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

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Silverdragon102, BSN

1 Article; 39,477 Posts

Specializes in Medical and general practice now LTC.

I am so sorry you are going through this and have been given excellant advice. Rememer as much as you love your son you have your husband, daughter and yourself to look after. I wish you luck


59 Posts

Specializes in Surgical Nursing, Agency Nursing, LTC.

I'm back with one last thing....don't even look into rehab centers for him because HE has to do it for HISSELF. If he wants rehab..then let him find rehab hisself. Why should YOU do all the foot work. Plus if you do go through a nonprofit organization to help pay for his rehab and then he either don't finish or go right back to the bad habits.... valuable resources have been wasted on someone who really didn't want it in the first place and the funds are not there for someone who really does want to change.

Good Luck on your decisions.

Mags4711, RN

266 Posts

Specializes in Newborn ICU, Trauma ICU, Burn ICU, Peds.

If he's currently in, then he may have little in the way of resources to find his own rehab!

NA may be able to help, Google residential rehab or nonprofit rehab.

Just an FYI to folks who say the military won't accept you with a record: That's changing. I just read an article the other day about how the military (specifically the Army in this article) is changing their standards to accept more folks with records. You'd have to talk with recruiters about it. But I'd have to say, the Navy would be too soft, I'd suggest the Marines. He needs discipline. Though drugs are easily obtainable anywhere they go. Breaking an addiction successfully is very, very difficult.

Folks are getting on you for enabling him this long (and you did, 8 cars? After the second one he'd not touch one of mine, and if he still did, he'd have gone to jail for stealing it.), but what's done is done. It is the past, you just have to focus on the here and now.

I agree with the posters above me who say that you and your husband and daughter need to get into counseling yourselves. It will help you to understand his behavior as well as your own. If you really and truly think he's sincere this time, then I'd do all I could (but NOT monetarily, that ship has long since sailed!) to help him find a treatment program and make sure he knows this is his last shot, this is the absolute last time you will help. He's 21? Time to stand on his own two feet. Then go get that help for yourselves so that if he backslides again, you WON'T bail him out.

I do wish you all the best. You have to take care of yourselves now.


26 Posts

Specializes in rehab and LTC, some psych.

I think the suggestions of NA and the Salvation Army are your best bets for "free" programs. I have personally been where you are now. I was a stay at home mom, taught my kids at hme, lived a very family centered life. My kids had a good childhood. In the midst of our lives, my husband left the family. I had no income, no credit, no place to live. I had to start over with the help of my family. Painfully, I watched this cute kid with braces and a sociable personality slip into a very defiant lifestyle. Prior to this, he never gave me a moment's problem. I've lived through the totalled cars, the late night phone calls from the sheriff or city police, the phone calls from school, the school expulsion. The list goes on. He's done is stint in juvi and adult lock up. I wish I could give you a quick easy fix-it answer. I cannot do so. the best advise I can give you is simply to be there for him. Tough love works sometimes but it's not a cure for all cases. At the risk of being labeled an enabler, never turn away from him no matter how difficult it becomes. He has a compulsion and that compulsion is defiant behavior. It's not your fault. I'm not an advocate of keeping him in jail to learn a lesson. Bring him home but set limits. Help him get a job at a fast food, as a janitor. It gives him dignity. But understand you or your husband will have to do the driving. Do not leave the keys laying around the house. Give him a curfew. At midnight the doors are locked, no exceptions. Hopefully he'll make it in. He'll get tired of being locked out. I never turned my back on my son. I was there for him always and made the sacrifices of transporting him to work. I was at all court appearances. I called the judges before time to let them know I am an involved parent. For me, it took several years for my son to finally pull himself together and he did. It's in the middle of winter and he will walk to work rather than bother me for a ride. He's accepted that part of his life. He understands he's lost his license for several years but he sticks to his payment plan with the courts to pay off his many fines. He's entered a GED program on his own. He helps around the house and has cut loose negative friendships. He has very serious life goals now. He is now 19. He's now working on becoming a manager at the fast food which I drove him to. He has plans to go from manager to district and regional manager to owning his own restaurant. He's very serious about this game plan. This past week, my mother asked him to house sit for her and she said he took excellent care of her house. Did I forget to mention he had practically destroyed her house in a fit of rage at one time. My sibling has a child, well yhoung man now who also had issues and they went the tough love route. To this day, he lives on the streets and unfortunately will more than likely die on the streets. To look at him you would never know he comes from a very affluent family. My point is that tough love is not always the correct answer. Sometimes patience and riding it through has a bigger pay off. And it's not wrong to be there, with limitations of course but you don't always have to abandon your child to make it a point and sometimes it means being called an enabler. Well so be it. You know what limitations you have sat into action. Stick to them. My other family members did not suffer. They banded together to help him and did it willingly. Hope I've encouraged you and your husband.


burn out

809 Posts

I think I was married to yur son..or at least someone like him. I had to take his two children (ages 1 and 3) and leave him. I could not let him destroy his life and those two babies and mine. What I found out later was that I was at a far more risk than I realized. Becasue he broght drugs into our home (I didn't know it at the time) and his friends which were dealers of methamphitamines and makers (which I didn't know at the time) I could have ended up in jail along with them as a partner in their crimes without even knowing there was anything going on. I left the morning I woke up and found my toddler next to an "UZI" laying on the coffee table and a drunken/stoned friend of my husbands asleep on the couch.

You can not save your son..he has to do that and want that. You have to save yourself and your daughter. In the long run this will help your son more than anything if he wants help. I don't think he really does.


8 Posts

Hey, I agree with the other poster about not giving him any more money and forcing him to be a man. There is a show on T.V. called Intervention on the A@E channel. I dont know if this is a possibilty, but I know they really help some of those people. There are a lot of programs out there, you just have to find them. I hope this info. helps!

Oh by the way, I have siblings that do the same things and they are now 40+ years old and they are not any better. They were also enabled by my mother, who has now said enough is enough. Only trouble is, it is too late for them, they dont know how to take responsibility for thier own actions, they have never had to. They LOVE to blame everyone, but never do they blame themselves. It is really sad actually.

The key to getting help is wanting it, most dont want it because they do not think they have a problem. ( MY siblings dont anyway) So if your son is truly wanting help, he will try whatever program that is available to get that help!

Good Luck!

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

97 Articles; 21,237 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

Hi Dixiecup. Please get some help for yourself. You and your husband and daughter are the only ones that can get help. I too went thru what you are going through: the wrecked cars, the drugs (son lit up in in his bedroom at our house), the embarassment of having his name (ours is very unusual) in the paper, etc. Our son has been in mental hospitals, jails, had counseling, meds, you name it, we've done it and to the tune of $1000's of dollars too. We do not have contact with our son at the moment because he wishes it to be that way. We still love him very much and wish things would change. However, in the end it is his choice.

I wish you the best. However, you must detach in order to save him. That is the only solution with the older kids. Believe me, I went through and did everything I thought I should do for my son: the counselors, the meds, the IEPs for school, court appearances (and yes, both hubby and I were there at every one), the hospitalizations, the residential treatment facilities, etc. You get the drift.

The military won't touch him with a 10 foot pole. Even though they are desperate for recruits, they aren't THAT desperate and don't want unstable, drug abusers with guns!

Please take care of yourself first. You are the only one you can change. He has to want to change. Its (unfortunately) not your decision, its his. Please take care care and let us know how things go. We care.

Other resources include Families Anonymous and


24 Posts

Oh honey. Hugs to you and your family. I'm sorry you're going through this tough time.

I agree with most of the others. He is your son, and you love him (that's obvious) and it's natural to want to protect/help him, but our goal as parents is to help our children grow up into productive, self sufficent, happy people. By bailing him out of jail, not putting him IN jail when he assulted your daughter, trying to get him out of re-hab, etc, you are not furthering your cause as a mother.

I can believe that state run rehab is bad - but if he wants to make it work he'll make it work. If he wants out and in a different program, he'll make that happen too. But he needs to do it ON HIS OWN. Support him (emotionally), encourage him, be his cheerleader - but above all - resist the urge to do it for him. Sometime being his cheerleader is going to mean telling him "no" or listening to him cry/scream about how you don't care about him (that's manipulation my friend...), or about how he's going to die w/o your help or how you helped him before - he just needs one more time. These are all bologna!!!! He will not only make it to the other side if he truly wants to, but he will be a better, stronger and more stable person for doing it himself.

You're obviously a caring, compassionate mother who loves her children very much. Take some time to realize that forcing your son to stand on his own two feet while you're on the sidelines rooting him on is the best for him.

Please let us know how you're doing.

Tweety, BSN, RN

33,512 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.
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.

In a nutshell, I have to agree with this approach. He keeps calling you for help because you've always been there. Is there really anything more you can do other than encourage him to stay strong and not take that first hit?

There's some great advice otherwise on this thread. My heart goes out to you, my parents suffered for years with my brother and his heorin and other drug addictions. Many years later he told them "you should have stopped bailing me out years before you did". Which is hard to do when you hear/see the fear in the voices promises they are really serious this time............

Good luck.


536 Posts

Please consider that he may actually have a psychiatric disorder and need to be on medication. Many people who are bipolar actually have a dual diagnosis with substance abuse - I think it is around 60%. Many people fall on the path of self medicating because they are feeling so miserable, and, when manic, their behavior can be completely unreasonable and out of control. If this is the case, unfortunately, all the rehab in the world really will not help until the underlying problem is addressed.

I know someone very well who was on the same path as your son. Fortunately, he would up in a psychiatric hospital before rehab, where they finally diagnosed him and put him on a mood stabilizer. It did take a while for the meds to kick in, and the type and doseage had to be readjusted for quite a while, but now he is doing great and the drugs, depression, and crazy behavior has stopped cold.

Of course I don't know if the same applies to your son, but my heart absolutely does go out to him, you and your family. If he is mentally ill, unfortunately that does not excuse his behavior, but it does help to explain it.


558 Posts

Specializes in ED.

My younger brother has had a lot of problems that my parents have tried to help him out. His are mainly financial but he has had other issues also involving drugs etc. My parents tried multiple times to help him out and now have given him more money than I can believe. They finally decided no more. I wish they could take back all the money they gave him in the past. I feel so terrible for them. HE has no remorse and no plans to pay them back. I would not give your son any more money. I would be there if he needs emotional support and try to help him if he asks but he is the one who needs to decide to help himself.


962 Posts

When my oldest went into the Navy, he was mildly into drugs, mostly pot. He had barely graduated because of goofing up in classes he wasn't interested, and getting straight As in the ones he was. He was living with his Dad in Joshua Tree, who was inattentive and lazy. He had stayed there when I moved to Washington State because it made sense for him to finish High School there. He was heavily recruited because of his phenomonal scores on that military assessment test.

He went into the Navy and got heavily into Raves in the Chicago area, where he stayed after getting himself booted out after going AWOL with some girl, getting a second chance, then purposefully smoking pot on the base and getting a discharged, not dishonorably but the one above that. He disappeared from sight, then a year and a half later we got a call from a loony bin in Wisconsin. He had fried himself, was found by Lake Michigin in winter climbing on rocks in shorts. Since my 2d husband had died and I was up to my ears raising the younger two boys in highschool, and my tiny daughters, I paid to have him take a bus to Joshua Tree to his father. He had firmly given up drugs after having entered the "7th spiritual plane" or something like that, and didn't talk much, since he was so spiritually evolved at this point.:rolleyes:

To make a long story short, he gradually came down to earth, went through more changes including spending a couple of years where I live, helping me at first, then bouncing through several jobs. BTW, one thing his Dad and I didn't do ever was to enable him to get a drivers license. He ended up getting into seasonal forest fighting, and he and his best forestfighting buddy moved to Ashville NC, and started a tree trimming business, partially funded by a rich heiress there with whom my (extremely handsome) son had a (gigilo type) relationship for awhile. He has had some measure of success with that, injured his arm with a chain saw requiring micro surgury, started getting interested in real estate, and is now taking a real estate course to pursue that (I did pay for the $500 course, he didn't ask but I offered)

I tell my story to let you know that there is hope. My son has a decent girlfriend, is not on drugs, and decided to give up drinking as well. He still has a somewhat flakey nature, but he's not a burden on me or society and is trying to improve himself.

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