Don’t Abandon Your Children When They Are Struggling with Addiction

Rehab Helps Thousands of Addicts Quit. It Can Help You, Too.

When Jen and Aaron came to see me they were nearing the end of their rope. Their 19 year-old daughter had barely completed her first year of college. In the last few months things had deteriorated. She was living at home, sleeping odd hours, unemployed and not attending classes. Her parents were pretty sure that drug use was the cause of the downturn in her behavior, but she denied it.

Things at home were tense.

How many times had they threatened to kick her out of the house if she was using? Yet, here she was, living at home clearly getting high.-Lara Okoloko

They felt that they were doing all they could to get her back on track – out of the house and back in college. Jen found herself constantly nagging and lately doing quite a bit of yelling too. Aaron’s frustration was leading him to adopt a cold shoulder towards his daughter. What could he say that would make any difference anyway? They had tried ultimatums but somehow it just felt easier to let matters drop than figure out how to enforce their rules. How many times had they threatened to kick her out of the house if she was using? Yet, here she was, living at home clearly getting high.

For decades the leading advice for the family members of addicted people has been a mashup of Al-Anon’s focus on self-care, co-dependency literature about detachment, and the ultimatums of interventions and tough love.

Jen and Aaron had heard this kind of advice from countless well-meaning people. “Just kick her out,” friends and extended family would say. “You have to detach from her and let her hit bottom.” Yet they couldn’t bring themselves to do something that felt so harsh and dangerous. Jen sought support from Al-Anon and appreciated the community of understanding people, but she couldn’t grasp the idea of “letting go” of her daughter when she so clearly needed help.

What most people don’t know is that there is an alternative approach for families who want to help an addicted loved one and themselves.

CRAFT: There is Another Way

I first learned about Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) when I was facilitating a support group for parents of adolescents with drug and alcohol problems. The positive, relationship-based approach felt intuitive to me. Using CRAFT, I watched family members establish new boundaries and ways of communicating that allowed them to improve their home environment and family relationships without abandoning the person with the addiction. CRAFT helps families answer the primary question they ask me when they first walk into my office, “How do I stay in a relationship with this person I love without losing my sanity or enabling their addiction?”

How do I stay in a relationship with this person I love without losing my sanity or enabling their addiction?

Over a period of months, Jen and Aaron came regularly to my office to learn how to talk to their daughter again, using positive communication to empathize with her as well discuss the drug use openly. They gained insight into the ways that they were facilitating the drug use and stopped giving her rides to meet up with using friends, allowing valuables to disappear from the home without consequence, or giving her cash when they knew that she was buying drugs. They learned to watch for something positive and were always ready to encourage a healthy behavior like looking for work, agreeing to see a doctor, or staying in for the evening. They re-engaged her with the family, with the clear expectation that plans would be cancelled if she showed up intoxicated. They examined their own well-being and prioritized their own self-care. They researched treatment options and found ways to invite her to consider getting help that called on her motivations rather than her parent’s fears.

They didn’t have control over her or her addiction, but they found all the ways that they could influence change in their home and in their relationship with their daughter.-Lara Okoloko

Jen and Aaron were surprised to find how much influence they appeared to still have with their daughter. They didn’t have control over her or her addiction, but they found all the ways that they could influence change in their home and in their relationship with their daughter. They had replaced nagging and yelling with clear communication. They found that they were confident about their boundaries and more able to say “no” when they were feeling manipulated. They were done enabling but still ready to help. Something was shifting.

The Power of CRAFT

Soon the day came when their daughter said that she was willing to try treatment. Jen and Aaron were ready. They knew that helping their daughter get into treatment was a healthy way to be involved in her recovery efforts. They already had a treatment agency in mind and had checked their insurance benefits. She had her intake appointment a couple of days later.

…studies show that CRAFT ‘successfully engaged approximately two-thirds of the treatment refusing individuals into treatment,’ regardless of type of substance use…-Lara Okoloko

Loving, involved family members are a protective factor for people who have substance use problems. CRAFT values the role of the concerned family and respects their input. A review of the evidence on CRAFT shows that, “studies have consistently demonstrated that CRAFT is 2 to 3 times more successful at engaging treatment resistant individuals in substance abuse treatment than the traditional Al-Anon model and the Johnson Intervention. More specifically, studies show that CRAFT “successfully engaged approximately two-thirds of the treatment refusing individuals into treatment,” regardless of type of substance use, ethnicity of the family, or types of relationship, including spouses, siblings, or parent-child.

One of the most satisfying parts of using CRAFT to help families is the efficiency with which it initiates change. The research shows that generally, “substance users engaged in treatment after only 4 to 6 sessions [with the concerned family member]. Irrespective of whether the substance user engaged in treatment, the [family member] reported a sizeable reduction in their own physical symptoms, depression, anger and anxiety.”

A Support Network for Parents

When Denise Mariano’s son was in the height of his addiction to heroin at 19 years-old, she was fighting insurance companies and trying to make sense of the maze of rehabs to find treatment for him. “People told me that I was the biggest part of the problem. They told me to use tough love with my son. They told me don’t let him back home, if he calls, don’t help him: only they can help themselves and they must hit their bottom.”

In my heart, letting go and giving up hope on my son was not an option. Such options would never be acceptable if our son was suffering from another medical disease.-Denise Mariano

Denise is one of 55 volunteer peer parent coaches through the Parent Support Network, a free program of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Each of the volunteers have been trained in CRAFT to coach other parents through their concerns about their children’s substance use problems.

“In my heart, letting go and giving up hope on my son was not an option,” says Denise. “Such options would never be acceptable if our son was suffering from another medical disease. We chose to not give up hope, to set healthy boundaries and continue to stay engaged.”

Today, Denise’s son is in recovery and Denise volunteers a few hours a week providing CRAFT-oriented coaching to other parents through the Parent Support Network. “CRAFT has allowed me to support that journey rather than control it.”

Recommended CRAFT Resources for Family Members

  • Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening: The CRAFT primer written by CRAFT researcher Dr. Robert J Meyers, Get Your Loved One Sober is easy to read and provides concrete advice to the family members of people in addiction.

  • Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change: A much welcomed second book using CRAFT methods for caring family members wanting to lead positive change in their family and help a loved one find recovery from addiction. Beyond Addiction was written by the psychology team at the Center for Motivation and Change in New York.

  • CRAFT Support Groups and Certified Therapists: CRAFT certified therapists are not easy to come by but you can find a listing online on Dr. Meyer’s website. Therapists wanting to become trained can also find upcoming workshops on the site.

  • SMART Recovery Friends and Family: SMART Recovery offers in-person and online meetings using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to help people change their substance use and find recovery. SMART Recovery Friends and Family has online and in-person support groups for the loved ones of addicted people and uses CRAFT principles.

  • Parent Support Network Phone Coaches: Parent Support Network volunteer coaches are CRAFT trained to provide peer support over the phone to parents struggling with their child’s substance use problems.

Author Note: The family in this article is actually a compilation of a few similar families I have worked with in my private practice.

What Are Your Thoughts on this Topic?

  • http://AddictionMyth.com/ AddictionMyth

    Thank you for not recommending AA/12 Steps. :-)

  • ChuckE

    I went through a similar experience with my daughter. Glad for you daughter – mine is doing great too.

    I wish I had known about CRAFT. I did what I knew which was suggested she go to AA. I feel AA was exactly what she did not need. My daughter needed to feel good about herself and AA’s emphasis on character defects and surrender to a higher power just made her feel worse. Yes she cut down on her drinking but she needed more than that. I could go on much longer about why I feel this way.

    I tried Alanon myself. I thought I would get insight but only found that Alanon is essentially AA. same 12 Steps. Here I was talking about me, me, me and my character defects. No crosstalk – how am I supposed to learn when most people there seemed deeply troubled and not emotionally healthy. Most meeting it was hard to recognize that the reason I was there was to figure out how to deal with my child.

    Eventually we switched tracks and a therapist helped.

    I hope more parents are informed that there are better choices out there.

  • Deb

    I used the CRAFT approach with my son. He is in recovery right now. This approach gave me a way of helping without enabling. It brought calmness to my life even will he was actively using. I highly recommend it.

    • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

      Deb… The CRAFT approach is amazing. I recommend the “Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change” book to all parents and loved ones of addicts. It’s the best book I’ve ever read on the subject. I like to say it’s the closest thing to an “owner’s manual” as they will find. My son is 3+ years clean from heroin, and I wish I would’ve known about CRAFT back when he was struggling. It would’ve made things so much easier…for everyone.

      • Deb

        I am so glad you son is doing well. My son is in the beginning of recovery. He is in a long term faith based facility right now. I am so thankful that he has stopped using heroin. Going through this with my son has been one of the most educational things I have ever been through. I have learned so much about addiction and the people who go through this. It has changed completely how I see all people. It has changed how I react to people and how I think about them.

  • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

    The book “Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change” is based on CRAFT and is, in my opinion, the best book out there for parents and loved ones of addicts. Here’s a blog post I wrote about the book right after I read it for the first time (which was after my son’s recovery from heroin addiction):
    link to mylifeas3d.blogspot.com

    • twf

      Is he still sober and are you ok?

      • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

        Yes. And yes. :)

  • lahelinski

    I wish I had known about CRAFT years ago. It’s too late for my brother now. After over 7 years of struggling with addiction, he overdosed on heroin two weeks ago. No one in the family knew how to deal with it. We got him into rehab multiple times, tried to support him without giving him money or the means to use. If we had kicked him out, he would have been dead years ago. We as a society think of drug users as criminals. I now know that was wrong

    • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

      lahelinski… I’m so sorry to hear about your brother’s overdose. My heart goes out to you and your family. You’re right: People who struggle with addiction aren’t criminals. They have a brain disease. Addiction isn’t a criminal problem. It’s a health problem. Our society needs to change the way it thinks.

  • Dana Baker

    My son has been an addict for 10 years. His heroin addiction has stripped me of anything of any value, destroyed my home (broken windows, doors, and filth), and isolated me from everyone. If I go into a room to attempt fixing something or cleaning I have flash backs of the horrors that had occured there and brings on panic attacks.

    He is in treatment right now and has been many times. I’m finding it difficult to trust his success or my ability to get back to a normal life. Nobody really knows the depth of how dealing with his addiction has affected my life. I own my home and can’t leave it. Not only is it affordable, I have equity I know I would regret walking away from. I have been completely alone in this because my friends and family say I am enabling him by letting him stay but I just don’t have it in me to abandon him.

    I feel abandoned myself and I understand how abandonment alone has made my own condition worse. I do see a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PTSD and agoraphobia and the medication keeps my panic attacks at bay but I still can’t put my home back together by myself. I feel trapped and afraid that when he gets back from rehab he will relapse if for no other reason living in this house where he did all these horrible things.

    I don’t even know how to find the energy, for lack of a better word, to really do anything at all. I’m so completely spent emotionally I don’t really care about anything anymore. I go only where I must to keep up appearances but can’t wait to get back to my room where I can be alone. I don’t eat or drink enough and have been in the hospital more than a few times for dehydration. I wish there was someone in my area with this philosophy because I don’t see a way out for either of us.

    • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

      Dana… You need to take care of YOU. Self-care is absolutely essential when you’re dealing with a loved one’s addiction. You have to make sure that you are physically and emotionally well. I would urge you to read the Beyond Addiction book. It does a terrific job of explaining the importance of self-care. Also, have you considered having your son live in a sober living house after he is done with treatment? After my son’s last trip to rehab, he did sober living. I think it was instrumental in him staying clean. The structure and community of sober living help tremendously with the transition from treatment back to “normal life.” I highly recommend it. I will keep you and your son in my thoughts and prayers. I’ve been where you are. You are definitely not alone. Sending you peace, positive vibes, and hugs of hope.

    • KTina

      Get rid of him!!!! I know what you’re going through. Your son is not your son as long as he’s using and spending multiple times in rehab isn’t working. He needs to feel the pain. Look what he’s doing to you?

  • Helen Sheridan

    I am a firm believer in “throw them out”

    Having lost my retirement to the criminal behavior of an underage addict…..the rehab. When they turned 18 that was it.

    I completely turned by back as did all my other kids…..guess what 8 months later clean, working and going to school. 5 years later, clean, successful.

    • Yaz

      I am happy for you and your family, Helen. I just did it with my son. Just two weeks ago and my soul left with him. This is unbearable. I only cry and pray. I feel so bad being in this nice and comfortable house, food, fire in the fireplace while is cold outside and he is living with a friend that supplies the weed, in a house falling apart…..It is Christmas time! How can I enjoy it with him out of home, alone….

      • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

        Yaz… Remember: You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. You are the most important person in your life. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions in order to preserve your OWN happiness and sanity. And that’s okay. Sending you good thoughts, prayers, and lots of hugs.

    • AlwaysRight

      I agree. I tried the whole compassion thing and nothing worked.. Told her to leave or else I would die for sure. I worry about her but I cannot control it. She knows where to get help and can get it so it’s all in her hands.

  • Bro. B.

    Dana Baker, I could never blame you if you decided to kick your son out of your home. I think the CRAFT approach does acknowledge that that sometimes is the only way to protect yourself from abuse and having your own sanity and boundaries violated. My 24-year old daughter has been through year of multiple rounds of expensive rehabs, and through cycles of jail time and subsequent probation violations. My wife and I have given her multiple second chances and the most recent chance when she had a huge drug party in our home while we were gone, we had to draw the line and kick her out. I can’t point to a success story yet for her, but I can say that if she seeks treatment, it will be her choice, and her selection of the treatment program, not ours. I can also say that my wife and I worry about her outside our home as much as ever, we now at least have some control over our own home environment. You need to take care of yourself for your own sake, because your life is as valuable as your son’s, and you won’t be in a position to help him if you lose your own mental and physical health. If you decide to kick him out it doesn’t mean you are abandoning him. There are many ways to support his recovery, as the CRAFT method details, without living with him.

  • KTina

    I’m done. He’s gone tonight – my mental and physical health is too important. He has again screwed over the one person that always had his back. It takes a lot for me to cut someone out of my life, but I have no feelings anymore. I cannot live like this anymore, having to hide anything of value and I have another son that doesn’t deserve this.

  • Nora

    My son and wife and 3 children are living with us ,his wife is skin and bones and sleeps most of the day the grand kids have dark rings under eyes and won’t eat alot,I am pretty sure they are doing heroine, I have Ben light headed and week ,I know it seem strange but I think he is releasing it in our house is found a house edge made bong thing others say is for heroine, I worry about babies, what should I do?

    • AlwaysRight

      Call CPS. You keep the little kids and get the rest out of your home. Probably making meth or something..

  • Ann

    Ann
    I have been dealing with my son’s addictions for close to 17 years. I have tried it all, Alanon, CRAFT, counseling, etc., etc. I’ve read every book I could get my hands on. I went to support groups. The less I expect from him the less he does. I’m 60 years old and I’m tired! I’ve worked so hard my entire life. My childhood was difficult, alcoholic parents, beatings, crazy stuff I lived through, and I pulled my self up by the boot straps and yet he’s so lazy he can’t seem to get out of bed before 2 pm. I can work full time and do all the work around the and he doesn’t help unless I harp on him and then he does a half a–ed job, so of course I don’t ask him again. He’s 32 years old and has been fired from dozens of jobs. But there is always an excuse of “I’m an addict, I can’t help myself.” I’m tired, I’d like to finally have a chance to enjoy my life before I die.

  • AlwaysRight

    Until you have lived with a heroin addicted adult child, only then will you have to make a decision of whether to tell them to leave or end up dying yourself. My daughter lived with us for only 3 months while addicted to heroin and now I suffer from ptsd from it being the most traumatic experience I have ever endured. She tried to have my husband and I arrested numerous times while she was hallucinating on whatever concoction she had ingested. She had choices but chose to keep using and no amount of begging, pleading or anything else worked. We lost most of our valuables that we had along with our sanity. I get truly annoyed when folks who have never experienced this situation tell others to let them live with you because something bad could happen to them. Really? Something bad could happen to them when they ARE living with you. I found her on the floor passed out many times. She overdosed numerous times and the only thing that kept me from dropping dead from the stress level was when she was incarcerated. My health took a nosedive. She had to get out of my house. She had choices like detox and rehab. She chose to keep living the heroin life so she spent a year and a half in prison. I was happy until she came out and went right back on dope. More jail time. Came back out and once again hit the needle.
    I have no more compassion. She had all the chances she needed to get clean but she chooses this life. Once again now she is still using but she isn’t living in my home. I do worry about her but it is out of my hands.. I tried all the sweet talk and positive things but to no avail. She knows where the detox is and she can put herself in it.
    She abandoned her beautiful daughter for dope and someday she will have to answer to her.
    All actions have consequences and I refuse to be put in an early grave because my daughter is a heroin addict.

    • lovely15

      I understand perfectly, continue to Pray.

    • Diana Pereira

      Oh my, reading this sounds like I wrote it. My son, 27 years old is addicted to heroine. Even though he agrees to treatment, it is short lived and he relapses. He apologizes, says he wants help and the same routine starts again. I have found him unconscious, he is stealing from me to support his habit and I finally built up the courage and threw him out. That was the hardest thing I have ever done. I totally understand where Always Right is coming from. I am truly exhausted. I cant sleep, I have to hide everything, (what ever is left that he hasn’t stolen), when I get home from work, I fear finding him dead.

      • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

        Diana… As the father of an adult son who struggled with addiction for several years, my suggestion to you would be to tell your son he has to either get clean or find another place to live. By having him live with you and still allowing him to use drugs, you are enabling him. It wasn’t until my wife and I gave our son an ultimatum–get clean or find another place to live–that things started to change for the better…for everyone.

  • OneMoreTime

    I’m here through researching SoberLiving at home. CRAFT looks like an interesting concept and one I’m willing to try. My son is an alcoholic but has also been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and ADHD. I am not seeing any posts here that address this part of addiction.His addiction has been a problem for 10 years since he was 13. He had a major episode 5 months ago which sent him to the ER…tried to detox himself. Called us to get him into a REHAB facility (which he is paying for)…but soon as he got out, relapsed. Had some sobriety for about 3 mos. but is now drinking again. It is a cycle he goes through…panics about paying bills, takes on 2 jobs to get caught up, has no time to eat, sleep or go to meetings then relapses causing major problems physically, mentally, legally and financially. My husband and I kicked him out 2 nights ago as, like with other posters, our own physical and mental health is suffering. We have been to Al-Anon, read every recovery, addiction and self help book printed and are currently finishing up an 8 week course at NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness). Highly recommend researching this organization if you suspect your loved one with an addiction has underlying mental issues. I know how horribly depressing and infuriating it is to live with an addict. Not here to judge anyone. But I also know that no one hates the addict more than they hate themselves. So, if there’s a way to help him recover at home, I will keep trying whatever I think might work or provide hope. Best of luck to everyone here.

  • Mark Anthony

    I am tired of it, frustrated, disappointed and sad. My 19 year old son has been using pot at huge levels for so long now. Its been so long since I have seen him not high. He sleeps all day….gets up causing tension in the house. Goes out then comes back two hours later and all is right with the world. I have my suspicions it is more than pot but I can’t prove it and what makes it worse is his mother is in total denial. He hides behind her. He isn’t working, he sleeps all day only rousing to go outside to smoke a bong and then head back to bed. He resists any attempt we make to get him to do ADULT things like study, job , he won’t even do his own laundry. A part of me wants him gone and that kills me. I don’t want to feel like this. His mother has terminal cancer…he deals with this as he deals with everything….get stoned. He has two sisters, both adults who are slowly becoming estranged from him. They see what he’s doing, they see how he plays his mother even in her weak state and this infuriates them. I have tried being his friend, I have tried reading the riot act, I have tried encouraging, boundaries, disciplining, not enabling….nothing has worked. My son is a loser….a loser and it is sad to see but at the moment, if the definition of a loser doesn’t fit him then I don’t know who it would fit. I find myself now being distant from him, its easier and less frustrating. It causes angst for his mother….what a way for her to go, watch her son vanish into an addiction before she dies. Part of me hates him for this and I worry our relationship will never come back.

  • Ron7127

    Well, I am thoroughly at a loss as to what to do: Go the tough love deal or try this. I have tried to help and be supportive for years now to no avail. Everyone says kick him out, you are enabling etc, he will die in your house just as easily as if you kick him out; he needs to bottom out to get motivated etc. This may be good advice.
    Despite the fact that kicking him out would save my house, my valuables, and stop the bad effects on my health and that of my other kids ( they do not live with me, but now refuse to visit), something is making me hesitate.
    I love my son. I raised him , virtually, by myself for a long time as his mom drank and had affairs. We were really close before all this.
    For the last ten years , with this heroin and Meth addiction, he has become an abusive, dishonest sociopath, virtually. The only glimpses I get of my old son, the one I raised and loved, is after a stint in Treatment, when his mind comes back, he is lucid and has a conscience. Last time was about 4 months ago. Soon as he is out of treatment , in a sober house, wham, he is using in no time and becomes unrecognizable again.
    I can relate to everything everyone here says about their experience.
    So, tonight, I go to my first Nar Anon meeting at my siblings’ urging. But, now I read here that they suck. So, more confusion. I guess I will go and see , anyway.
    God, this is a nightmare.

    • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

      Ron7127… I’m sorry you’re going through this. As someone who has been where you are, I know it’s not easy. I would like to suggest you pick up a book called “Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change.” It’s written specifically for parents and partners of people struggling with addiction and it’s full of incredibly helpful information. Also, if you don’t have a good experience at the Nar-Anon meeting, please consider trying Al-Anon. When our son was struggling with heroin addiction, my wife and I attended Al-Anon meetings and they welcomed us. My wife will tell you that Al-Anon saved her life. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Please know that you are not alone.

    • Becky Hansen

      There is a group called PAL parents of addicted loved ones. It helps me. Hopefully there is one in your area. My daughter is in jail right now and I feel safe for her and us. If anything happens when she gets out, I will not be afraid to send her back to jail.

  • Janet Haislip

    All we’ve done for the past 18 years is try to support our son. It’s done nothing but take years off our lives. No more.

  • guest

    In Washington State just such an abuser and her boyfriend murdered three generations of one family because of she and his drug induced mental illnesses. The family had been enabling them by allowing them to live on their property. If love and treatment were the answer there would be no addicts. Save yourselves. People’s children die everyday from uncontrollable non drug addiction diseases and accidents of every sort. Some are murdered by strangers. I mourned the loss of our daughter several years ago and she is alive. Why? She abandoned her family and would only re-enter to con and abuse. We tried every approach, including that suggested in this article. Finally it dawned on me that our daughter truly does not love or care for any human other than herself, including her own children which she abandoned. Being high is more valuable to her than anything else and so to be supportive of her, I needed to let go and let her live the life she valued above all. Adult children who do extreme sports, choose military or other high risk for death careers, etc. cause anxiety for parents but are not robbing parents, murdering them or otherwise abusing them. More than likely they are happily engaged and there is a healthy adult relationship with both parties valuing the other. With an addict child, your life means zero to them no matter what they tell you- you mean nothing. They have lobotomized their conscious and destroyed their own ability to love anything but the ‘high’ they are after. You, unfortunately, gave birth to them, loved them, nurtured them and had high hopes for an ongoing relationship, something that is not possible due to their actions. Because they become predators, they are seeking to prey off parental guilt. I recommend you not feed them that or give them any money as they will sooner or later die from their addiction and you will not have saved them nor will any counselor on earth. Mine has been in tens of thousands of dollars worth of addiction counseling and treatment centers only to come out contrite and back at it a week later. No amount of jail time, loss of children, family, etc. causes pain. What causes her pain is not being able to get high and have sex and party with those she loves- whatever stranger will get her high and party with her. Those are the hard cold facts. Even when addicts sober up, they rarely remember any of their past. Many addicted popular musicians and others have stated their entire life is unknown to them due to being high. People only stop using when the pain to them is insufferable- before then, they are willing to do anything to stay high, including murder. You can stop being a victim by thoroughly mourning the death of your child and letting go. This does not mean your troubles are over as the loss of a child is with you everyday but I can tell you, it gets easier everyday. Not because you are forgetting the love and concern for that child but because you are accepting that loss of a child happens. It happens in third world countries daily from starvation. In other words, you can approach your loss from a different perspective and come to terms with it without allowing another human being to victimize you and your family and rob you of your own life.

    • Trash Panda

      I agree whole-heartedly. Parents in treatment family groups have called me “cold”, “cold-hearted”, and “unloving”. I am none of those things. I loved my child from before she was born. In spite of what the treatment centers told her and told me, I am not the problem. I work hard, obey the law, don’t drink, use, or even date. I am a good role model, attend Al-Anon, and am completely exhausted from centering my life around an unrepentant, addicted child.

      I had a funeral for my child too. I wrote a eulogy and a four page, tear-stained good-bye letter.

      I had to realize that I was entitled to being well, safe, and happy also. I was none of those things as long as I devoted my life to a sociopath.

      Maybe each child is different and some may benefit from the CRAFT approach. It did not work for me. Anything short of no contact kept me exploited, guilted, fearful, depressed, and clinically traumatized (PTSD).

      There are many who will not agree with Guest, but I have to say that, as agonizing as no contact is, sometimes it really is what you have to do to save your own life. And you and I have every bit as much of a right to a good life as anyone else, including the addict.

      The addict can choose to resist getting better. I can choose to get better, no matter what. And that is what I have elected to do: be well, safe, and happy.

      Eternal martyrdom helps no one. It will never be enough,

    • Nosipho

      Can I share this please? I so agree and wish for people in my circles to see this

  • KTina

    I have no more love to give. It’s over. My son has used me and lied to me too many times. I thought he was clean until I found out that he stole money yesterday. He denies that it was him which infuriates me even more. How do you love someone who hurts you and your family and won’t stop even though you’ve given him help and support? I’m done.

  • Reece

    And not once have you mentioned why he may be behaving this way. As parents you need to take a look at yourselves.

    • Jane

      Unless you go through this Reece do not comment , lots of theses kids come from very good homes

  • Erika Heredia

    Hi I am writing this as a last resort. I have a friend who is addicted to meth. I have offered help numerous times but he refuses to get help and says he can overcome it but he obviously cannot. I do not want to give up on him but I feel like I am done and will no longer speak to him. I want to write him a letter as a last resort any advice on what to include or how to approach him? Whenever I have tried speaking to him he shuts down and doesn’t respond. At least now he acknowledges he has a problem before he wouldn’t even acknowledge it. His parents do not understand the severity aand believe he can leave it on his own I’ve tried explaining to them that he cannot or else he would have already done so. This is the last time I will speak to him so I want to make sure I do it properly without passing judgement. Thank you

    • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

      Erika… Speak to him with love and compassion, not confrontation or anger. Tell him you will support him if he is willing to get help. Tell him you are concerned for his well-being and health. Tell him how his using meth makes YOU feel. But do it all with empathy. There’s a really good book out there that might help you with this. It’s called Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change. I think it’s the best book out there for loved ones and friends of people struggling with addiction. It would be great for your friend’s parents to read that book, too. I’m sending love, light, and hope to you and your friend.

      • Erika Heredia

        Thank you

      • what if

        Sorry Dean, it is very difficult to keep feeling sorry , being kind with love and compassion to addict – I am really done! My son is an addict and alcoholic. He started around when he was 16 years old – he is now 22 years .. I am a single mother, and I struggle to make ends meet every month .. I have battled a long road with my son – from Rehab after Rehab .. hospitals .. doctors .. medication .. the works .. even jail twice ..
        now he has decided that it is a good thing to abuse me till I give him money to go buy his drugs and drink .. he literally attacks me physically .. screaming and shouting at me – has no problem threatening how he will kill me if I don’t get him money .. !!! I am trapped and terrified of him when he gets like this . if I retaliate it makes him even worse, so I have to follow his orders … i hate him at the moment – he has drained me of money – i am in debt up to the hilt .. he feels nothing !! As long as he gets what he wants .. I cannot show any compassion ..

        • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

          what if… Your situation is different. If your son is abusing you , attacking you, and threatening you, you need to take steps to put an end to that. You should definitely call the police and allow your son to suffer the consequences of his actions. If you don’t take steps to stop his behavior, he will just keep doing it. Love and compassion work to a a point. But there can also come a point where more drastic action is necessary. You are at that point with your son. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

          • Deborah A Statham

            My heart breaks reading this, and many of us have all been there, and felt like you are now. To have so much anger, hate, is showing that you have become sick as well, we all become as sick or sicker than the addict. We have allowed ourselves to live their lives of course to insanity. We need help ourselves. Most important to realize life is distorted, so then we can only change us. To manipulate, enabling, fighting, it’s time to let go and stop blaming others for our own reactions. Your son is very sick, it’s a disease, he struggles daily to get whatever he uses to survive, with all the consequences, doesn’t matter his addiction is so powerful. His addiction, actions, physical, choices are the results of addiction disease. But as long as he is able to get what he wants, make physical threats, he will continue to use YOU. Only you can change you, get your own support, have him arrested. If no changes, then nothing changes. I pray for you and your son..let go let god, with empathy, not hate..once you understand the disease of addiction you will understand, and not allow this behavior or threats…we like to blame them for our reactions, thoughts…but in fact our thoughts and actions are learned, we can’t control anyone, but ourselves. Live and let live. Too much drama …

  • FEDUPtoMYEYEBALLS

    Stepson is on Heroin constantly. Confront him and he runs at me from 200 feet away threatening to punch my face in. Makes a bee line to his heroin dealer often(like hes getting only enough to last 1 day at a time) everytime hes f**ked up when he comes back. I’m to the point I need to put a restraining order on him in order to get him away from my house with his drug use!!! I don’t want to have to fight, I’m too fking old and could possibly have a heart attack. Hes a month from 25 yrs old, I’m 52. I cant fking take it no more. I cringe everytime he even comes around. I don’t want to see him ever again. He has burned the bridge sooooo badddddd, to the point even if he did get clean and sober for the rest of his life, if I NEVER see him again it would be too soon!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m biding my time for the next confrontation. My wife(his mother) was there for the last fiasco and is afraid of him too. She loves him but something HAS TO GIVE.

    • Diana Campbell

      The addict in our family has caused me to have the same feelings. He’s caused so much pain and hurt that it doesn’t matter now if he gets clean, he’s done too much damage.

  • Wendy

    I’m sitting here reading all these post and my heart is breaking. I’m your son, I’m your daughter, I’m a addict. To some degree I have acted out against my loved ones, to some point I have lied to them, stole from them, acted cold and heartless. I am now a year and half sober. I think about when I was out getting high and I’m ashamed of the things I did because I’m not that person I wasn’t raised to be that way but I did it. I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses for what I did cause there is no excuse but when I was out there getting high the drugs affected me in a way that made me not care, they numb me to pain and consequence. Drugs made me selfish to the point that I cared about to feel better and whatever cost. I would worry about that later. In my mind I truly believed I was fine, that everyone was lieing on me and talking about me. They was all blowing everything out of proportion. I was lieing to myself. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “admitted you have a problem is the first step” Even sober people don’t like to admit their wrong. I just want to say that NO BODY should live in fear. You ABSOLUTELY have to make your son leave. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you are safe and be free of the drama. It sounds to me he is a bully and acting that way so he can run the show. I promise after you put your foot down and he sees you aren’t giving in it will start.getting better. It may take awhile but the most important thing is that you don’t have to live like that. He’s a big boy, there are shelter and soup kitchens he won’t go hungry. Now let me be clear I’m not saying that tough love is the way to go. I don’t believe it is. For me the best thing my mom did was to let me know she loved me no matter what, she was there when I called on her. If I was hungry she feed me, need a ride, she took me. My mom stopped giving me money, or doing anything that might enable me to get high. I wasn’t cold and wasn’t hungry and I’m thankful she did that because I new she.still loved me and when I decided to act right she will be waiting. I knew I was wrong deep down but like most children we test our parents. I never stopped loving my family, I was a addict my brain was sick drugs made me not me. I’ve been a addict for years. I got clean and relapes more times then I care to admit. I understand that you don’t understand and I wish it was easy to explain but it’s impossible. Just know that addiction is a sick brain that needs to heal and has absolutely nothing to do with not loving or caring about those close to us.

    • Kat

      This was very helpful information. My daughter is now 22 and has been abusing drugs on and off for about 7 years. She has some periods that she does well which is why it took me so long to fully realize her addiction problems. For a long time I blamed her behaviors on anxiety, depression and immaturity.
      Making everything harder, she has two kids ages 5 and 2. She is mean, irritable, has no patience, thinks of herself over everyone etc. initially I tried everything in my power to hell her get on the right path so that she and her kids could have a bright future only for her to be no further ahead. I have spent years fearing for the well being of my grandchildren and to the point, after months of begging and pleading with her to seek help, seek counseling even with me, to leave her kids in my Care for a while (I have raised the 5 year old) I filed a petition seeking joint custody of the kids and requesting theyir primary residence be with me until my daughter and the 2 year olds father seek treatment and are emotionally, physically and financially able to care for the children with visitations. The court denied my requests despite graphic proof of drug abuse and neglect to the children.
      My daughter is furious with me. This was a gut wrenching choice for me. I am so torn between the need to protect the children and wanting to help my daughter even though she also verbally abuses me whenever I even try to broach the abuse, blames me for everything etc.
      I am torn between wanting to continue to show her live with boundaries and distancing myself from her.

    • jacki

      what made you finally get sober?

  • Donna

    My son is 35 and we have been dealing with his addiction for approximately 18 years. He also has had 2 TBI’s, one at age 5 and one at age 18. which really make the situation even more complex.

  • Sunitha Chary

    My Son has been suffering from mental health for few years. Based on his behavior, and some other facts I think he also has drug and alcohol addiction. He is 43 yr old and has his own house. However he quit his job 5 yrs ago and has been telling me that he spent all his money (which is a lot) and now he doesn’t have any money and wants to borrow our money. I have no problem with lending him money for few months if he hasn’t spent most of his money on drugs and if it is for his health needs. Not only that he has been coming to our house every evening and venting out seriously in the evenings going to dark places. Since few days he has been coming everyday morning and evening wanting to drink and going to dark places infront of us. We are not able to tolerate his behavior of blaming and complains, trying to take us to dark places along with him on daily basis. And he also started asking to get into our bank account etc promising he will pay back, which he doesn’t have any or no income to pay back.
    Therefore we are afraid for our future and we are generally very sad and upset after he comes and talks to us.
    I wanted to confront his drug problem, so I have directly asked him if he has spent most of his money on drugs. It infuriated to the point of verbal aggression and started blaming us, getting in our faces mistreating us.
    He still did not admit he has drug addiction.
    We left our house in fear of his verbal aggression and only communicating with him requesting to commit himself to mental health treatment clinics. He keeps ranting nonsense constantly begging and pleading to come back and be with him but not agreeing to get checked in to treatments.

    I gave him ultimatum that we will not communicate with him till he goes to treatment.

    But as parents I feel so many mixed feelings. Are we doing it right? I do understand we did enable him to behave the way he did for 5 years without saying anything to him for fear of losing him. But now that I decided to be firm with him in getting him to therapy, is giving the ultimatum right way? I mean leaving the house so he cannot visit and badger us daily? I did tell him I will help him anyway I can if he goes to get treatment. Please any help and suggestion are appreciated and considered.

    • Sunitha Chary

      I would like to know getting away from my home for the fear of my Sons emotional abuse and staying somewhere else is the right thing for us or not . We are letting him know we will help him anyway we can if he checks himself in rehab.

  • Teresa Davis

    I am new to this … my son voluntarily checked into a rehab facility 1 year ago to the shock of his sisters and I. After 21 days he got out returned to work; we thought he was doing well. In the year since then he has lost his job, become homeless and moved in with 1 of his sisters. A few weeks ago I noticed after he had spent a week with me that my just filled script for mild pain pills was only half full. I was blown away and didn’t address it with him. Now today I bought him some tobacco and tubes (I asked him and he said he was almost out). Tonight talking to my daughter (the one he is living with) I find out that she is missing $20 and that she had just bought him tobacco and tubes. She is hurt and devasted; doesn’t know what to do. If her husband finds out he will kick my son out immediately.
    I don’t know where I went wrong … yes I am taking the blame on this … I just don’t know what to do … someone please help me help my son

    • http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/ DeanDD

      Teresa Davis… Please don’t blame yourself. Like Nar-Anon and Al-Anon teach us about a loved one’s addiction: You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. I suggest a book called Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change. It’s written specifically for parents and partners of people struggling with addiction and is full of incredibly helpful information. I think it will really help you understand and deal with the situation you’re in.

      • Gia

        This reminded me of the group I joined for parents of addicted children. Some sadly had lost one child & shared in group how they’re losing another. The sad part was one after another shared stories of how not only the next child repeated same behavior, but it was clear (to me anyway) the parents were also repeating the same enabling behavior. I wanted to speak up – I figured it’s a self-help group after all & only truth can get us answers I realized the odds were against me as I sat in a room of about 20 parents & listened in sadness as one by one spoke of their enabling behavior “I figured I’d pay his rent, if he was on street I’d worry”. “I bought him food I was too worried he was hungry” “Oh I finally kicked him out” And just as I thought to myself finally hope– a Dad whose going to share how he took action! tho he followed up with how yes, he kicked him out of the house BUT he’d drop off food, paid for the hotel etc. And the group reassured him it was the right thing. I sat and listened to the repeated “I..I.. I” stories. “I’d worry” “I figured if he’s here in his room Id not have to worry all night” . Seemed they were more concerned with how they’d feel tho I knew it wasn’t malicious it was desperation on the part of parents who loved their children. Tho sometimes Love them to death as the one who allowed her daughter to stay in the house, opened the door one morn & found her dead. Thoughts swirling in my mind: ‘what impression did their first addict child leave on the second’? ‘if the second child saw the parents take action with their first, would it have deterred the second from repeating the addiction?’ ‘ wouldn’t it have helped if they saw their older sibling lose everything .vs. lay around high, come&go as please, friends over, playing video games, fed & laundry done’ ? Sure the parent felt better having the addict where they can see them but did it help to allow the stress clearly on the rest of the family! I figured this group was here for grief counseling not to learn how to fix their addicted children -just to support them in their grief — a place they could go where they’d not hear “no don’t pay his rent- throw him out” “you’re enabling her”. I’m not suggesting parents should blame themselves— blame doesn’t help, just be aware concerning ourselves with how it makes “I’ feel “I” look to others isn’t priority at the moment when a life is on the line time is of the essence. True not even the doctors can cure addiction—but I respectfully disagree I’ve seen cases where parents absolutely are part of the ’cause’ (some unaware they’re doing so) and to a degree can ‘control’ it by not enabling (money, food, housing). I sit here today helpless & desperate to help a friend who was in rehab for 10days but left in a cab—- the parents paid for the taxi when it arrived at their door. “well what could I do the cab driver was waiting” Sad truth was he knew they’d pay. Now he’s home in his apartment, going to die. Its I who have no control… the parents did.

    • gia

      The book Dean suggests is helpful & he’s right Blaming yourself isn’t going to help, its not technically anyone’s fault. In the meantime be aware of precautions we need to take. Being new to this as you stated is the reason. I hope this helps: You say “to the shock of his sisters & I”. IDK if you were shocked because you dind’t know he was addicted or shock he’d volunteer to go into rehab. “after 21 days” he left rehab “We thought” he was doing well. That’s natural to think however, if as you state afterward he lost his job, was homeless, thats a clue he was obviously using again. Once we’re aware, we take precautions by hiding the pills when he came to stay. And by addressing what he did AND laying out consequences of this behavior “you can no longer stay”. To the addict he sees his behavior as being rewarded–buying him tobacco etc. The sister must address this with her husband because in the end secrets will stress her and the aftermath it will cause her relationship isn’t fair. What will he steal next, something of the husbands? Together with her husband must sit down with her brother and calmly explain he must leave. Keeping in mind & reassuring him this is not WHO he is, you are throwing HIM out, its his BEHAVIOR and you will do anything to help get him to rehab, no tobacco, no cash, nothing. Homelessness is way of his hitting “rock bottom” and a way he may seek help. The good news is he volunteered before, that’s great & not usually the norm. Usually one gets fired, homeless first & still won’t volunteer. My friend, for instance died. Another is going to die as we speak, refusing help. God bless you – take care of yourself first & tell your daughter to do the same. You reached out to help him & he slapped your hand. Don’t let his addiction ruin your lives. You can love him , pray for him & help him by NOT buying him anything.. he needs or otherwise, tobacco is not a necessity.

    • gia

      Correction, I meant his sister sit down with her husband and calmly explain to her brother they are NOT throwing HIM out, they are throwing out his BEHAVIOR. Addicts many times are low in self esteem and hear things differently than we’re saying them. Its natural for example, her husband to get upset but it won’t help & may help the husband understand this is not WHO he is, its a behavior, unacceptable, no excuse–just the reason. Self-esteem and self-hatred many times is the cause. Many times those same people come off as cocky & superior. Like hiding behind the clowns mask. Or I refer to it as “the wonderful & powerful Wizard of Oz , curtain pulled back reveals the true identity”. Drugs/Alcohol are the curtain And so its important to firmly (not too nice, not too harsh, just firm) reassure “you are a good person, this is the addiction taking over- don’t’ let it– you have so much life to live, love to offer, take your life back from the grips of this disease” Personally I never believed it was a disease tho the more I learn– some can take pills for pain and stop, others become addicted. Be it food, drugs, alcohol etc. addiction is somehow a brain malfunction. I explained to a friend once “you have a drink and the little door in your brain shuts after a glass of wine— for the addict, the door not only remains open but gets wider, asking for more & more– their door can’t shut due to some sort of malfunction”. Rehab teaches an addict how to avoid entering the door in the first place! The disease is the door can’t shut. Silly it may sound but its the best way I knew to explain to the brother of my friend who couldn’t understand why after 10days in rehab his brother physically felt better– why would he go back to drinking…… its not the physical part, its the mental anguish an addict suffers that leads them to that open door in the first place. It takes more than 10days, 21 days—- to learn how to divert yourself, your brain from heading to that door in the 1st place God bless…

  • Lost

    All this help is always so expensive and the people who are slowly dying watching the person they love struggle with addiction and mental health issues they can’t find any help. I just want to help my son but I have no money and I don’t know what to do. I am drowning in sorrow and suffocating by fear this is such a horrible way to live and I look and look and cannot find any help because I don’t have money.

    • Melissa Parker

      I am in a similar situation. Its so sad to see that only those who have money get the help they absolutely need to change their lives around. If my daughter had cancer or another life threating issue it could be possible that we could raise money to help her get treatment but when your child has a drug/ or other horrible life-destroying problem, they are basically thrown away. No Money = No Rehab or Necessary Treatment = Continued Issues, emotional pain and probably death.

      • gia

        I’m not sure if my reply will post. Im watching a loved one die as we speak & Im desperate. But I’ve learned from prior deaths of friends/family from substance abuse, it doesn’t necessarily take money. Some I knew had money to go anywhere they’d like but instead died at home on the floor! others without money went into a facility in Fla years ago with great results. Sometimes we are desperate to help a loved one & tell ourselves that’s the reason, we add that to our “if only” list of desperation. I’ve witnessed friends go to Caron in PA or Genesis in Fla or Carrier in NJ with various results. The difference mostly was the person/addict and their family. Its not just the addicts problem & many times we fail to realize the physical part is simple to fix, its the mental. We make the mistake of sayng “well dont’ you feel better, why would u drink after getting better”? Because we dont understand. I’d hear some family members say “I tried this..but I DID I tried that” and yes they did– but not long enough before they’d lose their patience. Its not an easy task & it takes time LOTS of time many of us don’t have to invest in the addict because the layers are usually so deep rooted. The physical part is merely the symptom of underlying mental issues The self-medicating symptom to ease mental anguish. Onlookers would say “oh please she has alot of money whats HER problem” — money or not, there’s dysfunction in all families and we are all affected the same. Rich or poor we can’t force a loved one to get help and it’s sad for the family — God bless you & yours.

  • Melissa Parker

    I have a 26 year old daughter, who has over the last few months, basically lost everything she had including her independence, her job and her apartment, all due to huffing.

    Since my oldest daughter was a young teen, she had constant issues: drinking, pills, cutting, etc… She has a very addictive type personality. Her father and I have always tried so hard to help her, with therapy, doctors, love, encouragement, long- discussions, etc… I read constantly as to how to help her. Still, no matter how much training or support we received on our side has not equaled to the fact that she will NOT help herself. The stress she caused overwhelmed and really wore down our family and my marriage. I always felt I neglected my healthier other two younger girls by focusing so much on my oldest daughter. My X and also ended up divorced.

    Then, thankfully, it felt like for a couple years, my oldest daughter seemed to shape up, got her own place and life got semi-peaceful. I now have my youngest with me full-time and together we have now made a very happy little life together. Then bout 6 months ago, my oldest daughter decided she would try Huffing. We had no idea what she was doing until it got bad. inhalants Her life took a dive.My X-husband, her dad, tried to help her, but since she didn’t respond to his help, he threw her out. She had no where to go so I took her in. I love her and want to help her desperately. Still, am a single mom making very little money and can’t give her anything more than my love, a couch to sleep on and food to eat… But from the day she moved in I told her that if she continued to huff I would have no choice but to put her out. She did good for a couple weeks but now she is doing it again. She was warned. I am Beyond Frustrated! I was her absolute last place to go and still she betrayed that. Now she is endangering the peace of my home with my 15 year old. So now what?! What choice do I have? I can’t endanger or disrupt my youngest daughter’s life this way !? Yet my oldest has NO place to go. Absolutely NO Where! Now what?! I see absolutely ZERO choice but to ask her to leave.

  • Brian5907

    Step son now 26, sitting in prison, Drug, Heroin, Cocaine, topped off with alcohol and stealing from me and his sister. NO, he abandon us, he abandon his own kids, 2 daughters. He can sleep on the damn street when he gets out

  • Cheryl Moyer

    Drugs are horrible. Been with it with 2 sons now. God is the only one that
    can intervene now.

  • gia

    Sadly it doens’t take money to make or help an addict It takes time patience of loved ones, and a willingness on the part of the addict to put the time (LONG time) to help themselves. The physical addiction is easy, the mental cure (reason they’re using in the first place) takes years. I no a wealthy guy who died a few years back could’ve afforded to go to a facility of his choice. i no another who’s going to die as we speak, helpless I am to help this friend. The problem is money isn’t allocated to these services likely because the cure rate is so low. Typically addicts go in treatment center multiple times –, a state or private entity would go broke allocating funds for repeated treatment. Jail, sadly, is much cheaper.

    The biggest problem isnt the addict– they’re the symptom of a much bigger problem–some from childhood issues, digging those layers isn’t easy. The bigger problem is typically the enabler—- they do what makes ‘them’ feel better, ‘feel’ like they’re doing something— when in reality they’re not helping the addict.

  • gia

    I was desperate to help my friend– who later died, I was devastated I joined a “parents” group — women & men who met weekly, I hoped to gain insight, knowledge what works, doesn’t work,etc However all I learned was how very much they were enablers who needed to hear “no-you’re not an enabler” I felt sick literally sick because I realized the children of those 20 or so parents in that room didn’t stand a chance. Some dead– other young adults still living at home with their parents repeating the same behavior of enabling. It was sad because the parents seemed to really believe they were helpless & couldn’t grasp the fact of paying their bills, housing etc. I wanted to speak up thinking I would let them know— but realized the odds were against me.

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