Leaving Rehab Early: What to Do If Your Spouse Walks Out of Treatment

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Vicky was livid. She couldn’t believe he was actually standing in their living room.

For the next seven weeks, her husband, John, was supposed to be in rehab. And yet here he was, back home and standing right in front of her with that smirk on his face. After having breakfast this morning, John apparently decided he’d be leaving rehab early.

Promises, Promises, and More Promises

After John got his second DUI, Vicky finally put her foot down. She said he could either get treatment for his alcohol addiction or get a divorce lawyer. He chose treatment and immediately swore he’d complete the program. That’s the only reason Vicky agreed to stay in the marriage.

John claims he realized that paying for rehab was a waste of their money. Instead of giving money to a treatment center, they could use it to go on a vacation or remodel the kitchen. What about that new car Vicky was eyeing last month? He even volunteered to schedule the test-drive.

When that tactic didn’t work, John quickly moved to plan B. Pacing in tight circles around the coffee table, he told Vicky he’d left treatment that morning because he couldn’t stand it anymore. He hates it there. The program wasn’t right for his needs. And he could get sober at home if she’d just agree to stay with him and offer some support.

The excuses and promises went on and on.

Vicky told John she wouldn’t stick around to watch him self-destruct – and she wouldn’t let him destroy her in the process. Should she break her word just because her husband couldn’t keep his?

The Reality and Repercussions of Leaving Rehab Early

Vicky has an important decision to make. Should she hold her boundaries firm and follow through with her threat to leave? Or be manipulated into staying while John continues to actively abuse alcohol? What’s the best way to support him—and when is enough enough?

Around 24 million married Americans either have or are in a relationship with someone who has a substance use disorder. And since about half the people who go to drug rehab don’t complete their treatment programs, conversations like John and Vicky’s probably happen thousands of times every day.

But what if that conversation happens in your living room? What if your spouse is the one leaving rehab early? What’s the best thing to do?

How to Deal with a Spouse Leaving Rehab Early

After your spouse walks out of treatment, the world feels like it’s been turned upside down for you and your whole family. Everything you’d planned and all the promises that were made go out the window in an instant.  How do you start picking up the pieces?

Here’s some advice from experts in the field of addiction and recovery:

The Do’s:

  • Remind them of the stakes: Calmly and lovingly remind your spouse of what is at stake. It might be their relationship with you, or with your kids. Their job or health might be on the line. Remind them why they agreed to go to rehab in the first place. If they want something specific, they first must complete treatment.
  • Encourage them: Even though you may feel anger, frustration, and a host of other negative emotions, try to stay positive and encouraging. Let your spouse know it’s not too late to re-enter the program. Encourage them to return to treatment right away. Tell them you know they can do this.
  • Point to a solution: Rather than threaten or shame your spouse, point them in a healthy direction. Let them know about other program options. Help them find another treatment center they can go to, if that is feasible. It might be hard to remain calm, but it’s best to keep a positive attitude. Remind your spouse that things will get better if they can just complete treatment.
  • Get support: Contact your spouse’s treatment providers to let them know your spouse has left rehab. They can encourage your spouse to stay in rehab or re-enter a program. They can also give you advice on what to do next and point you to additional support as you navigate this tough situation. Consider reaching out to a support group for yourself or seeing a therapist for your own needs.

The Don’ts:

  • Don’t welcome them home: Let your spouse know you do not agree with the decision to leave early. Remind them that they are not welcome in the home until they complete treatment.
  • Don’t enable them: Don’t make it easy on your spouse to leave rehab. Do not provide money for a hotel, food, or other expenses. And don’t provide transportation.

The Bottom Line on Leaving Rehab Early

If Vicky never says enough is enough, John may never get the help he needs. There’s no incentive for him to get sober if she lets him come home and continue abusing alcohol. For his sake – and hers – it’s time for Vicky to stand firm.

If your spouse ends up leaving rehab early, be loving but resolved. Hold your boundaries.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a substance use disorder, you’re not alone. Get help today at 800-681-1058 (Info iconWho Answers?)


Nikki Seay Bio Image
Nikki Seay, LPN, BS
Addiction & Mental Health Author
Nikki brings more than 10 years' experience in content and healthcare. She holds a Licensed Practical Nursing degree and a B.S. in Marketing. In recovery since 2010, Nikki understands addiction from both a personal and a clinical point of view, which helps her create content that truly impacts our audience.