An anonymous reader writes in and asks:
“I have a son who has been through rehab but relapsed deeper than ever. He has now given up on life and tells me he doesn’t care about anything and just wants to die. He does not have a job and lives at home with his father and I. His father is a huge challenge to us all and makes life difficult which doesn’t help with an addict. My question to you is what do you do when the addict doesn’t care anymore and just wants to die? I don’t want to give up on my son and I am afraid he will kill himself. He is very angry and hates himself. I have encouraged him to attend meetings and counseling but he goes for a while and then quits. I am at a loss of how to help. He is currently taking Suboxone which has helped some, but he still smokes pot and sometimes drinks. I pray for him always. I realize you don’t have all the answers but as a parent desperately holding on to hope for my son I would like your insight.”
Not an easy situation as it is almost impossible to stop someone from self destructing if they are determined to do it. But I believe there is hope. There is always hope.
For one thing, it sounds like you have been doing some of the right things all along. You have encouraged treatment and even got him to attend treatment it sounds like. That is a positive thing and you have to realize that rehab is not a magic bullet and it never is for anyone. That doesn’t mean that treatment does not work, it just means that treatment never works in the way that we think it should.
Our thought is that if we send your son off to rehab, he should come out and never use drugs or alcohol again. If this doesn’t happen, then we think the rehab failed. This is not a good way to look at things because it rarely happens this way.
However, treatment can still lead to the outcome you are hoping for. It’s just that it usually takes a few tries. For example, I went to 3 treatment centers before I found success in long term sobriety. Virtually everyone that I know who is successful in recovery has been to treatment multiple times as well. I know people who have been to treatment over a dozen times and they have been clean and sober for multiple years now. Never give up hope.
The first time you go to rehab it is like the planting of a seed. The addict might say “Whoa, this other world actually really does exist, but I’m not so sure it is for me.” Perhaps fear holds them back from following through with their recovery program.
I would love to see the numbers for how many people actually stay clean and sober on their first attempt. It has to be a very low percentage who make it on the first try. It is just so easy to underestimate the disease of addiction.
I do not believe that you can directly manipulate his self esteem. My belief is that his self esteem must be built up by himself. There is not much you can do to affect that part of the equation. He will rebuild his self esteem after something “clicks” for him and he starts on a healthy path of recovery. That will come after he makes the decision to get clean and sober, not before it.
As for the Suboxone drug therapy (that is a medication that people can take in order to help them stay off of opiate drugs), I would have a tendency to encourage this if you think it is helping. Many people have strong opinions about such strategies and some people are vehemently against it. But I have seen Suboxone change people’s lives for the better, and I think it can be part of a recovery solution for certain people. It is not for everyone.
There are very few actions you can take that will directly help your son. I would encourage you to get to Al-Anon meetings and learn more about how you can change your own behavior so as not to enable him in any way. If you can educate yourself about how to deal with his addiction in an appropriate way, it might help speed along the process that he is going through on his path to getting clean (although it sounds like you might already be doing so).
So what I am saying here is that treatment is a process, not an event. We want for it to be an event, where someone comes out of rehab and stays clean forever. More likely, it is a step on their path to recovery. It is part of the process of finding their way to recovery. Keep up hope and continue to encourage treatment. Someday, something might click. It did for me.