Encouraging a son, daughter or other Loved One into treatment

By Annie Highwater 11/08/17
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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. Being determined to not “enable” my son when he struggled with a dependency to pain medication, I instead 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 change it.

I thought I would raise the floor of rock bottom, causing him to get to it quicker. He would then rush 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 to my son 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

It was later on that I was introduced to the CRAFT Method by Dr. Dominique Simon-Levine of Allies in Recovery.

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.


Two of the most helpful components:


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 areas that were positives and hopeful. 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 away with him.

My son later told me those comments were like time bombs that went off in his mind for days. Reminding him not only how loved he was, but how stable life could become again.

We can’t control anyone else’s behavior. But we can adjust our responses to add kindness and that in turn, creates peace, trust and in turn influences behavior.


One CRAFT tactic is to research treatment center names and numbers that your Loved One would be a fit for (compatible with insurance, dual diagnosis, destination etc.). Then 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 disturbed about 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 conditions and then given ultimatums; maybe try a softer, less threatening approach.

Along with a list of numbers to call, another 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.

This is all done 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 persevere through.

A person might need to struggle 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 also 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 entering treatment for addiction and/or alcoholism, finding 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.

Being mindful to care of ourselves alongside those we are concerned about, we can always hold strong to hope. We can't know what can happen in a day. Breakthroughs happen. The road can change. Families do 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

Still learning,

Annie Highwater

Author of "Unhooked"

Check out Unhooked on Facebook!

Author Annie Highwater is a Writer, Speaker, Podcast Host and Family Advocate. She is a life-long researcher of Behavioral Science with particular interests in family pathology and concepts of addiction, dysfunction and conflict. In 2016, Annie published her memoir, Unhooked: A Mother's Story of Unhitching from the Roller Coaster of Her Son's Addiction. Her story is especially relevant in helping us all understand the personal challenges facing parents and family members, and how family dynamics both help and hinder the recovery process. Annie resides between Ohio and Southern California, where she enjoys long distance running, hiking, the great outdoors and is in the midst of completing her second book, which will be out in late 2017.

Mission Statement:
There are more people affected by addiction than there are people addicted. My mission is to promote healthy dialogue and to offer support, information and hope to the stressed out, affected family, partners and friends (basically the “entourage”) of those in the grips of addiction, alcoholism and SUD.

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