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He May Be Spending the Holiday in Jail. Should I Bail Him Out?

Xmas lights

$ister4's anger and resentment towards her Loved One has transformed – with one event – into love and fear. He was arrested out of state for dealing drugs and driving under the influence. The family has confirmation that he has indeed been using meth again. Now, the holiday together is a question mark and she wonders how much to share with the family…

© Mark Rabe via Unsplash

"I knew today, something was not right. I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling. Most times, when I have this feeling, it is related to my older brother. I got the call from his ex wife…He is in jail. Now what? He lives 2 hrs away from me. He has recently been avoiding me more and more. I have had the feeling in my gut he was back to using meth. However, his distance and lack of communication have made it hard to use the CRAFT method. I have tried to stay positive and take care of myself. We were preparing for having him here for Christmas with his 15-year-old daughter. Now, likely not going to happen. He was arrested in another state for dealing drugs and driving under the influence. He did admit to his ex that he has been back to using meth for a few months. We don't yet know the actual charges, but there is bail needed to get him out. We do not have the money and are uncertain how much.

Several problems- how do I tell my mom who is in her late 70s and planning to see him this weekend? When do I tell her? We talk often about my brother and I don't want to keep secrets. How do I help him? I am already finding myself searching court records, arrest records and trying to find his exact charges. I know this isn't healthy, but…Now, my adult girls and teenage son, along with his 15 year old daughter are going to be dealing with the worry and unknowns.

I am grateful that he felt safe enough to call his ex. I told her to tell him she told me what happened and that I love him and am still here for him. I am scared for him and can't imagine the fears he has. 4 years ago he was a teacher for elementary kids. Meth takes your life so quick. How do I help him, his daughter, his ex, his mom and my family? Uncertain if he will make bail in time for Christmas…I'm no longer feeling anger and resentment towards him…love and fear."

Your brother is now in jail, due to his addiction to methamphetamine. The specifics matter less — the charges, the bail; the bottom line is he is going to sit in jail through the holidays and the reason is addiction.

I am sorry for him and for your poor family, especially his teenage daughter, who may not understand the depths of his illness. Having a father who is absent and appears to prefer drugs over you, is likely very hard on her. If I recall correctly, she is already seeing a therapist. Good. That is indeed crucial for her well-being.

What stimulant use looks like

Part of what is going on with your brother is the nature of the drug he is using. Methamphetamine users are taken to such a level of high that other drugs pale in comparison — even opioids don't spike our dopamine the way meth does.

Like with cocaine or diet pills, users of stimulants binge until not one scintilla of the drug is left. The crash as you come down is psychologically horrific, a crushing depression full of shame and black, black thoughts. You sleep it off fitfully and emerge only days later from the terrible withdrawal. Or you do what your brother did, and head out into the world while withdrawing, desperate for more.

As a family, you are doing all you can for him, including a professional intervention at which he told you all where to go. CRAFT provides you the daily stance of life with someone who's suffering from addiction. CRAFT can apply to any situation, as you see from the hundreds of blog posts we’ve written over the years.

The current situation with your brother is actually supporting CRAFT

Anything resembling a reward has been removed. Your brother sits in jail. Jail is a consequence of his drug use, so let him feel it. It is far safer than where he was, just prior to being arrested. The environment is taking care of two central CRAFT principles right now:

– removing rewards, and

– allowing natural consequences.

Don’t soften the blow. Don’t tell him it will be okay.

His landing in jail may be a gift in disguise

The jail system may have been your family’s Christmas gift. Tell your mom that your brother’s arrest means that he is safe for the holidays; that the arrest opens another path to getting your brother into long-term residential care. You are hopeful that the system will do what you, as a family, have not been able to do for your brother.

The treatment for meth is not well established but we do know that recovery is possible even though it takes a long time; I would say he would need at least 6 months, in a safe, drug-free environment.

Jail is kind of that, "safe and drug-free". Don’t get me wrong, I am completely against locking up people for addiction and non-violent acts, but jail has temporarily stopped your brother’s use. He is warm and he is fed. Jail is not the answer, but jail just gave your family time to figure out next steps.

You now have outside pressures coming down on your brother, serious ones. Courts see so many people like your brother. I am not defending jail, but I work in one, and thankfully, I can report that the guys in our jail are getting treatment opportunities there, and are then being released from jail with ongoing support and services already in place.

He landed himself in jail… Can your family let him stay there instead of bailing him out?

So… jail for Christmas. It is sad for everyone, but I wonder if your family can consider not bailing him out. You have an opportunity now to allow the law to be useful to you. You can use it as leverage to guide him from jail into a residential treatment program. Frankly, being free right now might be dangerous for others and will almost certainly lead him back to using. He needs time, at the very least 6 months, time for his body and mind to recover.

A public defender is probably all he needs to get out. But keep in mind that a lawyer working for him may not argue for mandated treatment. The goal for any attorney is to get his client out, free, but not necessarily into treatment.

Your choice is important here: your brother needs an attorney who will argue to the judge that he should be mandated to long-term addiction treatment. Some lawyers will push for treatment if the client can agree.

Coming from jail can actually open doors to some residential homes. There are a lot of if's to all this, but there's a good chance that if you bail him out, he'll be home for Christmas, but probably on a tear by New Years.

Remember, the lawyer works for his client, not for the family. If your family pays for a lawyer, this may give you further leverage with your brother, as in: "We will get you an attorney if you will strongly consider his recommendations …"

We’d love to hear from other family members who have been through the criminal justice process with their Loved One. What has your experience been?

Your brother has come so far down the ladder. The choices are drying up. No more wife, no job, no home. He has a loving family, and especially a sister who won’t let go, and will continue to fight for her brother. Thank you.



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"...)