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He’s Out of Jail and Drinking Again

Old Truck Stuck

katie1chad is trying to help her Loved One get into treatment, but he lives far away. After a brief stint in jail, he was showing signs of a new outlook, but now he’s not communicating. She wants so badly to help him move in the right direction – what can she do?

My son recently completed 2.5 weeks in jail and therefore abstained from alcohol (his addiction). He told me on the night of his release that he had a new outlook on life for the better, and he realized that the other inmates were really just people, like him. He said he and I were lucky to be as well off as we are. I was ecstatic! He promised to talk to me more at length about it, but when he found his truck had been impounded while he was in jail, he went into a tailspin. He called me after being up all night and day trying to get it back, then I think he began drinking again. I got him a motel room that he could walk to and he promised to call me when he got there but he didn't. I live 1000 miles away from him. What can I do to help him recover his life. He needs a job badly, but of course that's much more difficult without a vehicle. I have scouted out resources in his area to help but I can't make him go. What do I do now?

Your son has a long history of problematic drinking. You live far away from each other. He’s just spent a brief time in jail and is out, upset about his truck being impounded. You got him a motel room. Now he’s sitting in that hotel room drinking.

Families far away are indeed more limited in implementing CRAFT. We’ve written about this before in other posts.

He calls you when he wants, not when you ask him to. You’ve found some treatment and self-help resources in his area, but he doesn’t go.

People say a lot when they’re in jail. It is a pause in the action, with a lot of time for reflection. This is not such a bad thing. We see this all the time in our jail work in western Massachusetts. The moment they get out, the will to change their life quickly evaporates as the barriers come slamming down in front of them. Your son, who has a quick and violent temper, lasted just a couple days.

Jails are starting to do a better job of release planning. The transition out is a moment in which the inmate typically has these good wishes for himself. At our jail, we have a whole team that goes to work case-managing the person into treatment. This doesn’t mean the person goes to treatment. Many relapse.

Remember, people with addiction are typically resistant to treatment. The entire CRAFT approach is designed with this in mind. You can expect a “no.” When you get that “no,” we counsel that you set up again. Being prepared to set up again helps you keep moving forward, and helps keep you from feeling stuck on an unsuccessful attempt. Needing to set up again comes with this territory.

You’ve got the list of treatment and self-help places in his area. Good job. Learning Module 8 describes how to get your Loved One to agree to treatment. If your Loved One says no when presented with the treatment options, you accept their no, realizing you will try again when you see the next opening (the wish or dip described in Module 8). So, expect a no, and be ready to set up again. Watch your emotions around this cycle. You are in the throes of it, and you can help by remaining calm. It’s not easy but it’s critical.

Your son knows there is a problem with his drinking. This is positive. Put a couple more days of motel room on your bill if you possibly can. Where can he just walk in for help? Is that on the list? Also, naltrexone is useful in eliminating the euphoria and pleasure of alcohol. Is there a prescriber on your list willing to work on this with him? It’s a low threshold treatment. He can keep drinking but the naltrexone curbs it. Try googling the Sinclair Method in his area.

The Learning Modules provide a reasonable approach to managing the cycle you are in with your son. He is getting in plenty of trouble. If his truck was impounded and he had such a short stay in jail, I am guessing he has a court case coming up. His immediate environment is going to kick him around. Let it happen. If he doesn’t do anything to help himself, prepare yourself for seeing your son sleeping in the back of his truck. Not comfortable, but also not dangerous.

Take a look at Module 7 again to get a hold of yourself. You are doing what you can for your son. The rest is about taking care of your emotions for your own well-being. But it’s also to be calm and strategic in your interactions with your son.

Your son knows he has a problem. It’s a huge first step. Your job is to calmly and strategically follow along, but step off his coat-tails so that you aren’t thrown into extreme pain and emotional turmoil with his every move.



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. I gave my son 5 days in a motel with the specific purpose of giving him a chance to seek help. But all he did was drink more, and one morning drank and took Gabapentin and became unconscious. His girlfriend came by and pounded on the door, then texted me. I called hotel manager and asked him to go in and check on him. They found him breathing but unresponsive. Just as they were calling 911 he came to and said he didn’t want paramedics. Close call! But that morning he had arranged an appointment with Drug and Alcohol Services for next Tuesday (soonest possible). Our agreement was that if he wasn’t in treatment by Friday (today) I would discontinue financial help. So that is what I am doing. I don’t know where he will stay until Tuesday, but I have to stick to my word. Otherwise I am rewarding exactly the behavior I am trying to heal. This is very difficult for me, but I feel he must experience the consequences. Hope I am doing the right thing. I make sure to tell him I love him.

  2. Hi Katie, just wanted to send my encouragement. What you are doing is hard — I have found a lot of encouragement by reading about Annie Highwater’s experiences. It takes time to realize that your love and concern for the one who is struggling does not have to overwhelm your own capacity for feeling peace and hope. I have just a little taste of this, but it has helped me to stay calm when things are not going the way I would like for them to me. It is such a huge step that your son knows he has a problem, and I celebrate that with you.

  3. Thank you! He has a psychiatrist and a mental health facility that he has already touched base with before jail. He has no court case, he is done legally. But he is scared and overwhelmed with all that he has to do, and he has insomnia and depression. As you say, I can only encourage him to make use of the resources. And his phone is breaking down. That is the only reason he doesn’t call. I am telling him to go get a new phone today and I will pay. The motel rooms are too expensive on the weekend there, so he will have to sleep in his truck tonight. But I have one reserved for Sunday night. Then maybe Monday morning he can begin making connections with resources.

    I appreciate your good advice. This is very hard.