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He’s Not Adhering to Our Contract

Angry steam coming out of ears

jersey99’s Loved One isn’t holding up his end of the agreement for living at home. He agreed to get into treatment, but is stalling… The family dynamics are strained and they’re all exhausted.

After agreeing to seek treatment, be civil and not use in the house my son has been home for three weeks and not adhering to these agreed upon things. Feel like we are on a tightrope. We are so close to getting him to treatment (which he agreed to – but now that he is home he hasn’t made the step to do – but he disrupts the home so much which is taxing on everyone else. Any suggestions on what to do .

Your son is so close to engaging with treatment, but… his attitude seems to be “I’ll do it tomorrow.” So frustrating. He is living at home and also has a big personality, which changes the dynamics in the house.

I wrote you for additional details about your situation. Here is your response.

Age 19. Mostly Pot but have seem some evidence of xanax and adderall.

September to mid november in a gap year program. was kicked out of gap year program upon his return I said he could stay here if he was working 30 to 40 hours a week ..if drug use or emotional issues not clinical …or treatment, civil/minimally respectful behavior and participation at home (we made a list) and no drugs smoking or vaping at home.

He was unable to adhere to this so spent over two months at girlfriend’s home. About 3 weeks ago they told him to go. He came home 3 weeks ago agreeing to treatment, house behavior and no drugs.

The sticking point he is home but little movement has been made. He has the  contact with php but has not made the call. He is very disruptive here and I am not comfortable with him here when I am at work. It's past week we went to VT together for 5 days. I was surprised he went with me..we had some nice moments and I was able get food in him and to see first hand his struggles.. can’t get out of bed, can’t sleep, self medicated at night but it doesn't help him sleep.

He has made some wish statements so there is some movement so I do not want to loose hope but I’m feeling maxed with the behaviors. 

Other than a big dramatic "kick out" how do I move him towards the treatment? Do you have suggestions on how to make a contract work? Also what do I do if he doesn't adhere to the contract?

Your son has been bouncing around. Now he is home. You are watching him ignore the deal you struck: no drug use, a job, participating in the house, being civil. These were the conditions that allowed him to be at home. In essence, this is a verbal contract he’s not adhering to. Contracts are a good idea. They make the arrangements between you very clear. You are sure he’s heard you. He knows what is expected.

If the person doesn’t abide by the arrangements, it is best to view this as information only. If the information is: your son can’t abide with the deal, now what? You are hearing “Change Talk:” wishes or dips. This is hopeful.

The deciding factor right now is: will he make that call and get into treatment. Do you have someone on the other end of PHP ready to talk to him? Is there some idea of what treatment he would like or that he needs? It’s helpful if at least some of these thoughts come from him. What kind of help is he picturing? If there is one chance of him picking up the phone, let’s make sure he doesn’t end up in a phone tree, going in circles.

In your trip together to Vermont, you saw the difficulty your son has in getting through the day. Would you be willing to let him stay home if he stepped up and got himself into treatment? The job, behavior at home, chores… these are all things that demand a little break in the drugs and some skill building. How about an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for 3 weeks (an average length for these programs)?

What if you don’t consider any major changes for 3 weeks. You’d ask him to please get himself into a specific program. You could say something like:

I don’t think I realized how hard life is for you. I saw it when we went to Vermont. I enjoyed being with you and I’m glad we got to spend that time together but I see the struggle you are having.

It makes sense you are using pot and other things. You’re trying to make yourself feel better somehow. It’s time to pick up the ball and make a real effort at getting your life to be easier and happier for you. You need to decide your relationship with drugs, and your next move in life. Let’s get you into a 3-week program, and you can stay here for the next three weeks while you do the program.

Being home and not getting help isn’t working for any of us. Can we agree that you will try XXXprogram for the next 3 weeks and then we’ll see what else we can do to support you?”

(XXX program needs to have a person at the other end of the phone call he makes. Someone expecting his call.)

No drama here. Just three weeks and then we’ll see….  

You’re exhausted from the strain of this all right now. You have some opportunities to use his wishes and dips to get him into treatment. The fact that you are hearing any of these means that you have a bridge open between you. This is encouraging. It is meaningful that he chose to go away with you for those five days.

Considering how maxed out you feel, maybe you could spend some extra time on yourself to address your own energy levels in the meantime. It might help to try not to make major decisions or changes while you feel so depleted.

You just don’t know what direction this will go. Things change on a dime and we can’t predict the future. If you make some space for a trial period in these next few weeks, and decide to look at it again after that, you could give yourself a little breathing room just to help restore your energies. Then you wait and see what happens next.

Try to keep coming to each day – each interaction – fresh. Wipe the slate clean every chance you have. This situation is exhausting and frustrating, but carrying this around is not going to help you when you’re talking with him. If you need to, write about all the hard feelings – the anger, frustration, exhaustion, etc – in a journal. Get it out somehow in a space that’s safe for you. Revisit Learning Module 7 about caring for yourself when negative feelings get in the way. But try to leave the frustrations behind when you’re talking with your son.

The trick is to avoid the trap of getting into confrontations and battles with your Loved One while still being direct and clear. With CRAFT, we typically don’t bring up the drug use at all unless there is a wish or dip. When these windows appear, it’s time to show them treatment options. But you’ve already spoken about treatment as part of the deal in living at home. It does need to be discussed as part of the trial period we’ve suggested for the next three weeks, but stay as neutral as you can. Your calmness, openness and compassion will be great tools to help close the gap you’re looking at right now.

As you said, you’re so close. But you’re feeling fried. Be easy on yourself. Try to let the past and the future just be, and take care of yourself. We are here for you. Let us know how this sounds, and we’ll take it from there.



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