Illustration © Eleanor Davis
On our member site Discussion blog, one member recently shared the story of her adult son who lives “out of reach” in another state with his addiction, mental illness to the point of suicidal tendencies, credit debt, etc. She and her husband struck a deal after the last time their son lost his job and needed bailing out. Specifically, they agreed to help with rent if he got insurance and began therapy. Mom wonders however if there is really something she can do to help to tilt the scale, from a distance. Below, Dominique Simon-Levine lays out some ways to adapt CRAFT to this long-distance situation …
Walking the line between support and enabling is complicated, especially when your loved one lives far away. The only means to assess your son’s use is in fact, by phone or internet. CRAFT was really designed for families who have almost daily contact. The principles can be applied to your situation, but much less precisely.
Your story lays out the difficult reality of mental illness and addiction. You have found that your son is more willing to talk about depression than his alcohol use. You have also guided him towards getting health insurance and a therapy appointment.
Your Financial Support Is Temporary
He also knows that your financial support with rent is temporary. It’s not too much to ask your son to sign a release with the therapist verifying his attendance, nothing more. You are not interested in the content of their discussion but you do want to see that he is going. This won’t be easy to ask for and may need to wait a couple weeks, giving them a little time to establish a rapport. Ideally, your son could see the therapist three times a week, but this is out of your control. The frequency of treatment is a clinical decision made in partnership between the therapist and your son.
You have been through a great deal with your family. From the account you give, it sounds like you have done what you can. The housing is temporary and your son has an appointment with a professional. We have to hope the professional is good and is therefore able to establish a therapeutic alliance. It must feel so far out of reach, and it is. Your control over the situation is of course, limited. There is no such thing as a forced detox, short of an involuntary commitment.
The message that you must continue to convey to your son is that you are willing to help with treatment, and for a short while, with rent. The rest is up to him. When you talk on the phone, keep it light. Try to stay out of the details of the treatment. If he is high, find a way to end the phone call. If he is not, find some positive things to talk about.
Depression and suicidal ideation are serious. How this interacts with the alcohol is for the professional to determine. I really hope this person is good.
Find Others Who Can Check on Him in Your Stead
Despite being far away, you can still research what is available in his area. Call the police and find out whether they will do a wellness check. How would you request an involuntary commitment and where would he be sent and for how long? Where are the IOPs, the detoxes … make a list and give it to him.
Are there SAMHSA-funded grants in his area that provide treatment? Grants don’t depend on insurance. Maybe look up professors at the local university psychology department. See if they know of treatment funded by a grant or free clinics. Our member site provides a list of treatment modalities. See if you can locate something under each of the categories we lay out in this post. You will also find our method for finding treatment when you join our member site.
Along with the rent and the therapist, making this list and giving it to him is something else you can do.
If Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) was helpful, consider going back or consider Al-Anon.
You Don’t Have to Let Go Completely
What we’ve laid out here is what you can do. You are prepared, supportive, and are doing what you can to keep yourself calm. You don’t have to let go of your son. Your hand is outreached, you stay in contact, and you provide him with options.
You have lived a long time with addiction and mental illness and your family has been deeply affected. It is heartbreaking. Do what you can for your son and I hope you can find some peace in this storm.
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