My son is 20 years old and is in his sophomore year in college and I have come to learn today that he is an addict. He is a study in contradictions…graduated with honors from high school and arrested for felony drug charges. Starting quarterback of the high school football team the in jail for probation violations. When he went off to college 2 years ago he had an academic scholarship, a spot on the college football team, a car, a driver’ license and now he has lost it all. He got 2 DUI’s and is back in jail for smoking marijuana while on probation. As far as I know he does not do any other “hard” drugs but his treatment counselor and his probation officer are recommending long-term residential (12 months!) treatment. My heart would break to have to send him off and be able to see him for months. Do you think this kind of treatment would be best? He has a 3.0 GPA in college and I would hate to see him get off track with his education.
EXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL:
Sounds like a great kid with a very serious problem. My own son was given the same recommendation for inpatient treatment when I had him assessed at age 17 for a drug problem. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the advice and he ended up in prison for 13 years for crimes committed while trying to get more money to get more drugs – something I could never imagine he would do.
I know you are worried about his college completion but he is already off track with the choices he has been making in the last two years. The fact that he continued to use marijuana after having the DUI’s and being on probation is indicative of level of his addiction. Please listen to his treatment counselor as his life could depend on it.
Learn all you can about the disease of addiction and find some support for yourself as you begin this very difficult journey. A local Al-Anon group is a good place to start. Above all, do not despair – many people live an abundant life in recovery!
EXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND:
Thank you for submitting your questions. I know this is a difficult time and the decision you are asked to make seems impossible.
After reading over your question, I agree with exactly what has been recommended for him, and nothing less. He has already shown you he cannot continue in school. Failing more will only be a negative experience for him. His self esteem is already low, with all that he is going through. His whole life is ahead of him. Give him a chance to heal and get back on track, joining so many others who have gone back to school later in life and found great success.
Most importantly, taking a critical year off to get healthy will not derail his academics, but addiction will.
Your son’s accomplishments muddy the water and make it hard to see that he is already in deep trouble. First of all, you mentioned “hard drugs.” With two DUIs, he is already on the drug that is most likely –statistically- to kill him. And he may be on other drugs besides pot and alcohol: as one father said in a meeting, “If you think your child is on one drug, think again, and throw everything else in the mix. If f you think it’s only been a couple of years of substance abuse, then add about four more to that.” I could not have stated this better myself.
Two DUIs by the age of 20? And then you add that he is willing to risk jail for pot? Your son sounds like he is in the throes of addiction. Please remember addiction is a brain disease, a disease that is chemically driven by mood-altering substances including drugs and alcohol. He needs serious help.
For your son to change, you need to change, too. I encourage you to do two things.
1. See an addiction counselor or other therapist to help you work through our own fear, grief and pain.
2. Start going to a “parents” Al-Anon meeting to get ongoing support. There you will learn what other families are doing to help them through this difficult time.
Again, thank you for submitting your question, which will help other families who find themselves in a similar situation.