She has an addicted daughter and an addicted stepson. Yet her approach differs greatly from her fiancé’s approach. How can they move forward in order to help their children and preserve their relationship?

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“I live with my fiancé of 6 years. He has two boys age 20 and 22. My kids are 21 and 23. His boys don’t live with us but visit a lot. My daughter does live with us. We both have a child struggling with alcohol. We handle things very differently with our kids when they are using. So we have agreed that we would each stay out of each other’s choices of how to handle when our kids are using. However, lately, that hasn’t been the case. Every time his son comes here, he has been drinking. But, his dad doesn’t see it, and it is causing us to argue with each other. I love his children and he loves mine. I just don’t know what to do when his son comes over.”

Dominique Simon-Levine reminds this mother that it will be easier, and her efforts more successful, if family members dealing with the addiction of a loved one present a united front.

Presenting a united front is key with addiction

You and your fiancé have decided to address the addiction of your own children, and to stay out of the details of your partner’s response with their biological child. You’ve probably done this because you each believe your approach is best.  But also because it avoids the possible friction between you when you see the other doing and saying things with which you don’t agree.

That’s a lot of tightrope walking. There is also probably a grey area during times when you are both present (therefore involved) and responding to the child who is at the house. Unfortunately, this can’t be avoided, as you described in your comment.

You raise an important issue that affects many households dealing with addiction. What to do when the family members disagree on the approach being taken with the person with addiction.

We’ve seen this a lot over the years. Typically, Mom wants to protect and continuously reach out, while Dad wants to slam the door and tell them to come back when they’re sober. Sorry to be so stereotypical, but despite a few exceptions, this breakdown by role is common.

Relationships can be ruined when there’s no agreement on how to address addiction

This is no small problem. Relationships can be gradually worn down and eventually ruined with such fundamental and ongoing disagreements. Addiction is a lifelong affliction. As a family you are going to need a way to handle what comes up together. You will therefore fare better if you can find agreement on how to move forward.

I’d like to make the case that CRAFT, given its extensive study and overwhelmingly successful outcomes, could be the approach you both decide to take with both your children. Our site lays out the approach for you to get on the same page, using a proven method. We teach in a way that is easy to learn and apply almost immediately.

There are lots of ideas out there about what the family should do and how they should act when a loved one is struggling with addiction. Anecdotes abound, advice is easily given; outdated or unfounded ideas about addiction and parenting styles too often drive how the family reacts.

CRAFT can bring you together on many fronts

At Allies in Recovery, we provide a successful intervention. We actually discourage advice and anecdotes, preferring to rely on a theoretically-driven set of principles. You can apply these principles to all situations you may encounter. They show how to communicate, to stay safe, how to behave, and how to care for yourselves. Finally and most important, they show how to intervene and engage your loved one into treatment.

I wonder if you could both look at the Learning Modules (available to members. See our introductory video), and talk through them. You might find agreement between you two on how to proceed with both your children.

If you are united, you will be stronger

You will also be much more effective in helping your loved ones. The goal is to move your children towards treatment and recovery. CRAFT provides the best guidance for doing this in the quickest way. Can you give it 10 weeks? If you don’t see it working, then perhaps go back to your individual methods.

I know that what I’m asking you to do will not be easy. But I feel it’s the absolute best chance to move towards a united front, and set up a precedent for more peaceful relations at home. It’s also what is most likely to move your loved ones toward treatment and recovery. Rather than trying to convince your fiancé that this approach is what you all need, perhaps ask him to watch the video modules (the entire series takes less than 90 minutes to watch) and think about it for himself before you talk.

Yes, the family DOES have a role to play. Your stance, behavior, and choices DO make a difference. At Allies in Recovery we are absolutely convinced of this. “Tough love” is not a successful technique. Our learning platform is set up to help family members learn the techniques that will reduce conflict, build that bridge of communication, and be effective in guiding your loved one into treatment. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.

 About the Author:
Dominique launched Allies in Recovery in 2003. Her work has been featured on HBO and NPR. She is a facilitator and a trained speaker on issues of addiction and the family. She has worked extensively developing and evaluating federally-funded substance abuse programs for organizations and clinics throughout Massachusetts and New York. With an interest in recovery and substance abuse that spans 20 years, she sees a huge need to help families develop the skills that will help a loved one recover fully in a supportive, whole, and lasting way in their families and in their communities. Her mission is to have Allies in Recovery fill that gap.

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