One of the most common questions asked by parents or friends is how to deal with a person once they return from a drug or alcohol abuse treatment program. The difficulty of this question is that each person must be dealt with individually. Some people do very well and simply get on with their lives, others have a harder time. Much of this depends on the substance treated and the length of abuse. Someone who has been abusing alcohol for a short time, say 6 months or so, and lost control over it can normally get right back to a good productive lifestyle. Whereas a 5-year crack cocaine addict may find their new drug-free life a bit worrisome, with so many uncertainties to face.
There are however very specific factors involved in success after drug and alcohol rehab treatment. These apply to the recovering substance abuser as well as those close, such as family members, friends, and co-workers. The first most important factor in a person’s success after their rehab program is whether they did their program with honesty. Trying to cheat your way through a drug rehab program is setting yourself up for failure right from the start. Those who have done an honest and true program will face a much greater chance at success than if they lied their way through. The next important factor to realize as a drug-free person once you leave your drug or alcohol treatment program is that YOU are the one that changed, you are the person that did the searching and looking and realizing things about yourself. Mom, Dad, Husband, Boss, girl-friend none of these people know exactly what you have done. This causes them to question; people are naturally curious. Their fears and insecurities have not been addressed for them. You need to understand this and accept the fact that they don’t know and be willing to fill their lack of information with answers as best you can.
Depending on the drug rehab facility and program that was done recovering addicts may not have had the chance to be re-integrated into society. Sometimes society tends to label us based on our past actions or our associations, this is simply a fact, it may not be nice or fair but you need to work around this. Normally you should be given a program of steps to do upon your return. This is your guide and step by step approach to re-establish your place in the family, relationship, or job. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t automatically return as they were before your fall into the world of addiction. If it took time to spiral out of control it will take a bit of time to get things back on track.
A final very important factor involved with recovering from any form of substance abuse that you need to be aware of, and this is more important than any other thing mentioned before. It’s very likely you will meet or encounter some circumstance relating to your drug of choice, or be offered some type of substance by some unaware person. You may simply be walking to the corner bakery to pick up some bread and meet up with a past drug user or your drug dealer or get a new job and the person next to you is dealing or using drugs. You may find yourself in a situation where everyone is lifting the glass of Champagne to newlyweds. It could be you’re at a funeral and everyone is feeling sad at the loss, and there is the bottle of Gin or a cousin you haven’t seen in a while is offering cocaine to ease the pain. There are a thousand variations to this type of situation, but you can count on it showing up sooner or later.
For family and friends and close relatives, you also must realize that the person in front of you is not the same person you dropped off some weeks or months ago at the treatment centre for help. You first must realize that they need support and be willing to give them some credit for what they have done. Overcoming addiction is no small feat, it requires a lot of soul-searching and accepting what one finds, and making the appropriate changes about it. The last thing this person needs is for Mom, Dad, boyfriend, or wife to be telling them how to act now that they have been to treatment. Many family members tend to be very careful and protective of the person; this is your own fears and lack of trust based on past experiences with the person and not being in the now, in the present.
You as a relative must be patient and show understanding as the person adapts to their new drug-free life. Obviously, if you notice something very odd or a reoccurring pattern in the person you should act. But your action should be in contacting the person’s counsellor or the facility of initial treatment and ask to speak with him or her and tell them about your concerns. This can then be assessed and handled accordingly by the professional counsellors with the person.
The odd thing about this is that it would appear that the recovered addict will only know he or she is recovered fully when they have been offered something to “ease the blues” and can actually refuse and walk away. This action is a major achievement for the person and should be recognized as such. The trick is to not even consider the offer, but openly and bluntly say no! This is something that family members should also take into account, if your daughter or son were abusing prescription drugs it would be wise to keep all medications out of sight. Don’t serve alcohol to them or agree that they can smoke pot because they were treated for heroin. Drugs are drugs and one is not better than the other. Any person leaving a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program should accept the time to embrace their new drug-free life and restrain from social drinking at least until they feel they have control over their life and are happy in it, and if you were being treated for alcohol, well it’s clear you don’t even social drink.
Addiction treatment doesn’t stop after being released from the centre; in fact, your program actually begins at this point. This is where you are expected to use the information you learned while in treatment. And you should use it every day, be patient; understand that opportunities will happen only when you put the effort to keep improving your life. As you work to improve your life things will add to it and that will increase your potential for success. Be positive and always treat others how you yourself would like to be treated. You can have a good productive drug free life.