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How AiR Can Help You to Shift the Balance

Grandmother extending arms to daughter & children
Illustration © Eleanor Davis

AiR member Alicia wrote in about her 38-year-old daughter, who suffers from alcohol addiction, depression, anxiety and quite possible neuro-cognitive issues:

Hi, This is my first post. I'm grateful for this resource.

I'm a single woman with a daughter with a dual diagnosis. I'm 73. I have an on-going health condition that seriously restricts my energy, making bed-rest necessary for part of the day, and severely limits the number of activities I can do in a week and the time I can spend on an activity at one go. A lot of my energy has to go into self-care. My financial situation is limited. I attend SMART Family and Friends meetings and find them helpful.

My daughter was born at home, with a mid-wife and we are very deeply bonded. I have been a single parent from the very beginning.

After living out of state, she now lives a five minute drive from me.

My daughter is 38 and has a problem with alcohol addiction, depression, anxiety, and, I think neuro-cognitive issues.

She began drinking when she was in High School. In about the past three years, she's been through two cycles of out patient treatment. ( Arbour care in Woburn MA) The last ended about six months ago. Her financial resources are limited. She has health insurance through Mass Health.

In about the last three years, she's been fired from three jobs for making too many mistakes at the computer. She says "My mind thinks one thing and my hand does something different." Her last job was high-end wait-staff/bartender/manager-in-training. Also, in about the last three years, she's totaled three cars. She was not under the influence at the time. I can know that for sure because the police were involved. (She's had previous DUI's, lost and regained her license.) The problem seems to be attention.

Also, she's repeatedly had terrible fights with, broken up with and then gotten back together with the same boyfriend.

I think she's in counseling, but I'm not sure. I think she drinks off and on, but I'm not sure of her pattern.

I see her as at a crossroads. and as having to do something different. She wants to get another job and another car. I can't support her in this plan. I feel I don't have anything else concrete to offer her.

I'm going to stop here, even though I have more to say, because I'm afraid that by some mistake or glitch, this will get deleted before I send it.

Thank you for reading this. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

It is hard to appreciate—from the outside—the kind of worry and frustration involved in having an adult daughter struggling with addiction. At your age, and with your own health concerns, your situation saddens me. It is taking vital energy away from your own life and health. I’m glad to hear you speak of the importance of self-care and family support through SMART recovery.

What I am going to suggest may at first sound contrary to your efforts at self-care, but I believe is going to be helpful for shifting the situation with your daughter.

The AiR site provides videos (or ebooks if you prefer) that teach the CRAFT approach (click here for the Learning Center). Interspersed with many segments of the videos are worksheets we call Key Observations. The information you fill into these worksheets is the key data about your situation. Here is where I suggest you focus.

One way families deal with the addiction of a Loved One is to ignore it. Ignoring can indeed be a way to maintain some distance and provide emotional space from addiction. Another way families deal is to "hyper focus" on the Loved One, becoming evermore entrenched and obsessed with everything the Loved One does or doesn’t do—becoming police, protector, advisor. I know a mom who even bought binoculars to better spy on her son’s activities in the community where they live.

What stance should you take?

AiR suggests that the proper stance is somewhere in between. There are times you do pull back, take on a neutral stance, and ignore your Loved One. There are other times when you need to observe what they do and how they act, because it's key to becoming informed and to becoming a better agent of change.

The Key Observations worksheets are designed to help you become aware of what is important about your Loved One’s substance use and what is important about the dynamic between you. This information will help you to shift your behavior. Shifting your behavior will help shift hers.

You’ll become better informed, more aware of the patterns, and more effective in the relationship. You’ll know when to “give yourself permission” to back away.

The worksheets are databased and remain secure and private. You can add and take away from the answers as the situation shifts. Becoming better informed is one thing you can do, something concrete you can offer her, to shift the long-lasting patterns you describe.

The best solution to addiction is treatment. Your daughter has been, and may currently be, in some treatment. So take a look at the worksheets and help them guide you to a greater awareness. The awareness will help you know where to focus and relieve you of what must at times feel like an overwhelming confusion as to what you can do. That awareness will help you encourage treatment and hopefully change some beliefs about other aspects of your daughter’s situation that are her responsibility (job, car). This gets you off the hook, and makes daily interactions with your daughter clearer.

Putting your daily interactions into the CRAFT framework will give you expertise that will provide more clarity and peace for you going forward.



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"...)