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He Is Literally Breaking Me in Half

head in hand, crying

Allies member mama feels conflicted beyond belief and can't stop crying. She asks, "…save the addict or save the 12-year-old?"

"What happens if your son is using at home and refuses to stop. He is not waking up for work.

We have a 12 year old and it is greatly affecting him; he has developed verbal and facial tics from the stress.

I have my own mental health issues that are keeping me co-dependent and ill. I read this book; I prayed it would work. But it isn't. Every time I apply principles, he uses it as an opportunity to use/go out. We pull away attention /affection and he loves it because it gets us off his back.

He is such a hard nut to crack. He refuses treatment. We have taken him to a stabilization unit, doctors, counselors. He ends up blaming and gaslighting me and he does it in such a convincing way everyone falls for it. Nothing works.

We had to throw him out 3 nights ago. It is freezing here but we just had to. We literally cannot take another second of it. Our 12 year old is starting to be traumatized by it. He won't go to rehab and will definitely not do the 12 steps which is all that is offered up here.

I understand that this may create more chaos but I literally will not be around for anyone soon if I cannot get some rest and a little bit of a break; he is literally breaking me in half. I love Maia's book but we just cannot get to a place that is calm and non-volatile. I am so conflicted that I just cannot stop crying. Save the addict or save the 12 year old? Saving the addict isn't working and it is killing the 12 year old."

The effects on other family members when one has active addiction can be devastating, as you describe. Your own health is at risk and your younger son is showing signs from the chronic stress.

When things are spiraling out of control, start with you

From what you write, it sounds like you need to start with you: a support group, therapist, coffee with a friend, Al-anon or CODA (codependent anonymous), a gentle yoga class… something that helps you find a few moments for yourself that are quiet. You cannot be effective when you feel “codependent and ill.” Your responses and decisions will not come from a place of calm and careful strategy.

Your younger son may also benefit from seeing someone. Younger children are often far more aware of what is going than adults think. They have questions and fears they may not share with you.

We would also suggest looking at Learning Module 5 again—where we address communications. Reducing the negative talk and quieting the conflict between you and your older son is so important and may be the place to start. From your comment, it sounds like you are in the center of a storm, perhaps angry, hurt, and too reactive to what your older son is saying and doing. Step back a little and watch your side of the communications; it may help reduce his reactivity to you.

Commit to viewing all of the Learning Modules on this site and doing the exercises. If you have a partner, please ask him or her to also do it. The framework described in these modules is the quickest way out of your current situation.

When you pull attention and affection away, your Loved One seems to like it. For some, this may be true. It could be you are not keeping it up long enough. It could be that your affection and attention is not rewarding to him. He doesn’t care. What is rewarding to him? Whatever it is, can that be removed? Certainly, providing affection and positive attention when he is using isn’t the answer.

It can take multiple treatment episodes to gain traction into sobriety. Don’t give up on treatment because it hasn’t yet worked in your experience. It’s the best answer we have to addiction and mental illness.

If the family is suffering and you are unable to make the changes described on this site, or they do not work, you do need to protect yourself and other family members by considering whether your older son should move out. If he shows no sign of addressing his addiction, then a warm bed, a fridge full of food, and a private space that he protects by nasty behavior does, in fact, enable him to continue using drugs.

I see another comment from you in which you reference a study that shows a 30% increase in drug use when a child is asked to move out. I am going respond to this question in a separate post.



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. Dear Mama,
    Your situation sounds so, so difficult and traumatic for you and your family. You care about both sons but one is tearing up the family. We had this same situation – you want to support your son, but he is using your love and caring for him to stay home and keep taking drugs. I was so resentful of my son and angry too, in the beginning. We were lucky – we made his going to counseling our ONLY requirement when he was trying to quit his opioid addiction; and also made him sign a waiver so we could check in with the drug testing doctor (if we wanted to) to get the results. Even though he fought us on this – we stuck to our guns. If he didn’t go to counseling, we would either go in ourselves to talk with his counselor (this made him very angry) or kind of “dragged” him in. Eventually he figured out a way to get out into recovery himself – and the counselor both praised us for being so supportive and involved – but also reminded us that it was our son’s journey to figure it out. Going through the modules in here calmed me down a bit (my husband just couldn’t get into it, but he did listen to the counselor), though it seemed really hard at first, eventually it worked to help me learn to say the right things at the right time – and to back off when it was not the appropriate time; also to keep myself from going “overboard”. It’s a very, very stressful situation – as with the advice above, try to get yourself all the help you can lean on – friends, counselors, etc. In the end it is not your fight, it is your son’s – but you can have some influence, even if limited. Good luck – our son is finally doing well in recovery and we are thankful for that…but it was his hard work that was the primary factor (and he acknowledges our love and support – now! and is very thankful as well).