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He’s so Agitated, how can I Help?

Sketch man with head in hands

momoftwins is bearing a great deal of stress as her Loved One struggles each day to stay off heroin. She continues to try her best, looking for opportunities to talk about treatment with him. But he’s often agitated and she’s fearful he’ll go back to using.

© Justin Martin via Pixabay

Hi there: Still off Heroin but struggling more and more daily. Says that life was easier on drugs and he is unhappy. I keep telling him that with support he will eventually feel a bit better but I think he is thinking of going out and getting drugs again. I have looked into Recovery Centers of America. They have an inpatient Suboxone program for 30 days. They will also conduct an intervention at home but I don't know if that is a good idea.

He is angry all the time and snaps easily. I look for windows to talk about rehab and support.

Not sure how long we can go on in this state and I fear he will break down and go back again to Heroin before I can get him in a program.


Your son is on-again, off-again with Suboxone. He is home and is off all opioids at the moment, but his irritation is growing. You are concerned he will turn back to heroin before you are able to engage him into a 30-day Suboxone inpatient program.

Your own nerves must be frayed. Your poor family.

Life has indeed become small for your son. You’ve certainly gone through these steps before, but write down every last detail about the inpatient program in order to facilitate his admission: the phone number, the person to speak to, what documents are needed, how it is paid for, transportation, what about COVID?

If you can strategically plan to bring this up during an opportune moment, when you are feeling calm and neutral and he is relatively calm as well, I suggest you say something like this:

“Son, I am proud of your efforts. It hurts me though to see you struggling so hard to get over the heroin. I know this is so hard for you. I feel like I easily anger you, that your nerves are on edge. I put the information about the Suboxone rehab on the freezer, with all the details on how to get in. They have openings this week. Also, I put a couple of online programs on the list that you can check out. The first one is like treatment but at home with just your computer

I’ll leave you alone about this now –  I’m working hard on giving you space.

I want you to know I am really working on my part in this, which is to be calm and compassionate for what you are going through. Thanks for listening. I love you.”

Add to the list. This internet site is brand-new and free during the virus shutdown. It is similar to our site but it is designed specifically for the person with addiction. My dear colleague Dr. John Fitzgerald wrote 5Actions. He calls it self-treatment for substance use disorder.

Our site is also keeping a list of online meetings for addiction. There are many different options and the barriers are low. Can he watch some programming or participate in a meeting every day?


As we suggest above, leave it at that after you bring it up and give him the list. Accept that this is what you can do, you have been thrust into a very hard situation and you are doing the best you can.

Please make sure you have and know how to administer Narcan. We pray you won’t need to use it, but having it on hand goes with the territory. It’s especially important for you to have it now.

Remember yourself in all this. What you’re going through is stressful, and you’re entertaining a lot of unknowns right now, but watch your thinking and keep bringing your awareness back to the present. Find a way to release the stress, and invite moments of peacefulness and calm, as frequently as you can. I’d also be mindful of your expectations – perhaps you simply expect your son to be snappy and don’t try to be too helpful right now. This can also be an invitation to pour energy in the meantime into something that is fruitful and positive for you – whatever that may be.

Can you get out of the house? Can you set up under a tree if the day is nice? Getting off of any drug is bumpy. COVID does indeed make withdrawing or getting proper treatment even more challenging. Try to make a calm, neutral space for that exchange we suggest above, and get these new resources in front of him. This will be a meaningful gesture for both of you.

You’re doing an excellent job – be kind to yourself. You have all our support. Keep leaning on us. Sending love to your family.



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. WOW, I cannot believe I am reading what you wrote. This is exactly what I needed and cannot thank you enough. I have found an online program that works with dual diagnosis. He obviously has depression/anxiety along with Addiction problems.

    I love the way CRAFT uses words in a positive way. His anxiety has escalated and he now blames me for never understanding. He really has put his anger on me and my husband said that normally he would never stand by and have our son talk to me that way but I feel it really is because he is not self medicating and all his emotions are coming to the surface. I will try and get him to at least do the online program. It is every day and for a good part of the day so this will be challenging. I will keep trying. Thank you for your words of wisdom. I will mention but not push the program. They are waiting for me to call back and I have it all set up if and when he chooses to try.

    1. Yay!! So glad this post hit the spot for you, and we are grateful for your gratitude. Yes, the positivity of CRAFT is indeed “catching” — not only does it really feel like the right, most kind, most compassionate way to speak to someone who is struggling, but it also makes US feel better! It’s such a relief to break the cycle of conflict-judgement-nagging-begging-etc. As Dominique says in the modules, “positive begets positive.”

      I understand what your husband has pointed out about your son’s anger and disrespect (especially verbal, yes?) being something that normally would be unacceptable.

      You each need to find what feels doable for you. As long as you:

      a) are confident that you are not in danger of physical violence, and
      b) can continue to center yourself daily and keep coming back to your son from a place of calm and compassion,

      you should keep up the amazing work, and try to ignore some of the ranting.

      You are RIGHT that during this fragile time of early recovery, all sorts of emotions (that were previously being anesthetized or otherwise dealt with with the substance use) will continue to come to the surface.

      What you are perhaps a step ahead of your husband in understanding right now is that while the anger is being directed at you (never easy to be the recipient of this), this is more about your son having a convenient target: you’re right there, and you love him unconditionally!

      Your CRAFTy responses of disengaging (formerly used for moments of substance use) can and should now be used in these times when he is boiling over with anger or otherwise not available for any sort of useful or enjoyable exchange.

      A short neutral phrase (an ‘I’ statement) can also help gently shed light on the discomfort you feel in the face of his anger, and allow him to get a glimpse of himself in the mirror…

      “I can see you’re upset right now, I’d prefer talking when you’ve calmed down”


      “I’m going to read in my room for now,”


      “I understand you’re angry. Your feelings are valid. But it’s painful for me to bear the brunt of this anger, so I’m going to go for a walk…”

      Kudos to you, also, for having tracked down the online treatment. As you wait for that perfect moment to try the ‘planned conversation’ don’t hesitate to watch Module 8 again to polish up!

      We are rooting for you all.

      1. Hi: Well, it has been up and down. My son had a major panic attack because his twin brother had a friend over. There is no rhyme or reason to these panic attacks. This set him off into a 1 week spiral where he said nobody understands him and that he hates that he is like this. One week later and he is coming around and actually is realizing that he needs professional help outside of the family which we have been saying all along. It is a small window but we are embracing it. He truly does need a program that treats the anxiety and addiction and is starting to think that if he is like minded people he can get well. He prays for a day that he does not dream about drugs. He is always on the edge of using again. It is a window of hope and I am following the CRAFT method and looking for opportunities to discuss. Thank you again.

        1. Thanks so much for updating us on this hard period which sounds like it has created some deeper self-awareness in your son. He is lucky that you are so supportive and are persisting with the idea of helping to connect him with appropriate help. It’s fabulous that you are managing to learn and apply CRAFT despite all of the intensity. Kudos to you, please stay in touch and ask questions as they come up!

        2. So an update. My son is finally saying that he cannot do this alone. I have been talking to a treatment center in New Hampshire that deals with dual diagnosis as he has anxiety/depression along with addiction. They are waiting for him to call and every day he states he will be then gets anxious and does not. He has relapsed again and I believe it is because he is getting ready to go into treatment and getting the “last high” as he says. But . . each day leads to the next. What now? I want to give him some choices as it is much too comfortable staying at home. We cannot keep doing this. Do we pressure to go or wait for him to decide (We have been waiting over 1 week for him to call and ask questions of this program). They stay in touch with me daily. Thank you.

        3. Oh you are so close. Can you suggest that he stay in touch with the program? He can tell them every day that he is not ready. This isn’t your job.

          Yes, we all want that last high. The dilemma of going to treatment can certainly cause its own anxiety and need to get high. He is in a vice grip, and you’re along for the ride.

          Hold steady if you can for another week. When he states he is going to call, offer to do so with him. If the treatment center calls you, could you pass him the phone?

          Ignore the use if you can. See if you can keep up the vice grip. The anxiety is likely to go up. The anxiety is likely the reason he wants to stop. Focus on the anxiety and not the drug use when you do talk to him about treatment. So, yes, see if you can keep this up for another 7 days. Let us know.

        4. Hi. Update. Relapsed again and again. Blames everyone for his use. His twin brother found his drugs and threw them out and that led to some crazy behavior. I have found a program which he now says he doesn’t want to go to. We are trying to understand but feel we are at the point of really just enabling him. Truly don’t know what to believe anymore. Says he is talking to someone about a rehab but I don’t know if it’s true. He drives a car that we pay for, we put gas in, we pay insurance. I think that is enabling. When he is coming off drugs he gets very angry and agitated. He was up last night sick all night. I tried using CRAFT when talking by saying how sorry I felt for him but also said “aren’t you sick of this?”. That set him off. We were up with him as he was scared at how sick he got. Still… says he needs to “wean off” so wants to use again today. And so it goes. I am addressing counseling for the whole family at this point as his twin brother feels we need to be stricter. I am at a loss. Thanks for letting me vent.

        5. First of all, we commend you for being committed to using CRAFT and for returning to the member site again and again. It’s such a healthy instinct on your part, to ask for professional guidance, to continue to sharpen your tools and adapt CRAFT to your situation, to make use of our community in these strange, isolating times. Brava!!

          There are many questions in your recent comment. Let’s look at them one by one. Read my full response here: