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I’m Reeling from a Violent Episode

Rocks in Fog

jezabelle was involved in a violent altercation with her Loved One, and he has now been sectioned. After this traumatic episode, she is second-guessing some of her decisions that led up to their argument. Also, she is fearful of what will happen when her LO gets out of his program.

Well it's been awhile and a lot has happened. My son who is still living with me at 25 is still a drug addict. I've done all I can to help him but he is very explosive and blows up when I try to talk with him. He found a job he liked and his first full paycheck he went out and used. I had him we took 12 two times on same day and they released him because he was not suicidal. When I went to pick him up and I told him he would have to start paying me room and board. He blew up we got into an altercation. He hit me several times in the arm once in the head and spit at me when I told him go get out of the car. As I pulled away he jumped on hood of car breaking my mirror and rolled onto street where he hit his head and right shoulder. It was historical. Police came arrested him after hospital and I had him sectioned with a restraining order in place for 1 yr. I feel like I am in mourning. My son looked so defeated in court that I have been crying everyday since. He is in Plymouth and he told me last time how violent it was there. I don't know if I helped or hurt him. I need help coping. I feel like maybe I shouldn't have pushed the room and board. Everyone is telling me I won't see my son for at least a yr. But what if he doesn't go to sober living at end of program… He can't come home. Help me please. I'm lost.

I am so sorry you are going through this. It is awful when things explode like this. The life of a family member is dotted with crisis moments. It is traumatizing to both of you. Over the years, I have observed how families reach out for help when this type of thing happens.

Too often, though, when the situation is calm (enough) it is hard and painful to motivate oneself to make a plan for the crisis. It takes a certain kind of mindset and level of energy during the quieter times to figure out where your son will go for treatment ahead of time, to prepare yourself emotionally for when a crisis might happen and to be ready with a plan. The crisis doesn’t have to be an all-out physical fight; it can be a moment of deep shame or embarrassment in your son that flattens him. It can be any number of events. These are windows of opportunity to engage a LO into treatment.

Your son has been physically abusive. He hit you in the car. Driving is not an ideal time to have a hard conversation. You can’t make eye contact, you are distracted with driving, and you are physically limited in how you can defend yourself or leave the situation. How frightening for you.

Plymouth is where men are taken when civilly committed in Massachusetts. It is located in a jail so they can’t leave but it is a treatment program. You did the right thing. I have not heard that there is violence at Plymouth. I’m sure it happens, but I’m also sure it is not tolerated.

I have worked with parents who are told such horrible things by the LO about their treatment facility (violence, no food, mattresses on the floor, a pipe head for a shower, etc.) that their family pulled them out of the treatment. Unfortunately, this has never worked out well for the Loved One – nor for the family.

Do others on this site have direct experience with Plymouth?

Communication with a Loved One when they go away to treatment ends up being a thin line to tread. You want to keep lines of communication open, and show your support in conversations with your Loved One. It can be hard for your heart not to go out to the Loved One when they appeal to you on this level. But you don’t want to be dragged into decisions or actions that run counter to the purpose of their treatment.

Considering the way a Loved One’s mind has been hijacked by addiction, there are so many painful lessons that come with treatment, about relating to one’s self, to the rest of the world, and to the substances, etc…. it’s such a raw time, and they are in the process of putting the world back together in a way that may be nearly impossible for a family member to fathom. Without this significant amount of “time out” to settle into this process, this raw and painful – and necessary – work can be interrupted before it has a chance to gain much traction. So pulling them out of treatment, or being available for special requests that don’t end up supporting the Loved One’s progress, tends to be detrimental in the long run.

Either way, it’s good to be aware of the complex feelings that we experience as family members of a Loved One in treatment or civil commitment. Take some time to give these feelings some space and acknowledgement. There is often some mixture of guilt, relief, regret, fear, etc. when a Loved One is in this situation. Try to find a way to accept the feelings as they are. You are human, and your feelings are all valid. Don’t beat yourself up for having any of these – or other – feelings. They are there, and you can learn to quietly observe them, even learn from them, and after giving them this space, you can let them be. Then in some time, the feelings can make their way through you and let you be.

So for now, take this time to get your bearings. Watch what your head is telling you. This is not your fault. Your son hurt you and himself. He needs help and he is now getting it. So forgive yourself. It wasn’t the smoothest transition to treatment but it worked.

You are responsible for your actions as he must be responsible for his. But this does not mean you should blame yourself in any way for things you said or approaches you tried in this midst of these terrible struggles with your Loved One’s addiction. We do the best we can. And when the dust has settled a bit, you can work on regaining the strength you need to face what happens down the road in new ways, before things escalate out of control.

We can’t know what will happen at the end of his commitment, and worrying about this right now will sap your energies. There is work you can do now, though, vital work in caring for yourself and your needs. What you experienced was traumatic, on many levels, and you need space to heal as well.

When you feel ready to, maybe you could dive into some books or podcasts. Have you read Beyond Addiction? Many members have found it to be incredibly helpful. This is just one of the many resources out there; sometimes it can feel grounding to dive into books like this during the quiet times we are presented with. Find what helps you feel positive in this community. All of this work of self-care and self-nurturing will pay off down the road when the time comes. You can find a way to come at this again, fortified by the lessons, and by the compassion and strength in this community.

Your Loved One is safe. You are safe now. Be very gentle with yourself. We are glad you have shared this with us. We are all here for you.



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 can relate somewhat to how you are feeling. My daughter and I had an explosion of words while I was driving. She opened the door to jump out and I slammed on the brake and when I slammed the break, it stopped so quickly, she fell out of the car. Broke her ankle it was awful. I felt in someway as if I did this to her. I thought I was going to have another nervous breakdown. She was very convincing in trying to say I shoved her out of the car. I would not stand for her manipulating me or what truly happened. She finally gave up on that. She knows exactly what happened, she opened the car door to jump out because she didn’t want to listen.I didn’t touch her and it was so sad and heart wrenching she got hurt. We got past it, however, it is forever etched in my mind. So senseless, how one person can affect so many lives. Try to give yourself some credit. You are a mother who loves your son. Your fighting for him, like we all are for our babies. There comes a point, where they have to realize something has to change. Like we have to come to that point as well. You change, they change………atleast that is what we hope for. My prayers for you and your family, prayers for your son.

  2. Dear Reeling.
    People don’t get to physically hurt you, even your loved ones. Threats, spitting, striking are wrong, way beyond tolerable for those living peacefully in society.
    My observation is that your son is acting out in part because of addiction. And you are feeling bad about not accepting behavior that you would not accept from anyone else. In my view, if this were not your son, would you accept this behavior from a stranger?

    My experience with Plymouth (and several other government facilities), is that it is a difficult place. As they are intended to be and it is place where those addicted and/ or alcoholic are separated from their substances of choice. I am also aware that there is a lot of help available to people who want to overcome this lifestyle, that it is up to each person to grasp. Many people have left these places with a new attitude and a new commitment to change their lives. They begin to understand that the only thing in life they can change is themselves and seek the path to better living. My hope is this time will be the right time for your son.

    Roman Statesman Cicero advises, “The art of life is to deal with problems as they arise, rather than destroy one’s spirit by worrying about them too far in advance.”

    To worry and project about things that may happen months from now is speculative at best.
    Your worst case scenarios and you best case scenarios have an equal chance as long as one is dealing with hypothesis.

    I would try to be good to myself and learn about the things that I can do to positively support my LO and the things that will help me when I have to say no or no more.
    Peace. RLC

  3. Jezabelle,
    I’m so sorry you had to go through this, but please don’t beat yourself up for what you had to do and realize your story is not unusual. After several attempts at rehab and 5 years using, I caught my 21 year old son shooting up in the bathroom and he agreed to another IOP. Two weeks into that program I found what turned out to be cocaine and Xanax in his shirt pocket and confronted him. He tried to take the drugs from me, we struggled physically, my husband called the police, and my son fled. I filed assault charges and we filed the paper work for sectioning him. After a few days as a fugitive he came home scared stiff but resigned to his fate. We turned him in and he spent a few days in jail awaiting a hearing. It broke my heart and I’m still traumatized by it all, crying softly now as I relive it all typing this. He was sent to MATC in Brockton, and it was the turning point for him. He stayed a month and went directly into a residential program for 7 months. We were insistent that he couldn’t come home. He is back living with us now, but he is another person, a year and 9 months later; kind, respectful, responsible. I am grateful for every day I have with him.

    There is always hope. I survived it all in large part by being part of several support communities, including this site. One of the members of one of the support groups sat with us all day in court on the day of the sectioning. I’m glad I sought out help, as you are doing sharing your story here. Learning to manage my emotional trauma continues to be a work in progress. I continue to believe that one of the best ways I can support my LO in recovery is to be an example and work on my issues as well. We are all in this together, doing our best at the time, with love and compassion and forgiveness for our weakness and incomplete understanding.

  4. When I drove my son to his treatment house from detoxing for a week in a hotel. He was uncharacteristically scary and mean. Opening the car door repeatedly as I drove to try and hit mailboxes by the side of the road. Laughing at me when I reacted with fear. Saying the most awful things to me. it has taken 3 plus months for the trauma to subside for me and for me to be able to see it was his fear and addiction running the show at that point. We have had a few conversations around it and his treatment house director told me how the other guys in the house had given my son the business for how mean my son was to me. We are good now-trust is being rebuilt. I would recommend to always have another stable adult in the car when dealing with an addict on the edge-just too volatile and dangerous and as Dominique said -you have no way out when driving. I can also attest to how the addict will try everything to get out of treatment and will continue to voice their messed up thinking to you while they are in early recovery. Know it is the addict part of them -not the real them -and as their brain heals the child you know and love will return-and that takes longer than we initially anticipate