The Dos and Don’ts of a Recovery Contract

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Your loved one has completed a rehab program and is set to come home soon. You want to celebrate, but the hope you feel is cautious. What will life be like now? How can you help them re-enter your life?

What Is a Recovery Contract?

In an effort to protect yourself – and your recovering loved one – you’ll want to have a plan in place before he comes home. And that’s where a recovery contract comes in handy.

A recovery contract agreement outlines what is expected of both you and the recovering addict. The contract puts in writing the expectations and consequences that will be in place while he lives under your roof. It will look different for every family, but should ideally follow certain guidelines in every situation.

Recovery Contract Outline

A good recovery contract should include the following five columns:

  • Goals and accomplishments
  • How column one is going to happen
  • Date of completion for column one items
  • Check off here when column one items are complete, or write new date if rescheduled
  • Consequences if column one does or does not happen

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Recovery Contract

In order to set your loved one up for success and lasting sobriety, an open and honest dialogue must take place. Be sure to make your expectations clear, along with the consequences that will accompany his refusal to play by the rules. Get his input and listen to any concerns or doubts he might have about the contract.

When you’re ready to create and complete your recovery contract, keep the following dos and don’ts in mind:

The Dos

  • recovery-shutter405001120-woman-writingPut it in writing. This gives more weight to the agreements than spoken words. It’s tangible. It’s something specific to refer back to when needed. It incorporates accountability for the recovering addict, which is a must.
  • Make it mutual. Include your loved one in the creation of the contract. Decide on goals and completion dates together.
  • Be specific. A goal of “get a job” sounds great, but is a little vague. Is a job walking the neighbor’s dog once per week for $10 ok? A few more parameters would be good to set.
  • Include both positive and negative consequences. New privileges or a tangible reward can be listed in column five for the addict to receive when a goal is reached. Consequences if not reached must be severe enough to be deterrents.
  • Insist on complete sobriety. This is the ultimate goal. Stick to it.

The Don’ts

  • Write up something and place it in front of the addict to sign. This must be a mutually agreed upon contract for it to be meaningful to all.
  • Simply talk about some goals and possible consequences and come to a general verbal agreement.
  • Make it overly complex. Don’t get so bogged down in specifics that the contract is too complex. This is not a lawyer’s deed. Remember, the goal is to assist the addict in recovery and to protect your family and relationships, not make them want to find loopholes in the jargon.
  • Back down on consequences. Be prepared to follow through. If the contract states the addict must move out if an agreement is broken, don’t back down. Allowing them to stay simply tells them the contract is meaningless. They know they can simply do whatever they want without repercussions.
  • Allow a relapse – or a certain number of relapses – before consequences kick in.

Additional Reading: Post-Rehab: 11 Things to Avoid When a Loved One Comes Home

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