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.

The Abuse Has Become Unbearable

Woman locking self into bathroom cropped

"I’m brand new here and desperate for help. Divorced mom raising 2 sons with addictions. One is currently sober thanks to drug court (he’s 17), and the other (18) is facing felony charges for possession of Xanax. A few years ago he was a different person. Now he is defiant, is abusive, lies, has destroyed my and others’ property numerous times. He is completely disrespectful, says I’m a bad parent (not true), and is ‘nice’ only when he is being manipulative. He has taken things from my room without my permission and things are missing that I suspect he stole to support his addiction. He’s gone to the police with outlandish and false accusations against me (to pay me back for calling them when he began to destroy property in my home yet again). The strain of taking care of all of his needs by myself while continuing to face lies, manipulation, volatility, and abuse has become unbearable. He has a disability (severe speech impediment) and he has crippling anxiety/depression. These traits make it particularly difficult to find the proper course of action.

He has alienated everyone he knows, has no support except for me, and is wholly unprepared to live on his own. I find myself periodically responding in kind to his abusive remarks and although I mostly refrain from that, I’m getting increasingly unable to do so and I feel very guilty. I have no help; my fiancé, my son’s dad, and even his psychiatrist (before my son was uninvited to be a patient) all just say to either kick him out or just to ignore him when he is being abusive (emotionally and through property destruction, etc). He has been arrested for drugs and also domestic violence for wielding a baseball bat at his Dad, and has been committed twice to the behavioral health unit for credible threats of suicide. All this over the last few months. He denies his addiction and says he will smoke (a lot) of pot whenever he wants (which seems to be multiple times per day). He blames me for many of his troubles and when he says I’m a terrible parent it cuts me to the core because I’ve spent 19 years devoted to my kids. Last night, things escalated again after yet another day of my doing everything to help him and then him saying I ‘don't really do much for him.’ (WRONG) I am all alone in this and cannot go on another day. My mental and physical health have seriously declined and my work performance is suffering. I spend all of my free time at home, fearful as to what will happen next. The anxiety is literally shaking me to my core."

Welcome to this site. You have two sons, both struggling, one of whom is active in his drug use and abusive, verbally and physically. Annie wrote you about the strain and the despair when a Loved One is so verbally abusive. Your world does sound dark. We have another mom who’s posts you can follow with two active sons and a husband who struggles with alcohol: (see profile for mlb2t). It’s hard to imagine how difficult things are for you.

I am going to suggest you reach out to a domestic violence group in your area to start. Before attempting any changes with your son, as described on this site, your son has been physically dangerous and could be so again. Learning Module 2 is about safety. Please look at it BUT also please get some help from experts in violence. Do not yet attempt to implement what we suggest on this site.

Your son is awaiting a court date on drug possession charges. Sometimes criminal justice actually can help by mandating treatment or placing the person on probation which includes mandatory drug testing. It can tighten the reigns around the person.

From the description of your son, it sounds like he suffers from serious mental illness. For you and for other families in which serious mental illness is a part of what is going on, I’d like to suggest you also look at the work of Dr. Xavier Amador (LEAP Institute, here is an 18-minute Ted Talk he did that sums up his approach).

His work with families of those with serious mental illness is in line with CRAFT, and specifically addresses the issues of resistance to treatment and the relational stance a family member can take to de-escalate conflicts. Once again however, please wait until you are firmly partnering with a domestic violence worker before instituting any of his suggestions. Your son is volatile. Your situation is serious. From what you describe, you are in a small box in your own home, unable to rest or to have any peace.

Lastly, from your comments it sounds like your son may be misusing benzodiazepines (Xanax) and marijuana. Please be aware that the benzodiazepines can be life-threatening to withdraw from. Your son is going to need an inpatient detoxification unit.

But first, please start by getting some help from a domestic violence expert. You need to protect yourself physically.



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. Dear Mom,

    Oh my goodness, you have written out exactly what life was like for us. For me especially. Have you read my book Unhooked? There are a couple of chapters detailing exactly this. Being told I was every kind of terrible, that I was the worst Mom ever, every problem was my fault, and sometimes even having police and counselors convinced against me was pretty routine. It is a nightmare I wish on no one.

    But the light at the end of the tunnel for us was that recovery was possible and actually happened. We are now 6 years out of all of that. Our family bond is healthy, strong and intact.

    Your story is very similar to mine, with the exception that I have an addicted mother as well. She was an extra special part of the madness >:( My mother is a sweet-seeming, little church lady that would never cuss, smoke, or drink; but she is dangerously manipulative and severely addicted to percocets, vicodin and Tylenol 4 with codeine. She was a thorn in my side in the worst days of my son’s active use. When my son would come at me and bully for things, using every terrible thought he had about me against me, she would come alongside and say them as well. Sending rapid fire emails, calling and calling, sometimes even calling my friends, coworkers and the churches I attended to tell them I was a terrible mother and should give my son money. She called the police and told them I could cause anyone to get addicted to drugs with my personality. She would call my office and tell my staff that I was demon possessed, that my son might have to suffer withdrawal if I didn’t help him. These things made my soul sick. My staff hated it for me. I hated it for me. Everything I did to defend myself, try to stop it, and even make peace with it seemed to make it worse.

    Like you, the stress presented in my health also. I developed anxiety, high blood pressure, migraines, dizzy spells, heart palpitations that made me feel like I’d pass out, night terrors, some of my hair fell out, I had severe stomach issues, lost weight and could focus on hardly anything else. I managed somehow to throw myself into work, come home, do the laundry, grab my dog and collapse into bed every evening, only to have nightmares. Night after night after night. And I never knew what chaos the next day would bring. That time of our life was a nightmare wrapped in horror movie haha. THE worst chaos ever. I almost lost my mind in the midst of it.

    Until I began aggressively pursuing peace, that chaos called the shots and controlled my life. I knew had to stop, breathe…and take the reins; a moment at a time. My son’s addiction and behavior, and my mother’s insanity in the peripheral – we’re killing all of us, probably me quicker.

    Here is how I started handling it. When it came to my mom or son telling others rotten and untrue things about me, I had to learn not to pay attention or care if anyone believed it, unless it was a professional that could affect my job, reputation, credibility or life in anyway, I did nothing in response. But at first it was a huge concern. So I had to have healthy tactics for that, like taking a walk or a calming yoga class, calling a friend who loved me and would speak comforting truth to me, getting to a support meeting and hearing how others coped. And so on. Over time it got better, I got better, and eventually it stopped.

    I learned to guard my actions, my words, and my level of emotionalism in communicating with my son, in order to protect anything that could be used against me. As sad and unfair as that is, it’s just the nature of the beast and has to be done when you have that going on. You have to guard your heart and your words. It doesn’t have to be forever, but when you have someone close to you out of their right mind, and treating you like an enemy you have no choice but to be your own advocate and protect yourself.

    I would record their attempts to argue, or manipulate me on my phone so I couldn’t be lied about. I also learned to have witnesses available for the moments that might be intense, I had a friend who was a court therapist and she would come to the house if things would escalate just to be present in case he accused me of abusing him. Which happened a few times, even though he was a 200-pound football player (until he was 120 pounds in active use, living in a dug out), and I am by no means a large person. My son was never, ever abused. Those were some HARD days, I can tell you that.

    This slandering, hate-filled spewing part of it unfortunately happens to lots of moms (and dads). I don’t know what it is about some of these kids, they become unpredictable, sneaky, vile and shrewdly intelligent when they are raging at you. They will come at you, and rage about you with the most legitimate sounding manipulation, and bring others on board against you. It was one of the WORST parts of it. The blogs and modules on Allies were great for directing me to get better at responding (or NOT responding), de-escalating, reflective listening, DBT therapy methods when I could get alone, etc. the work – works!

    I too was my son’s last supporter, yet he treated me with such venom and turned on me with so much velocity over and over again that it constantly knocked the wind out of me. It was shocking pain. They can drop you to your knees, that’s for sure. It hurts so deeply, but it’s not personal and once you come through it they often apologize.

    It’s hard, but we can learn to maintain peace, stand strong, and guard ourselves when we feel like we’re going to escalate with them. In the early years, I too returned the venom many times, and my words were used against me more than any of his behaviors ever were. To this day if my mother (still active in her pill abuse) gets a chance she still reminds me of things I said in the midst of terror and despair 10 years ago. No ownership on her part whatsoever though. But at this point in my recovery work, I’m okay that she doesn’t see her side of it, I don’t need her to. But I receive none of the spewing. I know it is a tactic of the disease, I shake it off and keep going.

    However, I try to avoid conversations where that is a risk and I work to not take the hooks that lead into certain infected topics, because they are nothing but poison. Family members can push buttons like no other. And when you heal the buttons they normally come for, they are quite good at finding others.

    That just told me where my work to heal, make peace and find strength was most needed.

    From recovery I learned to set bottom lines, like if I do make a mistake – I need to ask for forgiveness, make amends and do the next right thing. But I will not receive condemnation, volatile spewing of hatred and insults, or have flaws and failures held over my head. Unless I’m standing in a courtroom, under oath, being question by a Prosecutor for a crime I committed – NO one gets to do that to me.

    I had to lay those ground rules and stick to them, even if no one else did. They could just rage at my back as I walked away from the conversation. A time or two that literally happened. But, I would simply say “Let’s visit this again later.” (or tomorrow, or in a few weeks. Maybe never.)

    Communication was halted as soon as it heated up, or became attacking. Thank goodness I did this for myself, no one else was going to.

    It was gradual, it’s a process, but progress did come. At one time the high pressure, spewing, insulting, or ragey communication was all I seemed to receive from my mother and son. Now, no one approaches me, speaks to me, or handles me that way. Ever! Doing the work – works!

    My own recovery helped my son pursue recovery. At one time I wasn’t sure it would happen for him, or even be possible. We were so low, so chaotic, and things were about as dark as they could get. But as I got healthier, he would get healthier. I don’t know how it works, but it did. Once I begin to do the work on me, on what I would allow and accept, how I would behave and respond or not, the ship slowly began to turn. And life improved. Life stabilized, then life even became kinda… “normal.” Now I can say, life is pretty wonderful! I could have never predicted that was in the cards for me.

    A friend in my recovery support group once said to me “This thing is probably not going to play out how you expect, or happen how you try to make it happen. But there IS a path for your son and he can find his way to wellness, peace and sanity.”

    And that was the absolute truth. I couldn’t see around the corners, but it DIDN’T play out the way I expected. It played out better.

    My son is six years out of those days now, into his own recovery and his life amazes me. He loves his job, works on the west coast, has a super cute home, is planning a trip to Italy, has tons of great friends, works a program that works for him and loves his life these days. That is a quite long way from visiting him in a dugout, and him call the police on ME for being the addicted one (side-note: I always had drugs tests on hand to prove I never used a thing, just in case they believed him…that’s how INSANE our life was). We are a million miles from that. Maybe more.

    We sometimes talk about those days; we even laugh about some of it. I write about them as well. Two books and 80 blogs full of the madness we went through! My son says that I was just collateral damage on his way to getting what he wanted, or what he desperately felt he needed. He knew my mom in her illness was an easy ally against me. But all is forgiven now, it’s been a good run of peace and wellness since then, and we now have peace on all sides. At least for today.

    You’re in the thick of the storm, do the work to remain calm, find support, comfort and tools to get you through it. Take care of yourself. I don’t believe storms have to last. It CAN get better. I hope you have strong healthy support, know that you absolutely have it here at Allies. Reach out anytime. You’re not alone. You’re welcome to message or call one of us, including me. It can get better. We are here for you!

    Never give up, the bond you have with your son is stronger than this disease.

    Peace and hope to you,

    1. Dear Annie,
      Wow!!!! That reply means the world to me. I am going to read it numerous times. Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to respond! True story: I found Allies in Recovery after I came upon the Coming Up for Air podcast (which is fantastic!)! I made a note of the name of your book so I could buy it this weekend. I just bought the kindle version and am eager to read it. It’s astonishing how many similarities there are between those of us moms who are in this situation. My son just now told me he despises me and is going to leave and I’ll never see him again, etc. It feels impossible to comprehend that he feels that way and i don’t know how I will keep functioning normally knowing this is the kind of thing that is going to happen regularly: the pain feels unbearable most of the time, I feel l just a bit better right this moment thanks to you taking the time to share your story.

      1. You are so welcome! I know by heart how all of this feels, I promise it can get better. You will have to let me know what you think of Unhooked (please excuse any errors!), and we have more Coming up for Air podcasts coming soon!

        I am so sorry your son is spouting vitriol like this. Maybe every time it happens, treat yourself in some way, or set a fun, healthy goal. I got to a point where I dropped $20 in a canister whenever my Mother interfered and spoke terribly about me (the sad part is, she never truly knew me. The weird part is, she now brags about me behind my back). I actually paid for a vacation with that money! Doing something like that when it was occurring soothed some of it when it and pulled my mind out of the resentment of it. Whatever it takes to soothe yourself, do it.

        And know that this too shall pass…and your family too, can recover.

        I wish all of you well,


        1. Annie, I finished Unhooked overnight!. What a great book with a very encouraging ending. Thank you so much for writing your and Elliot’s amazing story. I really loved the steps you provided regarding how you began caring for yourself; I have become so defeated that I’ve stopped taking care of myself and once a person goes there, it’s difficult to turn it around when the external circumstances seem to be getting worse each day. Reading Unhooked has given me some hope that things will get better and an understanding that I should not wait to start caring for myself again. In fact, it might help not only me but my sons as well. I look forward to reading more of your blogs along with all of the material on this site. In only two days, I already know deciding to join Allies in Recovery was a great decision.

        2. THANK you so much for reading Unhooked! I wanted to write it with encouragement that I needed so desperately in the worst of those days. I completely understand how difficult it is to pull the focus back onto taking care of yourself when things are surging and urgent, but it really is the beginning of creating the healthiest possible environment. Welcome to Allies, I’m so glad you’re here!