How To Cope With A Loved One In Rehab

Last Edited: March 26, 2024
Matt Esaena
Clinically Reviewed
Andrew Lancaster, LPC, MAC
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and certified by an addiction professional.

Addiction is hard on everyone, not just the addict.

If someone you love is struggling with addiction, you will be fighting day and night to get them the treatment they deserve. When he or she does attend treatment, you will be left with a whole new problem: how will you cope while that person is away? You will wonder what you can do to support your loved one while in rehab, and you may also want to ask if you can be in contact with your loved one.

No two rehab facilities are the same. If you want to receive an update on how your loved one is doing, the facility will need to legally grant you access to that information.

You may also be concerned about the things that will happen to the person you care about. This person will be going through various stages of transition and will become a healthy and happy individual again. This is also something you need to prepare yourself for as you were so used to seeing them down.

What to Expect When You Have a Loved One in Rehab

When people first go to rehab, they will be physically, medically, and psychologically assessed. Afterwards, they will be placed under a medically supervised withdrawal to detox from toxic substances in their body. They may also have been prescribed different medication to help them deal with the withdrawal symptoms. How long the detox will last will vary tremendously depending on the individual, the drug and the history of addiction. Around day three of the detoxification process, they will be well enough to also start taking part in educational classes and therapy.

After One Week

Your loved one’s physical appearance will start to change for the better. For the first time in years, they will receive proper nutrition and will be encouraged to do some exercises. While different rehab facilities offer different menus all will focus on ensuring that the foods provided are balanced and nutritious.

Patients will start to develop new friendships with their peers. These friendships can last a lifetime, and mean the difference between staying sober and relapsing.

After Two Weeks

It will take a good two weeks before the patients really start to feel alive again. Once they get to that point, they can start to receive far more intensive counseling and training. They will continue to attend individual and group counseling sessions as well as workshops and educational classes. The farther they are along their journey towards recovery, the more they are likely to contribute to these groups as well, and the more they will start to benefit from them.

Importance of an Exit Strategy

The key to any rehab program is to make sure that the patients understand their condition, why they have it and who they can be if they work toward recovery from substance abuse. This is why preparing an exit strategy is also so important; they will have been in a sheltered environment for around a month now, and they must learn how to transition back into the “real world.”

After One Month and Beyond

Most rehab stays last for about one month. However, it is known that if people stay longer, up to 90 days, they are more likely to remain sober as well. While some believe they would get too comfortable in their sheltered environment, research has shown that it takes more than a month to change the mindset away from previous, drug using, peers and environments.

If someone does remain in long term rehab, you can expect that they will receive a greater variety of treatment options while they are there so they can continue to grow. They will have a better understanding  on why they became addicted in the first place. Their relapse prevention strategy will also be more in depth, as they receive more training on how to avoid triggers.

How Can I Support Someone in Rehab?

How you can support loved ones in rehab will depend on what stage of recovery they are in. There are four stages of recovery:

  1. When you first take your loved one to rehab, tell him or her that you love them and you are proud of the life changing decision he or she is making. Tell your friend or family member to call when you two are ready to talk and you will be there no matter what.
  2. After the first week or so, you need to be available to, make sure you keep reminding your loved one of how proud you are. Make sure you mail a postcard to show you are still there and you care.
  3. After the first few weeks, you should physically go to the facility for your loved one. Make sure you come as often as you are able and allowed to. Some rehab centers even have family days, which means you can come and spend a day and take part in some of the activities as well. This gives you an opportunity to show them that you love them and are there for them. In addition, it also gives you a chance to really see what they are doing and how you can help when your friend or family member enters the real world.
  4. If your loved one stays in extended treatment, keep doing what you have been doing. You showing up means more to your loved one than you could fathom.

What to Expect While a Friend or Family Member Is in Rehab?

It is challenging to put someone into rehab; some psychologists have suggested that you will go through the “five stages of grief”, which are:

  1. Denial: you will be unwilling to acknowledge that your loved one is addicted to drugs and alcohol. It is likely that the concerned person will also be in this stage. It is best to look at the situation as it is and help point out the problem before it gets worse.
  2. Anger: when you start to accept that there is a problem, and you become angry for the lost years, for the fact that your loved one got in that state, for what he or she did to you, for not getting the help that is needed and so on. You need to put the anger aside in this situation. Look at your loved one and help him or her get the treatment they deserve.
  3. Bargaining: you will try to convince your loved one to seek the treatment that is needed. This can range from organizing a successful intervention with a professional interventionist, to literally begging someone to seek help. Either way, you will speak extensively with your loved one, pleading with him or her to do the right thing.
  4. Depression, which is often the hardest stage to be in for you. At this point in time, your loved one will finally be in treatment, something to feel happy about. But it is also a confronting stage, as you start to see just how bad things really were. You will also have a gap in your own life, as you are left to deal with things on your own.
  5. Acceptance: the light at the end of the tunnel. Acceptance does not mean all your problems are resolved, but rather, that changes are starting to be made, and that you can see where things will go from there. You will be able to see change is possible and life can only get better.

How to Cope with a Loved One in Rehab?

If someone you care about has a substance abuse problem, you will have been damaged by this as well. The emotional, physical and financial impact of dealing with someone suffering from addiction is tremendous. You have to make sure that you recognize this, and start to put a focus on yourself. This isn’t selfish, but rather  something that you need and by allowing yourself to focus on yourself, you will come out a stronger person that is more able to support your loved one when he or she returns. The following tips may be beneficial for you:

  1. Heal yourself: Get counseling through groups such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Focus on your mental and physical health – healthy eating and plenty of exercise.
  2. Stop blaming: The fact that you have loved ones with an addiction is nobody’s fault. Not yours, not theirs, not circumstances. It happened and pointing the finger on someone to blame does not help anyone.
  3. Find others like you: Your loved one will be building lifelong friendships with peers in rehab, but you can do the same. You are not the only one who has gone through this or who is going through this, and you can all help each other.
  4. Take charge of your life: Many people in relationships with addicted people become codependent, meaning that their life revolves solely around looking after the other person. Now is the time to recognize that you have your own life and that you are entitled it. Take that vacation you always wanted to take, pick up a new hobby, enroll in a cooking class; start doing the things that make you happy. A happy you is a better you, and a better you is a more supportive you.
  5. Rebuild trust: It is unlikely that there will be any trust left in the relationship between you and your family member or friend. You have been let down too many times, you have been hurt too much and there have been too many broken promises. But if you continue to hold on to that lack of trust and resentment, you cannot grow and improve. On the other hand, remember that your loved one may relapse, and you have to be prepared for that. You cannot blindly trust,  but you can trust communication. You can trust that your loved one will have learned how important it is to talk about feelings. You can expect that person to tell you where he or she is or where he or she wants to go, and that your loved one will actually be there should you check. Recovering patients know that they have to work hard to regain trust, and that is done mainly through communication.

Be wary of old behaviors creeping back in. Relapse is incredibly common in addiction. You now know what addiction looks like, and there is no reason for you to return to the stage of denial. If you see something that worries you, such as your loved one no longer telling you where he or she is, arriving late, or otherwise doing those things that he or she did during the addiction, you need to immediately get in touch with the rehab facility. Relapse is not a singular event, it is something that people build up to. You can stop it from escalating back into a full addiction again.

When a loved one goes to rehab, you are both going through a stage of extreme transition. Change is hard and we are, as humans, genetically programmed to be resistant to change. If change doesn’t take place and you stay where you are or return to it, the outcome will be devastating. You both need to work very hard at moving forward, and regain control of the life you both deserve.

One question that many people have is whether they need to end their relationship, should they be a spouse or similar partner. You may wonder whether there is anything worth saving after such an extensive period of abuse. There is no clear cut answer to this question. It depends on the individual relationship and what the two parties expect of their own future. Sometimes, a breakup is inevitable, whereas at other times, the relationship can grow into something stronger than it ever was before. By calling (866) 578-7471 you both can start on the road to treatment and recovery.


Q: How can I support my loved one while they’re in rehab?

A: Supporting your loved one in rehab involves a balanced approach of emotional support and respecting the rehab process. You can:

  • Send encouraging letters or messages that emphasize your love and belief in their strength and recovery.
  • Participate in family therapy sessions if offered by the rehab facility.
  • Educate yourself about addiction and the recovery process to better understand what your loved one is going through.
  • Respect the rules and guidelines set by the rehab center, understanding they’re in place to aid in your loved one’s recovery.

Q: How do I deal with my feelings of worry and anxiety while my loved one is in rehab?

A: It’s natural to feel worried or anxious when a loved one is in rehab. To cope:

  • Seek support for yourself through counseling or support groups like Al-Anon, where you can share your feelings and gain insights from others in similar situations.
  • Engage in activities that help you relax and maintain your mental health, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies.
  • Remind yourself that seeking rehab is a positive step towards recovery for your loved one.
  • Stay connected with a support system of friends and family who understand what you’re going through.

Q: Can I visit my loved one in rehab? How often?

A: Visitation policies vary by rehab facility. It’s important to:

  • Contact the rehab center directly to inquire about their visitation policy.
  • Follow any guidelines they provide, as structured visitation can be an important part of the recovery process.
  • Use visitation opportunities to express your support and love, while also giving your loved one space to focus on their recovery.

Q: What should I do if my loved one doesn’t want to communicate during their time in rehab?

A: Respect their need for space and focus on their recovery, which can be a highly personal and introspective process. You can:

  • Let them know you’re available and ready to listen whenever they’re ready to reach out.
  • Continue to provide support through indirect means, like writing letters or sending care packages (if allowed by the rehab facility).
  • Focus on your well-being and engage in activities or support groups that help you cope with the situation.

Q: How can I prepare for my loved one’s return home after rehab?

A: Preparing for your loved one’s return involves creating a supportive home environment and setting the stage for ongoing recovery. Consider:

  • Discussing and establishing clear boundaries and expectations to support a healthy lifestyle and prevent relapse.
  • Removing any substances or triggers from the home that could jeopardize their sobriety.
  • Planning for continued support, whether through outpatient treatment, counseling, or support groups for both your loved one and your family.
  • Engaging in open and honest communication about how you can support each other moving forward.