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.

He Has Zero Coping Skills—Must I Do Everything to Get Him Sober?

opiates pills & syringe

This Allies in Recovery Mom and loving mother has had enough. She wonders how much to help, or not help, with her son’s addiction(s)—from opiates to antabuse and suboxone then back to opiates…Does she actually have to take care of everything to get him sober?

This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To learn about becoming a member, see our Membership Benefits page.

“Hi, My son is 37 and has been struggling with opiate addiction since he was a teenager. He has been on Suboxone for about 6-7 years, which was helpful for a while. Then he started drinking, became a severe alcoholic, and was prescribed Antabuse, along with the Suboxone. Before long started back on heroin again. This run has been going on for about a year. He lost his job and can’t pay his rent so he is being evicted. I offered to store some clothing and drive him to a detox. He keeps stalling. Now he wants me to drive him to detox and pack up his stuff at the rooming house for him. Basically I have to do everything.

He has zero coping skills and refuses to go to any substance meetings or counseling. I want to help him, but his plan is that I do everything for him. I’ve had enough and know that I am loving and helping him to death, literally. His Dr feels that the suboxone is like insulin for a diabetic and just keeps falling for the bs story that my son feeds him. He uses for 3 weeks then detoxes himself with subs the week before on most months so the tox screen is generally negative for opiates/fentanyl. I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Dominique Simon-Levine understands the desperation that comes with addiction and suggests that a more comprehensive response is necessary

Medication assisted treatment (MAT, in your case suboxone) for opiates is rarely enough on its own. We have said this before. It is a critical first step to facilitate withdrawals from opiates and to reduce cravings. Unless other treatments are used in combination with MAT, however, there is a likelihood that the person will start to, or continue to, use other drugs. When I was on Naltrexone and Antabuse, I had (scarily real) thoughts of snorting the little white specs in the carpet. I was so desperate to get high on something that I smoked pot, whose high I disliked. I used cocaine, which I was also not fond of, and for which I had to take benzodiazepines to come down from.

For some, this desperation for other drugs may reduce on its own, or with the counseling that is supposed to accompany the medicine. For others, like your son, this is simply not enough. The opiate problem will become an alcohol or cocaine problem, and, as has happened for your son, one may turn back to heroin and stronger opiates.

MAT providers are there to help, but their reach into recovery is limited. MAT will not address everything: it’s a biomedical response to a problem that goes far beyond biology.

Here are some actions you can take

  • If the MAT provider really doesn’t know your son is abusing other drugs and heroin again, tell him/her. Without a release, he cannot talk to you but you can say what you want to him/her.
  • Your son is getting urine-tested once a month, which is simply not enough. Tell the MAT provider. If your son is abusing his suboxone, the prescription renewals should be shortened. If he continues, your son could also be redirected to methadone, which is much harder to abuse and will require daily visits for dosing until urine tests are consistently clean.

Here is how a comprehensive approach would look

The response to opiate addiction must be more comprehensive: MAT, safe housing, psychiatry, work on the daily skills of life, relationship and family skills work, relapse prevention, psychotherapy with evidence-based approaches (like cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy), involvement in a community of peers, exercise.

Here’s where I think things are a little confused. We are pushing hard to get anyone, at any stage of opiate use, into MAT. All good. But there is a real difference between someone who has been using only opiates and only for a short time, and someone who is quite progressed in their addiction to any drug. For people in the latter group,  lifestyle, thinking, and physical addiction are entrenched. A multipronged approach is needed to pull them out. Someone who never had a problem with addiction and who unwittingly became addicted to opiates from pain pills for pain, and has been using just these pills for a short time, is in no less danger, but may have more success with the MAT + weekly counseling treatment alone.

Addiction isn’t always well understood

In a recent conversation, a high-ranking official in substance abuse let me know how frustrated he was with the narrative that dominates discussion of the opiate epidemic: it is often suggested that somehow (mostly white middle-class) people addicted to opiates fall haplessly onto the drug, never having regularly used or abused other drugs prior, like pot or alcohol. Addiction goes into overdrive when a drug like an opiate or cocaine is discovered. It shortens using careers because it causes so much more havoc, but it is rarely the first drug of abuse in a person’s history, despite how media like to represent it.

If we think multi-pronged and we advocate for this, we are more likely to see this happen. I see how often families are having to take responsibility for advocating for comprehensive care.

Now do everything you can

Your son wants you to do everything for him. When it comes to treatment, I suggest you do this. This is where you extend yourself, where you can step in while maintaining your boundaries (see our recent blogs posts on setting and maintaining boundaries). Go box up his things and help him into detox. Push for him to follow up the detox episode with inpatient care, transitional living, and more therapy if you don’t see it happening. Wrap every service around him that you can find and for which you can get him to agree.

If he doesn’t agree: find the names & addresses, write out the details, and give it to him, with a promise to help any way that you can, when he’s ready.

There is no way to know if this treatment episode will wake him up and help him decide that he is just sick of himself, that he is willing to do a little more.

Finally, self care, self care, self care! Go to the sanctuary (available on our member site) for some easy tidbits. Do what it takes to get your energy back. Your son wants to go to detox. That is a huge, important sign. Our thoughts are with you.

A membership at Allies in Recovery brings you into contact with experts in the fields of recovery and treatment for drug and alcohol issues. Our learning platform introduces you to CRAFT and guides you through the best techniques for unblocking the situation. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.


Related Posts from "Drug Addiction Treatment"

Real Allies in Recovery Success Stories: Families Share How CRAFT Helped Their Loved Ones with SUD

Read real success stories from families who used the CRAFT approach to help their loved ones with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Learn how CRAFT helped them engage their loved ones into treatment, and how it improved their relationships and reduced stress levels. Discover how you can use the CRAFT method to help your loved ones find recovery, and visit for more stories and resources.

How Do I Prepare for My Daughter with SUD to Come Home? And What About Her Boyfriend?

Her daughter is involved with a man who may be sabotaging her efforts to stop using substances. But she’s expressed some readiness to get help, and mom wants to support her in any way that she can. Mom’s working on ignoring the bad-news boyfriend while setting up guidelines for her return home. She needs guidance on the details…Allies in Recovery weighs in with some CRAFT-based tips.

My Son is in Detox for Fentanyl – What Medication is the Best Option?

Our member seeks guidance about helping her loved one find the right medication for Opioid Use Disorder. Her son has tried Suboxone and Methadone and is looking for an alternative. He has concerns about sleep and anxiety, and our member is wondering which medications may best suit his needs. Allies Director Dominique Simon-Levine gives a detailed answer, as well as some great CRAFT pointers for supporting his recovery.

How Can We Help our Daughter Find Residential Treatment?

What her daughter needs—a solid residential treatment program for women—should not be so hard to find. Unfortunately, such programs often are. We sorted through some of the options in the state where this Allies in Recovery member lives, so she can focus her search on a program most likely to help her daughter continue to improve. The family can also keep doing CRAFT to help support the relationship with their daughter in recovery, and to take care of themselves in the process. Staying in touch with Allies staff can also help support them.

In-Person & Virtual Recovery Resources for Your Loved One

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (AA World Services, Inc.) Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other, that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. This is an informational website for anyone interested in learning more about their organization, 12-step program of recovery, and how to find local meetings. PHONE: 212.870.3400 Click here for Online AA Meetings What is AA? What to Expect in an AA Meeting  What is Anonymity in AA?  AA INTERGROUP ONLINE MEETING FINDER IN THE ROOMS In The Rooms offers over 150+ weekly live online meetings, a variety 12-Step and Non-12- Step Fellowships, and Specialty meetings. Some of our most popular meetings are AA, NA, ACA, Al-Anon, and Nar-Anon meetings, and much more. In The Rooms has 69 live online AA meetings weekly, so there’s bound to be one that fits your schedule! We have specialty AA meetings too, like AA Pride (LGBTQ). We also have an Agnostic AA meeting, if you’re seeking a meeting without a secular approach to recovery. We have 30 NA meetings on ITR weekly. Like AA, there’s also an NA Pride meeting (LGBTQ) and an Agnostic NA meeting. For support for the family, friends, and allies of those in recovery, In The Rooms has both Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings, which each meeting, 1-3 times a week. We also have many other 12-step fellowship groups, like Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and Sex Addicts Anonymous, CODA, Dual Diagnosis, and much more. If you can think of a Recovery fellowship, we probably have it.  FULL LISTING of LIVE VIRTUAL/ONLINE MEETINGS  12Step.Org We strive to provide information, tools, and resources for working a 12 Step program (or any program using 12 step principles for recovery) in as simple and effective way as possible. Online Meeting Calendar Online Video Meetings Phone Meetings Forums, Text Chats, and Email Meetings List RECOVERY DHARMA Recovery Dharma is a peer-led movement and community that is unified by our trust in the potential of each of us to recover and find freedom from the suffering of addiction. We believe that the traditional Buddhist teachings, often referred to as…

I Think I’m Ready to Ask Him to Leave – Even Though I’ve Been Doing CRAFT

An active Allies in Recovery member wrote in to our “Pose a Question” blog with an update about her partner who continues to use substances and to be emotionally volatile, despite having previously done a 30-day recovery program. While she says that participating in our Wednesday night support group with Kayla, along with other CRAFT resources on our site, has been “a huge help” with her own well-being, she still isn’t having success in engaging her loved one into treatment again. She asks: Has the time come to ask him to leave?

Is Suboxone a Good Thing for Your Loved One?

An Allies in Recovery member is overwhelmed by all the conflicting information and stances on Suboxone. Her 40-year-old son has struggled for 15 years with opioids and other drugs, and his new treatment plan includes Suboxone. Is this a good thing? CRAFT Trainer and Family Recovery Advocate, Laurie MacDougall, weighs in with an array of facts and lived experience.