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He Disappears for Long Binges. Do I Reward Him in Between?

lonely man

Member msmnyc1 asks a vital question: should we really reward a Loved One for “normal” periods between frequent binges? The answer is yes—but those periods may be shorter than they appear. CRAFT can help us define them accurately and respond in the best way possible. 

“I am reviewing Module 5 in regards to rewards when the addict is not using. I am trying to apply this to my situation. My partner uses meth in a binge-type way. So he will go out for 4 to 5 days and not call, then come home to sober up for a week. Am I supposed to reward him when he’s just home on a normal basis?” 


Yes. Normal = not binging on meth = rewarding.  

This doesn’t mean you lay down tickets to sporting events from end to end. But yes, when things are “normal,” you’re engaging. If there exists a good, quiet time between you, you do your part to hold onto it. You reward the non-use. 

That’s it! Keep it light and trouble-free as best you can. If you would like his help with something or an answer to a question, use the request exercise to frame your request, and your communication skills to ask a question (Module 4). 

When he’s not using, that’s your cue 

Your partner’s abstinence from meth during “normal times” gives you the space to work on a host of small, positive changes you can initiate—changes that should feel rewarding to your partner and to you. Some examples:   

  • engaged communication 
  • active listening 
  • gentle requests that get to a yes 
  • discovery of patterns 
  • being rewarding 

Some of these you probably already do. Other skills may be newer and take time to master. If a particular effort or skill doesn’t go as planned, go easy on yourself. It is so satisfying when you start having small successes with these skills. We get good at things, with some patience, when we try them and practice. If something doesn’t go well (perhaps some snarly or non-CRAFTY comment slides out of your mouth and you find yourself in a battle), it’s an opportunity to practice the de-escalation skills we describe in Module 2 (Red Flags), and back yourself out of the situation.  

Look for a chance to have that positive talk 

“Normal” may also be the period in which to be strategic and intervene with the message of treatment. Ideally, you’re both calm, your partner is not high, and he’s given you a sign that he is thinking of a change in his life (a wish or a dip, as described in Module 8). You sit down for a small talk that you’ve prepared beforehand. 

To start, the conversation may be a simple as this: 

“I am not sure what to do here. I can see you are wrestling with the drug. I am scared for you and for us. I am trying to work out how best to help both of us. So I’ve made a list of a few places that can help you start to quit, when you’re ready. Perhaps you can choose one and we’ll give them a call together? I’ll send you the list in a text and put it on the side of the fridge. The idea of a list was suggested to me from a site that is supporting me. Anyway, thanks for listening.” 

What’s “normal?” The definition matters 

Now let’s unpack your term “normal.” If I may, I think you mean “normal” in the sense that your partner is not out binging, but is home.  

Everything we laid out above is what CRAFT suggests you try when your Loved One is not using. But when he first comes home, I suspect that things are not “normal.” Your partner probably recently took his last hit of methamphetamines, and is coming down. This is withdrawals. In our definition, withdrawals are part of using.  

And right before he goes out again to use, is he itchy or anxious? Is he on the phone more, or rifling through stuff looking for money? In those moments, things are not “normal” either. This is preparing to use, which is also part of using as we define it.  

Remember: using = just before they use, while they are using, and during withdrawals or hangover

This is what you describe: 

And this is how I suggest you refine your observations and actions in that same period of time: 

I imagine there may be a much smaller period of “normalcy” in your home—a smaller period of rewarding, when your partner is not using but is also not withdrawing or scheming to use. How long does this period last? Maybe 24-48 hours? This would be how long you need to keep up the rewarding behavior.  

The rest of the time you step away, allow natural consequences, and remove rewards. He has water and basics in the fridge. Don’t try to soothe him with your words. Don’t tell him it will be okay. Be as neutral and non-engaged as possible.

Know the signs of withdrawal 

I am speaking hypothetically of course, since I don’t have the details of your daily life. I hope this helps you see more clearly where to draw those important lines between Not Using and Using (Modules 5 and 6). Here’s what to look for with methamphetamine withdrawals to help you get specific about where to draw the line.  

Physical symptoms: 

  • feeling very tired (he may sleep for most of the day for 2 to 4 days) 
  • disturbed sleep (if he used meth for a long time, sleep patterns won’t be normal for many weeks)  
  • dry mouth  
  • headaches  
  • having hallucinations  
  • not eating enough (malnourishment) 
  • muscle spasms 

Emotional symptoms: 

  • feeling depressed or anxious 
  • being paranoid  
  • not feeling motivated 
  • low energy level 
  • intense cravings for more meth  

You might want to read about these symptoms in greater detail. Here’s a great resource.  

Thank you for your question. I’d be interested in hearing whether you have those 24-48 hours of normalcy in your home. Withdrawal from methamphetamine, like withdrawal for many licit and illicit drugs, is not well understood. We are seeing an increase in methamphetamine use by our families. We will continue to address issues specific to this drug in our Loved Ones in the coming weeks.  


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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. Thank you so much for your insightful response. I definately will reframe my thinking to include both the wanting to use and withdrawl periods; which are quite upsetting with phsycotic breaks. At times , we do have periods that are longer then 48 hours and at times it can be weeks. You also mentioned that he may seem”itchy” or “anxious” prior to use and that is spot on. I actually used the list concept with him a few months ago and he is currently in a 90 day program, and I am preparing myself with the Allies modules to learn a better way to communicate with him. Thanks again