lieveDo’s friend texted her about his desire to move in with her and she suspects he did so under the influence. She is growing frustrated with his substance use and feels the need to step back. In retrospect, she fears she missed the opportunity to respond to a 'wish'.
"Thank you for this helpful information. My question is: my Loved One expresses in an app message that he wants me to move in with him. I think he is drinking and feeling sentimental and/or ready to please me by saying this, as a form of manipulation. But maybe it's a wish, I later on guessed…I texted that we should discuss this face to face and went on, and he was disappointed."
So: was I right to disengage or was this a wish…?
Here is lieveDo's second comment, providing more background information…
"My friend abuses alcohol and was in and out treatment in the past few years. He was sober for half a year and went to NA meetings, but since the Covid 19 situation he started drinking again. We have a part time relationship. We see each other every weekend. When I'm around he doesn't drink (I hope).
When I'm not there I sense alcohol abuse through his app messages. When I try to ask him what his plans are (does he wants to recover or to drink mildly, or..?), he is putting his answers on hold. He is working on it, wants to do something about his problems he says, but is keeping me waiting for answers for weeks. Today I told him without being angry, that it is o.k., that he needs more time and that I will wait, but I won’t' visit him anymore while I'm waiting, for it is too stressful for me.
I feel relieved but also doubt…have I sent his thinking in the wrong direction? Maybe he feels I'm challenging him? Or is this indeed the only way to handle this?"
Your Loved One is drinking when he is not with you. You see him every other weekend. In texts, he says he wants you to move in together. He has an alcohol problem and just recently had 6 months of sobriety by going to NA. The COVID shutdown has made everything more difficult for those with addiction, and their families. It probably disrupted his recovery routine in short order and he started drinking again.
You suspect he is drinking from the texts he is sending, like the one about moving in together. You sensed a sentimentality in his words that suggests he had been drinking. You second guessed yourself afterwards and wondered if you had missed an opportunity to talk about treatment.
We are all operating in this grey zone with our Loved Ones. You can’t be 100% sure about his drinking in that moment. You sized up his text, suspected he had been drinking when he wrote it. You were right to take a step back, examine his text in a careful manner and not give in to the sentimentality.
Your instincts were sound. You are clear with your Loved One that he cannot drink around you, and that you expect him to stop drinking. Setting your boundaries is a major part of this process, it is protecting you and it is beneficial to him too.
You are asking whether his wish to live together was a missed moment to talk about treatment.
Again, I think you were right to suggest that you talk about it in person (when he hasn’t been drinking).
His texting about moving in together was indeed a wish, but he was probably under the influence of alcohol, not a time for such serious discussions. Ideally, when you do have this conversation, you will both be calm and clear-headed.
That grey zone made you question your action. You did what we all must do, which is to size up our Loved One in the moment and respond by stepping away when they are drinking (go deeper with this, watch Module 6); and stepping in when they are not drinking (see Module 5).
His expressing himself, even though it was somewhat clumsy and inappropriate, is still showing you that he is reflecting upon what he needs and wants. The fact that he manifested his wish when under the influence shows you he isn’t quite ready.
Your response was helpful in many ways: you did not completely shut him off and are leaving the door open for discussion. You are also taking a calm and collected stance, setting an example of what you want communication to be like between the two of you going forward.
You now have the opportunity to talk to him in person about his wish for more with you in the future. Maybe when you next see him it goes like this:
“I care about you and would someday like to live together. You are drinking. I understand that. You have been working on the drinking, but I know that you are struggling. Is there something I can do to help?”
You are thinking of not seeing him on weekends anymore. You wrote about how stressful the situation is for you. Listening to yourself and doing what feels right for you in the moment are indeed essential.
You have instinctively grasped a principle of CRAFT. You and your presence by his side are a reward to him. This is powerful and you can use it to implement CRAFT. Can you shift your perspective here? Consider seeing this in the moment rather than in absolute terms (“I will not see him until he stops”).
Rather than not seeing him on those weekends, perhaps you do. He doesn’t drink when you’re there. This is important for him and is encouraging him not to drink.
Your Loved One has been abstinent in the past; he knows what works for him. Can you continue with what you are doing? Could you keep holding the line on no drinking while together and offering to help him any way you can to not drink?
Module 8 talks about how to identify wishes and dips, and what to do when you do hear one. Your Loved One wishes you could move in together. You correctly put him off. His texted wish is an opportunity to talk seriously about more treatment options when you do see him.
Remember though, family members can sometimes sound like a broken record to their Loved Ones. In this case, perhaps you leave the serious treatment talk for a moment when your relationship’s future is back on the table.
Thank you for reaching out and for joining this community. It sounds like your instincts are steering you in the right direction. You have already integrated some of the essential concepts CRAFT teaches us. Should you need any type of support or insight going forward, know we are here for you.
In the meantime, I encourage you to continue reading through the articles from the Discussion Blog as well as from the Sanctuary Blog. Take a look at our Resource Supplement for support options for family members and keep listening to yourself and to your needs.
We always talk about the importance of self-care because at the end of the day, if you forget yourself, if you feel exhausted and out of balance, you won’t be able to help your Loved One. Make time for yourself, figure out what makes you feel connected to you and indulge as you please. It will help you feel focused and hopefully you will not feel as anxious on the weeks you don’t see your Loved One.
I hope this is helpful — keep us posted on the steps you are taking.