal and healing stages of recovery.
I realize that some rehab relationships flourish and blossom into something great. I’ve witnessed a few romances develop over the years from the Scientology rehab scam I attended. However, that is not the norm.
During the early stages of recovery, your emotional wellbeing is fragile. Addiction experts advise that you don’t enter into a romantic relationship until one year into recovery. Help an addict recover by guiding them to that education. So that they can discover this and not feel lectured or preached at. Especially, if they’re already violating that advice coming home in a rehab relationship.
Another huge mistake in an addict’s recovery is believing they can maintain healthy relationships with all the brand-new friends they made at rehab. Help an addict recover by introducing them to opportunities to meet new sober friends on the outside. They’re seeking companionship with someone who relates and listens.
My Rehab Friend
The friend I made in rehab was released three days after I went home and we relapsed together immediately.
Me: Hey girl, oh my God it is so good to hear from you. When did you get out?
Her: I know. I miss you so much. We need to hang out and oh by the way, can you come to pick me up? I just got out and I am dying to see you!
I was two and a half hours away from her but was bored from being home alone with my OnDemand videos and agreed to go. Seriously, I couldn’t wait to feel normal again.
Me: Two and a half hours away? You are lucky I love you. I feel like no one here even gives a shit. My parents left and my sister is in the other room talking to strangers she games with online. It has been so hard. I’m on my way!!!
Her: Ok see you in two hours. –Fast forward– You are here!!! I’ve been wanting to get high so badly. Do you want a Suboxone strip?
Me: I am dying to get high. Thanks homie!
And the rest writes itself. We scored meth once back to her home county because we rationalized that wasn’t our drug problem and we couldn’t do heroin on Suboxone.
Rehab Friendship Aftermath
Within a week or two we were using heroin and meth together and we both moved from smoking drugs to using needles. Rehab had taught us both how much we were wasting by smoking it and our curiosities were peaked to the high of the needle.
My parents were on the other coast. My sister was clueless and that was the beginning of a more disastrous story.
Going to rehab is not a miraculous cure or end-all to the bad behaviors and underlying causes of an addict’s problem. They are not going to come back completely reprogrammed or perfect. Especially, if they had less than ideal experiences and didn’t receive help. Which unfortunately isn’t uncommon in today’s rehabilitation system.
Change Enabling Behaviors
Enabling means different things to different people but it spells disaster for all. The worst thing that you can do is to continue to support them in their old addictive ways. Drug addicts are manipulators and the drug addict you love is no different. Regardless of their guilt tactics or repetitive pleas, you need to stand firm with your bottom line.
Boundaries and Bottom Line
What is your bottom line? Write it down. What manipulative tactics were you falling victim to prior to their recovery? Don’t forget them. Was there an intervention? Were letters read with expectations and boundaries? Those boundaries need to be reiterated and enforced.
If you didn’t establish your relationship boundaries and bottom line before rehab, it’s important to do so before you help an addict recover at home.
Don’t finance their homes and cars allowing them to use their cash for drinking and drugging! Do not authorize them on your bank account or cosign a line of credit. And above all, do not give them cash! They had a million reasons why they needed it before and they will give you a million more.
Don’t make me repeat the 40-60% relapse statistics, with closer to a 72-88% relapse rates for opiate addiction.
There is not a damn thing that they should be able to do to convince you that they’re not part of that statistic. It should take months, even years, for them to reestablish that trust. They are liars in recovery too. Don’t forget that.
This is not to suggest that you shouldn’t help an addict recover with means that help them re-establish themselves within society. If you can pay for a dance or art class, college, or another extracurricular activity for them to encourage growth by engaging in their passions, then please do it.
But don’t hand them the cash, or write them a check. Go swipe the card for the purchase yourself. If you can help them with a modest vehicle or a place to call home without it enabling them to finance their drugs with their own earnings, by all means, help them out of their struggle. Life is hard. Educate yourself and understand what is helpful and what hurts.
Put Your Own Drugs and Alcohol Away
Don’t downplay the severity of their disease. It’s best to avoid drinking and drugging of any kind around your loved one. That means even something as simple as taking a pill. Especially, prescription medicine. It may be prescribed and you don’t have a problem abusing them. But don’t pull the bottle out and pop the damn thing in front of them. It’s insensitive and not smart.
Don’t put pressure on them to justify your own alcohol use. They are in their beginning stages of recovery and it’s unfair to ask them if it’s alright to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana around them. They’ve only recently re-entered the real world.
If you can’t have them over without having a drink or blowing a blunt, you might consider taking a closer look at yourself. Why would you jeopardize their sobriety in any way?
My parents are wine drinkers and wasted no time – consuming bottles in my presence. However, they asked me if it was alright and elaborated they wouldn’t drink if it bothered me. Honestly, after spending forty-thousand dollars on my second chance at recovery, I was shocked by their insensitivity.
Hide Your Drugs
Help an addict recover by putting your fucking drugs away. It doesn’t matter if the drug you use is their DOC or not. Drugs are drugs, mmm kay? They will do them. They will do them all until they’re back using the one that put them into rehab in the first place.
When I came home, I opened the cupboard to get a coffee mug in the morning. My sister had left a bottle of forty Percocet in the cupboard! This was my second day home from my stay at Narconon’s Scientology scam. At that point, I was clean for seven months. Percoset is what teased and turned on my heroin addiction.
It was unsettling and angered me, to say the least. I couldn’t believe no one appeared to take any time to make sure that my environment was set up for my success!
It still rattles me to think about what may have happened had I not been stronger that day. Immediately, I screamed for my sister to come to collect them and she complied. However, she tossed them into her dresser drawer with zero regards to the reality that I was watching. The memory of them being in there tempted me a few times over the years.
Educate Yourself About Relapse
One more time for the people in back, relapse statistics are at 40-60% with closer to a 72-88% relapse rate for opiate addiction. Don’t be naive about relapse looks and sounds like.
Warning Signs of a Relapse
- Your loved one starts associating with people from when they were using.
- They begin reliving their war stories but refer to them affectionately as the good old days.
- They start losing interest in their hobbies, passions, activities, and friends.
- You catch them telling lies.
- They’ve become depressed and/or isolated.
- Beginning to badmouth the recovery process and their programs.
- Their attitude and behaviors begin changing and not for the best.
Common Triggers of Relapse
- Interacting with People Using Drugs and Alcohol
- Old Scenery and Hangouts
- Physical Pain
Despite the many mistakes made during my homecoming, I’m six years heroin free 09-27-19. I’ve never received any therapy or attended meetings regularly and I smoke weed daily now. I realize that marijuana isn’t heroin but in the disease of addiction, it’s a new vice for the same problems. And I wouldn’t encourage anyone to start smoking it without medical reasons.
Furthermore, please do your research and be careful where you send your loved ones for help. I’ve gone to rehab twice and never received drug treatment or counseling (as promised) by both facilities. My first experience being a 30-day state-funded program that was equivalent to county jail. My second treatment experience being Narconon — a Scientology rehab scam that recruits new members into their cult under false claims of drug rehab.
So please, read reviews (go back several pages on Google) and interview multiple places to narrow your search. Visit the locations before committing when opportunity permits.
Above all, pray about it and keep praying every day while they’re at treatment and after they come home. I believe that by the grace of God I am alive and heroin free. Despite my rehab experiences and thoughtless welcome home, I am free. I’m incredibly blessed by a network of people who genuinely love and pray for me (including my parents) and I’m eternally grateful. God bless you and the addicts you love in recovery. Would you bless me by sharing my story? Thanks! You wouldn’t believe how happy those make me.