As she witnesses the devastating consequences of her Loved One’s addiction, dede is battling hard emotions. Communication with her son is limited and her worry is ever increasing. She wonders if she should keep reaching out to him, how to deal with her emotions and how to get him in treatment.
“My son is avoiding me. He lives in a motel after getting kicked out of his house by his significant other. Should I continue to text/call even though most of the time he doesn’t answer? I go back and forth with my emotions around it. I get scared and think the worst of him coming closer every day to death from OD. Yesterday I spent the day with his 15 yo daughter. At the end of the day I was so angry at him for not contacting his children and who are suffering the consequences of his using. I’m feeling overwhelmed with this situation that’s been going on for over five months. I just started the modules which are helpful. I’m struggling with my emotions around it and want to get him into treatment soon. I know it’s not up to me. Thanks.”
You’re in a really tough spot right now and it sounds like coping with difficult emotions and not having any answers are really weighing on you.
When there are children involved, as moms and grandmas we really take on the emotional burden for everyone. In what you wrote, I can hear a lot of fear about what might happen, emotions dueling with your unconditional love for your son, and resentment regarding what the family is going through. You are also trying to determine what your capabilities are.
It is important to know you are not alone in these struggles. You have landed in a good place that can help you sort some of this out.
I want to stay connected but he doesn't even answer my texts
A foundational aspect of CRAFT is to stay connected with your Loved One. I know that right now your son won’t answer your calls or texts but sending him short, weekly messages will let him know that you care and want to be supportive. It doesn’t have to be anything long or involved, just something to let him know you are there. Using some of the skills introduced in Module 4 on communication would work. Keeping it positive, brief and specific, while using ‘I’ statements is all you need to get your message across. It might sound something like this:
“Just sending a quick message to let you know I am thinking about you. Give me a call when you’re up for a conversation. Love you!”
Honest, short and sweet. Then I suggest you wait a week and send a second message. Another important aspect when sending these messages is to keep the conversation light when and if he does respond. These types of exchanges and the use of the strategies laid out in Module 4, will encourage him to continue to have these interactions more frequently.
When it comes to your granddaughter, have you considered seeking professional help? Could you find a counselor who would be able to help you facilitate a continued conversation about what is happening with dad? I am sure a young lady of 15 would need a lot of support under these circumstances.
“How do I care for myself when negative feelings get in the way?”
Multiple times you speak of your emotions being turbulent, leading you to be unsure of what the best way to handle and interact with your son is. This is going to sound crazy but you are hitting the nail right on the head. This is exactly what Module 7 (and Modules 3,4,5 and 6) is all about, “How Do I Care for Myself When Negative Feelings Get in the Way?” When we are in the middle of crisis and chaos, it can be hard to see that taking care of ourselves, getting as physically and emotionally healthy as we can, is not only crucial for us but is also a way to help our Loved Ones with SUD.
Watching the modules, learning and practicing the CRAFT strategies are ways to nurture your well-being. I know that might sound confusing but I found that when I had success with a new skill, it encouraged me to learn more. Additionally, it gave me little moments of emotional positivity which left me feeling satisfied. I loved knowing that I was becoming a better person thanks to this new set of skills. I learned that practicing CRAFT was just as much for me as it was for my Loved One.
Caring for ourselves to better care for others
Taking time for yourself is incredibly important. Every time you are feeling frustrated, discouraged, angry, etc… take note and tell yourself, “it’s time for me to do something nice for myself.” It could be a walk, listening to music, visiting the hair salon, cooking your favorite meal. Take the time out for you! It’s actually selfless when you take care of yourself. It is selfless because you are doing it so you can be healthier and better equipped to care for others in your family. Dealing with SUD is exceedingly difficult and taxing on family members. You DESERVE to take care of yourself and to have some form of relief. It could be just 10 minutes a day, a few hours or a weekend. It’s important for everyone, your family members and yourself, that you find some peace and joy.
You are not alone, and connecting to others will be immensely healing
The one thing we all share as family members coping with a Loved One with SUD is needing to learn how to settle those difficult emotions that spur us to react in ways that get us nowhere. When I connect with other families in a similar situation, it helps me so much because I know that I am not alone. Have you had the chance to look at some options on the member site? Here are a few you might want to look into:
REST for a face-to-face educational group that uses the Allies modules,
SmartRecovery for in-person and online meetings,
Through the Allies website, you can join Kayla Solomon’s self-care support group every Wednesday night.
All three of these groups have different formats but are CRAFT based.
I fear the worst might happen if he doesn't go to treatment
You write about being afraid of your Loved One overdosing and about how much you want him to engage in treatment soon. I understand the feeling of urgency you are experiencing. How scary this all feels. We all wish we had a magic wand to prevent the worst and encourage the best. I feel your pain so very much. However, I suggest you keep in mind that all that CRAFT has to teach you is meant to be implemented over the course of 6 to 8 weeks. That is how much time you should give it before you start seeing significant results.
You have set out to tackle an incredibly complex issue here and it will take time and a fair amount of practice to sort it out.
I suggest you start from the very beginning and build your way up. Focus on positive communication and taking care of yourself first. As you work towards opening the lines of communication with your son, chances are you will have more and more opportunities to connect with him. Chances are he might actually be the one to want to connect with you.
From this point on you will be on the lookout for a wish or a dip — your son wishing for positive change or expressing regret or distress looking at what his life has become. This will be your window of opportunity to present him with a list of treatment options. Check out this post for guidance on how to get there.
We can only hope this will come sooner than later but I strongly suggest you throw yourself into CRAFT and let it guide you day after day. Remember, CRAFT focuses on the present moment. It teaches you how to shift your reactions based on your Loved One’s use or non-use, how to engage or disengage, reward or gently remove rewards while keeping communication clear and open. CRAFT will ground you and calm you down and we’ll be here to answer your questions along the way.
You have found us, you have found CRAFT: You and your family are moving in the right direction!
I hope what I have written here helps. Each baby step forward gets us closer to improvement. Wishing you, your son and your granddaughter all the best.
Laurie is a former math teacher, residing in Dartmouth, MA, and she’s extremely active in the recovery community. She currently devotes most of her energy to REST, a non-traditional support group that offers land and online video meetings, access to training in the CRAFT method, and a crisis toolkit helping families create their own individualized crisis plan. Her work is guided by a desire to improve the community’s response and end the stigma associated with Substance Use Disorder. Laurie loves skiing and ice hockey and is at her happiest when spending time with her husband and three children. Read her articles on our blog or tune in to the podcast she co-hosts for Allies in Recovery: Coming Up for Air.