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Son Coming Home for Christmas


StrongerTogether considers the efficacy of assessing her Loved One’s sobriety from afar. Meanwhile, she’s anticipating his return home for a few days over the holidays and wondering how to navigate the inevitability of alcohol being present at some of the traditional events they’ll attend. What can this Allies member do to calm her worries about these potential triggers, stay positive, and look forward to a new way to spend the holidays together?

© jill111 via Pixabay

Two Questions:

1) I watched Module 5, rewarding for non-use. Thank you, a great concept explained clearly. But he's two hours away in a sober house. How can I tell if he’s using? (I'm so hyper-alert that even a text like "I love you Mom" seems ominous.) Maybe the answer is: the sober house would spot a relapse before I do. In the absence of hard evidence of a relapse, stay in my own lane and remain connected, warm and positive. Don't borrow trouble or let my fears pose as facts. What do you think?

2) My son wants to come home for Christmas, 3 days, 2 nights. (The maximum allowed by the sober house.) Both traditional family events – hosted elsewhere – will have alcohol. He claims he 'doesn't mind’ and would prefer that people do what they've always done (drink) while he controls his own recovery. Yet for my own peace of mind I don't relish a Christmas where I fret about him being triggered or relapsing. (I'm also triggered by childhood memories of Christmas marred by a violent addict. That part is for me to separate out and deal with.) The tickets are bought and he'll be on his way next week.

Insight welcome. Help me plan a new way of having holidays.

Grateful to every last one of you, and sorry for your suffering. See? We ARE 'stronger together'.

It is definitely harder to be clear as to whether a Loved One is using over the phone or text. CRAFT wasn’t created with distance in mind, just the opposite in fact. Participants in their research had to be spending at least 40% of their time with the Loved One.

Yet, over the years, we’ve learned that distance doesn’t have to be a complete block to employing the CRAFT methods. You’ll just probably get it wrong a little more often. That’s okay. A reward when you’ve missed a cue for using or the chill when you thought they were high, but they weren’t… oh well. This isn’t the worst slip-up, in the long run.

Remember, this gauging from afar will be a guesstimate at best. Yes, the sober house can confirm negative drug test results, if your son has given them permission to share that information with you. Otherwise, you’re going to have to rely on your gut. Recall the patterns you have observed. What do you notice: the time of day? The tone and tenor of his voice? Or perhaps the topics she raises…?

The nature of text messages make it that much harder to interpret cues. If “I love you,” in a text, makes you suspicious, perhaps you ought to be. But how wrong can it be for you to say “I love you too”..? These are decisions you will have to make. At least with texts you can think it over for a little while.

Your son is coming home for the holidays. The time period is set. It sounds like you’ve talked about alcohol. He probably gets that you would be less than thrilled to see him home drunk, or drinking.

The rest is up to him. Don’t let him ruin the holidays. If he is drinking, this is information for you to consider. Best you ship him back to the sober house on time! Your son is thinking about his use; he is working through it. This process may indeed include more drinking at some point or another. Perhaps you can suggest that he stays at friend’s if he relapses. Ask him in this event to let you know so you don’t worry… (Unlikely as that is – of course you will worry, but at least the conversation is real, and you’ve put it out there). Ask him to give his word that whatever happens, he will go back to the sober house. The deal is still the deal.

This isn’t permitting him to use, as much as it is talking through the accommodations each of you will make should it happen during this visit.

On another note, you can certainly tell him how proud you are of him. How you are looking forward to having him home for a couple of days, and looking forward to a loving family Christmas without the threat of addiction hanging over everything. Use those “I” statements.

I wish you a quiet and loving holiday.



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. Dear Stronger Together and Air,
    Merry Christmas and Happy holidays!
    This quote is great
    In the absence of hard evidence of a relapse, stay in my own lane and remain connected, warm and positive. Don’t borrow trouble or let my fears pose as facts. What do you think?

    This will help me stay on track when seeing my son tomorrow.Last Christmas he was in hospital so , so far irs totally better! He will not call or see me but has been texting to make sure Im ok. His brother tells me often “Mom, he’s trying to figure out his life his way.” We will be together Christmas morning and I will read this advice given to you Stronger Together before, during and after!
    God has blessed us and made us strong! Thank you Allies in Recovery

  2. This conversation is helping many more families who are experiencing the same worries.
    I too had a childhood oppressed by adult alcoholics and I know it has scarred me. I have a very low tolerance for anyone drinking a noticeable amount. If it hits my radar then I feel anxiety. Our other daughter drank more than usual at a family gathering this weekend and my overactive brain went right to, “Does she have an alcohol problem too?”
    I embrace the positive talk and use it often. As hard as relapses are, it is our job to promote hope for recovery. I think the positive talk helps us as well; we recognize it is in those conversations that we have the most power for change.