Studies are showing that roughly 20% of all who suffer with opiate or heroin addictions seek treatment. When it comes to watching someone we love suffering in the grip of addiction, the hope is always to see them head to recovery. I have learned through experience, trial and error, as well as professional training; that there are steps you can take to encourage this outcome.
But first let me say, it’s a painful truth to learn that we don’t know the exact path our son or daughter will take toward recovery. I always remind myself that things don’t very often play out the way I expect. This is where our issues of fear and control lie.
This was a great struggle for me, as detailed in my book Unhooked. I was determined to not “enable” my son when he struggled with a dependency to pain medication. Instead I thought I would take the opposite approach. I attempted to create misery and force consequences, guaranteeing that he would hate his life more than I did and hurry to make changes.
I thought I would raise the floor of rock bottom, causing him to get to it quicker. He would then race into recovery and our lives would go back to normal.
I lost sight of reason in the midst of this effort.
There were times I banged on the doors of strange homes and argued with people I had no business confronting on behalf of my son’s health and safety. I called every person in his contact list (and their parents, relatives, friends and coworkers), running background checks on many of them.
It became my obsession.
Other times I spoke harshly, negatively and nonstop. Shaming and hounding with reminders of how this was not the life meant for him. I battled him relentlessly to make it clear, this was not how we would end up!
Not only did none of that do any good, it stressed me out, wore me down, made a fool of me more than once and eventually made my mind sick.
All the while nothing and no one was getting better.
“Healing cannot come to a desperate person rummaging through other people’s lives.” ~T.D. Jakes
Description of CRAFT:
CRAFT was designed for Loved Ones struggling with addiction who are resistant to stopping or to getting treatment help. CRAFT is based on the belief that family members can play a powerful role in helping to engage the Loved One who is in denial to submit to treatment. CRAFT is designed to teach families how to communicate effectively and how to behave around someone who is actively using drugs or alcohol. Learning these skills not only engages 70% of Loved Ones to enter treatment but helps a family member to lower depression, anger and anxiety around the situation. It cleans up the mixed messages, the anger, and the frustration, by using positive reinforcement and steers clear of any confrontation. Family members know their Loved One best. In addition to teaching families how to intervene, by applying the skills of CRAFT, families decrease the stress in the relationship and provide a way forward towards recovery.
CRAFT is powerful because the focus is on changing behavior and responses around those we are involved with, versus struggling to change them.
Two of the most helpful components:
Drop the weapons
Taking a break from shaming, finger-pointing, and hounding allows space for peace and solution. This is when trust was rebuilt on both sides.
No longer mentioning circumstances and rules in every conversation, I began instead to highlight only positives and hope. Sometimes mentioning memories of vacations and holidays as well as reminders of how loved he was. The goal was for him to take those thoughts with him.
My son later told me those comments were like time bombs that later went off in his mind. Reminding him not only how loved he’d been, but how stable life could become again.
We can’t control anyone else’s behavior. But we can adjust our responses and that in turn, creates peace, trust and in turn influences behavior.
Always be prepared
One CRAFT tactic is to research treatment center names and numbers that your Loved One would be a fit for (insurance, destination etc.). Write the information on an index card or in a greeting card, and leave that with your son or daughter. This is for the moments when they are lucidly questioning and bothered by their life circumstances.
These moments pass quickly and often occur when you are not present. Having a number to call in hand and a plan in place is extremely effective.
As Dr. Simon-Levine explains, rather than methods of “surprise party interventions” where loved ones are deceived into a gathering, group shamed about their circumstances and then given ultimatums; maybe try a softer, less threatening approach.
A better way of asking a loved one to please go into treatment would be in a safe, loving environment. Such as two people sitting across a table from one another. With kindness and compassion, yet firmly outlining expectations, suggestions and boundaries.
Again, we can’t know exactly what might work best for anyone, it’s their journey not ours. But we can work on our own recovery, become healthier within the situation and have influence.
I currently have someone in my life going through extreme difficulties along with family and relationship stress. My instinct is to jump in and help. To resolve, fix, stop the pain and end the sadness. I badly want to resolve any conflict causing separation and heal it on every side. Especially since this is occurring during the holidays, which somehow makes it seem harder.
However, I don’t know what it’s going to take for anyone else to find their way. I can’t roadblock what someone might need to go through.
A person might need to suffer through something in order to learn to sit and be with their pain and work it through. When we face painful emotions and come through to the other side, we learn new methods of coping with difficulties, we find peace and develop greater strength in that process. People need to do this to get the victory for themselves.
It’s not up to me to manage that. Or to fix it.
It’s up to me to lend support and encouragement that says; I’m here for you, I’m rooting for you, I can’t take this away from you, but you’re not alone in it.
Beyond that is where their work lies.
We don’t know what it takes for someone else on their journey. Whether that road involves finding treatment for addiction or alcoholism, recovery from trauma, or other lessons one needs to learn along their way.
We are not called to fix anyone else’s path when it becomes challenging and painful. We’re called to be kind and strong for them alongside it.
Each of us has to find our own way.
Hold strong to hope, we never know what can happen in a day. Breakthroughs happen. The road can change. Families can recover!
“You cannot force someone to comprehend a message they are not ready to receive, still you must not underestimate the power of planting a seed.” ~Unknown
Author of Unhooked
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