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He Has Relapsed and Is Likely Dealing Out of Our Home


Allies member fanochoklit feels heartbroken and at a loss, as her 18-year-old son has started showing signs of a relapse/downward spiral, after months of truly promising recovery work. Plus, he may even be dealing out of her home…

"My son was in rehab for 5 weeks last Jan/Feb, and he turned 18 in June. Prior to his stay at rehab (which he requested) he was often volatile and hostile, but after settling into their program he was a model resident, and when he came home I felt like we had our son back (he was much more of his old affectionate self). It was a relief to finally have some positive interactions; he seemed really motivated to work with us around rules and expectations. He also seemed proud of his sobriety, and we celebrated his milestones with him. Although It was a challenge for me to trust him after his history of dishonesty, instability, and theft, our relationship and communication strengthened over the 6 or 7 months after his return.

Recently, though, things have spiraled downwards–in the last few weeks he has grown distant and hardened. It's difficult for me to pinpoint when this happened…he has had increased freedom since we allowed him use of a car primarily to go to therapy, 12 step meetings, and a GED class (he pays for the gas to use the car for any other reasons)…but he stopped attending the GED class and seemed to stop going to meetings around the same time. He is still out of the house for extended periods, though; in fact we hardly see him since we leave for work early in the morning and we are in bed before he comes home (he does honor his 10:00 weeknight curfew, we are just tired!). He also started to once again become verbally abusive towards me and one night he made a verbal threat (this kind of thing used to happen all the time when he was using but I had not seen it since before rehab). While I did not feel unsafe, I did let him know calmly that if he was assaultive I would call the police. The recent explosions have always been around me setting limits, or, more specifically, calling him out when I've caught him doing things he knows he shouldn't be doing–i.e., one day he left the house early in the morning when I specifically asked him to take the dogs out in the afternoon, and another time I walked in the kitchen and found him vaping, which we've had a long standing rule against inside the house. In each instance he started swearing at me, calling me a bitch and other vile things things I'd rather not type.

Obviously I am suspecting relapse. He has drug screens when he goes to therapy and when he turned 18 we had him sign a release giving us permission to see the results; however, unbeknownst to us the law changed after that so when I went to actually check his recent screens I learned that we no longer have access….."  (read full comment here)

Your son returned from rehab just shy of his 18th birthday. He did well until recently but has since relapsed. You suspect this is the case and your description of the change in behavior does suggest it. He has stopped going to 12-step meetings and to GED classes, he’s skipping some therapy appointments, yet continues to use the car and is gone for long periods. You believe he is also selling drugs, something he did prior to entering treatment.

How upsetting it must be to see your son blossom after rehab, only to sink slowly back towards drug use, dishonesty, and criminal activity. You are discouraged, even ashamed, by your son’s choices, especially the drug dealing.

You have considered many of the things CRAFT recommends. Your son went to treatment once and did well—he can do it again. He likely will need more intensive treatment again. People who sell drugs and abuse drugs don’t succeed for long.

What you don’t describe is the drug use itself. It seems as important to you to stop the drug dealing. I can understand why. Your family is in danger. He’s using your house and your car for illegal business.

You are concerned about alienating him if you confront him. We would agree that a good connection between you is vital. He may well need your help to figure out treatment again when things fall apart.

However, it feels like an imperative that you set a firm boundary right away, in order to protect your home and car from his drug dealing. He is putting you at great risk.

Can you start by addressing the need to protect yourself from his drug dealing in a way that isn’t too confrontational?

Something like this….

I (not "we"—the parent that he hears from less often does the speaking) am so proud of you for addressing the drug use by going to treatment. I felt like I had my son back. I love you so much.

Something is changing, though.

It’s up to you what you do about it. You are responsible for what happens next. My need is to protect this family and our home. Something is going on. When you are ready we can talk about it.

For now, I cannot have us at risk. I must ask you to protect us from illegal activity. Please do not bring drugs or dealing anywhere near us. This is what can happen (give him a printout of this article)

For now, I cannot let you use the car. To get to appointments, we will pay for an uber/taxi. Addiction doesn’t go away. We are all living with it. Please help me protect us. We will help you when you become willing to get help.

He may dismiss you, he may not respect your wishes, but you have laid out a boundary. It is clear and does not aim to control him as much as it protects you. It is a first step.

The talk puts the responsibility on him. I’m not sure what to do about the girlfriend and her family. My hunch is to let it be. He is 18, her parents are adults. Also, they may not believe you. Their permissiveness will extend his back door, in terms of a place to land outside your home, but that will likely explode as he will mess up. The consequences will clearly be his to absorb.

Addiction doesn’t extinguish itself all at once, like a toggle switch, especially at 18. You can provide your son with an immediate environment that doesn’t play into addiction. You can cultivate the stance of CRAFT: loving but clear limits, reinforcing the things he does right, remaining ready with help, and stepping away from all things drug involved.

Getting and keeping this stance is what you can do.

If there is no effort to follow your request, the idea of the daybed and foot-locker may be the next big step. This is about you and your home as well as about your son. Start by asking him to take responsibility.



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. I am so sorry this is your situation, one that seems to playing out in many homes. I’m one year ahead of you with my 19-year-old who has now attended two rehab and recovery programs. My son has been doing so well, even started attending college. He was home last week for the holiday and it is clear he is barely getting by. His drug use had skyrocketed and despite firm boundaries of no use in our home, he blew through that boundary on several occasions. The final straw was his all night binger Friday night into Saturday morning where we found him passed out, bong upside down, lights on, music playing and a candle. I don’t think he was using the candle for meth, but what I do know is that burning candles in my home in a blackout is a serious risk to our family. We sent him back on his plane to school and emailed him a note stating that we love him and loved having him at home when he was sober and hated having him around when he was using. We told him he is no longer to visit us (note the word “visit”) unless he is solidly sober and active in a program. His response was “then I’m not coming home”. Drug use makes our children not care about anything but use. I’m grateful that my son is living away from us and he still has room and board. But I’m resolved to not rescue if the next step is that daybed and footlocker. It’s the best chance we can give him to wake up and want help. I’m writing all of this to let you know you are not alone. I know this is so hard. Keep sharing.