Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

Did I Do CRAFT Wrong and Trigger Him to Drink?

She thought her husband was drinking, so she left. He called and said he wasn’t drinking, so she came home, but by then he’d gone out and he did drink. This wife feels she inadvertently triggered her husband to go drink. Did she? She also feels like she messed everything up with one episode of removing rewards. Did she really? The CRAFT approach has us “remove rewards,” including removing ourselves, when our loved one is using substances. CRAFT also asks you to make numerous split-second decisions every day. You’re going to get it wrong sometimes.  In the post below, we walk through this scenario with some CRAFT ABC’s.

[This question originally appeared on our member site “Pose a Question” blog:]

“The reason for this post is to share an incident and check that I’m on track or not. I am really working on applying CRAFT to my husband when he drinks. Figuring it out successfully or not. Tonight, I was sure he was drinking while mowing. I went out and told him clearly I was leaving because he was drinking, that I was going out to eat, and I would be back before bed. He just stared at me without saying a word. So I left and he was silent as I drove away. Then about 20 minutes later he calls. He says he wasn’t drinking, that it was a water bottle. I was shocked and quickly apologized. I told him I was going to grab a snack and come home. When I got home, he was gone.

“Now I’m sure he’s drinking and feeling guilty and blaming myself. Feeling like although I didn’t cause this, I helped it to happen. Now should I stay up until he comes home, or remove myself since I really expect he’s been drinking? I turn off all the lights and go to bed. I am so conflicted. If I helped to cause this, shouldn’t I be up to console him and encourage him when he gets home even if he’s been drinking? I feel really guilty and keep trying to reassure myself that it’s not my doing if he drinks. He doesn’t need to respond by drinking.

“I wrestle with being in bed with all the lights off. I think he’s going to come home mad at me and a quick apology or chat will settle things down; I feel so guilty and upset with myself. Finally, I get up and go into the living room and pretend to be asleep when he gets home. But I know it’s clear I was waiting up for him. What a cop out. He wants to talk when he comes home two hours later. But not about drinking or us or me, but about his night. He tells me details and says “I drank, sorry. I drank three beers. It was a bachelor party.” I’m not sure if he’s sorry that he has to tell me, or sorry because he knows I don’t approve. He doesn’t seem sorry that he drank them. And there was no profit in me being there for him.

“So, even if I’m part of the reason he drinks in a particular situation, I need to apply CRAFT and remove myself when he drinks. He asks me right before bed do I want to talk. I say “no, but tomorrow I would like to talk.” I feel like I finally have said what I should have all along. Tomorrow, I will ask him why he’s sorry.


Thanks for writing in and sharing what happened. In a nutshell, you suspected your husband had been drinking, you acted in consequence, he denied it, you felt bad and went back, but he was gone, this time drinking (he confirmed it later). You felt you’d really messed up, perhaps even causing his drinking episode. The remorse and guilt is eating at you.

There’s actually a lot in your message that I want to address. Maybe first and foremost, it would be helpful for me to let you off the hook…

Applying CRAFT in real life: You’re gonna get it wrong sometimes!

Yes, CRAFT has been scientifically validated. And our members continue to report validating results each day. That being said, we family members are human, just as much as our struggling loved ones. Human behavior cannot be reproduced to a T, day in and day out. We falter. We’re flawed. Perfectly imperfect!

In our eLearning CRAFT Modules, we clearly spell this out: it’s not easy to make split-second judgements (about whether or not the loved one is using right now). You will get it wrong sometimes. This is OK.

Each and every time you come into contact with your loved one, we ask you to take a moment to assess the situation, especially the question of using or not:

  • Consider the clues you can gather in the moment, plus the knowledge you already have about signs, symptoms, and your loved one’s habits;
  • Allow your gut/instinct (the little knowing voice inside) to weigh in;
  • Take a deep breath and allow the needle to point to Yes (using) or No (not using);
  • Go with it and act accordingly!

We must do our best to be at peace with our assessment and ensuing acts, even with the knowledge that we will not always get it right.

If it comes to the loved one’s attention that you’ve made a mistake, and they point that out, feel free to acknowledge you made a mistake, apologize, and move on. Example:

“I apologize. I’m probably a little over-sensitive about the substance use. Great that I was wrong!”  or

“I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions. I admit my worry can get in the way sometimes.”

Feel free to use your private journal on our site to write out a few short, light sorry/owning it statements now. This will allow you to practice and have a few at the ready, should you need one.



The ABC’s of CRAFT: A few reminders

I picked up a couple of details from your comment that I wanted to use as examples to remind you, and anyone reading this, about a couple of very common Do’s and Don’ts.

  1. “I went out and told him clearly I was leaving because he was drinking.”

It’s so great that you have integrated the idea of “he’s using —> remove rewards/disengage.”

We suggest something subtler if you need to say something when you do so. No need to mention/name the use, so for example, “I’m going for a walk, I need some air.”  He will quickly feel results of the pattern you create by disengaging when he’s using, or coming in close/engaging when he isn’t. He’ll quickly put two and two together. No need to complicate things (and risk inflaming the situation) by pointing to the drug or alcohol use.

  1. “He doesn’t seem sorry that he drank them.”

Addiction is messy. So is the human psyche. We can look one way, and be feeling another. We can say one thing, but really feel something else. We can think we know what is, or isn’t going on in someone’s mind, but we can’t truly have any certitude. So whether or not a loved one expresses or shows remorse for their actions, they may absolutely feel it. They may feel it before or during the using. They may feel it afterwards. They may feel it in retrospect, days, or even years later.

The “cleaner” your interactions with a loved one can be, the better.

Avoid projecting on them what you think they should or shouldn’t do, are or aren’t feeling.  And we advise avoiding talk of use altogether, except for those (usually rare) moments of opportunity when a loved one is expressing a wish for things to be different, or a dip (feeling low or hopeless…). Talking about their use — the why’s and why not’s of their use — is, simply put, a minefield. Prepare your talk carefully for when the time is right (our eLearning CRAFT Module 8, “How Do I Get My Loved One into Treatment?” helps you prepare a “planned conversation;” you will also want concrete suggestions ready at hand. Also see some of our recent public blog posts that give these tips).

  1. ” If I helped to cause this, shouldn’t I be up to console him and encourage him when he gets home even if he’s been drinking?”

Nope, you shouldn’t. This one is pretty cut and dry. No matter what elements contributed to triggering an episode of use, once that use is happening (about to happen, happening, or still experiencing the after-effects), CRAFT is pretty clear-cut about how the family member responds to the use. So don’t overthink it.

To me, it looks like you figured this out for yourself within a few hours. I quote you: “… there was no profit in me being there for him. So, even if I’m part of the reason he drinks in a particular situation, I need to apply CRAFT and remove myself when he drinks.”  Yes! You got it. Exactly.

  1. “Feeling like although I didn’t cause this I helped it to happen… I feel so guilty and upset with myself. “

To my knowledge, CRAFT doesn’t specifically address what to do with the (often misguided) guilt that family members can feel around the role they play in their loved one’s substance use.

However, the program we’ve put together insists again and again on tending lovingly to our own emotional landscape, and working through the difficult emotions (that all humans have, but which are often ubiquitous when addiction is present). I wouldn’t disagree with the idea that families—being the intricate, interwoven units they are—can produce or reproduce certain patterns. And I certainly believe that we each have our own work to do. This includes but is not limited to: self-care! self-care! self-care! And part of the art self-care is, of course, identifying the difficult feelings that arise, and working through them so they don’t take hold of us.

I really like listening to Allies Director, Dominique Simon-Levine, talk about emotions, why we have them, how they help us, and how we can use them to heal and grow vs. letting them get the best of us. Check out our eLearning CRAFT Module 7 for some really helpful perspectives on the world of emotion and feeling. Our recent public blog posts have some good pointers from this module.

CRAFT helps us to know what to do when. How to handle our feelings about it all is another story

“I feel really guilty and keep trying to reassure myself that it’s not my doing if he drinks. He doesn’t need to respond by drinking.”

As someone who has been working CRAFT with a loved one (an ex-partner) I completely commiserate, and your comment has helped me to put some words on some observations I’ve made.

In our eLearning CRAFT Modules, we haven’t spoken that much about the effects on the family member when practicing CRAFT. I have noticed a few things, which I feel can be problematic if not kept in check.



 Are you really “in control” here?

  • The first one has to do with our perceived level of control over the situation and over our loved one’s actions. This is subtle, fine-line type of stuff. Yes, the studies on CRAFT have shown that we can indeed influence our loved one in the direction of recovery.

Yes, we can do things to encourage their efforts, but
No, we can’t make them want to do something.

Yes, we do have full control over our own actions and behaviors, our attitude, the care we do or don’t grant our Selves, and
No, we don’t have even 1% of control of their actions, behaviors, attitude, etc.

Yes, it can be truly inspiring to be in the presence of another person who is taking sweet care of themselves, feeling well-balanced and centered, owning their own struggles and actively working through them — the power of presenting a model to be followed is not to be underestimated! But,
No, we can’t make them take care of themselves or even want to, especially not through coercion, guilting, power play or mind games.

We cannot force our loved one to do, or not to do, something. If we venture onto that road there are very good chances that things will backfire and resentments will be high. This is one reason that CRAFT outperforms all of the other intervention models studied.

We aren’t the reason they will do or not do something. No matter our actions, we are not causing our loved one to use. They are free-willed human beings, who may not be using their free will as we wish them to, but the choice to use each and every time is theirs.  Just as the choice to not use, once they become more serious about recovery, will be theirs each day. They’re the ones who will have that ultimate challenge, of having to say “no” to their beloved substance(s) day after day and hopefully year after year.

Are you owning your part?

And as the trainer of Allies evidence-based CRAFT curriculum, Laurie MacDougall points out, just as we can and should be “owning our part” as much as possible, you can also choose to respond to blaming by your loved one in the following manner, whether you say it out loud or just remind yourself:

“That’s one thing I don’t own.”

  • Once we are clear on the extent of our actual control over our loved one (we don’t have any!), I find it’s useful to step back and take an honest look at what beliefs we might be operating on. I’m referring to the fact that it is easy with CRAFT to get excited when the system of rewarding and removing rewards starts to bear fruit. But if we’re not careful, this can give us the misguided idea that we’re able to control more than we actually can.

This, in turn, can lead us to misuse our perceived control, or inversely, to experience heightened guilt or remorse when we feel we could have done things differently or better.

Beware the the Guilt-remorse-self-blame Game

  • Beware! Guilt-remorse-self-blame! Do you feel you could have prevented a using episode by being there, saying something differently, not saying something, etc.? I’m someone who tends to place a lot of responsibility / pressure / perfectionism on my own self… perhaps you can relate? I have begun to realize that we must be especially careful as family members practicing CRAFT. Our influence is real but limited. We have our own lives to lead, aside from trying our best to be there as much as possible to implement CRAFT and keep guiding our loved one in the direction of recovery.

The “I could have done it better” attitude that can arise when you’re really good at seeing what didn’t get done, what could have been done better or how you may have failed someone, is a slippery slope. This can easily become a vicious cycle in which we become exhausted, worn down by toxic inner dialogues. Then we require even more self-care to get back to a place of inner peace and centeredness (which is the ideal position from which to practice CRAFT). Get my drift? It is said that almost everything is better in moderation. I suppose CRAFT is no exception. We simply cannot be doing it 24/7, we cannot do it to perfection, and we cannot and must not do it at the expense of our own health or balance!

If I’m asking them to do it, shouldn’t I be working on it, too?

We encourage our members to keep in mind that when practicing CRAFT and working the Allies program, it’s great to hold yourself to the same standards you are looking for in your loved one. Our choices and actions can and should parallel what we’re asking of our loved ones:

  • Own your own issues! Our eLearning CRAFT Module 4 focuses on communications and has good examples of this. “I” statements, in which you model taking responsibility for your own stuff, can be very powerful. They disarm your loved one and at the same time give them a great example of what it would look like if they, themselves, were a bit more honest and upfront about the feelings behind their acts.

  • Let It Go!  If you’ve messed up, or said or done something you wish you hadn’t, after owning it in whatever way feels right (this may just be acknowledging it to yourself), please try to let it go afterwards. We’re not at our best if we’re ruminating over what should’ve been. Just like if our loved one was doing great but messes up one day, we’ll want them to be able to put that down, forgive themselves and move on to another day, where everything is possible again!
  • Trust In the Process. Trust, and faith, can only help you as you navigate the often-troubled waters of addiction and recovery. While recovery from the substance(s) is your loved one’s work, you will certainly also have your own patterns, emotions and needs to address. Know that this is all a process. Not a straight line, not an overnight cure. What can you have faith in? This is another journal prompt we encourage you to use: make a list in your private journal on this site. What inspires and reassures you? Make a list and come back to it.

Remember the “Three Cs” – and use the CRAFT approach

So this may be a lot to process. I was inspired by reading your comment, and I hope that you’ll find some of this useful. To sum up the most important points, we all mess up when applying CRAFT, it’s par for the course. But don’t fret, there are usually many opportunities to keep practicing and getting better at it!

The 3 C’s you hear about can be a good reminder about your stance:

  • I didn’t cause it
  • I can’t cure it
  • I can’t control it

But thank goodness there’s CRAFT! You can:

  • Positively influence
  • Model growth and change
  • Heal yourself and fine-tune your emotional landscape

All our best to you and your family.



Join award-winning Allies in Recovery today to access CRAFT-informed blog posts and podcasts – all searchable by topic – AND our eLearning CRAFT Modules (available in video or PDF) that teach you the strategies and skills needed to engage your loved one onto the path to recovery.

Membership at Allies includes direct contact with CRAFT experts via our ZOOM support groups, CRAFT skills and educational groups, treatment and resource support, and virtual office hours. CRAFT is the proven, most successful method for getting your loved one into recovery.

By using CRAFT, you’ll learn information critical to understanding your loved one’s addiction and how to play an important role in their recovery journey. Whether with our self-guided eLearning or live ZOOM groups, you can tailor your participation to what’s best for you.

Additionally, you’ll have guidance on how to identify and manage your own emotions – when you’re faring better, you can better help your loved one.

Read our reviews to see how other families have come to call us a “lifesaver.”

If you’re an Allies member, check out the member site for our “10-day Challenge” to claim your reward of a complimentary One-Day CRAFT Workshopjust for finishing half of the eLearning CRAFT Modules!

Join us TODAY to get trained on reducing the chaos of addiction in your family and your life. You’re not alone – you have Allies.


Related Posts from "CRAFT"

Trusting A Loved One in Early Recovery

Her husband is in early recovery, but he doesn’t want to share details with her. She’s nervous and struggling with trust due to his history of SUD and lying. She’s reluctant to let him come home, and unsure how to talk to him about it. Dominique weighs in with an idea of what to say based on the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach that we use at

How CRAFT Can Help: Supporting Your Partner to Successfully Moderate Opiate Use

His partner is trying to moderate her use of heroin and methamphetamine with no formal support. Her use consumes so much of his partner’s life that it’s hard to see her “moderation” as progress. But his loved one wants him to acknowledge how “well” she’s doing, and there hasn’t been room for more discussion. Read on for suggested strategies from to engage his partner into treatment, using the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach.

How to Use the CRAFT Approach to Communicate with a Loved One Living with Substance Use Disorder

Substance Use Disorder can often involve volatile emotions on all sides. When family members use the CRAFT approach that we teach at, it can help disentangle emotions from practicalities, leading to greater calm and more effective outcomes. This mom recently had an exchange with her son who is struggling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), but held back from responding in fear it would end in a heated argument. So, she to turned to Allies for guidance. Read on for some pointers on how best to communicate with a loved one in active addiction using the CRAFT approach.

He’s on Suboxone and Hiding Away for Most of the Day. We are Worried.

Her son was using heroin, and he just got out of jail. He reached out for mom’s help and asked to live at home as he starts recovery, and he is getting MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment), specifically Suboxone. But he’s secluding himself so much at home she can’t tell what he’s up to. He’s accessing counseling and groups remotely, but he stays holed up in his room all the time and rarely emerges. Mom worries about his isolating so much and whether he might be using. We weigh in with some thoughts about the varied aspects of early recovery, and with some reminders about practicing CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training.)

Real Allies in Recovery Success Stories: Families Share How CRAFT Helped Their Loved Ones with SUD

Read real success stories from families who used the CRAFT approach to help their loved ones with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Learn how CRAFT helped them engage their loved ones into treatment, and how it improved their relationships and reduced stress levels. Discover how you can use the CRAFT method to help your loved ones find recovery, and visit for more stories and resources.

How Do I Prepare for My Daughter with SUD to Come Home? And What About Her Boyfriend?

Her daughter is involved with a man who may be sabotaging her efforts to stop using substances. But she’s expressed some readiness to get help, and mom wants to support her in any way that she can. Mom’s working on ignoring the bad-news boyfriend while setting up guidelines for her return home. She needs guidance on the details…Allies in Recovery weighs in with some CRAFT-based tips.

Her Partner is Not Improving from Substance Use Disorder. Is There an Underlying Mental Health Condition?

One of our members as been artfully following the CRAFT principles and yet her loved one is not showing signs of improvement. Engaging in extreme behavior, barely ever sleeping, misusing his ADHD medication, lying, and now, stealing… Is it all on the addiction or could her partner suffer from an underlying, undiagnosed and untreated mental health condition?

Shall We Dance?

CRAFT as choreography? Our hosts step into the metaphor of a dance with your loved one. This isn’t a traditional dance – it’s a look at the steps to see what works and what doesn’t, to CRAFT a new dance and change your role. The idea is to learn new tools, practice them, and see where they fit in. Be patient. It’s a process.

The Important Difference Between Bribes, Incentives, and Positive Reinforcement

A mom wrote in asking for guidance on whether she should offer to reward her son for attending addiction recovery group meetings. However, she is unsure if she’s implementing the CRAFT concept of “rewards” correctly. Laurie MacDougall, an Allies in Recovery virtual program trainer – who herself has a loved one with SUD – explains the important differences between bribes, incentives, and positive reinforcement. Laurie advises steering away from the first two and sticking with positive reinforcement instead.