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Residential Rehab Again? 4 Concepts to Consider Before Writing the Check

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One of the most common questions clients and I discuss is that their loved one has already been in a residential rehab two or more times and recently expressed a desire to return, and they don't know what to do. Sadly, neither experience was successful for very long, and relapse was the outcome. Their loved one is in their early to mid-twenties, and the decision as caring and loving parents is fuzzy and complicated; they waver between going another round (in the hopes that the third time might be the charm), and a "forget it, been there, done that" attitude. Most parents would do anything to find whatever works for their child to rid themselves of their addition, but let's not ignore the warning bell that might be saying "not so fast."

Consider some of the following options before giving the green light.

1) Examine what has transpired to make your son or daughter request another residential rehab experience. If it is used as a get-out-of-jail card (no pun intended) because of a legal issue, because his feet are to the fire, or for some similar reason, then this is not an honest enough and thoughtful enough foundation to merit yet another go-round.

2) If you find that your loved one's desire is genuine and that he or she has put a considerable amount of reflection and deliberation into it, then you might want to approach with the following:

  • Tell them that you appreciate their new desire to enter another rehab program, but that you wish to discuss it again in a week. This will test their sincerity; a week can be an eternity to an alcoholic or addict, and if they really want to do this, then they will be patient and return to you again in a week. If they ask why they have to wait a week, then tell them that you want to make sure that they are sincere about this and that it's not a spur-of-the-moment idea. If your loved one becomes annoyed or angry over your procrastination, then file this away as a concern about his or her sincerity. Please don't be afraid to hit the pause button on this, as they can punish and bait you with comments like, "Oh, great, now I want to get clean and sober and you are not supporting me." You are supporting them, but in your way, not theirs on their time frame.

  • If your loved one truly wants honest and healthy help this time around, ask them how this rehab effort will differ from the ones before. Because relapse occurred after the other two, again, what will be different? It's important that the alcoholic or addict participate in his or her desire for recovery, and this is a great place to start.
  • If you do decide to send them to another recovery program, put together a plan between all participants. Maybe there is some fiscal responsibility on their end, even if it's only $10 a month. The recovery process will mean that much more if everyone is shouldering some of the task.
  • Make sure the arrangement encompasses the length of stay at the recovery center and the aftercare plan. Please keep in mind that chances are your loved one has probably been an addict for years. A one-, two- or even three-month recovery program is the width of an eyelash compared to the years of addiction. Leaving the program early should not be an option, but if it ends up being absolutely necessary, then returning home should not be on the table. Make sure everyone is clear on what the options are going to be if the same scenario appears in the new rehab effort as in the previous ones. Often, the alcoholic or addict can do very well if he or she has a defined road map set out with zero detours. Stick to the entire program from start to finish or forget the whole thing.
  • 3) If finances make it difficult or you, or if you are still skeptical about how plausible sticking to this plan will be, consider a local outpatient clinic -- not just a 12-step recovery program but counseling with other alcoholic or addicts in a group setting moderated by a professional substance abuse counselor, or one-on-one private counseling. The answer is not always to be shipped off, where the same outcome might prevail. If the drive and desire for sobriety is there, then there is no reason why it can't be obtained through the same channels, yet locally and at a lower price.

    4) We all know people that are perpetual students. They go to school and then go to school some more. Never testing what they learned or facing the world of employment, they find solace and refuge in going to class after class after class. Please don't allow your loved one to become a perpetual residential rehabber; it can be very easy to do, and before you know it, you have spent wads of cash and find yourself right back at the beginning with nothing accomplished.

    It's hard to say no to a loved one when he or she professes a need for help. Please understand that I am not suggesting that you turn a deaf ear, but be responsible not only for your sake but for that of your loved one. The more everyone understands what's expected from everyone else, the healthier your decisions will be. If you have had it up to the ceiling with continued requests for financial support for a rehabilitation program, please don't consider yourself an unloving, uncaring or bad parent if you just walk away and leave the next round of rehab up to your loved one. On the contrary, if you let your loved one participate and earn the right to another recovery attempt, it may last longer and become the backbone of a new and healthy lifestyle.

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    If I can be of service, please visit my website, I also invite you to explore my new book "Reclaim Your Life: You and the Alcoholic/Addict" at or on Amazon.