How to Help a Loved One Coming out of Rehab

If you’re anticipating your loved one’s return home from rehab, you’re probably proud, nervous and excited at the same time. It is not as scary and uncertain a time as when they went into rehab, but there are still a lot of emotions involved. Part of you is happy to have your loved one back to their old self, but at the same time, you wonder exactly what they’ll be like. Is the addiction really gone? Will they be able to function outside of rehab?

Transitions are always difficult because most people struggle with change. This should be a positive change, though, if it is handled properly. The key is in the planning. With the right preparation, you can make the transition back home after alcohol rehab or drug treatment smooth for everyone in your household.


Living With a Recovering Addict

When a member of your household suffers from addiction, the entire family is affected. Helping your loved one make the decision to enter rehab is the first step of healing for everyone involved. After rehab is over, and your family member is ready to return home, there is still more work to do. Now you and the rest of the family will be involved in the continuing success of the addiction recovery program.

Being prepared for this homecoming means understanding your role in the recovery process and being committed to rebuilding relationships. It also means accepting that family life after alcohol rehab or drug treatment will be different. Keep in mind that:

You are not the cause of your loved one’s addiction.

Your loved one is responsible for their own actions — a truth they should have accepted in rehab. Any attempt to blame you for the problem is a way of deflecting responsibility and playing the victim. Victims do not have control over their own lives, and, therefore, cannot change their circumstances.

Addiction recovery is about striking a new balance in life after rehab, taking control of your own actions and letting go of the need to control things outside of yourself. Your loved one is working on their internal acceptance, and will then have to figure out how to rebuild relationships with others.


However, there are aspects of your home life that probably contributed to your loved one’s addiction, and you’ll have to make sure you address these. Even if yours is a drug-free household, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other behavior patterns that exist that might have played a role in initiating or perpetuating the addictive behaviors. You will have to be open to discussing these behavior patterns and making some changes.

Rehab is not a cure.

Your loved one has successfully completed detox and rehabilitation, so he or she can come home and work on the next stage of recovery. He learned a lot of things about addiction and himself, and started building a new self-relationship – one that is healthy and realistic.

You need to accept that the work will continue at home. Your loved one is not “cured” from addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease with the same relapse rate as other chronic diseases, about 40 to 60 percent. Your loved one will have to maintain her sobriety for life, and rehab is a part of that process.


Some people have to go to rehab several times before they gain full control over their addiction.

Rehab involves dealing with a lot of emotional issues. Some of those emotions may still be raw when your loved one gets home from rehab, and he will still be vulnerable. While your loved one was in rehab, he was surrounded by people who could empathize with his situation. It was a safe and supportive place to exist. Now, he is coming home and interacting with people who may not understand what he is going through. Many of these interactions may be awkward at first until he figures out how to live a sober, healthy lifestyle in the context of a world where not everyone gets it.

No one can overcome addiction alone.

You may recognize addiction as your loved one’s problem, not yours, but that doesn’t mean she can recover without your help. By completing rehab, she has already done a lot of hard work, but that work will continue for a long time. When she gets home, your loved one will have to figure out how the members of your household will fit into her support system.

It’s tempting to think that since rehab is over, and your loved one is back home, you can forget about addiction and get on with your lives. Addiction recovery is a life-long issue that may fade at times, but will always be part of your loved one’s life. If you want to remain in your loved one’s life after rehab, you will need to remain involved in the recovery process. That means working with her to create a safe and supportive environment at home and continuing to be supportive, checking in frequently.

Your loved one’s recovery will stress you, too.

Addiction recovery can be a tough fight, and part of you might have felt some relief when your loved one went to rehab. When your loved one is recovering from addiction, though, there is a lot of work for you to do, too. Addiction affects your whole family, no matter who is actually taking the drugs. For recovery to be successful, you will have to learn about addiction, make some changes to your household routines and deal with some difficult situations moving forward.

Although you are not the one in recovery, you will need support of your own to get through the next several months. Living with a recovering addict is similar to being the primary caregiver to someone suffering a serious physical illness. It is easy to focus all of your energy on the recovering addict and neglect your own needs. You should consider joining a support group and getting counseling to be sure your needs are met.


What to Expect After Rehab

Before your loved one went into rehab, you probably learned to expect the unexpected from him. It is likely that he surprised you with attitudes and behaviors you didn’t recognize, and your relationship changed in ways you never imagined it would.

What most people hope for when their loved one returns home from rehab is that life will go back to the way it was before the addiction. Unfortunately, recovery doesn’t always work that way. Your loved one has made some changes and learned a lot while in rehab, so you shouldn’t experience the sort of chaos that went on before they left. But, now he knows things about himself that he never understood before, so going back to being someone he once was is off the table.

These are positive changes, however, since knowledge and self-love are two keys that will make recovery successful. You cannot expect the same old person to come home from rehab, but you can hold out hope for a positive future.


Your loved one has just spent 30 days or more in a safe, supportive environment. Think of rehab as an incubator that protected your loved one from the outside environment while he began the process of recovering from addiction. He will have to leave that environment to come home, and there is always some anxiety associated with that move.

When your loved one entered rehab, his life was out of control. He didn’t recognize himself anymore, and he may have been close to giving up. Detoxing threw his body into turmoil, and, once sober, he had to face some serious emotional issues. With the support of the entire rehab community, he deconstructed his life and learned how to build it back up again without relying on substances. For the first time in years, he dealt with emotions without chemical intervention and uncovered issues about himself that he may never want to share with anyone.

Although it is the only path back from addiction, rehab puts people through the emotional ringer. Returning home after rehab, your loved one’s emotions may be a little raw. He learned a new way of looking at life, but now he has to go back to his home and job and figure out how to maintain this new perspective. It is an exciting and anxious milestone.

How You Can Help Ease the Transition

Change is always hard, and the transition from rehab back home can be a big one. To help ease that transition for your loved one, try to:

Keep expectations low.

The pressure to succeed is often enough to cause sabotage. Do not set your expectations too high.

Remember, your loved one is responsible for her own recovery. You can be there to help and support, but she is going to progress on her own schedule. Before she left rehab, your loved one made a plan for how and when to transition back to work, family responsibilities and social commitments. It is unrealistic to expect this to happen all at once. Try to follow the one-day-at-a-time mantra. At first, just getting through each day outside of rehab without any major problems is cause for celebration.


Don’t ask a lot of questions.

Rehab can be an intensely personal experience in which people delve into emotions that have been buried for years. Usually, the reason he or she buried those emotions is because they were too painful to face. Rehab requires people to deal with these emotions and understand how they affect their behavior, but sharing those rehab experiences with anyone outside the program can be impossible.

When your loved one returns home from rehab, she will feel a bit conspicuous, as if everyone is watching to see what she will do, if she has changed, how she will live, etc. Don’t add to this pressure by quizzing her about what happened in rehab, or what she learned about her addiction. Despite your curiosity, hold back and wait for her to volunteer this information. She will share whatever she feels is prudent when she is ready.

Remain focused on the present.

Now that your loved one is home from rehab, there is a great temptation to try to rehash the past. You may want an apology or explanation for past behaviors. This is understandable, but it’s not the right time. It is a good idea to get some counseling or other types of therapy to resolve these issues on your own before your loved one comes home from rehab.

The transition home from rehab will be easier on everyone if you leave the past alone. Think of it as a new beginning and focus on rebuilding your relationship. Figure out what you have to do to make sure your needs and those of your loved one are met in the present time. You cannot change the past.

Make some rules.

In rehab, people discover the value of being open and honest. When your loved one comes home from rehab, he may still be working on his communications skills, and you can help with that. Have a calm and open conversation about how you would like everyone in the household to behave. Come to an agreement on some ground rules.


Don’t use this as an opportunity to dictate to your loved one how he should behave. Instead, it should be a way of making sure everyone has the same expectations. Your loved one may not be ready to jump back into a full schedule of household responsibilities right away. Let him tell you the pressures he is feeling about being back. Negotiate a balance of responsibilities that is fair to everyone. Agree to talk again soon and revise the rules as necessary.

Take it slow.

It can be tempting to throw a big homecoming party to celebrate your loved one’s accomplishments. Getting through rehab is a big achievement, and you are proud of the strength and diligence your loved one displayed. Remember that rehab is not a cure. While your loved one is better, she is still fragile.

Social interactions can create a great amount of anxiety for someone who is fairly new to recovery. In rehab, your loved one only interacted with other people who understood her situation because they were addicts, too. Going back to socializing with people who are not in recovery can be a big step. And, of course, the idea of a party takes on a whole new meaning for someone who has made such a life change but is still likely experiencing cravings.

Rehab homecoming needs to be calm and quiet. Talk with your loved one before inviting anyone to the house. Make sure she is comfortable with social interactions or has a quiet place to retreat to when other people are around. Allow your loved one to reintroduce herself to family, friends and social situations at her own pace.


How to Promote Continued Recovery

Your recognition of the severity of addiction and your desire to support your loved one through the transition from rehab back home are a good start. While you cannot take responsibility for the outcome, you can promote your loved one’s continued recovery.


  • Preach or lecture to your recovering loved one about addiction, how to live, what he is doing wrong or anything else. No matter how much research you’ve done, you are not an expert. By asserting your superior knowledge on the subject, you will be tearing down your loved one’s self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
  • Lie or cover up bad behavior, drinking, drugs or anything that goes on in your household. If your loved one has a relapse of any sort, ignoring it will not be helpful. In rehab, addicts learn that they have to be responsible for their actions. If those actions are less than admirable, it is important to own them, learn from them and make adjustments.
  • Be judgmental. Constantly checking up on your loved one to is going to undermine trust. Believe what they tell you, and try to rebuild the trust in your relationship.


  • Allow yourself to be manipulated. You may think you are helping by doing everything he wants, especially when they play the victim card. But, in fact, when you let your loved one manipulate you, you are contributing to the addictive mentality and allowing him to be a victim.
  • Ignore problems. If there are communication or behavioral issues in the household, you need to address them. In rehab, addicts learn the importance of being open and honest. Do not keep secrets from your loved one because you think it is better not to talk about certain topics.
  • Take it personally. Your loved one is probably fighting some demons that you are unaware of. Sometimes he may lash out at you or not be able to fulfill his household responsibilities. Remember that his behavior is not directed at you — he is just having a bad day.


  • Express your love and concern in an open and honest way. Recovering addicts need a lot of emotional support. Remind your loved one often that you are behind her efforts to build a healthy life. Express your concern for her well-being with love and not criticism.
  • Learn everything you can about addiction and recovery. It will help you to better understand the situation, and your interest in the subject will show your loved one that you care. When she mentions a rehab term you are not familiar with, look it up instead of requiring your loved one to provide you with all of the information.
  • Remain flexible. Understand that there will be good days and bad days. Sometimes what was working will stop working, and you’ll have to make adjustments. When certain hurdles are cleared, you will have to turn your attention to other issues.
  • Respect boundaries. Boundaries are often an issue in families with addiction. In rehab, your loved one learned how to set her own boundaries and respect others, but it may take some practice to get this right. Listen for cues about where her boundaries are and give her the space she needs.


  • Take care of yourself. You cannot be constantly engrossed in someone else’s addiction recovery, even when it is someone you love. Take time out for recreation, rest, fun and emotional release.

Supporting a loved one’s transition from rehab back home is a major undertaking. It is a good idea to reach out to the professionals at 12 Keys Rehab for help and guidance.

12 Keys Can Help With Returning Home After Rehab

We understand that welcoming your loved one returning home after rehab can be a difficult situation. You may have unresolved issues with their behavior before they went to rehab, and you and your children have emotional needs of your own. When your loved one returns home, you want to make sure that everyone is safe and emotionally supported.

When you contact 12 Keys, we will be able to answer all of your questions about the transition from rehab back home. We understand your concerns and have specific recommendations to help you through this transition. You want to do what is right for your loved one and all of the members of your household, and we can help you figure that out. Contact 12 Keys today to start preparing for that big homecoming.

The Addiction Blog