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Come out of the Gray Area


Allies member jezabelle is in distress—overwhelmed, worn down and upset after years of her son's addiction.

"My son is 23 and was addicted to heroin or fetanal. He OD'd twice but it didnt scare him. He went on suboxone but eventually before going back to clinic for his script he would use again. I have no idea what he used but he was on drugs. He was selling the suboxone to make a few bucks even though he has a job. Every paycheck he has it for a day then is borrowing money from me. He lies about everything. I take him to work everyday and he lives with me and my boyfriend of 4 yrs. My life isn't my own anymore and I wish everyday for my death. The pressure and unhappiness he brings here is too much. I've had him sectioned before and he said it was horrible and dirty and he was cold and hungry all the time. People tell me to throw him out but I love him and he has no one else because we moved here 3yrs ago from where he originally was brought up. He has a job but I don't know for how long. Says he hates me, tells me to go f* myself and a whole lot more. Now he has no suboxone because he missed his Dr's appointment and she won't be in for another week. I called to see if they cold give him some till she comes back and they said no. He is DOPE sick cause he can't sleep and his legs bother him. I am running out of money and I don't care about myself anymore. My relationship with my boyfriend has almost deteriorated. I need him to go but the question is WHERE???? I hate and love him at the same time. Any advice would help if not it was just a place to vent but to be honest I see me in hospital because it's taking its toll. Why can i just not feel for him anymore. His disrespect and hate for me is growing."


Dear Jezabelle:

What you describe is a terrible, terrible situation. Your son is in real danger and so are you. There is the fact that the suboxone isn’t working and that he is diverting it, selling it to buy other drugs; the real possibility of another overdose; that he is active in his addiction in your home, lying and being completely disrespectful; and, that you feel your own life and relationship with your significant other is being destroyed by your son’s actions.

CRAFT talks about the world dividing in two: when your Loved One is using, you disengage, allow natural consequences and remove rewards, when your Loved One isn’t using, you reward.

In several earlier posts (see this link) we apply this core concept to a Loved One living in your home. When the world divides in two, we seek to avoid grey area as much as humanly possible. Housing our Loved One can either be:

–  an inadvertent support for using drugs or alcohol, or
–  a reward for making efforts to reduce or not use.

Period. Landing somewhere in the middle sends mixed, weak messages.

Where is your son today?

In those earlier posts, we suggest ways of talking to your son, and that you set up a temporary place in your home where your son can come for the night when he is not high. In other words, the suggestion is to move to a day-by-day basis rather than an open ticket. This is not easy, but it is the way to think about opening your home to a Loved One.

Someone in active addiction pulls in all resources to keep going. Parents love their children and are often pulled in beyond any reasonable boundary. The child makes the parent feel responsible for their “well” being—after all that is a parent’s role. When drugs and alcohol have taken over, the parent is drawn into the needs of the addiction, blamed when resources come up short, attacked when they refuse to provide the "help" requested.

If addiction weren’t present, your efforts to help your son could succeed; but with addiction, your efforts are co-opted towards the needs of the addiction, and the Loved One continues to sink.

The next thing to consider is your own mental health. It is disturbing, very disturbing, to be living life with the fear and disruptions, the conflict, and the constant need to address the wishes of addiction.

CRAFT suggests disengaging where there is active use. Module 7 describes some basics of how our thinking can be made worse as we get worn down. A support group can provide suggestions and a critically needed community in this time. It is not an exaggeration when I suggest that you are living through trauma—at times acute trauma. Your love for your son keeps you trying, he takes advantage, and your own life gets chiseled away.

Your son is not adhering to the suboxone treatment. He is in danger of another overdose. Make sure you have narcan, the opiate antidote, and that you know how to use it.

If you haven’t done so, both you and your significant other should view the Learning Modules on this site to learn how to get your son into further treatment. He may be a candidate for methadone, which entails daily visits for dosing and is much harder to divert. The doctor who prescribes the suboxone surely knows that he is using drugs (through urine tests or missed urine tests), and that your son is in trouble. The doctor should be orchestrating a more intensive level of treatment that may include methadone.

If this isn’t the case, advocating for the next level of treatment will be up to you, if you can manage it. Your public profile doesn’t tell me if you’re in Massachusetts. Other states will have their own system. Here is what could happen in Massachusetts. Every region in Massachusetts has one or more Crisis Stabilization Services, or CSS. These provide a couple weeks of inpatient treatment and can be followed with a Transitional Support Service, TSS, which continues inpatient until a bed opens up in the residential system.

Contact the helpline for Massachusetts (Substance Abuse Information and HELPLINE:  800.327.5050  (M – F 8 AM – 10 PM; SAT/SUN 9 AM – 5 PM)). A real person answers the phone and they have a database with bed availability in real time. Your son may require a medical detoxification which can assist in accessing CSS.

If your son doesn’t sign a release, you can still try to talk to the clinician. Let them know your son is homeless, no longer welcome in your home.

(By the way), the treatment program to which people are sent when sectioned (a civil commitment) isn’t the Ritz, I grant you, but it is a safe place and is treatment. Don’t rule out sectioning because your son wasn’t comfortable enough. I have known parents who pulled their children out of treatment because the child complained endlessly about the conditions. It pulls at a parent’s heartstrings. Yet it also pulls at mine to see a treatment interrupted, especially when you consider how hard it is to get them there.

The weather is very bad throughout the northeast, which can overload the public system even more. So what I am suggesting is a game plan – it may not happen today. It is difficult and will need your focus and energy. It is, however, the way through.

Your son is hurting. I can assure you a large part of him wants this to end. Look for that small amount of motivation, calm and disengage yourself, try not to take his actions personally, and try to figure out the system in a way that the door of treatment is open to him in the moment he agrees to help. For a mom I spoke to yesterday, she learned that her son had to get to the intake for detox by 8AM to be assessed. Once assessed, he would be eligible for a detox or CSS bed. A bed wasn’t guaranteed that day, which is tough, but both she and her son were learning where to go and what to do.

We are here with you to suggest a game plan, a strategy to follow that can move your son to treatment. The Learning Modules are full of detailed examples, and lots of concrete actions to take. Taken as a whole, the CRAFT framework is both well-tested and able to unblock the situation you are in. My very best hope for you. May you find some energy to try this and some peace in your day.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. It’s me again. My son is high again … I’ve had him sectioned twice and I’m looking for a third time just so I can get some peace. I’m at the point where if he overdosed it would be ok with me. I just can’t take it anymore It’s either him or me. I hate the junkie he has become…He is a junkie plain and simple.. He has a job and leaves it or gets fired in two weeks. Gets a check and spends it on drugs. I hate him I can’t believe he choses this life. Help me Please help me.

    1. Hi jezabelle..just read your recent note and my heart is breaking for you and your son.

      I truly believe that my – and your- real son is in there, somewhere, and that they want out of the control of this awful illness as much if not more than we do.

      I try to distract myself from his SUD by practicing some CRAFT methods for myself..getting lost in a book, music, a walk, etc. -also in my head and sometimes in the mirror I practice what I would say in different circumstances”I know you want me to (whatever) but as I said before, I just can’t help you with that. ” Or on a good day I can say “I see you are feeling good (sober) today, and I’m so glad we can spend some time together..let’s get some ice cream” it takes a lot of practice and I still get off track, but it does work. I believe it’s helping him in his fight for sobriety.

      I have been seeing a therapist for quite some time now and she’s helped me a lot. I can see my own issues all mixed up with his and separating the two has been hard work, but we’re getting there.

      Please take care of yourself.


      1. Hello Mothra. Thank you for your response. I love my son but sometimes hate him. You don’t mention a spouse…I have a man I have been with for 4yrs and was in a abusive relationship for 19yrs…Now that I finally find a man that treats me wonderful and I feel I am consumed by my son and his addiction…I want to finally enjoy the rest of my life and I feel like I can’t. I know I need to seek counseling. I don’t seek any out for me and I don’t feel he is ever going to stop his drugs. Its crushes me and when I try to talk NICE to him he explodes. He only wants to talk when he’s high. Thank you for taking time to write me and I hope you find happiness

        1. Hi Jezabelle: It’s interesting to me that you talk about how he is more able to talk when he is high. I took that opportunity to talk to my daughter when she was high…and we had a great night. Ithink you have to grab the opportunity whenever to catch them, and ask them, ‘how is this for you?” while I didn’t expect it, when my daughter was high, she talked about wanting to be “that mainstream person”, and we went from there. You can find any window of opportunity. I think we should always be communicating. Of course: never support when they are high. True. But might as well talk to them, if they are almost always in that state. Grab them. Get them where they are AT.

  2. I decided to give my son another chance. I told him he has to have counseling and to get vivigrol shot or no coming home. He said he will sign a release form so I can talk to his counselor. Also I have to write a letter stating that Mike can come home because there was a domestic abuse written up on him because he loses his temper and did punch my arm—he actually wasn’t high at the time. I just hope he’s on board and doesn’t change his mind just to get out of there.

    1. It may be helpful to look into the different medication assisted treatment drugs that are available (we have information in our resource supplement). Vivitrol works best on people who are very motivated. It doesn’t address cravings so the individual needs to have a good recovery plan in place. I am glad your son will sign a release so that you can talk to the clinician. A professional opinion is important. Keep us posted.

  3. Well it’s me again. I need some input. As you know I sectioned my son and I know the horror stories he is telling me are only half true. My question is should I let him come home after 30 days.? He said he is already detoxed because he only used 2 times in february (which is 2 too many for me) but he wants to get the vivitrol shot and come home, doesn’t want a half-way house. He said he would rather be homeless. He swears he will take the shot and he will be ok. My heart says to give him a chance but EVERYONE around me says NO don’t do it . He’s my son and I love him and want to help him. He is at MASAC in North Carver Mass. Says it’s filthy and he wants to change his life. What should I do ? Any advice would be helpful.

    1. The longer the treatment the better. 30 days is just a start, just enough time for the fog to clear. Your son is probably still feeling the effects of detoxification. His sleep may be disturbed, his mood low. As time goes on, his thinking will clear, he will get more therapy, and be in much better shape to address what should come next for him.

      It took a dramatic intervention to get him into treatment. He got 90 days. You may not get this opportunity again.

      Ask your son to sign a release so that you can speak to his clinical team. Let them guide you.

  4. Well I’m writing again. I’m not doing good I miss my son like an idiot I answer his calls and I’m back to being severely depressed He says it’s so bad there and after his therapy sessions he does nothing all day He wants to come home after 30 days but I told him halfway house that he can’t come back here he says he will be homeless the an be where he is I feel so bad . He said he doesn’t use all the time and he wants to get a job and I tricked him just to get him out of the house I can’t see him living in a shelter please help me know what to do The thought of not seeing him anymore is crushing me

    1. Your son is begging you to take him out of treatment and bring him home. He has been civilly committed for 90 days. He talks of having been tricked by you into treatment; about how he will be homeless; how you will never see him again. What is true from my perspective is that your son is getting daily treatment, is in a safe place where he cannot take drugs, and will be offered structured housing at the time of release.

      Module 7 talks about how our beliefs and perspectives can be distorted and pull us down emotionally. I wonder if this is happening to you. Consider looking at module 7 again and attending an Al-Anon or Learn to Cope meeting in your community. If you don’t feel better, you may want to consider counseling for yourself. The situation you are in is that serious. You cannot underestimate the reach that addiction has into the family.

      You’ve talked about being sick with the flu and exhausted. The first thing to do is to protect your health and wellbeing so that your decisions are made calmly and thoughtfully. Thank you for writing in. We are here.

  5. Well my son just called from being sectioned. He had been there for 4 days and begging for me to pick him up that he’s not eating because the food is gross. I told him he wasn’t coming home. He needs a sober house when he leaves there. I gave him plenty of chances. I said it’s time he grew up got better and took responsibility for his addiction. He thinks detox is the end. I told him that’s the beginning. He had to mentally want it. Also to call me once a week not everyday cause I’m not gonna have him torture me to come home. I swept his room from top to bottom and found heroin. I am so mentally drained plus having the flu since he left. I’m falling apart but stood strong. I pray he gets it this time. It’s like he was surprised I actually did it. He ran when they came but they got him. Does it kill me every night knowing he’s there?? Absolutely. But…it was my last resort. Please pray he makes it this time.

    1. The food probably isn’t that good. But your son is safe. You did not cave into him. Where would he be right now if not sectioned? Would he be using heroin? The daily call isn’t helpful to you. It took so much to get him there. I have known parents who became convinced they needed to get their child out of treatment. The calls come in and they wear you down. You held strong and showed your son that you can’t be talked into coming to get him. He has to do this for himself. What he is doing right now is vitally, critically important. I hope you can get some rest now. Practice turning off the phone. Our thoughts are with you and your son.

        1. Hi: same thing happened to me today. My son called after ONE DAY in TSS saying how it’s so horrible, the caseworker doesn’t know what she’s talking about, he can’t smoke, etc. He missed the med call in the am, which he blamed on the caseworker, and couldn’t get a patch. Asked me to please pick him up and he promised he just wants to come home and make phone calls to halfway houses and go immediately into one. I held fast, said no, based on past experience. He said this time he’s done and really wants to go into a halfway house. I have heard that many times before, and then in just an hour or two he’s gone.

          I said no again, explaining that although I believe he feels that way right now, that he and I both know what will happen as soon as he’s out of the TSS. I said it lovingly, telling him that his mind and body are still very much in drug seeking mode and that his Dad and I just won’t contribute to anything that will harm him because we love him. I suggested he get in line for a patch, eat something, find a bible and distract himself, told him I love him more than he will ever know, and asked him to please give it a couple of days. I have to admire his tenacity, wishing he would put it toward recovery.

          Please pray as his MO has been to find a way to get kicked out of TSS. We still won’t pick him up. If he calls again we’ve got a list ready of halfway houses to call from the TSS. If he does leave the TSS, we will section right away. Thanks for listening. This is exhausting mentally and physically, for all of us.

  6. Well I have my son sectioned again he got his Tate check bought heroin and I came home from work and he was high I got in my car and went to court and just made the cut off time The next day I pretended to go to work so he wouldn’t get suspicious. He knew something was up because I told him the next time he gets high I’m going to section him. When police showed up he ran right past them and out the DOOR MIND YOU.. TBIS OFFICER WAS OVEF 6 FT. TALL AND WIDE. THEY CHASED HIM AND HE TRIED TO GET OUT OF THE POLICE CAR AND BANGED HIS HEAD HE WAS ALL BLOODY WHEN I GOT THERE WHEN I TELL YOU I WISHED MYSELF DEAD AT THE MOMENTS I SAW MY SON LIKE THAT . MY HEART IS IN A MILLION PIECES STAYED IN COURT FOR 6 HR AND HIS LAWYER SAID HE WANTED TO GO TO AN out patient treatment. The judge agreed he should go th Bridgewater for 90 day my son looked at me and w tears streaming down my face I said IM SORRY he looked at me and mouthed the words F YOU I WAS CRUSHED AND BEEN CRYING SINCE YESTERDAY. I HOPE AND PRAY THIS TIME HE GETS IT

    1. Bless you. Your son will be detoxed and will stop using drugs for 90 days because you sectioned him. From the sound of it, nothing else was going to get his attention. Being actively and deeply addicted can make you out of control, enraged. Getting picked up by the police ruined your son’s plans that morning to get high. You did the right thing. Your son today is safe.

  7. Well im going to section my son again. I cant take it He lost his job and stayed clean for almost 4 weeks but he filed his taxes and WHAM he went to where we used to live and when i came home from work he was high again. I went straight to court house and he will be picked up tomorrow. I’ve had it!, He kept calling me cause he was afraid I went to court house but I lied and told him I was visiting a friend. My heart is torn in a million pieces but I warned him the next time I was gonna do it. I feel guilty and so so sad. Where did I go wrong?. I feel like I am deceiving him but… I just don’t know how to help him. I keep questioning if I did the right thing. I don’t want him to think I’m giving up on him but this time I’m not answering his phone calls. That was a big mistake the first time. I’m signing off with a broken heart, it’s for fear of tomorrow

    1. I’m so sorry this is happening to you and your son. I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to figure out what it was that I did wrong, or what traumas my son might have experienced when I was working or why didn’t I see it, etc. During one of his clean times he told me that I was a good mom, and that he went to great lengths to make sure I DIDN’T know about his addiction. I still sometimes feel that I could or should have known SOMETHING, and could have stopped this from happening, but that’s not the way it worked out. These days I’m learning to remind myself of the 3 C’s – I didn’t Cause it, I can’t Cure it, and I can’t Control it (this last one is the hardest.)

      They are our children, certainly not living the lives we had envisioned, but we love them. My son is in detox right now, but if he doesn’t get into a long term program I know I will have to Section him. I don’t feel at all bad about it- I think it’s the right thing, and my gut tells me so. So I will do it but I don’t plan on telling him as he’ll run. He can hate me but he’ll be alive and just might gain enough clear- headedness to feel hopeful and really try again.

      You are doing what your gut tells you is best for him, and for you. That makes you a good Mom. I hope it went ok. Best of luck to you and your son.

  8. Dear Jezabelle:

    I just want to send a note of support and remind you that you are not alone, many other people are suffering with a loved one’s addiction just as you are. Taking the time to review the modules and learn about CRAFT is very worthwhile.