Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Help Header

My 22 yr Old Son is Drinking Heavily and Using Cocaine. I Am Not Sure if the Tough Love Approach is Appropriate?

by Joan

My son went through inpatient rehab 4 yrs ago for alcohol, heavy marijuana use, cocaine addiction. He was sober for a few months but went back to drinking, smoking pot several times per day and in the last 6 months or more using cocaine.

He started drinking at age 14. Spent 2 weeks in a youth detention center for violating conditions of release. Was kicked out of high school for aggression. He currently sells drugs. Pays for his bills except for car insurance which I pay for and he uses my washer and dryer.

He has a full time sales job although often starts a few hours late and leaves early. He is very moody, has anger issues, seems depressed, has told me he is anxious and does also take klonopin for at least 3 years for his anxiety.

It is not pleasant to be around him, he has little respect for his girlfriend, treats his younger brother horribly and calls me only when he needs a favor.I have always enabled him and I am trying to change, finally.

I am not proud of this, know I enabled him because of guilt (divorce) and afraid of his anger, as well as the thought he would hate me. He always told me the cocaine ruined his life when in high school.

I am going to start Al Anon meetings, know I need to detach myself and set boundaries. I am not sure if I should stop paying for his insurance, ask him not to come over for holidays and not come into my house until he is attending AA/NA meetings and attending counseling.

I am afraid he will end up in jail or hurt someone or himself in a car accident. I worry about him all the time.


Hi Joan

You're now on the right track - Al Anon meetings, practising detachment and setting boundaries will help you tremendously in learning how to deal with your son's addiction, as well as help you learn to start living your own life again.

Tough love is probably a misunderstood term. 'Loving Responsibly' is probably closer to the truth because by doing the things you mention and no longer enabling his behavior - you force your son to start taking responsibility for his choices and to experience all the consequences that comes with those - good and bad.

So if he gets himself in a mess/trouble because of his drinking or cocaine addiction - he has to be held accountable. It doesn't mean though you need to ban him from coming to the house or visiting you - unless you feel it's necessary because he gets violent or abusive for example.

But he does need to understand what the boundaries are when he does visit and regarding your relationship. And if he oversteps those - you need to make it clear what the consequences will be, e.g. no further visits.

In certain cases it would be appropriate to practice the 'tough love' approach I think you were referring to where you literally have to cut your child off totally and having nothing/very little to do with them until they make the commitment to turn their lives around. But that's in very extreme cases where all attempts to intervene previously have failed - and for your own/family's well-being, safety and sanity you have to totally let go.

It boils down to making a judgement call - and eventually you have to decide what will be best for you and the rest of your family in the long run.

In terms of his car insurance - he shouldn't be driving if he can't make his own payments. And he most certainly shouldn't be driving if he's ever been drinking or using drugs because of the risk he poses to himself and others.

So since you can't guarantee he's always driving sober - you are in fact enabling him on that front by paying his insurance premiums. Your condition should be - 'I'll only pay if you're totally clean/sober.' And that's how he starts to learn about taking responsibility for his actions and facing the resulting consequences.

You're on the right path now. Keep learning, especially from others at Al Anon, and things will get easier for you in time.

Take Care.

Comments for My 22 yr Old Son is Drinking Heavily and Using Cocaine. I Am Not Sure if the Tough Love Approach is Appropriate?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Sep 14, 2010
Time For An Intervention
by: C Compton

At this point, you have done what you could as a mother. You need a life too as well as for your other son. It is now time for a serious intervention. As stated in the other comment, I agree that you need to set rules and boundaries. Advise your son that if he continues to drink and take drugs that you will not tolerate it and that his is no longer welcome in or around your home until he cleans up and stays that way, not even to do his laundry. Tell him you'll stop paying for his car insurance and mean it.If you feel he is a danger to himself and society then report him. What I mean is if he leaves your home intoxicated call the police, have him arrested. Call his employment and advise them. Your son will meet the consequences of his actions and if he continues to burn those bridges, he won't have them when he truly needs them. You have to put your foot down, I know this will not be easy and you won't want to say no, but you must. My prayers are with you and try to stay strong.

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Drug Alcohol Help Parents Q&A Archive.


FREE E-Course

"10 Essential Steps to Ending a Life of Alcoholism or Drug Addiction ... Permanently!"

This Course is packed full of valuable information and advice for overcoming addiction that you're unlikely to find anywhere else.

And if you subscribe now - we'll throw in a Special eBook that will help immensely in your struggle against addiction.

Don't worry - your e-mail
address is totally secure.
Your details will NEVER be sold and you will NOT be spammed.

What is this?
Add to My Yahoo!
My MSN RSS button
Add to Google

Copyright © 2013 - - All Rights Reserved.