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Your loved one wants to leave rehab early: Now what?

Dillon McClernon

Authored by Dillon McClernon

Whether your loved one is currently in treatment or will (hopefully) be in the near future, there is always the fear that they will want to leave early. Staying in treatment for a full stay is essential for recovery; you know this, RCA knows this, and your loved one knows it – they’re just overwhelmed and feeling hopeless at this moment. But this is the exact time for them to reinvest in their treatment and recovery. Those who leave treatment early have a higher rate of recidivism. They need you to reinforce and remind them why they’re there. Here’s how to do that.

Give it one more day

As your loved one is learning, recovery is taking minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Acknowledge how they’re feeling in this moment. They’ve got a long road ahead, between withdrawal, cravings, and the awareness of what addiction has done. They need to hear that while you understand this isn’t easy, it is worth it. Appreciate that feelings can change quickly, and this difficult moment can and will change. Validate it and assure them you believe they can do this
Encourage them to take one more day to think things over. A lot can change in a day.

What’s one good thing?

In the moment, it’s tough to remember the good. Take a few minutes and ask your loved one to reflect on something good that happened that day. Remember: It can be anything, big or small. Maybe they met someone who is motivating and inspiring, and they want to follow their lead in recovery. Maybe they simply got out of bed and attended a meeting. Either way, remind them of their wins, and the big ones to come.

Can’t think of anything? Here’s one: They’re in a safe place, trying to better themselves and find a way to a healthy, happy life.

Tell me something you learned

No matter what day they are on, they’ve learned something so far – ask them what that is. Show genuine interest in what it is they’ve learned and ask them to talk it out. How do they plan on using what they’ve learned? How is it different than what they thought before? Talking out what they’ve learned can help get their wheels turning on how to use the information to get through the moment – and may make them see things in a different light.

Remember your why

Your loved one entered treatment for a reason. What was it? Remind them of it and have them hold onto it.

But remember this for yourself: You need to work on your own recovery and know that it is OK for you to hold your limits. Just because they want to leave does not mean you can’t stay firm with your boundary. We know that when families hold their limits, individuals are more likely to remain in treatment and reengage in their recovery efforts.

Even if it wasn’t entirely their choice to enter treatment, you can remind your loved one what is at stake and why they need to continue their journey. If you can, give them something that reminds them of their why: a picture of their child, a vision board with their dreams, anything that motivates them. Keep your loved one focused on the future and keep them moving one step at a time.

Need some more support? That’s what we’re here for. RCA has several resources available for families. You don’t have to have a loved one in our treatment – anyone is welcome to utilize these resources or attend these events.

Authored by

Dillon McClernon

Dillon McClernon

Dillon currently serves as the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at RCA. After his tenure as Chief Communications Officer and senior advisor to RCA, he opted for a full-time position at RCA where he could build a new team linking sales and marketing to directly impact RCA’s mission of saving 1 million lives.


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