Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

“He Wants Us to Live Together, but He’s Drinking” – What to Say, and When?

Her boyfriend texted her about his desire to move in together; 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 what we, at Allies in Recovery, call a “wish” – an important moment of “change talk,” an opening for you to step in and suggest recovery options. It can be a key part of implementing the CRAFT skills we teach at Allies. So, what can she do now?

[The question below originally appeared on our member “Pose a Question” blog]

“My question is: my loved one expressed 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 her second comment, providing more background information:

“My friend abuses alcohol and was in and out of treatment over 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 puts his answers on hold. He is working on it, wants to do something about his problems he says, but leaves me waiting for answers for weeks. Today, without being angry, I told him that it is OK if he needs more time and that I will wait, but I won’t’ visit him anymore while I’m waiting for his answers because 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 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.

In the grey zone, trust your instincts, and keep your boundaries

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.



Remember, only respond to the “wish” in the moments he is NOT under the influence

That grey zone made you question your action. But you correctly did what we all must do, which is to size up our loved one in the moment, and to respond by stepping away when they are drinking. This is part of working CRAFT.

To go deeper with this, watch our eLearning Module 6 “My Loved One is Using Right Now; Now What?”. And our eLearning Module 5, “My Loved One Isn’t Using Right Now; Now What?” to learn about stepping in when he is not drinking. Some points from the modules:

When your loved one is using, remember these 3 tenets of behaviorism:

  1. Remove Rewards (including yourself)
  2. Step Away/Disengage
  3. Allow Natural Consequences

When your loved one isn’t using, encourage non-use with positive reinforcement:

  1. Reward (with words, actions, or things). Rewards can be as simple as being present, a kind word, a touch on the shoulder, or a nice meal; we also suggest doing activities together that encourage non-use.
  2. Watch for “wishes” and “dips,” those moments of your loved one’s “change talk” that can be openings for you to discuss plans for recovery and treatment. (We discuss “planned conversations” elsewhere in the modules.)

As always, keep in mind your goals:

  1. Reduce your loved one’s substance use
  2. Get your loved one into treatment and recovery
  3. Increase quality of life

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.

For more on “wishes” and “dips”, readers can access our free podcast:

Respond to the “wish” in person, when things are calm

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 (Community Reinforcement and Family Training – the evidence-based approach we teach at Allies in Recovery). 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”).



Your presence is a reward – and he doesn’t drink

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?

Identifying “wishes” and “dips” – those important opportunities to help change occur

Our eLearning Module 8, “How Do I Get my Loved One into Treatment?” 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.

Keep exploring our site,, for more helpful tips

In the meantime, I encourage you to continue reading through the articles from our Discussion Blog as well as from our 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. It will help you feel focused, and hopefully you will not feel as anxious on the weeks you don’t see your loved one.

For more of our public blog posts about how to talk to your loved one, including the “planned conversation,” see these:

I hope this is helpful — keep us posted on the steps you are taking.



Related Posts from "CRAFT"

Trusting A Loved One in Early Recovery

Her husband is in early recovery, but he doesn’t want to share details with her. She’s nervous and struggling with trust due to his history of SUD and lying. She’s reluctant to let him come home, and unsure how to talk to him about it. Dominique weighs in with an idea of what to say based on the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach that we use at

How CRAFT Can Help: Supporting Your Partner to Successfully Moderate Opiate Use

His partner is trying to moderate her use of heroin and methamphetamine with no formal support. Her use consumes so much of his partner’s life that it’s hard to see her “moderation” as progress. But his loved one wants him to acknowledge how “well” she’s doing, and there hasn’t been room for more discussion. Read on for suggested strategies from to engage his partner into treatment, using the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) approach.

How to Use the CRAFT Approach to Communicate with a Loved One Living with Substance Use Disorder

Substance Use Disorder can often involve volatile emotions on all sides. When family members use the CRAFT approach that we teach at, it can help disentangle emotions from practicalities, leading to greater calm and more effective outcomes. This mom recently had an exchange with her son who is struggling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), but held back from responding in fear it would end in a heated argument. So, she to turned to Allies for guidance. Read on for some pointers on how best to communicate with a loved one in active addiction using the CRAFT approach.

He’s on Suboxone and Hiding Away for Most of the Day. We are Worried.

Her son was using heroin, and he just got out of jail. He reached out for mom’s help and asked to live at home as he starts recovery, and he is getting MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment), specifically Suboxone. But he’s secluding himself so much at home she can’t tell what he’s up to. He’s accessing counseling and groups remotely, but he stays holed up in his room all the time and rarely emerges. Mom worries about his isolating so much and whether he might be using. We weigh in with some thoughts about the varied aspects of early recovery, and with some reminders about practicing CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training.)

Real Allies in Recovery Success Stories: Families Share How CRAFT Helped Their Loved Ones with SUD

Read real success stories from families who used the CRAFT approach to help their loved ones with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Learn how CRAFT helped them engage their loved ones into treatment, and how it improved their relationships and reduced stress levels. Discover how you can use the CRAFT method to help your loved ones find recovery, and visit for more stories and resources.

How Do I Prepare for My Daughter with SUD to Come Home? And What About Her Boyfriend?

Her daughter is involved with a man who may be sabotaging her efforts to stop using substances. But she’s expressed some readiness to get help, and mom wants to support her in any way that she can. Mom’s working on ignoring the bad-news boyfriend while setting up guidelines for her return home. She needs guidance on the details…Allies in Recovery weighs in with some CRAFT-based tips.

Her Partner is Not Improving from Substance Use Disorder. Is There an Underlying Mental Health Condition?

One of our members as been artfully following the CRAFT principles and yet her loved one is not showing signs of improvement. Engaging in extreme behavior, barely ever sleeping, misusing his ADHD medication, lying, and now, stealing… Is it all on the addiction or could her partner suffer from an underlying, undiagnosed and untreated mental health condition?

Shall We Dance?

CRAFT as choreography? Our hosts step into the metaphor of a dance with your loved one. This isn’t a traditional dance – it’s a look at the steps to see what works and what doesn’t, to CRAFT a new dance and change your role. The idea is to learn new tools, practice them, and see where they fit in. Be patient. It’s a process.

The Important Difference Between Bribes, Incentives, and Positive Reinforcement

A mom wrote in asking for guidance on whether she should offer to reward her son for attending addiction recovery group meetings. However, she is unsure if she’s implementing the CRAFT concept of “rewards” correctly. Laurie MacDougall, an Allies in Recovery virtual program trainer – who herself has a loved one with SUD – explains the important differences between bribes, incentives, and positive reinforcement. Laurie advises steering away from the first two and sticking with positive reinforcement instead.

Now He’s Abusing His ADHD Medication. What to do?

Her long-time partner added a new drug to the usual mix of cannabis and alcohol: now he’s got a prescription for ADHD meds and is blowing through a month’s supply in 5 days. He blames all his negative behaviors on his underlying depression. How can she be helpful to her partner, without playing into his victim mentality? She feels like she might want to give up on his recovery and ask him to move out…but we have some great CRAFT-informed tips for strategies she can try first.

His Early Recovery Is Triggering Me

Her loved one has been abstinent from substance use for weeks. With steady recovery inputs, including a medication, he is doing better. However, he recently adopted a deeply confrontational stance and has shifted to some alternative addictive behaviors. Our member, feeling hurt and lost, wonders how to address these new challenges. Laurie MacDougall uses some examples from her son’s recovery journey to help paint a picture of more successful interactions that can let some of the tension out of the situation. Read this blog post for some CRAFT-informed ways to handle triggers, boundaries, and power struggles.

She’s Using Again and Gone Missing.

A worried mom wrote in to share news of her daughter’s recurrence after 6 months of recovery from AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder). To complicate matters, the daughter had been off on a binge and out of touch for a week. Obviously, this kind of situation is never easy for a worried parent, family member, or significant other. The mom is using our eLearning Modules to remind herself of important CRAFT principles. We weigh in with some supportive reminders about resilience – hers and her daughter’s – and the reminder that recovery is never a straight line or an on-off switch; we call it the “spiral of recovery.”  

My Son is Using Again. Should I Confront Him?

When you are trying your best to work with a family member in recovery from Substance Use Disorder (SUD), it can be frightening and disappointing to discover they are using again. What to do? One of our members wrote in about her son having a recurrence of use, and she wonders whether she should confront him or not. She feels she can’t bear the emotional rollercoaster of her son’s recovery journey. We weigh in with some reminders from the CRAFT approach about how to manage her own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. We suggest she stay the course and not confront him – at least not yet.

How Can We Help our Daughter Find Residential Treatment?

What her daughter needs—a solid residential treatment program for women—should not be so hard to find. Unfortunately, such programs often are. We sorted through some of the options in the state where this Allies in Recovery member lives, so she can focus her search on a program most likely to help her daughter continue to improve. The family can also keep doing CRAFT to help support the relationship with their daughter in recovery, and to take care of themselves in the process. Staying in touch with Allies staff can also help support them.

“Heads Up” Tips for Those New to SUD

Have you ever looked back on a particularly stressful time in your life and wished you’d known a few things ahead of the struggle? Or maybe you were offered some “heads up” advice when enduring a hard time and found that the advice you received drastically empowered you through the situation. This blog shares some helpful tips for parents and other family members who are new to facing the crisis of addiction, alcoholism or Substance Use Disorder (referred to as “SUD”) with a loved one.

Did I Do CRAFT Wrong and Trigger Him to Drink?

She thought her husband was drinking, so she left. He called and said he wasn’t drinking, so she came home, but by then he’d gone out and he did drink. This wife feels she inadvertently triggered her husband to go drink. Did she? She also feels like she messed everything up with one episode of removing rewards. Did she really? The CRAFT approach has us “remove rewards,” including removing ourselves, when our loved one is using substances. CRAFT also asks you to make numerous split-second decisions every day. You’re going to get it wrong sometimes.  In the post below, we walk through this scenario with some CRAFT ABC’s.

3 Months into Recovery and He Doesn’t Show an Ounce of Gratitude

This mom has been able to successfully use CRAFT principles to shepherd her son into treatment and to support him during early recovery. However, her son’s lack of gratitude is beginning to feel unbearable. Director Dominique Simon-Levine weighs in with a reminder to practice communications skills, and to take care of yourself – all part of the CRAFT curriculum at Allies.