Helping Parents of Adult Alcoholics and Addicts With Non 12 Step Alternatives To AA

By Dr. Ed Wilson and Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes

Adult Children Who Drag Their Parents Down With Them

Nothing is sadder than the “over-age families” we see. These “children” are in their 30s, 40s, 50’s and sometimes 60s; their parents in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond. “Children” who won’t stop drinking or using, and their parents who can’t stop forking over the money that makes the alcohol and drug possible. Dependent adult children dragging parents down with them.

Of course you can easily to see the problem from the outside. Why would an “adult child” stop drinking when they can squeeze thousands of dollars a month out of old mom and dad and keep right on doing what they’ve done their whole lives? And how can mom and dad say no when their “child” will be homeless, their grandchildren hungry? Besides, it’s a disease, isn’t it? How can they deny their sick child?

You probably already know that that’s how the monthly cycle continues for years and years, and how it’s apt to go on until someone dies or the money runs out. The children will continue to manipulate parents, and parents will continue to feel guilty and wonder what they did to cause their child’s decision to go down the alcoholic/addict road.

Alcohol and drug abuse is a choice, not a disease

Of course you’ve always suspected, correctly, that the child’s choice was the child’s choice and had little or nothing to do with his or her parents. Even when childhood trauma played a role, it doesn’t excuse ongoing childishness. Searching for the current problems’ beginnings, even finding them, does nothing to fix the mess. As you’ve probably noticed, everyone just stays trapped in the swirl of emotions, habit, myth, and despair.

What about an intervention?

But suppose the cycle could be broken? In the past that’s usually meant orchestrating an “intervention” where the family confronts the drunk or addict, sets some limits, and then whisks them off to residential treatment for 30, 60, or 90 days. Assuming the problem is now taken care of, everyone relaxes and life supposedly gets better for everyone.

As you probably know, it hardly ever turns out that way. Confronted drunks frequently become angry drunks; residential treatment fails about 95% of the time; family resolutions collapse; and the abuser returns even more solidly excused than ever by “powerlessness” and “disease” myths. Tensions mount and bank accounts have taken a $30,000 – $200,000 hit.

There is an alternative

A brother and sister, Terry and Jack, came to see us because their younger brother Mike was draining their parents’ life savings to support his habit. There’d been an intervention and “treatment” but the manipulation and abuse continued. “It isn’t going to stop,” Karen said, “until they’re all dead or broke.”

You’ve probably seen this problem before, but this time we had a suggestion. Instead of threats and ultimatums, we recommended a carefully planned disengagement. No threats, no expectation that Mike would change, just a gradual change in the family dynamics that would, over the course of a year, result in Mike being on his own.

How, exactly, does that work?

We’re sure it’s obvious to you that Mike isn’t the only one with a problem here. His relationship with his parents and brother and sister also played a role. As long as that stayed the same, nothing would change. But entrenched relationships don’t usually change without some outside help. The old habits and behaviors are too strongly established.

The difference here is that we interrupted the old patterns by inserting ourselves between Mike and his parents. A meeting was held – Mike attended because that’s where he’d get his next check – and it was explained that no one was going to bother him anymore about his drinking and drugging. However, the amount of his “support” would be reduced by 8% a month over the next year until it is down to $0.

You’ve probably figured out that this plan probably wasn’t going to work by itself. Mike, having heard empty threats for years about being cut off, was confident that his parents would cave in, as they always had before. The difference here was that the money was routed through us, insulating the parents, and they were the ones receiving the counseling and support. Mike was also free to receive help, but it wasn’t required. What he decided to do was up to him – as it should be for any adult.

You Can Only Treat The Willing

The real truth is that people only change when they want to – not when others want them to. Working with the family to change the situation is effective because the family wants to change the situation. Any other strategy is just a waste of time, money, and effort.

You’re wondering, “But what about Mike?”

The usually overlooked part in all of this is the fact that if the family changes its relationship to Mike, Mike will have to change, too. As financial support dwindles, he will have to make some changes.

As you can imagine, Mike was angry about this sudden diversion in the cash flow. In this particular case, his anger actually motivated him to start managing himself and his life again for the first time in a decade.

Yes, there were glitches and lapses and mom did occasionally slip Mike some extra money, but the overall plan came off as intended.

Why did this work?

This “intervention” worked because it focused on the total picture and all of the people and dynamics involved. We did not single out Mike as “the problem” and we didn’t let labels and myths keep him from being held responsible for either fixing his problems or living with the consequences himself. More importantly, we worked with the family members who wanted the situation to change, ignoring Mike, who obviously had a vested interest in things staying the same.

As you can see, it worked because we focused on the people who wanted to change rather than trying to force change onto someone else. Whether dealing with a family, a couple, or anyone else, success always means working with whomever is motivated; skipping labels and self-justifying excuses; focusing on the present and future, not the past; and actively instituting new behaviors.

All of this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Then why not call today and let us provide real help for your family? 888-541-6350

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49 Responses to Helping Parents of Adult Alcoholics and Addicts With Non 12 Step Alternatives To AA

  1. Anna says:

    I have read this message again and again, here and in other forums and even from my ex-husband’s family. My ex-husband is a sex addict. He has not been diagnosed, but he led a completely secret double life. There is physical and financial support as well as behavioral support for it. He was addicted to cocaine in his 20’s and was a member of AA for years until he started secretly drinking and hiding it from his sponsor. He is Ivy League educated and a CEO. His parents are pillars in his hometown and very proud that their children all had frist class educations. And, they are proud of his achievements professionally. I have begged them for an intervention for him. Faced with the evidence (which is on top of him destroying the marriage and abandoning his children), at first his mother believed it. His father basically chalked it up to boys being boys. He told his parents when they confronted him that he had to take care of his physical needs because I am so repulsive. I am generally considered attractive and fit and begged him for sexual relations while married.

    It seems that his parents have turned a deaf ear on it all and thrown up their arms around messages like the one above and said that he is a an adult and makes his own choices.
    I’ve had such a hard time accepting that there is nothing that anyone can do. I know that he has to make the choice to change, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the problem. It is as though that action is condoning his behaviors and the results and fall-out from it. I know this is not easy to face, but declaring that there is nothing to do in my mind is not true. They should validate that there are problems with his bahavior and those who claim they love him should at least have the responsibility to tell him that they don’t approve of his actions and behaviors. If people who love that person don’t, then they are living in denial as much as he is. There is power in parental disapproval even for grown-ups. The least everyone could do is not be so darn proud of his accomplishments professionally and brag about him. It is as if they are holding up a fake for the sake of their own reputation as well.

    I am sorry, but I think there is middle ground between what you are saying and dragging someone to rehab. Families do have more responsibility for their family members than a stranger. If they didn’t, then what is the point of family? Is it just for the good times and bragging rights, but no responsibility and accountability?

  2. Mari says:

    I have a 22 yrs son that is using drugs, I want to help him and he does not let me he gets mad and nasty with me, I don’t know what to do please help me.

  3. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    It is very hard to have treatment be effective when somebody doesn’t want it. It isn’t like forcing them to have a vaccine or something. They need to want to make changes in their lives and that is the hard part for families. About the only thing you can do to nudge him along is make it uncomfortable for him to remain doing what he is doing. Is he living with you? Are you giving him money or supporting him? If you are, then tell him to get out and find his own lodgings and a job. He isn’t welcome back until he cleans up or wants to get help. By not having any consequences for his current dryg use, you enable him. This is a hard one for parents because we are always afraid they will end up on the street if we tell them to get out. Now, if he already is out on his own and working and supporting himself, then you have no leverage that way. But you can tell him you love him and offer to help him find help when he is ready. There isn’t a whole lot else you can do. It is a terribly difficult place to be. I am sorry.

  4. Cyndy says:

    I know what you’re saying is correct. I dont think I have any leverage right now. My 25 yr old daughter lives on her own and has an 8 mo infant and is a meth addict. She recently lost her job and collects unemployment which covers her rent and she receives WIC for formula and baby food. I kept making excuses for her. The infants father was due to be encarcerated, he’s also a meth addict. I believed she would straighten up, for her son, once baby daddy was out of the way. But its been 3 weeks and not only has nothing changed, it’s gotten worse. Maybe she feels free of him, I dont know. Shes using more than ever although denying. Im so frightened for my grandson. She’ll be out and about with him well after midnight. Ok so I dont support her financially. But I have made excuses and that makes me an enabler. What can I do. I have no leverage. What rules should I put into place. She has asked me to babysit and I always say yes because I worry about the babys safety. How do I disengage.

  5. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    First, you should rightly be concerned for your grandson. He is only a baby and needs protection for his meth addict mother. You could and should have him removed from her until she cleans up. Call child protective services – they will remove him from your daughter. The baby may be your only leverage. She child is removed until she cleans up and won’t be returned until she proves to her case worker and courts that she is sober. You owe that to the baby. Once the baby is safe then you can simply say to her “once you prove to your social worker that you can be a good mother, you will get your baby back. I have no say in this, you can do as you wish, but you only get the child back if you are not using. It is your choice.” and let it go.

  6. Ann says:

    I live with my mother and adult brother. He is an alcoholic.
    I know there will be no change in the situation. My parents
    have spent over a 100,000 helping support him (legal issues,
    wrecked cars, paying for apartments,paying for his cigs and booze)
    They always protect him from his consequences. They
    never will stop, or have any interventions. They agree with his
    mindset and blame & attack others along with him.
    What rent & money I give my mom goes to help defray
    his living costs, she has to spend money on.
    How do I cope with his angry & abusive treatment of me?

  7. Christine says:

    I was recently married and me and my new husband have 3 children each, my oldest son has a problem smoking marajana. I had handles this by asking him to move out and live on his own…he struggled to survive paying rent and other bills…but he has made it and has now stopped smoking. My husband has a son who was just released from jail and being out only 3 days has started to go back to his old ways of duing drugs and fighting. My husband supports him financialy and he live with us, my husband has asked me to talk to him, the only way I was able to help my own son was by asking him to move out and live on his own. I’m not sure how my husband would feel if I did the same to his son?

  8. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    The only way you will ever find out how your husband feels about asking his son to move out, is the share with him what worked with your son and suggest he do the same with his.

  9. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    If at all possible, I would move out, Ann. Your Mother will never change her ways. Since you have to give her rent, you can’t stop that payment but you don’t have to give her anything extra, since it goes to your brother. You also won’t change your brother, so get used to his angry ways. Truly, the only thing that will stop him is you moving out on your own. The your Mom won’t have the rent money to give him either. It would be the best thing that could happen.

  10. jeanne says:

    As the parent of an adult alcoholic it is all easier said than done. She is my only child, a single parent of four and has no resources. Her biological father and grandfather died as the result of alcohol, and she seems to be on the same track. I watch her children, ranging in age from 11 to 16 who don’t understand the person she has become. My husband and I tell them it’s not their fault, and that she needs to work through it. My heart is broken.

  11. Julie says:

    My problem is a bit different. My son is 28, works and has his own money most if the time. He’s a felon, due to a poor decision fueled by alcohol, and is on parole. He is at home right now because due to parole requirements he can’t just stay anywhere. He is also home because his job hours have varied from paycheck to paycheck. My question is, how do I have peace if mind in spite if his drinking (which occurs away from home after work and on weekends, but nevertheless is worrisome). Any advice is appreciated.

  12. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    That is a hard one. If you really “get” that you cannot control his behavior or fix him, that he is responsible for controlling his own behavior and fixing what needs fixing in his life, then you can disengage from his drinking behavior some. Yes, it is worrisome, I agree. But it is his life and if he chooses to screw it up, then there isn’t much you can do. Really understanding this can help. But I know it is still very hard.

  13. Belinda says:

    My 27 year old daughter has been using meth for at least year or more. She was arrested along with her boyfriend and has other pending charges for burgalary. Her grandparents were supporting and enabling her after my husband and I used tough love 9 years ago when she became defiant. after turning 18. Since her arrest her grandparent, dad and myself have cut her off from financial help completely with the offer for help with her addiction when she is ready. She begs me for food money and I can hardly stand it, Are we doing the right thing in this situation?

  14. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    It is a hard situation to be in. You have offered her help to quit and she isn’t going there. Giving her “food” money may not really go for food. So indirectly you probably will be paying for her meth. I think you are doing the right thing but I know it is really hard not to give her money for food. Of course, she could clean up and get a job to pay for food.

  15. Robin says:

    My son is 21 and a heroin addict. He has been doing drugs for 3 years and has been in and out
    of detox over 17 times. He’s OD twiced and has been to 2 30 day inpatient rehabs out of state.
    He always says he wants help and we always support him on this. We were enablers early on but
    have stopped giving him money. He lives with us and doesn’t have a job. We have asked him to
    find a place to live and get a job and he keeps saying he will. He has stolen from us before and I am afraid he will do it again. My husband and I are trying to get him to get help again but he keeps
    saying hes fine he’s going to take the vivitrol shot and everything will be fine. He lies all the time
    and my husband and I and my younger daughter are so annoyed when he is high in our house. I don’t know what the right thing is to do. We have read “tough love” which sometimes I am for and
    then I just get stressed and cry worrying about him. I will not give him money anymore that is
    definite but I just don’t know what we should do.

  16. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    Robin, there is no “right” answer or perfect thing to do in situations like this. If you throw him out, then you worry about him, if you let him stay, you are upset all the time because he is high and lies, etc. What you need to remember is that he did choose this life style. Granted, he is addicted now, but you have given him ample opportunity to clean up and he doesn’t use those opportunities. Hence, the choice part of this. If he says he will be fine and he will get a vivitrol shot – say “Ok, let’s go there and get it now.” Most likely, he won’t. But remember, he can still use on vivitrol. It won’t stop him. You could set some house rules and throw him out if he breaks those rules, but you would have to be willing to do that. Don’t threaten him with consequences you are not fully prepared to enforce. In some ways, of course you still are enabling him – you are supporting him in some fashion since he doesn’t work. I would make some rules, like: No getting high at home, get a job within 3 months – any job, and get a vivitrol shot every month that you can verify. If he won’t do those things, then he isn’t serious about quitting and you should stop supporting him.

  17. Ann says:

    My daughter is 27 and has used drugs for 13 years. Her latest drug of choice was meth. She did so much she looked emaciated, gaunt and near death. She has 4 children she has lost to family which have taken over custody. She is living with us and has a felony charge against her. She was in an awful wreck a year ago. She does not work nor does she seem to try to get a job. She can be very abusive verbally. We have put her in rehab 2 times, We bought her a mobile home put she didn’t pay thee bills. She was bonded out of jail (not by us) and is living with us now and it is a nightmare. Can I just ask her to leave with no job, no car (she has had 4 and wrecked 2 of them). I love her more than life but I just lost my 39 year old son to a heart attack and living with her is sometimes unbearable. She says she will not go to rehab again. I asked if she would take a course of her choice online but hasn’t happened. Part of me just wants her out and part of me is scared of what may happen. BTW now she is drinking liquor to take the place of not having the meth as available. Please help. ann

  18. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    Ok, let’s review here – your daughter is a druggie, and verbally abusive towards you. She has no desire to clean up, she doesn’t want to be a mother obviously, not does she want to be a daughter. She has no car by choice, no job by choice, no kids by choice. So, let her go live with who ever was foolish enough to bail her out. You are worried about what will happen to her, but keeping her near or under your roof has made no difference to her at all. Let her go. She is an adult and she has obviously made her choice and her choice is not to be your daughter.

  19. jay says:

    i have had it up to here (above head) with drug addicts and alcoholics. I have many of both in my family (sons, brothers, sister, son in law). Their manipulative and whiny attitudes have driven me to feel angry and bitter against each of them for their self destructive ways which in turns affects everyone else in the family that loves them. Cut them loose and wish the best for them and then pray. Thats all you really have.

  20. Art says:

    My 28 year old son has struggled with addiction (alcohol & crack) for 12 years or more. My wife & I adopted the tough-love approach when he was 20, removing him from the home with no support whatsoever (partly to protect his to brothers from dysfunction and drama), leading him to homelessness followed by entering recovery programs and then back to homelessness and this cycle has repeated 20-30 times. We paid heavily for one highly touted private facility which resulted in him being thrown out after 70 days. After one 2-3 month stretch of homelessness, our hearts breaking as we see our semi-deranged son walking our streets like a hobo, we offered him a deal whereby we put him up in a cheap apartment, paid for in large part by his own student loan that he took out and he enrolled in college, again. This worked for a while but before long he stopped going to class and was back doing drugs a lot. We would do shopping for him and it made some sense because it was his money, but not all. In the end it was futile and he went on with his pattern of rehab/relapse/housed/homeless.

    The problem we have is that notwithstanding our tough love and disengagement, he returns to our house, breaks in, steals things, or if he does not break in, sleeps under stairs, in sheds, on porches. He seems linked to our house by an invisible umbilical cord and firmly believes he should live at home and revert to the state he was in while a teen dependent. Unfortunately a lot of 28 year olds in our society live at home and he points to their support as evidence of the grave injustice done to him by us.

    We are starting to think the only way to disengage is to sell our home and move to an apartment on a high floor where he cannot gain access. We love our house and do not want to move. Should we move?

    Another question I have is this: the pain of disengagement is a complex equation. Tossing your own flesh and blood into the cold raining night to roam the streets is hard to do. The problem we have is due to his constant returns to the house, we have to go through the pain on a monthly basis or even more than that. It is very tempting to house him somewhere at our expense just to stop the constant trauma of confronting him. But we know where that leads, to some kind of further disaster or hassle.

  21. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    You have what is essentially an impossible situation. You obviously know that all of the choices are bad ones and you have made a heroic effort in selecting the least awful from these choices. Unhappily this process isn’t going to end. He has chosen a life style that he prefers – it’s important to remember that – and you are entitled to decline to support that choice. It is important to remember that the vast majority of homeless people are homeless by choice and we are not obliged to support a parasitic life style.

    But knowing and feeling are two different things. If I were chosing, I would consider my own circumstances and those of any siblings. Am I rewarding behavior, my own and theirs, of which I approve? Or am I rewarding a life style I don’t wish to help maintain? Then I consider how to balance this with my actions, not my feelings.

    Obviously you can give him choices and then respond when he refuses them. There are, for example, good programs for homeless men here and there (see Beacon House Assoc., San Pedro, CA) and they don’t charge families. You can tell him that if he continues to “visit” you will have him arrested (but only if you mean it) and jailed for trespassing. You can work at shifting your own focus to other people, things, activities, and get a copy of Three Minute Therapy to help with that.

    That’s the best we can offer, little as it is.

    Ed and Mary Ellen

  22. Art says:

    Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful response. Your website is absolutely the most helpful resource I have found on the Internet for people dealing with their grown up, addicted “kids.” I like the way you approach the “disease” concept, which as you write includes with it an implicit obligation to “treat” the “sick” person, which for parents is highly guilt inducing, as what father or mother takes no pity on a child with an illness.

    Regarding arrests, I find local police are in a tough spot, as there is always an implied permission when its a direct relative. An option suggested by police is a restraining order whereby arrest could be made without proof of any particular crime such as B&E. That might be a good strategy for us.

    Again, many thanks.

  23. Nancy says:

    I am all torn up over my 28 y/o daughter. She won’t admit that she’s an alcoholic. She’s had horrible things happen to her in her life, and is beaten and abused by nearly every boyfriend. Lost her license (and car) 2 1/2 years ago due to 2nd DUI. I had kicked her out of the house before she got the DUI, and told the judge I would let her stay at my house so she could have some stability in her life (she had been living from place to place). Of course, she kept talking about getting a job, but never got one. She kept having alcohol in the house even though I had a “no alcohol” policy (I found it by going through her room when she wasn’t around). She helped here and there, and said she couldn’t pay rent because she was “broke.” Well, I accidentally found her money and she had $2700. But how can I tell her I know these things without her screaming “privacy violation.”

    After she bought a $600 cell phone (said her “friend” paid for it) I kicked her out. She went to the local hotel and stayed there 30 days at $60 a day. Found a place, and ANOTHER terribly abusive roommate who gave her an eviction notice within the first 10 days. I told her she could store her stuff in my garage. She’s been home 3 days, and hasn’t changed her ways, I can tell. Says she has no money, needs a co-signer for an apt, etc. etc.

    My stress is that I’m flying out west to spend Christmas with my other kids (she said she didn’t have the money). I don’t trust her to keep my home safe since she leaves doors open and lights on when she goes out at night. I told her she couldn’t stay at the house while I’m gone, but I don’t know if I can follow through with it since there’s no where she can go. (there’s only one women’s shelter and it’s full – plus she says it’s full of meth addicts). I feel sad and guilty leaving her for the holidays with no where to go, yet I worry about my house, and how hard it’s going to be to get her out of the house again when I return. Of course I get all the rage and anger about this action – “how can you do this to your own flesh and blood, etc., etc.”

    I tell her these are the choices she made – she won’t understand it – she rants and raves about how awful her siblings and me treat her; how we have all turned our backs on her. Someone offered to pay her way to come on our vacation, but I know she’ll just ruin it for everyone. I am all torn up!

  24. Eileen says:

    You must use tough love, My soon to be 33 yr old son who is the youngest of the family has chosen a life of alcohol and or drugs also. I have helped him in the past to get a car ….paid for it…he had it all thru college. He has a Masters Degree from a top ten college in the Midwest. He has chosen a lifestyle of alcohol as he says my expectations of him are too high. I helped him the most of all my kids as he was the one who seemed to need it most. I see now where it only gave him more cash for his drugs of choice. There is a point where we do have to let it go. He chose to live the way he is living He has been told over and over how we will help him when he is ready to clean his life up. The point is now he enjoys his hard liquior more than being with his family. It has sucked the life out of him…his brain is effected too as I can see it. I have decieded to just stay away from him. I told him I love him but it breaks my heart to see him like this. He did have some childhood trauma but get on with your life. Stop making excuses. There are alot who suffer much more harsh events that this and move on to better their lives. It is still very hard for me not to rush to him to help him anyway I can but I know this only helps him to cont this terrible lifestyle he has chosen. Pray for me and for all the addicts out there. God willing he will lead him to better places and to get some help.

  25. Stella says:

    Hi, I have a 23 years old son, he is a drug addict using marijuana, he lives by his own, he never asks for money. We have a good relationship, we talk almost every day, and I know he enjoys like me talking about everything, he is always calling me and asking me what or what nor to do, or just telling me his stories, I am always trying to give him good advise. It looks like he listens to them, I try not asking about his addiction, but I saw a picture of him and he looks terrible, I asked him and he did not deny it. He got arrested last Saturday, and I don’t know the official reason for the arrest as of today. because The truth is I don’t want to talk to him, I am so angry because I know everything has to do with his drug addiction. I’m frustrated as a parent and terribly dissapointed with him. At this time I’m at the end of my rope and considering cutting all ties as my past attempts for more than 7 years have failed. Any advice? Please…

  26. Eileen says:

    why are there no more comments or ans to my post?

  27. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    Eileen, your approach is the best thing, hard as it is. Your son has made his choice and you have also. I am sorry he has chosen the path he has, but it isn’t your fault or responsibilty. As a mother, you know how hard it is to stand by and watch, but until he wants something different, there is little that can be done for him.

  28. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    Read the comment by Eileen. This is where you need to get. Your son has made a choice that he prefers to the ones you would make for him but it is his right. You can’t do anything for him until he is ready to make different choices.

  29. Stella says:

    I didn’t see Eileen case, but I saw your answer to her.

    Thank for your answer, is very nice to know that is somebody in some place that can listen our stories and give us an advise. Can you recomend a place, or somebody, where I can have some help getting through this, I have a husband and a daugther, and all they see is my sadness. My son is beging me not to stop call him, but I just can’t see him getting worse, it hurts a lot. My life have to continue. Thankyou again.

  30. LindaBeth says:

    My 40 year old son got out of rehab last Spring, got a job quickly. Met a woman fell in love, feeling not mutual. He went back to drugs. I have kept him going for years but I am a senior and no longer have money, I have let him drain me. After rehab I paid dep. and first month’s rent, when 2nd months rent was due (which was first Jan 2013) he does not have it because he spent it on drugs instead of rent. I AM THROUGH… but I am so afraid for him he will be homeless in a day or 2. This is heart breaking, but I know the only thing to do is disconnect him from my life, everytime I speak to him my blood pressure soars. I can no longer deal with this.

  31. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    I really am at a loss to advise you where to get help. I would think most competent therapists could help you. We wrote our article because we wanted parents and families to understand that they are not alone. But that said, I don’t know of any specific place for you to find help.

  32. Charlene says:

    I actually called this morning and visited with you regarding my 29 year old son. If you will recall he is a meth addict and an alcoholic. My son has recently (just last night) moved back into my home. As per our conversation, I am at my wits end, I am financially and emotionally drained.

    To elaborate a little more on our situation my son has been using since the age of 16, I believe. I am not sure when meth came into the picture. He has been in and out of rehab centers, mostly court ordered programs. My exhusband and I had foot the bill for his first program that we put him in when I returned from being deployed over seas. Long story short, he met a girl there and they were not allowed to fratinize, they did and they both ended up getting kicked out. He lived with me for a while. At one point we and I had gone back to our home town (after my divorce), where he went to school for Christmas. The day before Chrsitmas he tells me he was going to go “hang out” with friends. I told him I did not think it wise but he insisted. Well he did not come home that night and came home late on Christmas day. He was angry because we didnt wait for him to open gifts?? He then decided to stay in town even though it was time for us to go home so I left without him. Within a few days I get a call that he has been arrested. He evidentally got high and broke into the humane society and stole $50.00. He wound up going to prison for 5 years (there had been other legal issues). Once he got out he bounced around, moved to MO to live with his cousin, they kicked him out. He got in more trouble with the law and was given rehab again, but once again he walked out. This has happened numerous times in fact I have lost count. His biological father has NEVER been in the picuture and I have always felt as if I am all he has.

    My husband and I have been divorced for 8 years now so all of this has been on my shoulders. Well I am tired and worn out and am done!! I am 49 years old have no retirement set up for myself and am tired of being drained by my son.

    I have a 21 year old son I need to think about as well. My 21 year old is doing great but his brother has started borrowing money from him and that has to stop.

    When I bring up my 29 year olds history and track record, he is quick to blame it on the fact that he has been insitutionalized for so long, but I am quick to say those choices were his not mine.

    I would like to ask your opinion on my possibly writting a contract up for my son and I to sign. I am not thrilled about him being back home and definatley want to write up what behavior will not be allowed in my home as well as giving him a timeline to have his act together so he can move out. If you could give me any suggestions on what to include and what not to include I would appreciate it very much.

    I am looking at another deployment and need to get this situation resolved as soon as possible. I dont want my other son to be in the middle of this while I am in the Middle East.

    In reading the prior posts I could relate to most of the parents/families who are dealing with what my family is dealing with. My heart goes out to you all!

  33. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    You want to do a contract with a person who have no track record of being able to keep promises or stay out of trouble? Why? What do you think that will accomplish? If you want him to break the contract so you can throw him out, then by all means, do some sort of contract. If you really think he will follow the rules of a contract, then I think you are deluding yourself. If I were going to do a contract it would have items like:
    1. no drug or alcohol use
    2. must be employed or looking actively for work, so that you can verify the actively looking part.
    3. must be in school if not working at a job. – again it must be verifiable.
    4. no borrowing money from his brother
    5. Helping around the house in ways that you can specify – make it quantifiable – i.e. cook dinner 2 nights a week, clean room/bathroom once a week, do his own laundry (this is easy because you won’t do his laundry for him at all).
    6. pay rent to you by a certain date.

    If he can’t go all of those then he has to leave.
    Mary Ellen Barnes PhD

  34. Charlene says:

    Thank you for your reply.

    I did not mean to incinuate that I want my son to fail and that I want to kick him out, I want him to succeed. I simply thought a contract with lined out expectations may be a way to keep him/or get him on track.

  35. swingers says:

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  36. Pam says:

    What do you do when the person is also a thief? My son steals jewelry, money, tools, video games…whatever he can steal from us to sell and buy drugs. What do you do in cases like this?

  37. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    You have him arrested. You press charges. You make him be accountable for what he is doing. Parents always hate doing that for fear an arrest will ruin their child’s life, but he has already made his choices about how he wants to live. You wouldn’t put up with this treatment from a stranger, or a young man who lived down the street. Why should you put up with it from you son? You are, in essence, telling him it is OK to treat you this way, to steal from you.

  38. Lisa says:

    This page has been a great help to me today. My 23 year old daughter is an alcoholic and looking back we realize now has been one for at least 6 years. The minute it touched her lips she wanted more. She has never been to treatment and has been able to manage life, was a valedictorian and graduated a year early from college, has bought a house and a new car, but is starting to struggle keeping a job. I was thinking this moring about offering for her to come home for 30 days (that magic number?) to sober up, get her life back on track, feel the security of her old home again, and for me to be able to control who she sees and to keep her from drinking.
    However, I just read Charlene’s post about making a contract. I did exactly that with my daughter at Christmas. Offered to pay her house payment for 3 months if she stayed sober. She elatedly told a friend who there…Hell yeah I’ll stay sober for money! That lasted two weeks Charlene. I didn’t even have to pay one month’s. She didn’t stay sober and hid it and when we caught her and called her out on it she left in anger (she was just by the house visiting showing us she was sober).
    Reading all of the posts and posts by the Doctors has helped me with my resolve to not help her.
    I love her. I love her more than words could ever say, but I can’t stand the alcoholic. She lies, hasn’t stolen from us yet, and cheats and uses people. I can’t have the acoholic in my home.

    These are Great posts!!

    Thanks so much!!!

  39. Lisa says:

    And…to Pam… exactly what the Doctor suggested, if my daughter were to steal from us or from someone else and we knew about it, we’d turn her in. She can take her life and destroy it and make herself look awful, but we are the Same people and are beliefs are the Same. We changed the code on our garage door and she does not have access to our home. She complains and says its like a dagger in heart that she can’t get into her ‘childhood home’. However we are afraid of allowing her the access. I’ve explained if she gets better than she can have the code, a key to the house and my car keys. That seemed to soothe her a bit. I told her being part of the house and family can all be fixed and can all be okay once she shows she’s sober for a long period of time. If not, she’s on her own.
    Good luck to all posting here. I’ve never found a place where so many parents were posting with children so close in age to mine. This is wonderful.

  40. Mary says:

    My 20 yr old daughter is an alcoholic. I have recently told her she mustmove out as u can’t
    Allow her to live in my home and watch her destroy her life.
    She came home today so drunk she wrecked her bicycle as she couldn’t
    Ride it in her condition. She ripped her toe nail off and refused help got a few things an left again
    I know she needs help but she doesn’t want it. She wants to party and have “fun”. I know I am not to blame or at least I know that is how I am supposed to feel. I know her leaving is the only way she may hit rock bottom and then decide she needs help. I pray this anyway. It is so hard to watch a young beautiful girl throw away her life. It breaks mine. I seek support from friends but feel like a failure to her. Dumb I know. Any thoughts or advise??? Any words of wisdom I am at a loss

  41. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    It is very hard to ask her to leave, I know. But it may be the only way. Make sure she knows you are there to help her and be there for her when she decides she needs and wants help. You did not cause this, she chose it herself for her own reasons. You may never undertand why. Be kind to yourself. There is a website for parents to support one another called “Because I love you”

    Take care.
    Mary Ellen Barnes, PhD

  42. lani says:

    I have a 35 year old daughter that has a 4 year old son who we care for most of the time. They live with us. Our daughter has never left home has a good job, makes good money, but she is an alcoholic. Her doctor just told her that she has only 20% of her liver function and she is not changing her drinking or eating habits. Tonight I told her she has 30 days to get help or other arrangement will need to be made. she told me she will just move out she is tired of us controlling her life. I said we just care about her health and what she is doing for herself and son. I think she needs to live on her own then she will have to cook, clean, and pay rent then she wont have extra money or time to drink.. We worry about our grandson. HELP!

  43. Crystal says:

    What if you’re not a parent of an alcoholic, but the sister-in-law of one? My mother and father-in-law are the epitome of enablers (lie for her, let her live in their home, give her money, etc.) and then get VERY angry at me and my husband if we bring ANY attention to the situation. We worry terribly for our children who spend time there…but if we say anything, they get angry and upset and claim that we are insulting them and their sensibilities. It’s heartbreaking watching them try to help her. She’s as manipulative and selfish as every other alcoholic and claims that she “has” to see our kids because they make her “feel better”. The whole situation is a codependent nightmare and I don’t know how to stop it.

  44. Karen says:

    My 24 YO daughter is an alcoholic. She went to rehab a year ago. When she got out, she came to our home to live. She lived us until she got a job and was then able to move into an apt. with some financial help from us. The alcoholism affected her gall bladder and liver. She had the gall bladder removed a year and a half ago. Now she is facing major liver issues with her body building up fluids that the liver is not able to process. She’s currently in the hospital and the Dr.’s have told her that she must stop drinking or she could lose her life. She told the Dr. that she might be willing to look at AA again, but I think she was just trying to placate him. Do we “make” her come home again, or do we help her keep the apartment by supporting her financially? She lost her job when she had to be hospitalized.

  45. Peggy says:

    My 39 year old stepson has been in AA since December and is staying sober. He lives with his father and me, pays nothing and does nothing around the house. This has been going on for 1 year! If goes without saying I am not happy about this but cannot convience his father to push him to leave. Stepson is now having his father go with him to AA meetings for support. Any advice. I am at the end of my rope. I feel the only thing left is for me to leave.

  46. Dr. Mary Ellen Barnes & Dr. Ed Wilson says:

    Peggy, I would hate to tell you to leave but that may be what it comes down to. You can tell your husband that he is not helping his adult son by supporting him financially and expecting him to be like a kid at home. This doesn’t help him grow. He is, in effect, killing him with kindness. Your stepson will never grow up and act like an adult if your husband keeps him a kid. Now,if you have this conversation with your husband, he may or he may not “get it.” Then you will have to decide what is best for you.

  47. Stella says:

    My son is 36. He has been drinking since the age of about 13. His father thought too that it was just a stage. Over the past 6 years he has been to 9 rehabs. We do not financially support him and he does not live with us. His last rehab was for 6 months in a 1/2 way house. Then he moved to a 3/4 house where his room was located in the house attic which he shared with and OCD rehab crack user. He only stayed at this house for 2 weeks then found himself another place which the 2 others that live there are not recovering. He did find a job and still is employed as far as we know. He does have a sponsor which we have spoken to but have never met. This sponsor has taken him to the hospital for detox when our son called him asked him to take him. Once we had to phone the police and have him arrested for being so aggressive and angry and trashing our home. He spent 42 days in jail. His last arrest end him with a dui and has lost his license so he has to depend on others to get him places he can not walk to. 2 nights ago he called telling us he was let out of work early due to over staffing. He began telling us stories that just did not seem right. Then the bull was let out of the corral and he started to get very hyper and started to threaten to have his father put in jail so that dad could see what he had to endure. I know my son is not only an alcoholic but he can not leave go of the past. He remembers things that happened to him in 5th grade, and when drunk cries about it. He used to be a happy drunk – but over the years he has gotten very mean and angry. His father is a big source of his drinking because he can not meet what he thinks his father wants him to be. Our son has a college degree, He worked for 9 years after college in a professional position making 6 figures, had a nice home, car, girlfriend, pets, friends, etc. But one by one he lost everything due to drinking. He can not forgive himself for that. The only possession he now has is his auto, which he can not drive due to his DUI. He has completed one month of the DUI and is due to get his license back the first week of JUNE. He is on medication given to him by a psychiatrist for anxiety and insomnia. He is taking the medication, I have counted the pills but when drinking I know the two do not mix. Our most recent incident was finding receipts in his wallet from bars in the area he is living and are within walking distance and on dates when he told us he was supposedly with other recovering addicts. We have 2 other children and 5 grandchildren. This disease “choice” is tearing the family apart. The others are just now trying to understand and believe he is really trying to recover-get help and then he pulls this stunt. I know once the “cat” is out of the bag things will be tense again. They will not want him around and I get that. But DAD – when he thinks everyone should love and forgive. This is a hard game to play to keep an open mind to and to accept.

  48. Cindy says:

    I have a 29 year old son who is a alcoholic and takes whatever other drugs he can get. He has been using since the age of 15. Me and his dad were total co-dependents all the way. I divorced his dad 8 years ago. I have been to Al Anon and counseling on my own to break from my co dependency. (I am doing good with this). My son has been in and out of 10 different treatment programs some twice. In jail many times. He also is a compulsive gambler and 2 programs were also for this.
    His dad died less than a year ago and he came into a lot of money. His dad was very much co-dependent to him and now he is gone. He goes periods of time clean and until recently was doing better. Going to AA meetings several times a week and being pleasant again. Recently he has been loosing lots of money gambling again, drinking again, smoking pot and whatever drugs he can get.
    I am afraid for him. As a parent what is the right thing for me to do?

  49. Eunice says:

    I have a 48 year old daughter who is an alcoholic. In the past she also used drugs. I have “saved” her so many times, bringing her in to my home and getting her sober, put her in treatment programs-the last one this past month. She has her own apt and was holding down a good job which this past week she lost. I have never given her money and she has not stolen anything from me. Last week, after being sober for a couple of weeks, she went back to her apt and after 2 days started drinking again. This has been an 8 year nightmare but I am done. I almost feel that by riding in on my white horse and fixing things, I have made it worse. It always seems to be my idea that she get sober, not hers. This time I cut the ties but it is so hard. I am so afraid that she will die and she talks about it a lot-that she would be better off dead. I feel bad for her as I know that the things she has done in the past really haunt her. She lost her children about 6 years ago-recently was able to see her 11 year old for the first time in years. But even that has not made a difference. I am sick of hearing about this being a disease-it is a choice. This is the hardest thing I have ever done-just letting her go. My emotions are all over the place-sad, angry, heartsick,frustrated…..your website and these blogs have been very helpful as I felt so alone. It is difficult to even find a therapist who understands. I am trying so hard to stay strong and not go rescue her again. But I have come to the conclusion that most of the time that I am rescuing her, I am doing it for my peace of mind more than to help her. So….I have to let her go and realize that whatever happens, happens. I am hoping that she will make the decision to get well, she knows what to do, has the tools and resources but it is her choice.

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