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The Dos and Don’ts of Drug Rehab Aftercare – For Families


Addiction is a disease for which we do not yet have a cure. Detox and subsequent behavioral counseling is the most effective means of maintaining a clean future, however nothing in the world of addiction is guaranteed and addicts will fight their disease for the rest of their lives. As family members, you will play an important role in your loved one’s aftercare and long-term recovery. Here are some pointers to help guide you in your new relationship:

What family members must do after treatment:

  • Make sure that your loved one is receiving appropriate aftercare for behavioral issues. This may include an extended treatment program or an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in an appropriate behavioral healthcare facility. Depending on their progress through treatment, their therapist will be able to offer concrete guidance as to what is best for their longer-term care. This advice will be based on solid clinical data and years of treating similar clients. Clients should also attend regular Anonymous groups (AA, NA, etc.)
  • Communication is a key to successful treatment and a cornerstone of long-term recovery. You and your loved one will learn the communication skills necessary to repair the damage done by addiction. Don’t lose sight of how important it is to communicate even when you don’t see eye to eye. The healing process is a long one and it will not be easy. Be sure to exercise patience.
  • Jumpstart their recovery by cleaning up your life, living more healthfully and making up for lost time by participating in mutually enjoyable activities. Becoming a bigger part of your loved one’s life not only strengthens the bond between you both, but gives them another reason to stay clean.

What not to do after treatment:

  • Do not allow your loved ones to rejoin the circle of friends that introduced them to their substance of abuse or encourage their addictive behavior. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this group of people have changed, even if they say they have. It can be tempting to believe that your loved one will not relapse, but it only takes a second and being surrounded by those who do not support recovery is counterproductive.
  • Do not be overly suspicious of your loved one. Keeping tabs every minute of every day only serves to exacerbate any trust issues that they may have. If they successfully completed a course of treatment and are regularly attending support groups and meetings, they have achieved a great milestone. But they need your support and trust, too. This is not to say you shouldn’t look out for the signs of recidivism – just do so lovingly and constructively.
  • Don’t keep a grudge. Part of the treatment process requires facing the past head-on, accepting it and working toward resolving the damage caused. Holding on to bad feelings only serves to isolate the recovering addict. Forgiveness is a powerful tool. You may not be able to forget, but you can, and will, move on if you let yourself.

There will be great successes and significant hurdles to overcome now and in the future. During the course of treatment, you and your loved one will learn many important strategies to cope and move on. By working together with your loved one and his or her clinicians, you can take one step at a time toward a new beginning.