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Our Conversations Are So Frustrating


lucyzara is frustrated about her last meeting with her Loved One. It seems they’re stuck in a cycle of arguing about his use and she ends up leaving upset. The meals they regularly share together seem like they’re doing more harm than good. Should she back off?

Hi Dominique! I just had breakfast with my loved one who is in deep denial about his pot addiction. It is how we get together these days. I listen and he talks about his life, which he is not happy with at all right now, feeling lonely and isolated and complaining about everything. If I say anything about his daily pot use and how it is affecting anything that he is talking about, he starts to get very upset with me. Today I realized that it is not doing me any good to meet with him like this. To just listen and keep my mouth shut about my own feelings makes me feel crazy and I do not feel like we are having a genuine human interaction. I know that the craft method is about having good family experiences that are sober. While he is adhering to this, and not being high when we meet, I am still feeling terrible after our get togethers. I don’t know what I should be doing at this point. I am tired of paying for breakfast and listening to his crazy talk about how he is getting better, totally ignoring his daily pot use and not saying anything. I spoke up today and it went poorly and I just started crying and walked out. Do I keep having these breakfasts with him as they are the only time we see each other or do I tell him that I cannot right now. They are not good for me and by extension I think they are not good for him. I would love some ideas. He does show up for family gatherings and that is usually lovely. Thanks!!

Your earlier comment on this blog explains that pot and cigarettes are what your son uses. You didn’t mention the cigarettes in this question. Good. For now, let’s focus on the pot.

I would hate to see your breakfasts go away. This is the time you connect with your son. You didn’t say that he was high at breakfast, just that he is complaining of aspects of his life. You suspect these are the symptoms of pot smoking: being lonely and isolated. 

The last breakfast went badly with you running out crying. Your son gets angry when you mention the pot use when he complains about his life. 

Complaining about his life is indeed a Dip. Remember that we are all looking for openings to talk treatment. A Wish or a Dip is change talk: this is when your Loved One may be showing you an opening, a willingness to perhaps listen to your suggestions. We go over these scenarios in Learning Module 8

So maybe you don’t talk about the pot itself. Instead, you have a list of a couple places he could go should he find the pot may be partly responsible for his feelings of isolation and loneliness. He needs to have some motivation on his own for this to work. Even if you see that the pot is contributing to these problems, your addressing it on that level is less likely to be effective. So entering into this territory ends up being hard for both of you. We want to practice compassion, empathy, and good listening skills. It is well worth revisiting Learning Module 4 to review this. All of these help build that bridge, encouraging trust and openness.

So you stay out of the weeds, and keep the list in your back pocket. Perhaps the conversation goes something like this:

“When and if you ever find the pot is making your isolation worse, and you’d like to look at it, here’s a list of a couple things I’ve found that are low cost, available, on the bus line etc. You could get some help moderating your use. I will help in any way I can.”

Keep the offerings brief. Give him time to digest what you’re saying. You can also try apologizing for losing your temper and tell him that you’re working on communicating in a new way. Showing him that you are willing to make shifts on your end, no matter how small, can help lead to a powerful shift in your dynamics. 

But if the breakfasts are too much to manage strategically, and they leave you upset, perhaps you cut back on them. You mentioned family get-togethers. Can you create more opportunities for this? Even little ones? This is where he is happiest. What can you put into his life that gives him this feeling of family? From what you write, your son is feeling disconnected. The pot helps this feeling in the short run, but it tends to exacerbate the loneliness in the long run. 

Are there groups on campus? At UMASS Amherst there is a whole program led by a wonderful woman in recovery. She works with students who are mainly contemplating their drug and alcohol use, wishing to explore its role in their lives. What else is there on campus? It can be overwhelming to be on a campus and to have trouble connecting. 

The groups don’t even have to be related to pot. You are really looking for activities that provide possible connection for your son: chorus, martial arts, dog walking at a shelter… Keep yourself open to multiple options that you can offer, because you never know what may grab him. 

Your son is doing well in school. He adheres to the no-pot rule when you have breakfast together. Remember that with CRAFT, you are strategically working a program that works. It remains pretty straight forward but hard to do, when the emotions are intense. It makes sense that they are intense, so do what you can, calm emotions how ever you can, and keep trudging this road. Cannabis is tricky because the consequences of use are muted, subtle, like disconnection. You can provide treatment options but go into it delicately, “I don’t want to argue about the pot, I just did a little homework…here is a list….”

We also encourage you to be easy on yourself. Getting so frustrated and upset at the breakfasts is understandable, and very human! Yet you see how this isn’t good for either of you. Working CRAFT takes practice, and it requires such a different approach to your communications in general. It also takes time. Being there for your son with those breakfasts is a reward – and it is valuable. It’s possible to steer things in a different direction, with practice. 

It seems like now is a great time for more reflective listening. Remember you can practice this with anyone – the practice can really help when it comes time to do it in more challenging conversations. Without directly bringing up the pot use, your observations about it, what you want him to do, etc. you can still be making a positive impact – in a CRAFTy way. This can help shift the responsibility into his court while also helping to relieve some of the pressure you feel to bring about a change in him. 

While you listen to him go on, remember that reflective listening creates a fertile ground for planting new seeds. As gardeners know, clearing and preparing the soil before you plant can make all the difference in the world. And when it comes time to plant those seeds (offering your list of treatment options), it takes more patience and time before what you planted develops and then bears fruit. So hang in there. Listen to yourself and take care of yourself when you are feeling angry and frustrated. Find a way to ground and center yourself, then try to come at each interaction anew, with a fresh slate. There is great possibility in the meetings you are having. Be patient. 

You are doing a great job, and you continue to be there for your son. We so often fail to give ourselves credit, but you deserve it. Thank you for writing in and for working with CRAFT. You have our support and appreciation. 



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"...)