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Living with a Drug Addict: Holding the Line Also Means Letting Go

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

The Partnership is excited to welcome new blogger Bill Ford to the Intervene community!  Bill is a former addict and father of children with drug addiction.  He blogs on DadOnFire, where he shares and exchanges experiences and resources in the world of addiction and recovery.   

M. Scott Peck said in his book, The Road Less Traveled, that “Life is difficult.”   If you have an addict in your family, I would add that difficult is an understatement.  It’s the hardest thing you will experience.  After years of hard work and raising kids: BANG!  You painfully realize your kid is a drug addict!  Difficult has just become impossible. And here’s the kick: By the time you discover your teen is using, he’s actually been using for a long time.  You took action but it was too late for prevention. Like many others, I took the easy road — accepting my teen’s repeated contrition’s and just going on.  Denial, you might say. Then the heartache!  Much later, you discover you’re living with an addict.  This is when you know difficult is an understatement.

Living with a drug addict is not workable — you have to grab this bull by the horns or be gored.  For some, it becomes kicking the addict out of the house.    For others, it might be enabling and continued denial.  And for many, it’s spending your life’s savings, while watching your addict carted off to jail or worse. To understand the household dynamics of living with an addict, read Ron Grover’s The Seven Truths About My Addict.  An addict does what he or she wants within the context of a potentially vicious chemical dependency.

Addiction is a disease.  It changes brain chemistry.  Addicts will go to any length to get what they need.  It is a disease that gets poor attention from the medical industry, leaving families abandoned.  We know now that treatment and recovery are a process and not an event, yet it still feels like an event. Families are encouraged to invest a bunch to make that event a success.  Stubborn addicts don’t see it that way and private treatment centers know better, so a non-refundable deposit is required.  Frankly, a new treatment paradigm is needed. We can’t deal with this alone. Hillary Clinton was right when she said, “it takes a village to raise a child.” On my website, I posted a poetic gem written by a wonderful mother called Expectations.  She said, “You have to let go of the child you once knew in the future…” What a truth!
I found, for myself, that I needed to step into a totally new dimension of reality.  Being a parent of an addict is a social disease of its own merit with its own 12-step protocol.  By the time you know this, you have already gone down a hard road — truly a road less traveled. You know the meaning of loss, and you have to act in the context of having no time and merely chasing at the heels of the problem.

Eventually, we act, for better or worse, but don’t let this disease take you down.  Get help!  Talk!  Lobby!  My addict lives with me only if ground rules are followed, and for that reason I often miss him. Holding the line also means letting go in a way you never have before. The serenity prayer embraces the essence of what I need to do.  God! Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Related Links:
Time To Get Help
9 Steps to Take When Your Recovering Teen Comes Home from Treatment

Your Teen Drug Addict on the Fringe

Posted by  |  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child

92 Comments on “Living with a Drug Addict: Holding the Line Also Means Letting Go”

Denise says:
June 8th, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I love your blog and website. Thanks for taking the time. I, also, have a website and blog. Our websites and blogs are very different yet the same. This is just another example of the diversity among those who love addicts and the sameness of what it brings to us.
Great job!

Barbara says:
June 8th, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Bill, excellent article. I will be sharing it everywhere I can think of. I think this should be made into a bumper sticker and/or a t-shirt:

“Living with a drug addict is not workable — you have to grab this bull by the horns or be gored”.

Susan Lea says:
June 9th, 2010 at 12:46 am

“Difficult has just become Impossible.” This is a true description of life with an addicted adult child. A friend commented, when I asked for advice, that I was in “an impossible situation.” It’s hard to have hope when it’s “impossible!”

The serenity prayer is simple and beautiful.. but I found that the kicker is the part about “wisdom to know the difference.” Sometimes I just have to trust that my decisions are wise. And if they aren’t, try better next time.

Regina Boback says:
June 9th, 2010 at 2:30 am

My son is a drug addict he is 22. I am at the end of my rope. I want to get him in a in patient rehab, but he has no health insurance and I am not finacially able to put up the 1000′s of dollars the rehabs require. Do you have any suggestions? He is homeless now, it got so bad, he can not come home and the family will not help since he has done so many terrible things to them, robbing us all, the lies, the manipulations, well you know the horror stories that come with an addicts life. We are from the Philadelphia area. Please any advice suggestions is so appreciated.
Thank you
Regina a desperate mother

Edward D. says:
June 9th, 2010 at 4:57 am

I object to this “impossibility” notion. I also object to the notion of someone being “My Addict”. I will expand on this momentarily, but first I would like to just make some statements that I feel are more objective and realistic:

There is a huge addiction recovery sub-culture, one largely kept out of the general public’s view due to principles of anonymity and self-support. I can travel six or seven hundred miles and attend a meeting I’ve never attended before and see people I’ve known for a decade or more because they travel to recovery meetings themselves. And I’ll meet lots of “new” people too.

Recovery from addiction disease is not only possible, but it is fairly common.

There are annual conventions, held in different world-wide locations, where 20,000 or more recovering addicts meet and share their recovery with each other. I have been to several of those world conventions myself. Nearly every state in the nation has statewide annual conventions, too. That is not counting the recovery camp-outs that are taking place every summer that draw several hundred recovering campers locally. I’ll have a choice of going to three of them within a couple of hundred miles of my home this month. The recovery organization I attend has meetings in thirty countries around the world besides here in the U.S. The group I have been attending has been meeting since 1979. I’ve been going since 1990.

There are other “brain disorders” that are worse. I’m thinking that schizophrenia and autism are worse, for example. And traumatic brain injury can be worse. I advocate at my state legislature about these issues every legislative session over the last ten years.

I am a recovering addict 20 years into a successful recovery, and I’m about sixty years old. People who get into recovery earlier in life than I did have even better chances to rebuild a very successful and fulfilling life.

I have also been a family member of an addict, too, and I do not think it is not possible to live with an addict who is using, without being hurt by addiction disease. Whole families are hurt. Not all the family members are willing to get into recovery themselves and find the time that a recovering addict has to take for their recovery inconvenient. …Nearly as inconvenient as when the addict was still using drugs.

But one thing I see regularly at my addiction recovery fellowship, a voluntary, self-supporting organization that does not accept outside contributions of any kind, specifically from non-addicts, is that hundreds of recovering addicts that I have come to know on a fairly close personal basis over the years attend regularly. As regularly, or more regularly as many people attend church, for instance. Many of these recovering addicts also attend church but some do not. No matter which drug you can think of, addiction recovery can and does work. The specific drug is irrelevant. Recovery transpires the same way for all of them, because it isn’t really a disease about a drug or type of drug, it is recovery from the disease of addiction.

I am also aware that it is difficult to live with an addict who is no longer using, in recovery, and doing what is recommended at NA. I live by myself after not being successful at incorporating someone else’s recovery or non-recovery, as the case may be. Others have different results but those are my own. I see relationships dissolve all the time among my friends in recovery, after very hard work to not have that happen. Of course, the average marriage has about a two-year life in the U.S., whether or not addiction is involved.

Addicts have a lot of lost or never-learned social skills and abilities that are only grasped with a great deal of effort and many mistakes. There are casualties.

Many addicts go on to die from other causes related to the damage done to their bodies while using, and to the normal range of causes that would happen to any group of people you could mention. But addicts dying from other causes are really a success, when you take into account that addiction is a sure killer if someone does not conduct a recovery.

I am a Member of the Missouri Recovery Network, a co-founder/organizer of that recovery advocacy organization.
This is entirely separate from my 12-step group. Missouri Recovery Network is devoted to getting the word out to the general population that addiction recovery can and does work, and many people survive it and live very productive lives.

About “My Addict”. No one is “My Addict”. It is a reprehensible concept to think that. It really gets the responsibility out of whack to say or think this. It isn’t much different than saying “My Slave”, or my dependent. The facts are that addiction takes place in dysfunctional families, everyone in that system is affected, but everyone is only responsible for their own recovery, and not responsible for anyone else’s recovery.

Taking on the responsibility for addiction or for recovery simply isn’t something anyone can do for anyone else. But it is a common misunderstanding.

The part about addiction being a “brain disorder” is only partly right. It is a brain disorder, plus a lot of other metabolic factors, too. It is body-wide, not only brain-centered. It is similar to autism in this way, and also similar to multiple sclerosis and a number of other diseases, too. It is only partly behavioral and neurological, and in many cases genetically- transmitted. At least the vulnerability to addiction disease is genetic.

Addiction also involves a lot of bad behavior and bad choices. It involves a lot of deception. So the fundamental thing a recovering person has to do is get honest, with self and others. Once that is accomplished the other recovery information can have an opportunity to take hold.

It is fair to say it is a bad disease and bad behavior, not either/or. Many politicians claim it is simply bad behavior and leave out the medical and psycho-social factors entirely. This often meets their constituents’ prejudices, and is stigmatizing in a way that often gets votes.

The medical model does offer some help to detox and reduce cravings. It is not mandatory, however, because lots of addicts get clean with AA and or NA alone. They simply start showing up, and do the right thing to save their lives. (I advise NA for addicts.)

The fact is that addiction is life threatening to the addict, and in many cases to those who are around them, especially if they drive intoxicated. Many addicts did not survive when 12-step recovery began learning what it takes to recover and survive. I have known many fatalities and even witnessed a couple personally. So the knowledge base and experience in NA is hard-won, founded upon tragedy, but still well-proven.

A person does not have to go to rehab or treatment to accomplish recovery, but they cannot do it by themselves. I’ve worked in treatment centers myself, and seen both sides of that issue. Treatment can be helpful but it is not anything more than an introduction at a fairly high financial cost to something that is freely given many different 12-step meetings. Courts order treatment for many addicts, and many of them go on to successful recovery. Others don’t. Courts do give people a chance, and the drug-court model is giving pretty high success statistics. But the recovery is happening in the non-governmental recovery groups. Many of us set in meetings with people who are recidivist criminals distracting us from the recovery content of the the meetings, and we put up with it because some of the recidivists go on to recover in spite of that. In effect, our privately-financed organization is being taken advantage of by the government in these mandatory meeting schemes they impose.

An alcohol de-tox is really not safe without medical attention, because many people have seizures and die from alcohol detoxification, but that is the only drug I know of as a former treatment professional that requires a short period of medical treatment. Narcotics and other drugs do not have this risk of death during detoxification. This is short-term detoxification I’m speaking of. A true de-tox takes a couple of years to happen because of the toxins retained in fat cells, which live about two years before replacement. A new bout of chemicals are released periodically from the prior drug use in this way.

I do advise people who are not recovering drug addicts and who don’t understand the dynamics involved, to keep a safe and formalized set of boundaries with addicts, recovering or not. I think employing recovering addicts is fine, with good boundaries. I think living with recovering addicts is possible with good boundaries, from the addict and non-addict alike. I haven’t been able to do it myself, but I see it a lot.

One thing I’ve seen over and over is that non-addicts have a really hard time with boundaries themselves, if they have been in a family with actively-using addicts. They also have a very hard time understanding that a recovering addict is not the same person that the drug-using addict used to be. There is a great deal of change, change that is desired by all, but often spins off into unanticipated results.

Forgiveness and acceptance of a successful recovery is very difficult for the others who had to experience many of the consequences of drug addiction while they were not medicated themselves. Those family members remember it all better than the addict can possibly remember. I wish it were different, but that is what I have observed.

So the family members of addicts have a lot of hard work to do on themselves. Some people simply don’t wish to make the effort, and it is fairly common for those people who don’t make that effort to get involve with other addicts in a serial fashion, if they don’t do that very challenging work on themselves. I have known people who have died from what we used to call “codependency”, when they did not do their work to recover. The stress, rage, and depression simply kills them.

The stakes are very high in this recovery/survivorship situation. I hope that people will learn what they need to learn and do the work that they need to do to survive.

And then I hope that they will pass it on to others in service to those who have not been able to learn yet.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to comment.


Mary Lynne Marshall says:
June 9th, 2010 at 11:02 am

Wow, when I read these stories it is like reading my own. It is people that understand the absolute heartbreak parents deal with. Extended family members and friends don’t understand, and I think they get tired of listening to it. I know for me it was all consuming , I literally thought about my son 24/7.
Bill, so very true your statements about by the time you realize there is a problem, they are addicted. My son is addicted to crystal meth, and there was no living with him. As much as it hurt he was kicked out, and then brought home, ran away and the cycle repeated numerous times. This has been going on for 6 years from age 15. Right now he is out and it will stay that way.
We are in Canada so we have government funded rehab. The problem is the wait times, months and months. When the addict agrees to go to rehab, they end up changing their minds because they waited too long.Or they finally get there and they can not force them to stay. Oh the heartache getting the phone call that my son had bolted after 1 or 2 days ( 4 times ). My son has been to detox numerous times, but every time asked to leave because he was unwilling to follow the rules and being disruptive. Wow a meth addict after a 5 day binge not wanting to get up and make his bed @ 8:00 – go figure !!

I miss my son ! Not the drama involved, but my son that I know is in there !! I catch glimpses of him every now and then, so that gives me hope. I will never give up on him. I have set boundaries, and given myself permission to have a life apart from him .It was the hardest thing I ever did, but I am co-dependent no more !! I highly recommend that book !! It is possible.

Pat N. says:
June 9th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Hi Regina,

Here are some bullet points.

1. Your son is not homeless as there are many shelters in your area in which he will be housed, fed and his medical/dental/spiritual needs taken care of.

2. You don’t need insurance or money for an inpatient rehab. There is a great program at the Salvation Army known as ARC (Adult Rehab Center). It is a very good program, one that will allow him to work and eventually progress to a half way house etc.

3. There are support groups for you in your area like Al-Anon, Families Anonymous, Codependent Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery etc. which are vital for you and the family. Get a sponsor!!!!!!

4. Your family will need a professional counselor, one that has their certification in alcohol and other drugs (CADC, LADC etc). One that specializes in codependent issues. One who had their own child addicted would be the very best choice. Please don’t worry about if this “above average” counselor is on your insurance program or not. Don’t worry about the cost, find the money and attend as many sessions as possible. The result for you and your family is priceless.

The first question I would ask is, “What am I up against?” When she/he responds, listen carefully, believe what he/she says then take action.

5. Educate yourself on the disease of addiction. Study boundaries and codependent subjects etc.

This is a disease where there are no simple easy answers so go “all in” and get serious about doing all that you can do or be prepared for continued sufferering and despair as a parent.

Your choice.

In prayer for all who suffer from this disease.


Note: Well done Bill and thanks for sharing.

Tom at Recovery Helpdesk says:
June 10th, 2010 at 12:45 am

Bill, I’d like to hear more about your ideas for a new treatment paradigm. Glad to see you writing on this site.

Bill Ford says:
June 10th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Thanks Denise, Barbara and Susan for the Compliments. Thanks Marylynne for sharing the distinction of missing your son and not the drama and for knowing the difference. Thanks for sharing your desperation Regina. Many of us know so well, that feeling of helplessness!… watching “our addict” falling through the cracks. I also appreciate Pat’s (5) bullet points as a response to Regina’s comments. This is the whole point. Sharing…Learning…and wow! Mr. Edward D’s lenghty response. A couple clarifications to that…”My Addict” – Many parents refer to their child as “my son” or “my daughter. Without getting into a semantic debate, using the term “my addict” is a simple reference to that son or daughter, not a representation of philospophical accuracy. I think we know the “my” part is artistic license…The reference of a transition of “difficult” to “impossible” is also a respresentation of a level of difficulty that parents who have not experienced an addicted child can not understand. I think it goes with out saying that stating a condition is impossible is not an absolute conclusion. I do appreciate your distinction, however. Thanks for your well thought out comments. Lasty, Tom! Wow! a new paradigm for treatment! Yes! I understand your challenge. I put this out to everyone. Let’s stay on it. Keep talking about it. Having said that; let me say that I intend to keep looking and sharing. Appreciate all of you. BILL

Susan Lea says:
June 11th, 2010 at 1:33 am

I want to say something about the phrases “my addict” and “impossible.” I refer to my daughter as “my addict” in order to shorten “my daughter who is an addict.” I’ve been to Alanon meetings where a person will refer to an alcoholic or addict in her life as her “qualifier.” I don’t own my daughter or her addiction, but I learned from Ron Grover that the term, “my addict” keeps it simple.

My situation with my daughter frequently feels impossible. It doesn’t always feel hopeless but there are days when it feels impossible to eat, impossible to sleep, impossible to breath. But somehow I still eat, sleep and breath.

To Regina – Asking for advice will open up so much information and suggestions. I’ve found there are people I want to share with and others who seem to care but they just don’t understand.

Finances are a huge issue and if someone has never been in your shoes they might not grasp the feelings of helplessness in the face of “no insurance and no money.” After months of researching treatment facilities and discovering the horrible costs and frequently disappointing results, our family gave up on this option. But then I discovered that the expensive in-patient rehab centers frequently send patients to N/A meetings because the N/A program works. And N/A meetings are free. There are many parents who have spent their child’s college tuition on treatment only to find that it didn’t work. Nothing works until your son wants it to work.

I don’t really like to give advice but my suggestion would be for you to go to an Alanon meeting. Like this blog, it’s wonderful to talk with people who have been in your shoes. The other thing I would suggest is that you encourage your son to find an N/A meeting. Maybe he has a friend who is a recovering addict that would encourage him to go.

My daughter is still using. She is still struggling. I figured out a while back that this isn’t going to just go away soon. But I love her and I do what I can when I can. And I try very hard to not beat myself up about the past or about what I CAN’T do. Money isn’t the solution. Punishment isn’t the solution. The solution is inside our “addicts”, just waiting to be discovered.

Patti Herndon says:
June 14th, 2010 at 3:18 pm

“About “My Addict”. No one is “My Addict”.


I really enjoyed reading your comment. It’s a reminder to us all that the condition of addiction can be successfully managed by the patient and family. It takes a lot of education regarding the clinical aspects…neurological, behavioral and social. The family dynamic has to be adressed and consistent work applied to foster peace and more predictability as time goes by…step by step…it can be done.

Your comment, “About “My Addict”. No one is “My Addict” struck a chord with me. I have tried to communicate in public forums that referring to a loved one as “my addict” is probably not the best term of identification. Thank you for stating it so directly.

My son turned to me with a look of disappointment and concern after reading a post on this site and said, “Mom, you don’t refer to me as “your addict” do you”? “Of course not”, I said. But, then, if I had a child with diabetes or epilepsy I would not refer to them as “my epileptic” or “my diabetic” either. That’s just my choice. He was relieved to hear that. It meant a lot to me to put him at ease about that.

My son has a condition commonly known as addiction, but his condition is not the who that he is. He is an individual with addiction who also happens to be my son.

As parents and CSO’s, (concerned significant others), it’s so important to disallow labels and buzz words that tend to add further stigma to an already severely stigmatized human condition. More importantly our kids don’t want to be referred to as if that’s all they are. Even though the term “my addict” is obviously not intended by anyone to be disrespectful, it doesn’t mean that it is not. Just ask a loved one challenged by addiction…Chances are they’d say they’d rather not be referred to in that way.

Keep up the great posting Edward. When you have a chance please check out (if you have not already) the program for families known as CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training). I have a feeling it’s an approach you would be supportive of. It’s designed for family’s challenged by an addiction of a loved one. I appreciate your positive, pragmatic spirit! It’s what we need!

Patti Herndon says:
June 14th, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Hi Regina,

My heart goes out to you. I’ve been exactly where you are. It’s a difficult road and the first steps can be the most challenging; but the path to sustainable recovery can be navigated with increasing peace and better health for your son and for your family system.

I’m including a number for the Office of Addiction Services in Philadelphia/Behavioral Health Special Initiative (BHSI). The office of Addiction Services is the county authority and BHSI is an ARM designed to assess financial hardship. If your son does not have health insurance you can mention that when you call BHSI. Following an assessment determining need, treatment may be supplemented through grants made available to counties for these very kinds of circumstances.

Regina…the process of treatment matching can feel overwhelming and frustrating, especially if you are currently experiencing a high level of stress with regard to your sons current level of functioning/life management skill set as a result of his drug use, and the associated consequences. But, following through with encouraging him to begin the process beginning a complete assessment will provide a spring board to match a therapeutic environment with his needs. This will provide initial peace of mind for you both.

For geographical reference, the Office of Addiction Services/County Authority is located in the 19107 zip code on Market Street. The Behavioral Health Special Initiative number is (215) 546-1200. The office of Addiction Services number is (215) 685-5404. Begin with the BHSI number first for information regarding financial assistance and then they will refer from there. You can then go on to specifics regarding the matched facilities and what they offer.

Let me know if I can help in any way. In the mean time, I encourage you to visit the Partnership Website as often as possible for support and information relevant to the challenges you face in considering the addiction disorder of your son. You’re not alone in this. Wishing you and your son increasing peace. Hang in there.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

Bill Ford says:
June 14th, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Thanks for the link to CRAFT. is the url for the website. I intend to check it out. I definitely understand your point about the possessive tense of “my addict”, however, it doesn’t offend me that way I have heard it from parents in the context they use it. Most moms and dads suffered tremendously as a result of an addict in their family and many have take positve steps to deal with it. To imply that addicts are suffering from a “stigma” of being referred to as an addict by their parents is really passing judgment in a vacuum. Your right; we need to be more sensitive and proactive to addiction in our society. That’s the bigger issue isn’t it? It’s something that society is more in denial about than not. I also respect the context in which Susan Lea uses it with her son (above comment. I don’t see an issue of stigma there. BILL

Patti Herndon says:
June 16th, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Bill…I appreciate your post and your feedback regarding semantics. I wanted to clarify with regard to my comments on the subject of referring to a loved one as “my addict” that there is no judgment being passed in suggesting that the reference to a family member as such might not be the best term of identification. It’s an observation offered up for consideration rather than a vacuum-based judgment.

Ultimately, in regard to and on behalf of each individual family, in consideration of communication; it could be helpful to simply ask a loved one or other addiction-challenged person whether or not they object to being referred to in those terms in order to gain another perspective on the use of that term. In thinking about it…A potential upside to asking an addicted individual for there view is that it might provide and opportunity to open a purposeful, goal-driven dialogue on the subject of addiction; and could also inspire discussion about the specific kinds of supports and approach that might offer assistance in the goal of recovery. Most families, whether or not there is the challenge of addiction, can benefit from enhanced communications.

Again, as I mentioned in my comment, there is no doubt that the reference “my addict” is not intended to be disrespectful. We parents of children who are challenged by a substance use disorder love our kids. It’s not our intent to create additional stress for them or add to the challenges regarding sociatal stigmas where addiction is concerned. But sometimes what we say and how we respond as parents can increase tensions and end up being an influential source of stalled communications, distancing and detachments and these elements do impact in a more global scope.

That’s why it’s so important, as parents/CSO’s, to take the initiative to learn about the current evidence based approaches that are shown to up the odds for successful interactions and communications within the family system.

I’m glad you’re taking a look at CRAFT. It’s a great resource tool for parents who have made the decision to consider re-tooling their communication and interaction approach and who are ready to consistently implement the CRAFT framework regarding communications, reward and consequences.

You stated so well the accountability each of us has with regard to proactive sensitivity as it pertains to social cues regarding the subject of addiction.

As we parents learn more about the biopsychosocial realities of our particular loved ones’ addiction challenge, we become increasingly sensitive to their individual reality. This in turn serves our loved ones’ via positive modeling. Our responsible empathy serves to encourage their personal growth in becoming more aware and sensitive to the challenges we face as a family member impacted by their substance use disorder and the subsequent consequences. The byproduct of that “all around” increased empathy can indeed inspire proactivity. This family-level, proactive energy translates to pro-social amplifications regarding our community perspectives about addiction. This kind of proactivity becomes the vehicle for arriving at improved cultural/social cueing and reduction of stigma regarding addiction and mental health disorders. Before long, research begins to be better and better funded. Better quality treatments are more readily discovered and treatment access improves for all those in need. The “ripples in a pond” effect… It all starts with the family.

In essence the family and society are inseparable when it comes to the prosocial influence regarding perspectives about addiction. Productive, positive changes occurring in the family system equate to changes in social perspectives and, ultimately, the improved treatments utilized to facilitate sustainable recovery.

Thank you for your contribution to Intervene. As a parent of an addiction challenged son, I appreciate the opportunity to learn from other parents.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

Bill Ford says:
June 17th, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Reference to “My Addict”: Patti, I understand. Your explanation is great, albeit in my situation, as may be the case for some others, communication with the addict in question has deteriorated to near zero at times. A while back I was published in a local paper on the subject of addiction in the family and my son was mentioned by the Tucson Weekly, which in retrospect, I regretted. Since then I respect his anonymity. Even using the term “son” in the context of an addict, close to home, is questionable.

Another related question I have regarding this subject, is when an addict becomes a chronic criminal; does he relinquish that anonymity. I am a father who like thousands of parents, have been impacted and victimized. Some folks are even impacted by the loss of a teenage or adult child and have to figure out how to survive and return to wholeness. Addiction is a huge emotional learning process for impacted families. That’s why these blogs are important. Having said that, my passion remains for a solution to this madness and people like you take us a step closer to the answers. Your term, “responsible empathy” is an excellent way to describe what we as parents can learn to offer others via positive role modeling. You also make a critical connection when you relate family issues with society as being “inseparable”. That’s a subject worth more exploration.

LoveWins says:
October 26th, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I just want to say that I think the standard line, “kick the addict out of the house” is a cop out. For some, maybe that is the answer, but it is not a panacea. For some it is impossible. I am ready for new creative solutions instead of the old worn out phrase.

Please someone tell me that there is another way to help your child rather than kick a tiny little thing that cannot protect herself onto the streets!

Jamie says:
December 7th, 2010 at 5:05 am

my addict is sleeping on teh couch after i made the hard decision to kick him hopes he will hit rock bottom by loosing him home and family. but it kicked me in teh but. once again i am up all night crying. why am i always in so much pain when im teh one who gives 200% in this relationship? why do i still love him after everything he put me though and continues to. he wont leave, i dont no who to make him leave. he said if i call the cops that i will get arrested to. then he starts on his arrogant belittling calling me everything in teh book. he is always trying to convince me im crazy. i know im not, iv been dealing with this 2 years. he doesnt think he has a problem and everytime i catch him using he makes up some excuse to shut me up..liek i know i have a problem i will go to counsling blh blah blah and never goes. AAHHHH i hate me life.

Bill Ford says:
December 7th, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Jamie – Thanks for writing! That’s a start. First off, please find support. I know the right person will advise you to get off the pity pot. Many of us have been down your road or worse. A few have seen their kid die. Please, quit enabling the addiction and start communicating with survivors. You can do it and the sooner you get well, the better chance your son has to survive his addiction.

Rolfe says:
January 21st, 2011 at 11:07 pm

I would like to respond to Jamie in hopes that she is still there. You are not the crazy one! Addicts know exactly how to manipulate you and their situations to their own advantage. Basically, your the boss. He needs to abide by your rules or leave. If he doesn’t leave, call the police without him in the room and they will take him out. You have nothing to be afraid of. Police usually know who needs to be dealt with. All in all, I know exactly how you feel and so do so many other parents (too many other parents) who battle the same thing. In fact it is so many that instead of spending billions of dollars in Iraq our government should take a portion of that and spend it on Government subsidized in-house long term rehab hospitals. The edemic is outrageous! Enough of my soap box.

Remember to take care of yourself. Give the situation to Jesus Christ and He will take care of your enemies if you put your trust in Him.

LVC says:
February 26th, 2011 at 9:53 am

A drug addicted teen living at home is truly the worst nightmare of my life. Our addict started using drugs at 16, nearly five years ago, and still has relapses.

Tonight it finally shattered our 25 year marriage. Because of the difficulties I have with the drug addict living in our home my wife has kicked me out of the house and has called it quits with me.

Twenty seven years together and married for 25 of them and it’s all over because of a drug addict.

Debbie says:
March 21st, 2011 at 5:53 am

I just wanted to see if anyone was still posting here, before i decide to write????

Community Manager Olivia says:
March 21st, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Hi Debbie, please feel free to respond here.

Bill Ford says:
March 21st, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Debbie – I am still alive and well. This post goes back to June 8th, but the information is valuable. Feel free t email direct or go on my website:

Nicole says:
April 26th, 2011 at 1:48 am

my name is nicole and my little brother is a drug addict.. he has been a drug addict for four years..he has struggled with what i refer to as the devil pill oxys and currently shoots heroin into his arm everyday now.. his drug addiction affects my life everyday from the simpliest things like just trying to use the bathroom and having to lock my bedroom door or trying to eat dinner and having to look at him and his shootup buddy stumble downstairs.. its very hard for me to watch my brother kill himself everyday.. it breaks my heart everyday.. in 2001 my older brother was murdered he had a gambling problem and compensated by selling drugs the last four years of his life.. they found his body on fathers day.. and he was my best friend.. my family has never recovered from his loss we have learned to live without him but this is about the time when my little brother started acting up.. at first he started selling weed when he was about 13 14 this was a constant battle in my house.. then it progressed as he got older into become a drug user.. and eventually he became an addict..i realized my brother was a drug addict on my birthday 3 years ago he was so high he couldnt even cut a piece of cake..i thought how could i miss this how could we all be so blind to this kid who lives a few bedrooms away..i didnt understand how bad it really was until i came home one day and realized my little brother stole my dead brothers jewelery out of my room and sold it to get high..i spent weeks looking for it i went into every pawn shop finally i found the shop but the jewelery was gone..i dont have a good relationship with my little brother now i feel like we have been at war for years and i watch my parents enable his drug addiction everyday.. i try to put myself in my mothers position i try to think how i would be if i already buried one son and im trying to hold on to my other son.. but then i think i buried him too i buried my brother my heart was ripped out and i made it out of that black hole and i cant bury another brother but when does the torment end when is enough enough..i find myself pulling away from them my family.. i find myself pulling away from my brother i find myself preparing to bury another brother..ive learned to speak about it to people as if im just relaying the news to someone but as i write this letter i cry bc i dont want to be in that drak place again and unfortunately i cant take my brothers addiction and i cant get him better..i feel helpless angry resentful and scared.. i cant help or protect my baby brother im watching him drown


Bill Ford says:
April 26th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Nicole – It sounds like you are able to take care of your self and separate emotionally from his addiction. That’s good. Your parents have the harder work of acknowledging what you have accommplished. Its hard enough dealing with the loss of a family member to addiction, be it physical or mental. Its much harder when we try to hang on to our personal wishes and aspirations for that person on top of it. Keep up the good work. God bless your brother. Letting go doesn’t mean not loving. Its a hard balance than quite frankly might take some insight only gained by hanging out with others going through the same thing, i.e., Ala-non, etc….All best – Bill

donny says:
April 27th, 2011 at 11:14 pm

I have an ex who is in jail for abusing me and is on crack cocaine . He decided to write and tell me from jail he’s going to leave alone and he can not stop running and then told me he love me and he mess thing up and he was sorry. I feel that he is telling me that because he knows we are going to court soon and he wants me to feel sorry for him. I do not because he has lied over and over . I thank for article you wrote because it has help me to understand.

Ivy says:
June 28th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Whoever said schizophrenia and autism are worse diseases I don’t agree with at all I’ve had plenty expierience with autism all cases are different but every autistic I’ve met is much easier to work with than an addict is. Schizophrenics are even easier to work with I’ve been there and done that too. Autistic and Schizophrenic persons did not choose their disability. Rather anyone wants to accept it or not addicts have done something to directly cause their addiction! God help I have a special needs child who I mostly let stay at my mothers and I go spend the night too and my husband is an addict is why. To make things worse his homeless brother is an addict to and guess whose house he ends up crashing at a lot! Meanwhile I work 2 jobs, my husband recently stopped working, his homeless brother doesn’t work either they both occassionally work odd jobs. I am up to my eyes in bill I can’t pay and more that are becoming harder to pay!

Bill Ford says:
June 28th, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I think the point of living with an addict is this; difficult is an understatement. It’s the hardest thing you will experience.

addiction treatment says:
July 13th, 2011 at 9:24 am

Wonderful online resource for alcohol addicted people. There are lots of details related with drug addictions included in this site. People who are suffering with drug addiction problem can get help from this online resource. This problem is very dangerous for youths as drug effect body and produce dangerous disease.

Carolanne says:
July 20th, 2011 at 4:02 am

I am living with a drug addict/alcoholic. He is held up[ in the basement again on a binge. Pills, run out of pills, then drinks, then passes out, drinks more. Does not care that he has taken over the house. I am scared all the time what might happen down there. Last week he fell and had to go to the hospital with a concussion because he was getting out of a chair and could not stand up. He goes to the hospital, gets out, starts Dr. Shopping and then starts drinking again. Vicious cycle. I am afraid I am going to die from a heart attack I am so stressed out.
Finally put an eviction notice on my refrigerator.
Scared to death of him live in fear constantly.
Need help.

Bill Ford says:
July 20th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I assume that “he” is a family member. My best advise on dealing with an adult child, victimizing others with addictive behavior is treat them like you would any house guest. Have rules. When broken, respond accordingly. That usually means they are no longer welcome when they break the rules. The welcome mat can go out again if you like with the same rules and expectations. Not withstanding, the guilt and heartache of taking care of your-self in the face of an addicts self destruction, understand that the behavior of the addict in question is not in your hands. Use Al-anon to help handle that if necessary as well as learning the difference between enabling and genuinely helping and caring. You can certainly draw clear ( and respectful) boundaries where you may want to remain helpful to this persons survival or ultimate recovery, but do in a way that doesn’t take you down too.

Elaine says:
July 31st, 2011 at 2:51 pm


My mother is an addict. I am 29 yrs old. She is 52. Words can not describe how helplees I feel. She has her own house & steady disability income for life due to Multiple Sclerosis. She does not work due to the MS. Her husband (my step dad) passed away unexpectedly 2 yrs ago at age 50. I aslo have a 16 yr old sister whom I now have had custody of for about 2 yrs. My mom is in complete denial that she has a problem. She rationalizes her behaviors beyond belief. It is odd how she truly seems to believe her rationalizations deep down to her core. She does not want help. I have no idea what to do. Have a hard time living a normal happy life due to paralyzing sick feeling I get when she is high. She will do good for a few days upto a week but keep “falling off” & getting high again. I have no idea what drugs she actually uses. I know she takes pills, snorts something from a straw & smokes from a pipe. I love the Serenity Prayer but it is so hard to know the difference between enabling & loving/helping my mom. Some say to just leave her alone & tell her I will not have any contact with her until she is clean or hits rock bottom. Tried that one! Didn’t do any good. Cant believe she actually survived. Myself or my sister didnt cal or go to her house for 5 wks. My mom also never called us. On the fifth week I stopped by her house and she was high out of her mind nearly dead. I cant say that I believe in my heart that it is not the right answer to abondon her…

“Rock bottom”?? For my mom, I feel that her rock bottom will be death. There seems to be no getting through to her. When she is sober she still denies help, denies there is a problem. Actually, every time I try to discuss the topic it seems to make her worse. Almost like she uses it as an excuse to get high. I am so heart broken. How does one truly live a happy life while their mom is suffering so badly?

Elaine says:
July 31st, 2011 at 2:55 pm

CLARIFICATION: I meant to say ” that I do NOT feel it is the right answer to just abondon her”. I accidentally typed in my prior comment the opposite.

Bill Ford says:
August 1st, 2011 at 4:55 pm

It doesn’t appear you accept who she has chosen to be. For most, this phenomena is reversed, but not always. Its the parent, who wants to stop a child from using drugs. However we deal with it, we can only do the best that we can. When they are 18, their life, presumably in God’s eyes, is theirs. Still, many do not let go. Your mom is 52. When is it in the hands of God?

We say its love. The subject of enabling is huge, yet there is a grey area where enabling and genuine love based helping are separate. One has to have boundaries that only that person can determine. Making that determination is a result of knowing yourself and your limits. Everyone deserves to be happy if that is their choice. Look around; suffering everywhere…all, some element of choice. MS is one of many ways to suffer. Who knows where it or any one of 10,000 diseases came from. Addiction, in its own light, is at least, a self imposed disease and means of suffering, again, presumably, because humans can not speak for other humans. Can an addict even know happiness?…

Al-anon can be a big help in inquiring about boundaries and limits, just bear in mind, it is not one size fits all. Find out more for your own freedom. Choose happiness.

Elaine says:
August 1st, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Thanks Bill for responding. Thanks for your suggestions. I need to get to a support group. There is one in my area.

I think you are right about me not accepting who she has chosen to be. It is so hard to do. I guess I would be a happier person if I chose to just accept this. I also need to accept the fact that she may die from this. Im fighting it so much. I don’t why I feel that there is something I can do to make her want to get better. I always feel like I have to ask her if she wants help. She always just gets mad and says she is doing nothing wrong. She says that she is doing it in the privacy of her own home and that there is nothing wrong with that. Can she really think that deep down? It is so utterly painful seeing her like that or hearing about her drug binges from family & neighbors. Can denile be that strong? When people are high are they aware of how crazy they are acting and how they look like they are on the verge of death? I ask you as a former addict. Were you aware of how you were behaving and how your actions were hurting your loved ones? Or can one be so sick that they have no idea?

She is very against treatment. Can an addict get better on their own if they decide they don’t want to do this anymore? Or is it impossible without professional treatment? How long were you an addict for? What made you decide to get better and did you do it without going to an in-patient facility?

To me it feels selfish to chose to just go and live my life. I wish I could feel at peace with it. Her dad has chosen happiness. He is as happy as a clam. Living his life to the fullest and I am so happy for him. He doesn’t acknowledge her addiction, doesn’t speak of it to her or anyone. He tells me to just love her as she is an if she wants to get better than she will.

Words cant express how thankful I am to speak with you and for this forum.

Bill Ford says:
August 4th, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Letting go, doesn’t mean not being helpful or being unhappy. One can’t understand others the way you want to. You have to leave some things to God. Helping with no strings attached, that fits healthy boundaries can be ok; but, no regrets or promises! Enabling and genuine help are different and its personal. This is where a support group helps.

My experience goes back 21 years ago. Some of my character fit within typical addict/alcoholic behavior; they didn’t care about hurting others so much. Personally, I was just tired of hiding from myself so I took the next step and admitted my powerlessness.

I have a 24 year old who is a severe addict with debilitating type 1 diabetes. As close as he has been to death, he still has his path. I do remain available to him within my own boundaries and capacity. You might want to look at what your mom’s dad does to deal with his place in this.


Kimberly says:
August 4th, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I really do not know how I found this website but glad I did.I guess I am looking for anything to grab onto.

My story goes like this I have a daughter who is 25yr old so brillant and smart she is a massage therapist and wanting to go back to school for an ultrasound technician she is a recovering alcoholic.She has been in jail 2 times for drinking and has been to rehab twice.We are from a small town in Indiana and she met a wonderful man in our town who is a non drinker and a christian.She was doing so well for the past 2yrs now all of the sudden she wanted to go live in Chicago to make better money and explore by her self.I am not sure if she is drinking as of yet but I know it will happen and when she drinks she blacks out not knowing where she is.She drank 2 weeks ago and fell asleep in a train station coming back home before she moved there.

I have a son that is 26yrs old and he is a caring loving person full of compassion and he recently told me and his Dad that he has been taking pills for 5yrs now.He has never been arrested or in trouble with the law.He had a very good job as a millwright and lost that from drugs recently.He is living in his own apartment and now not able to pay the rent may be moving back home he does go to NA meetings.

Me and my “significant” other I will call him have been together for 30yrs married for 22yrs he is the father of my children and a great loving Dad we divorced a couple yrs ago because of the fighting about our daughter it was and still is stressful.We got back together last yr because we love each other we just stopped communicating.We have never hit,abused our children they were cared for very well.There is no mental or addictive problems with me or there Father we work have a nice home and love our children.

I am scared to death every night I will get a phone call about one of them.I talk to them daily try to help in anyway I can about support.We have a loving family that cares also.I have never had anxiety as I have in this past month I cant sleep, I cant eat, I cant smile,my heart is in pain.I want to start family counceling and they said they would go but we have been here before.I want to safe my relationship and my Children I feel hopeless besides the faith in God that I have sometimes I feel that if God would take me home the pain would end.

Bill Ford says:
August 4th, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Kimberly, take a look at the responses above yours, 8/1/11 to 8/4/11… They resonate with your issue. Everyone has a right to their own happiness. Sometimes, we need outside help to define some simple boundaries. Thousands of us love our kids the same way you do and in similar circumstances. There is an answer for you. Counseling with family is useful, but your personal quest is yours alone. With a little outside help, you will find that path.

lin casey says:
September 13th, 2011 at 1:39 am

I have lived in an addictive household my whole life. i am now a retired grandmother and am still tolerating siblings with addictions.I hate to see anyone suffer, so when they ask for money, somewhere to “crash” or the use of my vehicle, I give in so they wont go on a rampage! before Dad passed last year, he told me to stop!! I finally have, but they still keep getting into trouble! they are grown adults, but being the oldest, I worry like a mother hen! What can I do to stop feeling guilty for not giving in?

Bill Ford says:
September 13th, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Most of the folks here have or have had the same issues. “Dad” was right saying “stop!”…People will do what they have to….to survive, with or with out you. Statistics show that, if you enable an addict to keep doing what’s not working, the behavior continues. There are outside support groups for people that can not let go and can not seem to hold the line, which your boundaries.

Susan says:
October 2nd, 2011 at 9:05 am

Please try reading the book, the “Language of Letting Go”….this might help some of you who struggle with letting go and finding some happiness for yourself.

Ann says:
October 3rd, 2011 at 10:23 pm

My step son love to make people around him feel sorry for him. He loves pity. He also will not do a damn thing for himself. He is unemployed, and live with his parents. He sleeps over 12 hours daily. Works for gas money, and deals the marajana. He is a small time dealer, but he has admitted to dealing.

What can we do?? I am uncomfortable to living with a drug addict. He’s been on the stuff since he was 13, he says; but he lied in the past to his father about using. We found out he’s living a double life. The one with us is how he wants us to see him, semi happy. The one without us is living off his “freind with benefits”, and dealing.

Bill Ford says:
October 5th, 2011 at 6:18 am

Ann – Read the above thread carefully. It will point you in the right direction.

sandy says:
October 27th, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Hi Bill..
stumbled upon your site..and kept nodding my head the whole way thru the article. We are in a situation were our addict son wants to come back home (after having kicked him out a week ago)..this isn’t the first time..and would love to know what your ‘ground rules’ were for allowing them back in would be. We’ve set ‘rules’ before..and rules seemed to be met for a few weeks..then we started slacking and being disciplined and he was back to his old ways.
He has no job.. no money.. and sadly, no good friends.
Of course everyone tells us ‘kick him out, dont let him back in’.. easy words to spout when you’re not the one going thru it. Try going to bed at nite knowing he’s out there sick, cold, hungry. I know these are the consequences of his actions, not mine, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
Would love your thoughts..
thank you..

Bill Ford says:
October 29th, 2011 at 1:25 am

Sandy – You have to set rules and he may break them. It is necessary to set rules you can both agree on which should include reasonable curfew, he’s working or looking for it…, condition for friends in the house, AA or NA meetings, contribution to the household, civil behavior, periodic drug tests if relevant (recent use of hard drugs is relevant). It is mostly the same of what you would expect of any room-mate. Inform him in a civil and firm manner when he breaks the rules just as you would another adult whom might be staying with you. …and grit your teeth, because you may have to do your part if he doesn’t do his. Have a road map for options in the area, like emergency shelter, etc… Unfortunately the resources out there are not abundant. I personally like to look at options with sober living homes where recovering addicts share 2 or 3 to a bedroom and benefit from each others common path to sobriety and they are affordable. I hope he succeeds. All best.

jeannie says:
October 30th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

With so much conflicting information, it’s hard to know the right thing to do. Just trying to figure that out along with the worry, there is little else I can think about. Maybe I don’t want him to be sick alone. My son is 23 and is addicted to oxy. I have slowly pulled away from my own family (sisters, brothers, mother, father) when we have always been so close. I feel like I have nothing in common with anyone anymore. I exist enough to work, and try to be available to my other two adult children. I feel alone with all of this even though I have been married for 27 years. I am disgusted with myself for getting to this point.

Bill Ford says:
November 6th, 2011 at 10:37 pm

You obviously love him and are obviously co-dependent. Al-anon is probably a good place for you to balance out what you can do and can not do.

lindsey says:
December 19th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

hiya, im 22 i have been with my fiance now for a year, we have a baby on the way and i already have a little boy which isnt his but he’s like a dad to him, anyway when i met him i didnt no he was a recovering drug addict and 2 months into our relantionship he had a relapse and now he is waiting to go into rehab, when he first told me i thought i could cope with it but it seems i cant,he goes out all the time saying he’s going to his friends, he constantly lies to me about his where abouts and now i have got to the point where i dont think i can do it anymore. I love him so much and i really want us to work things out for the babys sake, but how do i cope with feeling the way i do, he’s made me go from the point of wanting to help and support him to the point where i’m constantly asking him questions about where is he, who he’s with and what he’s doing (not trusting him) and basically driving him away yet he’s the one with the problem not me. Im scared of having post natal depression because i already think how can we bring a baby into this even though sometimes its good but most of the time its not. I no ill be a brilliant mum but i dont want to be asingle parent again not when i have the chance not to be.I need some help on what to do and how to understand what he’s going through at the moment so i can see it from someones else point of view :-)

Johanna Bos says:
December 22nd, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Hi Lindsey,
It is so hard to get perspective when you are in the midst of everything. It sounds like your fiance, has not been honest with you about his past and I can imagine that your shock only added to the situation. When a person relapses, in a sense, they are picking up wherever they left off when they were using. I hate to hear that a person who wants treatment has to wait for a bed, I can only think your fiance is annoyed too. But the simple fact is, he’s using again and with that, comes all of the behaviors someone who is actively using, shows. The lies, deceit, and not taking responsibility for their actions or whereabouts. I cannot tell you what to do, but I would say that once your child arrives, your fiance will not be the main focus of your attention. Relapse does not mean he cannot get back on track, but that will be up to him. He needs to get sober and then figure out what triggered him and how to cope with life stresses without getting high. I understand you want to help him and support him in his efforts, as you said, but remember he needs to do the work for recovery. Let him know that you don’t pass judgement on him and that you love him, but you have to prioritize and undoubtedly, your young son and soon to be infant child will take the front seat.

I hope he gets a chance to enter rehab soon,


Eileen says:
February 27th, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Glad I found this site. I have an 18 year old Grand daughter who I THINK may be an addict. What is the COMPLETE DEFINITION of an addict.???

Bill Ford says:
February 27th, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I am not sure a book definition alone is going to help you. Check out for a basic defition. There are so many variables – Is it alcohol?, Is it meth?, Is it pot?, Is it heroin? The list goes on. You need local and personal help. For a free source of assistance, try your local Alanon chapter. Only you know your grand-daughter’s behavioral changed which is the first thing to look at. You can also do a drug testing for speed or narcotics. Also read the archives of this site, Intervene. There are many articles that are helpful.

Judith Marrs says:
March 12th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

My son is 23, and his father died five years ago. His dad was a profwssional musician, as is our son. He had an awful time after his dad died, who was his idol. He got drunk onw night, which resulted in a DUI…he now has his license back but doesn’t seem to have the ambition to work or even play much music.

He had knee surgery and got on lortabs, which he can’t seem to get off of, plus he self-medicates with xanes. He has smoked weed since he was 13. His friends have always been older than him because of his music…they are also friends of my older son and daughter and seem to be doing well, but they contributed to the dilinguency of my minor for years…the friends not the siblings.

My daughter has an incurable disease so has lortabs by prescription, but he has been known to steal them and money from our purses.

He also has a girlfriend and a baby almost a year old. His girlfriend qorks, and he has been known to take her debit card from her purse and mine. We have had him in a drug rehab program, which obviously didn’t help. He goes to aa and na, and every day I want to kick him out because of the lies. He wrecked his sister’s car, so she has no ride and continues to run off in his girlfriend’s van at night.

If we say no to a cig he wants or car keys, he pressures us and whines until it’s easier for us to give in to him. I can see this is also making him physically ill and taking the peace from our home.


Johanna Bos says:
March 12th, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Dear Judith,
I am so sorry you are going through such a difficult time. It sounds like your son is not taking responsibility for his actions and doesn’t care about the consequences. It is important that he realize the rules of your home and that if he chooses to continue to engage in negative behaviors, there are severe consequences. It is completely understandable that you want to keep the peace in your house, but by allowing your son to act this way in your home, he is justifying his behavior, thinking, if they allow it, I guess it’s OK….
If you get a chance, please give the Helpline a call, 1-855-378-4373. You can speak directly with a social worker who can offer you some support and ways to help your son.

Hope this helps,

Johanna Bos
Parent Specialist

Judith Marrs says:
March 13th, 2012 at 7:07 am

Thank you, Johanna. I will call that number.

Melanie K says:
March 31st, 2012 at 1:18 am

What do you do when the addict is 51 years of age and homeless? This is my brother. He wants to be well. My mom lets him sleep at her home and it causes havoc in her life, and much sadness and depression. What do we do? He always has much resolve and promise and then reverts back to his drug use because, in his case, he really does have physical pain with needing hip replacement, heart and lung problems. He has a woman that he’s also addicted to that is also an addict. It’s really hard to know HOW to help him. Hard to know what to do. I don’t like that he dashes our mother’s hopes each time he gets on the right track, she has high hopes that this will be the time his life will change for the better. When the woman he’s addicted to comes around, he throws ALL his hopes and dreams of a good future away. She’s poison for him. And, likewise he for her … although that is not my concern. My concern is for my brother. Any thoughts from those of you who have lived this also would be appreciated.

Bill Ford says:
April 2nd, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Encourage him to detox himself in whatever way appropriate and write out a plan to deal with alternate pain medication and post withdrawal syndrome. That is months of discomfort from initial withdrawal, that includes anything from insomnia to aches and pains. He absolutely needs to admit to himself and others that he is an addict and then for a minimum of 90 days, saturate himself in daily AA or NA meetings to stay out of himself. It is rare an addict succeeds alone, but I won’t rule it out. After that maintenance meetings are needed until he is free of the urge to relapse. Remember relapse is easy, abstinence is not. Have him read this and view

Gerald says:
April 5th, 2012 at 10:19 am


I came across your web-site and have really enjoyed reading all the comments that have been posted.
I suppose I am in the same situation as many of the people that have posted messages on your blog.
I am living with a heroin addict. And it’s driving me mad! As hard as I try to help the more I am pressured into giving in to the demands for more money! It has just about destroyed me financially.
He is trying to quit at the moment and I am trying to be as supportive as I can. I just don’t know what I should do! He now treats me with utter contempt and anything I say or do for him is met with contempt.
Yet I am expected to supply cigarettes and food! Although he does try and work a bit in the morning by the afternoon he is unable to do anything except sleep.
How long does this last? Does it get better with time?
Is there really any chance of anyone coming clean permanently? What about the damage that is caused but the heroin to their bodies and mind.
We live in South Africa and although there is some help available it always boils down to cost and right now all my money has gone into “helping” him with his addiction. Now I am not even in a position to buy the medication he need, His own family wants nothing to do with him either!
So I am at the end of my rope too.

Bill Ford says:
April 6th, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Sounds familiar Gerald. Here is my 2 cents. You should probably whittle down what your willing or able to do for said individual to the minimum you feel safe and comfortable with and seek guidance from some kind of Alanon group in doing this. I have my theories about what to do, but I think government involvement is necessary for many, mostly to facilitate a new system of funded internment and recovery strategies. An addicts brain is high-jacked and society tries to convince us that we (addicts and families) can do this alone so society doesn’t pay for it. I view addiction as a public health and safety threat with wide spread consequences.

I have seen heroin addicts recover after 20 years and return to a manageable life, but for many real recovery is illusive and difficult. I do believe in the power of self will for some. I also know the key is to saturate one’s self in a world of recovery, hence the popularity of 12 step meetings like AA and NA. People as individuals do succeed in this manner. In my opinion, narcotic and other chemical addictions are the toughest, since they impale their addicts with the hooks of addiction the quickest.

Making it easy for them to not recover isn’t a good path. It can persist for years. Being at an addicts beck and call is not good for either of you. Consider, very carefully, how exactly you want to stay involved with this. It will not go away without the addict, himself wanting true recovery. Legal replacement drugs can at some point have diminishing results. They are supposed to be temporary. They are just as powerful and narcotic as their street equivalent. Narcotic drugs are smarter than the addict and you. A human brain is not the same under a narcotic’s influence and will not re-balance itself, chemically for some times months or years after abstinence, that’s where I think we need government help. Under the drugs influence, the human mind will even amplify the pain of withdrawal. I say this from knowing that addicts doing a hard de-tox in jail find it easier since their own thinking will not con them, knowing it is a waste of time to overdo the pain. The reality of post withdrawal syndrome is often overlooked and its high risk of relapse is too much for many of the weaker minds that fall prey to addiction. This is one of the reasons that addicts leaving jail go back to their drug.

I believe your son has a better chance if you do not enable him to stay in his self-imposed limbo. You both have to be tough. You might consider, negotiating a mutual set of rules and consequences in the presence of a professional drug addiction counselor.

One last comment, In many cases co-existing disorders greatly complicate the post withdrawal periods. This is where a professional can help.

Katie says:
May 27th, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I am 8 months pregnant and recently engaged to an addict he hasn’t done anything since he found out we were having a baby till last night and he really did it up he spent $300 dollars of our money that we had been trying sooooo hard to save since I won’t be working for to much longer. Then it was nothing but denial he didn’t do anything even though I found the parafinala!!!! His drug of choice is crack. He finally confessed to the whole thing I really thought we were past all of this and I really don’t know what to do I love him so much! He says he knows he has a problem. I really don’t know what to do now!

Nancy says:
May 30th, 2012 at 7:29 pm

My daughter is 25 years old and has been addicted to meth and herion. I didn’t realize she was addicted to herion until the day I buried my brother and she called me from the hospital that night to tell me CPS was going to take her baby and she was addicted to herion. My life has been a nighmare since then. She went to re-hab for a couple weeks and stayed clean for a few month’s and since then she has using herion and everything else she can get her hands on. She shacks up with drug addicts she meets on the street and I have no idea where she’s at. Her father and I are divorced and both of us had drinking problems, we no longer drink, but she blames both of us for giving her such a terrible childhood, even though she always had a roof over her head and food, and my drinking was only really bad for a few years, but to her it was an eternity. She has stolen from me and her father and is constantly asking for money or to use my car. I brought her a car when I thought she was clean but the second time she got it impounded when she went out to buy drugs, I just left it in impound and it’s gone. She has pulled out almost all of her hair and some days she’s normal, but those are far and few in between. If I don’t know where she’s at I’m worried sick that she’s dead of an overdose. I think she wants to go to another re-hab, but she wants a fancy one and without insurance and either her or her father have that kind of money she has to go a free re-hab, but she does nothing to even try to get into one. Texas from what I understand is one of the worst states when it comes to getting help for addicts. She has two brother’s who won’t have anything to do with her and my son’s in-laws have her baby which she can see anytime she wants as long as she’s clean, but she’s never clean for more then a day or so. Her addiction had had me so depressed that I find it almost impossible to work and I’ve got to the point where I don’t even care if my bill’s get paid anymore. My life has been so consummed with her, because I can’t do anything to help her and I’ve stopped enabling her and giving her money. I just want her to have the life that God intended her to have and I want my daughter back.

Marianne Dean says:
June 4th, 2012 at 3:19 am

I read some of the postings and they are like mine – my daughter has beaten me up, cleaned out my bank account, and more, and keeps blaming me for her problems. everyone says you stay with your children and keep trying, which I have done — not even giving the whole of it here — but my life is in ruins because of her. No one realizes how horrible this is – the worst you can go through, especially alone. I will have to take out an order of protection. When you have a spouse who is abusive, you can eventually divorce them. You can’t do that with a child – and this child is 35 years old. Other people with normal children don’t understand the pain and loss.

Bill Ford says:
June 4th, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Marianne – Enablers and co-dependent have a very hard time learning from the experience of others who have been down a similar road. There is a lot of good information available. Even in this thread you can find answers. If your 35 year old daughter is abusive and robbing you, she needs to leave or not come around if she is not living with you. Use legal means if possible. You require time to do your own research or attend an Al-Anon meeting to determine functional boundaries. Children can be brutal if you let them. Thanks for sharing.

Jerry Otero says:
June 4th, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Dear Marianne,

It’s true that only a parent who has dealt with a violent drug abusing child can fully understand the depth of despair, pain and loss that you describe. Moreover, there can be but only a few things in this life that are worse than feeling that you must protect yourself from your own child.

Violent acts however, do not come out of thin air. They build up just like a tea kettle that is put on to boil. The kettle isn’t bubbling and whistling when you first put it on. It starts out cold and gradually becomes hotter until eventually steam builds up, and it starts to whistle – or blows its lid. Similarly, there is almost always a sequence of events that builds in intensity until it results in a physical or verbal outburst.

It’s easy to see how it would appear to you that your child’s violence erupts from nowhere – but that’s because you are so close to it that it’s hard to see it clearly. What isn’t so obvious to see however, is just how you and your child affect and influence each other, and how that pattern can be modified to achieve a different result.

To that end, I invite you to call us at the Parent Helpline, where you can speak to a specialist who can help you to begin the process of distancing yourself from the violence, and improving the quality of your own life, regardless of what your child does or doesn’t do.

The call is toll-free, and anything you speak about will be held in the strictest of confidence.

Jerry Otero
Parent Support Specialist
1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373)

so lonley texas says:
June 19th, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Hello, my ex boyfiend is addict to wet known as embalming fluid with pcp, and handle bars… We had moved in together a couple of months ago, an it was horrible seeing him some days coming home so high, he coudnt speak or barely walk, it broke my heart so bad seeing him in those horrible conditions, in which i was scared for my life and children safety. He came home like 3 or 4 times so high i had to kick him out, finally a few days ago from a night from drinking and getting high the day after he woke up with a bad atittude and got all agressive punch me and threathen me to beat the crap out of me infront of my children, and i had no choice to call the cops, they finally took him and i was so scared, dissappointed and mad at same time and told officers i wanted to file charges…he is under custosdy at this time but will be out soon, i cannot lie I love him so much, but his drug habbit is breaking us apart, i have decide that no matter how much i love him, i need to stay away from him for my childrens own safety…he is still young in late 20′s and they way he keeps living his life I am afraid he either might end up in a hospital or morgue. We have a son that he seems to forget when all he thiks about getting his drugs, me and his mom want to help but I am afraid he might just get worse .. please some one any adice or resources I can use to help him thanks….Texas, Houston area…

Jerry Otero says:
June 21st, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Dear Shygirl,

It is common for drug abuse and violence to go hand in hand, and given that you share a child with your partner and will most likely continue to have some sort of ongoing relationship with him, it is wise for you to prepare for the worst. When things become violent, it is important for you to know what to do to protect yourself and your children.

To that end, I want to recommend that you get and read “Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening”. It is an amazing book written by Robert Meyers, and Brenda Wolfe, that has been described as “…a remarkably effective and gentle method for helping ‘unmotivated’ loved ones get into treatment”.

Chapter three, “Playing it Safe”, talks about violence specifically and follows with step-by-step instructions for developing a safety plan, how to recognize and respond to the warning signs of violence, and devising a strategy for responding, if and when violence erupts.

I would also suggest that you consider his recent arrest as good place to start to help him get into treatment. I do not know what the laws in your state are, but since your partner’s violence is linked to his drug abuse, and you are the person filing the charges against him, you might be able to ask the judge for an order of protection for you and your children that is predicated upon his entering into a drug abuse treatment program.

Finally, I want to invite you to call me at The Partnership at’s Helpline (number below) where you can speak to a specialist who will help you to unravel your thoughts and feelings about this. The call is free and everything you speak about will be held in the strictest of confidence. When you call, you can ask for me directly.

Until then, I wish you and your family, all the best.

Jerry Otero MA
Parent Support Specialist
1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373)

so lonley texas says:
June 27th, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Hello Mr. Otero,
Thank you for your attention and response, I really appreciate it. I am looking foward to reading that book, and also calling the hotline number for advice..thanks again… god bless..

Winnie says:
June 28th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

My daughter just came to us and told us about her addiction. She is now a week clean and in rehab/therapy. How much freedom do we give her during this time? i just want to put her in a bubble and keep her safe and she wants to go out and see her boyfriend – who is also getting into rehab. She is very commited to getting the help, but everythign I read says she will relapse. How can I help her prevent that?

Bill Ford says:
June 29th, 2012 at 5:20 am

Sounds like she is in the right place. Don’t pay attention to other folks predictions. Everyone has a right to their own destiny and she wants this, so give it a chance. I would encourage her to stay put and limit visitations to follow the rules of the rehab she is in. Bill

Patti Herndon says:
July 18th, 2012 at 10:27 pm


My heart goes out to you. I’m really sorry for the extremely stressful and difficult time you are experiencing. I hope and pray that you/your daughter/your family have been experiencing increasing hope about the journey, and improvement in your relationship and circumstances. I can so relate to much of what you share.

I’m inspired and moved by what is a clear and evident love for, and dedication to your daughter in the beyond difficult challenge of parenting a son/daughter with a substance use disorder/addiction. That demonstrated spirit of dedication you show will continue to be a very important element in your daughter establishing a foundation in recovery and increasing self efficacy. (‘self efficacy’ is the critical-to-recovery belief we have, about ourselves, that we can effectively cope with and problem solve through challenges in our life-no matter what that challenges may be). The more self efficacy we have/build on, the better creatively we deal with, and manage problems in a way that allows us to still view our life as purposeful and rewarding-even in the face of crisis.

That said…it’s critical that you place a priority on your personal safety. So please, if you have not already, do establish a clear, CALMLY communicated boundary with your daughter regarding behaviors/actions that you view as a threat to your personal safety. You might consider using a ‘safe word’ that either of you can, at any time, utilize when your communications/interactions appear to be spiraling into volatility signaling that the conversation will end and you will try it again when tensions are eased.

No one knows your daughter better than you. You are equipped to make the best decisions about how to respond to your daughter’s choices, those actions/interactions that what will best serve your circumstances on a case by case basis.

AS you are well aware, mom, the journey with your daughter through addiction brings what can feel like un-ending, unpredictable crisis -large, and every size in between. But that doesn’t mean that we are powerless to effect/guide how circumstances ultimately resolve. We ‘can’ learn to engage, and when necessary, disengage, interactions in a way that supports our sense of well being and peace about the circumstances moment by moment, day by day.

Here’s the truth: You can do both. You can ensure your well being/safety, all the while acting in a role of highly effective advocate and supporter of her… and yourself. And she needs both from you, mom.

You’re already investing so much of your energy and heart. Even when it doesn’t feel like it: Know that you are helping her by not disconnecting from her. By being willing to keep calm, productive, safe communications open and flowing with your daughter you are facilitating a sense in your daughter that she is ‘worthy’ of her own recovery, deserving of better lived moments. You should never allow/endure physical or verbal abuse.

A helpful goal in your journey will be to work toward an increasingly healthier relational dynamic between the two of you. And there’s no doubt, because of the dedicated, great mom that you are, that you can help foster this kind of improvement.

When our son/daughter is in active addiction, or is otherwise compromised psychologically by a co-occurring mental health issue such as depression or anxiety ect., it’s often the case that they struggle with,(and at times they can even demonstrate a complete absence of), ability to manage their negative emotions, thus reactions, during interactions with us, and/or others in their lives. It’s going to benefit everyone involved- the family and the loved one challenged by a substance use disorder- when we recognize this as a potential issue with regard to communicating with someone with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.

Having an understanding of this ‘clinical’ reality helps us, as parents, keep a healthy perspective and not get distracted, or led off course when our kids say things to us that we receive as disrespecting and/or hurtful/frustrating/anger-making. Remember: Chances are we possess more emotional maturity/self management ability, not to mention presence of mind, in the heat of a moment to ‘choose to’ stay calm and effective in our dialoguing – despite our son/daughters increasing intensity.

By way of that reality, it stands to reason that the lion’s share of responsibility for improving communications lands with us, the parent. We help our addicted son/daughter gain the ability to better manage their emotions by modeling a calmly-consistent, rational, responsibly-flexible -but always ‘genuinely’ empathy driven- spirit of approach to interacting with them…even when it is very challenging to do so. And, despite our best efforts to communicate with them in this spirit, we won’t get it right all the time – it just aint possible to 100% of the time. We are only human, after all. But, we do get better and better at communications when those communications are aimed at strengthening the relationship and increasing well being/healthy choices as we practice conscious talking/listening techniques.

As you become more consciously aware of the style(s) of communicating between the two of you -that are, mainly, the result of the established dynamic between you (developed over many years)- you will become highly skilled and very confident at redirecting the communication when the interaction is spiraling downward. Equally, you will become more and more aware of the kind of communicating you have established through the years that has served to fill you both with a sense of peace and positive energy about your relationship, and you will naturally begin to implement more of that style. Mom, that ‘good stuff’ you have with her/share with her in your relationship, in your communications is still there. It’s just requiring some ‘helping along’…some patience and practice. Don’t doubt it for a second.

And, Marianne…Please be mindful to put into proper perspective well intended advisements/comments that focus on negative labels like ‘enabler’, ‘co-dependent’ etc. As advocates, ensuring that we use transformative language/terms…language that avoids inadvertent implication of blame/fault/shame, as steers clear of sayings/ clichés that only serve to cast a negative shadow (under the pretense of avoiding ‘denial’) regarding those challenged by an addiction (or their family members). These measures toward empowering people through language increases sense of self efficacy, confidence and hope –for us all.
Utilizing empowering language, rather than pejorative, impacts our spirit and sense of ‘can do’ on the spot. This measure is the easiest accessed, no cost and most effective resource/tool we ALL have at our disposal, in EVERY moment we so choose. It will, on impact, create healthy momentum by inspiring a sense of sustainable hope regarding problem solving and effective coping related to addiction- on an individual, community and global scale. Anytime we can reduce our out-go and intake of stigma/blame-language, we get a little closer to the reality of an addiction-free society. Addiction free society: It’s possible. Believe it. I didn’t say it was around the corner…I said it was possible. Have faith in that possibility. “Faith makes things possible….not easy”. And we all have the ability to make these kinds of changes in the way we communicate about addiction. Let’s take advantage of it!
Mr. Ortiz mentions a wonderful resource above. I recommend the book often. I’m a parent advocate/counseling student trained in Motivational Interviewing (MI). This book By Dr. Meyers and Brenda Wolfe uses the frame of MI/CRAFT (community reinforcement and family training) in its approach to supporting parents in and through development of an improved way of interacting with our substance use disordered kids.
And, speaking of MI and CRAFT… there is a peer (parent led) support resource you might want to try called SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training) Friends and Family. They use the frame of support modeled in the book (MI/CRAFT) that Jerry suggested you get. SMART offers an online parent/friend support group-the goal/mission of which is to help parents and other concerned loved ones deal with/cope with the challenges (as well as celebrate the triumphs) along the addiction journey. All of these resources helped me in my own journey of parenting a son with a dual diagnosis. A son, I’m grateful to say, who is enjoying life in ever-increasing hope and health. It’s been a long hard, but incredibly rewarding journey.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of support to you. I’ve been where you are. Keep on keepin on, mom.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

Patti Herndon says:
July 19th, 2012 at 9:49 pm


I forgot to add website address for

Smart Recovery Friends and Family:

…I hope you will check it out. It’s a great resource for support,learning and building hope for the journey.

And my apology, Jerry, for my mangling your last name in my previous comment.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

Cindy says:
July 20th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

As a mother of a 19 year old daughter as my only child, I have battled with her abuse for 4 years. She’s gone through three rehabs (only completing the last one)

Needless to say, she cannot live with me due to her stealing and her manipulations and lies. She left just last week to stay with her aunt (my sister) and her family.

Within just one week, she has been found to be taking things not hers.

My sister will not allow this and she is not allowed back.

I past my wits-end ages ago and now feel my only option is to let her go off on her own.

I have tried talking to her. I have tried showing her how much I care (only to have it thrown back at me being a co-dependent mother)

I have no where left to go. I am going to have to put her out, knowing that she could either doing something good for herself… or the opposite which breaks my heart and leaves me scared out of my mind.

I wish there were rules or words we could give them to understand finally what they have done to the ones that love her, but she turns the tables and it is us that are wrong.

hate to say that I am literally thinking that that rope I tied to hold onto at the end, has been severed.

Lost and afraid.

Jerry Otero says:
July 23rd, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Dear Lost and Afraid,

I can understand that you feel like you are at the end of your rope. Dealing with a loved one’s addictive problems is really stressful. You don’t need me however, to tell you that there are no easy answers or quick-fix solutions to remedy your daughter’s drug abuse problems.

While it is important to acknowledge the fear, anger, and sense of betrayal that addiction causes and the strain it is putting on your family, it is equally important to develop effective communication skills, positive reinforcement and contingency management techniques to help you form a new dialogue with your daughter that will encourage her to get the help that she needs.

Replacing confrontation, collapse and detachment with active, positive family involvement not only feels better, it also works!

Developing the skills that are useful in helping your child by learning to side-step the resistance that you are used to, takes time, practice, and patience. Relationships and change are both a process that need room to grow.

To that end, I invite you to call us at the Parent Helpline (number below) so that we can talk a bit about what’s going on, and to also talk about how we can support your efforts to avoid the nagging, pleading, and threatening, (which hasn’t worked) and offer an alternative that could increase your effectiveness as a parent, improve the qaulity of your life, and coax your daughter into making the changes she needs to by getting help.

The call is free, and everything we discuss will be held in the strictest of confidence.

Until then, I wish you and your family all the best.

Jerry Otero MA
Parent Support Specialist

laura M says:
August 31st, 2012 at 2:37 am

I have been in AA over 20 years. My son has worked along beside my husband and I for 4 years now. He has been struggling with addition for 10 years. He has tried the methadon program but just goes after his test and buys more drugs . I asked him to leave the farm when he started using needles again. In january i asked him to get off of Methadone, he said it is my fault he went back to drugs,
I have helped him to NA and AA meetings but has not going himself. I am full of guilt and pain , I am going to more meetings again but I really need some guide lines to help myself. I am miserable

virginia vaeth says:
September 4th, 2012 at 1:09 pm

I talked to a man who ran a drug rehab, parents spent 450 a month for a room for their children to be monitored. As soon as the parents savings are wiped out, and they are released they usually go back. I have a quicker solution, send them to malaysia or Saudia Arabia. When I visited Malaysia a big sign said, death penalty for drug use or possession. I shared a room with a stranger while backpacking in Malaysia, I had a plastic bag of detergent on the table. He almost attacked me when I entered the room. He said are you crazy carrying coke. I laughed and licked it, it is soap fool. He relaxed, but he was scared and that is what drug addicts need to be, for them they get a slap on the wrist and they do it all over again. You could pay an Australian backpacker a little cash to backpack around malaysia with your child, to keep an eye on them, only enough for a guest room and food. I also think exposing people to poverty, opens people eyes. Here in America we have everything, watching three year olds beg, like I did in Egypt last month, wakes you up to how good we have it in America, even the poorest people here have food, not so in many countries. Let them try begging over there, leave them just enough money to survive, let them camp out on beaches, when people have to survive to eat, they are not thinking about drugs anymore.

Bill Ford says:
September 5th, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Laura – Bring it up in your meeting. See if Al-Anon will be the answer.

Virginia – I don’t agree with capital punishment, but what if…, we give a 6 month jail sentence with good result perks, to screened positive drug addicts and those who fail a legitimate replacement drug program? Since the jails are already full addicts, ANYWAY!,.. for repeat petty crimes; cordon a section of the jail off and call it a rehab wing. Adjust bed locations. Violent offenders are ineligible. Change the color of the guards and prisoners uniforms to white, give white shirt guards two weeks annual addiction 101 training, give the addicts a big book and call it knucklehead rehab. 2nd offense is 9 months, 3rd offense is 1 year, and so on…

All treatment professionals know that an addicts brain has been hijacked, yet they insist addicts can manage their own lives!@#$% Huh?…I mean that’s why we get sponsors in AA. Sadly, It takes months to years for the person to regain control of their own neural impulses…not withstanding at least to within a manageable baseline to deal with underlying mental health issues which are so common for addicts.

I spoke to a treatment professional at New Bridge Foundation in Berkeley. Great program. Nice place. They have County funded 6 month beds for knucklehead addicts who are fresh out of jail, on parole, or probation. Fantastic! I asked him this. What if you locked your doors? He blasted back. That would be JAIL? I thought, Ok!… why not?…They all know what that is. I then asked what happens if they walk out. He said, well we can’t stop them. This is a free country. They have that right. Oh, but parole or probation officers can go nuts trying to find the knuckleheads before they OD or break another law…Great!?

Ruth Garcia says:
September 25th, 2012 at 3:15 am

My daughter is a 21 year old heroine addict. I am so sad and feel so alone and afraid for her life. In March 2011 my daughter went in to Rhab, I was so happy to see how healthy she looked and that she was actually starting to make sense and resemble the daughter I love so much.

After 6 months of in-patient treatment and sober living, she moved in to an apartment with her girlfriend, a recovering addict she met in rehab. I hated the idea from the start, but had no control. Now a little over a year later, they have become domestic partners and back in to smoking heroine. My daughter went back to rehab about 2 1/2 months ago, only to leave after three days.

She moved back home a little over a week ago and she is still taking drugs, I don’t know what to do. I am so sad and depressed. I can’t get through to her, she won’t listen to a thing I say… I can’t kick her our, I just can’t do it.. but she needs help. Please any advice and/or support is great appreciated.

Jerry Otero says:
September 25th, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Dear Ruth,

It is so easy to give general advice to parents about what to do in this situation. There’s lot’s of talk about not “enabling”, “tough love”, “letting the addict hit bottom”, and so on, but there is no one size fits all answer. No recipe that will always work or that fits everyone.

This is really different for different kids, different families, different contexts, and so on. What to do when your child (I include young adults here too) is abusing drugs, remains, in many ways, an unanswerable question.

Developing a framework/decision tree to work through however, is a reasonable approach. To that end, I want to invite you to call me at the Parent Helpline, we’re here to listen to your concerns, challenges, setbacks and help you to better cope with the emotional turmoil that you have experienced with your child’s substance abuse or addiction.

We can help you outline a course of effective action – whether it’s prevention, intervention, seeking treatment or supporting recovery – our parent specialists have years of experience helping individuals and their families prevent and overcome substance abuse problems.

Call Us at the Parents Toll-Free Helpline
1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373)
Monday to Friday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm ET

Until then, I wish you the best.

Tina Robinson says:
September 27th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

My 25 yr old son is addicicted to meth and he has stolen over 3000 dollars worth of my jewerly to support his and his girl friends addiction I have pressed charges on him and sent to him to his best friend to detox him. I dont want to see him in prison but my family is saying this is the right thing to do. I am so torn as a mother as to what to do. I know my son is in there somewhere and normally he would not do this. what is a mother to do?

Bill Ford says:
September 28th, 2012 at 5:18 am

Tina – My heart goes out to your young son who is an addict. I call them knucklehead addicts who have gotten too familiar with the hustle and stealing that supports their addiction and its lifestyle. Most will end up in and out of jail; “the revolving door”. It is a syndrome that ultimately costs more than rehab. He may end up doing some time. That’s his choice. I had a hard time with the jail thing and choose to secure my household and evict my son who is also 25. I remained available to support his recovery and still do. They will even try to scam that. In 20-20 hind sight I would have pressed charges on him as a juvenile. Early is better. Your son is probably getting sick of that world and hopefully minor time might be a catalyst, especially if it is a drug related charge that the judicial system can recognize as a reason to refer him to drug court. All best.

Linda C. says:
October 30th, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Let me first say that I can relate to everyone on this site, I also have a 32 year old son that is addicted to meth, I have had him in and out of rehab for the last 12 years, he also was in prison for 2 years for possesion and promised he would change his life, I guess the old saying goes when they have their back against the wall they will promise you anything. Anyway my problem with this is hes living in a tent in texas, he is not allowed to come back home because of his addiction, he uses and then he sleeps for days and then he is very mean until he gets his fix again, and did I forget to mention he has no teeth and glasses that he has lost over the years and I took him to emergency room once when he said he was having chest pains, and the doctor said he had fatty sist around his heart and then he walked out not letting the doctor finish, so not really sure what was going on there. He also talks about suicide all the time i have sent the police where he was at the times many times and all they will do is put him into pavillion for 3 days, and he can come and go as he pleases. I have been to thousands of alnon meetings and they have tault me to stop enableing him with money and help. My problem is what to tell them when they say they are going to kill themselves because they hate you and everyone else, this has been slowly killing me, I feel so guilty for his choices in life, at the meetings they tell me not to blame myself for this, but that is easier said than done, I’am going to conseling for myself with all of this. Do I just write off my son and forget he was ever born. I know he is in there somewhere, would love any input on this. PLEASE HELP there are no local resources that I can afford, any suggestions?

Bill Ford says:
November 14th, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Linda – Like some of our own, your son has had big bottoms and countless opportunities and still failed time after time. I won’t repeat the whole mantra…”there are those…” You’ve heard it. It sounds like you have cared plenty and have engaged. Unfortunately addiction maintains a life of its own, beyond intervention. It is the most ignored and under acknowledged medical condition of all. If I could, I would design an adjunct to our jail system that provides a locked door treatment program for drug addicts that have spiraled into the reality of criminalization. Our system is good at either locking up addicts or ignoring them. It is not good at something in the middle for the stubborn hard to treat criminalized drug addict. I think it is a shame that 2/3′s of inmates are drug addicts or alcoholics, just rotting in jail. As for those addicts that manage to not be criminalized, they too need a more aggressive treatment paradigm. Sometimes I wonder how much wisdom shows up in what we call treatment, when so many know facts about addicts and post withdrawal issues are discounted for lack of funding and beds. Then what is even known about the long term effects of meth drugs on the human brain. Some of our most gifted addiction researchers work in a vacuum. How do we put their knowledge to work? This is the dilemma and the reality of being a parent of a suffering addict.

bear says:
April 6th, 2013 at 10:24 am

I’m a struggling IV meth addict from.the southeast.
they say the lifespan of us people is 5 years, here’s the kicker.
I’m only 20 years old, 21 this month. My parent I think knows but dosent say anything. I don’t think she knows how bad I am, but she has to have a clue. In my case I always had one thing I would never throw away. … Her. I am so tired of this life and dependingon this drug when it’s eatig my nose away, I recently had anbcess that almost caused a
heart attack. My teeth suck, yet the only thing on my mind is that shit and all the pain I caused her. Which drives me even deeper. Look at me guys, show your kids. Use my life so they see what really happens.

bear says:
April 6th, 2013 at 10:30 am

@LINDA I know what he is going through. The rage, the mood swings. The sleeping for days. LINDA I started when I was 17, it till me until now to admit I was an addict. Not in the sense like TV, but I’m addicted mentally and emotionally. without the drug I’m nothing but rage, or depression. It is hard Linda, but if he can stay away from his old friends, he will get through it easier.

bear says:
April 6th, 2013 at 10:39 am

And about the suicide @Linda, with the drop in dopeamine the brain has to recharge. After so long of flooding the brain with 12000 times the normal, it eventually starts to stop dopeamine period there comes the rage, which leads to remorse once he gets his fix. I go through it alot. Before the shot, I’m excited, then after I wish I had never cursed the earth with my presence. It’s such a rollercoaster. All you can do is tell him, you love him and you won’t leave him even if others do because he makes you happier than any drug could. anger and abandoning them won’t work. You have to show love and compassion. They are searching for that anyway if he is on meth. Good luck.

Vivian says:
May 22nd, 2013 at 5:52 am

I have a 25 year old daughter who is an addict and lives at home. She has left two young children with their father and mother-in-law. I am so tired of told that I do not understand and to just shut up and listen. I can never share with what I feel and how she has mad life a living hell. I am soooooooooo tired. I have a Christian support group Kairos Prison Ministry and she has started therapy just today.

Patti Herndon says:
June 1st, 2013 at 4:48 pm


Thank you for sharing what it is that parents need to hear more than anything: “tell him you love him and you won’t leave him even if others do because he makes you happier than any drug could. anger and abandoning them won’t work. You have to show love and compassion.”

Yes. We forget about implementing that kind of critical-to recovery empathy and compassion quite a lot in the difficult journey. Sometimes, (a lot of the time), we parents neglect this part because we are stuck in ‘our own’ anger and anxiety. Truth is…so much of the time, that anger/anxiety predates our son/daughters development of a maladaptive means of coping (addiction) with drugs/alcohol. We need to get real with our own stuff before we can effectively advocate for our child. We owe them that.

I’m thinking about you Bear…your courage, your compassion for others, your strong will. Thank you for your inspiration. Peace to you. Be well…

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

SMART Recovery Friends and Family, (Self Management and Recovery Training) online. Parents: We need a menu of options for learning how ‘best’ to help our individual, deserving son/daughter into and through recovery. One size peer support will not every fit all. When what you’re trying isn’t proving to create momentum in the journey (your child’s and your family system’s), then, it’s time to try the ‘next’ thing. You don’t EVER stop trying the next thing. Learn from multiple, up-to-date sources about ‘evidence-based’ practices (like SMART- which uses Motivational Interviewing and CRAFT -Community Reinforcement and Family Training).

Parents: Be wary of so-called support resources/peer groups that would have you believe that your son/daughter’s substance use disorder is a product of their own selfishness, lack of spiritually, or absent altruism. If we truly want addiction treatment to be treated on par with chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, then we will stop attributing character-related traits, such as ‘selfishness’, ‘dishonesty’, ‘spiritual deficit’ etc., to what many have come to view as a chronic ‘disease’.

Can you imagine the backlash if we were all in the habit of charging someone with heart disease or diabetes as simply needing to take a moral inventory of themselves in order for them to ‘get well’? Think about it…

susie says:
July 11th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

My partner for 14 years has a sister that has been a drug addict for over 35 years. We live in South Fl, she lives in Orlando. For 14 years of our relationship her sister lived with her mother. Went to her work demanding money to pay her drug debts, going to church, taking her to the ATM’s in the middle of the night. My partner replaced numerous refrigerators, ovens , television sets, washers , dryers,so her mother would have them. The house turn into a crack house.

Her mother passed away 2 years ago. And her sister has been living in the house as my partner pays the mortgage on a house for drug users ?

For 14 years I have tried !!!!!!!! to talk to my partner, tell her that her mother died because of her sister and she is next if she does not cut her off . That she is an enabler and codependent.

Guess what?? My partner just sold the house in Orlando. I wanted to discuss a plan, I did research, spoke to clinics and professionals for her to get her into rehab before anything.

She rented a brand new apartment, furnished it for her sister, bought everything for her, this is a 50 year old that has never ever worked a day in her life, live like trash. It has been 4 weeks , shes not in rehab, we work all day, she will meet people or find away. I also truly believe she has aspergers.

Moral of the story, I am going to end my relationship with my partner. It is not because of her sister, it is because of her. Her sister needs help to change and grow in society with the help of professionals. My partner has ignored me, never addresses the issues, babys her sister, is codependent and an enabler. I do not want to be around for the future, I don’t think I can handle it. We both professionals , I find it hard to believe my partner is that naïve and believes this is soley her responsibility. The person that needs counseling, is both of them, then me after.

Melina says:
September 16th, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Hi. My son is recently out of detox. We are keeping him busy. He can’t wait
To go back to work and live normally. His mind he says is clears his body isn’t. He doesn’t blame anyone and is polite except for when the anxiety is bad which then he uses a shot of alcohol. He’s had anxiety we didn’t address for years. I think this is too good to be true. He says he just didnt want withdrawal so he used after five months of suboxen. However detox went well and he says he has not yet had cravings. Is all this possible ?

Stressed out mom says:
September 17th, 2013 at 7:07 pm

My son is an addict and I don’t know what to do anymore. He isn’t addicted to the typical drugs. He is a user of Spice (synthetic marijuana)and I believe he also uses meth but not on a daily basis. He is 19 and still living at home. I am not strong enough to kick him out and totally abandon him. I grew up without parents and I don’t feel that is the solution. He has contacted a few rehabs/detox in this area but they are not familiar with this drug. I have seen him go through withdrawl and it scares the crap out of me. The violent mood swings, aggression, n/v, hallucinations, anxiety, sweats, shakes etc. My life is consumed by this. His stealing, manipulations etc. The shame and guilt I feel is overwhelming. Is anyone familiar with this drug? We live in Oklahoma

Bill Ford says:
September 17th, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Having little or no boundaries invitation to failure. Your son needs to know boundaries whether you had them or not. He may be one of the lucky ones that doesn’t fall into severe addiction. If not, its out of your control anyway. If you try and live with extreme addiction, it will take both of you down hard. If he is walking a thin line and has a good chance to quit, not holding the line will encourage him to become an extreme statistic. Either way, boundaries are needed.

Some people can set good workable boundaries and still care. The idea of “totally” abandoning a loved one is a rationale trap. Detach with love. I do this for my son but I decided to pay for his health coverage because he is a type 1 diabetic and will supply food cards when he is hungry. He gets along. He knows I love him. Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t cover re-hab and right now he is in jail That’s a consequence and will also clean him up so he has a fighting chance at life. In a better world, we would legally mandate addiction be treated as a disease and forcibly intervene with adults harming themselves. We don’t have that yet. So we do the next best thing’ rely on experience, strength and hope.

Wife of addict says:
September 24th, 2013 at 9:50 pm


My husband is a alcoholic and recently hit his rock bottom. We have been married for 10 years and he hit me for the 1st time and it was in front of our kids. He is not an abuser, so I know its the alcohol which took some toll. I did call the cops and he is currently in jail. He is willing to go to inpatient rehab and acknowledges he has the problem. Issue is he gets out this week but has to wait a few weeks to start the rehab. What can I do in the meantime to help him stay sober? He doesn’t work and although he wants to quit, I can’t see him at home for a few weeks without drinking. Especially since there will be days he will be alone at home for over 8 hrs. He also has an issue with authority.. so its hard for me to set rules for him.. Is there a good way to start the conversation when he comes home of expected behavior without sounding like his parent instead of his wife? AKA, I would like him to go to AA meetings etc. while waiting for treatment. Any advise or ideas on how to tackle would be appreciated.

sue keels says:
March 16th, 2014 at 3:59 pm

What a great site I stumbled on. Bill, your comments on September 23, 2013 were so right on. Our 25 yr. old iv, heroin or meth using son is currently in jail because we turned him in after he kicked in our front door while we were away. It is another chance for him to detox, maybe have a moment of clarity that will start him on a path to recovery. Yes, yes, yes to your thoughts on mandated rehab instead of jail time!!! Jail time has done our son so much harm and taken him to a depth we hadn’t known before. Our hearts go out to each one of you walking this road. It is pure hell.

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