Awaiting the homecoming of your loved one from rehab will bring a whirlwind of emotions.
You will most likely feel excited for their return. At the same time, it is not unusual to feel apprehensive as well.
Aside from the fact that you have redesigned your life to accommodate your loved one’s treatment, anxiety surrounding their return is inevitable. But stress does not have to be your downfall. In fact, by being proactive, you will be prepared to address hot button issues if they surface. You will want to prepare physically and mentally for your loved one’s return.
Prepping the House
In order to prevent visual triggers, it is essential to remove or hide anything that might remind your loved one of addiction. This includes prescription medications (narcotic or not) and the obvious, such as alcohol bottles or other paraphernalia.
If you are preparing a room for your loved one, create a peaceful environment. Consider offering the space with the most sunlight. Place a potted plant by a window. Create a space that looks and feels alive.
According to a Psychology Today article, among other benefits, the presence of plants in a physical space has been known to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve perceptions
- Lower levels of anxiety
- Improve productivity
Paying attention to the physical environment will benefit both you and your loved one. Because we mostly operate in accordance to our visual capacities, our memories are easily triggered by physical aspects.
To put it concisely, if the environment is visually appealing, your loved one is going to feel better about him or herself.
Perhaps the easiest way to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for your loved one’s return is to review a list of dos and don’ts.
Don’t pressure them. As much as you want to be encouraging and inspire them to get motivated, too much all at once can do more damage than good.
Don’t take things personally. No matter how much you try to keep the mood light around the house, you simply cannot predict the emotional trajectory of your loved one’s recovery. And, truth be known, there will be good days and bad days.
When the bad days arise, know that they will pass. If you harbor negativity or take something your loved one says (in the heat of the moment) personally, you will only create unnecessary obstacles. Let the bad times roll, and then, move on.
Do communicate. Your loved one needs honest communication in order to heal. Opening the doorway for communication right away will allow your loved one to feel free to speak. The last thing you want is for your loved one to feel uncomfortable in sharing what’s going on both emotionally and physically. Being the one they can talk to will provide needed support and understanding.
Do allow your loved one to make mistakes. Bottoming out is a necessary part of the recovery process. Stopping loved ones from making mistakes will only be an impediment to their progress. Your loved one needs to fall and pick him or herself back up. When they do defeat an obstacle on their own, they will feel an immediate boost in their confidence.
Do be mindful of your expectations. Focusing too much concern around the possibility of relapse could damage progress. In other words, much of our reality is defined by our expectations. If you are continually expecting your loved one to relapse, you could subconsciously aid in this happening.
Don’t assume anything. Obviously, assumptions are hard to completely omit from our perspectives, but it’s important to be aware of how fear plays into assumptions. Ask yourself: is this thought validated by fact or by fear? You may not always be able to discern easily. Simply said, when in doubt, don’t. Allow time to work its magic. Resist the urge to panic.
Don’t bring up the past. This is a huge one. Bringing up the past is a sure way to create a tug of war between you and your loved one. Digging at the past will only pour salt in wounds. There’s a difference between constructive discussions and playing the blame game. If there is a major pressing issue, consider outpatient therapy for you and your loved one.
Don’t be judgmental. Recovery is not a cookie-cutter process. If you find yourself comparing your loved one’s progress with that of a co-worker or friend, stop. Everyone has a unique process of healing. Some want a hand through the process and others do not. Respect their process by not giving into judgment.
Don’t blame yourself. If your loved one ends up relapsing, do not accept blame. Realize that you do not hold that much power. If your loved one relapses, it’s because relapse is a part of addiction, not because you led them down a dark road.
Do provide social support. Loneliness is inevitable during recovery. More than likely, your loved one had to get rid of his or her entire social circle. Consider taking up a hobby or an exercise class with your loved one. This will benefit both of you.
Do be open. This is an important one. While it is understandable that you will be worried about your loved one now that they are back in the “real” world, it is vital for you to allow yourself to be a little vulnerable with them. Vulnerability is not a symptom of weakness, but a sign of courage.