Karen L. Kehler, MA,  MSHA - Private- Professional- Affordable Counseling Services
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Kehler Counseling Blog

He's/She's Home Now - What Do I Do?

Your loved one is finally home from "Rehab."   You may be scared to openly admit you're petrified about what to do next.   Like many family or loved ones of someone managing an addiction - you want to be helpful, encouraging, supportive and avoid all the mistakes of the past.  You're hoping to do it right this time.   I'm going to leave some clear instructions - specific ways you can make the transition successful.

Start with cleansing their environment - even before they arrive home. 

  • It may sound harsh but too many come home from the safety of rehab right back to the room where their drug using took place.  That place should be changed so that it doesn't trigger old behavior.   Simple posters, bandannas, t-shirts, bedding, logos on items and music can all send the vulnerable right back to wanting to use.   Remove - eliminate - clean - rearrange items to set up a 'fresh' slate.
  • Go through their room as if it were a crime scene.  That means checking every ceiling tile, under mattresses, inside walls/closets, box-springs, the underside of drawers, tables, furniture, appliances.  Vacuum - dust - scour surfaces for residue, resin, dust, and powders.  Check every pocket, fold, niche, layer.  Take your time to do this thoroughly.  Use gloves to test for residue.  Remove all clothing that has 'drug user' image attached to it.  I would recommend buying (even at second hand store) a fresh round of clothing - can still be 'cool' - I would shift it to 'active' wear - to get away from the 'druggie' attire that helped them fit in rather than stand out.   Buy 'workout' clothing - as working out might be the activity that will now fill up their schedule until they get work!

  • Remove all visual reminders of drug using 'cool' - posters, photos, idols or heroes of the 'culture'.    REPLACE with scenic photography, inspirational posters, funny images, positive and uplifting images and sayings.   The room should enhance their recovery not punish it.  Keeping up the old stuff will put them in 'test' mode - shift to 'I can do it' or 'One Day at a time' images. They may be shocked at the change but relieved that it is really 'fresh' for their new start.  
  • Rearrange furniture - the visual rearrangement and lack of comfort will help get them started in a fresh way.  

  • If you find any kind of drug gear - residue, samples, powder - REMOVE IT - if you find a notable amount have someone 'safe' take it to the local police department or an MD - who can dispose of it safely.    Tell them why you are securing it from others.  DO NOT just move it to another 'safe' place in your home - they WILL find it!  

  • Go through all medicine cabinets, cosmetic areas, pill locations and remove and lock up all medications - even 'safe' ones.   Go one step further and lock up liquor - put in a file cabinet.   Addicts will use anything - even if it's not their 'drug of choice' if they hit stress - failure -strong emotions.   Go through each room - bathroom - storage areas - pantries - to secure risky ingredients.   Alcoholics will drink mouthwash, hairspray, rubbing alcohol, cough syrup, food flavoring, anything  with alcohol.  It's better to make it hard to get or find then finding out they abused that too. 
  • Add fresh notebooks, journal type books, inspirational reading, self-help books and workbooks, spiritual/faith based reading material - have it as a 'back up' when they are 'bored'.   

  • If you have a Kindle -Tablet - Ebook - Ipad - load it with their huge collection of free and low cost titles that are inspirational, recovery based, self-help, or Biblical.   There are also 'apps' with the Big Book,  daily reflections, stress management, anxiety helpers, and networking for support groups.   USE TECHNOLOGY to build a new lifestyle and network.  When used properly - this can be the 24/7 support system - ready at any minute - to get through cravings and triggers.

  • Implement a SCHEDULE - they're often coming from rehab (or prison) having been in a very strict routine - that allowed a comfort of knowing what will happen next - this helps with anxiety. Coming home from rehab can feel like jumping off a cliff - you don't know how or if you can do it - STRUCTURE helps that.   Incorporate counseling, 12 Step meetings, Support groups, physical activity, reflection/mediation time, work time, chores, education and study, pet care, child care - in the beginning it is not a bad idea to schedule every hour!  

  • Coordinate family and supportive others for transportation into schedule.  Reduce stress by working as a team or village to get the person to their appointments and meetings (so many don't have access to transportation!)  Letting the family-friends - neighbors know when rides - chores - errands - jobs happen will reduce the chaos of last minute panic and confrontations.  Share the demands -don't overload one person.  "Car time" gives the person precious one-to-one time that is often non-confrontational.

  • Use Internet or get collection of 'Visitor Bureau" materials of local area -the addict needs to create a new life - void of using - they spent entire 24/7 periods of time doing so - now they need to fill up that time.  Don't buy the 'there's nothing to do' - check out free activities - fundraisers - church functions - volunteer projects - 5K races - charity walks - local recreational areas - water sites for fishing-boating - swimming. Libraries for rainy days.  Music concerts - School plays - Local drama productions.   Make lists - have options - 'dare' to do things that were never tried - seen - witnessed.  I usually challenge my clients to tell what 'firsts' they explored.  I had clients who stopped at farms and asked to help farmers with animals and tractors - anything that gets them off the couch!  

  • Develop a list of Chores - Projects - Activities - that can be done at home - for relatives - friends - neighbors.  Staying busy - productive and having not only a sense of accomplishment but positive feedback sustains everyone.   Work with others to create a list of 'How to Help' - it can include pet care, seasonal yard work, seasonal decorating, clean up projects, emptying garages, attics, basements, car care, supervision of kids, tutoring, teaching kids how to do things - swimming - crafts- skills - that busy parents may appreciate!  Employment may be challenging int he beginning -but it doesn't mean they are off the hook to 'not work'!  

This may all sound like a lot of work but this is the beginning of a 'fresh start' - and the fresher it feels - the better a new approach to life can take place.  We tend to fall back into comfort zones - regress when we're anxious and threatened - create an environment that is positive - inspirational and fun too.   

As I keep repeating - as much as having addiction in a family feels like 90% of the world is 'addicted' - the fact is - 90% of the world is NOT - it's about getting back out in the 90% and realizing that there's a LOT of fun life out here - that addiction had you missing!   That's any kind of addiction!    


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