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When I Wake Up He’s Done Using: How Can I Remove Rewards?

woman waking up

DietLettuce’s Loved One seems to only be using when she is not around. Not ever witnessing her Loved One’s active use, she isn't seeing opportunities to give, or withdraw, rewards. She feels powerless and wants to find ways to apply CRAFT more effectively.

“What are you supposed to do if the person only uses when they’re not at home or after I’ve gone to sleep? All that leaves me with is being nice for the very limited time they do spend at home. Which I’ve been doing for weeks now, and it hasn’t changed a thing. They don’t even bother trying to hide their substances (whether it be remnants or it’s yet to be consumed), and it seems like the list of substances just keeps growing. Finding these things and not being able to say something about it makes me feel sick to my stomach. It just feels like I’m ignoring what’s going on, which is basically enabling?”

© jen theodore via unsplash

I see lots of paraphernalia, but I'm not witnessing his using behaviors: Can I still remove rewards?

With your question, you are addressing one of the keystones of CRAFT: the definition of use.

When they start practicing CRAFT, family members often find themselves unsure of how to react in the moment. Many factors can get in the way; having trouble differentiating use from non-use is one of them.

Remember, you've just discovered a new set of guidelines and it's only natural that it take some time for you to feel at ease with it. I believe your question will resonate with many of our members.

I can see on your profile that your Loved One has struggled with alcohol, marijuana, barbiturates, methamphetamine and narcotics in the past. I hear you, the list is growing. But it would be helpful to know exactly what substances he is currently using as this affects whether we're talking about hangovers or withdrawals, and in the latter case, the type of withdrawal he's likely to experience.


Remember, our definition of "use" includes 3 phases:

The definition of "Use" that we use in CRAFT to determine whether to reward or remove rewards includes:

1) the period just before they use (when there is little chance you could lure them away from a using episode through rewards),

2) the entire time they're actively using, and

3) the time they are withdrawing or hung over.

When you see any of the above behaviors or indicators, you disengage, you remove rewards, you leave them alone. Your influence is not useful or effective now. Your absence, on the other hand, will likely be felt. (See more about this in Module 6)

I wonder if you are including the period of drug withdrawal in your cut-off between use and non-use. If he uses while you sleep, then you are probably the first one to wake up in the morning. How does your Loved One look upon rising? How are you reacting to him first thing in the day? The period after a using episode, when the drugs are wearing off but your Loved One is still affected by them, is still a period of use.

The Key Observations exercises in Module 3 can help you build your awareness around the difference between his use and non-use.

This is a quick answer to a larger problem. How you talk to him and respond to him while you are both awake and he is not using – nor hung over, nor withdrawing – is a whole stance to be determined by you, as you work your way through the Learning Modules.

Remember, part of the solution is how you take care of you!

I can hear a lot of distress reading your comment. Your Loved One is bringing more and more substances into your home. He doesn't attempt to hide his use from you any longer and you are frustrated, feeling there's nothing you can do to address it. I hope you are seeing now that you do have some options, by reconsidering where you draw the line between use and non-use.

We know how exhausted and hopeless family members can feel. That’s why we also encourage you to allow yourself to shift your focus back onto your own needs and your own well-being. Self-care can become your oxygen tank when you feel overwhelmed with strong emotions.

Thank you for writing in with this important question and welcome to Allies in Recovery. You are starting an exciting journey, and we want to support you along the way. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have more questions about practicing CRAFT.



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. This post is great. Although I’d listened to the modules, I completely missed the definition of use. Such a fundamental concept and gives me specific actions and therefore peace. Very good examples. I’m going to go back and review the modules. I’m certain there is more I missed. Thank you.