How to Deal With an Alcoholic after Rehab

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Dealing with a former alcoholic after rehab requires support and understanding from everyone around them as they recover from alcohol addiction. Sobriety is a lifelong journey, with the former addict needing  continuous support from friends and family after leaving rehab.

There are four primary points you should concentrate on to help the recovering addict:

  1. Their health - managing any symptoms or diseases and ensuring that you make healthy choices that promote their emotional and physical well-being is paramount.
  2. Home life - Ensure that you provide for them a stable place to live.
  3. Purpose - Help them conduct meaningful activities daily.
  4. Community- Help them have the right relationships filled with friendship, support, hope, and love.

In the past, medical professionals recommended that family members should educate themselves on all things addiction.

Learning more about how alcohol affects their loved ones can go a long way in helping them understand the mindset of the addict.

Educating yourself on such things will also help you identify the potential triggers and any bad influences. To get started, start by clearing any alcohol you may have in your home.

Next, you should ensure that you set boundaries to encourage your loved one from taking up habits that would trigger a relapse.

Most 12-step programmes such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous will always have tips for identifying potential triggers.

How is life after rehab?

After returning home from rehab, one needs to attend regular meetings as part of their outpatient programme. This is because you need to continue with the sobriety programme and avoid all stressors resulting in a relapse.

During your recovery process, you should not confuse self-care with selfishness. Instead, allow yourself to focus on mending your life.

Develop good routines for a life after rehab that will help cement the healing process. Routines and schedules build good habits that can help you with your substance abuse problems.

What are the signs of relapse?

Relapse has got some sure and easy signs to spot. For example, if your loved one starts reminiscing about the times they used to abuse alcohol, this is a potential sign of relapse.

If they start reconnecting with old friends, they would drink with and visit the former places associated with their addiction; this is a big sign of relapse.

Other signs of relapse include:

  • When there is a sudden behavioural change and attitude
  • When they have stopped attending their support group meetings
  • When they suddenly lose interest in their new hobbies
  • When they start keeping secrets

Please note that relapse should not be considered a failure, and it should be seen as an obstacle to the process of overcoming a life-long journey to sobriety.

It offers you an opportunity to reassess your path and get back into the programme to get the help you need and maintain your progress.

Most people who struggle with addiction tend to undergo more than one course of treatment before finding their footing in the journey to success.

Ultimately the only person who can help manage their addiction is the patient. However, rehab will help give you the skills needed to remains sober.

How do you convince someone to go back to alcohol rehab?

If you have reason to believe that someone you love has relapsed, approach them with care, talk to them calmly without judging, and do not confront them under any circumstances, especially when they are under the influence of alcohol.

Try and refrain from any accusatory statements, and instead, ask them some open-ended questions while listening actively. Calmly and politely ask if going back or speaking to someone at the alcohol treatment facility they have attended may help. 

This is a better strategy than attacking them.

What shouldn’t you do during recovery?

Recovery is a long process that requires as much support as possible. Here are a few things you must never do when helping a loved one through recovery.

Do not nag them: It’s only natural to want to see your loved one make the right choices, but they may see repeated comments about their life choices as intrusive and nagging. This may have the negative effect of causing them to relapse.

Do not force them to deal with past issues – with time, everyone starts dealing with some of the problems that may have occurred before treatment, but in the meantime, the recovering addict should focus on recovery only.

Do not keep reminding them of how their addictions hurt the whole family. Simply put, they know what they did and the damage they caused—no need to keep reminding them.

Don’t try to help them make the right choices – they must make their own mistakes and develop a new direction in their lives. Do not do this for them.

Do not try to clean up their messes – if they make mistakes, do not go out of your way to remove the consequences of such messes. They must learn how to deal with issues without the need for alcohol.

Do not become their saviour – ultimately, you cannot stop anyone from relapsing if that is the direction they are taking. They must learn to make the right decisions.

Do not doubt what they tell you – of course, alcohol abuse comes with trust issues, but you must start rebuilding the trust, which includes believing what they say at all times. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Do not give negative support – keep your comments upbeat at all times, and encourage them to keep making positive changes in their lives.

Do not accompany them every time they leave the house – This shows that you still do not trust them, which could be detrimental to their progress.

Do not keep checking their phones – don’t go rummaging through their bags, car, and phones. Again, this shows that you do not trust them.

According to research, one of the main reasons families fail in recovery is communication.

To give your loved one the best chance of recovery, you must build this process around trust.


What can the recovering addict do to live a sober life?

Here are a few things the addict should concentrate on to maintain their sobriety:

Finding new “sober” friends

Most of the time, addictions form as a result of influence from other people. For example, studies have shown that teens are affected by peer pressure because it is one of the most potent motivators.

And in the same way, if you have friends who take lots of alcohol, you are most likely to start taking alcohol as well.

When your friendships are built on drinking, they will generally be maintained by alcohol, and you will find yourself unable to go to parties and interact with people while sober.

Sober friends after rehab are an essential resource and one that can help you in your recovery process.

Temptation levels are also likely to drop when you are surrounded by sober people and have alternative ideas of having fun.

Changing neighbourhoods

If need be, you could change neighbourhoods to stick to your recovery journey.

This is because some neighbourhoods may be filled with memories and reminders of your alcohol abuse days, making it hard to stay sober.

These memories are powerful triggers for cravings, and if they tend to be too much for you, the best option would be to move to a new neighbourhood free of memories and triggers.

Sticking with all follow-up appointments

Drug rehab sometimes works on a stair-step model, which means that the care provided tends to become less and less as time goes by.

The addict will eventually learn how to handle their sobriety without much help.

As such, they must head to the appointments made with therapists and counsellors to ensure that they are well equipped when the support is withdrawn.

Post-rehab therapy helps with the following:

  • Processing feelings about work
  • Dealing with family transitions
  • Handling relapse triggers
  • Setting future goals
  • Strengthening skills

Life is generally hectic, and the demands on time tend to build and build over time. Skipping a follow-up appointment may seem inevitable, but this is not advisable at all.

The recovery work should keep moving forward regardless of your newfound responsibilities.

Each appointment is vital to the progress of sobriety, which is a long one.

Focusing on your mental health

When one returns to old routines after rehab, they are likely to get stressed and anxious, especially if they deal with intense alcohol cravings.

People in recovery must always avoid focusing on the negatives. When depression and sadness build too much, relapse is inevitable.

Instead, find a moment each day where you do something meaningful and positive.

Just a few moments of peace and meditation could bring some much-needed joy for the rest of the day. Exercise is another activity that plays a crucial role in this.

Researchers are not very sure about the link between physical activity and mental health, but findings show that anxiety and depression levels are much lower for people who exercise regularly.

Swimming, taking a walk with your dog, and lifting weights could bring you the joy you are looking for. These could also help you feel a little stronger and healthier.

Finding a support group

Most rehab programmes make use of support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

These programmes help bring a feeling of affiliation that can help one feel less alone while struggling with sobriety and dealing with different challenges.

When you are done with rehab, it is tempting to skip meetings to recover lost time with family and friends, but this is a big mistake.

Attending these support groups can help produce excellent results, which these informal meetings with friends and family cannot.

Within the support groups, you learn more about addiction and how life can be without alcohol.

In addition, you get to tap into a network filled with working people every day through the same issues.

Everyone usually has a goal to work on. Additionally, these meetings with other peers will provide you with an opportunity to say anything that is stressing you at the time.

Giving back to society

During rehab, one spends lots of time talking about what they would like to do to improve their lives.

According to research, helping other people in the same situation can be an essential step in your recovery process.

Assisting others below you in recovery can bring lots of fulfilment in your life and often make daily concerns melt away.

AA groups usually support this, and in most cases, they incorporate it in the recovery process. Senior members are asked to mentor the younger members.

Helping can also be done in the following ways:

  • Mentoring a child who is in need
  • Volunteering at the animal shelter
  • Visiting older people and seniors at their care facilities
  • Participating in community activities
  • Service others in the church

Giving back and doing other good deeds can make the heart feel pretty satisfied, and this will help you in your recovery process and keep you grounded.


Dealing with an alcoholic is not an easy task. When they are in rehab, you probably assume that they will come back all "healed," but that is never the case.

They need you more when not in rehab than they did during recovery.

Take time and speak with a therapist or counsellor who can help you through this process.

There are many things you can do to help and provide support in this case. All the best.

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About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: October 31, 2023