YOUR QUESTION: My son that just turned 18 has been in and out of trouble with marijuana. Over the last 2 years it has gotten worse and more things have happened. He is the oldest of my 4 children. My 18 year old can hang out with us have a great time and then the next day or night be a totally different person. Little things have started missing around the house. It would be a couple of dollars here and there or a few video games. Lately he would have mood swings and say he just wasn’t sleeping well. I found out he had been taking Kpin along with drinking or had taken some of his grandparents pain pills or sleeping pills. We had started locking our bedroom door each day with a lock that needed a key to open it. I worried what medicines he might try to get. He always acts like we are crazy to ever think he would do something like that.
This Monday his mood swings had gotten worse and he blew up over something small and was extremely disrespectful to his father and myself. He had gotten so mean to his brothers lately that I worried about him being home alone with them. He doesn’t have a job and isn’t in a hurry to get one. This last blow up he had was so bad that we kicked him out of the house. We don’t know what to do. If we let him go see friends we knew he would come home messed up. He would tell us it was just pot or that he had taken Adderall with pot. I don’t know what to do. It is hard because having other kids and not sure what to say or do about the entire situation in front of them. We have tried to not mention a lot around them but the older two have noticed so much on their own over the last year. Are we doing the right thing by kicking him out and not allowing him home unless he gets help and gets a job? I just worry about him coming to our house and doing something when we aren’t home or in front of the other kids.
EXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND: Thank you for your questions, which I will try to address. Please feel free to call or email me if I have missed anything.You mentioned that your son is being inappropriate at home, stealing, and acting inappropriately to his family. Lying, stealing and manipulating are very much symptoms of drug abuse, and opiate abuse in particular. It is critical to recognize that addiction to drugs has been proven to be a brain disease that requires significant help to turn the tide.
The disease of addiction affects all members in the family. We as the family unit are no longer “normal.” Instead, stress becomes the norm. And as much as you think you are protecting the other children in the family, even your four-year old notices something different. The children FEEL “something different.” While you love your son, until he chooses sobriety, you must protect the rest of your family. Build a life with them full of laughter and activity. They deserve all of you. Yes, this is hard when one of your children is struggling.
I recommend that you find a good Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting to attend with your husband. The parent meetings would be the best for your situation. Also, if by some chance you live in the Sacramento area, I also encourage you to call Full Circle Treatment Center. The can talk to you about parenting classes and how to handle difficult situations when they arise.
Would you allow a stranger who makes you feel unsafe in your home? You need to have the same boundaries with your son: he cannot be in your home if intuitively you feel uncomfortable. Do you drug test him? You can have kits mailed to you, and you might want to drug test every time he comes into your home, even for a visit. If he just can’t seem to go, that is considered a positive test, and he loses the privilege of being in your home. You can purchase inexpensive drug tests at Recovery Happens.
My suggestions go against the grain of normal parenting where we trust our children. Yet a child who is abusing drugs or alcohol is not trustworthy, and the rules of normal parenting do not apply. In this strange new world, I hope you will seek out professional support for you and your son Please ask yourself if you would be trying to handle this on your own if he had cancer or diabetes.
My hope is that you and all similar families realize you do not have the education or resources to manage this serious disease and all of the behavioral challenges it creates. No amount of love will heal this. No amount of protection will heal this. You cannot do this on your own. I wish you the best.
EXPERT KENT MORRISON: There are several things that need to be mentioned. First, from what you have mentioned it highlights that your son has progressed beyond just smoking pot. The mood swings, not sleeping well, etc are signs of pill use. Kpin (Klonopin) is a heavy benzo (benzodiazepine), and mixing it with drinking can be very harmful if not deadly. He has also resorted to stealing as a means to continue using drugs, again a sign of pill use. Pills can be very expense and very addicting. I think there are two recommendations that are in order. First, I would strongly advise you as parents to seek professional help from a place like New Directions to talk more about exactly what you are experiencing with your son and what your options are. Second, I believe that your son needs professional help and asking him to leave the house can help only if he becomes desperate enough to want help. But it is a hard line to hold and if you break down and let him back in without getting him help, it is likely he will continue to violate your family boundaries and his drug use will not get better. So in summary, I think seeking professional help as parents is your first step and then implementing a plan to address your son is step two. Last, I would also think about having your other children talk with the counselor/therapist you decide to make sure they a have a chance to process what they are experiencing as well.