Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

Should I Let Him Use The Car?

Walking Bike by Water

123peace has been driving her Loved One around to appointments, work, etc. for so long, and it causes her great anxiety. She’s had enough. Her Loved One is actively using on the weekends… she is wondering how to approach sharing the use of her car.

My son is on methadone and does crack (mainly on weekends when he gets his check). During the week he is taking adderall from off the street, however, he is having counseling and testing to get a prescription. He seems hyper and agitated when he takes it. When he does a low dose it is much better.

He just got his driving license back, but no car. I am willing to give my car to him – so I do not have to drive him to the clinic, work and appointments. I get harsh anxiety when driving him. My only worry is that he will use the car for other things……….
What should I do – I just can't drive him. He has used uber when going to purchase, etc. very very expensive ($50 / day). Should I put the responsibility on to him and pray all is ok or should I keep driving him for eternity. (horrible – between 5:15 am and 9:30 pm). I really want to put the responsibility on him, but if he does something not acceptable – I will feel very guilty.

You want your son to drive himself to work and to his medical appointments. You wish to put that responsibility onto him. Yet you are worried if you do give him the car that something will happen that will cause you tremendous guilt.

On the flip side, you get such deep anxiety when you drive him, whether it be to work or the MAT clinic, that you would give away your car to rid yourself of having to be his chauffeur and take the chance of your son driving.

Your son has his license back, so he is now eligible to drive. He is using drugs however, in particular, crack cocaine. Crack is the kind of drug that sends you driving into the night seeking more crack.

Do you need to give him the car at all? Could you manage the level of micro-negotiations that would need to happen daily if he had to ask your permission each time to use the car? Would he push on you for the car so persistently if he needs to get a drug that you would just throw him the keys anyway?

The registry of motor vehicles provides provisional licenses to drivers who have been in trouble. These allow the driver to only use a vehicle during certain times of the day. The hours are limited to getting to and from work as well as day-time medical appointments, perhaps something like 6AM to 4PM. Could something like this work? It’s true that your son can still buy drugs during these hours… but this type of limitation may keep him off the road at night when he is desperate and high.

We have spoken about this situation and I understand how deep your anxiety runs around driving your son. He is verbally abusive and has pressed you into service at times to take him to buy drugs. If he had limited hours in which he was allowed to drive, would he end up harassing you endlessly for the keys after 4?

There is no bus from your house so he has no public transportation available to get to work and appointments. If he were allowed to use the car on the condition that he help contribute towards it, having to put gas and repairs into a car might redirect some of the money from buying drugs to keeping the car on the road.

Do you want your son to continue living with you? What if he found somewhere else to live – a room near work that is also on the bus line? What if he transitioned to riding a bicycle? Or perhaps he has a co-worker he can carpool with? These are all options that people use when they don’t have the use of a car.

Cars don’t make good rewards because they are hard to take away. We have written about cars in other posts. We have emphasized the idea that a reward has to be something you, the family member, are comfortable giving. CRAFT could see the car as a reward during the week, when he is going to work, the methadone clinic, and other appointments. Then the car would be removed on weekends so as to not enable the drug use.

It is your car. You get to choose what happens with it: whether you are giving him rides or not; whether you loan it to him or not. You rely on your car, and it is your responsibility and effort that keeps the car on the road. If you loaned it to him, you would have to have reasonable confidence that he would not be putting this resource of yours in jeopardy. Having legitimate concerns about his driving your car – feeling like this would be a real danger to his safety and that of others – is a good warning sign. When you have the influence over their ability to drive, and you have concerns about safety and legality, we have often suggested keeping the car parked, until the Loved One is showing real efforts towards sobriety, responsibility, etc.

Can you negotiate anything with him that you will both be able to agree to, and stick to? Or will your agreements just fall apart when he needs to get high? If it feels like your only two options are fraught with perils and difficulties, maybe it’s worth allowing yourself to think past those two options. What option does feel right?

This is your life too. You are retired and otherwise live alone. Driving is nerve-racking for you, even without your son in the passenger seat. We agree something has to give. It hardly sounds reasonable to expect you to keep driving him around “for all eternity.” But it also doesn’t seem reasonable for you to relinquish control of the car and then spend time feeling guilty or responsible if this doesn’t go well.

You have put in so much time and energy helping him with this… But he isn’t learning to take responsibility when you chauffeur him around. The situation isn’t good for either of you in this sense.

It is a tough situation. And you have been through a lot together. Getting yourself in to a place where you are not responsible for his transportation is a worthy goal. Putting him in a position of responsibility – for any number of things in his life – is best done in a spirit of partnership. The candid conversations in which a Loved One hears what you are willing to help them with, and what you aren’t, are part of this sense of partnership. The goal is for them to be able to stand on their own two feet without you. We have to work hard enough to do this for ourselves. The energy it takes to keep someone else upright isn’t possible for one person to generate indefinitely. Eventually, the exhaustion, resentment, etc. take their toll.

You don’t have to keep driving him around. You also don’t have to let him use your car, even though he now has a license again. These are not the only options.

We recommend that you find a way to set boundaries that are not just material, but mental and emotional as well. Doing something your son wants you to do – that you aren’t comfortable doing – because you feel trapped is not a healthy set-up. Drawing a boundary and then being consumed with worry about the consequences is also not healthy. The lines we draw have to feel reasonable and possible for our own unique situations.

We agree that the situation you’ve described has to change. You have made so many efforts to help him get into treatment, to get him to appointments, and to support his efforts at work, etc. Whenever possible, we seek to put responsibility onto the Loved One for their decisions, for the consequences of their use. For their life in general. For your son to take responsibility, and for you to be freed of the sense that you had to shoulder this responsibility, what would have to change? Would it be an external change (different living situation, change in the driving logistics, etc.)? Or would it be an internal change: devoting space to your inner landscape so that your peace, safety and sanity are of the utmost importance every single day? Perhaps it would be a combination of these.

Can you write back with answers to the questions we’ve posed? We will keep working with you to find a plan that makes sense for your situation. You have our support.



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. Oh my – my son does not want to move out…… People have asked him “don’t you want to get your own place?” His reply was “WHY”. I know why – he is sheltered and fed here. He does help around the house and cooks sometime, however, I feel that he is very insecure and just needs me – he even calls a few times from work to check on me. The phone is not always answered. He really has no one else (that is sincere).

    His hours of work is usually different each day. They can be from 6am, 7am, noon, 2pm until noon, 1pm or 6pm and sometimes 9:30 pm . He goes to the clinic prior to work and sometimes works double shifts. We live toooo far for a bicycle and he tried to car pool, but no one lives near our rural area.

    My plan is to give him my car (about 13 years old but runs good) and put the car in his name so I have no responsibility and I will get a new one. Yes -he will have to pay insurance and maintenance. Much less than uber ($50 per day). Do you know if I can have the registry of motor vehicles only allow him to travel only to work and clinic? WOW – if that is possible, it would be the BEST.

    The court told him he has to remain drug and alcohol free, otherwise he will go to a jail – I feel guilty knowing this and possibly giving him his own transportation, but, it is at the point I will probably be able to keep my sanity. YIKES – this is selfish………
    It would definitely be an external change and internal change. I feel that the external change would lead to internal change???

    1. I am writing many months later to thank you for sharing your challenges. The advice from AIR is great… I have a somewhat similar situation at home… only he got use of the car when sober and then “relapsed with replacement substances”. Our son also lives at home …but, after losing his job 7 months ago, now it has become so miserable for us that I have told him, after he gets 30 day treatment, he goes to sober house and then finds room elsewhere (We will help with sober house ). Indeed, belatedly CRAFT is teaching me how to reward the good and withhold on not so good behaviour and is giving me some useful scripts such as the ones above. Yes it is difficult to remove the car reward… especially when it is an extra car and younger sibling only needs occasionally… maybe we tell him we are thinking of selling it to cover costs of sober house but hold off selling it for the next few months to see if he gets a job within that timeframe. Son has dual diagnosis (chronic depression, anxiety + attention deficit) and has been a challenge for us since he was a teenager. I have hit a wall… it is tough communicating with the gentle but firm touch but at least I now see that I have some help.