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Is Hoping and Praying All I Can Do?

Talk to the Hand B&W

Lynne72’s Loved One lives far away and only contacts the family on his terms. He is not interested in sharing anything about his life and she is always left wondering what might be going on with him. Are her only options to hope and pray for him? She is at a loss.

© Philippe Bourhis via Unsplash

It is said that it is best to try and stay in contact with an addicted loved one. What if that person is one's adult, self sufficient son who does not answer texts except when they want to and only visits on special occasions. This leaves little time to actually talk or even have a relationship. What if they have stated that they want to be left alone and then share nothing of their life. This leaves my mind imagining all sorts of scenarios. What seems to be happening in my case is that the addicted loved one is calling all the shots which is basically allowing them to engage in any behavior they see fit. I will add that they are seeing a psychiatrist and that they were upbeat over the holiday. Except that then there was no contact at all in the days approaching New Year'e eve. Then it was texts which sounded a little too upbeat to me. My husband is saying he wants no contact with our son as he is "tired of the games." I personally am at a loss except to pray and hope. Is that really all that can be done when your loved one is an adult who lives 3 hours away and is totally independent?

CRAFT was designed for family members who have a decent amount of contact with their Loved One. The researchers set the bar at a minimum of 40% of your time spent together. Over the years, we have worked with families whose Loved One is far away. This caused us to think through how the principles of CRAFT can still apply. See the topics tab to the right for our posts that address such situations.

What you say is certainly true for many. Little to no contact from a Loved One can contribute towards a momentum of stress and worry. You don’t know what they are doing and don’t know what to make of the snippets of texts and contact that you do have. You spin your wheels and worry. Now your husband is fed up and wants to cut off contact. When your LO seems upbeat, you sense that things are good. But when he seems too upbeat, you end up worried. And it is quite a struggle to get more information to square with your suspicions.

In some ways you can think of this situation as not that different from having a Loved One under your roof, holed up in their room and refusing to engage with you. Plenty of family members on this site know this painful scenario all too well.

I see an opportunity for you to shift the dynamic with your son. Right now, he calls the shots, as he probably has for a long time. People with addiction need their resources to be consistent and reliable. In your case this means having parents in one’s corner, ready to set in motion as needed.

What if you stopped sending texts, unless they are neutral and do not require an answer? “Thinking of you, have a good day.” This is certainly something you can control. When you send this, it eases the expectation both on your end and on his. If it doesn’t require a response, the message you are sending is one of “letting go” – not of your love and care for him, but of your entanglement in the details of his situation.

Keep it light, don’t ask questions, just aim for maintaining a connection. Don’t try to figure out how your son is doing. Just stay connected and neutral. Have a couple treatment options in his area on paper, at the ready, that you can share with him if the moment presents itself. Neutral is your default at this juncture.

It is hard to have someone you love so deeply to be aloof, disengaged, and acting self-centered. This is your part to figure out. You can’t control his actions, but you can control your reactions. That is why we created Learning Module 7, and why we talk so often about finding ways to calm and take care of your own self. It is hard not to feel hurt when your own son keeps you at such a distance, and can be harder still around the holidays. Be kind to yourself. You are in new territory and you are still learning how to navigate this situation.

Watch the feelings that arise and find ways to interrupt those worn-out cycles of thinking. Find new, positive phrases to repeat in place of ones that make you feel worse. Try finding things to be truly grateful for – both in his situation and in your own. Make it a practice, each day, even just for a few minutes. When done daily, this gains its own momentum. It takes a good deal of effort to counteract the momentum of worry and agonizing over all the unknowns in a Loved One’s situation. When you start heading back down that slippery slope of worry and feeling helpless, you can steer your thinking gently back towards these things you are grateful for. This gives you a powerful shift in perspective.

Shifting the focus from your Loved One to yourself in general also helps set the stage for healthier boundaries, for resilience and independence. When they need your help, you are there, but you cannot do their work for them. This can be an excruciating lesson but ultimately is a truly necessary one, for both of you.

CRAFT would say that your role is to keep the bridge between you, even if it’s just a foot bridge, so that he uses his dependence on you and that opening to ask for help. He will come to you if the opening between you is there and kept clear.

Your son sees a psychiatrist, which is great. You can take solace in knowing he is in front of a professional who is hopefully doing a good job.

He was in good form over the holiday but you now think it was perhaps drug-fueled. It may have been. You can’t know. So much of this work is finding a way to be okay, comfortable more or less, in this grey zone.

CRAFT wants you to work in the present day. How is he today? Do I step in because he looks/sounds not high; or do I remove myself, remove rewards, and allow natural consequences that are safe because he looks/sounds high?

For now, try to follow this pattern: when he sounds too upbeat, step away.  Don’t respond to these texts with more than some neutral answer that stops the thread. Something simple like “Good to hear from you.” Leave it at that.

The posts we have written in the topics tab loved one far away are tailored to peoples’ situations so they are very specific. Please read through them to help think through ideas on how to apply CRAFT to your situation. You are far away and have very limited contact. You ask if hoping and praying is really all you can do… and no, it’s not, but part of the process is learning to redefine what it is that we can “do.” Shifting our perspective is doing something. Part of this work is also resisting the urge to act on our Loved One’s situation. Easier said than done, to be sure. But rather than this type of action, we undertake a different kind of work, cultivating a new kind of environment around our Loved Ones, and even around ourselves and our own thinking.

A final point, but a very important one, is to see if your husband would be willing to present the same “front” as you. He would do this by viewing the Learning Modules and working with you to assess use when you see your son, or when you are on the phone or texting. The benefits of having this united front are undeniable. See if your husband can take the leap of faith that in the long run, having open lines of communication will serve the whole family best. This requires being open and frank with one’s own feelings of frustration and resentment, etc. Wanting to shut the door to communications is not uncommon when one feels backed into a corner, fed up, and hurt from past behaviors. But CRAFT doesn’t work by holding on to old patterns. Its very design is based upon shifting patterns, creating momentum with incremental changes. One by one, these small acts create something substantial, and ultimately something that is more sustainable for the whole family.

Thank you for writing in. Let us know how this sounds, and take some time to picture how this will unfold for the time being: discussing the approach with your husband, shifting your expectations and messaging style, and committing to caring for yourself in new ways. Remember to stay focused on what you can control. Your needs and state of well-being are paramount here, and we support any shifts you can make to reinforce that. Wishing you a peaceful evening.



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. Recently we received an email from our son letting us know that he is doing very well. He has multiple addictions- klonopin, alcohol and gambling. He has tapered his klonopin use to less than half and has not had a drink since December 5 “except for one experiment.” He also shared that his personal life is going well and he has done a lot of self inquiry, taking responsibility for his actions and reactions. He did not mention his gambling use at all.
    I responded thoughtfully and positively. As gently as I could, I wrote that in this new spirit of honestly and out of love and concern, I was wondering where he was in regards to gambling. I did not hear and then my husband asked the same question. Our son responded that he wasn’t ready to talk about that.
    While I am extremely happy that he says he is doing well and more so that he is sharing with us, I remain concerned about the gambling and the possibilities for devastation (my own tendency to worry?).
    My question is- was a right to mention it at all as he reached out to us to fill us in? He is an adult and lives a few hours away. I struggled as I composed a response and tried very hard to be positive and supportive without being blind or blocking out my question as to his omission. How do we strike that balance? I did not want to offer heaps praise and congratulations only to find out a month from now that he has again found himself over his head with the problem with gambling specifically.

    1. Communication between you and your son is good enough that he gave you an honest and unsolicited assessment of his efforts to stop the benzodiazepine (Klonopin) and alcohol. You asked about the gambling and he replied he wasn’t ready to talk about it.

      Your son lives far from you, and you rely on the phone, texts and emails to gauge how he is doing.

      You are concerned you messed up by asking your son about his gambling. We do say it is best not to ask directly about the use as this can be seen as confrontational by your Loved One, making him or her close down or back away.

      Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to Lynne72 here: