Will Wooton, Director of Pacific Treatment Services, writes for Pomerado News and is the and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink.” PTS is a substance abuse company working with teens and young adults.
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Sometimes tough love is needed
“The Straight Dope” By Will Wooton
When parents have reached the end of their options, when a child that is still living at home and using refuses to stop or seek help, what can you do?
I often see families who have been through numerous treatment programs and countless therapists and still have not been able to fix the broken dynamic in their home. Sometimes the addict needs to be in a residential level of care but is unwilling. Often they are too comfortable or scared to work for the recovery and fear of change prevents them from attaining help even if they clearly see their life is in shambles. The reliable numbing effect of drugs becomes the only safe haven for the addict.
The often-controversial topic of “kicking your kid out” always comes up. More often than not, this topic can split groups I run. The two sides are clear on this. Those opposed ask, “How could you ask your addict child to leave when they don’t have anywhere to go?”; “They will just use more because they are completely unsupervised” or “What if they get arrested or overdose?” Those for this choice reply, “How will they actually change if they stay doing the same thing?”; “The family can’t continue with this dysfunctional dynamic”; “We’ve tried everything and they just need to go out and see that life is hard without our support.”
This will always be one of the hardest decisions from a parent’s perspective. The fact is that unless someone wants to change, they won’t. Setting limits and boundaries is key in working with addicts and what will lead them to change. Allowing them to stay in a warm bed each night and providing food isn’t going to get them better. Giving them real concrete choices about getting help or, if help isn’t taken, find another option (other than your home) that works for them.
I would never endorse kicking someone to the streets but I have (and I’m sure will again) encourage families to draw that line to get help or get packing.
It may sound heartless or evil and your neighbors, family and friends won’t all understand and may ask how you could do such a thing to your son/daughter. Here are the important differences. You are not kicking anyone out. You are not giving up on them. You are making it impossible for them to continue refusing change by setting the limits on what is and isn’t acceptable in your home.
I know countless people in recovery who would not have been able to get sober if their parents just let them be. It took action by the people who loved them the most in the form of limit setting for them to get to a point where they chose to get help. Sometimes we can’t do for ourselves and need the people who love us to push us in the right direction. Enabling the addict will always lead to failure but giving them options that are clear and nonnegotiable can lead to choosing the right next step towards recovery.
Wooton is director of Pacific Treatment Services and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink.”