Important Topics When a Family Member Returns from Rehab: Part 1

Links to other resources: Residential Treatment, Detox, Language and Addiction

For the next week or so we will be giving some tips on commonly asked questions regarding dealing with a family member who is in treatment for substance use disorder or facing an addiction problem and needs to seek treatment. I recently spoke to a parent who was picking up a family member from rehab in a few days. There are certainly many important issues to discuss when picking a family member up from treatment or rehab, but many common questions involve the housing situation, how to tell if someone is using drugs or alcohol again, whether or not to drug test a family member after they enter treatment and return home, and what type of boundaries are successful for other people  or families who are living with a family member with an addiction. Today we will talk about boundaries. This is a great place to start, because many frequent questions about housing and transportation are also part of the general boundary discussion. As I always mention, this blog is brought to you by the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida, Florida Springs in Panama City.


1. Attitude

Although it may seem like a person who has upended their own life and the lives of their family members by using drugs or alcohol should feel bad about that forever, it is important that we allow ourselves to feel hopeful about real positive change. The attitude around the family may be very uncertain and even negative when taking a family member to rehab. Just 30 days later, it’s very likely that many of the same problems still exist and things are far from perfect, but try and let yourself see the bright side when your family member completes an inpatient treatment program. Many people with the disease of addiction die or end up in jail before ever reaching treatment. Still more people are not able to complete the 30-day treatment program after entering rehab for drugs and alcohol. If your family member has reached a milestone in their early journey of recovery and feels good about that, try to match that positive feeling in some way. It doesn’t mean all the serious problems and pain that has been caused goes away, it just shows a level of cautious optimism.

2. Transportation

First, we will talk about transportation to and from rehab, but maybe even more important is the status of your family member when it comes to accessing a car and their ability to drive. Bringing a family member to rehab or treatment is hugely important. Although in the process of healing unhealthy familial relationships around addiction we may have needed to stop giving rides to an addicted family member, I always preach much more leniency when it comes to a family member who has finally showed real willingness to enter a program of recovery. There are much more complicated situations where a family member wants to use drugs one more time before entering rehab, and I will discuss those situations later in this series because that’s a real circumstance that people face, but I consider giving a family member a ride to rehab a very positive step. I recommend that people give a family member transportation to treatment if possible. The most important question surrounding picking up a family member from rehab is probably what comes next, for most people, because oftentimes when picking a family member up from rehab they may not have a place to go and may be asking you for further assistance.

Depending on the age and family role of the person who has completed treatment, although all these situations are different, it can be good for a person to not have access to a car right away after returning from rehab. Getting in a car and going to buy drugs or going to drink alcohol are both very likely ways for the situation to go sideways. In order to avoid that scenario, the family should work out a plan wherein there is no free access to a car right away, and the person might earn car access with several weeks (Or even months) of doing the right things. These plans should involve a lot of open discussion beforehand, so that nobody feels like they are being treated unfairly or surprised by a strict rule.  

3. Communication

There are many reasons that communication will be brought up throughout this series of articles. Let’s just talk about a few of the initial discussions that might take place when a family member returns from rehab. One might be a discussion about drug testing. For an alcoholic returning home from rehab a breathalyzer would fill a similar role. Just like the discussion about using a car, the communication around a drug-testing protocol should happen early and often, and it would be best if all parties agreed beforehand. One quick note while we are on this topic: If a family member complies with drug testing at the beginning, but then at some point becomes indignant about some aspect of the drug testing protocol, something may have changed regarding their status for testing, in other words they may have used drugs. There is a lot of shame involved in being addicted to a drug, and there is also shame involved in a relapse. If a family member starts lying in a way that seems strange or obvious, or gets indignant, that could be a reaction to shame from a recent relapse.

Relapse is not a part of everyone’s recovery, but certainly it happened to many of us along the way. Always remember that your family member is fighting a wicked and serious disease, and if a relapse occurs, you should try not to take is personally. Nobody is hurt more by an addicts’ drug or alcohol use than the addict themselves, and as hurtful as it might feel to a family member, it truly is not about you or disrespect towards you when someone slips and has a relapse.

Look for part 2 of this series later this week!

By T.A. Cannon