Support gives strength to deal with loved ones with addictions

Mr. Atwater: My son has had a drug and alcohol problem for more than 10 years now.

He used to be a heroin addict and overdosed twice. He went to treatment and stopped using heroin, but he didn’t stop drinking or smoking weed. Then two years ago, he was arrested for fighting at a bar, so he decided to stop drinking. He still smokes weed and, according to him, occasionally does coke. He also has a prescription for sleep medication I know he abuses and also anxiety medicine I know he sells.

He hasn’t been in trouble in the past two years and works part time delivering packages. He says because he’s so much better now, I should stop bugging him about his continued use. I’m afraid things will go back to the way they were, but he is better.

What do you think?

Dear Reader: There’s the obvious response, which is that if you’re addicted to something, you have an addictive illness, including anything mood or mind altering. But I know you (and he) already know that.

He’s playing the shell game. Addiction is an illness whose main symptom is denial. The strongest allies of denial are rationalization and justification, the two main culprits of the thinking part of the illness. A good definition of insanity is using a rational thought to justify an irrational act, which is what both of you are doing.

The second and more difficult part of the answer is to suggest you get some support to straighten out your own thinking, perhaps through Al Anon. That way, if your son wants to continue his lifestyle, you will become more able to make things a little less comfortable for him where he is.

Assuming he still lives with you, you may begin to encourage him to move out on his own to see if his way really works in the world.

• Rick Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor.

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