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I Can’t Bear Another Relapse

Winding Highway

My husband and I went to the family therapist without our son – he said he didn't want to talk to anyone who was not an addict themselves. He was happier going to his CA meetings and getting support there. We had a couple of good weeks and then a friend from Canada came home to get married and my son drank at the wedding, not excessively but he had a couple. Then last weekend they did a bus tour and he drank again. He slept at a friend's house so we would not know he had been drinking. But by his voice message on the cell I could tell and a friend of mine who was present confirmed it, He has also been smoking marijuana oil in his vape – again he thinks we don't know but his girlfriend and friend confirmed it… he is still living at home looking and ACTING in sobriety but 2 nights ago went out again with friends drinking and did not come home. Whether he used cocaine as well we are not sure. I do not want to accuse him of anything because the reality is we have not witnessed him under the influence. But we know he is slipping back and fast into his drug/ alcohol use. He has now stopped all meetings. I felt so low yesterday and spent quite a long time away from home crying in my car as I did not want to return home and see him. I am so sad and disappointed that he has chosen to go back to this destructive way of life. I am in mental torment – I even wished I didn't have to live if I have to live this way. Should I confront him and let him know how I am feeling? I know he will lie and get angry if I tell him what I know. Or should I just let him keep sliding down the slope until he reaches the bottom again? I think that if and when that happens again I will not be strong enough to handle it

By practicing CRAFT strategies you are doing what you can to address your son’s drug use. You are reasonably sure he is slipping with alcohol and pot, and may have used cocaine again. It feels awful to you and you can’t see how you can continue on like this.

Agreed. Let’s address you first. Your hope, your expectation, was probably that your son would be on a straight line out of addiction. The CA meetings and the family therapist are signs, and his words and promises have been in support of this notion.

Straight lines directly into sobriety rarely happen with addiction. Remember our graph:

inspired by stephanie covington

This visual aid is significant. It can help you take some of the ups and downs in stride a bit more. It doesn’t mean that the periodic replases won’t bring up some very difficult feelings. But they happen in context of a journey. You don’t have to think of these episodes as the final stopping point. This graph helps to show that.

So the first thing is to look at your thinking. Family members go through such a roller coaster of emotions in the face of their Loved One’s behaviors. We address some ways in which we can learn to slow down with our thoughts and feelings in Learning Module 7. This piece is critical. It shows us new directions to take with our thinking, before the torrents of feeling take over. In looking at this piece of your own puzzle, it becomes worthwhile to ask: What are you expecting?

If you equate any use by your son as a sign of COMPLETE failure, you will feel terrible and you will be “in mental torment.” All of us on this site can relate to being in that state. And yet, though it is familiar and understandable, it really doesn’t serve anyone in the situation. We all know how completely exhausting it is to be in this state. But we really can’t help anyone when we are in the throes of this pain. Use the lessons in Learning Module 7 to attend to yourself, your thoughts and your feelings first. Give yourself permission to take the time you need to bring about some transformation here, no matter how small. Use the small steps to gain some momentum for yourself towards a new outlook.

I believe your son is on a trajectory, part of a longer process, in which he is testing what he can get away with. HANG ON! Don’t lose your grip on the boundaries you have set. Don’t lose sight of the longer end game….

Your son is on this trajectory. He has admitted the cocaine is a problem. He sought out and attends CA sporadically. He is testing the reach of his addiction by chipping with alcohol and pot, and this may well lead him back to a cocaine binge for which he will feel terrible.

So be it. You can’t control this and it is likely important that he feel that darkness and shame you’ve described in earlier comments that the cocaine causes.

You are gathering information about his use. As you say, some of this information has not been directly observed in real time. Holding off on reacting in this case is sound. Overall, as you gather information, this helps inform how you assess your son when he walks through the door. It is hard for the family to use CRAFT when a Loved One uses several drugs. It is a lot to manage, and you need to feel as if your plan is manageable to be able to stick with it. Therefore, reinforce non-use and step away when you see him high or withdrawing from cocaine. Leave the other drugs alone for now.

So for the time being, I suggest you consider ignoring the alcohol and pot and work CRAFT on the cocaine. You will know when he has likely used cocaine by the length of his absence and how he looks when he does come back home. Don’t tell him you are choosing not to focus on the alcohol and pot, but internally, know that you are drawing that line – for now.

I suspect he will more easily scare himself with the cocaine. The alcohol will lead him back to using cocaine – they go so well together. So cocaine use may have already happened or will happen shortly.

Use Learning Module 5 and Learning Module 6 to manage your responses. Don’t let your fear drive you. Your son is on the move. Learning Module 1 talks about moderation. Moderation will likely fail for your son with the alcohol because it can easily drive him to cocaine. Perhaps he can moderate the pot. Either way, I’d recommend leaving it alone for now. We’ll be happy to see you addressing the pot, once the alcohol and cocaine have clearly reminded your son how scary these drugs are for him.

As you fine-tune your approach and find ways to manage your own thinking from one day to the next, please remember to go easy on yourself. You have reached out from a hard place and our hearts are with you. You are doing a great job. And you always have our support. You are not in this alone. Sending you peace and love.



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. Hi its been a few weeks since I posted and for the most part pretty calm. My son moved out into his new place a week ago and all seemed to be well. We were corresponding via whats app and I could tell from the tone that he was doing ok. Yesterday started the NFL season and he is a big football fan. He always goes to the sports bar on Sunday with his good football friend and they drink beer and eat burgers. For the most part a good evening although Im pretty sure they smoke some pot before they go. When he got home last night he messaged me to say he was home just a little tipsy and then about 40 minutes later – enough time for him to go to his dealer and get some coke – he messaged me back saying he missed home, he wasn’t depressed but just missing me, could I come and watch football with him tomorrow night – just very very strange even for drunk messaging!!! So of course I responded with ” are u ok? do you want to talk, you have me worried now” etc etc. Typical full on mother panic/fix it behavior- “oh my God hes used and I need to try and get him through this” moment. About 20 minutes after my last msg to him I got a text saying” Im in bed , stop messaging and waking me up!” So a complete turn around from his mood an hour before. Every Monday morning (at his request) I transfer money into his account for his weekly expenses of gas and food and my heart is in my throat this morning waiting to see what his attitude to me will be this morning and if I will get an abusive message demanding I put in more than the usual which would allow him to pay his dealer! Of course I have no physical proof that he has used but I know the patterns so well that I will be very surprised if it was only drink talking last night. My question is – how do I go about using CRAFT when I dont know if to praise for not using or show disappointment? I hate doing this whole money thing as I stress when he asks for more and start to worry he has used. As I write this my heart is in my throat waiting for his message demanding his weeks transfer and whatever else! I have woken up with a migraine !! Any advice and suggestions are welcome please !

    1. Dear milliemouse, it’s good news that your son got his own place and that things seemed to be going well for a while. When he went out with his friends, you had a text exchange that started off fine, but ended up raising questions for you in the end about whether he had gone out again and used. You were left wondering and worrying, and dreading the repercussions when it came time to deposit money for him on Monday morning.

      Your question is about how to practice CRAFT when you don’t have the full picture – i.e.: with text messages, which can be so hard to interpret in general. CRAFT was designed to be used in the immediate environment, so when you’re operating from a distance, try to accept that you’ll do the best you can. We’ve written about this issue before (see the topics tab to the right: “loved one far away”). But to take some of the pressure off, considering you are just going off text messages, you can assume that you might not get it right every time. And that’s ok. Take it easy on yourself.

      Read my full response to milliemouse here:

  2. After a worrisome weekend and some time away from this site I decided to come back on and go back to my last post almost 3 months ago to re-read what I had written and Dominque’s response. Living with a LO on the roller coaster of addiction is wearying. Our son was doing fairly well – continuing to smoke pot and drink occasionally but no cocaine use – I took the advice and ignored the alcohol and pot, didn’t badger him about not going to CA anymore and tried to lay off the criticisms about his spending habits. Things were going well and the day he was going to sign the lease on a new apartment his pick up was hit and written off . He was paid out by insurance but now has to borrow money to put towards another vehicle – an expense he didn’t anticipate. Then he and his girlfriend broke up and so he’s dealing with that. This weekend I suspect he used cocaine and this morning is very anxious about his upcoming financial commitments to his rent and vehicle loan. I found Xanax in his room and this is what lead me to believe he had used again. he tells me that he started back taking it recently to deal with his anxiety. I tried to assure him that all will be ok, encouraged him to go back to his therapist and maybe try to see if he can find a secular recovery program online. Something that will maybe blend the 12 step approach with another method. I continue to go to my Alanaon meetings twice a week and try to surround myself with people who understand the sickness of addiction. Being part of the AIR family is a big help as well. If you have any info on other non AA programs please can you send to me – we do not live in the US so any program would have to be web based. Thank you

      1. → AiR Online Support Group! Meets every Wednesday evening @ 6:30 PM EST

        We are incredibly pleased to announce that Kayla Solomon will provide a free online drop-in group for AiR members. Kayla is trained in CRAFT and is one of the most experienced psychotherapists in the region. The group will provide family members a live, CRAFT-informed support, with an emphasis on self-care. You should have begun our learning modules before attending. Total anonymity is an option if needed. To RSVP or for more info: Direct link to participate in group:

        1. It is an hour and a half.

          For your son:

          Thanks for being part of our family. I hope you find something that helps your son from the list below.

          There are several on line sources for addiction treatment ( ). Also

          We also list support groups in the supplement ( Several are available online. Also,

          There are recovery coaches who will work online. Here is one I know and trust: Omar Pinto: Website: