18 year old son, drug use, and car accident
I am worried about how to handle my 18 year old son. He is a freshman in college and struggles with ADHD and learning issues. I knew that he had started using marijuana as a senior in HS and have talked to him on multiple occasions about it leading to other drugs. Recently, he called to tell me that someone had hit his new car in the lot of his college housing. He claimed it was hit and run. We pressed him to tell us the truth and he swore that that was what happened. He dragged his feet going to the police to file a report, finally going 3 days after it happened.
Recently, he lost his phone and I found it a few days later when the snow melted outside. The water damage caused his password protection to not work. I was curious as to whether he was telling us the truth and looked through his text messages. Not only did I find out that his friend had crashed my son's car but also read about other friends buying drugs and alcohol for their mutual use. Most of it was pot but there was also mention of crack purple kush. From what I can tell, that is pot laced with crack.
My husband and I confronted our son imediately (probably too soon -- we should have given it the 24 hour wait period) and although he initially denied lying, finally confessed that his friend did crash the car. Now we have to deal with the fact that he has filed a false police report, a false insurance claim, and continues to smoke and drive. He thinks he isn't doing drugs by smoking pot and can handle it. He also told us (confirmed by his sisters) that he was doing harder drugs and stopped and claims he is the one to tell his friends not to do the hard ones.
I know I was wrong to read the private messages but it is too late for that now. My husband and I don't know how much to push in order to protect him from this drug use. Do we take away his car? For how long? Mandate drug testing? Or try to tell him we believe he will make the right decisions while sharing our concerns and the facts about pot and its dangers?
He is the second oldest of 6 children. I worry about the others watching how we handle this situation.
Please help me form a strategy.
pot use - 18 year old
First of all - your son doesn't need a car at college, right? Since it's a luxury - in my humbled opinion - I wouldn't allow it based on what had happened. And the fact that he admits to still using.
Second - I was in a situation similar to yours and, thankfully, it turned out much better than I ever anticipated. I would like to share this with you because, unfortunately, I have some experience in this department.
I have 3 sons. The first (an Eagle Scout) never tried drugs and only started drinking when he was legal. Our youngest was 15 when we discovered his drug usage and soon after that we realized he was addicted. During that time we also found our that our second son didn't do drugs (including alcohol) until he graduated from high school -which was the same summer that our youngest was so bad.
In a nutshell, our middle guy had to drop out of college (Freshman year) because he thought partying was more "fun" but eventually returned to college (locally), a year later, and was doing extremely well, academically. We told him we would pay for his college only locally because of his past choices. Just days before he was to return for the next semester I noticed some signs of drug usage at our house. I'm pretty sensitive to these kind of things because of our youngest (who was and still is in recovery and doing well in that department). So I check his cell phone text messages and found all kinds of drug talk. BTW - the cell is yours. All bets are off when they cross the line so don't concern yourself with privacy issues. Anyway - I was very upset to what I saw, especially since he lived through and saw what we went through with his brother. He was dealing, using prescription drugs (can be very addicting), smoking pot and drinking. This whole thing threw me because his behavior didn't indicate any outward signs of addiction. He was pleasant and "normal" so this didn't make any sense. But I saw what I saw and I couldn't ignore it.
So I called a drug counselor friend of ours. We (husband, too) planned on setting up an informal drug intervention to confront our son on what we saw. Unfortunately, our son refused. I threatened to cut off school funding for college unless he cooperated. That didn't work. What to do now? I wasn't sure if our son had a "real" problem or what. His behavior didn't show anything like our other son but I know some are very savvy about hiding it.
I then refer to our friend, again. First he didn't think cutting off funding from school was a good idea, especially since he was doing well and that this would keep him busy. He also said there is no right or wrong answer here. We could kick him out or we could tell our son that we are not happy about his choices and to make it clear to him that if he finds himself in trouble (such as with the law), he's on his own. We would not supply him with a lawyer. We chose the latter.
Fortunately, I know that this son isn't addicted and continues to do well in school and seems very happy with his life and doesn't seem to be "chilling" with the same people as much. He seemed to have "straightened himself up".
For your son - if you can get him to cooperate and get a drug assessment from a drug counselor - that would be great. The assessment would determine if he is addicted and to what stage he is. And if your son is willing to do drug tests, that would be awesome, too. That way you would know what you're dealing with. If he doesn't cooperate - there are things you can do - like cut off cell phone usage and car privileges until he agrees.
You mentioned that your son has ADD and a learning disability - is he doing okay in school? Between drug usage and his other issues - I wonder if it would be better to have him attend school locally? So many temptations for him being away. My two sons have ADD. The middle one is managing to get straight A's but he even said that he couldn't manage to handle school away from home. He's now more mature than he was when he was 18 but still recognizes that living with others his age would be too distracting.
Its been about a year since I last wrote. Since that time, a few things have happened. My son apparently has been abusing Percocets and, when his relationship with his girlfriend went bad at the end of the summer, increased his drug use and began threatening suicide in his conversations with her. Thankfully, she reached out to us and told us what was going on. We confronted him, took him to the local ER to meet with a crisis worker and they told us they were going to commit him to a stabilization program since they felt he posed an imminent threat to himself. I was able to convince him to sign himself in instead and he spent 4 days at a hospital on a ward for drug abuse and mental health problems. When he was released, we pulled him out of college since he had missed so much time and brought him home with us. He begged us to allow him to continue at school, told us the the drugs were much worse at home, but we thought he would be too busy with therapy to catch up with classes and attend to his mental health.
Unfortunately, they released him and only set him up to meet with a psychologist once per week. I was shocked that this was the level of support after a hospitalization. I have tried to have him attend intensive out-patient drug programs or even in-patient, but he refused. He still maintains that he does not have a problem. We drug tested him once since he was home when we sensed he was using and he tested positive for methadone. Again, we confronted him about going in-patient and he refused.
He has been working full-time since he returned home but hanging with his high school friends who I know all have had problems with drugs. I know I can't rescue him or control him and it is very difficult. He continues to attend counseling and is also going to tutoring in a subject he was struggling with in college. He wants to return to school in January. I know he is still struggling with the depression and am torn between letting go to school (at a different campus to make a clean start) or keeping him home (with all the high school friends and their issues).
I wish there was a clear answer to all of this...
Have you tried Al Anon or any other support groups? By now, you realize that you don't have any control over your son to help him with his addiction. It's worrisome and frustrating but, unfortunately, there isn't anything you can do to change it. What you can do, however, is focus on yourself.
As a mother, I understand how confusing that can be. We are moms. We've always protected and cared for our children. This concept of focusing on ourselves is rather foreign for most parents, but it's the best thing we can do when it relates to a drug addict. What I mean by "focusing on ourselves" is changing the way we think and how we respond to our addict. Al Anon can help you do that.
Since I wrote you last my youngest is back to using and my middle son (who I thought was "just" experimenting) is an alcoholic. He is a highly functioning one, however, because he appears to be handling himself very well - straight A's, normal sleep patterns, etc. The only reason I know he's an alcoholic is he came to us and told us. Since then I've found bottles hidden all over our house. I know "it's there" but there isn't anything I can do about it. He shared this burden with us, said he wanted help, but changed his mind.
I refuse to worry about the "what ifs" anymore because not only does it bring me down and many of my "what ifs" haven't happened. In fact, I thought that when my youngest started in again, all hell would break loose. I was wrong. He's now attending a local college is doing better than he ever had in high school. It breaks my heart that I know he's still using, so I pray. I know people recover from addiction and alcoholism everyday so I hand onto that hope.
You said "I wish there was a clear answer" to all of this. I wish that too, but ~ unfortunately, there isn't. Prayer, Al Anon, a support group I joined, and advocacy in our community certainly has helped me A LOT. I know you have a lot more on your plate with 5 other children, but I pray you can find some serenity and hope.
Take care, Parent
I agree with Parent about attending a support group, such as Al Anon, but I disagree with the statement..."there's nothing you can do about their drug use". What you can do is set boundaries. If you are still providing your son with support...allowing him to live with you, providing him with a cell, a car, food, etc. Then you can set rules and boundaries, that he attend inpatient care, or he wil have this all taken away. When I was first told this by our counselor and Dr. Bradley, it was very hard to swallow, but it eventually worked! You cannot allow your adult children to live in your home and continue to support them if they are using any form of drugs. This can only prolong the addiction and make it worse! We think we're protecting them by not having them elsewhere, but we are not if they are using under our own roofs. It was a long process finally getting our daughter to rehab, but today at 19, she is one year sober! A friend of mine's son, was attending I.O.P....intensive outpatient and tested dirty. They had a contract written up, that he would have to go straight to rehab, no exceptions. He had to leave college with only a month left, but heroin had got the better of him, and fighting the addiction becomes the priority. So I encourage you to seek advice and do a lot of research. If you set these boundaries and your son chooses to leave, it will be one of the hardest things you will ever do as a parent, but it may be the only thing that works! When they are only 18 and 19 they really do depend an awful lot on us still. My daughter went to a 90 day program and when she returned home she attend an outpatient program for 6 months. She is now working and attending city college. It took her about 2 and half months to agree to go to rehab, it was last year in September we presented her with"you are welcome home, but only after completing rehab". We also took her car and phone away! This seems crazy in this day and age but they are very resourceful, and use other peoples phones, etc. I know how hard this all is, I went through 2-3 years of it, I remember thinking it would never end. For now we have our daughter back, and I am so thankful. Andersr4
Yes - anders4 is correct you can set boundaries. When I said "there isn't anything you can do" I meant you can't make him stop using drugs. But I also said "You can focus on yourself". Those are some things you can do.
Every situation is different and there really isn't any correct answer here. What works for one, may not work for another. I know parents who have "kicked" their kids out and eventually their kids recovered. I know of parents who also "kicked" their kids out and they didn't recover ~ they OD'ed.
I drove myself crazy trying to find answers. I asked this person and that person and I realized that there's no magic. I also realized that I cannot change non-addict people either. My husband and I have a solid relationship, but one area in our marriage challenged it when it came to how we should handle our son. I built up a lot of resentment toward my husband because I felt he was enabling our son. I was trying my best to change my husband's mind. It was hurting our relationship and I wasn't making any progress. I told my husband that I was convinced that if we didn't "kick" our son out (about 6 mths ago) that things would unravel quickly. Well, my husband wouldn't change his mind and things didn't get worse like I thought they would. Right now our son is fine to live with and is engaged in school for the first time in his life.
Having said that ~ this is a progressive disease and I know he's using. Not the heavy stuff anymore, but he's still engaged in drinking and pot. Again - I learned to focus on myself and attending Al Anon helped me.
Not only am I focusing on me but I am involved in a lot of advocacy "stuff" regarding addiction. This helps me to find serenity by helping others.
The fact that your son has shown signs of opiate addiction at least twice, I'd suggest that you consult with a counselor who specializes in substance abuse about a plan to save your kid. Opiates (Percocets, methadone use) are particularly nasty for kids and don't let go of souls easily. I think you must to go to a zero-tolerance program where your continued support depends upon his sobriety. The counseling part involves helping your son reconfigure his entire life to avoid use (i.e. the odds of his staying sober while hanging out with ANY using kids, at college or at home are slightly less than zero). If his depression is continuing, that must be addressed with medication as well as therapy to give him a shot. But the fact likely is that he cannot do this in his own without a firm structure that links his support with sobriety.
Dr. Mike Bradley
14 yo pot use
Yesterday, the father of my 14 yo daughter found pot, rolling papers etc. in our daughters things. She admitted to getting high and getting the pot from someone at school. I have attended alanon for years and I understand that I have to focus on myself and my recovery. I'm not sure what boundaries to set with her and what 'appropriate consequences' are for this. Unfortunately her father and I do not have a working relationship as he is also an active addict/alcoholic.
First, try once again to reach out to your ex since seeing the dope in his daughter's possessions just maybe scared him enough to join with you to take some action. Next, whether together or alone, start with the least intrusive measures and work your way up as need. Begin with a calm conversation (at the coffee shop) with her about her views of drugs such as weed. Her answers will dictate your next steps. If she says weed is perfectly fine, then ask that the two of you do some research about the effects of weed on teens and meet again to discuss your findings (especially regarding the genetics of addiction, meaning that she is playing Russian roulette by using any addictive substance as a teen). If she says that she intends to continue using, then you must calmly but forcefully say that is not OK, and that her levels of freedom (going out, sleepovers) will be dictated by her levels of responsible behavior (not using drugs). Tell her that you reserve the right to drug test her if you suspect that she continues to use. If these measures do not work get quickly to a counselor to get an assessment of the degree of her problem, and some recommendations of what to do next. Whatever you do, do not allow her to use. Kids who start using at age 14 have FIVE TIMES the risk of addiction than those that wait to first use as an adult. And her father's addict genes are likely in her waiting to be woken up with use. Tell her that you love her far too much to risk her traveling the road to hell that her father has known.
Dr. Mike Bradley
Tags for this Thread