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I Backed off. Now, I Want to Communicate Better.

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motherincrisis realized she was communicating in a way that triggered her son to use. She was able to take an honest look at what she was doing that needed to change. Now, she's looking for ways to further improve the communications she has with her son, who continues to use.

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"My 27 year old son is actively using – not sure exactly what substances. He admitted to Meth and MJ and he is living with us (me and husband). He talks to us on very superficial and brief terms. He was arrested and sentenced to probation 2 years and community labor. I took him to the probation only once in March. He said he will take care of it himself but I observe no effort on his part.

I started CRAFT and the 12 steps training around that time. I realized I had been enabling him by letting him return home plus being on him about his legal obligations. He certainly does not appreciate the "controlling" "hovering" "nagging" mother and I identify that as one of his triggers to use. Subsequently, with the knowledge I gained from your website, I have backed off.

It has been three/ four weeks and he appears to be using less (risk reduced) but he is still very non-verbal except when he uses. He stares into space, talking to himself when he uses, he talks excessively about space, God, Artificial Intelligence, and some other nonsense as well. I cannot get through to him when he is in that state.


Any suggestions as to how I can improve our communication? Or how can I create an environment where he feels comfy and we can actually chat.

Thank you for any suggestions"

Hi motherincrisis,

It is really wonderful to hear that you've started working on the Allies in Recovery (Allies) CRAFT-based modules.  You report that this has helped you to identify some ways to change your approach with your son. Your goal is supporting a reduction in the stress he might experience that typically would have triggered him to use. It's also very encouraging that he appears to have reduced his use.

Some next steps for improving communications and reducing tension

You're reaching out for more support with learning more communication skills and creating an environment that might help your son to feel more comfortable with you and perhaps help him be more open to suggestions.

Based on what you describe of your situation, the first modules I'd suggest you watch (or re-watch) are:

"Using" has a broader definition than you may think

A key piece of the CRAFT model is learning to determine when our Loved One (LO) is using in the moment. If they are using, remove immediate rewards.

There are three situations in which CRAFT considers that your Loved One is using:

  1. the time right before use, when they may be frantic or hyper-focused on using, and there's no way you'd be able to intervene or change their trajectory;

  2. the time of actual use;

  3. the time just after use (for example, they might be experiencing a hangover).

Module 6 teaches you how to remove rewards

Module 6 highlights the right times to remove immediate rewards.

Remember, immediate rewards are gifts or acknowledgements, such as:

  • your presence,

  • a conversation,

  • kind words,

  • an invitation to do something (that they enjoy) together,

  • physical affection in the moment,

  • a favorite dinner you may have planned and put aside, etc…

It's important that when you're aware your son has been using, you break away from engaging with him (keeping safety for both you and your LO in mind). As you disengage, you might say something like:

“I’m happy you’re home safe. We can talk tomorrow when we are clearheaded. I'm going to my room to read.”

Module 5 teaches you to "catch" your Loved One not using

Module 5 helps you to both:

  1. become aware of any positive behavior that you would like your Loved One to repeat, and

  2. catch moments of non-use and reward them in a way that is pleasing to your Loved One.

For example, the morning, when he first wakes up (assuming he didn’t go out the night before) is a good opportunity to come in with an immediate reward:

“Good morning, I put a coffee by your bed and I'm whipping up some breakfast. Why don’t you join me in the kitchen for your favorite, eggs and bacon?”

Or maybe he's making all of his counselor appointments…

“I know things are a struggle right now but I really appreciate that this is the third appointment you've made on time. You’ve been really consistent. I’d like to take you to your favorite coffee shop and get a cup together. Shall we?”

Module 4 helps you clean up your communication

Module 4 is the third module I'd suggest you re-watch. Focus specifically on closed-ended versus open-ended questions.

Closed-ended questions are those that only require one- or two-word answers, for example:

“Do you want pasta for dinner tonight?”





“How was your day today?”


Open-ended questions require a longer answer or maybe a description, for example:

“Tell me about your presentation at school today.”


Then, after the description you might ask questions like,


“What went well? What would you like to do better next time?”

I find that having a few phrases prepared helps me to ask my Loved One questions that will require him to give an explanation, for example:

“I'm not sure I understand. Can you elaborate on that for me?”



“I'm trying to understand better; can you explain in a little more detail?”


The cherry on top — add in some Reflective Listening

I’ve also found that adding reflective listening to open-ended questions really helps to create a more inviting environment for my Loved One to talk with me.

A key to creating ease and comfort for someone when they're sharing with others is feeling that they are going to listen, listen and then do some more listening.

We recently recorded a great podcast that breaks down Reflective Listening. It's called: "You're gonna be lousy at it, at first: reflective listening, intentional dialogue and how to vastly improve communications with just about everybody." Listen here.

I hope this helps. Of course I know that some of these examples may not pertain to your situation but they're supposed to inspire you to adapt them to your specifics. I would encourage you to continue to learn CRAFT skills and implement them. It's great to hear your son’s use has decreased over time. I hope for continued progress and healing for you, your son, and your family. Please keep us updated.




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"...)