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 eLearning 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.
Below we share the experience of one very recent Allies member, “DIANE,” (name changed) who in just for (4) months has seen success using the Allies website and CRAFT. DIANE has posted several times on the Discussion Blog, asking questions and describing situations with her Loved One. She interacts there with both Allies staff and other members, learning from their situations and helping others by sharing her own experiences.. Sometimes her questions prompt full blog posts by Allies staff, such as the (excerpted) one below.
DIANE and her husband, or “Loved One” (LO) are a married couple in their 60s. Her husband’s substance use is alcohol. He had shown aggression, prompting a call to the police, and he had a drunk driving arrest and loss of his license. DIANE is applying CRAFT principles with her LO and with herself. She has made great use of the eLearning Modules. And now, DIANE’s husband Bob has an appointment with a recovery center. DIANE writes in her member profile: “I’m learning how to regulate my responses and take care of myself. I’m becoming calm as I’m more confident in my thoughts, actions and responses. And I’m more confident in that he will respond well and recover. What I’m learning here is helping so much. I really appreciate the honesty and practical insight with Allies in Recovery.”
Below are just a few excerpts of a Discussion Blog Post written by an Allie’s Team Member and/or CRAFT Expert and several of DIANE’s questions and responses, tracking her progress over just the four (4) months she’s been a member.
Blog Post by Allies Director Dominique Simon-Levine “I Can’t Seem to Get out of the Negative Talk” (excerpted)
(In the actual Allies Team Member blog posts, hyperlinks are provided when referring to Modules and other resources on the website.)
Allies in Recovery Member writes in (excerpted):
“It’s so hard to have positive talk when I know my husband has been drinking. I can’t seem to get out of the negative talk while he’s drinking or when he’s not (because I know it won’t last long). I have a wall up when it comes to trying to bridge us together. I feel that being nice will make it seem like it’s ok for him to drink. I seem to be stuck. I guess I’m most concerned that I talk so negatively when I suspect he’s drinking, even if he’s not acting drunk.”
Dominique responds (excerpted):
…There’s a reason that Module #4 on Communication starts with “stopping the negative talk.” It’s not surprising to be really upset. But what we say when we’re upset is often not great. Go down that list of negative talk in Key Observations Exercise #14 and choose the types of negative talk you use. Again, this will build your awareness of your talk habits and buy you time to think of another way. Your aim here is to silence the negative talk. This isn’t easy at all. But even cutting back by just one comment is going to feel like a huge success.
…At this point, you’ve done one (1) of the three (3) critical actions we suggest when a loved one is using/drinking: you’ve disengaged yourself. The second action: removing rewards follows from the first: you’ve left the scene, so you’re not going to go through the day with your husband like nothing is wrong. You’re not going to fix dinner, sit on the couch and watch TV together, or even fight. The third action is allowing natural consequences when a loved one has been using/drinking. This means you’re not around; you don’t tell him it will get better when he’s sick with a hangover; you leave him sleeping on the floor; you let him oversleep, etc.
…All of what I’ve described thus far surely makes a lot of sense, but you may be quick to tell me it still feels impossible to do. That’s why in Module #7 we take apart hard feelings and thoughts to show you how our minds can function to pull us down, to make things look worse than they really are.
[[end of blog post]]
(Below, excerpted comments by DIANE on the blogs)
Early August: “Thank you for directing me to these other posts on positive talk when he’s not drinking. Re-reading them is giving me increased confidence and peace. I think I’m starting to understand positive talk as I’ve been working on stopping negative talk. For me saying less is really helping, both negative and positive. …Brief positive talk is really helping me and my husband. Thanking him for a kind word or a thoughtful action. And praising quietly his recovery. And not loading him with other things to figure out. He’s healing, but so am I. And both of us have only so much capacity right now. I’m glad to be spending it on what’s most important and just let all the other unsolved details wait in line for when they become as wish or a dip.”
Late August: “Ignoring what is annoying or undone is very helpful advice for me. I’ve been really endeavoring to do this. Now that I’ve started I realize I had no idea how much effort it takes for him to recover. The example of how many decisions need to be made @ new priorities, responsibilities, new schedule…so many new choices is very accurate. I’m learning to not bring up anything that’s not immediately helping to him cope better with the challenge. Recently I had a health upset and he responded by drinking. I was shocked and thought how could he desert me when I needed him most?
But reading here, reviewing the modules, and listening to him showed me he just hasn’t learned established coping skills yet. This really helped me to be compassionate instead of overwhelmed and confused. I thanked him for talking to me. I feel like it’s one of first times I didn’t get on the rollercoaster of pain and anguish.”
Early September: (in response to a Discussion Blog Post by Allies Team Member, Isabel Cooney, a reply to a question by DIANE) “Just what I needed to catch my breath and regain my balance. I feel like I’m breathing again. I’m biting off smaller pieces of CRAFT again. And taking much better care of myself. This is very good learning for me on how to take care of myself. …This post is great. Although I’d listened to the modules, I completely missed the definition of use. Such a fundamental concept and gives me specific actions and therefore peace. Very good examples. I’m going to go back and review the modules. I’m certain there is more I missed. Thank you.”
Early September: This question prompted a full Discussion Blog Post response by an Allies CRAFT Expert “…The reason for this post is to share an incident and check that I’m on track or not. I am really working on applying CRAFT to my husband when he drinks. Figuring it out successfully or not…(excerpted) … I feel really guilty and keep trying to reassure myself that it’s not my doing if he drinks. He doesn’t need to respond by drinking. …So, even if I’m part of the reason he drinks in a particular situation, I need to apply CRAFT and remove myself when he drinks. …”
Mid-September: “Thank you for this extensive response to my post. It is full of so many specific points of learning. I have read and reread it many times. It provides me a lot of comfort and support. …I did get to be proud of myself, give myself a break, and not piercingly focus on my husband. Just what I needed to catch my breath and regain my balance. I feel like I’m breathing again. I’m biting off smaller pieces of CRAFT again. And taking much better care of myself. This is very good learning for me on how to take care of myself.”
Late September 2020: (in response to a Discussion Blog Post by Allies Team Member, Laurie MacDougall, about losing hope, which was an answer to another member’s question) “…Thank you for this post on hope. It helped me to define my expectations much more clearly. I appreciate the encouragement to review the modules that’s been mentioned also. I’ve been reviewing the one on difficult emotions specifically black and white thinking. I know my emotions have been extreme. How you redefined hope is good. It helped me clarify how to step away from black and white thinking towards more moderation. I’ve set aside some of my goals which were just causing me discouragement…for now.”
October 2020: “Thank you so much for your recent responses. The post on when he’s done using and this information is so helpful. I reviewed module 6 and the one on relapse too. There was much I didn’t get the first time when I was in such a panic. Here at home we are doing so well. My husband now drinks very rarely. For me, though, I noticed I needed to firm up myself so I wasn’t foolishly optimistic or nervous. Two extremes I had been swaying between.
I feel so much more prepared for whatever comes my way, so I don’t need to be afraid. Wow, what a great adjustment. I’m confident in how I’ll think and respond if needed, so I can enjoy the progress, support my husband and really take care of myself each day. Thinking well has leveled my emotions dramatically. I have to say it’s worth every bit of work if it only had helped me. But I am so thankful for the part I have been able to do to help my husband too.
So this is my encouragement to all here — that this insight and instruction can really work and change the dynamic of your life.”
Early November: “Thank you for the encouragement and especially for the advice on the e-learning and posts on how to speak lovingly and honestly. I had a terrific conversation with my husband this weekend about treatment. And I could also express my concerns kindly by adapting the conversation prompts I’ve learned here.”
Late November: “I thought I’d give an update. We went together to look at a counseling center, to “just check it out to see if he liked it or not.” Now he has an appointment for an evaluation after Thanksgiving. Him acknowledging he needs help, by making the appointment is a huge step. It’s a lot for him to process. But I have taken your advice and let the force of this realization come to him without my input. It’s a relief for me to be “the good guy” and let the tough topics be handled by someone else. And then we went out to lunch, something we both love to do.”
In summary, DIANE is a great example of a member logging in regularly, posting her questions, and making full use of the Member Discussion Blogs and the Learning Modules. She is learning how to do the CRAFT approach, and she and her husband are doing better after just four (4) months of her using the Allies in Recovery website.