readr has been able to successfully use CRAFT principles to shepherd her son into treatment and support him during early sobriety. However, her son's ingratitude is beginning to feel unbearable…
"AIR has been a lifeline for me. It has enabled me to deal effectively with my son who has struggled with alcoholism for over 10 years. Three months ago, he left a house I own that he had been living in alone, he went to detox, finished a rehab program and is currently in a Sober House. I have refused to allow him to return to the house and he is seeking an apartment. He has a job in a restaurant. Financially, I must sell the house. I have been paying all the expenses and do not want to continue. Living there has isolated him and allowed him to slip into past patterns of alcohol abuse.
He is extremely angry with me. I’m okay with that. As long as he maintains sobriety, that’s enough. I continue to offer emotional and financial incentives for sobriety (for example, I pay to board his large dog on a long term basis) I check in and offer support for good decisions.
However, I, too am now becoming angry and it’s difficult to remember his thinking is not yet clear as he shows zero gratitude for anything I do. I want to lash out pointing out the damage he has caused, relationships damaged, etc although I know that is not productive. So what can I do instead? Thank you for any advice you can offer."
I’m glad Allies is a lifeline. You have made some major changes that have effectively shepherded your son towards early recovery. He is in a sober home, working, and sober. Very hopeful.
But you’re angry at his lack of gratitude for everything you have done and want to let him have it.
When a Loved One is in the throes of active addiction, family members feel the need to focus almost entirely on the Loved One and their situation. When I meet with a family, I like to start with the question, How are you doing? How quickly the answer turns to an account of how their Loved One is doing. I understand why, of course.
In the family member’s eyes, the Loved One is the reason for the tremendous upset.
Just this week, I told my sister her daughter was showing serious signs of relapse. We needed to get her more treatment. Immediately, my sister felt the danger to her peace of mind, to her pocket book. Our peace of mind is transitory when our Loved One suffers from addiction. Her reaction was so quick, it was like she had touched a hot stovetop. She was triggered into a familiar space where life had been taken over by a dark chaos in the shape of her daughter.
All this to say that you, the mom, have been and are clearly affected by your son’s addiction but you’ve let the grievances go by, focusing more on what he was doing, and what he needed to do.
Completely understandable. However, these grievances don’t actually go by, they build up, right? For many of us, not just families affected by substance problems, the grievances build up until something makes us snap. The outburst is huge, and encompasses much more than the current issue that leads to the outburst.
What would it be like when communicating with your son to consciously think and add in a line or two each time about how this chaos makes you feel.
Learning Module 4 provides some basic communication skills, one of which is “I” statements.
I am tired
I need a little time
I am scared
I can’t let the addiction win. I love you
I’ve done what I can
I am doing what I can
The build-up from the past is harder to address, and just three months in from active use may not be the time to address it. A family meeting with a counselor and your son might eventually help facilitate a discussion.
Three months of sobriety doesn’t automatically get you gratitude either. Forgive him for his lack of insight. Taking away the house in which he could isolate and relapse forced him into a sober house after treatment. Checkmate.
Three months of sobriety, and the fog is just clearing. There is no spontaneous maturity or emotional health. That all now needs to be fostered through a continued self-exploration.
I predict your son will realize his gratitude for all that you have done. He will come to realize the harm that addiction has caused to those around him.
Your son is safe. You now have the house back and can sell it. Give us your anger. I am sure there are many on this site who could use a little space to vent. Please feel free to share.