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My Son Has a Drinking Problem, When Is Enough, Enough? Tough Love; Is It the Final Answer?

(Tampa, Florida)

My 20 year old son has a drinking problem. I found out when he was around 16 that he had been secretly drinking. When I discovered this, I talked to him.

We talked about how his Father, Grandfather and many members of the family were alcoholics and he surely had a 99% chance of being an alcoholic as well. He made a promise to me and himself that he would stop.

I have suspected for sometime now and recently confirmed that he has been drinking regularly. His personality changes when he is drinking. He becomes another person; angry, bitter and confrontational.

He has had some setbacks recently with stress. His girlfriend became pregnant and I suggested she come and live with us until he graduated college and they could save money.

She is grouchy and moody with him most of the time. He is mean to her some days and fine others. The stress is there but finding out he has been drinking for many, many months makes me believe that the situation he is in is not the reason for the drinking.

I truly believe that he has a real problem with alcohol. During several talks with him over the years I explained to him that I grew up watching my family fall apart and the ones that I love slowly killing themselves with alcohol.

I told him last year that if he was to continue on this path of destruction that I would not watch it happen. I could no longer be a part of his life. He understood and agreed.

Now I am finding out the drinking never really stopped. He has just been hiding it. Since our day to day lives are on a totally different schedule, we rarely see each other even though living under the same roof. That is one reason I didn't know the drinking had continued.

When is enough, enough?? I can not and will not watch my youngest son slowly kill himself and self destruct. I am ready to tell him to leave the house and don't look back or I will leave the house never to return.

I really think that he doesn't care either way. Is it tough love or being an unsupportive parent? For me, I can't deal with the stress of it all anymore. I am making myself sick with worry every day. My nerves are gone and the whole situation is affecting my own health.

When is it enough to walk away and hope that maybe someday they will see the mistakes they make have consequences. Will it help or will it hurt? Answer

Your son is an adult and entirely responsible for the choices he makes. If your son wants to drink and throw his life away, there really is very little you can do.

Of course as a parent that's an incredibly difficult thing to come to terms with. You want to help him. But you can't help someone who doesn't want to help themselves.

People misunderstand tough love. The point behind it is teaching your son the concept of personal responsibility and that all choices come with consequences, most notably the bad ones like him choosing to drink.

Because once he understands that, he'll be in a position to change. So you asking him to leave home and stand on his own feet is simply making him start to realise that his drinking comes with consequences.

That doesn't mean you close the door on him. Make it clear to him you love him and always will, but that you can no longer stand by and watch him ruin his life with alcohol. So that for that reason he can no longer live at home or expect any kind of support from you.

Let him know that once he's truly committed to changing, getting professional help (inpatient alcoholism treatment) and embracing a new way of life, you'll be there to support him. But until that point you have to let go ... he's on his own.

Get yourself to some Al-Anon meetings so you can learn and find support from other mothers and loved ones of alcoholics going through what you are.

The sooner your son realises his future lies in his hands, the better, and your forcing him to take responsibility for his choices will hopefully help him reach that point sooner. Take care.

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