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He’s Angry & Says We’ve Abandoned Him

NEWS - grandparents

Member susieb takes care of her 2-year-old granddaughter while her own son struggles with substance use. Things have been escalating and he is having angry outbursts in their home…

"Looking for reassurance that I did the right thing.

I have been struggling with my son’s addiction along with my husband for years but recently the addiction has really escalated

With a lot of angry outbursts and destruction of our house by throwing things and punching holes in walls.

He also has a 2-year-old daughter who we have temporary custody of with the other set of grandparents.

He has had screaming fits around her and has been visibly high/drunk around her. I recently told him that I didn’t want him coming to the house anymore because if this.

He has his own apartment so it’s not like he doesn’t have a place to live.

I told him that I would be willing to meet him with his daughter at a kid-friendly place as long as he was sober.

I told him that I love him but that it’s time to make some changes. He said that I have abandoned him. I assured him that I haven’t but now he won’t respond to my texts. This has been really hard."

Your son’s addiction is progressing and it is causing more angry outbursts from him, some when he's high and both at times in front of his young daughter. It is super hard when there are children involved. We have touched on this topic before on the blog. Here's a link to the "when young children are involved" topic that lists all related posts.

As a parent and grandparent you are forced to manage many things at once. There are these surprising spikes of angry emotion from your son, and your own immediate surge of adrenalin as you quickly try to figure out how to calm things down—which includes protecting your granddaughter from seeing these showdowns­—while angling for him to seek help.

Let’s focus on what to do in just this moment. The above blog posts referenced above will hopefully cover some other related questions you are having.

"What you should do for me" is the name of the game

It is perhaps stunning that your son can suggest you have abandoned him as you care for his daughter and your house is permanently marked by holes in the walls. Substance disorders can lead to this level of self-absorption. A person with addiction is always uncomfortable, always looking to tweak their mood, fervently hyper-focused on what they need in the next couple hours. What you should do for me is the name of the game. As a family member, this can be truly stunning!

As a family member, especially a parent, you may inadvertently buy into this narrative. Shouldn’t you care for your child? Don’t you have a responsibility to provide? Must not you try to meet his needs?

This puts you in a position of fixing, providing, placating …

When your Loved One is high and angry it's an invitation to clear out

In the safety module (Learning Module 2) we talk about red flags, the sign that things are heating up. We talk about de-escalating the situation, getting out of the house, not engaging. When your Loved One is high and angry it's an invitation to clear out. How can you do this? Are you torn between doing this and not wanting your son to feel “abandoned”? Are you scared he will get angrier if you back away? Families become immune to these crazy tense moments. What would someone new to the scene do if faced with your son, in one of these moments? Would they call the police? Can you see yourself calling the police?   

Would calling the police create risks to his parental rights or to your custody? There’s a lot to unpack in this one chaotic moment. These events are not random, though. Can you start to predict when they are coming? Can you get out of the way earlier? Can you lay the problem more at his feet by involving the police if necessary?

Asking you son to “make changes” is the goal.

How he gets there is covered in Learning Module 8. Please look at this module. You need some concrete detailed ideas about treatment for your son, written down and ready to present to him in a calm moment. He needs help making the plan. Can you predict when your son will be calm and not very high/or mostly sober and more willing to listen to a conversation about treatment? Learning Exercise #12 helps you identify those moments of non-use.

What is the cycle—when do you get out of the way? when do you step in? Look for the pattern. There are so many grandparents parenting these days. It is heartbreaking to see your child not meet their obligations as a parent. Sobriety is the first step. Leave the rest alone. Focus on sobriety now, for without sobriety your child cannot become a consistent and capable parent.

I hope that being on this site does reassure you and helps you focus in on what you can change. Your instincts are good. Thank you for having the courage to address the substance problem in your family.



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. Thank you so much for your response. I recently told him that he can come to the house but that if he were visibly high or having another angry outburst he would need to leave. He came the other night and was fine and I used some of the techniques you suggested to encourage this behavior.