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."
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.