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’s Lost His License. And He’s Still Behind the Wheel.

Photo credit: Johnson Firmia

Kathy4422 is facing some tough choices. Her son has just lost his license but is continuing to drive—on her insurance, in a car she owns. Does she step back and let him face the consequences of his choices? Does she intervene right away, and if so, how? Allies writer Laurie MacDougall points out that no one can make such decisions for us. But through seven thoughtful questions, she offers a guide to making them ourselves.

My son lost his license yesterday and he is still driving today. Do I do anything, or just let the chips fall where they may? He is likely going to go to jail for 30 days if he gets caught. I don’t want to be the one to get him in trouble, but he won’t listen to me either. Plus, the vehicle and the insurance are in my name.

Hi Kathy4422,

What I am hearing in your post is that you feel pushed and pulled at the same time. The car and the insurance are in your name, so you are worried about the consequences you might incur if he is using the car without a license. On the other hand, you don’t want to be the one responsible for your son experiencing negative consequences for his actions.

You also point out that he does not listen when you try to get him to see reason. I’m sure this is a very familiar experience for most family members in the Allies community!

To intervene or not to intervene

You ask us if you should let things just naturally occur or if you should do something about the situation. I’m going to encourage you to think it through yourself. I’d also like to ask you a few questions which I hope will point to some new ideas and concepts to think about.

Remember, you are the expert in your situation. That said, trying out new skills and strategies and practicing, practicing, practicing will strengthen and empower you. Investing in these won’t ever let you down. When future complications arise, you’ll be better prepared to hold to your beliefs and values, and to help your son to progress in a positive direction.

All right, let’s go. Among the questions you might ask yourself are:

  1. What are the consequences for you if your son is caught driving without a license? Does your insurance go up? Will they impound the car?
  2. If your son has to spend 30 days in jail, are you able to deal with that? What other consequences would he incur if this were to happen? Would he lose his job? If he does lose his job, could he find another one when he gets out?
  3. If he doesn’t experience negative consequences this time from driving around without a license (i.e., he doesn’t get caught), what is the likelihood that he will drive without a license in the future?
  4. What if you warn him that you will alert the police if drives without his license? Would he become angry? If a confrontation occurred, could you manage and regulate your emotions but still hold to your decision?
  5. If the car is in your name, could you just take the keys away, or disable the car in some way so that he cannot drive it? Could you offer him transport if he needs to be somewhere?
  6. What about giving him access to a bike so he can get around?
  7. What, in all of this, is most important to you?

I’m hoping these questions can help you sort through what you’re willing and unwilling to tolerate. I’m sure there are factors at play here that I don’t about; that’s why I say that you’re the expert in your situation. Maybe your Loved One (LO) needs his car for work. Maybe he has a truck and hauls cargo or needs to bring equipment with him, meaning a bike is not an option. Or maybe your own work or transportation situation leaves you with no way of getting your son to where they need go. Analyzing and weighing the benefits and pitfalls of certain actions is something only you can do.

But do consider point #3. If your son does not experience some sort of negative consequences for driving without a license, this behavior is more likely to continue or happen again. In other words, if it works, his actions are being rewarded.

You may decide to let the chips fall where they may, allowing him to experience natural consequences for his actions. Or you may decide to take some sort of action yourself to stop him from driving without a license. Either way, consider as many aspects and outcomes as you can in advance, and then be resolute and confident about your decision.

Also, if this comes up again in the future, have a plan in place. Think about making it very clear what action steps you’ll take if he loses his license again, before agreeing to pay for the insurance and/or the car. Be prepared to follow through with what you’ve committed to, even if he becomes frustrated and angry.

A life-saving consideration

There is one situation in which I’d directly tell you what to do, and that is if you know he has been drinking or using. This is a safety issue for everyone. If you know that he is inebriated, you should take the necessary steps to keep him from driving. It may mean taking the keys away or calling the police—whatever you have to do to keep him off the road. It’s better to deal with his anger and frustration than the possible horrible consequences of driving while under the influence.

One thing you haven’t mentioned is why he lost his license. Was it because he was drinking and driving? If so, I would encourage you to put all other worries aside and do what you have to in order to keep him from driving. Take the keys, follow him to where he drinks and take the car, get him an uber, etc. Again, whatever it takes. You could always use the leverage of the use of the car to help move him in a more positive direction. You could let him know the conditions under which you’d consider letting him use it in the future. Those could include attending a program of some sort (like an Intensive Outpatient Program), getting a prescription for the vivitrol shot, and some extended time without him drinking. Again, the consequences of him driving while intoxicated—for you, him, and others—are just too high.

I know these situations are very challenging. Finding the best possible solution is not easy in any way. Just remember, you are knowledgeable about both your situation and your son. Tiny, baby steps towards change can make a real difference.

Hoping for the best for you both. Please keep us updated on your progress.

Laurie MacDougall


Related Posts from "Discussion Blog"

About This Whole “Engage When They’re Not Using” Business…

If you’ve worked your way through Allies’ eLearning Modules, you’re already familiar with the concept: when our Loved One (LO) is using, we remove rewards and allow for natural consequences. When they’re not using, we reward them right away. But as member BRIGHTSIDE has been finding, the real-life timing can be a challenge. Laurie MacDougall reviews the fundamentals of this process, and shares ideas for getting creative when the lines seem blurred.

What Is Our Role? Underlying Feelings and Beliefs We Have About Our Loved Ones

Like many of us who have Loved Ones struggling with SUD, Allies member Binnie knows that trust is a delicate matter. Can we trust our Loved Ones to take care of themselves? Do we believe they have the capacity? Or do we think they’re so damaged that they can’t function without our stepping in? Isabel Cooney reflects on how trust is explored in a recent Allies podcast, and offers her own insightful take on this vital subject.

Evidence From Oregon: Decriminalizing Drugs Can’t Solve Every Problem, but It’s an Important Step All the Same

Oregon has just rescinded Measure 110, the historic law that decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs. But the reasoning behind the rollback is muddled. As guest author Christina Dent reveals, M110 took the blame for spikes in lethal overdoses, homelessness, and public drug use, none of which it likely caused. Rather, she argues that the law represented a small but important step forward. In the effort to end the drug crisis, its repeal is a loss.

Getting the Most Out of This Site

Personal trainers and the like are terrific—when they’re accessible. Unfortunately, individual counseling is still a rarity with CRAFT, despite its proven effectiveness. Allies in Recovery was created to bridge that gap. In this post, founder and CEO Dominique Simon-Levine outlines the many forms of training, education, and guidance that we offer on this website. We hope it helps you find the support you need.

What We Can and Can’t Control: It’s Good to Know the Difference

Erica2727 has a husband who’s working hard on his recovery, but his place of work concerns her. She would like him to consider various options, but isn’t sure about how to talk over such matters with him. Allies’ writer Laurie MacDougall offers a guide to a vital distinction: on the one hand, what we can and should seek to control; and on the other, what we cannot, and don’t need to burden ourselves with attempting.

How I Boiled Down CRAFT for My Teenage Kids

What can our children make of CRAFT? Allies’ writer Isabel Cooney has a powerful story to share—and some great thoughts for our community about opening a little window on the practice. As her experience suggests, CRAFT may have more to offer than a child or teen can truly take on. But young people may still benefit from an introduction to what the adults in their lives are trying to do.

Progress and Appreciation: A Letter From Holland

Danielle and her son have gone through a lot, individually and together. At Allies, we remember their years of struggle relating to his SUD. What joy, then, to receive this letter updating us on their situation. It’s the best news imaginable: Danielle’s son is clean and stable, and Danielle herself has widened the circle of support to others in need. Have a look at Danielle’s letter for yourself:

She Wants Another Round of Rehab. Should I Open My Wallet Yet Again?

Member Klmaiuri’s daughter struggles with alcohol and cocaine use. She’s also been through rehab seven times. The cycle—use, treatment, partial recovery, return to use—can feel like a cycle that never ends. Is there a way to be supportive while put a (loving) wrench in the gears? Allies’ writer Laurie MacDougall says absolutely yes. But it takes a commitment to learning new skills, trying a new approach, and lots of practice.


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"...)