Hopefulin2018 is hoping for some specific phrases or concrete examples to use with her son who is drinking and smoking pot. CRAFT makes sense to her but the fine line between allowing natural consequences and "punishment" continues to feel elusive…
"I'm new to AIR and so grateful I found this site. I've read the book, Beyond Addiction, which introduced me to the CRAFT method, and which eventually led me to this site. I love that the modules are explicit and that I can return to them time and again. However, I still find myself confused for how to apply CRAFT in certain situations, particularly when it comes to rewards, natural consequences, and punishment.
Our son first started using pot at age 13 and has been in treatment twice, partly for social anxiety and depression as well as for substance abuse. He's used pot, alcohol, over the counter drugs, prescription drugs, LSD and whatever he vapes. Now, at age 17 he continues to use pot and alcohol regularly. He even skips class to use and this past October was caught with pot at school. He was suspended for 3 days and we are still waiting to hear from the courts. A few days after being caught he informed us he doesn't plan on stopping the pot use because he doesn't see the harm in it. He clearly doesn't see how it's negatively impacting his life and his relationships with us and his non-using friends. He doesn't want to resume seeing his therapist he's seen for the last three and half years.
My husband and I don't have a problem allowing external natural consequences to happen. Because of his use, his grades are poor, he struggles to get to school on time, and he will have to face the court when that time comes. …a portion of this comment has been removed for punctuality's sake…read full comment here…
The stress and strain of worrying about his use leaves me mentally exhausted and depressed to the point that my thinking gets stuck and feels blank, if that even makes sense. I'm not sure what and how to say things without making it worse. I'm confused and feel paralyzed. The concrete examples of what and how to say things are so helpful."
Changing your behavior and your communication to line up with your Loved One’s day-to-day use/non-use is a lot. CRAFT boils down to a simple set of principles you can apply to all situations in dealing with your son. Applying these principles can be difficult however, and you won’t do it perfectly every time.
The world, and indeed, each moment-in-time can be divided between:
- When you see use: step away, allow (safe) natural consequences and remove rewards
- When you don’t see use: step in and reward
BTW: When your ability to think goes away, because of exhaustion, frustration, mind-blowing irritation, or anger, it’s a strong warning you need refueling and calming down. There’s even evidence that these strong emotions affect your physiology and your ability to think rationally or empathetically. So, you first. Whatever you are doing, do a little more. Our Sanctuary is designed to provide a few minutes of solace. If reading helps, take a look at Parenting Teens with Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood. Intersperse this book with poems by Mary Oliver or other writers/poets who provide inspiration and gulps of air.
Beyond Addiction is an important book. You and your husband have adjusted your behaviors and communication in a way that lines up with the principles laid out in this book and with CRAFT. Your son gets to feel responsible for bad grades, an unhappy employer, and getting caught with pot at school. This is huge and very difficult to do as a parent. Bravo.
Your question has to do with how to apply natural consequences at home, and the fine line between removing rewards and punishment. The two can look similar and overlap. For instance, taking away the cell phone can be seen as both. It’s a consequence of use. Who pays for the cell phone? If you do, perhaps this stops until your son agrees to go back to the therapist. We had a similar discussion with another parent some time back. Perhaps the cell phone is given or taken away weekly, according to attendance at therapy or another treatment.
The car as reward is a tough one. As you say, you can easily give it and take it away. We have several blog posts that talk about the car. See the topic “car” on the right-hand sidebar of this blog. I keep thinking what could have happened had your son come home drunk AND had been driving. The liability of having a child wreck your car or hurt someone or himself under the influence has to take precedence over using the car as a reward.
When your son came home late and drunk, you reacted in classic CRAFT: “I told him I was glad he was home, but I didn't want to talk while he was drunk and that we would talk about it the next day.” This is terrific. Already, your son must be thinking, Uh-oh, something is up. Where’s the BS I usually get in these moments?
There should be something said the next day, each time he comes home high. Again, easy for me to say, the principles are easy and clear, but hard to do. Script it out.
Perhaps you wait until late afternoon, when your son isn’t hung over (though teens rarely feel hangovers like we know them)….it’s still important to be neutral and distant during the period of hangover earlier in the day.
It doesn’t have to be a huge talk. Perhaps you turn off the TV, turn to him, and say something like:
I’m glad you came home only an hour after curfew. I am so flattened, so worried, when you are not home when you should be. I can hardly breathe. (pause)
You had been drinking. This and the pot are your call. As much as I’d like to, I can’t stop you.
But please don’t scare me. The only thing worse than how I felt last night is if you had been driving. We can’t help you with the car when driving drunk is possible. I’m sorry. When you can convince us you will always drive sober, we will help you with your license. A start would be to return to the therapist or to try something else that helps you explore cutting back. Here are some alternatives. (ideally the list you provide includes a program that uses Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach). I love you and will do everything I can to help you find your way with these drugs when you’re ready.
Perhaps you save the talk about the cell phone for the next day-after talk.
Removing rewards at home (beyond material rewards) is subtle. Leaving him alone in the room, not joining him in front of the TV, no hugs, smiles, scrunches on the back. You are just neutral. You are not critical, judgmental, or angry. You are dismissive, non-inclusive. It’s the big chill.
Every way you can, you create this divide where everything is warm and rosy in the moment when he’s sober; everything is distant and cold when he’s not. This is the line you try to maintain. This is what you can do. You will need to hold this line through your son’s up and downs…the decisions around the drug use and the drinking are his. You provide the stance that informs his immediate environment at home.
I hope this helps.