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The Hard, Worthy Work of Being on His Side

Boy with fingers in his ears

How to reach out to a Loved One who rejects the very idea that help is needed? The effort may be immense, but the payoff can be priceless. In addressing member Lili0910’s challenges with her son, Annie Highwater reflects on her experiences with her own child, and shares the tips and resources that have helped her the most.

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“My son is recovering from an episode of THC psychosis and we’re trying to get him into a dual diagnosis treatment center. Unfortunately, he thinks that weed is perfectly safe because it’s been made legal in so many states, and he is resistant to stopping its use. How can I get through to him that it’s what is causing his biggest problems?” 

Hello Lili0910

Oh my, do I relate to the stress and frustration of a son who refuses to believe what’s true and dangerous, even with proof. I have had that struggle more times that I can count! My son and I have come a great distance since those tough discussions. But I clearly remember having to be very thoughtful and even strategic when giving him information I was desperate for him to absorb. 

 What helped me was making sure I dropped my weapons when conversations turned to arguments and I could tell we were not moving the ball. Locking horns with someone I love so much is a miserable thing for me. I can’t imagine anyone finds it pleasurable. 

There’s no roadmap, but there are better roads to take  

 Sometimes I would take a five-minute (or longer) mental recess, regroup, breathe, and revisit. I don’t feel anyone hears at their best level when defensive, struggling to prove their perspective (no matter how accurate), or angry. Conversations that are calm and safe were my first priority. I don’t know if you’ve had that struggle, but we sure did. And often. Taking breaks to breathe, call a friend, meditate, pray, listen to a comforting song, or seek information or encouragement proved to be a lifeline for me when I felt like I was drowning in problems and hopelessness. 

 I gave myself a few rules. One was that I would make a point no more than three times. I won’t lie: I wasn’t perfect at sticking to that number, especially at first or when chaos erupted. But with time and practice my efforts definitely improved. Another rule was that I would provide resources that would inform and support my son. I have copied a few links below that might serve as starting points (as a fellow parent, I don’t doubt that you have done your due diligence and research! I’m just including them in case they’re helpful).  

 One thing I’ll add: never underestimate the power of speaking truth. It might be only a sentence or two, but it’s like a seed you are planting, and often it will bloom large! Truth has permanence. It is living and works in unseen ways. Truth has staying power.  

No substitute for a sense of trust and safety 

That said, once I made my point a total of three times, I shifted my energy toward being positive and uplifting (with boundaries of course). I would remind him of my position if the subject arose, but I worked very hard to refrain from harassing and nagging (which I tended to do when it came to such important things).  

 I worked hard to create space for my son to trust me. I wanted to be ready to support his return to healthy decisions if he had any type of revelation about his circumstances. That by no means meant become a doormat or ignoring what wasn’t healthy, safe or acceptable in my home. It meant making sure that when he felt ready to talk he wouldn’t have thoughts of, “Oh man, I don’t want to face the shame, or punishment, or ‘I told you so’ conversations with Mom and/or Dad.”  

 I made it clear he was safe and would find safety and loyalty with us. Like a coach in his corner, no matter what direction he might veer in the fight for his life, health and future, our goal was for him to WIN and succeed. “We are for you, not against you,” was the message. 

 When his life began to turn more difficult and those around him weren’t always loyal, healthy, wise or trustworthy, our son knew he could turn to us and we would be his encouragers, not his punishers or schoolmasters. That we would be loyal and strive to be as healthy and wise in our relationship as possible. To this day, we see the fruit of that. 

You’re in good company 

 There is no one-size-fits-all process for anyone. But the more you know, the better you will become at customizing your responses and applying what tools work for your family along your personal journey. The healthier you work to become in the midst of the situation, the more calm the situation can become. I believe that peace is power.  

 I am so glad you are on this site! CRAFT is not only helpful, it’s hopeful. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in Allies in Recovery, along with great compassion that you will see in every response. That, for me, has been so healing and strength-building. Even if an idea doesn’t feel like a fit for you, there will be hundreds of other concepts and kind approaches here that work, and will buoy you forward from one situation to the next. 

 I wish you well, Lili0910. My thoughts are with your family as you walk this road day by day. The good news is that you are not alone in doing so. 

Annie Highwater

Those resources I mentioned:


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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"...)