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I Lost Another Child to SUD, I’m Too Sad to Move Forward


mariecat’s Loved One refuses to go to treatment. He’s trying to get sober on his own but recently relapsed. Mom is filled with sorrow, anger and worry as she’s trying to make sense of her son’s choices, while grieving another child she lost to SUD. How can she get through this?

© Mike Labrum via Unsplash

How can I stop feeling so angry, disappointed, betrayed and afraid from my 31-year-old son for the life he’s living and choices he’s made? His credit cards are maxed out and my husband and I are trying to help him financially. Initially he decided to declare bankruptcy but last night he asked us to make his minimum payments on the cards. He recently admitted that he had a relapse after he got a DUI about a month ago. He also just found out that he has a 3-year-old daughter. He says he’s trying to get sober on his own and refuses to go into treatment. He doesn’t have any health insurance. He’s been using suboxone that he buys on the street to help with detox and cravings.
We tell him we love him and we’re here to help in any way we can but it’s just so devastating to us. I have also lost another child to a drug overdose and feel like the saddest person in the world all the time.


Hi mariecat,

Right now, you are grappling with feelings of anger, disappointment and betrayal based on your son’s errors as he’s struggling with Substance Use disorder (SUD). Dealing with the crisis and chaos brought on by SUD leads to very difficult feelings and emotions for all family members. You have the added complication of grieving the loss of another child to overdose. This does not just double the emotional turmoil; it intensifies everything exponentially.

Of course, I cannot begin to understand how you feel, I have not lost a child to SUD. I can only imagine what you are going through − and have done so multiple times. I am hoping I can share and suggest a few things based on my own experience with my Loved One and with CRAFT, with my limited understanding of the impact of having suffered such a loss.

I would imagine that you have a balancing act ahead of you: constantly looking back at things you did or didn’t do, while at the same time looking forward to the future at things you can do to influence a positive outcome with your son; both of which are going to take some strength on your part.

To start, I have a few thoughts on how to prepare yourself to learn about and implement CRAFT with your son.

Grieving the loss of one child while trying to guide another child towards recovery

Given the inevitable tornado of difficult feelings that are bound to come up, it might be a good start to address the part of you that is grieving the loss of your child. One of the most important aspects of implementing CRAFT for me (and I hear this from other families as well) was to get myself both mentally and physically healthy.

Would you consider seeking out the services of a professional grief counselor? What about building a community of families or moms that know and understand what you are going through? You may find other families that have lost a Loved One but are also struggling with other adult children with SUD.

If sharing about your experience or reading about other people’s stories sounds like something that could be helpful to you, here are a few options you may want to investigate:

  • Team Sharing, a Facebook (fb) group run by Cheryl Juaire that is exclusively made of families that have lost a Loved One to SUD. They stay connected through fb and are very active in the community. They also have chapters across the country. You can check out their website here

  • What’s your Grief, a website aiming to provide hope, support and education to people navigating life after loss.

You may have started with some of this, so please excuse any repeat suggestions.


Implementing CRAFT is going to require some mental fortitude on your part. Again, taking care of your health both physically and mentally is imperative. Watching the videos in Module 7 and doing the accompanying exercises in my learning center multiple times, may benefit you.

An invitation to take care of yourself and your family while becoming educated about SUD

We all bring our own emotional struggles and weaknesses into the interactions with our Loved Ones. Taking care of ourselves fortifies our ability to respond more appropriately and model for our Loved Ones how it’s done.

There are a few things I did which helped me gain confidence so that I could better deal with my son. I’m hoping that sharing them with you will give you a few ideas to draw from:

  • Having an education on all things SUD became a priority.

I read everything I could get my hands on, took college classes, and researched everything. The more I knew, the better I got at separating the illness from my son. I learned he was not doing this to me. I came to look at his use as a coping skill and the only one he knew how to use. My education helped me to understand that his recovery process was all about him learning about himself—what would work and what would not. It is my pursuit of information that brought me to Allies in Recovery and to CRAFT. It helped me gain the skills and confidence I needed to interact with my Loved One in a way that guided him towards a better life.

  • Finding a community of LIKE-MINDED people was incredibly helpful.

I had looked high and low, attended so many different types of support groups and learned so much through them. I found strength in others’ stories and struggles and through sharing my own as well. When I first started on my journey of healing, I decided to do what my son’s rehab program was asking him to do: attend 90 meetings in 90 days. I spent those 90 days attending as many meetings as I could. Sometimes three meetings a day. I found what worked for me. Some groups helped me spiritually, some helped me reflect on myself and my own behavior. I found some were a little on the negative side and weren’t going to work for me. Either way, connecting with others in a similar situation was comforting for me. Connecting with those that were as dedicated as I was to implementing CRAFT, changed my life. When I first started out, there weren’t many CRAFT-based groups. I think that Smart Recovery was the only one. Now that CRAFT has become better known, they are growing in numbers. I later went on to create my own group, called REST. It‘s an educational group that utilizes the Allies website and curriculum. There’s also Kayla Solomon’s (a licensed CRAFT trained clinician) group that can be accessed here on the member site.

  • Having a strong understanding of boundaries was key for me.

When I first began grappling with this illness, I heard so many times: “setting boundaries is important”. I thought I had a good understanding of what boundaries were but over time and through experience, I learned that I did not really know. Did you know that boundaries determine our own behavior? Not our Loved Ones’? Or that boundaries can be solid or sometimes fluid? There are so many intricate details about boundaries. I was in the dark about these and it would have been of tremendous help if I had known sooner. If you would like to read more, I have written a two part series about boundaries and what I have learned here (part 1) and here (part 2).

Your words tell us that your son has already started his journey towards recovery

One of the first− and yet most difficult, − things to do, is to be able to identify the positives in each situation you face with your Loved One. There are quite a few that I can identify in your post:

  • Your son turns to you and your husband when he’s struggling. A testament that he knows you are there for him.

  • Your son is recognizing he has a substance problem.

  • He is making attempts at recovery. His efforts may not yet be what we, as parents, would hope for, but they are attempts at  a better life.

With all these positives, it feels like you might have some room to reward positive behavior. Module 5 and Module 4 can help you start with this key element of CRAFT.

What it may sound like when you talk to your son:

“Your father and I really appreciate that you trust us enough to come to us with this information about your life…Here is what we are able to do for you…”  (reinforcing behavior we want to repeat)

“I can see it’s difficult to stop using. I also see you are really putting in a lot of effort. Your father and I are here and want to support you. Would it help if we made a credit card payment just this once?”  (validating how difficult it is and recognizing his effort can be very rewarding. You’d also be placing up a small boundary, that payment of the credit card debt is a one-time thing.)

Both statements above place the control (what you and your husband are willing to do) into your hands.

What I have outlined above is a lot of information. You don’t have to achieve everything today. Would you consider picking one or two action items now and build up once you feel more comfortable?

Diving into Module 4 (communication), Module 5 (rewarding positive behavior) and Module 6 (removing rewards during times of use) may be a good starting point for you. It may sound crazy, but I have found that learning and implementing CRAFT in my life, was a way to take care of myself while influencing my Loved One at the same time.

I hope that this helps. My heart goes out to you and your family. Please know that we all deeply care about you and your struggles.

Laurie is a former math teacher, residing in Dartmouth, MA. She's extremely active in the recovery community. She currently devotes most of her energy to REST, a non-traditional support group that offers land and online video meetings, access to training in the CRAFT method, and a crisis toolkit helping families create their own individualized crisis plan. Her work is guided by a desire to improve the communitys response and end the stigma associated with Substance Use Disorder. Laurie loves skiing and ice hockey and is at her happiest when spending time with her husband and three children. Read her articles on our blog or tune in to the podcast she co-hosts for Allies in Recovery: Coming Up for Air.



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. My son has recently relapsed on opiates. He is 31 years old and lives and works in another state. He won’t quit his job and go into treatment / lose his apartment. He thinks he can alleviate his cravings with Suboxone that he buys illegally on the street. He says he wants to get off drugs and wishes for a better life. (recent DUI scared him into wanting to stop).
    But whatever he is doing isn’t working. I’ve tried to get him to reach out to NA meetings for help, but he says that never helped before.
    He just continues to say he will stop using drugs but then does drugs and says tomorrow he’ll quit. Can seem to get through to him about finding other resources. I don’t know what resources to suggest because he lives in another state/ California. He also has no health insurance at present although he will pick it up Jan 2021 with my help.

    1. You’re in the right place, mariecat. CRAFT, and the Allies in Recovery program are ideal for family members dealing with situations like the one you describe:

      “whatever he is doing isn’t working”;

      “he just continues to say he will stop…then does drugs and says tomorrow he’ll quit”;

      “I don’t know what resources to suggest because he lives in another state”…

      The CRAFT method, on which our program is based, was designed specifically for family members whose Loved Ones are resistant to the idea of treatment. Success rates (in getting that LO into treatment, getting them to stay longer, etc.) are very high in all studies of CRAFT, and also in our experience with members who work our program seriously for at least 6-8 weeks.

      Read our full response to mariecat here: