Alcohol and Drug Abuse With Your Adult Child

 Alcohol and Drug Abuse Adult Children Dr. Neill.What happens when your adult child has a drinking or drugging problem?  What if there are alcohol and drug abuse?

When your adult offspring, son or daughter, starts drinking too much or using drugs, it affects everyone: brothers, sisters, boyfriends and girlfriends, and, of course, you the parents.

Let me share a personal story. My wife’s son, my stepson, had become addicted to hard drugs in his 20s, and he always drank excessively. He was an intellectually interesting young man with definite artistic talents and a good sense of humor. Lots of potential! He had girlfriends, but nothing lasted. For several years he was alienated from his siblings. He tended to hang around with other men who were also part of the drug/alcohol scene. Associating with this crowd got him beat up a couple of times and also led to his contracting HIV and hepatitis C. He lost jobs and got evicted from his apartment. He got an infection from an injury and the infection spread to his heart, necessitating a heart valve replacement.  Alcohol and Drug abuse was a huge impact.

My wife and I worried a lot as we went through 15 years of struggling to help our addicted son. With sending him to treatment in one form or another, letting him move in with us a couple of times, helping him financially, rescuing him, and yes, bribing him, nothing much changed except that his health became more fragile and we became more stressed. We went through a period ourselves of frequent conflict with each other with regard to what we should do regarding our son. It was affecting our relationship enough that we both sought counselling.

Through all this we came to realize that all we could really do was love him and accept him as he was, and, of course, stay open to his various attempts to change his lifestyle. As we backed away from our desperate attempts to help him, relationships improved all around. Our marriage was better and we both had good loving relationships with our son.

He did clean up for a time, but in the end, he died of heart failure at age 40 from causes related to his addictions. His loss is hard to bear, but we are very thankful for the closeness we had in his last couple of years.

One of the hardest things to accept was that we really couldn’t help him. All we could do was be there, love him, and emotionally support him in his efforts to better himself. As I reflect on this, I can see that our coming to a place of acceptance probably helped him significantly in his coming to terms with the life choices he had made.

A bit about context:

At the time of his death, I was working professionally with addicted men and women, with women married to addicted men, and with parents of adult addicted children. Later in the year of his death, my adopted daughter died from causes related to her alcohol abuse. And two years earlier I lost another son to causes related to his earlier excesses with alcohol.

If any part of my story touches something in your own life, I invite you to leave a comment. If you are reading this in an email, just hit reply.


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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide.

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