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How You Can Spark Their Interest in Recovery Despite Covid Circumstances

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HLFrancis responded to our post with some further details, and additional questions. Things still feel like an impasse with their son who’s staying in the basement. Here are 5 keys to consider when your Loved One is home, stalled in their recovery.​


“Thank you for your response and wisdom. Allies in Recovery and CRAFT have been an invaluable resources for us. I’m sorry I wasn’t completely clear about the current situation with our son. Sometimes, when you are in the midst of a crisis, you forget important details.

Our son has been on Suboxone for nearly two years now, which has been a godsend. (I also have Narcan on hand, should the need arise.) To clarify, the cycle that we can’t seem to break is that he will be clean and fairly content for a couple of months, and then one of three scenarios happens. 1) We want him to have a bit more independence and will give him limited use of the car and/or money (to run errands, buy food, etc.), which he then uses for drugs instead of its intended purpose, 2) He gets frustrated with his life of not moving forward (he does have a lot of anxiety about this) and then begins to blame us for stifling him, and eventually uses again, or 3) From time-to-time (like holidays), he will be triggered by visiting old friends who are in town, and then comparing how they are moving on with their lives and he is unemployed and living at home. His response to those feelings is to use. These relapses are usually 36-48 hours long, then he returns home, sleeps for 2-3 days, wakes up remorseful, and the cycle begins again.

All of this, in addition to the issues I mentioned earlier makes us feel like we are at an impasse that we don’t know how to get beyond. I have been searching for family counseling (he will most likely attend that, since it is not solely focused on him) but I’m having problems getting people to return my calls or answer my emails during the holiday season.”

Thank you for the additional details. Your situation must sound familiar to many of our members. I’m so glad to hear your son is on MAT and that you have Naloxone on hand, minimally several doses.

This is the time of COVID. My application of CRAFT to your situation takes account of this, and is specific to what I see as the main problem: your son’s periodic relapses, not just to any substance, but to a very dangerous substance (even pills are being pressed that include Fentanyl). Suboxone alone isn’t holding him. He needs more. A little leveraging could help him kick start some interest in recovery.

Here is a 5-pronged approach that I suggest to families with a Loved One stuck at home, stalled in their recovery:

I.  When stuck at home during COVID times: Peer support is key to hanging on to abstinence

Hanging on to abstinence and discovering the gifts of recovery are pretty near impossible while ensconced in your parents’ basement. That is, until COVID. The good news is that the Pandemic has driven so much online. We’ve put together an extensive list of peer groups that are meeting online (see the Resource Supplement). Peer recovery groups of every stripe are growing in this country. It’s a great time to shop around and participate in a recovery group online.

II.  Hybrid, online treatment is becoming available

Allies has just started looking into programs on the internet that are hybrids: part eLearning, part teleHealth, with trained humans on the phone or video conferencing. I am not recommending this program, keep in mind, but this is an example of what I’m referring to: Tempest.

I am currently shepherding in one of my own family members towards Tempest, so I will have first hand experience if I succeed in engaging her.

In normal times, I would be raising the possibility that your son should leave your home. We’d be brainstorming places he could go. I’d be suggesting you make a list of treatments, group homes, shelters if he refused all else. Leaving can’t be on the table right now. Understood.

So, it makes sense that you want to tighten things up in the house to avoid deepening the pattern you have all established. This is especially the case with your interpersonal relations.

III.  Can you call a truce?

What if you called a truce with your son? You could start by saying that you have found some help for yourselves. You are committed to seeing the entire family, not just your son, heal the family from problems, which includes addiction. Towards this end, you are following the program at Allies in Recovery, and are looking for a family counselor.

I am glad to hear you are looking for family counseling. I am not surprised you aren’t hearing back. Clinicians I know are swamped. Keep trying. Your son agrees to go! Terrific.

This is a good example of the family engaging their Loved One into the treatment of least resistance. If it doesn’t specifically address addiction, and more is needed, the hope is that the clinician identifies the need and refers your son to a more qualified person.

IV.  Try a semi-formal “planned conversation” to make your main points

Next: What if you talked frankly, in a semi-formal setting around the table, about how the current situation is temporary, and is limited because of COVID. You might say something along these lines:

“I don’t feel that being with us is the best place for you. But for now it’s what is.

I, for one, am a nervous wreck much of the time. I worry about you way too much, and I love you dearly, but I am deeply tired.

I know you need to move more towards recovery, and my hope is that you will stay open in your thinking and explore this list of ideas we’ve come up with (include a psychiatrist for an assessment of emotional problems like depression).

I know that I, too, need to look at how I am coming across with you, so I’ve found some help for me. I am committed to seeing our family heal.”

If he says no, thank him for listening, give him the list or stick it on the side of the fridge, and prepare to set up again. Module 8 gives a lot of pointers about this small, semi-formal “planned conversation.”

V.  The family can always further improve their communications

Your son has shown a capacity for being in the world. He is smart. He completed a 4-year degree in business, a field that is highly competitive and can be all-consuming. He is also terribly stuck, with a recent breakup and the loss of any freedom or movement in his world.

When he feels entitled to push harder on you for things he should do or get himself, don’t engage and don’t take it personally (as best you can).

I’d suggest you take some time to look at your interactions with him, by watching the Communications module (Module 4), and doing the exercises. You will see the immediate effects of your efforts, as you focus on lowering the temperature in your home, and softening the tenor.

Keep us posted. Thanks again for the additional details. We’re rooting for you all.



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"...)