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My Contact with Her Is So Limited

Woman's face in Shadows

michael111 writes in with an update: his Loved One's living situation has changed. Although she's drinking less at work, where she's staying now the environment is centered around use. He's having trouble connecting with her by text, but he's determined to help her however he can. 

© maxime caron via Unsplash

I could use some help, and want to give an update on my situation. This post was from scarcely a month ago, but being in the days and hours before Covid changed everything, it feels like it was from a galaxy far, far away. As you can see from my reply to that post, Allies in Recovery and your post came into my life at the perfect time. I did what you said, gave her the paper, and described what happened in my response. And then, two days later, the world changed forever.

Like all bars and restaurants (and, soon, all non-essential businesses), the tavern had to abruptly close. With some quick thinking, the owner quickly turned the business into a food carry-out and delivery operation, keeping as much of the staff as he could (including my troubled friend, and her boyfriend who is the head cook). Where most nights there is a crowded dining room and a long busy bar full of drinkers, there's now just two or three bartenders packing and delivering food, and just a few people in the kitchen. Because of my business connection with the owner, I've been helping out with this new operation and I'm there most nights at the end of the evening.

At first I thought this new change would be very good for my friend, and because of that I've even hoped that it would last a long time. As fellow workers, we're basically in quarantine together — we spend a lot more time together now. There are no sitting customers, so when she gets off work there's no one to sit at the bar and drink with. The bar isn't even being restocked with alcohol. Read michael111’s full comment here.

Your loyalty and affection for your Loved One is palpable. Thank you for writing in. Covid-19 has changed so much. You had found an opening, a wish/dip (Learning Module 8), to talk to your friend and to give her some treatment and self-help ideas. Along with the list, you told her you would be there to help whenever she was the least bit interested in checking into anything on the list.

Then Covid happened. The bar in which she works had to quickly remake itself as a takeout restaurant. She no longer bartends at night. She and her boyfriend left their apartment and are now living with family.

The family living situations are not helping her drinking and pot smoking. Her mother drinks, the step father smokes pot, and things are about the same at her boyfriend’s parent’s house where the two live part-time in the basement.

Your Loved One maintains with a cheap bottle of vodka and pot during the day. She still works at the restaurant, but the opportunities for late night drinking after the clients have left are now gone.

You set up originally by following CRAFT. She has her list of treatments and the promise of help from you. You have been holding your stance, keeping it light and waiting for her to tell you when it hurts so much that she will accept your offer of help.

Yes, now comes the hard part: being patient. You have done what you can. Your presence reminds her that the offer is on the table. She isn’t ready for it just yet, and perhaps she feels a little bit of shame that this is the case. This could explain her slight backing away.

But, also: her whole work routine and home life have changed. With her work life she had structure, although this came with plenty of chaos in terms of her use. This routine has vanished. She is now living in two households where drugs and drinking are accepted or ignored, and often provide the focus for hanging out.

Her new home life is not conducive to recovery, if and when she does decide she needs a change. I suggest you go back to your list and add an inpatient program or two. Inpatient programs are typically difficult to get into and to pay for so this won’t be easy. Covid is causing much difficulty in the treatment world, especially in inpatient settings with people living close together. Even so, I’d add what you find to the list and give her the updated list. Don’t think just in terms of this period with Covid. Your Loved One could take a long time to decide she’s ready for a break. As with the last time, just try to find an appropriate opening and make the best of it. Keep it low-key, and use your best judgement.

Your friend went from living in a tiny apartment with the boyfriend to living in two households where drugs and drinking are acceptable. She has found a new place to hang out and new people to use with – even if they are family. I suspect this is partly why she is reaching out to you less and not returning messages.

The new living situation and the loss of her regular bartending role at the restaurant may aggravate the drinking and drug use. Not to mention the stress of everything going on in the world. Without solid coping skills in place, she’s using what she knows – what she’s familiar with. While this leads to less contact with you, it can also lead to her wanting a change faster.

Your friend has experienced much abuse from others and from herself over the years. She has a tolerance for pain that many of us can’t imagine. At this point in her life, she drinks at it to keep this pain at bay. This is terrible to witness. I hear how painful it is for you to see this and sense her retreating. It is important, for your own sanity, resilience and well-being, to cultivate and keep your clarity about what part of this is your job and what part is hers.

Hold your stance. Remind her you’re here by providing a few more options to the list. And then yes, you leave it there. She will come to you for help. No one else in her world is thinking along these lines. She thinks about it but doesn’t know where to start. Everyone in her home and work life drinks and drugs. This could create more dips. It could even push her to want out sooner rather than later.

Your Loved One is and will continue to be a limited friend to you as long as drinking comes first. This is true of everyone in her life. But it is you we are also concerned with.

It’s hard not to personalize a lack of response to a text, or her loss of interest in doing things outside the restaurant with you. You care for her and even feel destined to help.

And helping you are, by being the voice, the helping hand out of her present circumstances. Keeping that hand out, while steadying yourself along the way with whatever practices resonate for you, is your role. It is her role alone to take the hand when she is ready to. Whether she is taking it now or not, your extended hand exists. This is significant in itself. Don’t downplay the importance of what you are offering, even when the waiting game wears on you.

This is the little dance you do with someone who cannot give you her complete friendship. So hold your stance and recognize that until she does something to address her ongoing addictions, she cannot be a true friend to you. Working on accepting this, while still holding possibilities for things to come, is the sort of alchemy we must undertake on our end. Accepting what is, exactly as it is, can help lighten your load. As it is, she is not able to be a true friend to herself, let alone to anyone else.

This means she will continue to let you down if you let her. Your expectations may be causing you to overly focus on her taking action (you want it so badly for her). For any family member, the tension between watching a Loved One damage their life through addiction and needing them to be a good son or friend or partner is very real. CRAFT teaches you to address the addiction, to hone in on that small amount of control or influence you do have over the situation, and to balance this with patience and hope, a realistic hope as we have seen on this site.

Improving communication, focusing on what you can do when you see use or don’t see use, offering help with treatment, and taking your attention off your Loved One and placing it back on your own self-care whenever possible, are the tools you have to work with. And we have found they’re the best tools to equip you for successfully helping a Loved One  beat addiction.

As you sort through the ways you can shift your thinking to accept things as they are now, remember to find the limits of what you can do and work on that which you can control. You are in control of your reactions – finding a way to not take things personally when you don’t hear back, etc. sounds like a key area to focus on. Make no mistake: your internal work with this is significant. And it is the task at hand for now. Keep reminding yourself what is your work and what part of this is hers. With all of the suffering you have shared with us in her story, it’s important to see where your helping hand ends and hers begins.

The opportunities you may be presented with to connect – on any level – are unpredictable. As we often say, things change on a dime with addiction. Stay flexible. You have done tremendous work educating yourself about addiction, about the optimal stance you can take. Keep it up. And try to wipe the slate clean each day; with each new opportunity you get to work CRAFT. Stay in the present so that you keep the strength you need with you. Stay open to the possibilities and do your best to relieve yourself of any burdens of past disappointments or worries for the future. These can weigh so heavily upon us. Find a place to leave them and put them down. It won’t help you – or anyone – to carry these around.

May you find peace and patience to hold the stance you have created. Trust you are doing what you can to help your friend. Thank you for being here, and for being there for your friend. We are grateful for what you are doing.



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. Late last week, soon after you posted this blog, I gave her the updated paper. It focused on inpatient with a new notation about how inpatient treatment will be most conducive to her recovery. I also added a line at the end offering my guest suite as a safe, drug and alcohol free place to stay, should she ever need it.

    When I reached to hand it to her out in the parking lot, at the end of an evening at the tavern where we’d had a few nice hours of casual conversation, she told me that she still had the original sheet. Her voice sounded appreciative that I was even bringing it up, and I quickly told her that because of Covid and changes in the situation that I had to update some of the inpatient names and addresses. She gingerly took it and set it on the seat next to her.

    My Loved One and I have had a rocky but intense relationship, and sometimes it seems like we communicate nonverbally in deep fast ways, with just simple penetrating glances — I call it how we sometimes “talk with our eyes” — and the look on her face when she took the updated paper melted my heart into a puddle. She seemed genuinely and deeply appreciative, and it all came out in her gaze. You can’t fake a look like that. So I think about that moment a lot — it gives me so much hope. I know that whatever she’s doing now, she’s probably at least thinking about this from time to time. It’s a good seed to nurture and let grow.

    So I’ve had a very good week of communication with her. She’s been opening up to me more about the disturbing and dysfunctional home life with her mother and stepfather, which I’ve been trying to address in a CRAFTy way. There is something horribly wrong going on there. And she knows, also, that her life has no direction right now.

    She’s also been sharing with me the texts from her out-of-state father. I see that he does care, and he’s persistent, and he seems to want to be a good influence on her. She sent a selfie of us to him last week.

    I am coming to the understanding that patience, especially in my situation, is almost a key component of CRAFT — I can’t be pushy and I can’t rush this. I’m patiently waiting for a wish or a dip, no matter how small, and otherwise just making sure that I’m strong, calm, and present.

    The library is indefinitely closed, and returns on materials have been suspended without fees, so I’m re-reading my copies of GYLOS and BA, and I’m going through the Modules again and again, and I’m studying past blogs on here. Every day is a new day to work CRAFT and to prove its effectiveness. I’m doing this. I’m working on what I know is my work right now — everything you pointed out. My load already feels lighter, and by focusing on the moment and the day at hand, I feel so much better.

    Thank you so much for all that you’ve done to help me — to help her.

    1. Wow, that is some incredible timing. Good for you, for having that revised list ready, and for finding that window so swiftly. It really sounds like you continue to be there with the right message at the right time. And what good news that there is someone else in her family encouraging her to find her footing on a healthier path.

      You’re doing an amazing job. And she knows without a doubt that you are there for her, in a way that is more meaningful than words can say. That in itself speaks volumes.

      We are truly grateful for all that you are doing for your Loved One, and for your staying in touch as this unfolds. Do keep returning to the patience practice and taking great care of yourself too.

      Well done!

      1. Thanks, Emily. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without Allies in Recovery. And I love the site’s name — I recognize that you are all truly my allies, and having allies in this difficult situation is exactly what I need.

        I care about this girl so much. I don’t know what it is, but deep down there is a good and beautiful soul inside her — I’ve seen it. But never in my life have I known someone so broken and troubled, and I’ve never had such a touch-and-go relationship with another human being. We have moments of incredible connection — and then she pushes back as if I am a stranger. I feel like I’m Charlie Brown trying to kick the football that Lucy is always pulling away.

        Even so, I do feel like things have been happening with just the right timing — it’s as uncanny as it is auspicious. I’m trying to keep faith that I’m on the right track, and that my patience and determination is going to eventually pay off.

        A lot has happened this week — unfortunately, much of it has been not so happy.

        During quarantine, a small group of us have been staying at the tavern after work some nights to hang out and talk. There was, unfortunately, some drinking involved. During these evenings, I’d sometimes have a drink or two — never anything much, but even so I now recognize it as a mistake. I did it because I was desperate to be around my Loved One.

        Most of the time on these nights she didn’t seem to drink as much as she used to when the bar was open, but there have been a few nights where she was heavily intoxicated. Interestingly, she seems friendlier and more outgoing when she’s drunk.

        On most of these after-hours nights, it was only my Loved One, her boyfriend, and two to three other people including myself.

        This past Friday night, however, it was something of a party — the lockdown has been very stressful to everyone, and everyone was eager to hang out and find some normalcy in it. So there were seven of us, most of the crew, including another female bartender that my Loved One has been spending a lot of time around. This other bartender is a very bad influence in every way, and she’s been drinking with my Loved One both during and after work. They seem to really enjoy each other’s company and are constantly texting and talking.

        That night, my Loved One had been drinking with her all evening. By the time we all sat down after work, she was already drunk.

        At one point, she opened up some more about life with her mother and stepfather. The mother apparently says highly inappropriate comments of a sexual nature — and does this all the time. I was shocked by it. I told her that this wasn’t normal behavior, and that it wasn’t part of a normal or healthy family life, but my Loved One seemed to brush my comment off.

        The talk then turned to pornography. These are drinkers and bar industry workers, and it seems that every one of them are heavy daily users of porn, utterly addicted — especially the female bartender my Loved One drinks and pals around with now at work. They all seemed to revel in it and enjoy talking about it.

        My Loved One went on for a while, talking about how she spends so much time looking at porn on her phone, and that her parents even knew she does this. As she talked, her boyfriend just grinned and leered next to her in obvious excitement. I found this really hard to take, and it haunts me — I feel she’s getting worse just as the boyfriend is becoming something of a drunk himself. Since quarantine my Loved One has definitely changed for the worse: she no longer seems capable of the intellectual discussions we would have not many months ago, and I feel that she’s utterly wasting her life in every addiction and degrading behavior possible. The other day she was enthralled by a dumb “funny animals” video in such a way that it disturbed me and another worker — it made me think of brain damage, and I thought again of the time when she told me she had Wernicke’s syndrome. What bothered me the most was that during that discussion on porn, she admitted her interest in some types of incest pornography, and her female bartender friend happily cheered her on about it. I can’t help but believe that the sexual abuse of her childhood might still be going on.

        When it was time to go, she hugged the female bartender and walked right past me, only calling out a goodnight when she had safely distanced. This is another negative behavior she’s been doing off and on in recent months, showing affection to others in front of me while keeping a distance from me.

        I do realize that she isn’t a friend — that she can’t be, that she isn’t even a friend to herself. But then I wonder about her sudden closeness with this other bartender girl — are they friends? Is she friends with her boyfriend, whom she lives with like a spouse and professes to love so much? Or are these other people merely handy tools to enable her various addictions?

        What I’m also realizing now is that she apparently doesn’t even like me at all. She’s been indicating in not-subtle hints that she wants me out of her life.

        On Sunday I’d sent her a CRAFTy friendly text, wishing her a happy day off and sending a link to my latest creative project. I didn’t hear back, but when I stopped by the tavern one of the cooks warned me that my Loved One’s boyfriend was spreading rumors about me all weekend — on Saturday night they’d had another big after-work party, after telling me hours before that they weren’t going to do that anymore. At the party, the boyfriend told everyone there that I was drinking all of the tavern’s alcohol and also trying to get them in trouble with the owner.

        Fortunately the owner of the tavern is a good friend. I talked to him, and he knows that the boyfriend was just pushing the guilt away from themselves. He knows about their on-the-job and after-work drinking (the tavern is completely wired with cameras, and he saw what happened). He also knows that it’s my Loved One who is drinking all the tavern’s liquor.

        But what was so hard for me to process was knowing that at the after-work party, my Loved One was laughing at me. That was an unhappy discovery. I just can’t deny it anymore — she might be polite to me at times, and she might talk to me at times, and even be occasionally nice, but I see that she just doesn’t like me. I now remember that last week she’d texted me and told me that while I was always welcome there, it wasn’t necessary that I show up every night. I seem to be a drag at their drinking sessions.

        This is all depressing and in some ways coldly devastating — it could mean that despite doing everything in my power, she will never change. But you know what? If and when she’s ever ready, I’m going to help her. My determination is still a mountain. In the midst of all this unfavorable and gloomy news, I feel my desire to do the right thing and to help this poor soul in the appropriate way is so much stronger than the discouragement that wants me to insult them with negative talk and storm away.

        So here’s what I am doing now:

        * I’m rereading these blog posts and some of the pdf modules every day, and leaning on the site constantly for guidance and support.

        * I’m taking my attention off of her as much as possible and focusing it on my own self-care to build my strength and spirit. This means pursuing my creative work while at home in quarantine, keeping focus on my career and work, and connecting with the many friends and contacts I’ve neglected in the months I’ve spent trying to help this girl. And long walks in the spring air!

        * I’m making it a daily goal to remain patient — as tempted as I am of telling them off, I’m absolutely not going to do that. I’m going to be pleasant and keep our communication light and open, and I’ll be like a hawk looking for a wish or a dip. I’ll even use CRAFT on the boyfriend as well as the other bartender who is a bad influence on my Loved One.

        * I’ll still stop in towards the end of the evening to talk if appropriate, but when I see her start to drink when the tavern closes, I’ll leave.

        * I’ll keep holding my stance. She knows that my hand remains outstretched. After everything I’ve done for her and said to her and given her, she absolutely has to know this.

        * And finally, I’m staying flexible — I see how things can change on a dime with addiction, and I see how unpredictable her daily situation is, so I’m taking it one day at a time, with openness to any possibility that may arrive.

        I still believe with all my heart that this is eventually going to be a success story.

        1. “I do realize that she isn’t a friend — that she can’t be, that she isn’t even a friend to herself.”

          Dear Michael111,

          Unfortunately, you hit the nail on the head with this statement.

          Your Loved One is actively using every day. The Pandemic has changed the times and circumstances of that use so that it looks and feels different than before. As a result, you are having to reposition yourself to be in her world and this is forcing you to rethink your relationship with her.

          Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to michael111 here: