YOUR QUESTION: Our son has been growing with his infatuation with drugs over the last 3 years. I fear it is now at an addiction level. My son wouldn’t follow my house rules. He would often argue with me and steal from his sisters as well as me. He would do drugs in the house. I attempted to send him to boarding school in hopes the change of situation might offer him a different path if he chose it. He didn’t. He now has been living with his Dad ONLY for the last 7 months. My son denies any drug issue, but it is there. His father doesn’t want to seek help for him. Doesn’t want to do a forced rehab. I can see both sides… if he isn’t ready for help– it won’t take. But his dad wants to make him stay at my house again. Dad thought I was too structured and controlling AND he has let him come and go as he pleased. My son didn’t do well at all in school. He has a network of drug friends. Should I even consider letting him back into my house? I am looking to protect my daughters from this situation– NEVER MIND I HAVE A CHILD WITH CANCER– so I have been busy trying to get her well…. and she doesn’t need the added stress of a brother verbally abusing her mother and on drugs.
ANSWER FROM EXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND: You didn’t mention your son’s age, and there are definitely different issues and legal obligations to consider if a child is a minor. My response assumes he is over 18.
Infatuation, discovering, experimenting: these are warning signs of dependence or addiction if they go past a month or two. As a colleague of mine explains, “If you are experimenting, you are going to know after the first couple of times if you like it or not. If it goes past this, then you are heading into addiction.” Addiction is not about a one-time event; it is about an ongoing love affair with intoxication. Three years into this, he is well beyond “experimenting.”
You mention “forced rehab,” and I’d like to point out that in most cases rehab IS forced because no one wants to go to treatment. They are forced by the courts, by families, by jobs. Once in treatment, a light bulb often goes on, and the addict/alcoholic realizes this is what they want, and they embrace the community of healing and the education of rehab. All of this happens because the brain is allowed to start the healing process. As the brain begins to heal, rehab often inspires people to change because if they don’t, they will lose their jobs, their marriages, the friends, and their health, for starters. They aren’t forced; they have a choice at that point, and it becomes clear to them as their brains begin to heal.
As far as your daughter, she deserves your full attention because she is trying to get well and she needs your help. That being said, you may choose to require your son to drug test as a requirement of being in your life or your home. If he chooses to do drugs and tests dirty, then he is making a choice not to live with you.
You have the right to allow or not allow toxic people in your life. If your son is being abusive, then you can calmly let him know that he can’t come by until he changes his behavior. That is a good example of what I consider giving people a reason or incentive to change. You can find support for a healthy family by attending Al-Anon meetings. I also offer family counseling over the phone and have worked with many families across the nation. I wish you the best during this stressful time.