An Uncertain Homecoming

young man wearing backpack looking down

An Uncertain Homecoming

Oh no, he’s coming home. 


Usually, a loved one’s return home after an absence is met with celebration. We’ve missed them, and we welcome them back into our lives with open arms and hearts. 

Unfortunately, for an addict returning home after in-patient treatment, the reception from others may be tinged more with apprehension than joy—on the part of both the addict and family members. 

When my son was due to return home after his first experience at rehab—30 days in-patient followed by 90 days at a recovery house, I was, to be honest, terrified. Before entering treatment, David had created great upheaval in our home. During his absence, we’d managed to re-establish some calm and an equilibrium. Having no idea what to expect upon his return, memories of his drug-induced behavior flooded my mind, making me fearful for what awaited us. 

And while I can’t speak for David’s state of mind, I can only imagine his own fear at facing a family he’d betrayed on so many levels, not to mention trying to manage his recovery at the same time. 

A pair of clenched hands on knees

So, what to do?

How to manage an adult child who was totally out of control?

What would his daily behavior be?

What would his expectations be? What should mine be?

As I’d felt so many times before, I was lost. 

There wasn’t much to go on as far as advice. Truthfully, I wanted to lay down the law and demand that David adhere to certain behaviors, a disciplined schedule, household chores, etc. But I was afraid that too much pressure from me might harm his recovery. I also had to find a place for my residual anger, knowing it could create another roadblock in David’s path to health. 

Ultimately, I created a contract for David to sign—one where I tried to balance a demand that he respect us and our values and house rules, as well as offered support for his journey. It wasn’t a magical solution by any means—David did relapse several months later—but it did allow me to clarify my own feelings and provide boundaries and expectations for him moving forward. 

Before your loved one returns home from in-patient treatment, don’t hesitate to reach out to his/her therapist for guidance about how to support recovery while establishing boundaries and expectations. Honest, clear communication will go far in easing the concerns of the addict in recovery and the family hoping to recognize their loved one again and welcome them with open arms.  

Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at

Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.

Mary Fran Bontempo
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