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.

An Inspiring Story of Modeling the Change We Seek

painter easel

While focusing on himself has been highly beneficial for michael111, our member is still eager to support his Loved One from a distance. Read on for a beautiful account of what life can look like when CRAFT has become your #1 ally while you patiently wait for your (resistant) Loved One to turn back to you.   

© yale cohen via unsplash


I feel like it's time for an update as I try to figure out what I should be doing. I apologize in advance for the lengthiness. Consider this my letter from summer camp!

I love this site and I've learned so much from it and I believe in everything it stands for. So when you tell me to do something I sincerely listen, and then I try to do it to the best of my ability. I never give up. I still believe this will be a beautiful success story.

The two key things I've done is focus on self-care and remain patient with my Loved One. But I'm not around her much at all, because I'm spending almost no time at the tavern. As a result, I'm unsure how I can be a good influence on her, or how I can influence her to contemplate treatment. This is my big question right now […]

Meanwhile, it looks like my Loved One is eagerly skipping down a dark, sinister path. She's always around that pornography-obsessed bartender "friend" of hers, and there's no secret that the two of them drink heavily and use cocaine all the time now. Sometimes when they have a day off, they go to a bar together at 11 in the morning, and they sit there drinking and smoking all afternoon. My Loved One is starting to look different, she isn't putting much care in her appearance, and even the way she interacts with her regulars has changed − she doesn't seem interested or enthusiastic about anyone now. Everybody knows that something is wrong."   Read michael111’s full comment here.

We are all truly moved by your latest account, michael111. We continue to be moved, as well, by the faith that guides you in this quest to be of service to a friend who is as resistant as they get.

Unconditional love is your most powerful tool

Something many of our families might forget during the trials and tribulations of recovery alongside their Loved Ones is the leg-up we have when "unconditional love" is a given in our equation. Unconditional Love (despite all the weirdness that can also be present in families) is certainly one of the things that helps CRAFT to be effective. It is of course such a strong glue because it is usually felt by both parties.

Your situation is different, in that your Loved One benefits from your unconditional love, but you haven't really had that privilege yet from her. It means you can't count on her to come mysteriously back to you, as we so often do with those that are part of our family, even when we're hurt, mad or angry.

CRAFT can still be effective of course, in such circumstances as yours, but as you so well point out, it is extra painful for you to feel the absence of her presence in your life, and find ways to accept it as such, for now.

Sometimes you already have the answers

You write beautifully and thoughtfully about what you are experiencing. I reflect back to you a few of the sentences that stood out to me:

  • I have so much going on right now and so much to do in life, and in an odd way I feel that tending to these things might be the best and most important way to help my Loved One. But keeping away is a scary step to make.


  • Everybody knows that something is wrong


  • I figure that consequences are going to happen


  • The best thing that's happened this summer is that I've managed − for the most part − to get my attention off of my Loved One and on to my own self-care. It's been an enormous personal victory. I recognize this as one of the key tools of CRAFT, and I made it a goal to master it.


  • I've put off posting on here for so long because I haven't wanted to sit down and think about this situation for a prolonged period of time.


  • The work I am doing is the best and the truest I have ever done in my entire life.


  • I don't know how to be a good influence on her if I'm not around her.


  • If my behavior in her presence creates opportunities, I am thinking that my behavior in her non-presence will have to somehow create opportunities.


It is fabulous that you have been channelling some of these terribly hard feelings into something beautiful. The truest art you've ever made. Though I'm sure you'd love to be able to share that art, or even the source of its inspiration, with your Loved One, I hope that "just" being in this mode of creation and transformation is highly beneficial to your physical and mental health. I can only imagine it is.

The key to positive influence when your Loved One won’t cross that bridge you’ve worked to build: Modeling the change you seek

And yes, as to the question of how you can truly be helping your Loved One without having any real interaction…I really like how you are framing it: "If my behavior in her presence creates opportunities, I am thinking that my behavior in her non-presence will have to somehow create opportunities."

I think this is a beautiful and smart way of proceeding. Don't forget that stepping back (away from the use), is both CRAFTy, and in a way it's you respecting what she expressed, whether verbally or not. She was giving you signs to back off, and didn't respond well the last time you offered your help.

So, while the waiting is excruciating, you are also granting her the space to fall (which seems imminent) without being there to catch her. So, so, so hard. But perhaps necessary.

She's still not giving you the time of day but something in her recognized a "friend" as she drunkenly walked by you. Continuing to find your own balance, your own truth (love that you realized you had adopted some habits that simply weren't "you" as part of your former campaign to watch over her, and have since dropped them!) and your own joy … so many spiritual traditions assert that in doing so, you are indeed helping others, both within your sphere and without. You are raising the vibratory levels you emit, to speak esoterically for a second. This can only produce good effects!

To me, it sounds clear that you are on the right path for yourself. As you continue to honor yourself, your needs − and yes, your pain − as you contemplate your Loved One's blind, worrying stumbling, I think things will continue to clarify.

I also think, from what you've shared with us over these months, that your friend knows deep down that when she's ready, you will be standing there, like a beacon, with your hand extended, ready to provide that help.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Isabel,

    I’ve read your post over and over again as if it were a Module. It’s so helpful to me, as are all the posts here on AiR.

    I was closest to my Loved One in the late summer and early autumn of last year — when I’d begun spending time with her, but hadn’t yet said a word to her about her obvious Substance Use Disorders. I’d told her one day last August, after we’d had an amazing conversation about absolutely everything, how she’d felt like family to me in a real and unbreakable way, and that I’d loved her unconditionally. It’s true, and it’s also interesting in light of your comments.

    We always know more than we know. I do feel that’s a truth. The subconscious mind is powerful — things are held there before we even consciously think of them. It’s also speaking esoterically to suggest that, and to note that writing out the wounds is a powerful way to find the answers. But I feel that this is why keeping and using a private journal is so important. It helps provide clarity. So is writing out what you’re feeling (Exercise #19). Spilling out everything in the hurt has a potent way of healing the wound.

    I’ve been a little blue because it’s September now, and I remember how things were a year ago — probably the best they ever were with her. At least, that is, on the surface — knowing what I do now, I see that I was only fooled.

    Early last September, I was DJing one night at a popular club. It was a big important gig, and I asked her if she wanted to go. When she said yes, I picked out a bunch of special records, things we had talked about so excitedly all summer, all kinds of obscure interesting music. I told her to come early so she could sit by me in the DJ area. I was unloading my records from the car when I saw her pull in. She didn’t hear me call out across the lot — it seemed like she was concentrating very hard on what she was doing, walking quickly and awkwardly, stomping forward in her heavy boots, looking straight at the entrance. She even caught herself in a nervous stumble when she pulled open the door.

    I’ll never forget the feeling I had, seeing her stumble in so fast and nervously like that. My heart just went completely molten, etching out a trail I still can feel whenever I think of that moment. I felt like I was living out a John Hughes film of my childhood, like there should be a soundtrack to it. This girl who had no friends in life was apparently so nervous to come see ME, of all people!

    She even wore a fancy dress and I noticed that it matched her fresh nail polish. The way she looked that night, and the way she looked at me, seemingly so happy to socialize with a friend — even in the photos I took it looks like she was stepping out of a Florentine painting. I was so grateful to have such precious magic color my life.

    But that would only be a quick and passing moment.

    One of the things she did that night was bring in her most recent art journal for me to see. Her work from high school had been promising and good. We’d been talking about it lately, and this journal had newer work she’d done in recent years — mostly, she told me that night, while on acid.

    It was unbelievable. I mean that in a terrible way — absolutely unbelievable. I have a little nephew who can barely hold his crayons, and I’ve seen better pictures from him than what I saw in that journal. It was the worst and simplest scrawls and doodles imaginable — just ragged broken lines, and angry jumbles like tangled balls of yarn. Yet she presented it to me with a straight face, telling me how these were the things she did while on acid. The journal was less than worthless. I was so shocked at the time that I literally caught myself choking up. With her serious expression as she showed me the book, I thought maybe it was a genuine call for help. It was around that time that I really committed myself to helping her.

    The place we were at is a trendy tiki bar known for its strong cocktails. She got a Zombie, the most potent drink on the menu. I couldn’t believe how fast it hit her — one minute we were talking about her journal, and the next she was visibly tipsy, holding onto the edge of the table. And she didn’t seem to hear any of the music I was playing at all. She never talked about it again — I don’t think she remembered a note.

    She staggered out to the courtyard to have a cigarette and by the way she was walking I knew I should probably go help her. So I put on a very long track and went out there, and saw her struggling with something on the flagstone patio — she was trying to pick up the unlit cigarette which she couldn’t see, let alone grasp with her fingers. After about five times of me picking it up and giving it back to her, and her holding the wrong end and then just dropping it, I put it in my shirt pocket. Then she started to wobble — I had to use both hands, gripping very hard on her hips, to keep her straight up. People were looking. I walked her back to the DJ booth where she drank some water. I ordered food but she wouldn’t eat, and then suddenly she said she had to go home to make something for her boyfriend because he was coming home from work. She was gone almost as quick as she came. The place was packed, and for the rest of the night, as I played all these special tracks I’d picked out for her visit, I could hear and feel the silence of her absence.

    It took me a long, long time to realize that the stumbles and concentration when she was walking in wasn’t her being nervous about our special new friendship, and about seeing me at an event outside the tavern — it was probably just alcohol. She was probably drinking, and was probably already drunk when she got there. At the tavern, they say her porn-loving girlfriend keeps a bottle in her trunk, but that my Loved One keeps a BAR in her trunk.

    If I can do a little reflective listening, it’s good to hear you say that leaving her be is both CRAFTy and respecting her wishes. I have people who tell me she might be able to keep this up for 10 or 20 years. I hate to have to wait that long, but I would hate it more to waste all that time chasing her resistance.

    Meanwhile, I certainly have a lot of things to improve about myself. And I’m focusing my energy on that, like your article here suggests:

  2. Each time you write in Michael, the team talks of you, your words, your heart, and the space you fill on our site.

    In CRAFT terms, you are our working example of how to find your CRAFT stance when the Loved One is 100% resistant to help and won’t even talk to you much. Families who are geographically far apart from their Loved One can relate.

    Just a final thought: your Loved One is in love with substances, not her boyfriend, her dog, or her porn-loving girlfriend.

    You adore your Loved One and your expression of that love for her is unmatched, your love for her is fueling your own renaissance, your own appreciation of YOUR life.

    Thank you Michael for writing in, and for being the supportive, faith-full friend you are!!!. I hope you continue to share your life with us.

    In terms of CRAFT, this is one example of texting as a means of staying in touch or reducing your own fears, when your Loved One is located far away.

    So, please anyone reading this, I would love to hear about texts that work (those that didn’t work may also be instructive, give us the thread if you consent) So many of us are depending on texts for some or all our communication with our Loved Ones. This has become ever more essential with COVID, as Loved Ones may be living away from you in isolation.


    “Just checking in… Anytime you feel lost in the dark, I still have that list of counselors I gave you a while back.”

    “I’d do anything to help you with this. I love you and miss our talks.”

    Thank you again Michael and thanks to all of you, who make up the Allies in Recovery family, for sharing here, for allowing everyone to learn from your struggles and for being committed to helping your Loved Ones.

    1. Dominique, it was so completely helpful, and healing to me really, to hear you say that thing about what my Loved One really loves. I’ve been told that before, by people who know her and by people who know the situation and by people who love me. It was hard to believe at first. I believe it now. Your comment clinches it. And there’s strong comfort and healing in that fact — I know what the problem is, and it’s not personal, and if she ever wants to address it, things will get better for her in every aspect of life.

      I passed by the tavern on Sunday and spent a couple minutes out back behind the building, talking to a few of the cooks. My Loved One was having a cigarette off in a supply room to the side. When she was done she passed by very quickly and in obvious avoidance — she gave me a speedy wave-without-care, which she did without looking over. It was mid-afternoon and when she waved, I thought maybe her hand seemed to also be shaking, like it does some days during the afternoon. But yes, she barely gave me even a second’s glance. Six months ago I would’ve been crushed into a coma by this behavior. I’m much better now. I can’t let it fill my head and I can’t dwell on it, so I’m not — every day, I attune myself to the now, and I focus on my life and work and, like the topic reads, modeling the change we seek. SUD is a monster, and if you ever want to fight it you have to be calm, collected, and strong.

      There’s some other big news with her, too. The boyfriend got his driver job back. He’d first left his decade-long tavern cook job for this better-paying driver position last October, but he’d suddenly lost it a few weeks later. Looking back, I wonder if it was because he’d left early to tend to my Loved One as she was drunk at the tavern. It happened a lot back then — that was a very drunk season. When he wasn’t around, it was a mess. I remember spending most of Halloween with her — I stopped in several times with balloons and party stuff as I was helping the owner. By mid-morning she was already sitting at the end of the bar, and the way she got progressively drunker from morning, noon, to afternoon played out like a time-lapse scene in a movie. I kept coming back in from making trips to the store, and each time I dreaded the sight of it. She got harder and harder to talk to. The white-haired day drinkers who sat next to her changed in what seemed like an hourly rotation, but she remained on watch with her tall vodkas. By four o’clock she was practically in the lap of one of these guys, then wobbled up horribly and looked at me with lost-doe eyes. I know now that when someone is using it’s not the time to talk to them, but I told her then that I was watching out for her. “I know,” she said. What she tried to do next just made me sad. I backed away and told her to tell me when she was ready to get better. She eventually went back behind the bar and started passing out free drinks, her boyfriend came in wearing his work uniform and looking like a beaten man, and he took her home. He gave her an adderall and they came back to the Halloween party a few hours later, in no costume at all, but she’d put on — of course! — plastic devil horns. With the boyfriend policing over her shoulder, she didn’t even say hello to me, even though we’d spent most of the day together. She unhappily marched out an hour later, at his command, after slobbering over most of the workers and regulars. It was a terrible sight.

      In any event, they just gave him the job back. He’d told me once that as soon he passed the probation period at this place, he was going to put in a transfer to move far out west in the Rockies, where there’s good dirt bike trails, and have my Loved One get a job at a marijuana dispensary. That’s his dream. For her sake, I hope it doesn’t happen. She does have such a perfect setup here that I’d be surprised if she made the move. In any event, with the new house and the boyfriend’s new job and other changes at the tavern, including my near-complete absence, this is a big new season for her.

      It’s also a big new season for me. I do hope, every day, that I’ll hear from her, but I’m also focusing my energy on where it’s welcome. It’s a choice of making good instead of chasing bad.

      I can tell what texts worked and didn’t work. When I feel up to it, I can look and see if I can pick out a pattern. I think the non-committal “thinking of you” texts were best. I would send them out as just positive messages that required no action on her part, required no answer, just a note to say that I was thinking of her. When I would ask something specific and set in a certain timeframe — like “How’s it going tonight?” — it was hit or miss. I’d often not hear back, which would induce worry, and it would also be awkward to try and start texting again.

      My Loved One is part Italian, and she knew some Italian from hearing it spoken by her grandparents in her childhood. That culture has a draw to me, and I’ve always wanted to learn the melodic language of Petrarch and Dante — so last September I told her I’d start learning it and that maybe we could both vow that on one set day of the week we’d only speak to each other in Italian, just as a way for us to both get better at it. I offered Tuesdays as the day. At the time it seemed to be so exciting and fun — and needless to say, it went nowhere. She forgot the vow the very next day, I kept learning it on my own, and at best we’d toss a few phrases back and forth. There was one I never stopped telling and texting her: ti voglio bene, which is a form of “I love you” — not at all in an amorous way, but it’s what brothers and sisters might say to each other, and literally translates to “I want the best things for you.” I obviously can’t text her now, and I’m not going to the tavern, and I don’t know when I’ll see her next, but I do hope that it’s soon, just for a minute, because that’s exactly what I plan to tell her.

      1. Loved these two phrases from your comment, michael:

        SUD is a monster, and if you ever want to fight it you have to be calm, collected, and strong.

        Ti voglio bene — I want the best things for you.

        Thanks again for all of the sharing, and baring your soul. We’re in this together!!

        1. When I made my last updates, I had no idea when I’d see my Loved One again. I just knew, and had perfect faith, that I’d be able to tell her that little phrase again, and that it’d happen soon.

          But how, I didn’t know. There’s a force that’s keeping me away from the tavern − I feel myself wanting to stay away, to not even think of it. Part of it is the knowledge I now have of SUD and its dangers. I know too much about too many people there. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that marijuana was such a serious health issue or risk. But now I’ve seen it first-hand − people who are incapable of sleep without it, who’ve lost all motivation, who have memory impairment and worse. And I see the way people are impacted hard by alcohol. I like how Scott Fitzgerald put it: “At first you take a drink, and then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes you.”

          Well, like the best kinds of magic, it happened. The owner needed help last weekend, he hired a new chef and asked me out of the blue if I’d go there. He wanted me to keep my eyes on him and see if he’d work out. A year ago, spending the occasional night working there was exciting and fun to me − the labor felt good, it was a world I hadn’t seen since my late teens, great material for writing, and of course a way to be close to my Loved One.

          Now I dreaded the thought of it. But my friend needed help, so I did it. My Loved One was working at the bar, and so was my good friend who watches out for me.

          I tried to give my Loved One space in order to continue to respect her wishes, but she did talk to me − at least a little bit − and was surprisingly friendly. She didn’t seem to have any issue at all with me.

          I get the sense that she’s still in the pre-contemplative stage of recovery. She doesn’t seem well. She did tell me that the job is wearing on her. But I feel like I can’t connect with her like I used to, that even talking to her is hard because she shows no interest in anything or anyone else. All her talk, to everyone, is small talk. I want so bad to spend time talking, but so often it’s like that line at the end of _A Farewell To Arms_: “It was like saying goodbye to a statue.” I hate that.

          Her boyfriend came in at the end of the night, and I tried to make peace with him by congratulating him on his new driver job. He said he “almost” had it, which I didn’t understand since he quit the tavern for it about a month ago. But at least I got him to talk to me again. Then I was shocked by what he said next: he told us all in a swarm of curse words that their dog “ran away again”; apparently it’s been getting loose from their house and running down to the next street, to my Loved One’s mother’s home. He said he’d have to “beat it into him” and when he said that, my Loved One didn’t flinch. She seemed annoyed by the dog, too. My good friend was also there when he said these things and she told them that this was animal abuse and that they shouldn’t be mean to the dog. Neither of them seemed to care. That’s not like either one of them. I feel bad for the dog − I tried to get close to him last year, but he was always so skittish and scared looking and was constantly crouching, not reacting to petting, never letting anyone get too close.

          At the end of the night, before I left, I did get to tell my Loved One that little phrase, “Ti voglio bene,” and even though she was wearing a mask I could tell that she smiled big when I said it. She answered in Italian, too, just like the old days. And then I walked out the door into the crisp night and that was the end of it. I just hope it was another good seed planted.

          I have to admit that I don’t know where this is going at all, like when it comes to my Loved One, I’ve completely lost control of the narrative. I am taking it every day, every moment, at a time. I’m trying to live and to be the change I want to see in the world. I’m doing things and my days are full and exciting. I wipe the past clean every day. I focus on myself and it feels good. I don’t know how long this will last or go on, but there is a strange, sure faith that tells me it’s all going to end well.

        2. This is a very busy time of year, and I’ve been thinking about AiR, and I wanted to check in tonight — but not for an update. It’s not that I don’t have one, because I guess I do, but I just wanted to send some good and happy season’s greetings to you all: Dominique, Isabel, Emily, everyone at AiR. You’ve helped me tremendously and have made my life better. Actually, considering the deep emotions and the pain I experienced this past year, you’ve just made my life, period. I will never forget that.

          Everyone is so down on 2020. But this year, in fact, has been a fantastic year for me. It has been the most creative and productive year of my life. I’ve been unwavering in my willingness to support my Loved One — even though I haven’t even seen her since my last post here, in September, I think of her and pray for her every single day and am positive and strong in my knowledge that I’d walk through fire without a flinch in order to help her or to support her in a quest for recovery.

          But yes, 2020 — this is the year that CRAFT has become a real and lasting part of my life, it’s the year that I’ve been able to come to terms with this situation and do the right thing, the best thing. If I didn’t know CRAFT, I would think that 2020 was the year I failed, the year my Loved One left my life. But it’s not exactly like that. I understand that it’s my Loved One who has failed — not only everyone in her life, but she’s failed herself. I haven’t failed. I’ve learned, and I’ve been able to channel the rich raw emotions that I’ve felt and redirect it into my work, and there is a power in that which is unlike anything I know. I’m seeing new ways in multiple mediums, finding new outlets for my writing and music, and am finally getting things done in ways that I’ve always wanted. Oh, and I have a record store! People like it, it’s a fun happy place, and it’s doing very well! I have big plans for 2021.

          I’ve also gotten such a lesson about drugs, and about all the substances in life that people get use disorders over. I laugh to myself when I think that it feels like I’ve become the kind of person who could speak to young adults about addiction and drugs. But it’s so true — I’m so awake to it now and have seen too many lives that it’s affected in all bad ways. At the record store I’m able to influence young kids in a positive way, turn them on to good things like classical music, and it’s very satisfying.

          I haven’t set foot inside the tavern since that night I worked there in September, and haven’t seen my Loved One since that evening, when we talked amicably and I walked out into the crisp unknowing night. I saw her car once, an early afternoon maybe a month and a half ago, when she was driving down the street to the liquor store. But I haven’t kept up with her life or the dramas of the tavern. I don’t miss it in the least.

          I still can’t shake the strong and convincing feeling that we’d met for a reason and that when the time is right I am going to help her. I’m there should she ever need or want that help, and I hope she realizes this and remembers me, but otherwise I’m focusing on my life and work and everything I have to do — and I’m trying to be a positive force in the world for everyone. I hope we all have a good great 2021!

        3. Michael111: Hearing of a deeper acceptance of your Loved One’s addiction is a rare thing on this site. I thank you very much for sharing this with all of us.

          A primary purpose of these posts is to place the CRAFT framework onto your situation, to help clarify your place and your role. It’s what I like to call it the CRAFT stance: by definition, it’s the stance that best helps both of you.

          Read my full response to michael111 here: