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Loved One Lives Out of State, Unstable and Lashing Out

mental illness b & w

SoCal is extremely upset to hear her Loved One, who lives in another state, in the throes of paranoia. Lashing out at the family, he is unstable, speaking of scenarios that may not even be real. He is isolated and needs support.

I'm trying hard not to panic but my 45 year old son who lives in another state is getting extremely paranoid. I've been using CRAFT methods to communicate with him the last month or two and at first it was helping to stay in communication with him.

But the past week he has cut off communication. This is the email he sent me:
"..tell you that I'm being targeted, drugged and RAPED… that the same people doing this to me have been stalking me and f*cking with my head for two years… F**k You…you are not my family! Do not attempt to contact me again"

When I read this I feel so hopeless. I have spoken to the local police and they believe he is delusional and have talked to him. I don't think letting him go on like this isolated and alone is helpful but yet I don't know what to do.

Has anyone else had any experience like this? I believe he smokes pot daily and uses meth also.

Even if your son was nearby, you would have trouble understanding whether his paranoia is organic (a result of mental illness) or the result of his drug use.

It was the right thing to do to call the police. The police can do a wellness check. When you see an email like this, it may be time for another wellness check. You are far away from your son. Use the first response system. Don’t be shy. Use it as much as you need.

I also suggest looking into a civil commitment in the state in which your son is living. In Massachusetts, the state I know best, judges are civilly committing people who are in danger to themselves or to others, whether or not it is the result of drug use.

A commitment would give your son a pause in his use, and give him a chance to get a professional assessment. It would begin the helpful process of parsing out the mental health issues from the drug use.

For now, let’s assume the problem is organic: a mental health issue. See if you can find a mental health crisis hotline. Find out all you can about civil commitments from them and other emergency services available in his area.

Provide your son with a list of who he can call when he’s scared.

You’ve done the right thing by building that bridge and working on communications with him despite the distance between you. It must feel terrible to get this kind of message from him. But remember that things change on a dime when addiction is at play. Each new moment can present new opportunities, so stay open.

You are aware of the limitations of your influence from so far away, but even living in the same town you’d still have to reconcile what you are able to do and what is beyond your control. Finding resources for him to help with complex mental health and addiction issues is a key step in being there for him while acknowledging what is beyond your scope.

Reaching out for whatever support you need, including this site, is also necessary. Recognizing and staying present with your feelings as you are doing, finding concrete options for getting your son help, and sorting out what you can and can’t do will help to preserve your health in an extremely challenging situation.

Write back and tell us what you learn. You are not alone with this type of situation. What have other families learned to try when their Loved One is far away?



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 wanted to give an update on this situation. This is the email I received from my son today…

    “I’m working for Amnesty International now. Trying to stop the genocide in Myanmar.  Its a full time job and I love it. I’m healthy and well and have met a great group of people who I now call friends. I get my first check next Friday. I cant pay all the rent yet but I will be able to start paying it. I got my food stamps also.”

    I realize that this good news could also turn on a dime, but for now I am feeling happy and grateful for the CRAFT tools and AIR.

    I have read many posts, watched videos and listened to the AIR podcasts. These tools give me the strength and support to pull back and let him do some problem solving without me interfering.

    Cautiously optimistic…

    1. Thank you for this update, with beautiful threads of hope running through it. It is heartening to hear of this progress, this kind of shift. Equally important is hearing you say “… these tools give me the strength and support to pull back and let him do some problem solving without my interfering.” This is so well said. Interesting how sometimes “not doing” can require more strength – or at least a different kind of strength – than “doing,” reacting, etc. This speaks to the work of CRAFT that lies in fortifying ourselves, finding community, practicing self-care, and learning to let go, so that we can tap into this kind of strength. Thank you for this wise observation, it will undoubtedly be of great value for the readers on this site.

  2. Thanks for your detailed response.
    The police did a wellness check and reported back to me that he was okay. They asked if he needed any medical/mental health attention and he said no.
    The more I am learning I am thinking that he is pushing back because I am starting to set boundaries.
    I feel bad that my past rescuing has led to his dependence on me and substances.
    I found a resource for mental health support within walking distance to him. Hopefully, I can provide the information to him when or if he is ready to talk to me again.
    Thanks again for your support and this website!