This member’s username, puzzled, expresses how she feels about her Loved One’s addiction and his family’s way of addressing it. He’s back home from detox and his parents are coddling him and may also be enabling his use. Puzzled, his stepmother, is not on the same page. She’s at a loss and wonders how and if she can help.
“I’m sure my problem is a common one.
The addict is my stepson. I love him but not at the level his parents do. On the other hand, I feel that I see the situation far more clearly than his parents.
My stepson, age 43, has been in detox twice. His addiction is deep seated….at least 15 active years, so far, for heroin, fentanyl, xanax, cocaine, and reportedly even aerosol huffing.
He just left his second stint in detox. The plan was that he would go to a half-way house as soon as a bed became available. Now that he’s out he is “reconsidering” the 1/2-way house.
IMHO his parents are coddling him… taking him out to dinner at nice restaurants; letting him drink alcohol; not demanding that he go to AA or have a plan. They accept his claim that he is “deciding” what to do.
I can hardly stand to watch this.
Please help me be a good wife and stepmother! I am considering leaving, but I want to do what is best. I love my husband.”
Over the years, you have witnessed your stepson’s having to make sense of mixed messages like the one you describe: being offered alcohol as a reward for going to detox. This must be confusing for him. It's clearly upsetting to you.
This is an unusual take on the dynamics of addiction in a family and a question often triggering discomfort for family members. In your case however, it could be a turning point in having your husband and his ex-wife question their stance. What are they getting out of their son’s use? Does it make it easier for them to drink at dinner in a restaurant?
From detox to treatment, no pit stops
Your story highlights another of our highly and lovingly suggested tactics: no pit stops between treatments. Being home creates a new set of problems for the family. If this must happen — and we have seen it many times, when there is a hang-up between two places, admission is delayed, and your Loved One is forced to wait in the community, possibly in your home — it is still possible to co-exist.
This situation usually requires the family member(s) to be highly involved in their Loved One’s daily activities, keeping a caring eye on them, and making sure they do not go off track. This is the exception to the rule about protecting, even policing, your Loved One: until the door of that next treatment program opens, you may need to do so. This means not leaving them alone and using the bathroom with the door open. This also means no substances in the house and no outings to restaurants or social events that could trigger the drinking or the use.
I worry for your stepson. He is older and has a long history of abusing his body with hard drugs. Waking up in withdrawal from drugs, and/or hungover from alcohol, at 43 years of age, hurts a lot. Perhaps he is truly tired of himself.
Although this feels genuinely alarming, there is hope for him. He did go to detox and is considering going to a half-way house, which shows some level of motivation for change. Some part of him is clear drugs are a problem. If your Loved One is accepting of a 12-step fellowship, and I would think he might be given the long-term polydrug use and his age, then Hairston House is a good option. However, I am concerned that he is going from medical treatment to detoxify, straight into a place with little structure. That being said, it is long-term and built on years of local support and access to downtown Northampton, with its wonderful and vibrant recovery center.
CRAFT is not for everyone, is it?
I hear how distraught this unfolding situation is making you, and for good reason. Even though you feel committed to helping your stepson — as your presence on this site shows us — it really does not involve you directly, and the train may already have left the rails. However, I do believe you could be a gentle and positive influence here, both with your Loved One and with your husband.
CRAFT was designed for family members of people with addiction. The requirements: to be able to interact with the person with SUD on a regular basis and to feel a good level of commitment (it is a rewarding but slow-going, often trying process). Our team likes to pin it as a method for people who love someone with addiction. You clearly do—you are here—and you are asking the right questions.
If you feel up to the task, you can dive back into the Modules, start working on your communication again and on understanding the pattern of your Loved One’s addiction better. All of this can be greatly beneficial for you and for your stepson. However, it would be ideal if everyone in the family could do the same.
Suggesting CRAFT to others in the family
Can you show this website to your Loved One’s parents? Can you and your husband watch a few Modules together? Working as a team could greatly improve the outcome and alleviate some of your frustration and concern.
If this feels very much distant from you and out of your hands — it has been 15 years and his parents are not on the same page for now — you might want to step back for a moment and take time to gather yourself. How about you lock yourself away for the next couple days? Do you have anywhere safe you can go? It may help to focus on your own needs for a while? Oftentimes, stepping away from such intense situations allows you to breathe again and reach a place of inner calmness and clarity.
Perhaps, upon your departure, you put a note where your stepson will see it, perhaps on his bedroom door.
"I am here in spirit with you, all the way! May this be the start of a different outcome and the life you never even dreamed you could have. I love you."
I’m not his mom, how much can I actually do?
You are puzzled: considering leaving but willing to do right by everyone. It is a complex situation with complex dynamics, and you are not in a comfortable place.
You want to help your adult stepson while not stepping on his parents’ toes. Stepparents must find the right balance between involvement and neutrality.
You deeply care about your Loved One, and you are obviously willing to learn how to help him. This puts you on the same level as many of our members. One might say you have the added complication of being his stepmother and of not having as much leverage. One might also say you have the added advantage of not being his parent. You have the opportunity to look at this situation from a different angle and give a different type of love. As you keep practicing CRAFT and communicating positively (head to Module 4 for more on this), perhaps your stepson starts to feel more at ease talking to you — without the lingering insecurities that can sometimes burden parent-child relationships, even at 43.
Thank you for your question, puzzled. The very fact that you have joined our community and are seeking guidance to help your stepson and husband shows generosity and understanding. They're lucky to have you looking out for them. Please know you and your family have all our support.