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Using CRAFT for Loved One’s Unknown Behaviors

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My daughter has a pattern of leaving for several days, only answers the phone at her convenience, seldom will text back, only if she needs something. We don't know where she goes, where she stays, and the only answer she can give us is that she is with her girlfriends. Everything is so secretive and she won't tell us who these girlfriends are, where they live, nothing. We have tried to give her space. Tried being positive, no negative talk. Show her love more than she shows us. She has no respect for us at all. Then she comes in, typically at night late so she can avoid any conversation with us. Will sleep until noon or after, get up shower and take off again. Will have short conversation while she is busy or distracted with something else. I asked her the other day for 15 minutes of her time, shut the phone off, and lets talk. She can't do it. Read the full comment here.

You have made many changes, CRAFT style, and yet your daughter continues to behave in ways that feel disrespectful. You have softened your language, you now watch the negative talk, and give her more space. She is 20. It is not clear if this behavior is related to alcohol or drugs, though you suspect she does have some drug use.

The CRAFT question to ask at this point is whether your financial and housing support is encouraging her in the lifestyle you describe. Your daughter is very likely up to something, no job, money, away from home days at a time. Maybe it involves drug use.

All we can do as the family is create the BEST SCENARIO WE CAN CREATE around our Loved One. You are making changes to accomplish this. But there is no guarantee that even with this improved environment, your daughter will gain the insight to start resolving the reason for her problematic behavior.

Can you see starting to transition your daughter out of the house? You would go slow and let her take responsibility for coming up with the alternatives.

When you have a “normal” young adult, you want to help launch them into the world, so you provide help, financial and otherwise. When resources like this are provided to a young adult with an addiction issue (or whatever else your daughter may be struggling with), it helps them to sink. They gobble up what you give them and it ends up supporting the use, not the launch into adulthood.

It’s a tricky line. You have to decide (without getting the “it” out of her, necessarily, of what she is up to) how to react to her. CRAFT cleans up your side of the street and provides a light onto the street she should walk down to get help. It’s not 100%. It doesn’t guarantee they will walk down that street, but it is the best position you can take. Keep it up. Patience and awareness and adjusting of your own behaviors — these are the key ingredients.

One common theme from the shared wisdom in this community is that of acceptance: of what we can and can’t control. You can control how you react to your Loved One; you can control what you provide to her and what you don’t. You cannot control her. Ensuring that our children (young or old) make the right choices all of the time is not within our capabilities. We want to be able to offer them the love and support they need, but we need to be able to offer the same to ourselves. Taking care of ourselves, bolstering our own health and well-being, and committing to meaningful acts of self-care is something we can do.

The impact of accepting what we can and can’t control is profound, especially when we take to heart the importance of doing positive things for ourselves. Deciding to shift our focus in this way, despite the chaos we endure with the ups and downs of our Loved Ones' behaviors, brings new possibilities. Simple doesn’t mean easy… but these shifts have a real impact. Keep exploring the shifts. Keep it up.



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. My 20yr old daughter sent me the most awful text message a mother could read. I’m not going to write all the poison, however, a couple of things were said that have disturbed me and greatly affected how I feel. I’ve tried to tell myself this is not about me. These were some of her words. “Your not my F___ing mother” don’t even consider me your F___ing kid. What lead up to this was me responding to a post that she posted that I thought was inappropriate. I judged her and her friend and said some nasty things myself. I am trying to separate, disengage because I have to for my own well-being. I have fought so hard for her, like other parents. I am numb and my feelings have changed. She texted me the other day after telling her father she will Never Ever speak to me (she referred to me as his wife, not mom) again. Then turns around and texts me about getting her car back to use for the day, and she’ll even pay me. She supposedly needed it for a doctors appointment and an interview. I don’t believe her. Now the guilt, What if she really did have a doctors appointment? I wanted so badly to text her immediately like I always do to help her and say yes. But I didn’t respond at all. Questioning if that was correct. I talked to my husband and we decided she needs to apologize first and then we can compromise on a plan of action. There was no sorry as to how she spoke to me and I feel she doesn’t care and hates me and only uses me for when she wants something. I am in therapy and trying very hard to stay off of anxiety medicines. What more can we do?

    1. I know the shock and heartache of this well. I remember not being able to take full breaths after a series of venom filled texts my son sent me one afternoon. It felt like it caused an earthquake inside of me. He spoke to me like an enemy.

      I kept thinking here HE had put everyone through so much trauma, he was not coming from a place that validated even being angry and yet here he was the one spewing poison. The audacity was as overwhelming as the hate that seemed to pour out toward me. It made zero sense. Every insult and accusation hit me right in the heart. For days I felt like I drank poison.

      Having gone through it a time or two after that first experience, I had to learn to first tend to the impact it had on me, before hashing anything out with him.

      For a time I stopped trying to understand it based on who I am and who I thought he should be.

      I stopped wishing it away and began learning to navigate it as it was, with an inner GPS system anchored to peace.

      I stepped away from the tornado to take care of me. As often as it took, I had to take time to vent, cry, mourn, be FURIOUS, read, find a support meeting, go to a spa…whatever was necessary to get the toxic shock out and fill up with peace, strength and clarity again.

      And then I’d revisit the relationship – as well as whatever decisions I was being asked to make.

      I would think to take small steps like you are doing, with lots of quiet reflection in between! I always told myself “when in doubt, do nothing.” Instead of jumping back into a call or conversation. I’d breathe, and spend some time meditating and/or praying before resuming contact. That way I’d be full of peace, calm and strength.

      As much as it rattles us, when we seek peace and work toward healing in the midst of it – peace and healing will come. Along with wisdom.

      My closest friend through that time was ironically a trauma therapist, she had simple catch phrases she’d say (or email, or text) to me in my crisis moments that were SO helpful. Her words gradually got in my brain and began to change how I responded in our “moments of madness” going forward.

      One common phrase when I was distraught or unsure what to do being: You have to do whatever it takes to 1. Be okay 2. Feel safe and to 3. Have peace.

      I began considering those elements between breaths before making a move. Which usually seemed to direct me to the healthy decisions.

      We are going into year seven since that time and life has dramatically improved. Our relationship has healed and is actually better and healthier than before it all happened. It caused us all to get well.

      My son spoke about some of it in the Coming Up for Air Podcast he was on with us, and in a chapter of Unbroken. If you want to check those out. It may encourage you to know others like your daughter have walked the same road, behaved the same way and came through it to a much better life.

      I encourage you to trust that the healthier you become, the more you give the situation a chance to improve. Your health, wisdom, strength and peace will impact your daughter over time. It’s how working on our recovery tends to work. When one person in the family does work to heal, the situation begins to improve. It’s a family matter, we all have work to do to become well again.

      It’s encouraging that you and your husband are allies. Maybe take time to replenish and pour into that relationship before deciding what’s next with your daughter.

      Remember – you are not alone. It can change and get better. I promise. We are here. And I’m even local when you need me!

      Wishing you much peace, healing strength and wisdom,


  2. “CRAFT cleans up your side of the street and provides a light onto the street she should walk down to get help. It’s not 100%. It doesn’t guarantee they will walk down that street, but it is the best position you can take.”

    Simply brilliant. Let’s keep cleaning our side of the street not only for our loved ones but for ourselves and the rest of the family.

  3. I have a question. What do you do when your daughter only text you or calls(which is seldom)except when she needs something? I have stoped texting and calling until this morning when she asked me by text if she can come over with a new puppy and let the new puppy play with the puppies (2) she already has here that we are taking care of. As long as I am going along with her and giving into her she communicates. As soon as I say “NO” which I done for the first time today, she shuts me down and I feel so guilty. After I thought about it, I texted her and said, it isn’t a problem, you can come over w/the puppy to see the other dogs, but the puppy cannot stay here. I have a tendency to speak too soon without thinking. She will not respond now to my texts or phone calls. This is her pattern and it’s upsetting to me. We have asked her to come and talk with us, kindly, agreed to no bashing at each other and she just flatly refuses. What can we do? I feel the only way I can have a relationship with her is if I only give her what she wants. As long as I give her what she wants she is happy, as soon as she feels rejected that’s it, she cuts us off and is mad. We haven’t seen her in five days. She will be 21 in November and I think this attitude is very immature. She is not responsible, dependable to us, but to these friends she is. Please help!

    1. Dear Bambi1,

      You describe a very frustrating situation with your daughter’s communication patterns. It must feel like you are being used and taken advantage of, and certainly not appreciated as a parent. You are yearning for some real connection, for her to step into a place of more self-responsibility, for her to show you some respect. You have asked for just a few minutes in which you can be together without any conflict, etc. She continues to reject this.

      Can you clarify what agreements/ conditions you have set up with her about your household, etc.? If you have already laid out some terms with her, and she isn’t holding up her end of the bargain, it may be a good opportunity to bring this up and enforce the consequences you discussed. If this was spelled out clearly in the past, you have that conversation to refer to. You’re no longer willing to provide xxx since she’s not adhering to the agreement you made.

      If you haven’t laid out some clear terms of what you will provide, etc. now may be a good time to make that clear. This will work best if you are in a very neutral mood, not framing this as a punishment or an argument. Just a clear expression of what is ok and what isn’t ok at this point.

      It’s up to her how she responds to this. You will have at least made your needs clear, and you can refer back to that conversation when it’s helpful, as a reminder. If she can’t abide by your conditions, she may end up having to be on her own. This isn’t necessarily bad or good. It’s part of the process of becoming an adult.

      She’s still a young adult. She has a lot to learn about independence, the ups and downs of life, and taking care of herself. Nobody else can learn this for her. She is on her own journey into adulthood, as we all were (and maybe still are!) You mention her age and that her attitude seems immature… This may be true, but it’s worth remembering that at 20 years old, we were likely all still doing things that might seem immature in retrospect. She’s in between worlds right now: no longer a teenager, but certainly not a fully fledged adult yet in terms of self-responsibility and life experiences.

      You say: “I feel the only way I can have a relationship with her is if I only give her what she wants.” This doesn’t feel good at all, as you know. It’s upsetting and hurtful. When you are tired and frustrated from these patterns, it’s hard to think clearly about the situation. This is a good indicator that you need to spend some time taking care of yourself before you can address things in a useful way with your daughter.

      What if you spend some time trying to empty out of all the frustrations and hard feelings. Give them some space, find a way to release them. Take some time to get yourself settled into a more calm and neutral space. No anger, no resentments, no grudges. Visit the sanctuary, write in a journal, do some deep breathing, meditate… You get the idea. Then try to look at the situation with fresh eyes. Try to bring this freshness to each interaction you have with her.

      When she reaches out the next time she wants something, tell yourself that you aren’t going to answer right away. Whenever you see her next message, before you let your mind run wild, take a few deep breaths. Empty yourself out. Don’t reply until you’ve let yourself acknowledge and move past your typical immediate reactions. Find your way to a more centered space before sending any kind of reply. Whatever you choose to say in your response, remember your boundaries. Try to shift away from being afraid of what she’ll do (or not do). That is too much to shoulder, and it’s not fair to yourself. Your clarity, with boundaries about what you will and won’t support, is something she will eventually learn to rely on. This will be helpful in the long run – for both of you.

      It’s common to struggle with boundaries. We want to leave all possible lines open with our Loved Ones. We want them to know they can trust us and always rely on us for love and support… But we all need boundaries to survive. We all need them for our well-being. Setting those boundaries can be tricky. It can be hard to find a balance between being too closed and too open. We sometimes feel guilty for saying no; on the other hand, we can feel very drained (not to mention unappreciated) when we always say yes.

      You have the right to set your own boundaries. Finding a natural balance in what you will and will not allow takes practice and patience. But most of all, it takes the realization that you – your health, well-being, and peace of mind – are worth it. This is a practice of honoring your own needs, however they end up being expressed.

      You are afraid that if you don’t give her what she wants, she seems to “punish” you but cutting off communications. That is her decision. Basing your decisions on the fear of what might or might not happen isn’t fair to you. And if you have laid out boundaries about what you are willing to do and what aren’t willing to do, blurring these lines can do more harm than good in the long run. It sets your standards up as unreliable. Ultimately, setting your own boundaries is instructive to her. She might not be ready to see that yet. But either way, it’s something you can control and stick to, in a way that supports your own health and well-being.

      It takes practice to be able to say No without feeling negative or mean. The more you can think of saying No as a calm, matter-of-fact, neutral statement, the better. It’s up to your daughter how she interprets your words, decisions and actions. It always will be. You can’t control what she is going to do with the “yeses” and the “nos” that she hears from you. You can control how you deliver them.

      Our children need to know that they can rely on us. They need to know that we will always love them, unconditionally, and that we always want the best for them. But being able to rely on us for this level of love and devotion doesn’t mean that we’ll do whatever they want us to do, whenever they want us to do it. What she needs to learn now is how to rely on herself as well. And how to be resilient in the face of challenges or obstacles. We all know that challenges are part of the deal throughout life. As painful as it can be to watch them avoid these lessons and repeat dysfunctional patterns again and again, we can’t do this learning for them. We can love them and help them take positive steps towards independence when they are ready.

      What if the next time you have an opportunity, you say something like this:

      “When we don’t hear from you for days on end, we really worry about you. We’re tired of feeling like this. We need to know that you are ok when you are away for so long.

      We have asked to spend more time with you. We’d love to have you here more. Even just 10 minutes to talk with you would be a start. It doesn’t feel like you want to spend time with us these days, unless you want something. This isn’t working for us. Something needs to change. We need you to commit to XXXX, so we know you’re willing to meet us halfway.

      We love you and will always be here when you want to talk to us. We want only the best for you. It’s hard to watch you not taking care of yourself right now. There are a lot of things that you still need to learn to do for yourself, and we want to help you get on the right path. We need to see you moving forward with your life… We want to support you in becoming your best self as you go out on your own.

      How about we talk about how we can help you transition to living on your own. It’s too hard for us to have you coming and going like this, not respecting our house. We can’t control what you do. But we can be clear about what we’re willing to support going forward. We need you to respect these conditions we’ve set out for you. We are willing to provide XXXXXXX. We can’t support XXXXX.

      Let’s make a plan together. Think about it and let us know how this sounds. Let’s talk about this again in a few days (or next week)…”

      If you don’t have a natural opening to bring this up, it may be worth doing it in a planned conversation. You need to get things moving and make a real shift in these patterns. It’s clear that this struggle has been painful for you. This will go a long way in helping you get your life back, and helping move your daughter into the next phase of her life. Please keep in touch and let us know how it goes, and any other details you want to share. We will be here for you.