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Our Front Is Not So United

Butting heads

Danic9123 has an addicted daughter and an addicted stepson. Her approach differs greatly from her fiancé's approach. How can they move forward in order to help their children and preserve their relationship?

"I live with my fiance' of 6 years. He has two boys age 20 and 22. My kids are 21 and 23. His boys don't live with us but visit a lot. My daughter does live with us. We both have a child struggling with alcohol. We handle things very different with our kids when they are using and agreed that we would each stay out of each other's choices of how to handle when our kids are using. However, lately, that hasn't been the case. Every time his son comes here, he has been drinking. But, his dad doesn't see it, and it is causing us to argue with each other. I love his children and he loves mine. I don't know what to do when he comes over though."

Everything is going to be easier, and your efforts more successful, if family members dealing with the addiction of a Loved One are on the same page.

Agreeing to Disagree?

Your fiancé and you have decided to address the addiction of your own children, and to stay out of the details of your partner's response with their biological child. You’ve probably done this because you each believe your approach is best, and because it avoids the possible friction between you when you see the other doing and saying things with which you don’t agree.

That’s a lot of tightrope walking. There is also probably a grey area during times when you are both present (therefore involved) and responding to the child who is at the house—this can’t be avoided, as you described in your comment.

You raise an important issue that affects many households dealing with addiction. What to do when the family members disagree on the approach being taken with the person with addiction.

We’ve seen this a lot over the years. Typically, Mom wants to protect and continuously reach out, and Dad wants to slam the door and tell them to come back when they’re sober. Sorry to be so stereotypical, but despite a few exceptions, this breakdown by role is common.

Relationships can be ruined when there's no agreement on how to address addiction

This is no small problem. Relationships can be gradually worn down and eventually ruined with such fundamental and ongoing disagreements. Addiction is a lifelong affliction. As a family you are going to need a way to handle what comes up together. You will fare better if you can find agreement on how to move forward.

I’d like to make the case that CRAFT, given its extensive study and overwhelmingly successful outcomes, could be the approach you both decide to take with both your children. Our site lays out the approach for you to get on the same page, using a proven method, which we teach in a way that is easy to learn and apply almost immediately.

There are lots of ideas out there about what the family should do and how they should act when a Loved One is struggling with addiction. Anecdotes abound, advice is easily given, and outdated or unfounded ideas about addiction and parenting styles too often drive how the family reacts.

CRAFT can bring you together on many fronts

 We provide a successful intervention at Allies in Recovery. We actually discourage advice and anecdotes, preferring to rely on a theoretically-driven set of principles that are applicable to all situations you are encountering: to communicate, to stay safe, how to behave, how to care for yourselves, and how to intervene and engage them into treatment.

I wonder if you could both look at the Learning Modules, and talk through them to see if there can be agreement between you on how to proceed with both your children.

You will be stronger if you are unified. You will be much more effective in helping your Loved Ones. The goal is to move your children towards treatment and recovery. CRAFT provides the best guidance for doing this in the quickest way. Can you give it 10 weeks? If you don’t see it working, then perhaps go back to your individual methods.

I know that what I'm asking you to do will not be easy, but I feel it's the absolute best chance to move towards a united front, set up a precedent for more peaceful relations at home, and it's also what is most likely to move your Loved Ones toward treatment and recovery. Rather than trying to convince your fiancé that this approach is what you all need, perhaps ask him to watch the video modules (the entire series takes less than 90 minutes to watch) and think about it for himself before you talk.



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. Hi Danic9123,

      It can be extremely difficult when everyone in the family is not on the same page. The family dynamics and different types of relationships within the family just complicates things further. We also had some tension between siblings, grandparents, and parents on how we were choosing to handle our Loved One with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Being the mom and needing to understand all things SUD, drove me to get as educated as I possibly could. This drive is what ultimately brought me to the Allies in Recovery website and CRAFT (my saving grace). With my education came confidence in how I was choosing to handle the situation. Everything I read and learned, told me that if I could find a way to stay connected with my Loved One, create a nonjudgmental environment where he could trust me when he was in need of help but, still keep healthy effective boundaries for myself, my Loved One would have the best possible chance at success.

      But, other family members had no idea of what I had learned. I had to catch them up. Get them as close to being on the same page as possible. At least I had to help them to understand my strategies for coping with my Loved One.

      First I suggested they also join Allies in Recovery and start becoming familiar with CRAFT. My husband and I let other family members know that we had done a lot of research and planned on trying our new strategies based in education and not just opinion. We let everyone know we had a plan, we wanted to include everyone in that plan, but we needed to give it time to work and we hoped they could be a part of it. My husband and I also did not discount their ideas. We left it open that maybe, in the future, their advice may be a possibility.

      I also researched sibling support groups and let them know what was available for them to find support from others in the same situation. There is Al-ateen and online sibling support groups on the Herren Project website. Validating their experience as being different from mine was important and that it was difficult for me to completely understand their feelings.

      Each individual and the family as a whole, got professional counseling.

      I encouraged everyone involved to also get educated about SUD as a disease.

      Thank you for letting me share my experience with you. I hope that maybe I have written something that will help in your situation. If there is anything else, please reach out. Remember, you are not alone. We are all in this together.