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I Can’t Believe He’s Acting So Entitled

Man Yelling into Phone

Gail2216 has just seen her Loved One behaving rudely to staff. To top it off, he dragged her into the middle of it. She is angry, scared, and frustrated. How can he make any progress with this attitude? She really wants to let him have it for the way he behaved.

Hello, This is my first time posting here. My almost 27 year old son has been active in addiction since he was about 15/16, some where around 18 he started using opiates and by 20 he had moved on to heroin. He has had some periods of sobriety and eventually at 24 he entered a longterm residential program and did very very well. It was a year long program and he remained abstinent from illicit drugs for 15 months while on suboxone. Shortly after completing the program he relapsed and entered treatment again in Spring of 2018. During this past year he continued on suboxone but was struggling with cocaine while in sober housing. At the urging of his Dr. we tried to remain patient as he tried to work his way away from cocaine use. That did not work and after losing his housing we allowed him to move home for the first time in 6 years. With the intention that he would work back to sobriety/suboxone and go back to sober housing as his house manager promised to take him back. He continued with his weekly suboxone appointments as well as his appointments with a holistic doctor that also provided counseling. It did not end well, his use escalated and eventually he was using crack and brought it into our house. We secured him a detox bed with the program he had successfully graduated from in 2018. We told him he had a bed and would need to check in or leave our home in 2 days. He eventually entered detox in the allotted time frame and went on to tss but was asked to leave after a few days…he spent 4 days on the streets of Boston and eventually made it back to treatment and then back to tss and is heading on to the residential program tomorrow. Read Gail2216’s full comment here.

Dear Gail2216, welcome to the community! I’m glad you came here to share your story, to vent, and to connect. That is what we’re all here for.

Your son became addicted to opiates and eventually heroin in his late teens and early twenties. He gained traction towards sobriety in a longterm residential program. Suboxone was helpful during this time and he remained abstinent for over a year.

He has subsequently struggled with cocaine and crack. He’s relapsed a few times and been through various treatments, sober living, rehab, etc. You have tried to be patient with him and give him time to work things out but the situation kept escalating. He wound up on the streets for a short time but managed to make it back to treatment. He is now set to attend a residential program.

You’ve all been through such a roller coaster. What an exhausting ride it is for everyone involved. After this last spell, he found himself in pretty dire circumstances. Living on the streets, in the throes of addiction, is a reality that is nearly impossible to imagine.

The good news is that your son is getting treatment. He has had periods of sobriety in the past. He has somewhere to go; he is accepting the help. All very encouraging. Your main concern now is this new behavior which seems so entitled and disrespectful. You’re struggling with wanting to let him know how this all makes you feel. You’re fed up and furthermore worried that he won’t get far in recovery with this attitude.

In one of Annie Highwater’s brilliant posts, she shares a number of things to look out for when a Loved One first goes in to treatment. The post is written for folks who are new to SUD, but all of it is valuable, for newcomers and seasoned family members alike. When a Loved One goes into treatment, especially at the onset, we can expect them to act out in different ways. They may be grasping for creature comforts and using anything they can to get through the jarring transition they are facing.

In TSS, your son acted out in a way you haven’t seen before. You were put in the middle of this twice, and it left you reeling with anger, disappointment, and fear for what’s next. You are well educated in addiction, but this latest episode really shook you. It is something that many family members have experienced. Seeing a Loved One acting so unlike themselves is incredibly unsettling. And it causes worry about who they are becoming, and where they are headed.

He just came through a dramatic low: using crack, losing his housing, living on the streets… Coming off this latest episode in TSS, he’s in brand new territory this time. It takes a while for the body and mind to fully settle, to start sleeping again, and to not feel irritable. His internal landscape is in a state of great upheaval. Considering this, it’s possible this new behavior is some sort of defense in reaction to what he has emerged from. Either way, it’s fair to say he’s not at his best during this time. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, but acting out – in many different ways – can be expected when a Loved One first enters (or re-enters) treatment.

As we’ve written about in other posts, making progress towards sobriety does not guarantee civility, gratitude, or good manners. There is so much rewiring of the brain that is going on when one moves out of an active addicted state. (Re)establishing some of these interpersonal skills can take a long time. As family members, we are left wondering how we are supposed to endure their disrespect, after all we have done for them.

All of the feelings you describe are valid and understandable after watching your son act in this way. Try to accept these feelings as they are, without having to react to them. Write about what you are going through – use your journal on this site – and honor all that you are feeling. When you have given them this space, try to return to a new place of compassion and openness. You saw your son acting in a way that he may regret one day. But for now, he has even greater hurdles to clear.

Using the CRAFT method, you can use those “I” statements as we suggest. But remember to keep the statements brief. Give them time to sink in. The goal is not to unleash all that you are feeling. It is to find a place of centeredness from which we can speak our truth and keep the lines of communication open. All of your frustrations are real, and they are valid, but the goal is to foster communication: to build a bridge.

You have been through so much, and educating yourself about addiction in these past several years has been a great help. It sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job, and serving a vital role in your community by supporting others who are grappling with this as well. You deserve to be celebrated for the support you’re providing to these families, and for the ways in which you have been there for your son, time after time. Thank you for all that you are doing.

When we hit a wall like this, and the emotions feel like they are boiling over, it’s a good signal that it’s time to step back and tend to yourself. We can’t be any help to our Loved Ones when we aren’t able to take care of ourselves. These feelings you want to unleash are telling you that you have had enough. It’s time to focus on healing yourself from what you’ve just endured. Take this time when he is in treatment to devote to your own needs.

Slowing things down and taking them moment by moment, you can relieve yourself of some of the worries about what comes next. Projecting into the future about how he’ll fare with this attitude won’t help you or him right now. He can’t be proud of his behavior with the staff, or of what he has put you through. But his thinking has become so hijacked by the drug-seeking that it will take a significant amount of time for him to see things in a new light. Your anger about his behavior with you and the staff is legitimate. But expressing it to him really won’t help either of you right now. Forgive him, and find a way to let this go. He is in treatment now. You will have time to connect with him after this storm has passed. At that point, the simple “I” statements you make can be more powerful than an angry outburst. “I was embarrassed by what happened.” Take care of yourself in the meantime so that you can approach that next conversation feeling centered, calm, and compassionate. That includes compassion for yourself.

Thank you for writing in, for venting in this safe space, and for helping get your son into treatment. You are doing a great job. We are glad you’re here.



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"...)