My son needs help. The system isn't working!

Nurses General Nursing


OK, I view this site frequently, occasionally post but nothing too deep or serious. I never thought I'd be asking for help like this but I'm at the end of my rope , I have nowhere to turn I don't know what to do. I hope with the vast amount of resourceful minds here that someone can at least point me in the direction of a solution. I'm sorry but this post will be long.

My son is 21 years old. Started getting into a little trouble here and there at about age 17. Progressively got worse but I just didn't see the signs.(The mother is always the last to know) He's wrecked or totaled about 8 cars in the last two years. One he wasn't covered on my insurance and I'm left owing $15,000 on a car I don't even have. Numerous tickets and fines and finally got his license pulled for accumulation of tickets.

It seems like there's a crisis with him on a daily basis. I dread going home after work it is so stressful and when he's gone I hate for the phone to ring because I know it's something involving him.

Anyway, he was getting worse into drugs and I still didn't see it except his behaviour was abnormal a lot and he was on prescription xanax for panic attacks. (the worst thing that ever could have happened, legal xanax.)

One day a whole squad of police showed up at my door and arrested him. They had been doing a big surveillence for the last two years and this was the day they did the big drug sweep and arrested everyone.

He was charged with three counts of selling a controlled substance (to an undercover cop). He went to jail and I almost couldn't stand it but I knew he needed to stay in there a while to get a taste of it.

After ten days his Dad couldn't stand it anymore and wanted to bond him out. We live from paycheck to paycheck. His bond was $75,000 so we would have to come up with $7500. We own classic car my husband restored which we were going to sell for home improvement money. He took a $7000 loss so he could sell it quickly. We bonded him out and hired an attorney which was a flat rate of another $7500.

He is unemployeed and has never been able to hold a job for more than a couple of weeks. Flunked out of college. Well, after he came home from jail the fear of God was pretty much in him and things went smoothly for about a month.

Then one day I saw that same old behavior and I knew he was on something. He just gets really bizarre and out of control. Can't remember in 5 minutes what he said 5 minutes ago. So I thought I would just wait for whatever it was to wear off then lay into him because there's no rational conversation when he's like this.

My daughter is 32 and the epitomy of perfect. She steps in a lot and makes decisions because I'm just to close to it to do the right thing. To me he's still five years old. She came over the next day and was going to search his room and the fight was on.

They got into a physical altercation and he almost broke her fingers. He thinks the sun rises and sets in her and would never, never, never have done that if he wasn't under the influence.

We called 911. When they got there they wanted to know what we wanted them to do. My daughter said she didn't wan't him to go back to jail and risk prison but we had to do something.

So we had them take him to the state mental health facility that happens to be located in our town. He was mad, mad, mad but after he calmed down he finally saw the light. He put everything on the table and told me everything he'd been doing and he was sick of it and wanted a life. We are going to try and cut a deal with the navy, sometimes if you enlist they're able to wipe the slate clean.

He was in the mental facility for a almost two weeks and was court mandated to a rehab center. He wanted to go. He was excited and ready. Since it was court mandated he would go to a stated funded treatment center.

Well, he finally got there and it was a complete circus! There's probably more drugs inside than outside. They ship them to a classroom everyday across town and someone just gives them papers to read and sign. No talking, no counseling, nothing! We went there Sunday to take him a few things and we went to the building they were having class in and they were just having a good ol time.

I asked to see "john" and the "aid" yelled at him and we went to the front of the building to visit a little. They didn't ask who we were, search us, look in our bag or anything. And they never even came to see where he was or what he was doing.

It's been three days and he called me tonight begging for help. He said drugs are offered to him on a daily basis but so far he's been able to refuse and most of the people there are court mandated so they're all just there because they have to be. He said no one there wants help. He wants some real counseling. I'm afraid this situation is doing him more harm than good.

But I don't know what to do. I have no money left. The only people who can get into the "real" rehab centers either have money or insurance. He has neither and neither do I. He's primed and ready to turn it around right now and there's nowhere to go and no one to help! I just don't get it.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Pray you never have to go through something like this.

Contact your local chapter of Narcotics Anonymous and ask them for suggestions.

Specializes in Surgical Nursing, Agency Nursing, LTC.

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. I know ur probably going crazy right now. Being a mother myself I have always taught my children to be responsible for ur OWN actions. This is a case where everyone has been an enabler to ur son. He will never learn from his mistakes if you and the rest of the family keep bailing him out. You'll go broke if u haven't yet. Everytime you bail him out, does he get better or try to change?

I know ur heart stings are pulling right now every time he calls begging for help. Drug abusers are manipulative and don't care who they hurt as long as they get their fix. Let him learn from his mistakes and do the time if it calls for it.

My sister is dealing with a boyfriend of 6 years with a habit. He said he'll change but that only lasts a week or two until something gets missing- like her CAR!!!!! He's doing 5 years prison time because of his habit. He has completed 3 so far. My sister said even though she misses him, she now has felt what it was like to have peace of mind. He even said that this is what he needed to see where his life was taking him. Now when he gets out, I'm interested to see how he'll do once free but hopefully the jail time would not have been for nothing. I'm curious, what do you think would happen if you let him do his jail time?

If you let your son stay in jail you'll teach him tough love. I doubt he'll turn his back on his family while in jail. He'll need you more than you'll need him.

Take a deep breath and stand your ground as a parent and as someone who loves him and wants what's best for him.

Please don't take me as being critical but I was brought up old school, disrepect IS NOT ALLOWED UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES!!!!!!!

God Bless you and your Family.

He has to get it together on his own. He is an adult and it sounds like you have given him multiple opportunities to get help. You can love him but you can't save him. That is his job. Good luck.

Specializes in Peds.

I believe in tough love..... He's an adult and you cannot continue to enable him. He needs to learn to pay the price for his mistakes or he'll drag the rest of the family down with him. Unless he truly wants to quit, all the rehab in the world won't help and honestly, it seems with most addicts, they won't want to try to turn it around until they have hit totally rock bottom. This won't happen as long as he has people bailing him out.

Insofar as the Navy goes.... I would doubt that they take him. Frankly I wouldn't want someone serving alongside my son that was such a high risk for being high on something. He would need to be clean for a long time. A girl I went to high school with was denied entry into the Air Force and Navy for simply having a record as a juvenile runaway....a much lesser offense.

Good luck. I know it will be hard but you have to let him make his own mistakes and take the lumps in order to learn by them. I had to with my son. His issue was never drugs... he got caught stealing 2 CD's at age 16. I made him pay all the fines, court costs, do all they required of him and made him pay me back for the time I had to take off work to go to court. Those $30 in cd's he tried to take ended up costing him several hundred dollars, mostly paying me back for time lost from work. Plus, he was grounded for a long time and first and formost he was reminded that it was going to take quite a while before he earned my trust back. He never stole again though and he is now 24 (and has my complete trust)...

Specializes in Cardiology.

I am also an advocate of tough love. My father was an addict. I can't even being to tell you all he put us through. He ended up with felony drug charges and a few years in prison. Rock bottom. On his own. Did not associate with him for several years. Fast forward ten years. He has an honest job and lives an honest life. We have slowly over the past few years formed a relationship again. I have allowed him to meet his grandchildren. Reform is possible. But you can't be the one doing the reforming. He has to find it within himself. Good luck to you and your family.

Specializes in mostly in the basement.

Hi DixieCup,

Sorry you're going through this. Don't have much specific to offer you except some things I remember about searching for help for someone else a while back--also had the same no insurance/no $$ for rehab issue.

I belive it's the Salvation Army that has a kick a## hard core free rehab program. It's fairly long and ain't for sissies but I do believe they provide a good program. Also, I remember there were a couple of places back east--North Carolina maybe?---that offered a sober living environment--along with counseling, etc---that were free as part of a working ranch kind of thing. Also check out "the seed" in Florida. They do some scholarship and they are a wealth of recovery info.

I wish i could remember more. I do know that there ARE resources out there--you just have to search real hard to find them. Besides, 30 days in the best treatment anywhere won't fix it--it's just a good start. I would recommend skipping the pricey 30 day deals and investing in a sober living place where he's surrounded by people trying to accomplish the same things but he'll pay a reasonable rent and be forced to work, attend meetings and be responsible for himself!

Best of luck,


Specializes in ER.

He wrecked 8 cars in two years. So far what you've told us totals $16,000 debt you owe for him. Time to stop.

If he doesn't find the rehab helpful he can make his own contacts through NA, get some reading material and workbooks, and work his own program until he gets out and can get to meetings. Where will he live, and how will he make his living when he gets out? Those are things you can help him prepare for, put together a resume, mend or buy a suit, move to a drug free area...but financed by him. Give him everything but money, and motivation, both of those will be his responsibility.

Your son is 21 and not a boy he is a grown man even if he doesn't act it. YOU have enabled his behavior. YOU need to cut him off. If he needs 7 grand for his crime, that is his problem. DON'T BLAME THE SYSTEM SAYING IT IS NOT WORKING. If YOU do not keep bailing him out then the system will work when he is in prison where he needs to be. Don't let him bring your whole family down. It is time he is accountable for his actions and not you. Best of luck.

You sound like big time enablers, if you pardon me being blunt. I have 4 grown sons myself and did go through a few things with my oldest son, not on the scale that you describe. I definately would never have enabled him to wreck 8 cars! Bottom line, he needs to take responsiblity for his own life.

Please don't pawn him off on the Navy, btw. They will chew him up and spit him out. My son purposely got kicked out for smoking pot after 10 months. They really wanted him at age 18 because of his sky high scores on their tests they have the high school boys take, so they excused some petty mischief he had gotten into trouble with with some rural mailboxes. The navy also lies about what programs they'll have their recruits in. If you have complaints about the system now, just wait until the Navy gets through with your boy.

You guys need to develop a backbone. He will get no where if you keep bailing him out. You need to get yourselves into counseling to find out how to deal with this better.

Hi Dixiecup,

I am a detox and rehab nurse and here is my advice based on my experiences and knowledge. You and your husband and if she's willing your daughter need to get into a program of your own. The term codependent comes to mind, and it is inevitable, families change their behavior to accomodate the addict, it comes from a loving place but isn't very helpful to your son and it certainly isn't a helpful and healthy way to live your lives. Your son is an adult and has to be accountable for his own actions, just like you and the rest of your family have to be accountable for yours. There are 12 step programs for families to attend for this so I suggest opening a phone book and finding your local chapter, or heading to a book store and finding a book on codependency. I am sorry that you are going through all of this and hope that you can all find the help you need.

I agree, your son does need help, so does the rest of your family. Everyone above has great advice.

This sounds like the beginning of a very dismal life of addiction for him. The sooner your family realizes this and seeks counseling, the less damage will be done by his behaviors.

I am sure other than his addiction, he is a great kid. However, addiction destroys the person and those around them. Decide how far you want this to go.

Since your location is not posted, my suggestion is to search on the net for treatment facilities OUT of your immediate area. This will get him away from the people and places of his addiction. Once you give him the list of treatment facilities, he needs to make the efforts to call them and secure a spot. Beyond giving him the list and a ride to the new treatment facility, that would be all I would give him. At this point he will try his best to manipulate everyone and everything to get what he wants.

I wish the best for you and your family.

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