mommaoftwo needs help sorting things out. Her Loved One is facing serious charges but has been making strides in the right direction. He still has a lot of work to do though, and it’s hard to watch this unfold without wanting to keep pushing him along. A former counselor suggested an ultimatum with a time frame for negative drug tests. The family is overwhelmed.
I need help – am confused about which way to go now. Short background-I have posted some of our story before. My son 21 we discovered last winter has been using meth for 4 years – he apparently went so far down the road he was also dealing. It came to light when a friend of his messaged me her concerns. Since then we have gotten him to rehab-he was there for 60 days and left before completing the long term program. He came home – got a good job, a new puppy and had attended meetings on and off – we have been drug testing him and he is clean of meth but continued to use pot and alcohol. Meanwhile charges came down from a traffic stop last Nov. that resulted in a search of his car- a large amount of meth and pot were found. He is facing 5 felony charges. He has retained a lawyer with his own money. The lawyer will plea bargain – this lawyer sits on the drug court board and says there was too much meth for my son to qualify for drug court. The lawyer also doesn't think my son will go to prison as this was his first offense – but no one knows at this point. My son has had his first court appearance and was released on his own recognizance. There are many conditions to him remaining out- no drugs or alcohol, go to meetings, get a sponsor etc. So no guarantees – so much dependent on my son's actions. My son has always needed a push – gets stuck – avoids etc. Last week after seeing no real actions on his part – I did push – the anxiety of watching him do nothing in the face of these horrendous consequences was too much for me. Since then he has come up with his own plan of meetings every night after work, and told me he was 2 days clean from pot, and had some of the withdrawal symptoms – stomach ache, slight fever and chills. He has been doing well at his job – which requires getting up at 4 in the morning and working some Saturdays. We have been drug testing him although not probably enough. Now the push to hold him accountable for the pot use- I have been advised by the counselor where he went to treatment that still coaches me to tell him if he doesn't test clean in 2 weeks from pot that he will have to move out. I can't bring myself to go that far. To me it seems the natural consequences- prison are already there. My son was adopted as a toddler after his birth mother could not maintain sobriety, she has since recovered and is a high school teacher. My son has abandonment issues and I am afraid threatening him now will serve no purpose other than to push him over the edge to give up. This is so hard – so much at stake – it feels like the weight of the world and making a mistake here could be devastating. My son could be trying to fake us out again – he did after all fool us for 4 years. I need your well reasoned opinion – I am not sure I am seeing this clearly. As it stands now we did tell my son last night we will be drug testing more often and expect to see a clean screen in 2 weeks. He left the dinner table saying if it isn't then what? He went to his room for the rest of the night.
Your son is facing drug dealing charges. Much is at stake for him. You are drug testing him. Your son’s treatment program, which he did not complete, is urging you to kick him out unless the drug test is negative for cannabis in two weeks’ time.
He is still smoking pot and drinking.
Everyone feels cornered from the sounds of it.
First off, thank you for writing in. There is a lot to consider here and it is wise to reach out when you feel you aren’t able to see things clearly. With all of the pressure everyone is feeling, it can be so hard to think straight. You are right to question the usefulness of threatening him when there is so much pressure already. Good for you for taking the time to think this through out loud with us.
Regarding the cannabis, remember that it can stay in a person’s system for 30 days if the person is a daily user. I’m worried that a drug-free home drug test as a condition for staying with you is not helpful in the sense that it forces the family to act if the test comes out positive.
Drug tests help gauge progress. Their results provide everyone with information which is helpful going forward… But they shouldn’t be the only thing everyone is relying on to make decisions.
Laurie MacDougall recently wrote a good post about how her family managed her son’s recovery efforts at home using drug tests.
The drug dealing charges hanging over your family is scaring everyone. It’s not ideal, but let the courts address your son’s use of pot. Any drug test that you do is simply a piece of the puzzle. It would be more useful to look at it as information that helps you work CRAFT, not as part of an ultimatum for living at home.
Getting arrested appears to have your son’s attention. He is not using methamphetamine. He is trying. He could use as much encouragement as possible to acknowledge, reinforce and reward his efforts in this department.
I would leave all of this alone. Let him stay home, go to work, go to meetings, and shake in his boots about upcoming court appearances. Methamphetamine is a very tough drug to resolve. Everything is in place for now, evidenced by his non-use of methamphetamine.
Try and put down the worry about the criminal justice issues. Let your son hold that fear. Let him wrestle with court drug tests. For now, he is home and not using methamphetamines. He is working and attending self-help. You cannot control what happens with the legal system.
I don’t think the courts will put him in jail for a positive screen for cannabis. My suggestion is to stop drug testing him and hold your course. Let your son feel the whole weight of his situation. It’s not your role to get after him, or drug test, or otherwise protect him from the courts. This may be easier said than done, but as you say, the weight of all of this is just too much. You need to take some of this burden off of your shoulders. Natural consequences are his to face. And your bearing this weight unnecessarily may detract from your ability to use CRAFT in positive ways with him. Your loving, compassionate ear is one of the greatest gifts you can give him right now.
If the attorney is right, and your son won’t go to jail, you could see the recent arrest as the pressure your son needed – it got his attention. I would suggest you find ways to reward his non-use in the day. Focus on your son looking meth-free. For now, let your son manage all the drug and alcohol use. Let him stand on his own and face the court system.
CRAFT says focus on the drug use IN THE DAY. Everyday your son looks clean is a good day. It’s not your job to focus on the legal issues. I realize it is frightening to imagine your son in this trouble and facing possible jail time, but don’t let this fear drive your behavior towards your son. Stay focused on the drug use in the day. And for now, I would cheer his efforts at remaining meth-free.
The confrontation and defensiveness you describe are all too familiar to the families on this site – and beyond. This is one of the reasons why we urge family members to be cautious about delivering ultimatums without an individualized consideration of the big picture. In your situation, trying to tackle all these parts at once sounds extremely challenging and overwhelming for everyone involved. It makes sense that everyone is feeling that strain.
Try to wipe the slate clean for the next conversation. The last one wasn’t great. But you don’t have to carry that around. Try softening your language and practicing that empathetic listening. He is more than his drug problems – let him feel that you are seeing him as a whole person. Even though the goal is for him to be clean one day from all of these substances, his progress with regards to the meth is a major step. He still has a lot of work to do, and a lot to face. Getting there may take a long time. But you want to keep the focus on building the bridge and being there for him as a partner in his recovery with each and every opportunity you have.
Perhaps it sounds something like this:
I am working on managing my own stress about your drug charges. I've been overwhelmed and not sure what to do. I'm trying to back off. I care about you so much. We are so proud of you for staying off meth. You've been doing great getting to your job and we can see you trying to change things. We don't want to hound you about the alcohol and pot. This is yours to manage. Of course we will be here to help with this if you need it. You've done a lot of hard work already. I know you must be overwhelmed too. We are here for you, and we love you.
You’re doing a great job – we are grateful for your reaching out and sharing these struggles with us. It’s time to take some of the load off your shoulders now… let us keep helping in any way we can.