He’s Angry And Pushing us Away

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Our Allies member is looking into treatment options for her teenaged son. So far he hasn’t been receptive to rewards. He continues to be angry with parents, accusing them of trying to control his life. He doesn’t see his use as a problem.

*This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To sign up for our special offer and benefit from the Allies in Recovery eLearning program, click here.

“Our son seems to be getting more defiant and it’s pushing me to think about putting him in treatment. He’s refused to see his therapist and claims he wants to solve his problems on his own. He doesn’t see his drug use as one of his problems. He’s 17-1/2 years old and I’m feeling like I need to make a last ditch effort to put him in treatment. What are your thoughts about this? I don’t see him improving. His use is increasing and for the past two weeks he’s been hanging out with a new “friend” and comes home blatantly stoned after being with this “friend.” I’m concerned his use will escalate into other drugs, such as LSD, which he’s used in the past, and maybe even others.

Our son uses pot every day, but he has moments of non-use which we try our best to recognize and reward. He’s not very receptive to rewards. He shrugs off kind comments or gestures and doesn’t accept invitations to take him to lunch or other simple offerings.

In the past month alone, we’ve found pot 3 times in our home and when we’ve spoken to him about it, he blows up at us, calls us names, swears, and badgers us to give it back to him.”

Dominique Simon-Levine encourages this mother to take a longer view

You’re thinking your son needs to be in treatment NOW. He is 17.5 yrs old and this feels like it may be your last chance.

You’ve been using CRAFT for a couple of weeks now. It has settled you a little, but your son is still using pot and seems just as angry towards you. This may be partly due to a new “friend” your son has made with whom he is getting high. It’s as though this new friend is urging him on towards the dark side.

It may get worse before it gets better

We recommend families give CRAFT 8 to 12 weeks before assessing its worth. Your son may get more irritated and angry before things start to improve. 12 weeks must sound like an eternity to you.

At 17 years old, your son isn’t ready to quit and doesn’t see the downside of his use. For him to even consider treatment, you would probably need to drop him in the middle of nowhere with no transport out. Locked treatment is mostly limited to inpatient psychiatric units and civil commitments. Even these often have a door through which you can leave. From what you have described, your son isn’t in imminent danger of harming himself or others, a criterion for civil commitment.

You’ve also described how your son has done well in treatment in the past only to start using again once back home.

Less parenting, more partnering

So what’s next? I suggest you take a slightly longer view – at least another two months. Hold your stance with him as CRAFT would have you do. Stop parenting, start partnering. The therapist is open to him, and he knows you would like him to go back to her. Good job not reacting to him after he took off from his father and ended up coming home only a little after curfew. It’s time for the big chill.

If he shrugs off nice comments when not using, keep looking for what will work. A smile, a little more reflective listening (as described in Learning Module 4, available to our members).

Push more responsibility on to him

You are not going to fix this before his 18th birthday. Your son may need to set out on his own, find work and learn to support himself. Make the beef he has less about you and what you want for him. The even longer view is to allow him more responsibility for himself. Let him feel the scrapes of life, and keep treatment options ready for him.

It’s hard to separate out projections of what will become of your son if he continues “down his road,” from your feelings about what is going on right now. But right now, focus on chill or reward, and try hard to let the rest be. You just don’t have control over the rest of it.

Yes, the family DOES have a role to play. Your stance, behavior, and choices DO make a difference. At Allies in Recovery we are absolutely convinced of this. “Tough love” is not a successful technique. Our learning platform is set up to help family members learn the techniques that will reduce conflict, build that bridge of communication, and be effective in guiding your loved one into treatment. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.

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