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He Says He’s Not Using, But My Gut Says He’s In Denial

This member is ready to commit to helping her brother (51) who struggles with a methamphetamine addiction. His use appears to be affecting his life more and more, including losing his job. In the past there’s been some momentum in the family to get help for him, but now there’s denial and resistance. The CRAFT approach tells her to trust her gut and will teach her some skills to help guide her brother to recovery and treatment.

This post originally appeared in our member “Pose a Question” blog:

“Just about 3 years ago today, my family held an intervention for my older brother, 51, who was using meth daily for over a year. He was an elementary teacher at this time. He did 6 weeks of outpatient following the intervention. He never admitted going back to use; however, based on some life situations that came up, it is quite obvious he was using. Eventually he ended up homeless and sleeping in his car. Months of this led him to asking my family to help him and let him live with us. He lived with us for almost 6 months.

In that time frame, he got a job and gained confidence, but did not do any treatment or therapy. He moved back to Denver and got his teaching job back. 6 months of teaching, then he got fired for breaking his contract. He refuses to talk to the family about what happened and even denies he got fired. He has become more and more distant with us. Ignores phone calls and most often texts.

I believe he is still using, but his daughter, 14, says no. She and her mom just act like nothing is wrong, when I believe deep down, they also think he is using.

With the holidays coming up, I want to talk to him and address his loss of the job and my concerns for his use. I don’t feel I can go on with pretending everything is normal and put up a facade. I don’t know how to interact with him anymore, but so badly want my brother back.

He says that the family is judgmental and makes assumptions that are wrong. He lives 2 hours away from me.

I am thankful for finding this site and will start the eLearning modules to learn about CRAFT.

In the meantime, do I follow my gut that he is using or try to believe in him when he says he would never go back??”

Do I follow my gut or believe his story that he’s not using?

You’ve asked a great question and answering it is simple. “Do I follow my gut that he is using…?”  YES, you do!

As you will see if you’ve already plunged into the eLearning modules, CRAFT suggests that you act in the moment based on your best guess as to whether your loved one is using or not using. This is of course more about how to act/respond in the moment. But following your gut is almost always a great idea when substance use is involved.

So, should you believe his story that he’s not using right now, while your gut is telling you it’s not true and he’s suffering and struggling? No, you should trust your gut. In the eLearning exercises in our Module 3, “What’s Going On When My Loved One Uses?” we give you some things to notice:

  • Their eyes look different
  • Facial expression
  • Style of dress
  • How they walk and talk
  • Behavior
  • Mood
  • What they say
  • How they smell

You likely built a “practiced eye” when he was living with you, and you built your awareness around his previous use. You aren’t seeing him on a daily basis right now since he’s 2 hours away, but you’re following your gut based on the consequences (his job loss) and his behaviors (his pulling away).

It’s your compass, your inner wisdom. The strength of denial can be astounding, and addiction (and other behaviors people are ashamed to acknowledge) certainly brings out surgical-quality denial. Man, it’s powerful stuff. Not to mention that we so want to believe what they’re saying, but when your gut pipes up and says, “all signs are pointing to his using,” you’re most likely right.



Your brother has been resistant to your help, but you did help him get into treatment once

You have seen a wide variety of behaviors and reactions from your brother, including vehement denial, defensiveness and accusations that you’re judging him when you express concern… but your family also succeeded in getting him into outpatient treatment for 6 weeks.

I see several positives here:

Your family has come together to help him before—they can do it again;

  • Your brother has been to treatment once, he has begun to internalize some of the teachings and the feeling of being free of the chains of his drug use;
  • You are determined, you miss your old brother, you don’t want to keep pretending, you are ready to take action;
  • You found Allies in Recovery and are beginning the eLearning program.

I hear you that it’s also frustrating that his teenaged daughter and her mother (perhaps she and your brother are separated?) are sticking to the story that there is no problem. Of course, it would be so much better if they were, or could be, on board in recognizing the problem and being motivated to find a solution.

One note here, 14 is an already-complicated age and we do not actively recommend bringing teens into the difficult conversations/psychology of addiction, CRAFT, etc. She of course has her own take on it all and speaking with her at some point is not out of the question; but we don’t recommend you rely on her for information gathering.

Next steps in figuring out how to join forces and help your brother: Watch our eLearning CRAFT modules, listen to our podcasts, and check out some other member blog posts on

You’ll learn the behaviors and strategies you need to help guide your brother back to recovery and treatment.

You are new to the site. There is a learning curve, and we usually tell people to count on 6-8 weeks or so of practice, bridge-building, watching and re-watching our eLearning modules, and filling out our Key Observations exercises, until you are ready to talk about treatment (Module 8) and you start seeing some results.

So, log in to our eLearning Center – it is clearly where you’ll need to start (and return to, often) to get CRAFT under your belt.



Also DEFINITELY check out our podcasts; our amazing Allies team gets into the nitty-gritty every week of CRAFT in practice. Listen as Director Dominique Simon-Levine, CRAFT Trainer Laurie MacDougall, and Addiction Therapist Kayla Solomon, LICSW, give real insights in conversation with each other about CRAFT. It’s a popular series! Here is a link to one of our podcasts on our landing page (public access)

Remember, ALL our podcasts are available to members and searchable by topic; and all our blog posts have tags to help members find other relevant posts for their situation. (Since this is a public blog post, I’ll post below a couple of our relevant blog posts that are also public.)

Here’s a public blog post with our CRAFT 101 tag:

To help you figure out how to support your family joining forces in this quest, “Family Members Doing CRAFT” is another good tag; here’s one public blog post with that tag:

As you get up to speed with CRAFT, you’ll learn for example how to do “reflective listening,” and how you might decide to have a “planned conversation” and even offer a list of treatment options. These points are raised in the other blog posts I list above.

As you go deeper into the program, and start planning your strategy, please don’t hesitate to check back in and/or ask for more specific guidance.

All our best!



Join award-winning Allies in Recovery today to access CRAFT-informed blog posts and podcasts – all searchable by topic – AND our eLearning CRAFT Modules (available in video or PDF) that teach you the strategies and skills needed to engage your loved one onto the path to recovery.

Membership at Allies includes direct contact with CRAFT experts via our ZOOM support groups, CRAFT skills and educational groups, treatment and resource support, and virtual office hours. CRAFT is the proven, most successful method for getting your loved one into recovery.

By using CRAFT, you’ll learn information critical to understanding your loved one’s addiction and how to play an important role in their recovery journey. Whether with our self-guided eLearning or live ZOOM groups, you can tailor your participation to what’s best for you.

Additionally, you’ll have guidance on how to identify and manage your own emotions – when you’re faring better, you can better help your loved one.

Read our reviews to see how other families have come to call us a “lifesaver.”

If you’re an Allies member, check out the member site for our “10-day Challenge” to claim your reward of a complimentary One-Day CRAFT Workshopjust for finishing half of the eLearning CRAFT Modules!

Join us TODAY to get trained on reducing the chaos of addiction in your family and your life. You’re not alone – you have Allies.


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