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She Really Is Making Progress. But There Are Days I Can’t Feel It.

Mgmcrosby’s daughter has multiple challenges, from substance use and problematic relationships to depression and possible bipolar disorder. It’s no wonder that standing beside her can sometimes be an overwhelming challenge. Reflective listening, one of many CRAFT skills taught by Allies, can ease the burden.

My daughter, age 26, has all the bipolar disorder [BPD] markers. She is diagnosed with anxiety and depression, possible BPD. To manage her intense emotions over the years, she has turned to binge drinking, abuse of medical marijuana, dabbing, and choosing terribly dysfunctional relationships. She recently was evicted for having a sexual offender stay at her place and has now moved home. The boyfriend lived in her car until he was sent back to jail. I kept my mouth shut throughout, not wanting to deal with the drama of any confrontation and allowing natural consequences. That was before I discovered CRAFT.

Fast forward a few months…. The good news is that after some very dark weeks of feeling suicidal, she has asked for help and is on medication for the first time in a decade AND she is talking to me. I have been able to move closer. With medication, the improvement in mood is just amazing. But marijuana is still big, and she now is out of control, online shopping with credit cards. She has been unable to go to work, but continues the shopping.

I am using CRAFT in talking to her, and making progress. But some days I feel so utterly helpless and hopeless as she swings from thing to thing. I am so grateful there is now an opening of her listening and talking about her problems, but I honestly don’t know what to suggest to her. Residential treatment for dual diagnosis? Outpatient? Go nearby, go far from home? Addiction therapist AND a psychiatrist? My fear is that an addiction treatment center will not address the deep mental illness she deals with. Her doctor is now involved. She trusts him.

One of the phrases from CRAFT that has stuck with me is that recovery is a process, not an event. I am tired, but imagine how she feels…

 

Hi Mgmcrosby,

I am so happy to hear that your daughter has started her journey to recovery. It sounds like she has turned a corner and is putting a lot of effort into improving her situation. I am also amazed at the work you have put in. It sounds like you dove right into the communication module, and that it is starting to build a relationship between you and your daughter based in trust and the ability to discuss difficult topics.

That being said, I can hear your insecurity and angst about being unsure how to continue supporting your daughter. I remember when my son was still deeply entangled in his struggles, with only a small amount of progress, and I was not confident in my CRAFT skills. I couldn’t help but be wracked with nerves and often confused about what to do.

Listening takes practice….it may very well also be the fastest way to change… 

Something that I struggled to learn was that not having the answers is a good thing. Just listening to what your daughter has to say can be helpful. I would suggest going back to Module 4 and watching the very last video, which is on reflective listening. This is such a powerful tool, but I must warn you: it takes a lot of practice to get good at it.

Reflective listening allows for a few things to happen your conversations:

  1. It gives you time to think. And remember, you do not have to have a solution at the end of the conversation. In fact, it is good to let things rest. Saying things like, “I have to think about that” or “Huh, that’s interesting, let me get back to you” are great ways to let your Loved One (LO) and you think about what has been said.
  2. It allows your LO to hear what they are saying.
  3. It gives your LO ample time to solve their own issue(s). This is really the goal of reflective listening.
  4. It gives you the opportunity to really listen and hear your LO, even if you don’t agree or think things are crazy.

Once you get good at it, reflective listening can really help your LO feel heard. And healing begins when a person feels heard.

Here are a couple of key considerations for reflective listening:

  1. About 90% of communication is your facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. You can say the same four words a multitude of ways and send completely different messages.
  2. Keep your agenda out of the conversation. With reflective listening (and all communication really), the goal is to hear the other person and support them. That’s it!

There are a lot of places on the Allies website where you can get support and practice. For starters, you might have a look at the list of drop-in groups, skills groups, and training events on the Allies homepage.

Researching her options can make you ready to respond when the moment’s right

To relieve some of the confusion and worry about which support resources to offer your daughter, consider researching what is available and having them prepared ahead of time for when you hear a wish or a dip. With your daughter’s diagnosis, finding treatment that offers dual diagnosis programs should be considered. There are many options: residential, intensive outpatient programs (IOP), partial hospitalization, counseling, recovery community organizations, psychiatrists, etc. Also remember to look into activities that might enhance her recovery, like a gym, dancing lessons, music, or volunteer opportunities.

Your daughter has strong positives in her corner right now. She has you, she trusts her doctor, and she is turning towards her struggles and not away from them.

I hope that what I have outlined here will be helpful. I wish you and your family all the best. Please keep us updated and reach out if you need anything else.

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