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He Refuses to Leave

mom showing son a brochure at table
Illustration © Eleanor Davis

A distressed AiR member recently wrote in:

I am so scared right now. My boys are arguing and I am so afraid that one might really harm the other. My stomach is in knots. The oldest one is sober and the younger one as been taking benzos and drinking heavily. When he gets drunk he is so beligerent and mean. They usually end up fighting and I fear that one will hurt the other. I really think that the younger one has to leave my house. I just don't know how to get him out. He contributes nothing and blames me for him having nothing. He says that I give everything to my other children and nothing to him. The other 2 are working very hard to accomplish something in their lives and he does absolutely nothing. I don't know how to help him anymore. He won't look for a job and just sits around either doing drugs or drinking. My oldest son tells me that if I don't get him out of this house he doesn't want to talk to me. What can I possibly do to get him out of this house? I have tried so many things already. I'm tired of living in fear, I'm tired of having police involvement, I'm just worn out. I want to enjoy the rest of my life, not dread it.

You need to live your life. You’ve come so far, for so long, with your family.  Both your other son and your husband are now addressing their substance issues.

Your younger son’s behavior is abusive. Right now that abuse is limited to when he is high from alcohol and benzodiazepines and is only directed towards his brother. I worry though that he could also turn his violent behavior towards you or other members of the family. 

You’ve used AiR principles with success on your other family members. Your younger son is violent however, and we recommend that you don’t try this program with him anymore. (See Module 2 on Safety; Read our recent post on violent Loved Ones here). Please contact the domestic violence program in your area and explain your situation.

In terms of housing your son, we have written about this issue elsewhere. It is worth reviewing these posts. (See "Using Home as a Reward," "He Has Relapsed and He's Sleeping on My Couch,"  and "Are We Enabling if We Don't Charge Rent?") 

When a Loved One is Resistant to Leaving Home

I do want to lay out for you what it looks like when a Loved One is resistant to leaving the home – it involves the courts and is what domestic violence advocates would almost certainly suggest. Please share this post with the advocate you are in contact with and ask for assistance.

First, let’s consider whether housing your son in your home is helping to resolve the addiction. He is not working and “just sits around either doing drugs or drinking.” You sound clear that it is time for your son to leave the house. It sounds to us that being home is not supporting him at efforts towards recovery.

As you’ve said, this is easier said than done. For some families, the Loved One just digs in their heels and refuses to leave. This may be especially so, when the Loved One is a younger adult or grandchild and your home is all they know. They feel entitled to be cared for and housed. After all, you are their parent.

Now, let’s turn to the specific issue of what to do when the Loved One is refusing to leave.

The Steps You Can Take if He Refuses to Leave:

There are two essential steps:

Step 1 –   

Prepare a list of places where your Loved One can go. You want his exit to be supported. You want to show you still care and are willing to help get him to the next right place.

In the case of your son, this would include:

Detoxification to start (Provide a couple places with the intake number. Call in advance to learn what is needed for admission). This is mandatory for your son. Both alcohol and benzodiazepines are dangerous, even life-threatening, during withdrawals.

Homeless services: Call the large mental health/substance abuse agencies in your area and learn what programs exist for homeless young men with substance issues. In particular, you want to understand the steps your son must take to get into one of these programs. The hope is that he will be assigned a case manager who can guide him towards emergency housing and continued treatment for his substance problems.

Sweeten the Deal? Also consider sweetening the deal by offering to support him financially with alternative housing (for a limited time), like a single room share or a sober home, if he is willing to go to detox and to go straight from detox into an intensive outpatient program.  You need the numbers and intake steps for those programs as well.

Shelter: Include the numbers and intake routine for area shelters should he refuse to go the treatment/homeless services route.

Step 2 –

If your son has refused repeatedly to leave and will do so again, consider getting a restraining order. I recognize how hard it is to involve the authorities in your private family life, and how serious a move this is, BUT your son, unlike your husband and your other son, has not responded to your efforts using AiR and other means at your disposal. He is dangerous. Asking him to leave and shepherding him towards treatment and alternative housing is THE BEST WAY to unblock the situation for him and create the conditions that can lead him to recognize his illness and his need for help.

If your Loved One is behaving violently toward someone now, the risk is that this will generalize to his future relationships with a spouse, his own children or other members of society. You are not doing him a favor by allowing him to engage in this behavior without consequence.

It is hard to imagine how hard your life has been and continues to be.  You deserve to enjoy your life and not dread it, as you say. Moving your son out of your home, while he continues to drink and use drugs, will give you your home back and may well provide the best next step for resolving your son’s addiction issues.



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"...)