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 at least 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.”
“Relapse again. My daughter and her BF were living with us in recovery for the past 6 months. The 6 months prior to that, they had several AUD [Alcohol Use Disorder] relapses while staying with us. They go away to drink, sleep in hotels, and order out until they are broke. It was especially hard for them because COVID shut down access to most of the outside world. They are never under my roof when these relapses happen and I actually feel like my boundaries are accepted without complaint.
This time she had a great job with all her money going to paying outstanding credit bills and reestablishing herself. They were happy and excited about their futures. He had just finished a training course and got his CDL license. He accepted a great new job that day.
My daughter’s brilliant idea was to go out to dinner to celebrate. In the matter of a few hours, that changed to an overnight stay. She found people to work for her. It went on for over a week away. It’s now been 2 weeks and we haven’t heard from them for a week of that. I suspect the worst. What a crash!
So getting back to me, I am struggling and heartbroken. This is natural, I accept that I have good reason. I have just finished [Allies in Recovery eLearning] Module 6 again, trying to steel myself to staying distant, as my encouragement and support have been important to their lives right along and may feel like a reward.
I sent an email to them a couple days ago. (It feels like an eternity.) In it, I tried to make it about me, my feelings and concerns, my own plan for self-care, and what my husband and I could do for them when they are ready. I emphasized that it is their work to do but they could come back here with the usual deal – no drinking, no drama.
It is horrible to stand by and not say anything while they blow through any money she has saved. I want them to put the brakes on now rather than have them hit rock bottom again. Yes, they have to want that at least as much as I want it. That’s the trick.
When relapse happens, I feel like I have to go back to square one. But I know that isn’t true because I can’t unlearn what Allies in Recovery, CRAFT, and REST have taught me. The tools I operate with now give me insight into myself and addiction. But it’s going to take them a while to feel more than a few natural consequences, and the waiting is so hard. In the meantime, who knows what bad things might befall them? I try to push those thoughts as far away as possible since they only cause pain and I have no communication to confirm/disprove them. At the same time, I want to be emotionally prepared for devastation. That in itself is very bad, the idea that I have to be prepared for the worst.
I want to reach out to them, to tell them I know they can get back on track, that they have a “longer” experience in recovery to fall back on. I want them to see my husband and I as loving parents who are forgiving and understanding of the challenges they face as people with AUD. I want to stay connected, but I’m also concerned that connection is a reward.
Believe it or not, time is often my friend in these times. I know that with each day, I will continue to process things and gain more insight that I can work with. I can actively pursue self-care and peace. But waiting is so hard.
Thanks for listening and for sharing your knowledge, hope, and experience.”
[This question originally appeared on the Allies in Recovery Member Discussion Blog, where experts respond to members’ real-life questions and concerns.]
Thank you for taking the time to update the Allies team and community on your daughter’s return to drinking.
It is indeed heartbreaking reading your account. She and her partner made monumental progress in the last 6 months under your roof, thanks in part to your diligent CRAFT-work. At the time you wrote the above comment, your daughter and her partner were at large, with no contact, for 2 weeks. Of course, it would feel like an absolute eternity. I hope that by the time this post reaches you, you will have heard from her and will feel at least slightly reassured.
Resilience in the Face of Hard Times
You describe being in a place of struggling and feeling heartbroken. How could you not? As you so well know by now, feeling the feelings is essential to. preserving yourself. Of course, this is a real challenge for any of us – allowing yourself to be where you are and allowing your daughter to be where she is can help foster more peace within you.
I’d like to share a quote with you, from an inspiring woman we’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know through this site:
“Thank you to everyone here at Allies in Recovery for creating a program for families and friends so we can be resilient to hard times and get back to our own recovery more quickly. That resilience has been key for me.”
The inspiring woman who wrote those words is you.
Resilience is a beautiful goal, equally precious and useful for our loved ones navigating the “spiral of recovery” as it is for us: their family / support system / cheerleaders. Those who love them must navigate that spiral too, in a way. In our eLearning CRAFT Module 1, we provide a graph of the recovery process as elliptical. [See image below.] With each successive effort at recovery, the recurrence of use hopefully gets less frequent and is shorter in duration. Recovery is not like an on-off light switch.
One recovery-focused website defines “resilience” as: “the ability to bounce back from adversity and perhaps even become happier, smarter, stronger, and healthier than you were before.”
The fact that you have been building up your internal framework over these past few years, taking better care of yourself, becoming more resistant to the winds and storms, can only be a boon to your entourage, including your daughter. And of course, it is a less painful, less drama-filled way to live when addiction/recovery (and recurrence of use) are part of your reality.
A foundation built on love and hope, using the CRAFT approach
You write in your recent comment, “I want them to see my husband and I as loving parents who are forgiving and understanding of the challenges they face as people with AUD,” and we can understand that desire to be one million percent clear with her (especially in moments like these, when your loved one’s reality may be muddy and mucky — anything but clear).
Your actions, over the last six months and of course before that, speak louder than any words you could say to your daughter. The same wise woman I mentioned above once shared these words with us: “Finding CRAFT has helped build a foundation built on love and hope.”
Your daughter has seen with her own eyes, and felt with her own heart and body, the way you have determinedly worked to become a non-judgmental support to her, the way you’ve encouraged her non-use, been an ally to her recovery. By now, she knows deep within her that when she’s ready to pick up and get back to her recovery work, you and your husband are there like rocks, ready to hold her up and champion her efforts.
And in case you have the slightest doubt, allow me to quote you back to you (from an older comment you sent in): “She knows we love and understand; she even said that in her text.”
Return to your center, return to the core of CRAFT
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already by suggesting you return to the teachings of CRAFT that have anchored and guided you so well thus far. You say in your recent comment “I have just finished Module 6 again, trying to steer myself to stay distant as my encouragement and support have been important to their lives right along and may feel like a reward.”
I can hear the difficulty in your words. What you’d really like to do is probably to reach out, open your arms, send reassurances. What CRAFT asks us to do — especially in a case like this — is simply not easy. And in a way might feel counter-intuitive or as if it’s going against our gut, our instinct to protect.
From our eLearning Module 6, “My Loved One is Using Right Now, Now What?”, three things you can do to discourage use:
- Remove Rewards
- Step Away/Disengage
- Allow Natural Consequences
But…also don’t forget that a short, very neutral text message can be a good way to catch her attention and plant a seed in her head. You aren’t required to stay 100% out of touch.
In one of your older comments, you echo the importance of returning to the eLearning on our site: “So often I find myself going back to the modules for guidance and reinforcement.” Allies in Recovery’s virtual program trainer, Laurie MacDougall, shared that despite her having viewed the eLearning CRAFT Modules hundreds of times she grasps something new with each viewing.
Here I’d also like to remind you to revisit our eLearning CRAFT Module 7, which is all about caring for yourself and paying attention to how you can shift your own thoughts and feelings. We talk more about the topic of catastrophizing in several of our blog posts and in a recent episode of our podcast.
We salute you for your diligence, dedicated work, and desire to learn and improve the way you communicate and support your daughter. You are a model for many!
We marvel at how strong she is
In closing, I’m moved to share a few more words I harvested from the many, generous updates and testimonials you’ve sent in over the years.
In times like these, our worry, heartbreak, fear (etc.) can overshadow the hopefulness. So, I’m reminding you of these inspiring reflections of your daughter, which may be harder to see right now but remain, nevertheless, true and valid observations:
“She is making some tough decisions and standing her ground to get what she needs. We couldn’t be happier for her and we marvel at how strong she is…”
“Looking forward to watching this woman grow in her recovery with a strong network of peers, counseling, and family support. Never lose hope.”
Please know we are with you and your family in heart and in spirit. So glad to know you’re taking advantage of Allies in Recovery’s live, virtual groups — like our weekly CRAFT Skills, CRAFT Educational, and CRAFT Family Support groups — to bolster all the great work and learning you do alone through this site.
Please keep us posted. We are here for you every step of the way.