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What to Do if Your Loved One Leaves Rehab Early

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Loving someone who struggles with addiction can be difficult. While you may love and support them, it can be frustrating to watch them struggle with addiction. You may feel sad, angry, hopeless, or a combination of other emotions. Over time, addiction can impact a person’s mental and physical health, puts strain on their relationships, and can lead to legal or financial difficulties. Seeing someone you love go down a road of self-destruction can be excruciating.

Getting someone to go to rehab can be very challenging. First, you have to find an appropriate program and make a plan to pay for treatment. It can be even more challenging to convince the person that they need to go to rehab. They may deny that they have a problem or feel angry. It’s important to be firm but loving when encouraging your loved one to go to rehab.

Once your loved one agrees to get addiction treatment, you may feel like it’s a new beginning. For many people, rehab is a chance to make a fresh start. It may feel like you can finally breathe easily for the first time in a long time. But what if your loved one leaves rehab early?

It is important to complete a full treatment program. In fact, staying in treatment for the full recommended amount of time is one of the key aspects of effective treatment.[1] If you are faced with the dilemma of a loved one leaving rehab early, there are some things you can do to encourage them to stay–and to take care of yourself, too.

How Can Leaving Rehab Early Affect Your Recovery?

Recovery from addiction is possible with the right support and treatment. Lifelong sobriety begins on your first day of treatment. It requires commitment, dedication, and patience from the person in rehab and from the people around them. Generally, addiction recovery programs address not just the symptoms of substance abuse and withdrawal, but the root causes of the addiction as well.

If someone leaves rehab early, they may miss important aspects of the program that are designed to treat the whole person. Leaving rehab early means they may still struggle with symptoms of withdrawal and cravings. Without the treatment to manage these, a person is more likely to relapse. Without spending time learning skills to handle strong, uncomfortable emotions, they may be more likely to relapse the next time they are frustrated, angry, sad, or lonely.

Common Reasons a Person Leaves Rehab Early

Doing the work of rehab can be exhausting. People in addiction treatment programs may experience a range of physical and emotional discomfort and may be managing these without using substances for the first time. Some common reasons that a person leaves rehab early include:

  • Anger, boredom, loneliness, or another strong, uncomfortable emotion
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Self-sabotage
  • Not comfortable in the program or dislikes the people around them
  • Overconfidence–they get an early boost of confidence that makes them feel ready to leave before they have learned all the skills they need

An addiction treatment program is designed to treat all aspects of addiction–the physical, emotional, social, and environmental reasons they abuse substances. It is important to complete a program so that each aspect of their addiction is addressed and healed. This is the best way to ensure long-lasting recovery from addiction.

What Can I Do If My Loved One Leaves Rehab Early?

The most important thing to remember is that you should not panic. If you are able to respond calmly, you are more likely to do the things that will encourage them to return to rehab. Becoming angry will put distance between you and your loved one. Becoming anxious or sad may lead to enabling behaviors. If a loved one leaves drug and alcohol rehab early, t is important to be loving but firm and to hold your boundaries.

This may mean:

  • Calling their counselors to let them know your loved one has left rehab or is planning to
  • Reaching out to a support group or individual therapist to get the support you need
  • Setting firm boundaries–do not give them money or allow them to come to your home
  • Remind them about why they went to rehab in the first place
  • Encourage them to complete their treatment program
  • Get advice from the staff and counselors about what to do next and what to avoid

It can be very difficult to stop enabling behaviors, but it is important that you make it hard to leave rehab and easy to return. If you refuse to give them money or a place to stay, it will make it more likely that they will go back to the treatment facility. You can set boundaries lovingly and firmly because you know that getting treatment is the best option for your loved one.

Get The Help You Need Today

If you or someone you love require treatment for addiction, reach out to the staff at the Carolina Center for Recovery. We offer programs designed to give you the skills you need for lifelong recovery from addiction in a supportive setting.

If you are ready to take the first step to get the life-changing treatment you need, we will walk the rest of the way with you. Call today to speak to one of our admissions counselors.