This addicted son is asking Mom for money and weaving impressive webs of lies to get it. He becomes angry and resorts to bullying her when she doesn’t agree to provide the money he’s requesting…This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To take advantage of our current special offer and get access to the Allies in Recovery eLearning program for families and professionals, click here.
“Hi, I just want to see if anyone has any advice on how to handle when my son asks for money. He has a great job making good money; In fact, he actually makes more than I do, but when you are addicted to drugs, having a good job and making good money is never enough. He calls to tell me some of the most incredible lies you have ever heard. I have to say some of them are pretty impressive. I have tried to use reflective listening or when he texted for money I have used the “I understand what it is like” but he will yell and hang up or block me and tell me he is cutting off communication.
All he wants the money for is to buy drugs. I understand that it’s best to keep communication open but I can not continue to give him money to use for drugs. What do I say or not say when he wants money? I’m running out of ideas and excuses to try to keep the open lines and frankly I’m totally exhausted and dread when he calls or texts me because I know exactly how the conversation will end. If I start to say anything such as “what did you do with your money?” that’s when the sob stories begin and the lies follow and anything after that is yelling and hanging up.“
Dominique Simon-Levine describes a reasonable and calm approach to this escalating situation
Your son is bullying you to give him money. That is what he is doing: bullying.
Sounds like you are doing the right things: reflectively listening, understanding statements…these communication skills reduce the likelihood of conflict. They buy you time to come up with an answer.
You have a twofold problem that goes beyond communicating with him. Your son is being abusive. He must be desperate to get high and doesn’t have the money. He is coming to you, his mother, for money. As his mother, you are “supposed to help” in his eyes, you are responsible for his wellbeing. His stance is that the excuses are true and you are being unfair.
Moving away from the abusive exchanges and bullying
What would happen if you said any of the following:
I’m sorry, what little money I have I am saving for your treatment
I feel deep down that you are not sober, I cannot give you money. Please don’t ask again.
If I know one thing, it is that you are not sober. I love you too much to support your use. Please do not ask me again.
Say this in a text if that’s easier. Don’t respond to defensive responses. Let him know that you know he is actively using, that you are here to help when he is ready.
In the communications module, Learning Module 3, our friends Magdalena and Arnaldo act out the scenario you are going through: a son asking his mother for money. It’s worth reviewing. (This learning module is available to members – to view an excerpt of Module 3, click here)
It is very hard not to take it personally when someone is abusive, but you must try. Your son is active in his addiction. He is going to try everything—and I mean everything—to get high.
I wonder if you can visualize a bubble around you that softens the insults directed at you. The bubble is there to protect you. Defend your space inside the bubble.
Lines of communication can stay open without it being about handing out money. Perhaps for today, you send the text and he stops talking to you. You are still leaving the door open for him to come to you. Remember, you don’t have to participate in abusive discussions about money just to keep the door open.
You are using. Mom is no longer in your pocket.
The second main point here is that your son is using. If he succeeds in wearing you down with his verbal bullying you will not have the energy and motivation to help engage him into needed treatment.
The CRAFT stance: Mom is no longer in your pocket, son. Mom is there for treatment when you’re ready.
So pull that list of treatment options together. Stand ready for when you hear him soften or become vulnerable about his life (a wish or a dip).
For those on the site whose loved one isn’t using, who want to help with money (or for those whose loved one is using and want a relatively low cost, safe way out), take a look at this debit card for those in recovery. It limits what the card can be used for and tracks purchases. It offers another strategy for navigating this tough issue.
https://www.integritycarecard.us/A membership at Allies in Recovery brings you into contact with experts in the fields of recovery and treatment for drug and alcohol issues. Our learning platform introduces you to CRAFT and guides you through the best techniques for unblocking the situation. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.
Dominique launched Allies in Recovery in 2003. Her work has been featured on HBO and NPR. She is a facilitator and a trained speaker on issues of addiction and the family. She has worked extensively developing and evaluating federally-funded substance abuse programs for organizations and clinics throughout Massachusetts and New York. With an interest in recovery and substance abuse that spans 20 years, she sees a huge need to help families develop the skills that will help a loved one recover fully in a supportive, whole, and lasting way in their families and in their communities. Her mission is to have Allies in Recovery fill that gap.