Saturday, November 14, 2015

Alanon and CRAFT....can the two work together?

I had someone recently comment about the differences between CRAFT and Alanon and wonder if I could talk more about that. I can and would love to.

First let me say, and I shared this in our training too....Alanon saved my life 10 years ago. What I learned there got me through and taught me how to keep living despite the saddest and most unexpected chain of events that had ever transpired in my life. I think its so important to remember that my Alanon program is about me. Its for my recovery and healing and a place for me to learn how to do life in a more healthy, peaceful manner.

Fast forward several years... at the recommendation of Ron over at An Addict In Our Son's Bedroom 
I bought Beyond Addiction by Jeffrey Foote and started reading. It almost immediately got under my skin. It rattled me and infuriated me. It brought up questions as to how I had been doing my girl's addiction. I was almost insulted by how simplistic some of the examples were.  It certainly was not indicative of the trauma we had experienced in our lives. I think I kept using the word "ridiculous" as I read. lol

Fast forward another year....when I was asked to be a parent coach, in preparation for the training, I had to read the book and The 20 minute Guide. I actively chose to dive in with an open heart this time and just see where it led me.

I had also been going through some personal changes in my approach with my girl during the past few months. I have told this story so forgive me if you have heard it, but it has been a huge life changer for me during this journey. I could think back, early on in our journey, to a time that I was very broken, was so ashamed, felt like a total failure and during that time God met me and accepted me and loved me right where I was at. I was very conscious of the fact that He was starting with me right where I was at and we would work our way forward from there, together. That unconditional love and acceptance is what began to heal and strengthen me and I began to know that I was being commissioned to share what I had received with my girl. To model God's love to her. As I began to walk that out, our relationship began to change. For the better. Communication was open and honest. It was safe for us to both be exactly where we were at.

I still have my boundaries and things that I can't and won't do.....but our relationship today is based on acceptance. Two broken women accepting each other where we are at. Because if I am going to be honest, I had plenty of my own issues before my girl was ever a thought. It is always a work in progress...but its open and fluid. Not locked down in a stalemate.

So what I learned and this is purely for opinion, my understanding, is that the 12 steps can support the CRAFT model beautifully. I LOVE the 12 steps and they have given me tools to live life at peace and without a constant underlying (seething...yes, this used to be my reality) anger. When I apply the principles of CRAFT along with my 12 step work, I feel like I get a kind and gentle outcome that leaves the door open for both of us to be true to ourselves, whatever that may look like. CRAFT is about staying engaged with our kids, the thought being that if we detach we close the door on communication and the possibility of helping our children get the help they need to get healthy.

Another thought is that CRAFT's focus is on people who are in relatively early substance use...although the tools can be used and effective with anyone, the idea is to re-route these people before they get in too deep, before the deep damage is done and they are very stuck. A prevention model using problem solving and communication tools.

It is important to understand too, that Alanon was created by Lois W. for the WIVES of alcoholics.....not the parents. The parent/child relationship is a very different dynamic than a husband/wife relationship. There really is no comparison. The principles of Alanon can work for anyone, for all of us, but I think it is important to acknowledge the differences between the different types of relationships we are working within. In my early years of Alanon, I used to think that detaching from my sick child was just inhumane. It went against all of my instincts. Even in the animal kingdom...animals circled around their sick, not left them in the wilderness to find their own way or worse yet, to die alone. CRAFT encourages you to pay attention to your very normal parental instincts. They focus on natural consequences while staying engaged. Taking care of yourself, while staying engaged. Setting boundaries while staying engaged. Communicating effectively while staying engaged.

Kids dying from heroin or prescription drug overdoses is an epidemic. Letting a young person go, detaching from a young person, whose brain isn't even fully developed, to hit their bottom is becoming horrifyingly more and more deadly. Someone dies from a heroin overdose every 13 minutes. What if we stay in contact and communicate in ways that can build bridges with our children vs. alienate them, blame them, and shame them? What if we step back but stay in close proximity emotionally, letting the child know we are there to help them to feel better. Not to control and micromanage out of our own fears, but to help them because we love them. We are for them. No matter what.

We used scaffolding as an analogy....we build up the scaffolding all around this young person who is struggling to stay upright and we support them until they are strong enough to stand on their own. Its a picture of grace and mercy to me.

Lastly, we all of course have to carry out the decisions that we can live with. I have been doing this for many years now and my girl's disease has progressed. I don't know what the future holds for us. I do know that I want it to be filled with love and kindness though. Loving is not condoning. Nor is it enabling. I have a relationship with my girl....that is all.

Bless us all as we find our way and what works for us.

PS: I am sharing the below video with you because despite how you may feel about Chris Christie's politics, this video shows beautifully, a kind heart for those afflicted with addiction.


Anonymous said...

The best thing my husband and I ever did was to stop listening to what everyone else told us we should be doing and start doing what we knew was right for us and for our son.

The scaffolding analogy makes great sense to me. I've seen that exact thing in drug court ~ a compassionate group of people helping prop our loved ones up, supporting them and encouraging them. That approach, that grace, is changing lives and saving lives.

Anonymous said...

I cried reading this. Thank you so much.

Dad and Mom said...


I am so glad you can reconcile different approaches. One of the things I learned was you have to do what works for you and your addicted loved one.

I tell people that AA, NA, Al-Aon and Nar-Anon has helped millions of people but it doesn't help every one. That has been my hang up, it didn't help me and up until I read Get Your Loved One Sober another book based up CRAFT methodology not much made sense to me. I just couldn't "get" the 12 step thing. The problem wasn't the method it was me

The key is working what works for you.

mary christine said...

God bless you Annette. I don't know anything about CRAFT, but I agree with you about Alanon.

Thanks very much for the video too. Very powerful.

Bren Murphy said...

Hi Annette,
I went and cried to my good hearted GP about being an alcoholic.

I walked out with 96 valium tablets, a handshake, and some naive good wishes.

In good faith, I went home took a couple, crashed on the lounge.

Next day I had a couple more and for sure, I felt sleepy and as though the pills had quenched my hunger for alcohol.

But once they ran out, as drugs always do (!?) - just as quickly my anxiety welled up and I was scratching my head and back in line at the liquor store.

I didn't need another layer of addiction - I needed tools and skills and strategies.


Tori said...

Beautiful post and I love the CRAFT model - it has helped me so much.

Addiction is not a one size fits all and neither are we.

Syd said...

Thank you, Annette. Whatever works so that a person can have a life. There is no single best way, just the way that works for a person at the time they are most desperate.