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Posted by on in Alcoholism


Working at an outpatient treatment center I am always interested by new methods for helping people get sober. There are constantly new theories evolving from psychology in the field of substance abuse. Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training (CRAFT) is an unconventional means of getting an addict or alcoholic to seek help and enter treatment. Remarkably, the creators of CRAFT claim a 64% success rate compared to conventional interventions (25%) and Al-Anon (14%). This statistic is based on the percentage of people staying sober after attending outpatient under the directive of each respective system. When I looked into CRAFT I could only find a handful of sites and articles on the subject. If it is so effective, then why is this method not more widespread and more importantly what is it?

What is CRAFT?

The basis of CRAFT is quite simple. Instead of using threats and confrontation to convince an addict or alcoholic to get help, the family or therapist of the person uses what they call a “motivational model of help”. Unlike many other ways of dealing with substance abuse CRAFT is based on reward-based positive reinforcement. Instead of punishing or condemning a person when they abuse drugs, CRAFT rewards the person for abstinence and good behavior. When someone is abusing drugs CRAFT suggests that the family distance themselves emotional and physically until the person sobers up. The core idea behind CRAFT is in the interaction between family and the alcoholic when they are sober. CRAFT aims to make sobriety seem desirable and appealing, so that someone with a substance abuse problem realizes what their addiction is making them miss out on.

CRAFT shows you how to develop your loved one’s motivation to change by helping you figure out how to appropriately reward healthy behavior. You learn how to make sober activities more attractive to your loved one, and drug- or alcohol-using activities less inviting. In this way, you minimize conflict and maximize cooperative relationship-enhancing interactions with your loved one.

According to the creators of the program an addict will enter treatment only when the reasons not to use outweigh the reasons to continue using.  By making sobriety seem more attractive they claim to be “raising the bottom” of the person so that they do not have to experience dire consequences before seeking help. CRAFT makes sobriety more attractive by showing the addict or alcoholic the fun activities possible only when sober. When sober the family gives affection, kindness, and attention to the person and ceases this if the person begins using again.  CRAFT also puts an emphasis on improving communication of the family members and instituting non-violent communication into dialogue.


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Fun and alive.
That is how you'll feel.
Creative and useful are part of the deal.
The night isn't lonely for your full of ideas,
The old becomes, new as you paint or you plot,
Your  mind keeps on spinning around the clock.
The days become night without any sleep,
A small voice'll whisper, "You're getting in deep."
They come and they try to break you away,
You fight and you scream, God, please go away.
You really can't face the truth, what they say,
You have changed, become crazy, it just happened...she'll stay.
The little voice cries out, "Help me, I'll change,"
but no one can hear you, it's better this way.
So deeper and deeper down the abyss,
Seeing things, hearing voices, it is the devil's own kiss.
No more good time parties from day till the dawn,
Anything good, or accomplished now it's gone.
Instead, its routine, just to breathe through the pain,
Self inflicted, uncaring, your life circles the drain.
They come, we can help you, but you lash out in fear,
Will they take it? The thing I held dear?
Maybe it's time to surrender the game,
Your body aches from years of the strain.
You lift up your eyes, in that second that you can,
You grab hold, and squeeze, it's somebody's hand.

Get help for someone you love.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

"Cognitive Dissonance" is defined as a great feeling of psychological discomfort produced by the presence of thoughts & behaviors that are conflicting in nature.  The theory suggests that if individuals act in ways that contradict their beliefs, then they typically will change their beliefs & thoughts to align with their actions.  In a nutshell, humans have a difficult time admitting to others but even more to themselves that they were wrong about something.  If you've ever told a lie and felt uncomfortable because you see yourself as scrupulously honest, then you've experienced cognitive dissonance.


It occurs whenever your view of yourself clashes with your performance in any area—you see yourself as smart but can't believe you made such poor decisions.  Cognitive dissonance often occurs because people fear appearing foolish or ignorant.  They are fully aware they have acted in a way that is either inappropriate or uncharacteristic with their belief system or morals, and so they use different strategies to protect their image to others, but even more so to protect their own self-image.  It is hypocrisy between what we believe in and what we engage in. 


When this internal conflict is present, people feel increasingly guilty or uneasy about holding these opposing cognitions – they don’t want to think of themselves as illogical or inconsistent. These internal conflicts are hard to live with, and if not dealt with the individual will feel bad about themselves and this can snowball into further and continuous illogical behaviors/actions and then cause very severe and damaging feelings towards one's self. 


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

I'm sure that many of you can relate to coincidences like when you learn about a new word, you find that you hear it more, but when in reality it's just something new that has come into your awareness, it was really there all along.  This is of course something that happens to me often, but has certainly been my experience since I have been writing this blog, as it is now always in my awareness to look for opportunities for what to discuss next and they just keep popping into my life!

Working in the addiction field, and the job I have in particular, keeps me very focused but also very isolated.  Working in addiction also creates a sort of bubble, being that my clients are all trying to get out of their active addiction, my co-workers are all in recovery, and the doctors are addictionologists.  I had been in California for four or five years and didn’t realize that I was protecting myself in a way, by not branching out of my comfort zone.  So it wasn’t until about two years ago, that I started to go out to new places and interact with new people that have never struggled with an addiction.  (People that experience temporary stress instead of chronic anxiety are still a wonder to me!)

The benefit, however, of the bubble realization was that all of that prep work that I had been doing (working with a sponsor, doing the steps, going to multiple types of therapy to figure out the core issues as to why I was using inhalants, then working on those core issues) was in preparation for returning to the real world and all its challenges and this time having a more positive impact, on myself and on those around me, and it was time to use them!  The tools I have learned (especially emotional regulation, coping skills, and trigger identification) and the resources I have developed have been crucial in my relapse prevention, because life sure does throw me some curveballs and when I did come out of hiding, I found that some of my wreckage from my past was still there waiting for me.  I am definitely grateful that I was given the opportunity to have a second chance, to get to be the same person, but a better version.  By doing the footwork, it allows me to look at the same situations but have different reactions and therefore different outcomes than I would have in the past.

I feel that in order to be effective in communicating with people who are also struggling and/or looking for solutions or education, I need to write about things that truly affect me emotionally, because if what I'm writing doesn't induce some sort of feelings for me, how could it in someone else?  So full disclosure in the hopes that someone can relate and hopefully allowing me to be of service.

The reason that the ability to have different reactions that produce different and better outcomes is on my mind is due to some events that occurred in my week.  I felt discouraged this week for two reasons, and I feel like they have happened while I have volunteered to write this blog for a reason.  I am a person that falls victim to a certain type of mental trap, where your brain immediately jumps into negative thinking or disaster mode when you hear certain things that are not ideal.  In the treatment facilities I work with, we refer to it as addict brain.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

March 16th marks the beginning of the week for National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week!

I work in assisting the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, a contact I made after my episode of Intervention, when I joined Director Harvey Weiss to speak on a panel with others affected by inhalant abuse in Washington DC.  Many of the people that I have spoken with were once inhalant addicts themselves or friends and family (especially parents) of inhalant users who devistatingly passed away while using inhalants. This is an organization that works on reducing, preventing, and making the public aware of inhalant abuse, a goal that we both have in common.

In their most recent newsletter, the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) defines inhalant abuse as "the intentional misuse, via inhalation, of common household, school and workplace products and chemicals to “get high.”  This definition also infers two primary inhalant abuse slang terms:  “Sniffing” and “Huffing.” In a sense the Process of“huffing” defines the slang terms for the Activity i.e. bagging (huffing from a bag); Glading (misusing air freshener); etc."

NIPC also regularly provides the public with updates and facts imperitive to spread the awareness and prevention of inhalant abuse.  Here is an update of some of the most recent facts:

1.  Any time an inhalant is used, it could be a fatal episode.  This could be the first time you ever use inhalants, or the 100th.  NIPC notes that there is research showing that "of those people who died from huffing, about one-third died at first time use."


Posted by on in Alcoholism

Many people who struggle with alcohol or drugs have a difficult time getting better. There are many reasons why these people do not get the help they need to get better. Many family members who see their loved ones struggle have a very difficult time in getting their loved ones assistance. Here are six suggestions on how to convince a person struggling with alcohol or drugs to get the help they need to get better.

1. Family Intervention

The most popular way to get someone the help they need is to do a family intervention. This is when family members and an interventionist get together with the addict to tell them how they love them and wish that they get help to get better. Each family member takes a turn and tells the person how special they are and that they need to get help. The person who is struggling listens and hopefully they become convinced to get the help they need.

2. Talk To The Person On What Will Happen If They Do Not Get Help

Another way to convince the person who is struggling with alcohol or drugs is to get someone who is an expert on addiction and have them do a one on one talk with this person. This expert on addiction should explain to the addict what will happen if they do not get the help they need to get better. Basically, the expert should warn the person of the dire consequences of what will happen if they do not change their ways. The expert should be vivid as possible and hold nothing back. The goal is to convince the person to get help or they will suffer and eventually their life will slowly come to an end.

3. Use The Services of A Professional Or A Former Addict

Try to find a professional or even a former addict who has “Been There” to talk to the person. This is similar to Step Two, however instead of warning the person, these professionals can use their skills to talk and try to reason with the person. These experts are usually trained and can use a proactive approach into trying to convince the addict to get help. The goal is to try to reason and talk with the person so they can get professional help.

4. Find Out The Reasons Why The Person Won’t Get Help

Many people overlook this suggestion. Ask the person who is struggling with alcohol or drugs to list 3 reasons why they will not get help. At first, they will say all kinds of things, but continue to engage the person and get the 3 main reasons why they refuse to get help. It might take a couple of tries but listen to what they say. Once you get the answers, WRITE them down on a piece of paper. Note: Fear and Frustration are huge factors for the person not getting help.

5. Determine The Solutions To Those Barriers

Once you get those 3 reasons, get a professional or an expert to find the solutions to those issues. For example, the person says that they will not get help because they tried a few times and they failed and that they will fail again. Ask a few addiction professionals to find a solution to this issue that will help the addict overcome this barrier. One good answer to this example is the following: “Yes, you tried to get better and failed however this time we will do things differently. We will keep a daily diary of everything you do and you or someone else will document what you do each day. If you stumble or fail you will write down your feelings at the time and why you failed. When you recover from a bad episode you can READ your diary and find out what went wrong. Once you know what went wrong you will know why you failed and will find a way to prevent this from happening again.”

Use your list from step three and list every positive thing that will counter those barriers. When you are finished, present this to the person who is struggling and explain what you came up with. This will help reduce the person’s fears and anxieties and may convince them to get help. Developing a plan to counter their reasons of not getting help will go a long way.


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