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He Was Drinking Alone in the Motel

Southwest Motel

katie1chad's Loved One recently had to face some serious health conditions. He was being monitored and showing some improvement, but she just found out he had been drinking again in the motel rool she's paying for. There's so much risk of him being out on his own right now – should she bring it up or just let it be?

© MartyGil via Pixabay

I have written in before. My 30 year old son is an alcoholic. About a month ago he was hospitalized for pneumonia and flu, and they discovered liver damage. The nurse told me he would either need to be on oxygen for life or have a liver transplant. But after being released (with oxygen) he started seeing a doctor and having weekly blood tests for his liver. After about 3 weeks of that he told me his liver was healing much more rapidly than the doctor at the hospital had projected. Yesterday he called me about ordering some food (I am in a different state). Perhaps 45 minutes he called back clearly drunk but denied he'd been drinking. I have been paying for him to stay in a motel during this extremely serious pandemic. It is no time for someone with lung and liver damage to be living on the street. But how do I deal with his relapse? Do I try to discuss it with him or just try to keep him safe from the coronavirus?

Your son is chronically ill. You are paying for him to stay in a hotel during the Covid-19 crisis. He drank recently and denied it when you asked him at the time.

You got the typical answer when you asked him about his drinking while he was under the influence (there are actual two typical answers: 1) no I have not been using, and/or 2) what business is it of yours. You can almost see your Loved One up against the wall in this conversation, defending their need to use.

You got answer #1. I think you can discuss his drinking with him, without putting him at greater risk to the coronavirus and putting him out in the streets. (BTW: those working with the homeless are organizing at crisis levels all over this country to help those living in rough conditions. If it does come to it, your son could likely get some assistance through his state’s homeless services.)

Does your son have access to the internet? We have created a new resource on our site listing several options for different types of online meetings he could check out. Perhaps you pick a few that stand out to you, or you make up a list with several options. You know him best, so go with whatever feels right to you.

Sitting in a hotel room with no structure and nothing to do is not good for anyone; for someone in his position it is far from ideal.

“Son, I am sending you some links to online recovery meetings. There are many different kinds of meetings available here. Would you be willing to look at a couple? I bet it’s hard not to drink when you spend the day alone in a hotel room. I really want you to be safe. I am worried for you.”

Given the Covid crisis, you have additional worries for your son’s health. Let’s try some low barrier suggestions to start. It sounds like your son wants to heal his liver and he knows the drinking is dangerous. If he’s been doing well for a couple weeks in terms of the drinking then he does not need a detox. This may be a short-lived lapse. If you possibly can, continue to pay for food and lodging, and let’s see how much of a relapse is going on and whether he is willing to explore online help.

One last thought. Your son could look into Naltrexone as a medication assisted treatment for his drinking. We highlight the Sinclair method on the site. His doctor would need to be on board and to clear him for the drug. Naltrexone and the monthly shot, Vivitrol, could help discourage your son from starting to drink at this important juncture.

It is encouraging that his contact with the medical system has put him in front of more health professionals. In some way, he is having to reckon with the repercussions of his use, while also learning of new avenues for change. Having his liver functioning being monitored in such a way also provides feedback on some level which can be illuminating, and provide some motivation in its own way.

The road to recovery is long, and he’s in the thick of it. But your care and concern has continued to be a guiding light. Bringing up his drinking based on your past phone call is best done with the CRAFT approach in mind. Embrace a gentle, neutral and compassionate tone. Avoid accusation or arguments about the use. Try to limit any expectations about how the conversation will go. Try to find opportunities for practicing reflective, empathetic listening. Keep your focus on staying neutral and not engaging in conflict about the incident.

It’s fine to own your feelings and let him know how it makes you worry, but leave it at that. Keep a light touch, just reminding him that you’re there to help, and connecting him with some resources. Then step back. That is the CRAFTy way to address your concerns while keeping that bridge open as best you can.

You are doing  such hard work. What a strain this all must be to know of his conditions and not be able to step in more. Please take extra good care of yourself in whatever ways resonate with you right now. Whatever tools you have to bring yourself peace of mind, use them. What you’re describing magnifies the very tough lesson that all family members are grappling with in one way or another: accepting the limitations of what they can and cannot control. You can control your end of the communications. You can control the help with lodging right now. Try to take it a week or so at a time for this help, let it be for that time period, then reassess.

Thank you for writing in. Please let us know how this goes. This is an important question. The Covid virus is forcing us to rewrite how we apply CRAFT, especially as it has to do with housing.



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"...)