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He Angrily Brushes Off Our Attempts

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Allies member Hopefulin2018 is considering treatment options for her teenaged son. So far he hasn’t been receptive to rewards. He continues to be angry with parents, accusing them of trying to control his life. He doesn’t see his use as a problem.

Our son seems to be getting more defiant and it's pushing me to think about putting him in treatment. He's refused to see his therapist and claims he wants to solve his problems on his own. He doesn't see his drug use as one of his problems. He's 17-1/2 years old and I'm feeling like I need to make a last ditch effort to put him in treatment. What are your thoughts about this? I don't see him improving. His use is increasing and for the past two weeks he's been hanging out with a new "friend" and comes home blatantly stoned after being with this “friend." I'm concerned his use will escalate into other drugs, such as LSD, which he's used in the past, and maybe even others.

Our son uses pot every day, but he has moments of non-use which we try our best to recognize and reward. He's not very receptive to rewards. He shrugs off kind comments or gestures and doesn't accept invitations to take him to lunch or other simple offerings.

In the past month alone, we've found pot 3 times in our home and when we've spoken to him about it, he blows up at us, calls us names, swears, and badgers us to give it back to him. Read the full comment here

You’re thinking your son needs to be in treatment NOW. He is 17.5 yrs old and this feels like it may be your last chance.

You’ve been using CRAFT for a couple of weeks now. It has settled you a little, but your son is still using pot and seems just as angry towards you. This may be partly due to a new “friend” your son has made with whom he is getting high. It’s as though this new friend is urging him on towards the dark side.

We recommend families give CRAFT 8 to 12 weeks before assessing its worth. Your son may get more irritated and angry before things start to improve. 12 weeks must sound like an eternity to you.

At 17 years old, your son isn’t ready to quit and doesn’t see the downside of his use. For him to even consider treatment, you would probably need to drop him in the middle of nowhere with no transport out. Locked treatment is mostly limited to inpatient psychiatric units and civil commitments. Even these often have a door through which you can leave. From what you have described, your son isn’t in imminent danger of harming himself or others, a criterion for civil commitment.

You’ve also described how your son has done well in treatment in the past only to start using again once back home.

So what’s next? I suggest you take a slightly longer view – at least another two months. Hold your stance with him as CRAFT would have you do. Stop parenting, start partnering. The therapist is open to him, and he knows you would like him to go back to her. Good job not reacting to him after he took off from his father and ended up coming home only a little after curfew. It’s time for the big chill.

If he shrugs off nice comments when not using, keep looking for what will work. A smile, a little more reflective listening (as described in Learning Module 4).

You are not going to fix this before his 18th birthday. Your son may need to set out on his own, find work and learn to support himself. Make the beef he has less about you and what you want for him. The even longer view is to allow him more responsibility for himself. Let him feel the scrapes of life, and keep treatment options ready for him.

It’s hard to separate out projections of what will become of your son if he continues “down his road,” from your feelings about what is going on right now. But right now, focus on chill or reward, and try hard to let the rest be. You just don’t have control over the rest of it.



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. Thank you for your response. I must admit, it’s difficult to digest some of what you say, but it make sense. I will try to keep the long view in mind and continue to use CRAFT. Thank you for reminding me there is a long view.

    “Make the beef he has less about you and what you want for him.” Ouch. But, I can see how I’m being reactionary. It’s difficult to see the line between being reactionary and being realistic about his decline though. I will be patient and trust the process. Even though this past week there was a lot of chaos, there were moments of reduced use, but then he’d end up going out with his new friend and come home very stoned. As disappointing as this was, I’m recalling the examples in the modules that identify these kinds of moments as a positive. Before, I saw things as a whole, not in the chunks of use and non-use. I can see, now, that being able to recognize moments of non-use is critical to helping us reconnect and maintain a relationship.

    Chill and reward. Chill and reward. Chill and reward. This will be our new mantra moving forward. Thank you Dr. Simon-Levine!

    1. So, the saying we are using in our trainings is: take the long way around for the shortest way home.

      Consider a couple months of CRAFT and then reassess. Seeing things in chunks is a good change. Rather than IOP or a wilderness camp, if there is no change, I wonder about a therapeutic boarding school or a regular boarding school. This would give him a whole school year of a structured environment. These are not inexpensive.

      Is your son in his senior year? Is he going to graduate? Let’s work through all treatment and living options.


      1. Thanks for your follow up. Our son is a senior. This year he only needs 1-1/2 credits to graduate, but his quarter isn’t looking so good for him. He’s failing all of his classes and we got a letter from the school last week warning that if he misses too much more school he may not graduate and we’ll have to go to a pre-court hearing.

        Tonight our son walked in the kitchen while I’m making dinner and says he doesn’t feel like eating dinner with us. I reminded him he knows we have family dinner on Sundays, but he said “there’s no use faking a family dinner when things have been so hostile”. He’s interpreting our stepping away as being hostile towards him and he’s blaming his outburst on us because of this “hostility”, and he doesn’t want to “pretend” that things are okay. Is CRAFT backfiring on us or is this typical?

        I did my best to use reflective listening, but didn’t do a great job. I didn’t yell, but I did say a few things to him. When he kept insisting we were the reason for his “stress”, I asked him what he’d like to do about it, but he didn’t want to discuss it. I said we can’t condone his drug use and we are choosing not to interact with him when he uses,but that we were not being hostile. Then I said we want him to be happy, and asked him if he wants to live somewhere else that doesn’t stress him out. He said he didn’t. I said I feel used and it seems like he’s choosing to use drugs over his family. He accused us of thinking the worst about him and that he doesn’t care.

        I know he was in the mindset of going to use and my discussion with him was futile from the start. I’ll try not to take the bait next time. Is it normal for Loved Ones to interpret stepping away as being hostile towards them?

        I will remain hopeful and give CRAFT some time, but we literally get glimpses of time with him because he’s just not interested in spending time with us or being home for any length of time. Can CRAFT be effective if we literally see him in passing?

        1. Your son is reacting to your “chill” when he is high by getting upset. Ah, he feels a shift in his family patterns. You are stepping back when you see use. I’m reasonably sure he is just responding to the change. He is used to having his family act in a predictable fashion and you are shaking this up. Just chilling a little when you see use can have quite an effect. Perhaps he’s thinking: “What’s happening to my comfy, nagging family. Why are they behaving differently? What’s happening? I don’t like it. I’ve had mom in my pocket forever. Where is she going?”

          Let him get upset. You are not being angry or mean, just quiet. Leave it that Sunday dinner is always open to him when he chooses to return to it.

          A young man is unlikely to have a lot of insight as to why things are shifting. Your son knows it has something to do with his pot use, I would guess, but beyond that he isn’t understanding the new pattern yet. That’s okay. Keep it up. Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response here: