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How Do I Let Him Know He Can’t Come Back Yet?

lock on door

ccomtl2014 finally had her partner go to live at his parents' for 30 days. Nothing seemed to be improving despite her steadfast application of CRAFT: he continues to use, is belligerent and defensive when she neutrally removes herself or states her own needs, and the stress is wreaking havoc on her health. What's the best way to buy another 30 days and what would it look like to keep practicing CRAFT when he's at his parents' place?

© cristina gottardi via unsplash

"Not long after reading your advice at my last post, I started emailing the counselor to move the conversations toward me asking for a break. Couples counselling was getting more and more heated and only escalated him and increased the focus on me as the SOB and how come I'm not in "the hot seat". The couples counselor is actually extremely gentle with him, there really is no hot seat. He has been in a sort of outpatient group for people who are actively using for months (they need to be abstinent two weeks before they are accepted into intensive group, he declined their 10 day rehab to jump start sobriety and enter the intensive program). He feels like he has heard it all before and that since he is going to this group, we should all "stop shitting on him". My "shitting on him" was pretty much having only two boundaries, the rages directed at me (stomp around I don't care just keep it to your space) and don't put dishes in the sink with food in them (arthritis, I have a dishwasher so that I don't need to wash the dishes, it's an old dishwasher though you have to rinse the plate).

The two weeks before I asked him to leave, the rages were getting worse and closer to what it was like before rehab. Before rehab things were bad but he had remorse and pockets of insight, I do not see those anymore. Screaming so much his face was red punching the couch and saying that he felt if he couldn't let it out at me (screaming) he would jump out a window. Finally I had quietly thrown out a moldy pan that he had not cleaned, I was quiet about it and figured he wouldn't notice (we have lots of pans). When he did notice, he slammed doors and cupboards all around the apartment and stomped around loudly. I ignored it and stayed in my bedroom (he moved himself to the couch a year ago, said he is so debilitated he can't make it to the bed). I was doing my physiotherapy on the wall, this is close to the door but I have been doing it like this for years as it's the only spot with enough wall. He never comes into the bedroom, he knows I do my physio there. I had finished my physio not 2 minutes before and was working, he came into the room slamming the door open so hard that if I had been there, it would have been an emergency room visit for sure. He went around looking for something slamming all the doors of the chests and closet while giving me a glare. I screamed at one of the bangs and started to cry. He wordlessly gave me one last look and slammed the door shut again. He didn't actually get anything in the room.

Hours later after the slamming had stopped for some time, I calmly told him I could have been behind that door and it would have been accidental but it would have been an injury all the same. I told him he can't slam things in my space like that. He freaked out and continually came into my room to yell at me that he has a complex about being abusive because of how I speak to him, etc, etc. He had zero remorse or concern about the door, he was angry that I do my physio there. He kept coming in to yell at me in and out for at least an hour. This time I actually felt unsafe. Around this time I also found out that my health was declining and needed to do high dose steroid treatment, the side effect of steroids that high is extreme panic attacks and anxiety. I had the therapist mediate a conversation about him needing to stay with his parents for a month (or anywhere else he could think of, up to him). He knows one of the side effects of strong steroids for me is that my adrenal glands don't work. This means in a crisis they can't produce stress hormone we need, so when I get a cold or if there is a really really severe yelling situation I quite simply just pass out cold. This was part of my rationale that we can't live together right now, I made the initial request 30 days.

He showed not much insight in the conversation. Afterwards it was horrible, the guilt was intense and on another level, he kept saying over and over again "if this is for me it won't make me feel better" and made me keep saying this is for my needs, he knows its very hard for me to verbalize a need like that. He refused to call his parents because I wanted this not him. It was awful. He feels punished abandoned and that my boundaries are too "black and white". I asked him what not black and white would look like in this specific situation as a solution for the anger given the new medication situation. His answer was that my version was: "you got angry you need to leave" vs he would have wanted: "he's in pain".

It's been a month, he continues to use and declines going to rehab. I got the counselor he liked a lot from rehab to give him a call to reach out. My loved one appreciated the call but felt he can do things on his own. He goes to the zoom meeting once a week for the program, but he feels its nothing new or helpful. We only spoke once, I mostly listened and reflectively listened but it was bad and showed me where his mind is at…everything is being done to him by me, it's unfair to ask of someone depressed, the problem is me and my lack of compassion and black and white boundaries. He feels couples counselor is out to get him, and it's all because of how I word things. At home he would put the dirty dishes in the sink with food still in them. At his parents house he puts the dishes in the dishwasher, and has done so after being asked only once. At home he said he was so depressed it was "physically impossible". He knows since he has gone to his parents that his mom checks in on me, she has relayed to him that certain medical tests revealed new scary problems but it was radio silence on his part. He has made it clear the silence is anger, I told him I'll respect his space. But eventually I need to have a second chat with him.

I tried once during our one talk to see if there was any salvageable solution in terms of coming home. He keeps delaying any talk of what a solution would look like, I said I cannot continue at home with the dynamics as they are in respect to the angry outbursts as I am more medically fragile than I was before. He insists he only will need to work on that when he is home, he doesn't feel he can do anything about it while he is not at home. Couples counselor doesn't feel any further sessions would benefit and says we cannot continue. The 30 days are almost up now.

I recently got him the message that my treatments were renewed for another 30 days, so I think he knows a conversation is coming. I would be afraid to have him home now, he is way angrier at me than he ever has been. He still is upset that when he is angry about something, that his raging becomes the issue at hand and that his point about what he was mad about is lost. This is strange because I do set boundaries about what I won't accept in terms of being shrieked at, but after he has calmed, I always circle back to his original point so he can feel heard. He says it doesn't count because of the way I do it.

I don't have the couples counselor to help me mediate this next conversation. I need to make this not living together arrangement permanent I feel, at least for now. How can I say this in a way that would be least harmful for him I wonder. This is a new low in his mindset I have not seen before, usually when things are bad like this he comes around and has insight and remorse for a day or two. The stimulants have been going strong for 9 months now, he doesn't even get high off them anymore. I see shifts in his demeanor I haven't seen before, and perceptions far more openly distorted than I've seen before too…Feels like my heart was ripped out of my chest. I am genuinely surprised that he did not go to rehab after I asked him to leave, but I supposed I shouldn't be. He just used to come around in terms of insight and willingness after big crises events, it's how he went to rehab in the first place."

It must be hard to find your Loved One impossible to reach, when you have experienced him differently. After completing treatment at the start of the pandemic, he had hope, insight, even bounce. There isn’t a shred of this optimism in your descriptions of him now. It’s as though life with your partner is negotiated behind a huge, invisible wall that separates the house. It sounds so painful and stressful.

Your Loved One is meeting everything you do with belligerence

Your efforts to connect with your partner have been met with anger, to the point you have felt unsafe. Nice job, by the way, having your couples therapist mediate the first 30 days of separation.

Your partner did finally leave your home and went to his parents for the agreed upon 30 days. You note that he behaves better with them, cleaning up after himself and perhaps fewer outbursts?

Meanwhile, your health is declining and you’ve needed to increase the medication, which has known side effects, including high anxiety. Your health demands that you avoid stress.

Your partner is not in treatment, isn’t abstinent, and is still blaming you for just about everything (See our upcoming podcast that looks at blame as just another object of addiction, an attempt to self-soothe and deflect negative feelings: "When Things Get Nasty, What Cards Trump the Blame Card?")*

Goodness. All hands on deck to keep your partner at his parents'.

The 30 days at his parents' are up. How about 30 more?

Can you suggest another 30 days?

I see this as a fundamental boundary you have to maintain. You are in no shape whatsoever to manage an actively using, angry and now potentially unsafe Loved One. Your experience as a clinician makes you an excellent reporter, but I caution you to not let that experience cause you to tolerate more risk than you might otherwise.

Do his parents feel safe? He is handling himself better at their place. Can you see his parents learning CRAFT from the site, especially the skills sufficient to respond to a desire for help from their son?

Can you handle the situation, as it currently is, for another 30 days, and then perhaps another? Is your partner continuing to contribute to the household expenses? If not, can you make it for a few months without his help?

You will miss his company, but he isn’t gone. You can see him regularly and often, a happy light date night. Your physical distance will likely make CRAFT easier to implement. You can get in the car and leave if he shows up high or starts to pick on you. You really can’t have him back in the shape he left in. He hasn’t shown any positive signs that would help us believe he would come home and not go right back to how things were just a short month ago.

Here is some sample language:

“We are going through a difficult time, you and me. Life is so different without you. I want you back. But we can’t go back to how it was just a short month ago. I want you back happy and strong, I want us back the way it was when you first came home from rehab. For now, can we agree you stay at your parents' for another month as we work through this time in our relationship? We can think of creative COVID dates to go on. What do you say?"

Please let us know how it goes and update us on any new developments we may have missed. Again, we salute your steadfastness and every effort you've made on his behalf thus far. But your health and safety must come first for you. Please, don't sacrifice those.



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. Oof as usual so much has happened. I forgot to mention he actually refused to talk to me for the first month and a half that he was home, except for that one very nasty phone call that I mentioned earlier, and that was basically the day after he left. He was aware that I had received multiple bits of scary medical news, but he didn’t call, and I told everyone not to prompt him and let him decide on his own when he would contact me. All the other information I got through his mom. Then one day very close to the deadline, he phoned me up sobbing hysterically apologizing, but also screaming “it’s my home too”. He did say he was sober and working on himself, and I told him I was so so happy for him. He asked to come home, and I mentioned that I had deep concerns about us getting better together, the patterns we are both pulled towards are very longstanding. And also that I was very sick, and I had to be careful.

    He graduated to a different program, but it’s only 2 months and his counsellor thinks it is not intensive enough and that he really, really needs rehab. He is going through the motions but feels weird in this new program because his motivation is a 5/10 and everyone else is 10/10 (he told me this while laughing). Doesn’t want to go to rehab because it would take too long, he doesn’t want to wait 6 whole months to get back on his feet, he wants it sooner. He understands the program isn’t intensive enough and isn’t doing other SMART recovery meetings or anything like he did at rehab. He doesn’t keep a schedule, or any of the mooring lines that he understood was important to his recovery after rehab.

    He feels he is ready to come home and that I should trust him that the patterns won’t repeat. He says we cannot rebuild by phone, and he has plateaued in his recovery, and he needs to do the rest at home. He will not go on dates or spend time that way – and honestly, I don’t want to either, whenever we talk he is either angry or hysterically begging me. We had agreed we would each talk to our counsellors about what would that look like, and what would need to happen to preventively and in case that patterns did repeat what would we do to manage? After a few weeks, his response was his counsellor isn’t specialized in that, and he needs to do it at home, he doesn’t have all the answers, and he will just have to watch his temper.

    It is so much better for him at his parents, he needs lots and lots of bugging from his mom to call dentist call psychiatrist etc. The psychiatrist still doesn’t know what is happening, but I’m quiet I want to give him the chance to be honest himself. He does know if the psychiatrist ever asks me, I won’t lie or cover up.

    We’ve only spoken once since that talk. He called very upset and sobbing, saying how impossible it is for him there and that the environment is toxic and everyone thinks it’s a good environment for him, but everyone is ignoring how bad it is for him. He said that my counsellors don’t know what a hard time he is having when they advise me it’s best to still rebuild under separate roofs, that if they knew it would be different. He says all the counsellors only think it’s so bad because I am not “careful how I talk” when I describe behavioural patterns. He then said he can’t be held responsible for how long he can hold-out being sober at his parents because it is so bad there for him. I asked if he might consider changing the enviro somewhere more supportive, like maybe rehab or perhaps the local crisis centre. He said no to all the options. Whenever I say we can rebuild over the phone like we did at rehab (we talked for an hour every day), he said we can’t do that because this isn’t rehab, but also he refuses to go to rehab. He said he is also scared that he can’t hold out on one other particular thought…. a deep resentment that I am doing this to him, and he said if I make him hold out too long, he may fundamentally change how he feels about me, that he already thinks he f**ked up the relationship so horribly, he doesn’t want to have to think I f**ked up so horribly too. He says he doesn’t know how long he can fight those thoughts off at his parents, that he worries he will fundamentally change how he feels about the relationship forever. I told him he is entitled to his feelings and reactions. He is mad that he faced his worst fear, something medically going wrong, and he can’t be there… but then when things did go wrong, and I offered for him to be there, he doesn’t go. I kind of gently said that he had trouble fighting off thoughts like that when he was here with me as well, and I think he will still have trouble dealing with thoughts and feelings like that at home still and that is part of my concern. He said I’m now sick for too long, and it’s not fair for the “deal” to be that he is gone while I am sick. He then said to tell him right then and there, can he come home next month or if it will be longer than that, and honestly, I cried. I texted him after saying I had calmed down and was ready to talk, but he isn’t talking to me right now.

    Honestly, that was one of the toughest conversations ever, all of our conversations are like that, and I find it incredibly painful. He could be abstinent, it’s possibly, but he also is excellent at lying to get the outcome he wants… even if he is abstinent, I am very sure coming home would lead to the same pattern on rinse-repeat.

    The feedback I am getting from my recovery professionals (groups and there is an individual counsellor program at the addictions’ resource for family members) is that we would essentially be starting our relationship over again, and it would be best to wait until he is out of early recovery and still to not live together but rebuild by only dating. He doesn’t know that yet, I’ve been keeping it simple to I’m really sick, and I can’t go back to the same patterns. I think I do need to tell him that I can’t live with him anymore. I don’t know if it’s fair or not, but I feel like I can’t do this anymore and I do not see how it would be any different here even if he does manage to get a recovery oriented lifestyle in place because when he is here, he knows he can just revert to old patterns, and I am stuck taking it or kicking him out. I am even more scared of his anger than I was before, given how he feels about me now.

    I feel like I’ve failed. Not in terms of his outcomes, I can’t control that. But more like all the self-care and thought work, I can’t do it and I am a sinking ship right now no matter what self-care and self-talk I do, after 5 years I just can’t manage living with him anymore. He can’t tolerate any of my changing my patterns, he comes for my weakest spots, and my hand inevitably gets forced. He tries for 2 weeks and then its right back to me as the ultimate scapegoat and bad guy, everything is my fault. He has said himself he feels the pull to the chaos and chooses it, that when he starts to relapse he just rides it as far as it can humanly go, and he figures he may as well enjoy it. He can’t tolerate me having any feeling or need, and by need I am talking like don’t yell at me and bring your dish to the dishwasher. Meanwhile, at his parents there is structure and his behaviour is a total 180, he doesn’t push anyone else like he pushes me because he thinks me having to do everything for him and put up with any treatment because we love each other. It gets forced into a parent-child dynamic, even though he, of course, feels it is not, but when I refuse to enter into these types of dynamics, he loses it.

    1. I also just realized that he has continuously stolen from me. I had been helping him pay his bills when he was trying to recover, it was a consumer proposal so a sort of consolidated credit program. It was cancelled in 2019 due to non-payment. He has been acting like it was still active, even while he was in rehab, and after he came home. It totals 2,600$. He is asking to come home saying he is sober still pretending like these payments are a thing. I wanted to clear barriers to treatment when he was doing outpatient or inpatient programs, or when he was too depressed to work (before I realized that a lot of this wasn’t depression and there was a secret addiction). I cannot have him under my roof and I cannot be his partner anymore. Later I would like to be his friend and support but right now, I don’t think I can. His mom and I will have a sit down with him and hopefully this discovery will lead to him going to that rehab that he went to last time. He can go on welfare and go there for free for 6 months. I am heartbroken and I feel like a fool. I had, of course, stopped paying them recently but for a long time as long as he was in treatment I was paying for the house bills including his.

      1. Dear ccomtl2014,

        Thank you so much for letting us know the scene. Everything you say makes sense to me, except that “you’ve failed” — I can’t think of any human I know who has given more of themselves, been so incredibly determined to help a struggling Loved One, even in the face of some really horrendous behaviors.

        Reading your recent comments, I see that you have come up against your own personal boundary. Your body is screaming and deserves to repair itself in an environment that offers less stress and more stability.

        There is not much that makes sense to you now about continuing your relationship, either under the same roof or in different homes. There’s little about his behavior, nor his words, that gives you sufficient encouragement that life together could meet your most basic needs any time soon.

        The question is not whether you love him or he loves you — it seems obvious that there is something deep and abiding underneath all of this pain and drama.

        However right now you each have some truly pressing needs, and it would seem you’re the only one who can truly make a difference in your own health and he’s the only one who can really make a definitive choice to pursue his recovery seriously.

        Almost a week has passed since you wrote, so more has surely transpired.

        There’s little I can say here that you don’t already know, but allow me to remind you of some important things:

        – CRAFT can’t be done without self-care and I think that’s the boundary you’re hitting up against. You’re having to borrow energy from your own deficit, in order to really be a rock for him. It’s not a calculation that can keep working.

        – You say you’ve “failed” in the realm of self-care and thought-work. You write “I can’t manage living with him anymore” but for me, this is not about what you can or cannot manage. You’re clearly capable of moving mountains (and you have our entire team’s admiration). What you’re experiencing now feels more like “I don’t want to do this anymore.” And you are fully allowed to feel this and act on it. You must be your first priority. I know it’s really easy to say this. And it’s not meant to make you feel even slightly bad about what you’ve done or not done thus far. We want your safety, your peace, your health. Nothing is worth your sacrificing those.

        – Today is a new day. So is tomorrow. Please don’t keep this idea or taste of failure too present in your thoughts. Use the kaizen method of habit change: it’s extremely helpful for anyone (but especially those of us who tend to be hard on ourselves, with lofty expectations of what we “should” be or accomplish) … kaizen is the equivalent of baby steps. It’s like making a one percent improvement each day on something we want to improve (in your case, reconnecting with a deep sense of peace and health). It’s accepting that one sliver of the mountain we’re envisioning is enough, for one day. One sliver a day, for many days in a row, will amount to something substantial, if we keep at it. It may feel like “barely anything” but believe me, the slivers add up, and momentum is gained.

        – One thought as I read the descriptions of your phone calls, is that, just like if those conversations were happening in person, as soon as they veer towards angry, accusatory, yelling, blaming, etc., you can disengage quickly. Staying on the phone when he’s like that (even if it was the first time after a month and a half) signals that you’re OK with being treated that way. And when he’s in that mode, a “conversation” may simply be anything but fruitful.

        Please let us know how we can help. Keep up your work on boundaries, and consider “faking it ’til you make it” — staying in a safe place where you can regain your health is primordial. He’s OK at his parents’ place despite his begging and complaining. For now I think your energy and attention must come fully back to yourself.

        All of our best wishes,


        1. Thank you for walking along with me throughout this, it has been of great comfort, and so has everything you just said. I ended it by text, you can’t have a verbal conversation with him at all it gets twisty immediately. I wished him well and said I hope he gets the help he deserves, that he deserves to feel better, and I know who he is inside… but with the latest realization coming to light, the stealing and lying even after rehab when he was sober and things were good, I can’t. I didn’t allude to any possibility of friendship or contact one day, just that my love didn’t go anywhere and won’t, and I will always be thinking good thoughts for him, but the chapter of us is closed. I remain available to the family and friends because they are still new to CRAFT, and I feel like that’s something I am able to do that doesn’t drag me under. I will keep going to the really lovely support group and listen to the podcast, he can’t be in my life, but he will always be a loved one. Thank you for all your kind words and support, I didn’t realize how badly I needed to hear it. I’m so glad I found this site in 2019 when I did.

        2. ccomtl2014,

          We really appreciate your taking the time to update us and thank us!

          Despite all the difficulty, I can hear a certain serenity in your words as you write about your decision … and that, I believe, is hugely important. You gave it more than your all. And now, you’re doing what you need to do, for you. And releasing him.

          I’m really glad to hear that you plan to stay connected to AiR, keep going to Kayla’s group and listen to the podcast, etc.

          As someone who also practiced CRAFT with a Loved One, and also had to put distance between me and him, I relate to you and I know it’s not easy to “walk away” when they’re not where we would have hoped.

          But there are so many other forces at play, and I pray for your Loved One, as for mine, that the spark towards deeper recovery will ignite, and keep burning, brighter and brighter.

          For you, I pray for profound rest and healing. Just as your Loved One can recover, you, too, can heal and find more and more strength, vitality, and health.

          All my best, all our best. OX