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I Want to Message Her (Using) Friends

smart phone Texting

Cozumeldivers has recently realized that their teenaged daughter is using a variety of substances. The parents' instinct is to want to find a way to control or monitor her use. They're tempted, as well, to get in touch with their daughter's using friends to address the substance use. Cozumeldivers finds CRAFT is helping, but it's really hard to focus or function right now.

Hi all,
We just figured out that our daughter (16) had been experimenting, and most likely already addicted, to alcohol and some drug early in April. She had been at a therapeutic boarding school (TBS) for almost 1 1/2y, and just returned home last Dec 2018, and we had no idea how bad her use has become in last 4 months. (she was drinking before TBS at age 14, but had tons of therapy and education on drugs and alcohol there). She openly says she wants to "catch up" and "have a normal high school life", including regular weekend parties with alcohol/marijuana with her friends. But she has the past use experience AND she had an incident early this month ("terrible trip") after taking oxycontin/Molly/LSD with wine. Our world was fallen apart, we felt.

She was also shaken up and said she wouldn't use drugs (marijuana was not included in this) and "not drink except at parties in weekend". She thinks she can handle "occasional use"; however, we have a serious doubt. She has a therapist with whom she works well, but he even says it is "within normal" to have weekend use. We know she still hangs with friends who supplied drugs to her and also drink together. She says she had already told them she wouldn't use drugs again, but her phone messages (I check sometime) don't show much difference in attitude. When we try to ask her about it, she refuses to talk to us as we got so anxious. She is openly defiant and says we don't trust her. We are just terrified to see her keep using them in this way. Yet these are her last high school years and we don't want to send her away again, which may permanently destroy our relationship based on our last experience.

Q1: How can we monitor/control her use when her high school environment is so permissive? (Grounding/taking phone and other punishments won't work. She would most likely run and we are not up for another round of having the police involved and hospitalization)

Q2: I feel like I want to send messages directly to her friends who supplied/used drug with her in the past asking them not to provide her drugs, although I know that is stepping over boundaries and she would be furious. However, I desperately want them to be aware that they all have possibility of becoming addicts too. Do you advise against this move?

I find CRAFT helps us a lot, especially I am so shaken up and can't really focus/function in my life now. I'd appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

Welcome to the Allies in Recovery community! We are so glad you found us, and that you are here! In terms of the specific questions you posed, here are some helpful guidelines to consider.

The Learning Modules give a great foundation for the CRAFT approach in general. In going through the modules, you have likely seen that there are two main goals for the family member to focus on. 1) Improving your relationship with your Loved One and 2) Getting them into treatment.

A lot of this happens by shifting your own behaviors – at the foundation of this approach is an acknowledgement that, maddening as this may sometimes be, we can’t control our Loved Ones, we can’t make decisions for them, and we can’t force them to do what we want them to do. What we can do is bring awareness to our own role in the relationship: stopping the negative talk; embracing an attitude of compassion, empathy, and partnership; building the bridge. We can own our actions candidly in an attempt to genuinely work on repairing the relationship. If we have been nagging or critical in the past, for example, we can take responsibility for that. This is also modeling the kind of responsibility we want our Loved Ones to learn to take for their own actions. At 16, your daughter is in some ways just embarking on the journey of learning this kind of responsibility.

Anything you can do to soften communications can be seen as advancing the goal of building that bridge which will eventually lead to your Loved One opening up to you. Anything that contributes to our Loved Ones wanting to tune out, feel defensive, shut down, etc. would be seen as running counter to that goal. This take a lot of patience, and practice. It’s straightforward, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I hear the fear and desperation in your account, and as you said, you are all shaken up. Feeling like it’s hard to think straight, or hard to function in your life right now, is an important sign to pay attention to. These signs indicate that it’s going to be very hard to change patterns in your own communications, improve your relationship with your daughter, or be a compassionate listener until you take some time to regroup and replenish your energies. From our perspective, your health and well-being are equally vital parts of the equation to your Loved One’s health and well-being. This may mean different things for different people, but it’s worth investigating what you need in order to feel peaceful – regardless of what is happening externally. We’d recommend exploring Learning Module 7 for help when negative thinking is taking over.

You stated that your daughter is experimenting, and most likely already addicted to, drugs. She has been partying hard since returning home from the boarding school. She wants to have a “normal high school life.” Time will tell if she is able to moderate her own use, or if her relationship with these substances becomes more dysfunctional. If she has expressed that she doesn’t want to use drugs any more, except weekend drinking and pot-smoking, she already has some awareness of what is working for her and what isn’t. She may have been scared off the harder drugs after that trip.

You know that any substance use at her age comes with its own specific set of dangers, and what she is calling "normal" may be anything but… But though your viewpoints clearly differ here, you have had conversations about it and this in itself is a good sign. There is so much more communication that can happen around this. Her talking with you about any of the use, especially any changes she wants to make, can at least be taken as a small piece of encouragement

Getting a Loved One into treatment is a goal when there is a Substance Use Disorder. Whether she has an active addiction right now or not, the goal is not to control a Loved One’s use, or punish them for using. Your guidelines for what is allowed in your home are something you can control. In terms of your question about controlling/ monitoring her use, we would counsel against this in general. Using the CRAFT principles, instead we would suggest that you create a new environment around her use. This is well outlined in Learning Modules 5 & 6. When you catch her sober, step in with rewards. When she is actively using, step back. This isn’t the same as punishment. It’s a neutral stance, a removal of yourself and the rewards. It is a pattern that over time becomes a substantial message.

The considerations for a teenager and substance use are many. From a neurological perspective, parts of their brains are still in the process of development. This includes areas involved with planning, decision making, personality and “higher reasoning” The legal implications of their choices are weighty. There are many other dangers associated with use of illegal drugs…and you are aware of all of these complexities and more. It is safe to say that your daughter’s awareness of these factors is a bit less than yours.

We provide information specific to teens and substance use on our site in the Resource Supplement.

A very useful approach for teenagers who are using marijuana is Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach or ACRA (this is the parent approach of CRAFT, it represents the CRA in our CRAFT). The main thrust of this approach is for the young person to reduce the marijuana use while finding other “community reinforcements” that compete with use and provide alternative natural highs. These reinforcements could include a sport, a young peoples’ church group, or different forms of exercise. The idea holds true for adults as well, though young people are typically more easily overwhelmed and need extra support to find and engage in these more positive alternatives.

Figuring out what boundaries work for your household (and holding to them), and exploring what support options you can offer her beyond the therapy, can go a long way while you have the advantage of living under the same roof. The support options that works best for her may not be the first or even second ones you find. You’ll have to be creative and open in the process of finding ways to expand her access to community support, as you strive to create the safest and most loving environment you can for her at home.

In the end, you want her to open up to you if she feels she needs help, or if she isn’t happy with the way things are going in there life. She is going to feel more comfortable doing this if you create an environment in which it feels safe and comfortable to talk openly. Adolescents can be notoriously reluctant to communicate openly in general, so this environment needs to be created with plenty of patience and compassion. A flower blooms in its own time. When it blooms, it is a miraculous thing of beauty. But forcing the bloom open isn’t an option. This has to be her own process.

In terms of reaching out to her friends, dealers, etc. or checking her messages in general, as you say, this would be a violation of boundaries and she would be furious with you. As much as you want to intervene, this kind of action would just drive a wedge further between you. It would not strengthen your relationship. Trust would be broken, and it would take a long time to repair. In this way, it would have the opposite outcome from what we are seeking with CRAFT, which is improving your connection with your Loved One.

So we’d suggest diving into the modules – you may find that watching them over and over is called for sometimes. This is what they’re there for. You can practice some of the new communication skills throughout the day – not just with your daughter. Take care of yourself and find ways to reel in your mind. Let yourself rest from the fears and projections about the future.

Each day is new; each moment a new opportunity to cultivate more awareness and a better relationship with your daughter. We have resources and support here to help you through should things escalate. But for now, know that it will take at least a few weeks to implement the CRAFT approach, perhaps even a few months. So lean on the community here and try to work on seeing things with new eyes. As you get to know the learning modules more, you’ll find ways to shift things little by little… these shifts will slowly change the shape of your environment and your relationships. Be patient with yourself. We know things can improve. We are here for you.



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. How ironic to see this posting today. Over the weekend, I contacted my 20 year old daughter’s friends, blocked the majority of them, shut down her texting and data, but left the phone open for her to be able to call out in the case she needs help. We have been dealing with this since she was 16 years old. We also sent her to another school based off of the same behaviors as this reading. I pay for her phone and was so angered because she wouldn’t take my calls or text me. I get so frustrated and feel so angry by the disrespect. She is on her phone 24/7 and she can’t respect the fact we pay for her phone. Well long story short, she is furious, her friends were rude, they blocked me. My daughter blocked me. I am not strong enough to shut it down completely. I’m scared. Now I’m texting her and apologizing after reading this. I don’t know if she is even seeing the texts. They show delivered but she is not responding. When I call, it’s clear she blocked me. I clearly violated the boundaries and now damaged our relationship more. I’m beside myself. Sick to my stomach, the anxiety is unbearable. She has now got suspended for a week from her college program, esthetician school. No show at class, no accountability or responsibility at calling in. We pay for her phone, car, school, clothes, gas, etc. What I struggle with is I know she is hurting. Taking her phone and car could manifest the drug use. I don’t know what to do. Meeting with my therapist on Thursday. My husband has checked out. We have done everything humanely possible to provide her with the resources to better her life.

    1. We still aren’t sure what is going on with your daughter. Her behavior continues to cause concern, but is it drugs and/or something more than just an entitled young woman who doesn’t show respect and appreciation for her family?

      You are providing your daughter many important resources. Does each of these serve to help her advance in life or do they end up being used to aggravate the drug/entitled behavior? That’s the bigger and harder question to answer. Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to Bambi1 here:

  2. Hi Emily,
    Thank you, Emily, your words sank in me so calmly, leaving a space to reflect. I made many notes from your comment. As you mentioned, my comment surely sounds like straight out of desperation driven by panic and fear, which I had been struggling to contain. I also realized that the panic/fear were intensified as I rarely had any contact with my daughter although we now live under the same roof. I felt tired, hurt and discouraged to keep trying recently. It made things worse, but I couldn’t support myself to keep going. I realized that watching the video and going through the module is just a beginning: I need to really delve into this new method, keep practicing, improving my approach till I see changes. I completely agreed what you said against contacting her friends directly. I knew…but couldn’t contain my own hysteria. I now see clearly, by posting my thoughts and reading the response, how the fear clouded my decision making and had been making the situation worse. So, I am going to take a breath, learn more, implement positive talk, and be more patient. Thank you so much for your support. We were so encouraged.

    1. I’m so glad you were encouraged by those words, and felt that some of these changes were approachable. I loved that you felt you found space to reflect as well. Thank you for sharing these reflections with us. It’s amazing how much we all can learn from one another here. It’s so valuable to see that this process of airing our thoughts, fears, etc. in this safe space really can help us to see things differently. You described this process beautifully.

      How you were feeling when you first wrote in is perfectly valid and perfectly understandable… and whether you write in a state of desperation, fear, joy, or just plain fatigue – it’s all allowed, and it’s all welcome. There’s no judgement here, and you’re writing to a community of people who know the fear you speak of all too well.

      If we can help someone take a few deep breaths, and pause for just an extra moment or two, that in itself is a gift, and an honor. Thank you for what you are sharing with us here.


  3. Dear Cozumeldivers,

    I completely agree with all Emily has written. I couldn’t have said it better if I tried!

    I would like to add however that I personally disagree with therapist that it is “within normal” for a 16 year-old to use alcohol on weekends. Maybe this practitioner was trying to lessen your worry, but I don’t understand a casual opinion concerning this. Alcohol use for a minor is not only illegal, but can do damage to a young, tender, still developing brain.

    I would not want to drive a further wedge as Emily touched on. However, we are still called to be attentive, responsible parents – with a minor child especially. Involvement becomes much more limited once they reach the age of legal adulthood.

    I can’t say what would work for every family, I only know how we navigated our responses and what worked (and what did not work) for us. In my household I had a “Not allowed” standard for my son when it came to alcohol and drug use, including marijuana.

    When our son as a minor attempted to engage with substances, even within what some would call “normal limits,” we gave consequences followed by lots of conversations. I found that he often appreciated the structure and even felt relieved to have the weight and pressure removed by adults who cared for him.

    That said, I truly believe it’s not only about consequences. Fear of consequences doesn’t keep most people from abusing substances. We are not going to punish anyone out of chemical dependency or addiction.

    Consequences are critical and important, but punishment is not the only answer. Punishment alone just drives those who are struggling to silence and secrets. I believe along with consequences, we do well to attach and engage. This may seem difficult at first if a son or daughter seems unwilling, or even belligerent…but I found over time it’s powerfully effective.

    A few weeks ago I listened to a grieving Mom speak at a workshop on the topic of hindsight when it came to her son’s struggle with opiate addiction. She said looking back she would not have simply taken the car and the cell phone away, and grounded him when he fell back into behaviors and use. She described how she would have instead also found more help, and they would have gathered around him as a family, as well as dug deep into doing work on themselves alongside his behavior and struggles.

    That‘s a realization I came to myself over the last 10 years.

    Kids self-medicate as much as adults. Whether the motive is to fit in, have confidence, or escape stress. They do it. Punishing people for it is not the simple answer.

    If I had it to do over myself, in the early days I would not have worked so hard to catch things, and then punish, argue, lecture, plead, and shame as I did.

    Instead, I would have taken my son to five or six recovery meetings so he could see the after-affects and what was around the corner when it continues.

    I’d take him as well to a few family meetings to see the perspective of the affected loved ones.

    I would have done this so that he could picture some of it in terms of the “long run,” and also so that he would see recovery support in action and know there is a way out (since at that age he typically thought “That’s them, that will never be me.”).

    I know of a few families who did exactly that and it paid off hugely once their children were out of the house and found themselves in over their head when it came to binge drinking and/or drug use in their early adult years.

    I would also have checked a few books on tape out from the library that are true life stories of people who lived to tell about alcohol and drug abuse and the resulting effects over time (like Drew Barrymore, Khalil Rafati, or books like “Beautiful Boy” and “Tweaked,” which share stories from the family’s eyes) to listen to together.

    I would have found a few books like that to read as a family instead of watching television at night. I would have played podcasts in the car and found ways to introduce conversations about what is around the corner from the initial “fun” stages of drug and alcohol use.

    One thing I began doing with my son when he was roughly in the sixth grade was hiking every Sunday. Weather permitting, every Sunday we found a metro park to hike for an hour or so. It pulled him away from devices, technology, television, video games, friends (and friendship drama), homework and all the stresses of life.

    I found even if my son acted bored and irritated with quiet times like that, he always eventually joined in and actually enjoyed it. It’s calming, and it’s healthy bonding.

    He now lives on the west coast and calls me still to tell me how he hikes almost every Sunday, or does some other outside activity that separates him from his usual routine. That has been a powerful connector (and self-care stress reliever!) for us.

    It’s a process, it takes time. Their minds are young and often strong willed, and overconfident. What we sow into them today will bloom large in months and years to come. I am seeing the results of all those efforts now in my son. Nothing we do for them is wasted!

    Keep coming to this site, learning about CRAFT, working on yourself and giving your daughter the love and care you are giving her. Results will come.

    You’re not alone,


    1. Annie, Thank you for taking your time to respond to my questions. In looking back, I felt I sounded desperate, fearful and impatient, without giving CRAFT much time and trying it out. Your insight in handling earlier behaviors at home, especially punishment v.s. consequences, was precious. We have been so eager to quell our fear and apply consequences/punishment that we had lost relationship with our daughter, which made everything especially hard between us. Instead, we’d increase activities to do together as you suggested, although she does not seem to appreciate it. It was a great success that your son now loves to hike and reports you so. We really wanted to hear from someone that what we do matters and not everything is wasted. We need to be patient and work hard. That gives us back long lost hope to keep trying. Appreciate it!

      1. What you do matters SO MUCH. I promise. I remember someone telling me to stop planting gardens and yelling at the ground the next morning because I saw no signs. So true. It will all bloom eventually and it will bloom large, and in that I always find peace.

        Wishing you the very best,