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What Allies in Recovery Adds to CRAFT

Graphic Design by Lizabeth Laroche

AIR is an applied version of the original CRAFT research. It focuses on the family as the center of a system which also includes the AIR community, and as integral to the healing of the person with substance use disorder. You get help any time, online and in groups. AIR also focuses on cultural competency, helping you individualize the methods in a way that works for your family. CRAFT is a way of thinking and gaining openness, safety, and connection — and you can make it your own. Meta:



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What Do You Want, and What Do You Need?

When you’re dealing with difficult circumstances and the actions of others, it’s important to shift focus from external to internal, to pause and check in with yourself and ask yourself what you need and want. Take your power back. We believe that taking care of yourself in this way has a positive impact on the other person. It’s a demonstration of boundaries and self-care.

Interview with Christina Dent

Christina Dent discusses her new book, Curious: A Foster Mom’s Discovery of an Unexpected Solution to Drugs and Addiction. Christina grew up in a conservative Christian home. Her views of addiction changed dramatically when she and her husband became foster parents. Christina founded the non-profit End It For Good to invite others to listen to the voices directly impacted by our drug laws.

Trust, Hope, and Expectation

When it comes to hope, trust, and expectation, what’s our part, and what’s the part of others? Hope is ours. It’s internal, doesn’t damage anyone, and is loose, open, and a way to stay positive. It’s also ours to accept — to say this is how things are and soothe ourselves. What not ours? Trust. It’s the other person’s job to become trustworthy for themselves. Expectations, too, are theirs — if we impose expectations on others, we set up failure

The Season of Expectations

Having expectations for others can be a difficult trap. When we have ideas about how things should go, we often try to manifest those expectations and have other people do what we want them to do. Instead, learn to manage your nervous system, to calm yourself and have tools to make requests of others. Be careful not to superimpose your expectations on others — it might not be what they want, need, or are able to do. That needs to be okay. Learn to give people room to create their own expectations for themselves.

Interview with Alex Ribbentrop

Alex Ribbentrop joins the Allies in Recovery hosts to discuss intergenerational trauma, substance use, the importance of family, and finding connection. Alex is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Qualified Supervisor, EMDR Trained Clinician, and Certified Family Trauma Professional, practicing in Virginia, Maryland, and Florida.

Filling the Gap

How do you handle that difficult time when your loved one comes home from treatment, and is back in an old environment, complete with old triggers? It can be a time of depression and anxiety. Think about reconnection — being present and engaged, making things fun when you can, and using the CRAFT communication tools to leave doors open.

What Is Enmeshment?

Enmeshment is a blurring of the boundaries between people. How the other person feels affects you intensely. Enmeshment is one-way — your thoughts, feelings, and choices are about the other person’s well-being. Countering enmeshment means checking in with ourselves, calming our systems down, taking pauses, and allowing the other person the dignity of their own process. You can learn to listen and make reasonable requests and develop a healthier kind of connection.

How Do You Handle Anger?

What’s the impact of emotions on how we interact with loved ones? Learn to acknowledge, claim, and identify your emotions. Don’t discuss anything when you’re reactive. Instead, pause, check in with your feelings, and don’t take things personally. Have a strategy that’s not confrontational or accusing, but engaging. Calm your system and engage in a way that you can feel good about. Hopefully this will reverberate with your loved one and create change over time.

Ah-Ha Moments

When the noise dissipates and there’s clarity, that’s an “ah-ha moment.” You can move forward in a different way. You might even find new commitment to a way of thinking or behaving that you didn’t have access to before. Allies in Recovery uses CRAFT to give you the tool set for your own ah-ha moments, but also to help create the conditions for your loved one to find their own moments and possibilities for long-term change.

What Are the Three Questions?

When you’re in the middle of crisis, feeling reactive or uncertain about what to do, use the “three questions” to helps create space and time and take the best action. What am I feeling? What can I do about it (think as broadly as possible)? What am I actually gonna do? Kayla likes to consider a fourth: What’s happening that’s making me feel this way?

Let’s Talk About Treatment

The end goal of CRAFT is treatment, but what does that mean, and what does it look like? In addition to more-expected forms, treatment is anything that engages your loved one, that provides meaning and helps them look at themselves. What’s our role in presenting these options when a loved one says they’re ready to hear them? Do the research and put together a treatment list for when that time comes.

What Do “Using” and “Not Using” Really Mean?

In this closer look at Module 5, you’ll learn a tenet of CRAFT – rewarding positive behavior and removing rewards for negative behavior. When it comes to “using,” the moment-by-moment details become important. Your job is increasing your awareness by witnessing and noticing your loved one’s behavior. “Using” is really a larger term including before, during, and after interacting with a substance. Everything else is “not using.” When there are periods, maybe tiny ones, of not using, move in with gentle, quiet rewards of connection. It’s important, too, to learn how to calm your system enough to do this process. It’s all trial and error, so don’t judge yourself for not doing it right. But do notice how what you’re doing makes an impact. Check out Module 5 for more.

How Laurie and Kayla Became Part of AIR

Learn about Allies in Recovery’s (AIR) groups – the CRAFT Educational groups facilitated by Laurie and the CRAFT Support group facilitated by Kayla – and how they became part of AIR. CRAFT isn’t easy, and you can’t do it alone. These groups provide essential information, feedback and support.  You are not alone during this painful, overwhelming process.

Shall We Dance?

CRAFT as choreography? Our hosts step into the metaphor of a dance with your loved one. This isn’t a traditional dance – it’s a look at the steps to see what works and what doesn’t, to CRAFT a new dance and change your role. The idea is to learn new tools, practice them, and see where they fit in. Be patient. It’s a process.

What About Family Members’ Trauma?

It can be easy, particularly when those outside a situation offer advice, to overlook the history of trauma that may exist for a family member. CRAFT takes the idea of healing out of a therapy model, to a community-based model. It’s a long-term process of learning new tools and ways to interact. It begins with family members understanding themselves, their patterns and reactivity, so they’re equipped for long-term work of healing — with the support of Allies in Recovery all along the way.

Watching Families Progress

Our hosts discuss their joy in witnessing the progress of families in their groups. If you’re helping your loved one, start with yourself and your own healing. Healing is, Kayla says, not best done alone. And with Allies in Recovery, you don’t have to do it alone. You get to be part of a group of people doing the work, and get support not just for concepts, but for implementing the powerful tools of CRAFT. This is the work that can help your loved one.

Collaboration Vs. Ultimatum

When your loved one is returning, communicate and collaborate about your expectations, concerns, and plans. Keep on collaborating over time, so if concerns arise your loved one can take responsibility, have agency, and you’re not running the show on your own. Without their “skin in the game,” little can change. Model engagement, which is also part of the treatment process.

Denial? Or Ambivalence?

Don’t assume someone is lying or “in denial.” At Allies, we believe family members and loved ones are aware of what’s happening – even when they don’t really want to know. Ambivalence is defined as “the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone”. We can see things as complicated – or ambivalent, a struggle between two orientations – and know it takes time to move through a process.

How Do You Stop Catastrophizing?

If you find yourself swept away in the undertow of negative thinking about what might happen and how you might prevent it, the number-one tool to use is stepping back, noticing that you’re doing it. Number two is deciding to shift it, starting with “no negative talk.” And third is hitting the metaphorical “reset” button, finding something to soothe yourself. At first, it may not go well, but over time, you can get good at it.

Wishes & Dips

You’ve got tools — such as active listening, being curious and open. So, when your loved one expresses what they would like, or feels they can’t continue as they are, you’re ready. In those moments of “wishes and dips,” you can gently move forward, listening to them and having resources ready, for now or whenever they’re ready. It’s a main tenet of CRAFT — noticing the openings. It’s also a practice — something to stay with over time, so you have a chance to be received.

Here Come the Holidays – How Do You Deal?

Holidays. Winter. How do you deal? Start by shifting expectations about how things might go, and who might be there. Have conversations about “soft” expectations with your loved one in advance. Consider alternative plans, and take care of yourself. Stick with people who support you. How can you shift yourself, your belief system, and your behavior? Share duties, and consider an alcohol-free holiday, whether your loved one has any issue with it or not.

The Importance of Self-Care During Conflict

Times of crisis in conflict may seem like the worst times to practice self-care – yet in those moments, taking care of yourself is key to CRAFT. The more you learn to increase your awareness of your self and your reaction, the more you can successfully use CRAFT tools. If what you want to happen in those times involves your loved ones actions, it’s not likely to be successful.  Changing your actions and reactions, however, alters the environment and creates the possibility of change.

Speaking Up: The Compassionate Way

How do you communicate when you see problematic behavior? The key is intention: observing behavior, and pointing it out calmly and thoughtfully. The idea is to briefly and specifically tell your loved one how the behavior impacts you, then step back without expectation of an outcome, and give them the dignity of processing what you’ve said. Over time, this CRAFT tool can lead to long-term change.

Giving Your Loved One Trust and Agency

Kayla and Laurie discuss short-term vs. long-term change — start by working on one change in yourself rather than in your loved one, like focusing on your thought process, choosing to trust and step back, giving your loved one the chance to make decisions. This gives both of you the tools for slower, but more effective long-term change — think of erosion, not a tsunami.

Asking Effective Questions

Laurie and Kayla discuss questions that create space for your loved one rather than hemming them in. We may have brilliant ideas about what others should do and want to share. However, the skills we need are openness and willingness, to provide space to hear the other person and provide an opportunity for them to process. Back up, don’t interrupt, and let your loved one talk without offering feedback.

Creating a Safe Space for Decision Making

You can help your loved one make decisions by creating a safe space — by listening, being genuinely interested in their perspective, being non-judgmental, and allowing them to slow things down to examine their own thinking. Avoid trying to fix things yourself, and assume that they’re wise enough to know what they need. Your role is to help them make their own choices.

How, Why and When to Put Yourself First

How do you take care of yourself when there’s a crisis with your Loved One? It’s a process of changing how you think about yourself and your role in the dynamic. If you can change how you think – even for small parts of the day – it changes the dynamic with your Loved One, allowing them the freedom to look at themselves, and not just worry about how they impact you. Hosts Laurie MacDougall and Kayla Solomon share tips on this episode of “Coming Up for Air”.

Answering Listener Questions

In interactions with our loved one, it’s important to be open to conversation and seek a way to be collaborative rather than making demands. In this episode of “Coming Up for Air”, our hosts discuss two listener questions: one about a partner who wants their debit card back and another about a friend who’s picking a loved one up from prison and wants to help them continue seeking recovery.

Motivation: What Drives Change?

Motivation drives change. How do you find motivation to change your part of the dynamic, and allow time and space for the process to unfold? It’s okay to sometimes feel like maybe things aren’t working, then get back on track. If you don’t know how to change, Allies in Recovery offers a toolbox. As long as you stay interested and use the tools, things can change.

What Is Radical Acceptance?

Radical acceptance involves understanding that much of what happens is out of your control, and using strategies to calm, distract, and soothe yourself. The goal is to avoid catastrophizing — envisioning and preparing for the worst outcomes. Radical acceptance means letting go of what you can’t control, experiencing feelings and pain, but without increasing agitation, reactivity, and suffering.

When Your Loved One Uses Several Substances

If your loved one uses multiple substances, our CRAFT experts suggest completing the “functional analysis” exercise to understand which substance to focus on first. Start small, by changing your own behavior in response to your loved one’s use. Laurie MacDougall, Dominique Simon-Levine and Kayla Solomon, the hosts of the “Coming Up for Air” podcast suggest aiming to shift over time and studying eLearning CRAFT Modules 3, 5, and 6 closely to help make your plans. Listen in to this episode for further insight.

Coming Home

After any treatment, when someone is in early recovery, check your expectations. Your loved one is likely in a fragile state, uncomfortable, edgy, body wrecked after dependency, and dis-regulated physically and emotionally. On this episode of our podcast “Coming Up for Air”,  hosts Laurie MacDougall, Dominique Simon-Levine and Kayla Solomon talk about how your loved one coming home is a time of transition and encourage listeners to have realistic expectations. Be gentle, caring, and connected, not an inquisitor. Connection is key.

Unsolicited Advice: Helpful or Hurtful?

On this episode of our podcast “Coming Up for Air”,  hosts Laurie MacDougall,  Dominique Simon-Levine and Kayla Solomon talk about unsolicited advice. It’s smart to avoid giving unsolicited advice. If you receive it, hold your ground, knowing that you’re dedicated to upholding the CRAFT model. Consider telling the advice-giver to look into CRAFT to understand what you’re doing.

An Interview with Meme English

Guest Meme English, a former family therapist and consultant in the legal system, discusses family dynamics with hosts Kayla and Laurie. When it comes to substance use, family dynamics are complicated. There are many layers of trauma, from generational to personal, and competing needs among family members. Balancing all these factors and personal situations means deciding whose needs get most clearly met. Trauma therapy also requires time and commitment, and is harder to find since the pandemic.

The Antidote to Shame: Part 2

In Part 2 of this podcast series, “Coming Up for Air” hosts look at shame and negative thinking, discussing ways to slow down, gain awareness, and soothe your system. They focus on the essential tool of empathy — especially for yourself — as a way to understand what narrative you’re creating, and changing that narrative by looking for the positive even in the most difficult moments.

When Do You Work on Use of Less-Dangerous Substances?

Should the family now focus on their loved one’s cannabis use? Our hosts discuss harm reduction and the role of the “functional analysis” in CRAFT to address such questions. The analysis involves reviewing what’s changed, patterns and dynamics, and making sure your own behaviors support reduction of use. These actions are subtle, and their subtlety makes them more effective. Even with multiple substances, they recommend addressing one at a time. The functional analysis should keep happening with different drugs, so that you know which behaviors to reward and which to walk away from. The Allies site includes cannabis resources discussing withdrawal and tolerance, and the more-concentrated form of use called “dabbing.

Conditional Love, Unconditional Love, and What Leads to Shame: Part 1

Even when love is not conditional, there sometimes must be conditions regarding people’s behavior. Love in romantic relationships may change if you break up, but with family members, conditionality applies to behavior, not love. What we as family members can modify is how we react and our expectations. Conditionality goes back to boundary issues – there are edges someone comes to where they must stop what they’re doing. It’s important to note that wishing someone would go away is a normal, protective reaction to difficult feelings.

Facing the Obstacles: Part 1

On this episode of Allies in Recovery’s “Coming Up for Air” Podcast, Laurie and Kayla discuss the obstacles between knowing what to do and putting that knowledge into real practice. In Part 1, they focus on avoiding a “crisis” response, and slowing events down to avoid being reactive.

Setting Boundaries

In this week’s episode of our podcast “Coming Up For Air”, Dominique, Laurie and Kayla discuss the importance of setting boundaries with our Loved Ones. They can be a great challenge to enforce and call for both self-awareness and self-care.