Our 48 Yr Old Son Suffers Dual Diagnosis-Bipolar and Alcoholism. How Do We Handle This?
(State College, PA, USA)
My son is single, intelligent, hard working and is aware that he suffers bi polar II disease that inevitably leads to extended drunkeness. He has been arrested for DUI a number of times and has been through detox and rehab four times. As a consequence, he cannot hold a job.
His mother and I are in our eighties and have been supporting him financially. He is presently just out of rehab, working for minimum wage and very heavily in debt. We live in a retirement condominium community and do not have space to take him in. He lives in a small apartment not more than five miles from us.
He has a car that we financed for him three years ago in return for a promise that he would stop drinking. He made a few small monthly payments and then stopped paying and returned to his excessive drinking.
We love our son despite his failings and are at our wits end as to how to handle the situation. Should we completely sever our relationship, stop supporting him and let him deteriorate into a homeless bum? (Let go, let God?) Please give us some guidance as we are desperate. Thanks, Alan
The thing is, by supporting your son to the degree that you're financing his car etc., you are in fact enabling his alcoholism, because he knows he effectively has you to always fall back on, and so there is no real motivation for him to quit drinking.
Bi-polar doesn't justify alcoholism ... in fact all alcohol does is make it much worse. And by continuing to support him to the degree you do, he never has to really take responsibility for his drinking, and so the cycle just continues.
So you need to make it clear to your son that you can no longer support him the way you do if he continues drinking. You don't necessarily need to sever your relationship entirely, but make it clear that all financial support stops immediately, and that until he achieves sobriety you're no longer prepared to help him in that regard.
Remember we can't control or cure those we love suffering from alcoholism/addiction ... and ultimately they have to want to turn their lives around if they're ever going to change. So by failing to allow your son to learn from the real consequences that accompany choosing a life of addiction, he's unlikely to ever reach the point where he actually wants to turn his life around.
It's never easy as a parent to witness a child basically destroy themselves, but you at some point you have to let go and make peace with the fact that you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped.
Good Luck and God Bless