Dear Dr. Gail: My son is a recovering drug addict. He is living with us again, but he won’t respect our home or us. He screams when we try to talk to him, even if it is about mundane things. I think he may need anger management. He hasn’t been able to keep steady work. And he has no car and no money. When we have kicked him out, he just breaks into our home when we’re at work. We don’t have the money to put him into a treatment facility or rehab again. Besides, I can’t transport him back and forth to these things because I work full-time. What do you suggest we do? — Mom on the Brink
Dear On the Brink: I am not usually a proponent of tough love, but since your son is taking such intense advantage of you, he might have to hit rock bottom before he can truly recover. Rock bottom, in this case, might mean not having a roof over his head.
Set down ground rules for your son. Tell him you are willing to help him — if he respects you, doesn’t scream at you, and doesn’t threaten you. Come up with a very specific plan for him, such as he must get a job, work a certain amount of hours a week, pay x amount of dollars in rent, and finish treatment for his drug addiction.
Let him know you are willing to help him get on his feet. If he abides by your rules and reaches his goals by a certain date, he can stay in your home. But if he doesn’t, then he is on his own. And be sure to tell him that if he breaks into your home, or if he threatens you, you will call the police and press charges.
As the situation stands, you are not helping your son. Instead, you are enabling him. Taking a firm stand against such behavior would actually help him. Tell him that you love him, but since you have given him every opportunity to recover and he has not done so, he must now try on his own.
I also suggest you stop making excuses for him. If he doesn’t have a car, then he can ride a bike, take the bus or find a carpool. It may be inconvenient for him, but he has to hold down a job and start getting on with his life.
It sounds as though your son will continue to disrupt your life as long as he lives in your home. Of course, you don’t know what he will do if he leaves. But chances are it will be more painful for you than for him. And it is likely that being on his own will work to his advantage.
Your son might be irritable because he is still using drugs or is in withdrawal. If he needs further treatment, don’t despair. Not all treatment programs are private. Investigate those that you can afford. Drug addiction is powerful and not something he can get over on his own. It is imperative he get treatment, if he is not already doing so.
Finally, if you kick your son out of your home and he is homeless and jobless, he might be eligible for Medicaid. It’s unfortunate, but middle-class people can’t always afford the kind of treatment they could get if they were eligible for Medicaid.Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: If a grownup child is disrupting your home and refusing to seek or accept help, you might be doing him a favor if you withdraw the safety net.