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How Can I Apply CRAFT to this Exchange?

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Lynne72 detected her son's use by phone and brought it up. The call didn't last long and she emailed him later to explain where she was coming from. How does this exchange fit into a CRAFT approach?

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My adult son who lives 3 hours away had been doing very well – lost weight, no alcohol since December and his klonopin usage less than half.

I called him a couple of days ago in the late afternoon and he replied that he had slept until 2pm. He had been stressed by having to lay off over 100 people. His voice sounded slurred a bit to me and I asked if he had taken Klonopin and he replied yes. The conversation ended soon after that with him telling me that he didn't want to talk, he needed to relax. Later that evening he spoke with my husband who said he sounded fine but was frustrated with the email I had sent him after our short conversation. I would like to note that he is quarantined with his girlfriend who also has a history of substance abuse.

Here is the email I sent and I am wondering how my response fits into the CRAFT model-

"I feel bad that I had to ask you about your klonopin use but unfortunately I am an expert at picking up clues as to when someone is in an altered state. I always know days before my brother is going to drink because he starts talking faster and I can hear the anxiety in the tone of his voice….” Read Lynne72’s full comment here

Your son was slurring on the phone in the middle of the afternoon. You asked him whether he had taken a benzodiazepine (Klonopin) and he said he had. You know he takes a benzodiazepine (anti-anxiety medication) but he claims to have reduced his use by half.

You wrote him a good letter. You explained your side of things: “I know when someone is about to use… I wish I couldn’t tell” (it would be easier on me). You called him on the Klonopin use. You said you understand. You reminded him he has a family and community.

It’s a good email. Yes, you reiterated the discussion of the drug taking, but turned the conversation towards your part of the story and a reminder that he is loved and has community.

Next time, I wonder if you call your son and hear him slurring, you could consider just cutting the call short.

The CRAFT component in this scenario could also include denying him the reward of a heartwarming call from his parents; in other words, “stepping back” when you detect use. Finding a swift, neutral way to end the call without discussion of his use would definitely be a CRAFT approach.

So perhaps you say something like: “you know, you sound sleepy and you’ve had a lot to deal with; perhaps we talk tomorrow?” This is best done simply and smoothly, leaving your own feelings out of it. I think your son will be surprised by this reaction (or non-reaction!) and will know somewhere in his psyche that you know. In this case, this is the natural consequence, in essence the accountability you wish to hold your son to.

Then you’d call the next day and behave normally if your son sounds normal. You don’t bring up the use – you stay within the moment, within that day. As he senses your patterns, it is more powerful to let him connect these dots himself.

Remember, with CRAFT, we discourage bringing up use in general, unless your Loved One presents you with one of those rare windows of opportunity to discuss it. Otherwise, you follow the rhythm of stepping in with rewards or coolly, neutrally stepping back. This is what we call “staying out of the weeds,” or “keeping things light.”

We are now in a unique situation with the social distancing and isolation, and emotions are heightened. His stress with responsibilities at work are very real, and folks all around the world are facing very difficult and painful decisions. Though he may tend to keep his worries to himself, it might be worth just letting him know you are there to talk about things, or letting him know of some online support communities that may be helpful in these strange new times. The key here is to try to keep this light too – if he isn’t interested, so be it. The point is just to plant some seeds here and there and then step back as best you can. Think: partnering, not policing.

This period is going to be very hard on everybody. We are all stuck in place, without our normal escapes and outlets. Some of us are home together for the duration while other family members are a distance from their Loved Ones.

For those using CRAFT at a distance, we have tags to the right about navigating the different technologies (see: Loved One far away). Texting, phone calls and video chats can all be powerful, though they do require some adjustments. For those at home together, communication is going to be even more important (time to review Learning Module 4) as is attending to your own sanity (pore through the Sanctuary blog for solace and inspiration).

Managing your own emotions is such a vital part of practicing CRAFT. You were honest about your feelings and concerns in the email you sent your son. You clearly let him know that he is welcome at home and that he has a community there to lean on in these trying times. Your reactions to hearing of his use are your own, and taking full ownership of whatever we are feeling is essential. Even when (especially when!) the topic is sensitive and challenging to discuss. As challenging as it may be, try to make sure your son hears you fully owning your feelings, not holding him responsible for how you feel… even when you are upset about his use.

Laurie MacDougall just posted an excellent reply to another member outlining some basic tenets she abides by when deciding how to respond to a Loved One. This piece helps set a wonderful tone for exchanges with Loved Ones that is empowering to both the family member and the Loved One. It’s a great reminder about the goal of our Loved Ones arriving at crucial realizations about their need for help on their own. I think it may be useful in considering your exchanges with your son.

Try to find a way to let go of how this particular exchange went, and realize there will  be more opportunities to practice CRAFT. Sending the occasional “no-strings attached” message – “thinking of you, sending you love,” without any expectation of reply or any discussion of the heavier stuff, can’t hurt either.

It is good to hear that your son is addressing some of the many layers of his use and that he has been doing well in general. Remember the spiral of addiction: it’s a process and it is very rarely black & white. Very few people are addicted one day and sober the next. Those shades of gray can be excruciating for the family member, but keep delving into the resources we have to help maintain some perspective for yourself.

Thank you for sharing your recent exchange with your son. I can imagine how worried you must be right now with all the unknowns. But you are here, and you are practicing with the limited opportunities you have. You are doing your best. The themes in your comment are ones we can all relate to. Thinking this through helps all of us manage an incredibly complex, additional layer of our work with the impact this virus is having on our daily lives. We are grateful for what you have shared.



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"...)