The Allies in Recovery Blog
Allies' founder and director, Dominique Simon-Levine, responds to questions from our Content Editor about the Key Observation exercises in our eLearning Center. This Q & A provides a clear explanation about how important these exercises are and how they help families understand their loved one's addiction in order to successfully guide them to treatment.
A son in early recovery would like his car back but his mother worries that this may trigger a relapse. She wants to help him but is worn out and worried. She has seen his early sobriety before and feels he is less motivated this time.
What if, in a moment of conflict, you were able to pause and recall some positive trait you appreciate about your loved one? How well are you able to separate the illness of addiction from the person you love?
Our members-only, eLearning site teaching the CRAFT method is accessible to everyone and is designed so that you, the family member supporting your loved one, can learn the essential tools of CRAFT on your own.
He's just out of treatment for heroin addiction and now at home smoking pot. His mother is very worried and unsure how to react. Should she let it slide and just focus on his recovery from heroin addiction? Or are there small steps she can take to try to reduce the pot smoking?
For some addicted individuals, medication can be an important complementary aid in recovery. At Allies in Recovery, we have no wish to stigmatize a treatment plan that includes medication.
This mother feels desperate—her daughter is struggling with addiction and now pregnant. After a seizure related to substance use, the hospital released her daughter without discussing the danger addiction poses to her unborn baby.
A boyfriend is discharged from detox at precisely the moment when withdrawal is at its most painful. He will need the full support of his family to get through this difficult time of withdrawing.
When someone has broken your trust, it will take time to build back up to complete trust again, perhaps years. So take it slowly, give it time.
This mother called the police when her addicted daughter stole her car. Now her daughter is in jail and furious, blaming her parents. What next?
When an addicted loved one alludes to or even threatens suicide, the family can feel paralyzed. Is the risk real or are they being manipulative? How do you respond?
Controlling an addicted loved one's access to money is a constant concern for the family. Some options exist to help 'control' their spending and these serve as a helpful roadblock. Ultimately, the best option is the CRAFT approach.
Recovery is a bumpy process and relapse is very often part of it. Sticking with the CRAFT approach will help your loved one reach their goal of continuous sobriety.
When setting firm boundaries and maintaining them, so often it feels like 'Tough Love' that may backfire and lead to a worse situation. Using the CRAFT approach, one's influence is more 'Smart Love' with real results.
Unity in a family is hard to orchestrate, especially where addiction is present. Sometimes this is because parents are elderly or a family member is too angry, or too overwhelmed to take in new information. But this shouldn't stop a family member from taking steps to guide their loved one toward treatment.
The family drug court is granting this mother in recovery more access to her child. But the grandparents, who are raising their granddaughter, are concerned that their daughter is not ready. How can they support their daughter when they themselves are unsure of her ability to return to parenting?
Can gaming truly be considered an addiction? What's actually happening during an 'Addictive Event'? How should this father deal with his son's multiple addictions and where does gaming stand as an addictive behavior?
David Sheff's story about his son's addiction and recovery has led him to several realizations about himself as a parent his own need to recover from the experience. He found that his constant suffering and struggle through near crises with his son was easier to deal with than focusing on himself. Today, their relationship has evolved into one of independence, acceptance, compassion and always love.
A mother is trying her best to maintain communication with her addicted son, but he is being verbally abusive. He is bullying to extract money from her. This has created a situation that is escalating beyond what she can handle.
A multipronged approach is essential to pull a loved one away from addiction. Yet too often, families are having to take responsibility for advocating for any comprehensive type of care. Furthermore, there is no 'one size fits all' formula for addiction treatment.
When drugs and alcohol take over, the family is drawn into the needs of the addiction, blamed when resources come up short, attacked when they refuse to provide the "help" requested. It is so hard to know what to do or what "helping" looks like. Come out of the gray area and learn how to respond to your Loved One's addiction.
Setting healthy boundaries and confidently following through with them is not easy and requires reflection, work and practice. But it is a strategy that provides support during the difficult times, especially when addiction is present.
A mother doesn't know what she should do when one of her sons asks for money and cigarettes while in treatment. He claims he can only get through this with smokes. Is this a reasonable request after all that has happened?
How do you walk the line between protecting your addicted loved one from potential danger while allowing the natural consequences that can lead them to want to make a change? While there are definite limits to what a family can do, there are actions that can be taken.
Old boyfriends, street corners, and bar stools are everywhere in sobriety. As long as your loved one continues to prioritize their recovery, trust that they will walk on by.
Why is it that setting and maintaining boundaries is so difficult to do? Nowhere does this breakdown become more apparent than when we are confronted with life’s difficulties, feeling lost in chaos and despair. This is a time when we are most in need of these self-preserving strategies and yet, our limit-setting abilities are likely at their weakest.
Annie Highwater offers a mother the tools she learned at Allies in Recovery: CRAFT, and watches in real-time the positive results. The son has checked into treatment. A family's hope is reignited — during the holidays!
Holidays tend to bring on some of the most emotionally charged situations. Here is a list of 5 suggestions offered by therapists and expert family advocates to help you get through the holiday season while taking care of yourself.
When your loved one is high all day long, without ever seeming to sober up, it might seem impossible to reach them and have any influence on their behavior. The CRAFT method lays out three steps to take.
Using positive communication while disengaging with a loved one is a softer, more neutral way of letting them know that things aren't okay. It’s not going to turn things around right away, but it will keep things calmer.
When a child goes off to college while in recovery, a parent is justifiably worried. Suddenly their child is far from home, where there was a strong support system that guided them into recovery. Colleges today however, are much more aware of substance use disorders and many have adapted accordingly. With some planning ahead, students can maintain their sobriety in college.
Special guest Rob Koebel, actor, writer and award-winning journalist joins Annie and Laurie to talk about about his descent into alcoholism starting at an early age, and the decades that went by without anyone noticing there was a serious problem. His journey to recovery has been a long struggle but one which he is putting to good use by helping others understand the reality behind the "Good-time Charlie" drinker.
In our next podcast, Annie and Laurie welcome special guest Alicia Cook, an established writer and award-winning activist on addiction issues. Their discussion covers a range of topics from the very personal, Alicia Cook's own experience with her cousin's death from overdose 10 years ago, to her work today as an activist helping families affected by addiction. This very open discussion about the opioid epidemic reveals some harsh truths but also shows a way forward.
Annie and Laurie open up about where the focus was when they first became aware of their sons' addiction, all the way through to where their goals and focuses are now. How did their goals evolve over time and how they depend on who your loved one is: a child, a spouse, a parent. They also conduct a short quiz to determine where one might be in the stressful process.
In today's podcast, Laurie's son Tommy opens up about his experience with SUD with a very moving account of surviving a terrifying overdose. This strong, raw, and honest conversation gives much insight into the mind of an addict, where they are and where they need to go in order to get better.
Annie and Laurie open up about the parallel issues that can arise during the worst of times. With their sons' addiction raging, they also had to deal with what was going on on other fronts: chaos, crises, judgement, family discord. They learned how to respond to other's remarks, and not react to them, how to stay united and not sink.
On this week's Coming Up for Air podcast, Annie and Laurie talk with Annie's son Elliot, whose opiate dependency and recovery is detailed in Annie's book "Unhooked." Elliot opens up with an honest, raw perspective of where a son or daughter's mind might be while in active addiction, what would have helped from his point of view, what to not take personally as the parent of someone struggling deep in substance use disorder. He also tells us what life looks like for someone in their 20's pursuing sobriety yet wanting a fun, active lifestyle.
In this week's podcast, Laurie and Annie compare support group experiences. They discuss what is helpful and what works, the importance of being among others who experience the same struggles. They also learned to be careful in some of these tricky group settings where giving support was sometimes equated with giving advice.
When an addicted loved one is exhibiting increasingly alarming behavior, first of all, don't take it personally. Remember, it is not directed at you. This, unfortunately, the face of addiction.
This week Annie and Laurie invite Laurie's husband Trevor and Annie's ex-husband Elliot Sr. to discuss what it means to "be on the same page" during a crisis and when making decisions. The conversation touches on blended families, exposing siblings to potentially dangerous behaviors, intrusions from others, being in agreement even though divorced.
Manipulation is used as a strong arm tactic when there is no healthy communication: "Healthy families communicate, unhealthy families manipulate". In this podcast, Laurie and Annie discuss their own experiences with manipulation. How do we recognize manipulation when it's present? How do we as affected family actually manipulate as well?
Laurie and Annie dive deep into the role forgiveness plays when struggling with an addicted loved one. Why is it so much easier to forgive some and not others? And how do we go about forgiving? They also touch on issues of blame, shaming and resentment.
When a loved one enters treatment, there is often a feeling of emptiness which comes suddenly after a prolonged period of anxiety and stress. The source of constant focus and worry has gone off into treatment but the strong emotions associated with their presence may linger. Laurie MacDougall shares how she coped in this situation, learning how to let go and take care of herself.
It takes a lot of mental work to get and remain sober and so a recovering loved one may be unintentionally careless with those who support them. If we recognize that people do the best they can with the tools they have in the moment, then we can accept this carelessness more easily. In the meantime, take care of your own well-being.
Laurie and Annie tell their own stories as mothers facing an addicted loved one. They discuss their backgrounds and family dynamics, speak about their lives leading up to and through their personal experiences with the national opiate crisis. Their compelling stories confirm that addiction is a disease and it’s a family disease that can happen to any family in any community.
In today's podcast, Annie and Laurie welcome Allies in Recovery founder, Dominique Simon-Levine, to explain the CRAFT method for helping families support an addicted loved one into treatment and through recovery. They share their personal experiences in implementing the CRAFT methodology and why it became their 'strategy of choice' not only in helping their addicted loved one, but also in looking after their own well-being.
In this next podcast, Annie and Laurie analyze the meaning of drama using examples drawn from an entertaining public poll. They also discuss drama within the family and friendships and how they learned not to get sucked in.
If you are the bystander watching this brutal disease from the front row, what do you do? Detach from someone you love as they are spiraling? What does it look like to detach? How do you abruptly cut them off? We hear "you have to detach" a lot, but what does it actually mean?
Join Allies in Recovery moms Annie Highwater and Laurie MacDougall as they share their personal experiences with their loved ones' recovery and how applying the language of recovery gave them strength and encouragement during the difficult times.
The long-term stress I experienced caused me to become very forgetful, hasty in my decisions, confused and socially awkward. I also noticed that during that time of my life I became very clumsy. It became obvious to me that I was heading for a crash if I didn’t get ahead of my stress. I knew I had to develop different responses. I knew that I didn't want addiction, terror and chaos calling the shots anymore.
Through recovery work, I have learned to stop expecting people to be different and to reduce the frustration that comes from trying to cause a person to get better, or trying to mold them into how I think they should be (even if it’s reasonable). When I put these demands and expectations down, I can love people for who they actually are.
Positive reinforcement, as basic and childlike as that sounds, is a motivating force for progress. Speaking to someone’s goodness despite their wrong choices unlocks their worth. “You’re not a bad person, you’re just headed in a bad direction.” Or maybe “You shouldn’t be ashamed of yourself, maybe just aware of faulty patterns so you can choose different ones.” That’s a great way to start motivating someone. Versus, “I told you so, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
My healing did not come easily and did not come overnight. It has been an extremely difficult journey and I am still not great at it. It took really small baby steps and there are still many times when I just lose it and cry. What is different now is I have a bunch of tools in my toolbox to utilize. I have strategies and a plan in place.
You might be grumbling. You might be accusing, guilting or complaining. Or trying desperately to prevent them from going out. You might be brooding in a cold silence. This might be hard to believe, but your presence and your conversation, however negative, are something your loved one counts on, and expects from you.
“Enmeshed” is a good word to describe the situation between your sister and her son. Enmeshed describes a pattern, years in the making, when a family member fixes and protects and tries to control the actions of a loved one who’s abusing substances....
If I'm out at a party at a friend's house, staying present in the party, in the moment, and enjoying every single moment with them, because that's where I'm at right now ... [this] helped me to have some joy and love right then, in that moment ...
If I had to characterize pot users in one sentence I would describe them as observers of their own life. This passivity cripples ambition and motivation. However, a strong relationship keeps the bridge open between you and your loved one, and this will be vital when they signal a desire to change.
Vitriol can be described as a solution-less rant of hate-filled criticism. A brand of sulfuric acid was named Vitriol, reason being that the acid was strong enough to burn through anything, including steel and rock. Another permanent boundary I now have: I will not remain in the presence of vitriol.
How do you keep from encouraging further drug use by raising the bottom and protecting your loved one from overdose? How as a family member do you live with the dangers your loved one is facing, day in and day out? How do you avoid depleting your energy and becoming obsessed with the circumstances of your loved one’s life?
It’s been said that for every one person struggling with addiction, there are at least 15 people affected. The effects are painful and relentless for those of us left in the wake.
Treatment doesn’t see its role as helping the newly sober person to manage financially. They rarely ask the question, "So where is the job?” ... “How is this person going to pay for the sober house?” ... “How is this person going to get to their appointments?” They certainly don’t see their role as providing inpatient treatment until such time as the person is financially stable.
Guest author Annie Highwater writes, "Through the worst of holiday seasons, I have found myself literally forcing a smile as people joyfully wish me season’s greetings in passing. All while my heart weighs a thousand pounds and my mind is a million miles away."
In order to start anew with the process of sobriety, a resident who has relapsed should be sent to a more intensive level of treatment (for example: clinical stabilization services or CSS in Massachusetts), but too often nothing is available and the only option is detox. Here is some useful information for pursuing the next level of treatment.
It is critical that you, as your addicted loved one's ally, understand that you can’t create motivation. And it is equally critical that you know there is something you can do!
Self-care enables you to be a better friend, spouse, partner, or parent. Regardless of your income, resources, or personal struggles, you should never take better care of others than you do yourself. Here are seven valuable lessons in self-care from one remarkable 97-year-old woman.
Patricia Lincourt has worked with people struggling with substance abuse for 20+ years. She says that most of them defy the stereotypes we typically have. I thought I’d give you the bullet version.
What a relief when a loved one agrees to go into treatment. But right behind this relief there may follow several nagging thoughts: What’s next? What if it doesn’t work? Please don’t let him come home……
Modeling the behavior we are looking for in our loved one is effective, and a key element of CRAFT. It may make sense to avoid drinking, if you are trying to help your loved one get sober.
A number of studies have shown that writing regularly in a journal can improve both mental and physical health. The best way to care for your loved one is to care for yourself, and devoting time to writing and self-evaluation is a key part of Allies in Recovery's program. Here are some tips for making the most of the tools offered on our member site.
Here are 7 ideas for creating the ideal home environment for your adult child in recovery. While supporting them in this phase, establish very clear boundaries. While you can provide a comfortable environment for them, try to make it something that you can easily revoke, should they begin using again.
When your loved one is using drugs almost continuously, there are few opportunities to reward non-use. You are right about this. You are also correct in not rewarding moments of withdrawal, that period you describe when your son first gets up and is agitated and verbally abusive.
When your loved one is abusing alcohol or drugs, engaging in dangerous activities, or making life decisions you dislike, the natural impulse is to try and change your loved one’s behavior.... But as Allies in Recovery’s online program teaches, you cannot change other people. You can only change yourself.
Finding treatment for alcohol and drug addiction is the most important way you can help your loved one recover. Remember that it often takes repeated treatment efforts to achieve long-time sobriety.
Getting off of methadone is very hard. It has a long half life; it will feel like it is hanging on forever. If your son isn’t mentally prepared and supported for what will quite possibly be weeks of withdrawal, there is a chance he may relapse and use again to make himself feel better.
An Allies in Recovery member recently shared the story of her adult son who lives "out of reach" in another state with his addiction, mental illness to the point of suicidal tendencies, credit debt, etc. In this post, we explore whether the CRAFT principles can be applied at a distance.
When your addicted loved one also struggles with mental health issues and a history of trauma, there are specific types of treatment to consider. Dominique Simon-Levine responds to an Allies in Recovery member's questions and explores treatment options as well as how to implement CRAFT with his loved one.
A mom on our Allies in Recovery member site wrote in about her daughter’s recent relapse. Her daughter has been staying away from home, reconnecting with an ex-boyfriend who was dealing drugs, on a binge drinking heavily and doing coke.
Your Monday evening dinners are a great example of setting the stage for “coaxing the little scared animal out of the woods.” The hard part with this coaxing, and as you describe with that dinner, is this overwhelming urge as a parent to force your way into the woods, by getting heavy and asking your son about his hidden life.
While DBT was originally designed for people with suicidal tendencies, it is effective for a host of conditions. DBT is typically taught in groups plus individual therapy. The creator of DBT, Marsha Linehan, provides a directory of practitioners trained by her institute.
A central question to ask yourself is this: is the car supporting non-use, by keeping your loved one working, or has it become an important source of money for drugs and for a bailout when they get him in trouble?
Everyone who had an addiction problem and managed to stop, started out by putting hours of non-using together to equal ONE DAY. What made that day so different? A negative consequence usually lights the flame.....
I have never seen a time like this. Things are moving so fast: the media and policy makers are opening their eyes to substance abuse, driven largely by white middle-class families who have tragically lost a loved one to opioid overdose. As a family member, how do you navigate all of this?
Overdose deaths are skyrocketing and Narcan has become THE focus. But for the family of the opiate using loved one, Narcan is a double-edged sword.
When addiction is present, shame is never far away. In this post, Dr. Brené Brown, a shame and vulnerability expert, shares the #1 antidote to shame, along with the 3 things you can do to break a shame spiral.
Researcher Dr. Brené Brown describes shame as the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. It's the most primitive human emotion we all feel, and one that no one wants to talk about.
How well are you caring for yourself this holiday? Allies in Recovery can help you get back on track. This inspiring, shopping-mall flash mob from our members' Sanctuary will get you started.
So you're mad or hurt or feeling hopeless? To be effective at helping your addicted family member, you must first get a handle on your negative feelings and learn to take extra good care of yourself.
Do some of these symptoms describe you? A parent wrote me recently that it felt like he had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from having lived through his son’s active addiction and relapses. Let’s look at some of the signs ...
An Allies in Recovery member writes from the heart, sharing his experience of being the parent of an adult child in early recovery: "We were in the beginning stages of recovery ourselves. How could we help him if he expressed or evidenced the difficulty of staying focused and doing all the work of recovery?..."
Having a loved one who struggles with addiction is one of the best ways to attract advice from all directions. Who do you listen to? Who do you ignore? Dominique Simon-Levine sheds some light on this sometimes tricky situation.
At Allies in Recovery, we disagree with Al-Anon on one crucial point: A family member is part of the immediate environment and CAN create the conditions that promote sobriety and recovery.
The idea of changing our whole mindset can seem daunting. Yet as the family of an addicted loved one, there are some basic, and fundamental shifts you can make. It doesn’t mean turning your whole life upside down.
You've had some suspicions. You decide to look around in her room. You can’t believe what you’re seeing. Slowly your mind comes clear… she’s still using … she’s been lying.
Unsure of how to implement the CRAFT method with your opiate user? We explain how to use rewards and stepping away, even when "non-use" doesn't seem to exist.
There is an AA saying, one that I think also applies to families navigating the addiction of a Loved One. Simply put, getting and staying sober must come first. Yet, for families, there is so much else going on.
If you’re reading this, congratulations! You’ve made it to this site. This means you are putting together a plan for dealing with substance abuse in your family. And not just any plan – a plan that puts together the best that science and practice have to offer.
Our role as the family member of a struggling loved one is not limited to doing things for them. What we do for our own well-being (physical, mental, spiritual ... ) will create a ripple effect that brings relief and much needed change, within us and all around us.
While major calamities can create motivation to stop using, change can also be sparked by the small, more subtle events that embarrass, that shame, or that make us look silly. Make an effort to seize these opportunities to allow such moments to naturally occur.
Shame is a human emotion, meaning we all experience it. It has even been suggested that it is the most primitive of all emotions, dating back to our origins as humans. Shame, however, is toxic in large amounts, and many of us find ourselves stuck in that leaky boat. Understanding how shame works is the first step in preparing to conquer it.
An intervention does not have to be a big dramatic family meeting with lots of tears and pressure. It can simply be a quiet moment at the kitchen table.
The question of “Abstinence vs. Moderation” is one that some people contemplate daily, but that many others have never considered. Your family member is addicted to drugs or alcohol ... is abstinence the only answer, or can things improve if they learn to moderate their use?
One of the most painful and confusing situations for a family dealing with an adult Loved One’s drug or alcohol addiction is wondering if you should ask your loved one to leave.
If you have an addicted loved one in your life and are currently struggling with desperation, anger, and other difficult emotions, I would like you to take a minute to think about forgiveness. Forgiving someone, especially someone whose behavior evokes very painful emotions in you, can create a very beneficial release. (read more...)
How rewarding an addicted family member for non-use can help decrease their use, get them into treatment, and increase your own quality of life.
When wondering whether a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, ask yourself whether their use is causing problems, no matter how subtle.
Seven strategies that will help you communicate more effectively with an addicted family member.
How you react to your loved one when they are using drugs or alcohol is key to guiding them towards getting help for their addiction.
Understanding the triggers that drive your loved one to use will make you more effective in responding to your loved one.
Even if there is no history of physical violence, you should learn these two simple techniques for de-escalating conflict.
CRAFT is a scientifically proven alternative approach to Al-Anon, for families struggling with the addiction of a loved one.