I Think I’m Ready to Ask Him to Leave – Even Though I’ve Been Doing CRAFT

An active Allies in Recovery member wrote in to our “Pose a Question” blog with an update about her partner who continues to use substances and to be emotionally volatile, despite having previously done a 30-day recovery program. While she says that participating in our Wednesday night support group with Kayla, along with other CRAFT resources on our site, has been “a huge help” with her own well-being, she still isn’t having success in engaging her loved one into treatment again. She asks: Has the time come to ask him to leave?

“Back again, seeing some feedback. First off, despite things not getting better at home, this website has been a huge help for my own wellbeing. The Wednesday group with Kayla Solomon as well has been a big game changer for me, in terms of me becoming OK, despite my partner steadily declining.

There was a question after my last post (Allies answered her there, too) of whether he was abusing stimulants vs. maybe it is more the mental health diagnoses (more than depression/ADHD). So, it turns out he has been abusing the stimulants pretty continuously and is in a use/withdraw cycle that lasts most of the week, each week of the month. He can only get it at the pharmacy once a week and cannot access earlier; he uses it all within a day or two and is in withdrawal the rest.

The other piece is when he is in withdrawal, he neglects everything including taking his antidepressants. So, he takes his antidepressants a few days a week, and the one he is on has actual withdrawal symptoms as well. He likes the antidepressants and finds they help, but everything just drops away with the stimulant withdrawal. I find the stimulant withdrawal makes him particularly emotionally volatile.

In between he sells whatever he can to get weed or alcohol now as well, he is pretty much out of things to sell that are his own. He also ends up frequently out of cigarettes, which adds to the whole high meltdown on his end. He will run out of smokes and become really doubly mean, and refer to himself as in a “crushing crippling depression,” but then get smokes and immediately be walking around bubbly and in a super mood, bright affect, engaged in video games etc.

Still we went with, “let’s get some of that depression treated”. He won’t call the psychiatrist or accept any of the other options that were offered, even with pretty heavy assistance to get barriers out of the way. There was one week that, because of a pharmacy error and he couldn’t abuse stimulants, we saw a huge difference in his affect/mood…. I’m pretty sure this is nowhere near where the organic depression lands.

His rehab team reached out many times but he didn’t call back; he spoke to his counselor on the phone once but it never went further. It’s a small apartment and so I was able to hear him kind of yelling, it seemed tense. We have back to couples counseling for 6 months and he continues to pretty much lie, shift blame to me and victimize himself, and refocuses anything that is being addressed as a “communication issue” with me. He has a good rapport with her (the counselor); she saw us for a year before he went to rehab, and she does work in addictions.

The counselor has been trying to see what small steps he can take to help with the depression; he will say “I don’t know” or “yeah I should do that” and then is quite passive and talks about “how can he do any of what she is suggesting when he is so depressed.” I enable recovery as much as I can and have the list of many choices of really great recovery options ready and am willing to do most of the footwork, but he would still need to actually consent and he won’t. Recently she mentioned that our living situation is becoming something that is maybe protecting him from facing an impact of his substance issue, and I agree. I have been worried about that for a while.

I have had 2 planned conversations. I pretty much used some of the lines you mentioned for me to use before. Tried to be collaborative as possible but he shrugs and will not engage so I back away. The list is easily accessible so he can see it without pressure. I told him say the word and we can make it happen. With expressed wishes/dips he tends to be affronted if I suggest getting help for any aspect of this (even depression), *or* he will shrug.

I would say, “is there something we can do together to head off this spiral?” (coming with ice cream and showing peace); his response is “I have crippling depression, how dare you not support me?” If I ever use an “I feel… (scared, worried, sad)…” he will get enraged. How dare I make it about me when he is in so much pain?

Even with the positive communication, reinforcement of any small bit of behavior that we could want to encourage, I still try to withdraw best as I can depending on how volatile he becomes… it is still high confrontation on his part, or the victim – “but I can’t help it I am so horribly depressed.”

I have left him to suffer on the couch, but after a full year he is in lots of ways comfortable with his ability to be very high for 2-3 days, then cut the withdrawal with weed, and sleep on the couch and not be bothered by any sort of consequence other than my withdrawing. The struggle still feels very external, like I’m the SOB that is the problem. I frequently admit to my part as well and wanting to own my side of the street.

I pulled back far, as far as I could go, while also mentioning that I know he often feels this is punishment and a message he is “bad”. But I do not think he is bad, and I definitely would never want to punish; I see his struggle. Even so, I can’t be around this anymore, and he wouldn’t want me to hang around when he is high anyway, because I’d just be upset and we’d fight; so this is better for both of us. He is very nice at first when he is just starting to feel the high on stimulants, so I am sure not to reinforce.

The weird thing lately is he will see an expression on my face and decide what it means and be extremely upset/angry at it; it happens when I am sick. He will see me and even if I say “hey you look sad – you ok?” he will decide my face means I am surprised he is sad, then freaks out and say “HOW COULD YOU NOT SEE I AM SAD? HOW DARE YOU! THIS IS HARD FOR ME!” and can’t be de-escalated. I am able to get away after he has yelled for a bit (can’t get a word in early on), but these situations are happening a lot. He will also be mad if I have no facial expression, too. “How could I be so callous?”

Is it time? I feel like if he had to live with his parents he’d consider rehab real quick. I can’t tell his psychiatrist about the meds because I am afraid for my safety re: his reaction, and with COVID I have nowhere to go for a safety plan. My last planned conversation was your original one that you gave me a year ago: that I want to continue living together, but I can’t go on like this and I am out of ideas. He continued the same and it’s been a few weeks. How about if I framed it as a not break-up, but we can’t live together as things are? If there are other options to try, I am still open to it.

Thanks again for this space. Sorry if this is a bit hard to follow;  I am exhausted at the end of the day and trying to get everything out.”

And here’s an addendum from our member:

“I’ve been better in terms of being at my wit’s end. With Kayla’s group I’m much less on my emotional edge. Work is tiring, but keeps my mind occupied and it is nice to be able to help others. I can’t hide that my autoimmune disease (Lupus) is progressing; it’s not like he sees the triggering stuff per se, but I am sure he is picking up on it. However, despite being much better. on an emotional level, I still feel as if the situation is getting unmanageable…”

You’re frustrated but you remain one of our CRAFT heroes!

Thank you, once again, for such a clear, detailed account of the last several months in your home with your partner. Your use of CRAFT skills is textbook.

Our team so appreciates, and feels warmed by, how seriously you have endeavored to learn, understand, embody and apply CRAFT.

A couple thoughts:

Your partner, whose communications and behaviors you describe with understandable frustration, is the same man who came home from a 30-day program just under a year ago, filled with joy and excitement, ready to start his aftercare work and a new, bright life with you and for himself. This is a reminder of the type of dramatic letdowns many families on this site have experienced. And of course, if it’s an emotional rollercoaster for the family, how can it not be for the loved one as well?

I am encouraged, however, that the problem appears to be drugs and not more serious mental illness. Your partner is misusing his A.D.D. medication and has started to drink again.

It can be such a disappointment, for those of us rooting on the sidelines, to watch our loved one doing well, full of hope and promise, only to be pulled back down by the hardships of COVID. Treatment programs everywhere were put back on their heels and continue to try to adjust.

Your partner, like you, is in the behavioral health field. It’s interesting to see the CRAFT dance between you. It seems your partner expects continual and bottomless compassion from you for his plight. He sees you as his caretaker. If you dare to mention a feeling of your own, “he will get enraged at ‘how dare I make it about me when he is in so much pain?’”

The self-focus of active addiction is a thing to behold

You are crazy strong. You work clinically with people all day, only to “come home” (it’s my recollection you’re working virtually right now?) to this stressful home life, with your own health affected by the imperative of keeping stress down.

You slipped in the fact that your partner has now also starting drinking. Is he now drinking as another poor substitute for his stimulants, as he does with the cannabis? I don’t know how common it is for stimulant users to also drink, but I know from personal experience that it’s common in bar culture to snort cocaine in the bathrooms. The combination of cocaine and alcohol is euphoric, steadies the jitteriness, and boy, are you smart! The combination is powerful.

If he does start to mix alcohol and stimulants, he might appear different. He might be less jumpy. Perhaps he occasionally slurs a little. Mixing alcohol with the stimulants might also stretch out his stash a little longer.

When is it time to ask them to leave?

So, you ask: IS IT TIME?

Every family has to decide this for themselves.

The question that can guide you is this: Is your home supporting efforts at recovery today, or has your home become some kind of safe hiding place, a place to flop, renew perhaps, but mainly use drugs? See our topic: Home/Homeless. We have written a lot on the subject.

The question of housing continues to be a very difficult issue for so many. One day everything is okay; and then comes relapse, and with breakneck speed your world is turned upside down and you’ve become dorm-mother of a crack den.

Your couples therapist is raising the question. You are raising the question. We have some suggestions if you decide to try having him leave.

I would urge you to not see this as some end between you, or as the end of your home life together. If he needs to leave, it’s because you need calm.

The twisty, contrived, verbally abusive conversations to contend with at home cause you dangerous levels of stress. It sounds exhausting to “come home to” your partner, just exhausting. You have to be on your toes every night after a hard day’s work.

Here’s a sample of the phrasing you might use:

“I need calm and rest. We are so wrapped up together. I am not able to care for you well with the depression (drug use). We are having unnecessary and difficult emotional swings, you and I. I love you. I see you trying…

…I need to ask you for a 3-week break. Please consider going to your parents’ for a couple of weeks. I have spoken to them. I love you dearly. I just need to get my energy and health back. I don’t know how to handle my home life with you and I am deeply tired.”

Meth users are notoriously boggled and triggered by facial expressions

We have been looking into the question of an increase in violence perpetrated by loved ones using methamphetamine. As you know, meth is an extremely powerful stimulant. We are very concerned for families of meth users, as you can see from our discussion, even for those whose loved ones have no history of physical violence.

The literature on methamphetamine and violence mentions a problem some methamphetamine users have recognizing/interpreting certain facial expressions. They might do just what your partner does, and mistake your expression as surprise, or sadness for anger. I’m not saying your partner is now on meth, but I am struck by the similarity with this business of facial expressions.

Your safety and health come first

So as not to mince words: we are concerned for your safety and your health.

I wonder if your couples therapist can help mediate this talk with your partner about leaving for 3 weeks. You could bring a written note or memorize it, but do draft it. Saying it out loud will help you prep your tone, which is so important. You are asking for… 3 (be specific) weeks. You can renew later.

You’ll need to make sure it will work on his parents’ side. Being each other’s caretaker isn’t working well, and this is the only option you could think of. Are they okay with their son coming home for 3 weeks? If this isn’t possible or doesn’t work, where can you go?

Not ideal, any of this. I’m glad Kayla is helping, as are our writings and podcasts. Your work sounds important and I am glad you are able to be in it when you’re at work: helping others with their life difficulties is a relief.

We are with you. Keep in touch.

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With Allies, you’ll get information critical to understanding your loved one’s alcohol/drug addiction; you’ll learn the strategies and skills you need to engage your loved one onto the path to recovery; and you’ll get guidance on how to identify and cope with the flood of emotions you are feeling – because when you are coping better, you can better help your loved one.

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