Dear Annie: We have three children, ages 29, 27 and 23. The youngest is a fifth-year senior at a Midwestern university. We had our children rather late in life; I’m 66, and my wife is 60. We have been fortunate and been able to provide a nice life for all three of them.
We have had issues with the youngest for the past 10 years, mostly centered on drugs. We had him see several counselors, but he would snow all of them to the point that they would feel sorry for him. (One time when he went to a concert, one of his counselors was smoking a joint right next to him.) It got so bad we sent him to military school in his junior year of high school (which all of us, including him, agree saved his life).
Though he is much better than he was, he still continues to use pot daily. He and I vehemently disagree over the harmfulness/value of pot, its addictiveness (I know what everyone says, but I don’t know how you can say you are not addicted to something you use every day), its long-term effects and his reasons for using it. He says pot helps him unwind and handle stress. I’m not sure he really knows what stress is.
When he comes home on school breaks, he knows better than to smoke in the house, but he always finds an excuse to leave the house at least once a day. I am afraid he is ruining his life. He has one more semester left and needs to realize the importance of starting a career and dedicating a large portion of his energy to it versus partying all the time. He has no desire to change his activities. What can we do?
— At Our Wits’ End
Dear Wits: As counterintuitive as it sounds, the sooner you let go the sooner he’ll realize for himself that it’s time to stop partying. The more vocal you are in trying to change your son the more he’ll stay the same. That said, when he’s at your home, he should respect your rules. No bringing marijuana into the house.
Dear Annie: Your mailbox must be overflowing with rebuttals from those of us familiar with addiction. I have not had a drop of alcohol for more than 40 years, graduated from the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies and worked in the field of addiction.
The recent letter from “Concerned Parents” states that their son was addicted to pain meds after surgery. It was probably drugs, not alcohol, but he claims that it is the reason for his alcohol addiction.
The parents write that they are letting the son’s addiction ruin their social life because they do not serve alcohol to guests in the home to protect him from temptation. That is naive and unrealistic. After all, there are bars on every block and alcohol in most homes.
The parents need education and should attend Al-Anon meetings to understand that recovery from alcohol abuse requires not changes in others’ lives but changes in the addict’s life.
It is the son’s responsibility to control his own priorities, life choices and sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous can offer help for him.
— Someone Who Knows Better
Dear Someone: Thank you for your letter. My intention was not to hold the parents totally responsible for their son’s sobriety but to encourage them to provide the best conditions for him. However, after your and others’ responses, I realized I missed the mark. They shouldn’t revolve their lives around his addiction. I second your Al-Anon recommendation, and I encourage any readers in similar situations to learn more at http://www.al-anon.org.
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