August 13, 2009

What to do With a Drug and Alcohol Abuser

Mixed throughout some of my latest articles I have written about events centered around drug use and abuse. Over at A Soldier's Perspective I received a great question on a recent article, by a reader calling herself Susan.
Great story. A memorable milestone in your life. As a mom, I have to ask you how you went from a drug user to a soldier? Was there any defining moment in that change. I ask because I am a mother of a 20 year old young man. A young man I have found to my dismay is using drugs. I am lost as to how to help and live somewhat fearful for him.

Beyond taking a 2×4 across his head I am lost in this struggle. (Please note as a disclaimer that I would use the 2 x 4 with as much unconditional love that I could muster!)

any advice?
My reply to a well timed question,
Susan, I went from a soldier to a drug and alcohol user immediately upon returning home. Although I drank before I deployed, it did not get me into a spectrum of trouble until after combat. It took me 15 years of trouble at home, 2 marriages, alienating my children, problems with the law, violence, anger, 30 jobs, homelessness and landing in a long-term drug and treatment facility before I could come to terms with my addiction and mental illness (PTSD).

Many factors may contribute to your sons using and degree of using. He may be an occasional user, a frequent user or a chronic user. Even if his using is only occasional you could get friends, family and significant others together that love him and tell him of your concerns about his using drugs.

Does he have a mental health diagnosis, or do you suspect he may a mental illness? He could be self medicating, if this is the case then it will probably be harder to get him to quit because he may be seeking and receiving some relief in using.

If his using has caused him legal problems or difficulty holding a job, then he may need further interventions.

Some suggestions, If He Does Not Want Help:
  • If he/she does not want help then he will need to reach his "bottom" (12-Step talk for abject demoralization), before they will seek help.
  • Enabling an addict will only increase their use and dependence on you (causing you greater stress and safety issues).
  • Do not let an addict borrow money.
  • Do not trust an addict, they will use it against you.
  • Call the police if you fear for your safety (you cannot help him if you are injured or dead).
  • You may have to kick the addict out of the house, even if that means they will be homeless. (due to stealing, violence, or other situations that jeopardize the safety of the homes occupants).
  • Throughout let him/her know that you are there for them if they want help and spell that help out for him/her.
  • Before you help, they must sign into a drug treatment program.
  • Unconditional love does not mean that you have to give them everything they "want", only what they "need". What they want will only become relevant to him/her or you if they are the one achieving it.


  1. From Susan

    Thank you for your reply to my post. I hope it helps others. It has helped me remove my 'veil of denial'. So much of what you said is true.

    My son has done the following which ring true to what you say:
    1. He is bordering on becoming a pathological liar. The little boy I raised could not lie to me.
    2. He has sold thousand of dollars of rare coins that were bought for him for $80 worth of drugs.
    3. He does what I call, 'bully me' into giving into his unrealistic demands. He knows that after God, I love him the most and he uses that weakness against me. His words and disrespect bring me to near 'breaking'. Physically, I am safe. I get this 'crazy mother' look when I get mad and that could scare the Devil away.

    Mentally, his bullying borders on debilitating.

    4. He could be self medicating. There is a history there. I am more inclined to believe that it is peer pressure. His so called friends are not the best.

    5. I realie now that I have been enabling him and masking it as if I was a wise and noble mother. But really, I was masking my enabling as love. He pulls me so easily into his crap.

    6. I have not let him in the house when he came home high and slurring his words. It is my home and I don't have to live with a drug addict. The last time he slept in an alley. He knows the next time I catch him, he won't be back.

    Where I go from here, I am not sure. I pray for strength to weather this storm. God always does answer my prayers.

    Thank you again. I am of the opinion that after all your struggles you may have found your true profession. Maybe you should not limit your knowledge and education to just helping veterans. There are a lot of broken people out there.


    Susan O.

  2. Scott and Susan,
    Thanks for sharing raw emotions. Susan a suggestion for you is to find a support group called Al-Anon in your area. You should be able to google Al-Anon and you will find a meeting close to your home. It is a 12 step support group for those who love addicts/alcoholics.
    In His Name,

  3. Susan, lets rip that veil off completely.

    If he is doing all that you say--he is a full blown chronic addict.

    You said it yourself, "the little boy you raised" would not have done the things you have listed.

    The drugs have a hold on him, he is not the same person he was, quit expecting him to not behave like an addict.

    You kid yourself again when you say that you are safe.

    A downward spiral in an addicts behavior gets progressively worse over time. Think back on the progression of his using, a little money gone, becoming moody, etc.

    He could become violent when his manipulation does not work anymore.

    Pam had an excellent suggestion, Al-Anon would give you the tools to weather the storm you face and you may find some communion with people in similar situations.

  4. Susan,
    There's a great group you need to contact called NAMI. NAMI is in many communities and maybe even yours. They are there for caretakers, families, friends, and even patients. Mostly they are there for those who like you, have navigated the unsteady waters of your son. I've sat in on support groups and have listened to mothers now in the 60's with sons who have been hauled in and out of jail.

    They're great with practical advice like you've gotten and can be a lifeline.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee