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Drugs and Our Son

The following was written by the spouse of "Jane Roe" (pseudonym), whose posting to the e-mail discussion list for leaders of parents was published in the July 2014 Present Time (on page 23). She wrote about her seventeen-year-old son who was struggling with using drugs.

For months both “Jane” and I have gotten as many Co-Counseling sessions as we can. It has been easy to discharge. We have also asked for and gotten huge support from other sources: family, friends, drug counselors, and, not least of all, 12-step meetings1 (both Al-Anon, for family members of alcoholics and other addicts, and Alcoholics Anonymous, for alcoholics).

“Jane” and I have both cried a lot in 12-step meetings, and the people there have helped us with information and guidance. Just being in the company of so many other parents dealing with addicted family members, and taking turns talking about it, has been a great contradiction.2 This crisis has helped me to ask for help, against lifelong patterns primarily from male oppression, and I am grateful for the chance to re-emerge in this way.

When “Jane” first wrote to this list, her thinking and mine were far apart on a critical piece of how to deal with our son. She was leaning heavily toward putting him into a residential drug treatment program against his will. I was leaning heavily toward letting go of trying to control him, and supporting him to come to his own conclusions. It occurred to me that I could lose not just my son, but also my spouse, in this process. That was great fuel for more discharge, especially since “Jane” and I don’t have any inherent differences, love each other a lot, and are both discharging well.

As we continued to discharge and deal with our son, we did try to stop controlling him on a day-to-day basis. (I think “Jane” was able to do that because she had discharged so much.) We were less controlling in part because we had few options for controlling him and in part because it seemed like being less controlling would lead to the best, most honest connection with him. When we asked him to talk with us, we let him know that whatever he said would not lead to any immediate consequences, and we all became more honest and revealing with each other.

He eventually told us some things that we found very disturbing. It became clear that (1) he was using marijuana not just “frequently” but daily or even several times a day, (2) he had used hallucinogenic drugs (psychedelics) not just once or twice but twenty-eight times in the past year, and (3) some of his beliefs were extremely irrational. Again, this was all great fuel for discharge.

The seriousness of the revelations was a turning point for me. I thought of Marya3 saying that we parents can let our young people make decisions as far as they are able. It became clear that our son was far from being able to make rational decisions about drug use, and was not heading in that direction anytime soon. While his amazing human qualities shown through, it was clear that the drugs were messing up his life in a big way. After more discharge, “Jane” and I both became sure that we needed to intervene against his will.

Here in the United States, and I imagine in other parts of the world, there are comprehensive services to help people recover from addictions. In this country, the cost of these services is not trivial and in some cases is staggering—approaching the cost of buying a house. We decided to put our son into a “wilderness treatment program” for a couple of months, with a possible “therapeutic boarding school” to follow. It cost about as much as buying three new cars. We are currently middle class and were able to pull together the money from our own savings and from family. Also, because our son was not willing to participate in any treatment program, we had to hire an “escort service” for a few thousand dollars. And yesterday a couple of big, strong, gentle men came and took our son to the treatment program.

In choosing the program, we had made sure that it would not rely on psychiatric drugs to “treat” his addiction. While not based on RC, it had seemed compassionate and correct in many ways.

We all have a lot of work to do. We don’t know whether the course we’re taking will be sufficient, but we think it is our best choice at this time. At the very least, our son will have a time without mind-altering drugs in his system, which in itself should help his thinking. In several months he will turn eighteen, and we will no longer have the legal right to compel him to participate in any treatment. I am grateful that we have the opportunity to do it now.

He did not know this was going to happen, and neither did his friends. After he left yesterday, out of respect for the young people, I told (in person) the friends he is closest to what had happened. His drug-using friends, the people he has been spending most of his time with, were aghast at what we had done. I counseled them as best as I could, with full respect. His non-drug-using friends, with whom he has not been spending much time, were surprised but hopeful.

Directions that have worked well for me as client are as follows:

  • I don’t want to lose you, “Jane”!
  • I love you, (son).
  • I respect you. I’m proud of you.
  • Thank you, (son).
  • I miss you.
  • Don’t make me do this (send him away)!
  • Goodbye (because it’s not clear when or if he will end this addiction or be able to improve our relationship; he may never want to see us again, or he may die, or I might!).
  • Help!

Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of parents

1 "12-step-meetings" are meetings that are part of a 12-step program, which is a program designed to help people overcome an addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problem with group support from people who have similar challenges and by adhering to twelve tenets that emphasize personal growth and reliance on a higher spiritual being
2 Contradiction to distress
3 Marya Axner, the International Liberation Reference Person for Parents

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00