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How Hard Should He Fall?

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Bimba wrote in sharing what happened with her son last weekend. She navigated a situation involving fear and potential danger, and applied CRAFT all the way through. In pushing the addiction back onto her son and walking away rather than cleaning up, she is clearly helping move her son towards treatment.

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"[…] My son (28) has been recovering for 3 years, with ups and downs […] I'm now trying to make the natural effects work, withdraw the rewards when he is using, and reward him when he is clean. We agreed to let me know in the morning that he's okay and then we'll leave each other in peace. He was not available this morning and I am pretty sure he is not good. I went to his house to make sure he is safe and not dead. (safety first) He was under the influence and several drugs were in his room. Previously I would arrange everything for him. I would throw the drugs away and give him food and a bed to recover. Now I woke him up, he was not very bad, confronted him with what I found and urgently asked him to make the right choice now, told him that I can't help him now and that I don't throw anything away for him, this should be his own choice. I told him that when he is sober again, I will be there for him and he will be more than welcome. I noticed that I was very calm and no longer in a panic as before, but also feel that I can no longer support it when he is using drugs, I am so tired and sometimes so desperate that it is no longer possible. This was my response this morning with support from CRAFT […]"

Read Bimba’s full comment here.


Thank you. This is such a good account of your thoughts and feelings in real time as you wrestle with your son’s actions and how to react.

An example of CRAFT in action – the "Morning Check-in"

You confronted your son when he didn’t respond to the morning check-in. YES, you are right, safety first. You went over to check on him. You were calm. You didn’t do as you would have in the past, throwing out the drugs, fixing him a meal, fluffing the pillows.

Instead, you told him the decision to take drugs was up to him. You left him as you found him. Just amazing. You have come to understand CRAFT as a set of principles (communicate calmly, step away when you see use, offer to help with treatment) and you have been applying these principles.

As a result, you can see the change happening. He called, distraught, a few hours later. He felt guilty and wanted help to get to his treatment appointment. You dropped everything and took him. YES! Enabling treatment is another fundamental of CRAFT. You have been practicing CRAFT for a few months and have already assimilated the concepts so well. It has become second nature. Kudos to you for committing to the method and shifting your mindset!

How hard should I let him fall?

The question you ask is “how far should he be allowed to fall?” 

I can see from your description that your son is trying. He is close to stopping but is not quite able to just yet. How dangerous is the drug taking? Could you let the police check on him next time? Let him fall as long as it isn’t dangerous. Once the question of safety is met, ask yourself “what will happen if I don’t step in?” Perhaps he loses his lodging. Perhaps he is arrested.

As you said yourself, his relapsing had become all too comfortable when he was still living with you. He took a step towards change by making the decision to live on his own. You now are moving things a bit further by pushing the responsibility of his actions onto him.

This is all incredibly positive, but I suspect that your son needs to experience the direct consequences of his use even more. I know it can sound harsh, especially when we feel so much love and devotion for our struggling Loved Ones. You may need to step away to let your son take another step on his path to recovery. In numerous blog posts we talk about how, when we let natural consequences unfold, we can help spark change in our Loved Ones’ using patterns. You can read more about this here. You can also go to Module 6 for more guidance on this topic.

How far he falls is partly up to you. It is excruciating to see your child struggling with drugs and with his young life.

Change comes from two places:

  • a wish “I want more for myself”, or

  • a dip “Ouch this just hurts too much and I won’t repeat it”

These are the principles that lead to change. Apply them to the day’s situation. You did this so beautifully by leaving him that morning.

I sense your deep love for your son and the fear you must co-exist with as your son deals with addiction. One day at a time is a wise response. Watch that the fear doesn’t take you away and paralyze you.

CRAFT is helping you both move forward…What are the next steps?

There is a lot of movement in your situation. You are creating further movement by following CRAFT, and your son is reacting well. He may need to go away for treatment. You already have and you will keep following him through this endless process. Your son is living with addiction. Addiction isn’t curable. There are millions of people living without drugs who suffer from addiction. Your son will need to be vigilant all his life. As he keeps taking more steps towards recovery, he will learn to channel and control the addiction.

So…take a deep breath, continue to step back and to see the big picture as he bounces around. This will help clarify what you can do, and will help de-personalize what he does that is hurtful.

You are caught up in your son’s addiction. This is understandable. CRAFT is asking you to look at your behavior and to find a place that is both useful to your son and gives you a fighting chance to enjoy your life as well. Understanding your son’s addiction, disengaging and responding as you are doing will create some space for you to relax some, and to return to your own life.

How do you disengage while remaining loving and hopeful?

You are wondering how to disengage while remaining a loving and hopeful ally.

Self-care and CRAFT are here to help you achieve this. What you have been through all these years and what we are asking you to do here require a tremendous amount of energy and focus. Remember to make space for yourself, to attend to your own needs and to recognize when you need to relax, rest and enjoy the little pleasures each day has to offer. By focusing on yourself when you need to and by consciously practicing CRAFT, you will be able to communicate in a more positive and compassionate —yet objective— way, thus fueling your son’s non-use.

In everything you have been implementing over the past few weeks, you have been drawing the first lines of the virtuous circle you and your son need to secure recovery for him, as well as for you. We commend you for that!

As your example shows us, pushing the addiction back onto you son and walking away rather than cleaning up, is helping move your son towards treatment. This is the light for both of you. Keep it up, you are doing great. Thank you for letting us follow your process and thank you for sharing your journey with the Allies community.



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. On July 14 I wrote about our situation in which I survived in a bubble with my addicted son Maarten and how I should proceed. A lot has changed since then. An old friend came back into his life and immediately for me it felt as an angel had landed. They had more frequent and more intensive contact, but Maarten still used it regularly and clearly had the feeling that he was losing grip. That he lost everything in a very short time. He was admitted on his own initiative for 5 weeks. He was immediately able to go to the detox department and surrendered to the program there. His girlfriend and I followed him daily with little messages and visited him once a week. He is so calm and now convinced of change. The love for his girlfriend gives him this push. He no longer wants to be Maarten who uses drugs, he doesn’t like him and no longer wants that destructive life to affect her, me and himself anymore. He wants to move on with his life and not lose what he has now. There are friends (whom he has barely / not seen in the recent period in recovery) who say that this is an unhealthy motivation and that he must first recover on his own strength and stay clean (the hard way) and only after that a relationship because he would use her as a medicine substitute. I understand the anxiety and fear in his friends, but what I see is that this loving environment that he now creates himself, along with his girlfriend and family, is pulling him out of loneliness and endless struggle. He feels strong and seen and loved, he no longer feels alone and sees a future again. His self-esteem grows and he gives love like never before. It may not be obvious to choose a woman many years older than him, but the fact that she wants to make this connection with her wisdom and experience is heartwarming. She also follows this ALLIES program to support Maarten in his process as well and healthily as possible. Then it sounds soft but now I see at this moment that love and care have done the work here for the past 2 months. Maarten had to sink deeply again, but the confidence with us was there and we stood next to him and helped him get the help that he had enlisted himself. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I am grateful for now and for the great change that is now taking place and apparently needed. He will experience that friends are falling away and will meet new friends. He’s moving forward!

  2. Thank you for this. It helps me to know that I am doing the right thing and that I am not alone.

    I feel the strength and the support, I will read it over and over again because there are several comments I really need! This learning and knowing works and it feels like moving forward, not possible to return to the old patterns.

    1. Dear Bimba,

      Thank you so much for your message. We always love to hear back from you. We commend you and how committed you are to helping your Loved One on his path to recovery!
      Cheering you on and always here for more guidance!