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Our 48 Yr Old Son Suffers Dual Diagnosis-Bipolar and Alcoholism. How Do We Handle This?

by Alan
(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 Answer

Hi 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

Comments for Our 48 Yr Old Son Suffers Dual Diagnosis-Bipolar and Alcoholism. How Do We Handle This?

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Sep 03, 2015
hey NEW
by: Robert S. Parker

this article just shocked me............

Apr 18, 2013
38 Year Old Son Diagnosed Bipolar and Alcoholism/Cirrhosis
by: Anonymous

My son suffers from dual diagnosis and alcoholism, he is 37 years old. I have let him hit rock bottom as was suggested by Mental Health, but nothing stops him. I resorted to calling the police and getting him forced into treatment because now he has developed cirrhosis, tried having him conserved by the state so that they could force him into treatment, but they said if it was his wish to drink himself to death, they could not do anything about it. My heart breaks when I see him, he is literally dying in front of my eyes and no where to turn. I read all the stories of all these suffering parents, there really is no answer. I pray, I beg for help! I really would like to understand what Mental Health is for, this government paid facility that only helps mentally ill people that are not in desperate need of help.

Apr 12, 2012
I undestand
by: Anonymous

I am too dealing with an alcoholic bipolar father of my child he cannot make stable consistant decisions and often times chooses alcohol instead of his medication my best advice is you must establish strong boundaries and limitations do not let person manipulate you do not try and save person from self destruction often times we want to put on the ill save you this time cape and rescue the situation you must let go as to save your heartbreak.

Oct 24, 2011
by: Anonymous

I am a 35 year old mother of 2 in recovery. I too have been diagnosed with being bi-polar. Any alcoholic can get that diagnoses. This is an excuse your son is using to manipulate you.
I would suggest you cut off ALL financial responsibility to your son AT ONCE! You are only keeping him from hitting his "bottom".

I also would suggest you and his dad go to Al-Anon. They can explain what you are doing to enable his drinking. They can help you get through this emotional rollercoaster. You are never too old to enter Alanon. As a matter of fact, you need someone to speak factually to you.

Doctors can come up with all kinds of diagnoses when we go into their offices and lie to them. He probably has alcohol induced bi-polar and will recover from this too if he would get into rehab.

Give him options. The money will be cut off in 30 days. He can either start to pay for his own way or go into long term treatment. 1year or more. I would not send him to detox. This only cleans your body out for 4-7 days of the alcohol but it does not get down to the problem. Your son needs to learn how to live without alcohol. The only way he can do that is by example.
He needs to see that another alcoholic has done it so he can too. Alcoholics give other alcoholics hope!

Sep 30, 2011
A Parent's Agony
by: Anonymous

Bless your hearts, I know personally how painful it is to see your child, spiral down a destructive path.
For years, I let my daughter live with me because she had a child that needed some sense of stability in his life and protection from his mother's mood swings. She too was diagnosed as bi-polar as well as borderline personality disorder. Alcohol and drugs have been an on again off again issue, with very little break time.

After my grandson went to live with his aunt and uncle, I was able to tell her she had to move out. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. She has progressed, slowly, with many set backs but there is progress.

I encourage you to continue to reach out to your son in love, however, you must, for his sake and your own, allow him to suffer the consequences of his behavior. My daughter has had her nights in the drunk tank, rehab, half way houses, Christian programs, ect. With every time, has come a bit more freedom for her and for me. I do my best to help her without enabling her. If she needs a ride to work, I make her pay for the gas. If I don't, I just make it possible for her to buy more beer. I share a meal with her occasionally, and occasionally buy her a bean burrito, but I do not make that a habit. I reach out to her in love as much as she will allow it, without.

At your age, you should not have to feel responsible for supporting your son. You have not failed as parents. He is a sick man but it is not your fault. Yes, you may have continued to enable him by supporting him, but it's not an illness that you caused so pleas do not feel guilty. You will not always be here and at some point, he has to learn to stand on his own. It would be great if you get to see him self supporting, in your lifetime.

I lean very hard on Jesus. He is my support system. Sometimes I break down under the pressure but God always picks me up and lets me know that He loves my daughter more than I do. He loves your son more than you and you can trust Him with your son's life. He is bigger and stronger than any mental illness or addiction. You have to say no to your son and yes to his only hope of deliverance.

Think of it like he was a baby and like it was in Moses day, someone wants to kill your baby. Like Moses mother did, put that baby in a basket and cast him out on the water, trusting God to keep him safe and make a way where there seems to be no other way. It took a strong trust and faith in God's love for Moses mother to put that baby in the basket and send it down the crocodile infested Nile River. Had she kept her baby, under her own protection, that baby would have surely died. If we, as parents, of the addicted, continue to protect them in our own strength, they will surely die. We have no other choice but to let them go and place them in the hands of a very loving and caring God, who is their only hope.

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