Treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction requires a lot of work. Some people may have a harder time than others due to the type of addiction they’re struggling with and the presence of a co-occurring disorder.
At some point in treatment, many addicts experience the feeling of wanting to leave. It’s important to know how to handle this situation, because if it does arise, you want to be an effective part of your loved one’s recovery.
In this post, we are going to explore some of the most common reasons why addicts want to leave treatment, how to better understand what’s going on and how to effectively respond to the situation.
Common Reasons Why Addicts Want Out
Treatment is effective when an addict goes through the process from beginning to end. Yet addicts are rarely thinking clearly when they enter treatment. They are thinking in the moment, and the road ahead appears terrifying and uncertain. And, for the first time in a long time, they have to face these feelings without a substance to fall back on.
Some of the most common reasons why addicts choose to leave rehab early are:
- They didn’t want to be there in the first place. They might have been forced and are now resentful.
- They feel overwhelmed by their withdrawal symptoms and don’t want to continue the process.
- They’ve decided that they will quit on their own when they’re ready and that they don’t need professional help to do it.
- They are not completely committed to their recovery. They feel some apprehension toward being sober.
- They have unrealistic expectations about what the recovery process is like.
- They feel that they are “cured” and have gotten all they can out of treatment.
- They don’t like the facilities, the people or the doctors.
Timing Makes a Big Difference
It’s normal for recovering addicts to want to leave treatment, but most are able to work through these feelings and continue their recovery. When these feelings occur make a big difference.
In the detox phase, the body is uncomfortable and going through cleansing, so it’s normal for addicts to want to give up. As long as they can work through these side effects, the desire to leave usually goes away after a couple of days. If a person is in counseling and wants to leave, it’s usually their personal struggles they don’t want to face.
Let’s take a look at why timing makes a difference and how you can encourage your loved one to stay in treatment.
Wanting to Leave in Early Treatment
In the early phase of treatment, the body is recovering and going through symptoms of withdrawal. These side effects are not pleasant and might make your loved one agitated.
Withdrawal symptoms vary based on the type of drug your loved one was using, how much they were taking and how long their addiction has been active. Being addicted to multiple substances or having a co-occurring disorder can also complicate the process.
If your loved one wants to leave before counseling has even started, they are probably feeling the effects of withdrawal. It’s an unsettling feeling, but it’s crucial that you emphasize the importance of staying in treatment. Detox is necessary to move onto the next phase.
How The River Source Manages These Requests
At The River Source, we have strategies for patients who might want to leave treatment early.
First, we offer a wide range of therapies and medicines (holistic and conventional) that help our patients manage their withdrawal symptoms. The more their discomfort is managed, the more they can get through the detox process and start thinking rationally.
Second, we have an amazing team of support staff that is available 24 hours a day. Our support staff offers emotional guidance during this difficult time, and many are recovered addicts themselves. They’ve been there, walked in these shoes and made it through, so they are genuine inspirations to our patients.
Finally, we ask that contact with friends and family waits until after the first week. Both you and your loved one are in vulnerable positions right now, and they might be depressed or agitated from the withdrawal process. We want to avoid tension and distraction, which is why we limit contact.
Of course, you may call in and get reports on your loved one to make sure they are progressing. Remember, there is no safer place for your loved one but in a residential treatment facility.
Wanting to Leave During Counseling
Once your loved one makes it through the first week of treatment, you might find that they still feel depressed. They may make comments like, “How could you stick me in here?” Or, “If you care about me, you’ll come and get me right now!” These comments are never easy to hear, but they should be a small compromise for the help that your loved one is receiving.
It’s possible that your loved one might be tired and not wanting to go through the rest of the treatment process, but it’s more likely that they are having trouble confronting their inner struggles. Counseling is the “meat” of the treatment process. It’s a time when recovering addicts must acknowledge their deep feelings and understand the reasons for their addiction. It’s not easy. In fact, it can be painful and emotionally exhausting.
If this is the case, your role is important since the last thing you want to do is agree to letting your child or spouse out of rehab. In almost every case, leaving treatment early is a mistake.
How to Be an Effective Supporter
Here are some tips for handling a loved one who wants to leave drug rehab.
- Stay Positive: Do not mirror your loved one’s attitude. Stay positive and remind them that things will get better. You might want to point out how far they’ve come already and the growth that you have witnessed.
- Show You’re Listening: Your loved one needs to know that you are listening. Acknowledge their feelings. If you can, try to understand why your loved one wants to leave. Are they scared? Resentful? In physical pain?
- Participate in Treatment: Stay active in your loved one’s recovery. Maintain contact with the treatment facility and visit or call when you can. Check with the facility to see when visiting hours are, and attend family therapy sessions that are offered.
- Be Loving But Firm: Look at the pleas to come home as your first opportunity to practice setting boundaries. You need to establish rules when your loved one returns home, so stand your ground.
- Prepare Your Answers Explain to your loved one the many reasons why they need to stay in treatment. For example, they are surrounded by qualified healthcare professionals who can manage their symptoms.
Don’t forget – you are not alone in this. When you choose The RS for your loved one’s treatment, you get a team of dedicated counselors, naturopathic doctors and nurses to assist you and your family. Together, we are working toward the same goal.
Treatment Centers Can’t Force Patients to Stay
It might sound surprising that many residential treatment centers don’t lock their doors. This means that recovering addicts can walk out at any time. The only time that a person must stay in rehab is when they have been ordered by the court to do so.
Forcing someone to stay in treatment falls in line with forcing someone into treatment. In some states, there are laws that do allow family members to legally force a loved one into treatment. Yet even in these states, it’s not as easy as dropping their loved one off at a treatment center. They might need several individualis petitioning on their behalf.
The same is true for keeping someone in treatment. A treatment facility can’t force a person to stay. But, they do have strategies for dealing with these patients, which may involve an intense effort between the treatment center and the family of the addict. This is why your role is so important.
Tips for Keeping Your Loved One in Treatment
In our final section, we are going to discuss some of the best ways that you can prepare yourself for the possibility that your loved one might ask you to leave. Even if your loved one willingly stays and is content with their treatment program, these are worthwhile tips.
Maintain Contact with Staff
You should never feel disconnected from your loved one’s treatment. The staff should keep you informed from day one as to what’s going on, how your loved one is progressing, what medications they are taking and so forth. The purpose of this is to ensure that your child or spouse’s best needs are being met.
During the times when you can’t speak with your loved one directly, keep the lines of communication open with the treatment center, but do respect their policies. The decisions made are in the best interests of the patients.
Also, if you feel that a specific treatment modality is not working as effectively as it should, talk to the treatment professionals. There are many types of treatment options available that might work better for your loved one.
Get Family Education
Family education and counseling is offered at many inpatient treatment facilities, so inquire about your options right away. It’s a good idea to take part in these educational opportunities because you need to learn about your loved one’s addiction.
Some of the most important things you will learn are the warning signs of relapse, how to avoid triggers and how to prevent family members from becoming enablers. By the time your loved one returns home, you will be better equipped to provide them with the support and encouragement they need to succeed.
Join 12-Step Groups for Family Members
Everyone who has been affected by the addiction should take part in a 12-step group – siblings, children, spouses, parents. Addiction affects more than just the addict, so your family needs support, too.
Twelve-step meetings are organized specifically for the family members of addicts. These meetings give you an opportunity to connect with others who are going through similar struggles and also give you a safe space to explore your emotions. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. You might find the suggestions from others to be emotionally motivating.
Do Your Own Research
Never stop educating yourself on your own time. You know your family background, and you might be aware of some of the reasons why your loved one is struggling with an addiction. There is plenty of literature to read, so visit your local library or order books online. You can also find what you need online thanks to a wide range of videos, articles, blogs, case studies and more.
Recovery is an ongoing process. Just as your loved one will forever have to work at their sobriety, you, too, will have to work at being a positive role model. Some days will be harder than others, but the hope is that these days become fewer and fewer as time goes on. Though the road can be long and tiring, it certainly pushes people to see life in a very different and very remarkable way.