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He Lives Next Door But He Might As Well Be Out of State

boy leaving mom in shadow

AiR member esta4 responded to our recent post, He’s Far Away, But Is He Out of Reach? with this comment:

“My son lives next door, but he might as well be out of state. He keeps his door locked and only allows me in if he has asked me to come over. So, I have to be the one who keeps the lines of communication open. If I'm going to the grocery store, I ask him (by text) if he needs anything that I can pick up for him. Sometimes he pays me, sometimes not. He does work for a very understanding person who recognizes that pulling the rug out from under my son will eliminate insurance and any hope for recovery. My son does not appreciate this. Actually, he does not appreciate anything. However, my efforts have made it possible for him to call me when help is needed. I took him to the emergency room in January, and he was hospitalized and detoxed. He refused all treatment options offered to him, and I was told (by him) to mind my own business if I encouraged treatment. He was drinking again 4 weeks later. So there is great frustration in following the advice from "Get Your Loved One Sober" but not having any success.”

A locked door and texts in lieu of in-person interaction can indeed make it feel like your son is in another state. It is important to keep the bridge between you, and to maintain the communication as you describe — this can’t be easy but your instincts are good.

From your description it sounds like your son pays rent, has a job, and insurance. He drinks but his employer is understanding. You provide grocery shopping and groceries.  And he calls you (?) when he is in trouble.

When he left the hospital, he stayed sober for 4 weeks. He therefore knows he has a problem with alcohol. Perhaps he learned something from this experience about trying to stay sober on his own…it is very difficult. It is hopeful that he tried, very hopeful.


So what IS under your control in all this?

He could spend more of his money on groceries and perhaps less on alcohol if he had to buy all of them. If you stopped helping out with the grocery shopping, he’d have to shop himself, which might lead to an embarrassing moment. Yes, he might go less often, and eat less well, but that is closer to what would happen naturally without your help.

This is just one place where you might be able to back away a little, without rocking the boat. Rather than you texting him, let him text you.

When he calls and invites you over, what does he want? Are there other small/safe natural consequences that are not occurring that you could allow to happen?

Does he ever quit for a day? Is there the possibility of asking him over for cookies and tea on a day when he isn’t drinking? What would be rewarding to him?

I agree, you don't have a lot of wiggle room in this situation. I have more questions than answers for you, but look at your situation anew, and see where you might back away a little when he’s holed up and drinking, and where you might be able to create a moment together that includes something he likes, when he’s not drinking.


Something you CAN do:

The one area where you can do more is to create a list of treatment options covered by his insurance: detoxification units, therapists, medication assisted treatment, intensive outpatient programs, self-help groups & meeting times. Keep it in your back pocket. When you come upon him relatively sober and in an okay mood, you say something like:

I was proud to see you try to stay sober after the hospital. You managed it for a good amount of time. That couldn't have been easy.

If and when you want to try again, I’ve put together a list of the options that exist that we can afford. I will do everything I can to help you with this.

I love you and I loved that you tried. Thank you.

Your situation is not that unusual. Other families end up in situations that put everybody in a holding pattern like the one you describe with your son.  

Thank you for writing in. Let us know what you think of these suggestions. If you can, write in more about daily life with your son.



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"...)