A reader named Ann writes in and says:
“I have a son 29 years old who drinks, smoke pots and does heroine. I sent him to live with my family out of state to get him out of his environment. He still wont admit he has a bad addiction problem and thinks he can do this on his own. He also lives with me and thinks he is moving back in a month. I wont let him. I feel like the last year I have enabled him to do all the wrong things. He only has one class to finish getting his Ba degree in finance. He did serve 4 years in the army and was fine then.
I know he needs to go to rehab but I just don’t know how to convince him of that.
I am so lost I really do not know what to do for him.
Hi there Ann, thanks for your question.
First of all my heart goes out to you. I can only imagine the turmoil it has caused in your life.
Now I happen to get a lot of questions like yours so I want to try to cover all the bases here. First, if you want a good background with some general ideas about how to help addicts or alcoholics, I would start here.
Next, you might want to learn a bit more about your options with organizing a formal intervention, so that you might confront him and convince him to go to rehab. This is not always the best route to go though, and it is certainly not a magic bullet. In fact, it might backfire on you completely and further isolate your child, so it is important to research the idea carefully before you go through with it.
Ultimately, the experts (such as those in Al-Anon) tend to agree that you are basically powerless to stop your son’s drinking and drugging, and that nothing you say or do can really make an impact. That is a hard truth that many people have to eventually face up to. But that is not to say that you are helpless from taking any action at all. Indeed, there are still some things you can do to help bring about your son’s eventual surrender to the disease of addiction. Just understand that there is no magic wand you can wave….not even if you had the power of a thousand kings at your disposal could we guarantee that your child would decide to get clean and sober.
So what can you do? Start be reading those articles up above, and learn more about setting boundaries and enabling behaviors and such. It sounds to me like you have already done much of that, and have made some real progress in that area.
You can still help your child without enabling them. Clearly communicate your boundaries, and what is acceptable behavior by them and what is not. For example, you could tell them that they are not allowed to come over to your house if they are drunk or high. You can also make it clear that you will never help them to avoid consequences of their using, such as bailing them out of jail. Tell them that you will assist them in getting help for their problem but only on YOUR terms….meaning that they must come to you and ask for help and be willing to do whatever you suggest or go to whatever treatment you find to be available for them. If they make demands or simply ask for money or shelter, you will not help them. They have to surrender fully and seek to change their life and be willing to do whatever is asked of them.
That might sound extreme but realize that anything less than that means that the addict is holding on to their old life, their old ways, they are leaving the door open to getting high again. When they are ready to change they will let go of all that stuff. That is why they call it surrender. An addict seeking help must abandon everything and be willing to change on someone else’s terms. If they come to you and say they finally want help but then they are hemming and hawing about which treatment center or this and that, then they have reservations and they will probably not stay clean.
So communicate this idea and let your child know that you will only help them in ways that are aligned with this thinking. They must surrender fully and want to change their life. Any reservations about it, and you will not help them. They must commit fully. It is only then that any help you have to offer will make any difference. Notice, too, that if they are at the point of surrender, then whatever you do to help them will be more than enough, and will easily help them achieve a new life in recovery. You can’t screw it up, because now they are truly willing to change on a deep level, and so the doors to a new life will start opening all by themselves.