Help your partner or friend maintain motivation by keeping it from lagging in the first place. Don’t wait for a problem to arise. Let him or her know how impressed you are with his or her success in quitting marijuana. Tell him or her that you know the change requires much effort and that you can see the benefits of the change. Don’t assume the journey away from marijuana is over when he or she has been abstinent for 2 or 3 months.
If you see signs of motivation dwindling, such as your partner’s or friend’s starting to talk about using marijuana or wanting to visit friends who still use, ask him or her how he or she is feeling about marijuana use. Don’t assume that his or her motivation is decreasing until you’ve talked about it. Bring up the topic in a noncritical way; perhaps start with a compliment about his or her success. Then ask about his or her motivation for staying away from marijuana.
If you see that motivation is on the wane, offer to help get it back. Review the list of reasons for quitting or the Quit Agreement together. Ask whether he or she is feeling deprived and needs some help finding fun things to do.
Don’t be critical. Motivation is difficult to maintain. Your partner or friend needs support and encouragement to increase motivation. Criticizing his or her lack of willpower or threatening with ultimatums can provoke a negative mood and lower self-esteem.
Help your partner or friend make the lifestyle changes that will keep him or her from needing pot. Talk about your observations of his or her lifestyle. Can stress be reduced? What activities can he or she do at those times of the day when he or she might be tempted to use? Can you do any of them together, such as an exercise program? It reduces stress, clears out the lungs, and can be rewarding in many ways.
Having a positive, supportive conversation regularly is important. Lifestyles need to be watched so that people don’t slip into old ruts. Talking about the upcoming week and discussing how to build some fun time into it can become a weekly activity.
Help your partner or friend plan for and cope with high-risk situations regularly at least during the first year. After a while, coping with the old week-to-week situations that promote use will become automatic. However, you still need to be on guard for those unexpected or unusual situations for which a coping strategy hasn’t been planned or practiced. Examples might include an upcoming vacation, a visit with old friends, unemployment, or an argument with someone. If you see something coming up that’s likely to pose a risk for marijuana use, alert your partner or friend.
Then help plan for coping with the situation if it should occur. If an event occurs without a chance to plan for it, you can go straight to a coping mode, distract your partner or friend or offer support depending on the situation. You don’t have to point out that you’re doing it to prevent a return to pot smoking unless you think that would be helpful.
Coping With a Slip
Chances are a slip will happen. A slip is marijuana use that occurs after a period of abstinence. A slip doesn’t mean a person will return to regular marijuana use. That would be a relapse. Slips occur when motivation is lagging or when a high-risk situation occurs unexpectedly. Slips do not mean that all the success and progress to date have been lost. How your partner or friend responds to a slip can mean the difference between returning to abstinence or going into a relapse. Here are some things to do if a slip occurs:
• Ask your partner or friend how the slip came about. Did he or she see it coming or was it a sudden urge related to a situation? What was the situation? How was your friend feeling before smoking? Was he or she feeling down or angry or bored or wanting to celebrate?
• Ask about any attempts at avoiding the situation or coping strategies used in the situation. If he or she anticipated the situation and made little effort to avoid or cope with it, a motivation problem probably exists. Refer to the ideas in the section above on maintaining motivation.
• Ask whether any clues could have warned of a difficult situation. If the urge to use came up suddenly or the coping strategies used simply weren’t effective, help your friend learn from this slip to prevent more slips in the future. Help him or her find new coping strategies to use in the future. Suggest other ways of coping.
• Help your partner or friend regain motivation and learn from what happened. Come from a position of support and encouragement. If your friend says things like, “I guess I just can’t quit” or “Smoking pot’s not really that bad,” then challenge these statements. You know neither is true.
Your goal is to get your partner or friend back on track, not to punish him or her for slipping. Attack the rationalization (I’m only going to smoke this one time) not the person. Say that those statements are rationalizations, they’re a symptom of losing motivation, and it’s time to focus on getting motivation back. Don’t put the person down, criticize his or her willpower, or say the situation is hopeless. Making the person feel bad is likely to promote a return to marijuana use. When you show the person how his or her actions are a sign of losing motivation and show how to get that motivation back, you can help a slip stay merely a slip.
Does your partner or friend appreciate your efforts? Do you feel that you’re working harder at this than he or she is? If so, it’s time to talk to him or her about it. You won’t be any help if you are feeling burned out and unrewarded.
Let your partner or friend know how you feel without accusing him or her of neglecting you. Point out that this would be a good time to renegotiate the Supporter Agreement. Start your conversation with the words “I feel,” not “You haven’t.” Make sure you ask for what you want—a little acknowledgment, a relaxing or fun evening, a chance to talk, or whatever you feel is a reward for your efforts.