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He Says He’s Not Using, but My Gut Says Otherwise

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$ister4 is ready to commit to helping her brother (51) who struggles with a methamphetamine addiction. His use appears to be affecting his life more and more, including losing his job. There's been some momentum in the family to get help for him, but there's also denial and resistance.

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"Just about 3 years ago today, my family held an intervention for my older brother, 51, who was using meth daily for over a year. He was an elementary teacher at this time. He did 6 weeks of out patient following the intervention. He never admitted going back to use however based off of life situations that came up, it is quite obvious he was using. Eventually he ended up homeless and sleeping in his car. Months of this led him to asking my family to help him and let him live with us. He lived with us for almost 6 months.

In that time frame, he got a job and gained confidence, but did not do any treatment or therapy. He moved back to Denver and got his teaching job back. 6 months of teaching, he then got fired for breaking his contract. He refuses to talk to the family about what happened and even denies he got fired. He has become more and more distant with us. Ignores phone calls and most often texts.

I believe he is still using, but his daughter, 14, says no. She and her mom just act like nothing is wrong, when I believe deep down they also think he is using.

With the holidays coming up, I want to talk to him and address his loss of job and my concerns for his use. I don't feel I can go on with pretending everything is normal and put up a facade. I don't know how to interact with him anymore, but so badly want my brother back.

He says that the family is judgmental and makes assumptions that are wrong. He lives 2 hours away from me.

I am thankful for finding this site and will start the modules and learn about CRAFT.

In the meantime, do I follow my gut that he is using or try to believe in him when he says he would never go back??"

Do I follow my gut or believe his story that he's not using?

You've asked a great question and answering it is simple. "Do I follow my gut that he is using…?  YES, you do!

As you will see if you've already plunged into the eLearning modules that CRAFT requires you to act in the moment based on your best guess as to whether your Loved One is using or not using. This is of course more about how to act/respond in the moment. But following your gut is (in my opinion) almost always a great idea.

So, should you believe his story that he's not using right now, while your gut is telling you it's not true and he's suffering and struggling? No, you should trust your gut (the eLearning exercises in Module 3 will help you learn to trust your gut). It's your compass, your inner wisdom. The strength of denial can be astounding, and addiction (and other behaviors people are ashamed to acknowledge) certainly brings out surgical-quality denial. Man, it's powerful stuff. Not to mention that we so want to believe what they're saying, but when your gut pipes up and says, "all signs are pointing to his using," you're most likely right.

Your brother has been resistant to your help, but you did help him get into treatment once

You have seen a wide variety of behaviors and reactions from your brother, including vehement denial, defensiveness and accusations that you're judging him when you express concern… but your family also succeeded in getting him into outpatient treatment for 6 weeks.

I see several positives here:

  • Your family has come together to help him before—they can do it again;

  • Your brother has been to treatment once, he has begun to internalize some of the teachings and the feeling of being free of the chains of his drug use;

  • You are determined, you miss your old brother, you don't want to keep pretending, you are ready to take action;

  • You found Allies in Recovery and are beginning the eLearning program.

I hear you that it's also frustrating that his teenaged daughter and her mother (perhaps she and your brother are separated?) are sticking to the story that there is no problem. Of course, it would be so much better if they were, or could be, on board in recognizing the problem and being motivated to find a solution.

One note here, 14 is an already-complicated age and we do not actively recommend bringing teens into the difficult conversations/psychology of addiction, CRAFT, etc. She of course has her own take on it all and speaking with her at some point is not out of the question but we don't recommend you rely on her for information gathering.

Next steps in figuring out how to join forces and help your brother

You are new to this site. There is a learning curve, and we usually tell people to count on 6-8 weeks or so of practice, bridge-building, watching and re-watching the modules, filling out the Key Observations exercises, until you are ready to talk about treatment (Module 8) and you start seeing some results.

The Learning Center is clearly where you'll need to start (and return to, often) to get CRAFT under your belt.

There's a tag on this blog called CRAFT 101, which might contain some good blog posts to start with.

You'll probably also want to look at the Family Members Doing CRAFT tag, to help you figure out how to support your family joining forces in this quest.

As you go deeper into the program, and start planning your strategy, please don't hesitate to check back in and/or ask for more specific guidance. Membership is still free, for another month or so, so this is a great time to have your family get their own accounts and get up to speed alongside you.

All our best!



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. I feel like giving up. My brother, who has substance use disorder with meth and lives 2 hours from me and my family, is not very receptive to our positive messages we are sending with love. The only way we can communicate is through text or call. He very seldom answers his phone, so often, we are left with texts. We have dealt with his avoidance and lack of response/communication for the past 4 years throughout his use. He has told me that when I would send him messages, whatever it was- scripture images, music videos, updates on me, my family, my kids, our parents, or even just an ‘I love you’, it would just make him feel worse. It would often send him into more shame and he has even admitted it would lead him to feeling more depressed and push him to use.

    I have been watching the learning modules and trying to do the activities and put some things into practice. It is difficult with him being far away and not responsive to our communication. I have only sent him a message once a week and tried calling a few times, and nothing. He has also avoided communication with my parents. We have practiced using messages that were examples given to us through suggestions of this site. Still no response. I know this can’t change things immediately and understand everyone’s journey is different. This can take a long time.

    In the meantime, I am struggling to stay positive and only send + messages. I struggle with anger, resentment, bitterness and defeat. With the holidays approaching, that used to be our family’s most memorable time together, I am struggling with even considering having him join us.

    We have not addressed our concerns of his use in quite some time- matter of fact, despite his obvious behaviors, we have outwardly lied and said we believe he is doing well and wouldn’t go back to using. I know there is a time and a place for this conversation again, and truly believe that if I address his use again, it will push him further away. Clearly, he wants space from us. I believe he is dealing with shame and guilt and talking to us only makes him worse.

    Do I give him the space he needs and just pray? I often feel that for my sanity, it would be better to just ‘let him go’. Let him work through this journey and pray that he knows he can always come back to me and my family. I have been told to not expect anything in return when we send him messages- this is REALLY hard. Deep down I think I know he won’t respond, so why do I still expect it?

    If I give him the space he needs, do I have patience and not really even make plans for the holidays, or do I make plans with my needs at the forefront and don’t include him. If he comes to me, try to change plans as we can to include him?

    I love him and only want to help him.

    1. You are struggling with pain of one-way communications: continually sending out good vibes but not knowing how they’re being received, not getting answers, etc. You are feeling persistent distress around the communication breakdown, expectations, and finding it hard to stay positive.

      There are two things that we’d encourage you to focus on right now, $ister4.

      First off, your own emotional state. The distress you’re expressing is real and important, and you say you’re having a really hard time staying positive. These are signs that the focus does indeed need to come back to you right now, at least to a large degree.

      Some of your presumptions about your brother’s reasons for not responding, may in fact simply be your own thinking getting in the way (the idea that it is shame, or guilt, holding him back. this may have been true at certain times in the past, but it may not be true right now). Silence can be so tough. We tend to read into it, since there are no words to weigh.

      What we’ve encouraged you to do in terms of communications with your brother is limited, and indeed, is better when infused with positivity. Yet the fact that you are feeling down and hopeless right now is OK, because it’s where you are right now. Rather than fight this, can you gently work on taking care of your emotions right now? Can you get some support for your own difficult feelings? (Also, in the last post we wrote for you ( we suggested reading Laurie MacDougall’s great piece on hope and expectations. Check that out if you haven’t already.

      We’ve mentioned Kayla’s group and the REST groups (see the Live Coaching & Support Menu, – there are of course many other options out there.

      Secondly, part of your job as a CRAFTy family member right now is to be researching/vetting/gathering treatment options in his area. When you do get that window of opportunity, or even just someone on the other end of the phone line, you’ll need to be ready to act swiftly.

      Have you begun looking at where treatment is available in his area for meth? Our recommendation would be something inpatient and long-term, or alternately, connecting several places together to form a sequence of treatment that is long-term.

      Do you have a good SUD therapist near him ready to go?

      We urge you to delve deep within yourself to connect with more patience. You are laying down the foundation to be able to partner with him towards the goal of treatment, but it will have to be in his time.

      Finally, my co-editor, Marie Gabrielle, pulled these articles together for you. A reading list that hopefully addresses some of your ongoing concerns.




      Our thoughts are with you.

  2. The last contact with my brother was via text. We had agreed that he and my mom and I would meet to discuss how we can work through our relationship. We had a tentative date set. He agreed as long as we didn’t ‘attack’ him. Once I texted to confirm a time and place,he never responded and has gone dark….

    So, we are curious what type of text we send him? Would it be fair to say something like….”hey Clay, I know you are probably feeling uneasy about visiting. That is ok. I understand and can give you the time you need. Reach out when ready. I’m always here for you”

    From there, we feel like there never is much to say other than, thinking of you, Love you…I was thinking we could just send him texts, telling him about us and our lives, but this is hard, as we think he doesn’t care…and if he won’t tell us anything, why tell him anything…we are both so exhausted and feeling done. I almost want to just not even reach out at all and wait. Wait to hear that things are worse from Kelley or Lizzie Jo and then reach out.

    Anyway, just sharing more of where we are with things. Thanks again.

    1. So, to summarize: your 51-year-old brother struggles with the consequences of his ongoing methamphetamine use. A few years ago many of your family members participated in a professional intervention on your brother, and he subsequently spent time in outpatient treatment, followed by 6 months of non-use during which he stayed with you and your husband, doing better but not doing any sort of treatment or therapy. Since then he has returned to his home state and you (as well as his ex-wife) believe signs are pointing to his using again.

      Today, you are concerned about several things:

      – Deteriorating communications with your brother, who often avoids being in touch with the family, and wants you to believe he is not using; recently he agreed to a conversation with you but then stopped responding to your texts;

      – The well-being of your niece, his daughter, 14 years old, who has likely been…

      Read Isabel Cooney’s full response to $ister4 here:

  3. My brother, who lives 2 hours away, agreed to meeting up and talking about what each of our needs are and what we will do to help one another. He most often won’t answer his phone and ignores texts from me. When I sent a text confirming the date/time to meet, he avoided the text and hasn’t responded back. I have sent a following text just stating I was just checking to see how he’s been and that I kinda expected to hear back from him about getting together. Still nothing. His avoidance, along with many other signs, make it clear to me that he is back to using. I so badly want to be there for him and get my brother back. I know I need to avoid negative talk, but how do I use positive talk and get anywhere with him if he won’t respond to me? I believe he knows that I think he is still using, as we have made comments in the past. He denies his use and claims I am judging him. I am certain that this is why he is avoiding me and didn’t follow through with the meeting.
    How do I show him love when he avoids me? Do I send him texts every now and then, just saying, ‘thinking of you’ with no expectations to hear back from? Or, do I give him the space and wait for him to reach out to me, knowing that it could be months?

    1. Once you’ve readjusted your aims to something more doable and realistic (here’s a wonderful post by Laurie MacDougall that really looks at readjusting our hopes and expectations so as not to set ourselves up for failure), you can get to “work”.

      The situation you’ve described is one many members of this community can relate to. When addiction is present, emotions are big, tension rides high, bridges get burned.

      Thankfully, CRAFT is an amazing resource for rebuilding the bridge. We use the image of the bridge purposefully, not just because of the “burning”: a bridge can be rebuilt, and once it is in place, our Loved Ones can choose to walk right over it, towards you and the help and support you are offering.

      Read Isabel Cooney’s full response to $ister4 here:

  4. Thank you Dominique for your time and words of advice. I am very hopeful that we will learn a new positive way of dealing with our relationship with my brother and he will seek the help he needs. My mom is also highly involved in this relationship and struggles as well. I plan to get her set up with her own account and watching the modules and learning.
    My brother is divorced and very blessed to have an ex-wife that cares so much and is involved. She however, is currently very tired of the fight and chooses to stay uninvolved. She does believe he is using, but doesn’t believe it is to the extent it was when we did the intervention. She also believes that their daughter will be smart enough to get out of situations that she feels are unsafe.
    In the meantime, she feels she can’t ask questions to her daughter about her dad, as she gets extremely defensive and angry and causes a lot of turmoil in their relationship. Therefore, she is choosing to ignore the problem and hope it is controlled. I believe his daughter is being highly manipulated to believe that he would never use drugs again, therefore, I can’t bring it up to her as well, as she gets very angry at myself and my mom. I am trying to support her and gain trust in this relationship so that if she ever needs to turn to me, she will feel safe. She is going to therapy, but I am not sure how much they discuss her dad and his issues. Thankfully, she doesn’t live with her dad. She spends time with him throughout the week, but doesn’t stay at his house often.
    I know it is best to leave her and her dad’s relationship to her and her dad and her therapist. It is hard to be on the outside and see the manipulation, but I do take hope and faith that she will be safe and come to myself, her mom or her therapist if she feels she needs to.
    Is there anything I can do to help his daughter recognize the signs/symptoms of his use in a way where she doesn’t feel I am attacking her or her dad? I worry for her safety as she rides in the car with him often. In years past, when we knew he was heavy into his addiction, he would smoke meth in the house while she was there, carry his drugs/paraphernalia around with him and her and drive her while under the influence.

    1. Let’s talk about your niece and your concerns for her, for a moment. Everything you brought up is valid. Being worried about her well-being given that she spends time with her dad (including him driving her places) when he may be actively using, is completely understandable.

      You are not only physically far away from the situation, but you know that her mom is aware and choosing to trust her ex, your brother, with the well-being of her teen child. She also trusts her daughter to be able to stand up for herself when needed. I really get your desire to protect her here. Yet this may be one of the items on your list that you have to loosen your grip on.

      As for your niece’s involvement in communications with the family around her dad’s using, you’ve pretty much come to the same conclusion as me…

      Read Isabel Cooney’s full response to $ister4 here: