Tag Archives: drugs


There is no reprieve from worry when my son is actively using. Last week he was psychotic. He called and texted nonstop asking for money and rides and food and cigs. When my husband and I said “no” he made threats against us and threatened self-harm. When we offered rehab or detox, he said he’d rather die and explained in graphic terms how he would kill himself. Then, as though realizing what he had said, he would send angry texts telling us not to call the police that he wasn’t going to hurt himself. It was a long chaotic week, until Thursday when he went silent. That was the day he received a check from the sale of his house. With no job and a divorce after his relapse nine months ago, he had no choice but to allow his wife to sell it. So now the constant harassment has stopped, but the worry hasn’t. With over a thousand dollars in his pocket, I wonder exactly what damage he will do to himself and what new crisis he will have created by the time the money runs out. There is no trajectory except a downward spiral when he is actively using meth.

When he is fighting me and harassing me, I worry but I’m strong. I fight for sanity and calm during the chaos, I’m in defensive mode. But this silence makes me worry too. There is nothing to do, nothing to fight against, so my thoughts run rampant. I wonder if there is a way to save him from the complete disaster his life has become. I wonder what he will want from us when the money runs out. I wonder if he will survive this week.

I believe I should help the suffering and give to those who have less than I do. But I must remind myself that this is a situation where my giving and my help won’t save him and will ultimately destroy my son and me. The line I walk, as an addict’s mom, is tenuous and difficult to navigate. I know that sobriety is best accomplished when supported by family and loved ones, but I also know help might allow him to continue his addiction. The money I might be tempted to give could buy the drugs that kill him. So, I worry about how to let him know I’m here when he is ready to really fight for his life, but at the same time not provide help that will enable him to continue his addiction. I also want to protect myself from the emotional abuse I receive when he’s not working on his sobriety. Being available, but not being sucked into the drama is hard.

So, I worry about walking that fine line, to be involved enough to help save his life if he will let me and but not enough to let it destroy me if he chooses not to get sober. To combat the worry, I read Naranon literature and books on detachment. I write and I exercise and plan activities I will enjoy. I fight the sadness and the worry with activity. Some days I win and some days the sadness and worry consume me. On those days I forgive myself and try again the next day. I try, every day, to live my life fully even while my son destroys his.


I want to be a strong, determined and active woman. Too often I am sad, tired, and consumed with worry about my addict son. Strong determined me plans trips and gets her nails done and paints and writes. Sad, worried me sleeps and drags herself through her days. Somedays I can’t seem to beat the melancholy. I try to fight it, but I don’t win. My mind is slow and distracted and my body is tired and listless.  Occasionally, I surrender, I don’t even fight it, I let myself wallow in sadness and self-pity. Fortunately, this seems to get it out of my system, for a while. and makes me realize I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way, so I fight harder the next day. My son’s addiction gives me lots of opportunities to be worried and sad, but I don’t want to let his addiction destroy us both. I wish he could be healthy and sober, but he must want it and currently, he doesn’t – at least not enough to fight for it. So, I wake up every day and fight the sadness and worry and try to live the life I would live if he had not relapsed. I would be pursuing writing and painting and exercising and visiting friends. I would be living a full, active life. So, I make myself stay busy. I don’t always feel like it, but I’ve found that, more often than not, if I plan activities and follow through, a certain amount of happiness follows. I have decided to work on my life as hard as I wish my son would work on his. So, I’m trying to become that strong, determined, active woman. I try to make sure she wins more often that not when she’s confronting the sad, tired, worried lady who fights her every day.


What does it mean to set boundaries? Why do you need them?

Boundaries are meant to protect you. The old saying “good fences make good neighbors.” Could be adapted to say, “good boundaries make good relationships.” When we know what belongs to us and what belongs to someone else it makes things less chaotic and stressful. If your neighbor didn’t know where his yard ends and starts cutting down your flowers or letting his dangerous dog run in your yard you would be upset. Or what if you decided you didn’t like your neighbor’s landscaping? Would you go into their yard and start changing it? Or even crazier, what if your neighbor came over and asked you take over responsibility for his yard, to water and mow it because it was just too much for him to handle and he couldn’t afford a lawnmower? That sounds crazy because we expect people to be responsible for their own property and respect other people’s property.

Boundaries are like fences for our life. If you have an addict in your life, you have probably experienced wanting to fix them. Maybe being obsessed and distracted to the point that you neglect your own life. Maybe you give them all your time and energy and even money trying to save them. You don’t know where your life ends and theirs begins. You’re intertwined to the point that your happiness is wrapped up in their health and happiness. This feels right to you because you love them. But it will take a toll on you.  It’s not healthy. Your fences are broken.

Boundaries are fences for your life. Are you taking care of things you are not responsible for? Or allowing things into your life that you don’t want there? Are you trying to fix someone else’s life? Setting boundaries means you decide what is your responsibility in life and what is not. What is inside your fence and what is not.  You take responsibility for your life and your happiness and let other people be responsible for their own life and happiness. The only thing in life you have control over is you. So, boundaries are to help you take control of you and your life. They are not a way to control other people.   They are a way to control yourself and remember what you are responsible for. They divide responsibility into mine and theirs, just like fenced divide properties.

For example, you can decide that you are responsible for paying your rent, but not someone else’s. Your boundary is “I will not pay rent for any home but my own”. You create that boundary. When someone tries to cross that boundary, you remind yourself of the boundary. You can’t make someone stop asking or wanting you to pay their rent, but you have complete control over whether you pay it or not. It may not be easy, but in the long run, your life will improve as you enforce your boundaries and people learn where they are.

Maybe your boundary is I don’t like people being rude and disrespectful to me. You can’t stop people from being rude and disrespectful, but you can decide if you will continue to listen or spend time with them. You can decide that you will remove yourself from rude conversations. That is your boundary. You can say, “I won’t stay on the phone when you talk to me that way.” Or “You can’t be in my house if you talk to me that way.” You have control over your reactions and you enforce your boundaries to protect yourself.  You can’t control the other person, but you can control your reactions and actions.

Fences keep things out of our yard, that we don’t want in our yard and they keep us from taking care a yard that is not our own. That is what boundaries do too. It reminds us to take care of ourselves and let other people take care of themselves. Fences seldom move and it’s a big deal to move one. Boundaries are like that too. They work best if they are consistent. It helps reduce chaos and conflict if boundaries are reliable.

When we see someone in crisis, we may want to change our boundaries. If your neighbor broke his leg you might decide to help with his yard. But this a choice you have made to be kind. It is not your responsibility and your boundary hasn’t changed, you just made a choice to cross the fence. You’re not moving the fence and taking over his yard. A crisis, by definition, is a critical point. A crisis is not a continuous state. It’s brief and passes. Helping in a crisis is noble, but if someone claims to be in crisis every day, it’s not really a crisis, it’s a lifestyle.

When we choose to help, it needs to be a choice made freely. You should not be pressured to cross your boundaries. If you are being pressured to help someone, it is not “help”, it is extortion. If you are being forced or pressured to put up with behavior you find unacceptable in your house, you are not helping you are being bullied.  Don’t let love blind you to your need to honor your boundaries and protect yourself.  Keep your boundaries intact and remember boundaries are personal, no one gets to tell you they are wrong.  They are meant to control you and your life and you get to decide how that looks.

Setting boundaries to reduce the chaos and stress in your life is an important part of self-care.  If you are exhausted and stressed by the people in your life you may need to set some boundaries to protect yourself.  Good boundaries conserve your time, money, energy and mood, which make you a happier kinder person. Good boundaries may strain a relationship at first, but in the long run, they will improve it.


Bobbi, my therapist, is looking at me, with concern creasing her face. I’ve come to my appointment more depressed than ever. I sought her out when my 30-year-old son relapsed, after five years free from Methamphetamine use. When I called her 4 months ago, I was grasping for a hold on my sanity. I was descending quickly into the chaotic vortex life becomes when you love an addict.

Recently, my sadness fills me. I imagine it floating in my blood and as a mist hanging in the synapsis of my brain. I feel heavy from the weigh of it and everything requires more effort than I can manage. I haven’t been able to talk myself out of this sadness and it scares me. As I sit, hunched into my sorrow she asks, “Do you ever blame yourself?”  I look at her startled. And think, what!? Are kidding me? I wanted a pep talk, an easy solution; but instead, I get, “Do you blame yourself?” Now I’m more depressed. Does she know how many times I’ve asked myself this question and how unsure I am of the answer?

I begin to talk, even though I don’t want to, because, that is what I’m here for. I explain how hard I tried to be a good parent, not just a good parent, but the perfect parent. I realize that’s probably a red flag, but she just listens, as I explain my journey.  I tell her how my whole life was spent wanting to be a mom. I told her how ecstatic I was when my husband and I started trying to get pregnant in our second year of marriage.

Then how heartbroken I was when we went months without getting pregnant, then years. Finally, after too many doctors’ visits, tests and miscarriages – we decided to adopt.  We were overjoyed when we brought home our beautiful baby boy at four weeks old. We wanted to give him everything: love, security, happiness…. Our child would have it all. I read books on parenting and worked to follow all the expert’s advice. We offered stable routines, unconditional love, consistency, mental stimulation, creative play…

As he entered middle school, I homeschooled because he was struggling in school. We also encourage his nonacademic interests. We coached little league and drove him to piano lessons, swim lessons and tennis lessons. We were also vigilant about video games, movies, and TV.  We didn’t want him to spend too much time on things that would have a negative impact.  There was always a parenting book on my nightstand and I tried to do it all just right.

We had one big concern. Our adopted baby boy came from three generations of alcoholics, but we felt certain we could counteract heredity. We didn’t drink or smoke, so he would have no one to learn addiction from and there would be no alcohol in the house. We thought we could give him such a stable, loving environment that it wouldn’t matter that he came from a long line of addicts.  But it turns out life can be a cruel teacher and we were devastated by his addiction to a variety of drugs in his teens. I paused as I came to this point in my story. I finally said, “I gave my whole life to raising him. So, I don’t think I blame myself.”

But then I paused. as my mind came full circle. There was another thing I often ruminated about, “Unless,” I said, “I tried too hard, or was too involved. Is that what went wrong? Maybe… I am to blame! Maybe, I was too protective. I wanted to make his world perfect. Did I try to hard? That happens in sports. A player wants a home run or a touch down so badly, that they choke. Maybe, I blew it. Maybe, I choked.”

Bobbi wants to know how that makes me feel. With more than I little irritation, I tell her that I’m angry and that I’m no longer a confident parent. I constantly second guess my choices. Since there are no guarantees I know that there is no right way to handle an addict. What works one week, blows up in my face the next week. Even experts give conflicting advice and the advice varies based on your child’s age, drug of choice, personality, history, spiritual beliefs, and mental stability. And I am angry because I worry constantly about enabling or abandoning. I live in a constant state of turmoil and anxiety trying to figure out the right thing to do.

Why does it make you so anxious she asks? I think about it and I realize that all those books I read about child rearing are part of my problem.  All that reading made me believe that my child’s future was within my control. The books and experts said I could determine the outcome. This made me feel confident, if I did what they suggested in their book, then my child would be well-adjusted. But this was a double-edged sword, if this was true, then it also made me responsible for my child’s success or failure. By this logic, my child’s adult life wasn’t up to him but was dependent on me. And if I did what the experts said I expected it to pay off with a successful, happy well-adjusted adult. BUT, It was a lie! I know now that there is no guarantee. But I still feel guilty, I was given a handbook and still couldn’t produce a well-adjusted adult. And I’m still trying.

With mounting frustration, I say to Bobbi, “I wish someone had said, ‘do your best, BUT there are no guarantees! A child’s free will does not disappear because you love them and devote your life to them or read a hundred books about how to raise them. Your child still gets to choose whether to use drugs, follow rules, break laws or break your heart. I wish someone had told me not to wrap my whole life up in his success! I wish someone had said no matter how hard you try, you cannot control other people, not even your own child!’”

Bobbi smiles, which at first irritates me. Doesn’t she realize how mad I am? Then I realize, this is her mantra, “you cannot control other people.”  She has said to me many times, but today I worked my way to this important truth all by myself. Secretly, I feel kind of proud, because I realize that I need to be able to return to this truth on my own. It is my first step to finding peace. I say it again, with confidence “I cannot control my son.”  As I say it, I realize that my misery has come from trying to do the impossible.

Our times is coming to an end and Bobbi repeats her question, “Do you blame yourself?”

I answer with more peace than I’ve felt in days, “No, I was the best parent I knew how to be, and even if I had been perfect there is no guarantee. I’m sure I made mistakes, but they were not made from lack of effort or lack of love.”

“Anything else?” she says.

I surprised myself with how easy my answer came, “I don’t I need to fix him. It’s not my job.”

“And what is your job?” she asks.

“To take the all the effort I put into being the perfect mom and put it into learning to be a healthy, happy person whose happiness and peace are not tied to what my child does.” I say.

Bobbi smiles at me and I smile back. Okay, so I guess this is what I came for after all, not easy answers or pep talks, but therapy, with a compassionate listener, that leads me back to the truth.

Today, I choose to remember that I cannot control another person and I will not blame myself for my child’s addiction. I will work on me so that I can learn to find peace and happiness in the storm because it’s the only thing I can truly control.