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.

He’s Not Letting Me In

Blue door with old lock

Lynne72 is struggling with her Loved One’s secrecy and she just doesn’t know if what he’s doing is enough to support his recovery. He is guarding everything so closely and everything about their interactions feels superficial right now – should she just suspend their relationship altogether?

Thank you for this perspective and for the link to the article, it is very helpful. He is under the care of a new psychiatrist and my hope is that this will be addressed in the near future. She has put him on vivitrol and also a new medicine called Enlyte which is really a methyl folate in its purest form. (He has been tested and apparently his body has difficulty producing dopamine- this new product is supposed to help with that). He has told me that for now they are not addressing the Klonopin.

He has also recently closed up completely about what he is doing on the weekends, saying that he has a right to his privacy. So I am left to wonder if an hourly meeting a week and these steps that he has taken are really sufficient.

Unfortunately I have been having a more and more difficult time with all of this and I am watching myself being adversely affected by his behavior. I am trying so hard to be loving when I speak with him yet even when I say that it is difficult for me on the weekends no knowing if he is gambling etc., he becomes extremely upset with me. And so I am left with a very superficial relationship at this point. He has said that he can't worry about anyone else, only himself. I am wondering at what point might one suspend the relationship for their own well being. The secrecy around all of his addictions has been going on for a long time and it was only 3 months ago that and incident occurred and I learned of the severity of his problems. It seems to be where he is comfortable. He wants to control all of the perimeters of the relationship.

Your son is actively using drugs and may also be gambling. He has a few well-worn tools for keeping you at bay when he wants and for keeping you roped in when he wants. In active addiction, those closest become pawns. Everything else is secondary to maintaining and protecting the need to use or gamble. So yes, controlling the perimeters is paramount when in active using mode.

As family members, we can’t take this personally. Easily said, I know… In your case, I would pull back from reaching into these questions about his life.

I would imagine the incident several months back and the realization that your son is in more trouble with addictions has caused you much worry. You feel you need to know exactly what is going on. Learning Module 3 guides you through a set of questions that help get at those answers – to the degree it can be known without tangling with him like an investigator.

Look at his behavior. Does his behavior suggest he may be high? It’s often hard to fully know the answer, but you need to come down on one side or the other of the question:

Is he using right now or is he not using right now?

Step back and look at your son in the moment. Answer the question. If you decide he is using (this includes the time just before use, when high, or in withdrawals), then pull back neutrally, take away things under your control that are rewarding to him (like being nice and loving if he does respond to this and find it rewarding), and allow natural consequences that are safe (Learning Module 6).

When he doesn’t look high, step in, be kind, open and loving. Provide other rewards as you are able to (Learning Module 5).

You’re bound to get it wrong sometimes. This can’t be helped. But watch your reactions to him and try to line up your behavior and words according to this fundamental question of whether or not he is using in the moment.

We have worked on applying CRAFT to gambling. There is a lot of similarity between gambling and chemical addictions. I’ve heard it argued that gambling is the purest form of addiction, since you can follow the whole cycle as though a chemical were involved: use/gambling, withdrawal, trying not to use/gamble, relapse, use/gamble.

Gambling shows you the biology of addiction. The cycle is exactly the same, the intensity of anticipation, the urges and cravings, the release that comes from active use – but without ingesting anything!

People choose different fuel to fill the void….a drug, a slot machine, even classical music records… (I’m not kidding. Gabor Mate, a medical doctor who works with people with addiction in BC, Canada, talks about leaving a woman in labor on the table to run down to his favorite music store for a particular performance of a piece of music (despite already owning 40 copies of that DVD, no lie)).

The problem in applying CRAFT to gambling is that it’s quite a challenge to tell when the person gambling is in active “use”. Reading the sports page can be active gambling. Finding  records of cash withdrawals from the checking account is not gambling in the moment, it’s after the fact…. This could be information for an intervention perhaps, but not helpful in terms of how the family can behave in the moment. So it’s a little tricky, But there is little doubt it is the same phenomenon at work.

So our suggestion is to be more strategic, lining up your behavior with what you are seeing in your Loved One. Leave the rest to him for now. With the new psychiatrist and the Vivitrol, along with the other new medication, your son is working on addressing the problem. He may not be completely out of danger – but his efforts are huge and hopeful. Let him tussle with his use; let his behavior lead to natural consequences. Encourage the moments of low or no use through your loving and rewarding behavior.

Instead of thinking of suspending your relationship with your son in the broadest terms, think about it instead in degrees. Think along the terms of CRAFT: in the day, day-to-day. The science shows that this is what works best. Stick to the role that CRAFT assigns you. As you see things more clearly and react better, it will be easier on you, and the small successes that come from this will urge you to continue.

Take back your weekends. Your son is doing what he is doing. Try responding as we have described. Change your focus from what he is doing to how he looks in the moment and respond strategically. That’s the dance. He is under the care of a professional, leave this work to them and allow time for their work to bear fruit.

We are glad you are on this site. There are many of us here that struggle with exactly this problem…. Nothing works, I am growing distraught, I am hyper-focusing in the attempt to solve the problem. So choose instead to focus on the moment-to-moment opportunities presented to you. Try to shift your action in the relationship into the container given by CRAFT’s intentional approaches.  Avoid the extra touchy topics and communicate, with your actions, how you are willing to be there for him when he’s not in a period of active use. While you can’t change his wanting to shut you out or occupy this secretive space, you can use the framework of the CRAFT approach to guide your interactions. It’s the fastest way to some peace of mind for you.

A mom recently recorded this message for AiR:

We are so grateful to hear how well CRAFT works. I hope hearing her words helps you see the path forward. This mom and her family are not out of the woods, but she has a found a place to rest, a small clearing, while her son wrestles with his addictions.

We hope that CRAFT and the resources here help to ground you when it comes time to interact with your son, giving you the freedom to use more of the rest of your time in ways that nourish and support your own needs. We are always here for you and we so appreciate your sharing your thoughts and questions here.



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"...)