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He’s Only Violent When He Uses – Can I Still Follow the Program?

Woman locking self into bathroom


Your Questions

We’ve had several people write in recently to describe physical abuse from a Loved One, limited to times when their Loved One was intoxicated. Since the violent behavior happens at predictable times, the question was, “Is it safe to do the rest of CRAFT in moments when my Loved One is sober?” – essentially, rewarding the non-use, improving communication, engaging the Loved One into treatment.

Studies on domestic violence do show that people who are abusive are more likely to be violent while they're under the influence of drugs or alcohol, though it’s not clear which actually comes first. It is certain that alcohol and drugs reduce the users' inhibitions, making it more likely they will become physically violent. But alcohol and drugs are also used to rationalize being violent – suggesting that violent tendencies are present way before someone starts to drink or use drugs.


CRAFT and Violence

The CRAFT program is designed to reduce friction, to calm things down between you and your Loved One.  The communication skills we teach help de-escalate situations that lead to anger. Learning to listen also reduces tension. Engaging a Loved One in a discussion of treatment is carefully timed to happen when a Loved One is more receptive and motivated. 

All of these things, while positive in theory, involve changes to how you act. Our concern is that if someone has violent tendencies, they could become suspicious of any new behavior, even those designed to reduce friction.  That is why we recommend that before you start changing behaviors at home, you get tailored help if there is physical violence. Even well-meaning efforts at de-escalation and a neutral stance can potentially set someone off.

If the violence is limited to verbal abuse or very, very restricted physical acts, such as throwing things away from you or punching walls, you can follow the AiR program. But keep in mind that domestic violence experts warn that violence progresses on a curve.


Early Signs that Violence May Turn Physical

People don’t necessarily start out being physically abusive. They may start by withholding their feelings from you, calling you names or belittling you. A person crossing from verbal to physical abuse may show signs of an impending physical assault by launching intense and repeated verbal attacks, by indulging in rages or by becoming abusive in public.

This is why we created an entire module on Safety and why we ask you to view it even if you don’t feel concerned by violence from your Loved One. Ultimately you will be the one to determine whether or not it is safe to apply the CRAFT principles with your Loved One. But please, watch Module 2, and fill out Key Observations 1 and 2 before making that decision.


Questions for You

What changes have you made since listening to the safety module?  Are there moments you’d like to share with us where you successfully de-escalated a situation when things were heating up?



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"...)