The day that your loved one entered rehab, you felt a fraction of the weight on your shoulders lift – not all of it – but enough that you felt some mild relief. You were able to breathe just a little easier and unclench your fists. You knew things were only going to get better.
But then, you got the phone call: The call that he or she reached the tipping point; the point you dreaded; the point all supporters of the addicted individual need to look out for. You received the call from your loved one that they want to leave inpatient treatment.
If you find yourself in this situation, you need to understand why this happened, what needs to happen, and how you need to handle the situation.
Why This Happened
When people decide to leave rehab early, it is considered against medical advice – meaning they don’t have the skills they need to maintain sobriety on their own, and it is not healthy for them to depart the facility. There are a number of reasons as to why different people may decide to leave.
- One of the most common reasons for an individual to want to leave rehab early is due to an emotional outburst – whether it is anger, tears, or even rage or violence.
- They are overwhelmed by their withdrawal symptoms – particularly from drugs like benzos or alcohol.
- An individual who was extremely resistant to going to rehab in the first place is going to look for any excuse to leave early.
- He or she comes to the decision they do not like rehab or they aren’t like the other people in rehab – and therefore they don’t need to be there.
- Individuals who finish only a few weeks of rehab may become overconfident – despite not having the full skill development that they need to maintain long-term sobriety. The individual is convinced he or she is completely healed and will never return to using substances again – but they haven’t developed all of the skills they need to work through triggers.
Departing from drug rehab early is a form of self-sabotage – something many people who struggle with addiction often deal with. Leaving addiction treatment early is usually a mistake people will come to regret later, and often means the person will relapse back to drugs or alcohol.
What Needs to Happen – And What Needs to NOT Happen
While you may feel distraught or panicked about your loved one leaving treatment early, there are things you must avoid doing – regardless of how difficult the situation. If your loved one calls to tell you they are leaving rehab against medical advice, there are several steps you need to follow.
- Remind him or her why they went to rehab in the first place.
DON’T forget that many people in early recovery often have periods of extreme sensitivity and emotional stress, paranoia, and physical pain. Remind them their pain is temporary.
- Remind yourself why you chose to send them to rehab.
DON’T forget to be patient, loving and trusting in the process of recovery. Know that your loved one can and will get better if they receive complete care.
- Contact the treatment facility to talk to your loved one’s therapist, counselor or recovery coach.
DON’T keep your loved one’s decision “in the family.” The chances are, his or her counselors and therapists have seen this type of behavior and know how to deal with it.
- Trust that the treatment center is doing everything in their best interest.
DON’T enable your loved one to leave: don’t give them money for transportation, hotel, food, anything. Don’t make it easy on them.
- If your loved one shows up at your house, tell them you do not agree with their decision to leave rehab; let them know they must complete treatment before they are welcome home.
DON’T Let them in the house until they fulfill their end of the deal – and complete rehab.
- Reach out for support for yourself.
DON’T feel like you are in this alone. Your loved one may not be making a healthy choice, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t worth the help. Call your support system, attend a local meeting, and consider family or individual therapy. By learning about addiction and abuse, you’ll be able to better understand what your loved one is going through.
If your loved one decides to leave addiction treatment early, this will be a tough time for you. It is important to know that by following these steps, you are helping to free yourself from the destruction of addiction, as well as pushing your loved one back towards recovery.