sahaara's picture
1 answers

My 21 y/o college son has been drinking heavily and doing poorly in his classes, mainly because he is missing so many. He also recently got a citation for public drunkeness and I'm afraid he might be driving too. However, he called the other morning stating he can't focus, he's very depressed and is taking himself to the ER. Long story short they admitted him in the psych unit for his depression and addiction. He is going to withdraw this semester since he may end up failing and he doesn't want to mess up his remaining year of college. I want to help him in any way I can, he will be coming home but afraid of being too stern and pushing him over the edge with his depression. How can I stand my ground on the no alcohol yet comfort and be there for him - he is 21.


Olivia's picture

Dear Sahaara,

We’re here for you. My apologies for such a delayed response. Your question is one that many parents have when dealing with an adult child with an addiction and co-occurring disorder. If it brings you any comfort, you are not alone in this.

One method that has worked for many parents is being clear about what behavior you will and will not tolerate. For example:

 Do not come to my home drunk, high, or with drugs on you.
 If you visit us when you are high, we will not let you in.
 None of your friends can come here drunk, high, or with drugs on them.
 If you or your friends refuse to leave, we'll call the police.

Make only those threats you plan to implement. Empty threats diminish your authority.

Parents worry that if they refuse to allow a child to drink or use other drugs at home, then that use will just happen in more risky or dangerous places. But when someone has a substance use disorder, any drinking or drug use is dangerous. It cannot be the family's responsibility to provide a place for it, or the family's responsibility to follow the person around to make sure it doesn't happen.

Tell your child that you won't accept verbal promises, and that the only credible behavior will be demonstrated by movement in the direction of positive change.

Many parents need support to take such a firm stand and maintain it over a long period of time. Al-anon, Families Anonymous and/or professional help can provide this for the family or for you individually. The better you care for yourself in this alarming situation, the better you'll be able to help your son or daughter.

I'd like to recommend our Intervene blog to you -- it's a blog and a community of experts, parents and caring adults concerned about teen/young adult alcohol and drug use and have come together to share their insights, inspiration, guidance and help.

I think you may find this post "7 Truths About My Addict That Took 5 Years To Learn" particularly helpful:

I really hope this helps. Let me know if there's anything more I can do.