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Straight to Treatment After Jail? Do I Stick to My Guns?

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Sometimes we can see the likely future: our Loved One returns to the shelter of home, hides away in their room, and simply doesn’t get the treatment they need to make progress with their SUD. Allies’ member HelenBo doesn’t want to see that happen with her son, who is struggling with heroin and other substances. What other housing options will he have upon release? As Laurie MacDougall writes, there are often more than we realize. At the same time, such transitions are critical moments for our Loved Ones. Having a list of specific housing and treatment options at hand—along with the CRAFT skills to communicate about them effectively—can make all the difference.

My son just had his 21st birthday in jail. He’s been there for just over 3 months. I have just started with AiR and have a lot to learn. My son is up for parole in a couple of months and has asked if I will allow him back home. I straight-out said NO and that I wanted him to go to rehab. Very controlling, I know now after completing some of the modules. He is a heroin user and also takes whatever else he can get. Our process has been going on for seven years; he’s never been in rehab and has completed detox a couple of times but to no avail.

My question is, should I let him come home, or should I stick to my guns? What I am worried about is him getting out and having nowhere to go and no support. I am going to call the prison tomorrow to see how they can help. But thought I would put it out there to see what you all thought.



Hi HelenBo,

Sounds like you’ve been on a long journey! What’s amazing is that you’re still in it, fighting to help your son. Not easy, but a testament to a mother’s resilience and the love motivating you to continue.

The dilemma causing you angst is what to do when your son is released from jail. On the one hand you do not feel he should return home unless he completes inpatient treatment (correct me if I’m wrong, but I think inpatient is what you have in mind). On the other hand, this choice might leave him homeless and without support.

When making this decision, you might consider two things. First, widening your thoughts on what constitutes treatment. Second, looking at the numerous options open to you and your son. It isn’t just a choice between letting him come home and leaving him out on the streets (or couch surfing). There are a whole lot of other possibilities for both you and your son to consider.

A broad array of recovery options

Another thing to consider is that if your son has been in jail for months and has not been using during that time, inpatient treatment likely won’t take him on as a patient. Nor would insurance be likely to pay out if it did. The wonderful thing is, inpatient treatment isn’t the only possibility. There are lots of ways to create an individualized program to support someone in their recovery. Here are just a few ideas to inspire thought:

  1. Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) or partial hospitalization day programs (PHP). Both of these are day programs and include much of what is offered in residential treatment. There are groups, meetings, counselors, skills workshops, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. Many of these programs offer transportation. The patient lives at home and is still responsible for feeding themselves, finding a job, and all the other components of life. This is a means of getting support while continuing many of the routines and responsibilities of a normal life.
  2. Counseling.
  3. Medicine for both opioid use disorder (OUD) and for any mental illness or trauma.
  4. Support group meetings like NA, AA, SMARTrecovery, Life Ring, Wellbriety, etc.
  5. Exercise or body/mind practices: yoga, gong baths, Refuge Recovery, hiking groups, listening to music or playing an instrument, riding a bike, CrossFit, rock climbing, etc. Often you can find groups that offer yoga or meditation specifically for people in recovery, but it does not have to be limited to that. Adding activities that might be enjoyable and directing their focus to something productive can get them moving physically and simply feeling better. Doing so can also reduce the time they spend experiencing ruminating thoughts and add the vital benefits of increased social engagement. They do say that the opposite of addiction is connection, and engaging in these types of activities can help people become connected. Such activities don’t necessarily have to be designed for recovery, although of course they could be.
  6. Recovery housing. Many recovery housing facilities also come with services like counseling, an IOP, hiking and other group activities, and support to attend meetings together.
  7. Finding and moving in with a roommate.
  8. Is he religious? If so, then can you encourage him to get to his church, synagogue, or temple?
  9. Are there any activities that you and your son would enjoy doing together?
  10. Volunteer work—for example, at a local animal shelter? Animals and pets can be a connection and support for a person. Sometimes recovery homes have a pet living at the home that everyone takes care of; doing so can be very rewarding and comforting. Would it help if your son had his own pet?
  11. Acupuncture, chiropractic work, and other wholistic health offerings.
  12. Re-entry into the community and any services that he might need to help him readjust. In some communities there are workshops designed for just this sort of transition.

This is just a short list of “treatment” options. What about getting a little creative and giving your son a choice of things, you’re willing to support him with?

Of course, talking about this constructively will require some preparation on your part. Here’s a simple model you might consider:

Right now, coming home might not be the best option for you or me. But I have been thinking about options for support and resources to help move you forward. Would you be open to me sharing some ideas? You don’t have to follow through on any of them, just spend some time letting them run around in your head. Just food for thought.

If you get a yes then, follow up:

Well, there’s the option of a recovery home, with services like an IOP and counselors, and although it might not offer medicine, they may help you get to a nurse practitioner or psychiatrist who could prescribe it. I would be willing to pitch in to get you started. Maybe after a stay of six months or so, and consistency with these services, we could talk about what it would take for you to come home. But who knows, by that point you might not want to. You might want a place of your own.

Give him the time to think about everything you’ve said, especially if there is pushback. Make sure to reiterate that these are just ideas, and that he does not have

to follow through on any of them. Let him know you have confidence in the choices he will make. Ending the conversation with something like, “I’m sure you will figure out what works for you. I’m just throwing out ideas to consider. Let’s talk about this again later on.”

And later, check back in, “Hey, what are your thoughts on living arrangements and resources when you get out of jail? Whatcha decide?” Then listen, listen, listen. But once you have listened, seriously and compassionately, don’t be afraid to negotiate with him. Whenever you have something he wants, you’re in a great position to leverage that and determine what your needs are. For example: “I would be willing to help pay for some of your rent for the next six months if you are willing to stay consistent with visiting the counselor and taking your meds as prescribed.” It seems as a society we have lost the art of negotiation.

The good communication sandwich

What I have outlined here is the CRAFT communication skill of “sandwiching.” The steps are:

  1. Ask permission to share. If they say no, back off. This is a way to inspire the other person to think without “forcing” ideas onto them.
  2. If they say yes, great. Give them options, with no expectation that they will use those options. This inspires them to think and consider that they might have options they had not thought about previously. It gets them away from black-and-white thinking and reveals that there is whole bunch of grey too.
  3. Ask their thoughts on the options. This gives them ownership of the solution to their problems. You may have presented ideas, but they will determine which of those ideas, if any, they are going to utilize.

Your son might not choose to do things the way you would, or the way you think he should. He is going to choose what makes most sense to him. Just as you, in turn, will decide what works best for you.

It’s great that you are consulting his parole officer or the jail and trying to find resources available when he leaves. Sometimes, depending on the sentence, a person is actually not allowed to come home: housing is already decided for them. But resources take many forms. In addition to all of those I list above, helping him get on Medicaid right away could be vital. In any event, a good array of support resources laid out before him can be critical to his successfully adjustment back into his community.

I can understand the worry about him not having housing when he is released. But this is precisely why it’s so important for you to have information on other housing options ready for him: recovery housing, shelters, renting a room, possibly a group home for men, etc. He has options. They just don’t include your home at the moment.

It’s not just what we say that matters

And remember, the difference between an ultimatum and option is often just how it’s presented. No, you can’t come home, you have to go to treatment first! can be received as demanding and doesn’t give the person agency to choose for themselves. But compare that to: It’s not safe here at home. Here are some options for you to consider, and I’d be willing to reconsider you coming home if certain things are accomplished. Stating it that way gives our Loved One agency to make their own decisions, and an incentive to work towards a goal.

This is a lot of information, I realize. I do hope you find it helpful. The ideas I’ve presented here are just that, ideas. You are the expert on your family, and you’ll be able to judge what works best for you. I would just encourage you to get creative—and to practice those CRAFT skills! Your love for you son and your resilience shines through. Keep us updated on your progress. Wishing you and your son all the best.

Laurie MacDougall


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Your CRAFT skills may be put to the test, but they’re still indispensable. Perhaps more than ever. At Allies in Recovery, we’re always impressed by the mutual support our members give each other—and wherever possible, we try to build on it. At the heart of this post is a conversation about how to take care of your emotions while staying connected with your Loved One (LO). It leads to a stark question many of us coping with SUD grapple with: how do you support a Loved One who blames, rages, and is verbally out of control? Laurie MacDougall tackles this vital, thorny issue. 

Does This Level of Violence Rule Out CRAFT?

Nohp’s husband of 48 years is struggling with heavy alcohol use. Recently his behavior has become more alarming, and even violent. Now she’s staying outside their home, and wondering if that violence means the CRAFT approach isn’t right for their circumstances. Allies CEO Dominique Simon-Levine thinks it probably is. While underscoring that no one can decide for her, she advises Nohp to explore the skills training and support resources offered through Allies in Recovery. Quite simply, they work, and have a track record to prove it.

Please Help Me Improve What I Say to Her

Words matter so much — both the ones we speak or write, and the one we choose not to. Fletcher921’s daughter uses meth and opioids, and was recently suspended from her job. She showed her mother the suspension letter from her employer — an act of real trust. Her mother put effort and heart into her reply, but wants to do even better next time. Allies’ Laurie MacDougall reflects on how CRAFT could help in this effort, and the possible benefits for daughter and mother alike.

Don’t Give Up Too Soon On Medication-Assisted Treatment

Elaine’s son is struggling to quit opioids, but the path is hard. He’s had many rounds of detox, and is now trying to self-medicate. An initial attempt at Suboxone treatment made him feel emotionless and flat. But did it have to be that way? Allies’ CEO Dominique Simon-Levine reviews the challenges and great promise of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). MAT therapies often come with a period of adjustment for our Loved One’s.

It Feels Like Nothing Works With Him

If we focus on what’s ours to control, change is possible all the same. CRAFT skills can help you get there. Elaine’s son is back in the hospital, in a routine that’s become all too familiar to his parents. They’ve tried to help in many ways, but the health crises and the drug use that leads to them don’t seem to be changing, and Elaine’s begun to doubt they ever will. Laurie MacDougall gently challenges this idea. While a Loved One’s life isn’t ours to change, our own words, feelings, and behavior are. Allies in Recovery is committed to helping us learn to take control of these, and thereby give our Loved Ones the most effective support we can.

Do I Want to Have Children With Him?

There’s nothing simple about such a question. But here are some pointers in the search for answers. Whits wants children and loves her partner. But is she prepared to raise children with someone who’s progress with his SUD is uncertain? No one, of course, can answer that for her. But if there is a way forward together, it will require compassionate communication, as well as boundaries and self-care. That’s where the CRAFT approach can be so powerfully helpful.

The Discussion Blog on the Allies Website: Excerpts From One Member’s Journey

An important component of any member’s successful journey on the Allies website is participation in the expertly-moderated Discussion Blog. There, CRAFT/AIR trained staff interact with members by answering questions in both regular replies and in full, expert blog response posts offering guidance that any member can access. Members see other members sharing questions, frustrations, and successes similar to theirs, and also they often see how the Learning Modules are effectively used as referenced by our team experts and by members. We also offer dozens of supplementary podcasts by members of our Allied Team, discussing real situations with Loved Ones and using the CRAFT approach.

A Message from Founder, Dominique Simon-Levine

Founder & CEO, Dominique Simon-Levine, offers an update about the Allies in Recovery program, including new offerings and activities. Thank you all for being so patient as we navigated through the many hassles and challenges associated with developing and building our new website. We are so very grateful for YOU! (Pictured Left to Right: Nicole Castillo, Andrew Maxwell, Deborah Rodriguez, Sandra Munier)

You Don’t Have to Live in Manhattan to Access Recovery Services

And if AA isn’t what your Loved One’s after, there are usually alternatives
Kspring has been supporting her son on his recovery journey for years.
He’s come a long way, but the challenges still feel immense, and Kspring
is actively seeking new recovery resources that could offer a hand. Allies’
Laurie MacDougall did some digging. What she found underscores just
how much is out there—much of it independent of Zip code.

Learning Our Way Out of the Cycle of Recurrence

Even when a lot’s going right in our lives, the recovery process can be tough and painful. Outwardly, Bimba’s son’s life seems wonderful: good job, good relationship, education, financial security. Still, he only manages to remain abstinent for about 90 days at a time. While this stage of the recovery process is often brutal, there are resources and people ready to help. Sustained reinforcement —“getting the message about recovery”— is a vital piece of the puzzle.

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

We can’t resolve everything for our Loved Ones. That’s where reflective listening comes in.
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.


In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)