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We’re Fed Up with the Rollercoaster!


rdeleonardis wrote in looking for guidance on improving the situation with their son who is living at home for now. He becomes belligerent when his parents bring up more treatment. The parents are fed up with the roller coaster.

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“Thank you for very valuable documents and modules in your presentations as I found this helpful trying to deal and live with my son and his substance abuse problems. We have had him in various inpatient programs resulting in dismissal and some follow up treatments. He has also participated moderately in outpatient therapy however does not believe or seem that is of any use and can quit on his own, which has not been the situation. We are struggling as a family living with him on these conditions and find that forceful and aggressive threats to get help only makes things worse for him and all living with him. So we are trying the approach indicated by Allies and perhaps see positive results. He has been speaking with a therapists and recommendation to then consult a psychiatrist for a couple screening and evaluation, hopefully this will take place however he must want the help and the more we insist he does not sure he will follow up with it. We brought up outpatient again he is combative and will not participate. He is more comfortable speaking one on one. He struggles and then uses when there are anxiety, holidays, friends, girlfriends, well now X girl after many instances with his behavior past several months .
Thank you any advice would be appreciated as my wife and I are trying to be on same page as this has been now past 3 years of a roller coaster lifestyle and unstable in our home as far as who our son is on a daily basis.”

Like many families, you seem to have many of the answers to your own questions

Dear rdeleonardis,

Thanks so much for writing in, exposing your situation, and asking for guidance.

We’re thrilled you’ve found Allies in Recovery, and it sounds like you and your wife share a really beautiful goal: getting on the same page in order to help your son. Being able to unite and share an approach will certainly be a huge step in the right direction.

Reading your comment, we noticed that you’ve already figured out quite a lot of important things about what works vs. what doesn’t, and what your son is willing to consider, vs. what he isn’t. This is great!!  However, your son’s use is increasing, perhaps due to the recent breakup.

We often have a lot of the answers — or at least some really good clues

Again, we think you’re on the right path, rdeleonardis. Here’s what looks hopeful or promising to me when I read your comment:

  • You and your wife have recognized the need to be “on the same page” as you face your son and tackle the issues related to his Substance Use Disorder (SUD);

  • You found Allies in Recovery’s eLearning program, which is going to give you a huge portion of what you need to know as you move forward;

  • You have done your own “testing” and come to the same conclusion as the people who designed and tested CRAFT:  using force or threats – even when it’s about wanting a loved one to get help for a serious issue – “only make things worse for him and all living with him” as you wrote;

  • You are paying close attention to the possibilities, and openings that you are seeing. You are studying the situation (No matter whether this comes from failed experiments or not! The key thing is, you aren’t giving up!). You have already identified what works best for your Loved One (“He is more comfortable speaking one-on-one”). CRAFT asks the family to start paying closer attention to the things your Loved One is willing to do, the things they are willing to get help for… you’re on the right track here!

  • Your son has been to treatment several times!!! This is not proof that treatment doesn’t work for him. We see this as meaning a few things:

a) your son recognizes, at least to a certain extent, that the substances are a real problem for him – very positive!

b) he has been willing to address the substance use in the past – so he very likely will be willing again, especially with your new CRAFT inspired environment;

c) the type of treatment may not have been the best match for him; and/or

d) he may simply be one of the many who require multiple treatment episodes to get real traction in their recovery.

  • Last, and not at all least, your son is seeing a therapist (albeit reluctantly) and has agreed to a psychological evaluation (he may go).

Again, I am seeing many reasons to feel hopeful about your son and your situation. With some diligent practice and by accepting some or all of our offers for personalized guidance (please check out the offerings on the Coaching & Community menu), I think your family can make real strides forward and once and for all, get off the roller coaster!

Finally, we recently published the following blog post for a family with some similar issues as yours. Feel free to read it here: How to Make Your Request That They Seek Help.

Here is one passage from this post and a suggestion for where you can start looking at the learning modules:

When the family sees 100% resistance, is it really 100%?

Families often tell me, “nope, tried that, he’s not interested in doing anything!”

The family sees 100% resistance.

But is there truly 100% resistance? Being able to identify, and act appropriately on, even 1% of motivation, is one of the family’s best tools in the CRAFT kit. Please watch Module 8, Segment 1, in which we talk about motivation and resistance for change and how motivation shifts internally, up and down. We teach the family to watch/listen for these shifts by learning to recognize “change talk”: a wish or a dip (Module 8, Segment 1).

Is your son totally shut down, totally unwilling to do anything whatsoever to help himself? There’s a good chance that he isn’t.

Perhaps he sounds ambiguous about his situation, one day agreeing and saying he’ll do something, the next moment saying he’s fine and to leave him alone. This flip-flopping is felt by families as manipulation or lies, and adds to possible discord.

Using Behavior Change theory helps you successfully apply CRAFT

Behavior change theory holds that there is a stage in any behavior change where the person contemplates the pro’s and con’s of changing a behavior, and thinks about addressing that problem behavior.

Let’s take a night of blackout drinking by someone with alcohol problems. Perhaps the internal contemplation sounds something like this (the “pro’s” and “con’s” are within the framework of wanting to move toward change):

My head and body hurt so bad right now (pro behavior change), and I don’t remember what happened at the end of the night or how I got myself to bed (pro). I drank too much (pro). I need to do something about the drinking (pro), but right now I have to get to work (con), so I need this beer to straighten me out so that I can get moving (con). I’ll think about this (pro) but not until after my sister’s wedding next month (con). I want to be able to drink then (con). So, I’ll think about this another time (con).

I think any one of us can relate to this back-and-forth in our head when we need to change a behavior that is causing us problems. This back-and-forth is a sign that your Loved One is thinking about a change.

You can lean on CRAFT and Allies in Recovery, it’s tried and tested!

CRAFT and the modules we’ve made available for families on this site are:

1) evidence-based… you can relax a bit, knowing that you are building on something that has been scientifically proven effective;

2) straightforward, with a really logical, clear outline to follow;

3) pretty complete, offering skills training, examples, and the “why” behind the strategy we teach.

How our most successful members use this site

Most members we’ve heard from who have really worked the Allies program from A to Z (including our now-collaborator Laurie MacDougall, who started out here as a family member seeking guidance) tell us that they come back to the site day after day after day. They watch the video modules time and time again. Each time they notice something they hadn’t noticed before. Each time there’s a new bit of information that turns out to be the tool they were looking for.

Again, welcome.



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"...)