College age son is successful in some areas but is doing drugs

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by wantmysonback, Jun 26, 2012.

  1. wantmysonback

    wantmysonback New Member

    My husband and I are at a loss at where we should find help. I know there are others who have walked the same road that we are on and will have advice for us. Thank you ahead of time.

    A little history:

    Our son is a rising junior in college. He has a solid B average, a great major that will lead to a successful career, a girlfriend of 2 years we love, and a great summer job delivering pizza where he spends his tips but has saved his hourly rate for spending money next year in school. He lives at home with us, is agreeable whenever we ask him to cut the grass or help around the house. He always arrives early for work and works extra shifts with no complaints if they need him. We give him no money for gas or anything. He does drive our car and has never had a ticket or abused the privledge. He sounds like a wonderful son and in many ways he is doing great but there is a dark side.

    This is our dilemma. About 3 years ago he started smoking pot and our relationship with him was cordial but not the loving, close relationship we had with him his whole life. Last April, 2011 he was arrested for possession at college and put on probation. When he was home last summer he was not allowed to use our car, didn't work and took classes at a community college where he got a 4.0. We gave him no spending money at school or home after the arrest not wanting to fund his habit. We thought he had turned the corner and hit rock bottom with his arrest and and that he had stopped pot. We were wrong. Right before he left for college for his sophomore year he came home high. We drug tested him and he tested positive for pot. At a loss at what to do we let him return to school where he maintained good grades and began counseling. He finished the year with no other arrests and his 14 month probation at the university is now over.

    That brings you up to date to this summer. He has been home now for about 5 weeks. Our relationship has improved greatly and we thought we had our son back. Wrong again. He will be living in an apartment next year and had a good friend that was to be his roommate. He confided in us that his roommate won't be returning to school because his parents caught him with meth. We have also met some "new" friends he has met at a local hookah bar who don't go to school and live on their own. Our gut tells us they aren't the best influence. Last night he came home under the influence of something.

    We are at a loss at how to handle this. Please help. He is doing so many things right but we feel that his life is a ticking time bomb until the next arrest or a deeper addiction to a drug more serious than pot.

    Please help...
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2012
  2. compassion

    compassion Member

    My experience: my daughter, now 19 has been smoking mj for 4 years. I have not been successful at gettignher to stop. families anon, al-anon and this list help me keep the foucs on me, detatch. I also limit cash to her that can be used for drugs . welcome to the board.
  3. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome,

    Your gut is always right. You have described a common dilemma many on this board face: an adult child who is using drugs, maybe not all the time, but enough to get caught and even arrested/probation, but not horrendous consequences which will make them reconsider their current path. He seems to be using socially, but not to the degree that his grades or work are affected at all (for the moment, at least).

    It seems to me that your son is skipping along the edge of a volcano. He's hanging out at a hookah bar, his chosen roommate was found with meth...that's serious stuff. He's a high achiever who is "slumming" with a sketchy crowd. If he has a nice girlfriend, a very good average in a good major in college, why screw it up? Maybe he feels like he's doing all these "good son" things to please you and society at large, but these risky behaviors give him a thrill, and a "bad boy" image with his peers that he is embracing. (I'm just speculating here.) For boys, it's not unusual. Does your son have any interpersonal or social difficulties, low self esteem, etc.? It just doesn't compute why he would be a great student, hard worker, then inexplicably exhibit this self destructive, foolish behavior, even after being arrested.

    Are you paying for college tuition? If he's been driving your car, and you suspect he came home under the influence, he shouldn't be driving. You're doing the right thing, in my opinion, not giving him spending money. I know this is troubling for you, and you are worried about him escalating this behavior, and you are right to be concerned. He is your beloved son, and you know where this is headed. First things first before you think about next semester: he should be drug tested for a variety of substances, and should be continuing therapy to find out why he feels the need to participate in self destructive behavior when he clearly has a good head on his shoulders. You may want to consider counseling for your own sake, as well.
    Many other wise warrior Moms will be along shortly to dispense very worthy advice. Stay strong and enforce boundaries. Good luck.
  4. wantmysonback

    wantmysonback New Member

    Thank you for your quick response. It is so good to talk to someone who knows what we are experiencing.

    Yes, he has had trouble fitting in socially in the past. He was bullied in middle school. He has ADD and has suffered from depression.

    We have paid for all of his school until this, his upcoming junior year. He has taken out a federal loan in his own name for his tuition/books but we will be paying his living expenses.

    After reading your response and some of the other forums we plan on telling him that he will be getting back into counseling to help him discover what is going on (we believe it is old wounds from the bullying) to make him continue this destructive behavior. We are also going to take the car away again except for when he works as a consequence for his behavior. We plan on finding a local support group to help us deal. We should have done that years ago. I guess we didn't because we have been on an emotional rollercoaster hoping and praying that it would just end.
  5. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Yes definitely find a good support group such as a parents alanon group. The group I go to has been a life saver for me. I think there is good news in your post in that your son is doing well in school, is holding down a job, is being a responsible (mostly) citizen. Yes he is smoking pot and that is not a good thing but he is not yet doing it enough to interfere a lot with the rest of his life. I believe there are plenty of kids who use pot like many use alcohol and it does not become a huge problem.

    You cannot control his drug use... and in my experience, making requirements specifically around drug use doesn't work very well. He will find ways around drug tests and many of the more serious drugs do not stay in your system long.

    The roommate using meth is scary... and the new grungy friends are a concern. Not much you can do about those though.

    You are doing the right thing about not giving him money... is the living expense money being paid directly (ie paying rent directly etc.). If not I would try and do it that way so he is not getting money from you that he could use for drugs. I think your stand on the car use is good... use it only to get to work. You don't want him getting high and driving your car.

    My main suggest is keep an eye on the rest of his life... know the signs of serious drug use... ie his attitude and temper getting much worse, any kind of violence, stealing, lying, sleeping really odd hours, losing a lot of weight, smelling bad (weird body odor). I would continue to keep your expectations around work and school high... and if he starts doing badly at those things address them.

    I think letting him know you are concerned about drug use and that you want him to see a counselor is a good idea. But personally I would stay away from being the drug police, first because it doesnt work and all it does is interfere with what sounds like a basically good relationship between you.

  6. princess

    princess New Member

    Hi after reading your post I feel like it could have been written by me-my son almost the same way except his issues started in senior year in high school-also good student -did get arrested for pot possession right before college started probation fine community service-has two jobs one at school one at grocery store-last two semesters he earned B's and A's but did flunk a Chemistry course-he thinks he has ADD we did go to counseling but he stopped once the counselor mentioned ADD medications thinks pot is better -several of the people he hangs out with have been arrested for pot possession as well as meth and cocaine he says he does not use these-but I do not trust him-also uses my older car for work told him if he drives stoned it will be taken away. I also had a great relationship once but now it is very strained-I was also in counseling but once he stopped going the counseling sessions did not go as well the counselor just kept suggesting Al-non which I just do not feel comfortable going to-I have spoken to a few other mothers whose sons had similar issues and I was told the met really nice girls and once the relationships started they became less and less involved with the bad influences and the drugs-my son has no steady girlfriend-how does his girlfriend feel about all this-perhaps she can be of help-I hope this works out for both of us -I also would like to have my son back
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    This post...which is a common one many of us why I don't like pot. I don't think it's a horrible drug in of itself, but it so often leads to other drug use. If your son is hanging out with a kid who uses meth, to me that's a red flag that more is going on other than pot. Birds of a feather tend to stick together.

    It is common for people who suffer from depression to self-medicate. I have always suffered from depression, but am one of the odd ones who thought using drugs or alcohol would make my depression problems even worse, but I am in the minority. Depression is often a clinical, medical problem that can be seriously helped, but messing with recreational drugs is not the way to do it. I am not convinced your son's bullying in his earlier years lead to this. I was bullied too. Badly. I think it's probably (and I could be wrong) more the lingering depression that makes him want that high you get from some drugs. Depression is a horrible feeling, like a black pit.

    I'm not sure what to tell you to do, but I would have him see a psychiatrist, if he's willing to do it. This is a medical doctor who can figure out if clinical depression caused him to start seeking out recreational drugs. If it is necessary, and it usually is, the psychiatrist will refer you also to a therapist who will work together with him.

    Your son sounds like a good person who is struggling right now. Maybe he can take a year off from college while he tries to get his head on straight. It is so much easier if our adult children allow us to help them. Many of them don't. But maybe your son will...he doesn't sound like a mean or rebellious kid.

    The bottom line, of course, is that if he is bent of self-destruction, there is nothing anyone can do about it until he wants to change back to the person he was before. I wish you good luck with this and hope you keep us posted.
  8. wantmysonback

    wantmysonback New Member

    I want to thank all of you for your advice and encouragement. This website has been so good for me. I am thankful for all of you who take the time to respond.

    TL, yes, we will be sending the rent/utility payment directly to the apartment manager. I agree 100% that being the drug police doesn't work. We've tried and it got us nowhere. I googled al-anon and it sounds like it is more for alcohol issues? Is there a separate group for drug use or does it include parents of both?

    Princess, wow, you are right. Your story could be mine. When I found this website I knew it would be a link to others walking the same path. Our son has been with his girlfriend for almost 2 years. They met first semester of college. We love her and think she is great for our son. My husband and I had a long talk with our son last night after he got home from work. It was a great conversation that didn't escalate into an argument and I was very grateful for that. We talked to him about how bright his future is and how we see him married to his current girlfriend (he has already talked about proposing so they can get married right when they graduate) and how we know he doesn't want to jeopardize his future with her with his current choices. I could tell that he was really thinking about what we said. I asked him what she felt about his recent choices and he didn't come right out and say it but I get the impression she is tired of it. We felt encouraged after our talk with him but we've had many of the same talks, think we are getting through and then we find out he is still getting high.
  9. Signorina

    Signorina Guest

    WMSB - I could've written your post(s) word for word. My now 20y/o son WAS a bright, well rounded, wonderful young man with a delightful girlfriend at a good school with whom we were very close. He was my shining star, my sweet boy, the kid I felt I really connected with - and I was so sure that he was heading off to a bright future when we dropped him off at school his freshman year. It turns out that he was NOT someone who could use marijuana just casually/socially. (if you click on my user name, and read the "about me" you will get a good synopsis of my situation with my beloved boy)

    I've taken my time answering your post because I have two trains of thought and they contradict each other greatly. And I haven't been able to choose between them - so I am giving you both of them. So, maybe not advise but just food for thought:

    I have said that if my son could "fly" his marijuana use under the radar, I would likely look the other way. I am not a fan of pot. Tried it, hated it, it was kinda a deal breaker for me with my friends, even bfs when I was younger and around it more often. Just not my thing, and I am far from being a goody goody. The smell, the daze, the way it didn't wear off immediately was a big turn off for me. And being the only unaltered person in a group of high people is AWFUL and BORING. That said, I knew a lot of kids who could use it and excel in life and school. A lot of kids who left it behind shortly after college and continued on to greater things. And I know a few very successful adults who are apparently stoners (if local gossip is to be believed.) Plus, it turns out two of my friends husbands use it regularly. While my response is ICK - both of these men are very successful, well respected executives. Crazy. So, I think if I had an inkling that my kid was using - BUT - it was not having an ill effect on his grades OR his life -- I would be tempted to write it off.

    That said, my kid COULD NOT fly it under the radar. Partially because he has addictive tenancies and in part because (like you) we became hyper vigilant. His grades began to fall, he had a positive drug test. His personality started to swing. He started to lie. He started to hang out with iffy people. He started lowering his standards in all aspects of life. He started spending a LOT less time at home. 75% of the time he was doing a good job of being "that sweet boy" but it was a lot of all talk and less show. I think that my H and I knew something was up and yet we couldn't put a finger on it. ALL of his behavior could be explained away as typical college "first summer home" growing pains and YET...we knew it was something more. Honestly, we just wanted to get him back to school and we swept a lot under the rug. He rented an off campus apartment for his sophomore year WITHOUT our knowledge (so they could drink & smoke away from the watchful eye of the campus police/RA) and his roommate was a proud partier. He found a way to explain it and we bought his excuses/reasoning even though they didn't wash. The last step (a few days before he was to leave) was when I found his internet purchase of a large quantity of marijuana paraphernalia to be shipped to his new apt. We pulled the (financial) plug,asked him to stay home, get counseling, go to school locally and he balked, went anyway and failed out of school in the fall semester. We had that same conversation (stay home, get help, go to school locally...) over Christmas Break when he "came home" for 6 weeks and he balked again and left. He went back to live in his college town though he were still a student. He is back in town for the summer but not staying here and apparently he is couch surfing. Our weekly interactions have been friendly - even warm - but he is still very much estranged. (His girlfriend is probably his primary enabler though she is a nice girl and does not use afaik.)

    So, for me -- the purchase of the large quantity of paraphernalia was the deal breaker - but we were close to our breaking point then. If he had a 4.0 (instead of a 2.2) at the close of his first year - I may have been less inclined to draw that line in the sand. ("stay home, get help...") That said, by the time it reached that point, it had gone too far, his use had gone on too long and he was unwilling to listen to us and we fractured our family.

    There is my dilemma. A big part of me wants to tell you to look the other way - that he sounds like he can handle it...BUT...a big part of me wants to tell you to GET HIM HELP and SET SOME GUIDELINES while he is still receptive -- before he is too lost. The "meth using roommate" scares me to death. You have 6-8 weeks before your son goes back to school? I'd try a lot of sessions in counseling - him alone plus family sessions and see where it goes. Get the counselor's advice. I don't know, I wish we had intervened sooner.

    I know I am giving contradicting advice, I wish I had an answer. I wish I could have looked the other way with my boy and at the same time - I know that we SHOULD have intervened sooner.

    Listen to your intuition. I don't know you - but my guess is that if you are posting here, googling for advice (that's how I found this board!) you know in your heart that he is at risk. Follow your inner voice.

  10. princess

    princess New Member

    Hi again-my son and I have also had some good conversations without yelling and I feel encouraged that I am reaching him-also tell him that the choices he makes today can affect his future and like your son I find out he is still using pot and as I said previously not sure that is all he is using. I did also talk to someone about Al-non and she stated she went because her former husband was an alcoholic and most people there are dealing with alcohol issues -my husband will not go to any type of meetings so I would be going by myself-his stand on this is that we helped our son once if he gets in trouble again or continues to use pot or whatever he should leave our house-I really do not want him to leave-I want to help him and hopefully get him to see what he is doing may hurt his future-I also wish he had better friends-how I miss the days when he was younger and you had some control of his friends-keep posting-if I find something that is working for us-which I am feeling hopeless right now-I will let you know
  11. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    About alanon..... the alanon principals are the same whether you are dealing with alcohol or drugs. I think a lot depends on the people at the meeting. For me what really made the difference at the meeting I go to is that it is specifically for parents, and so everyone there has a chlid with a drug or alcohol problem. At this meeting we have people whose kids have a range of substances they abuse, from alcohol to pot to heroin. The other thing that is interesting is that there is wide range of ages of the kids (and parents)... from the kids being late teens/young adults to kids being in their 40s.

    The thing we all have in common is that we are parents dealing with the pain and all the issues of having a child who is an addict.

    The focus of the meeting is not on the kids but on ourselves and what we can do to go on living our lives and to find peace.

    For me personally it has been a huge huge help. Part of the reason is it is a great group of people.

    So my suggestion is to go to an alanon website and see if there are any parents meetings close to you and then go and try a meeting or two.

  12. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    It's so difficult to know, what would be a best way to react in this kind of situation. Signorina put it down well. Two main options to react and impossible to know, which one is better. I would be wary of making it a 'world stopping issue' if kid is indeed functioning well in all the other areas of life. Taking a year off to handle this matter may backfire badly. If you would make him take time off from college (by for example not paying it any more), what would you plan him to do during that year? Go to treatment and work probably? That wouldn't take all of his time. What should he do with the rest? His good friends probably being away at college, he would need to make new ones. Would that be good for him? Would frustration of being held back help him to shape up or just let it all go?

    With problematic kids I would always be worried what would replace any positive thing they are doing, if that thing is taken away from them. We had to make a choice once that resembled this a little bit. Our difficult child, 17 at the time, was caught gambling and stealing middle of his school year and sport season. He was living at home at that time and his sport was high junior level team. He was even paid little pocket money for playing by the team. When caught he was kicked out of the team and we had two choices. Make him take a break for rest of the season (and maybe end his sport career in high level with that), keep him home and going school and put him to treatment. Other option was to send him out of home, three hours away, living partly on his own (somewhat supervised) to play for the other same level junior team, being paid enough to cover his rent and little bit else and let him finish his school through distant learning and have treatment there. It was a difficult choice. But we decided that his sport was the most positive element in his life at that moment and denying that would only had given him more time to do stupid stuff and would probably had caused lot of resentment and frustration. And we were worried that would not end up to anything good. Now year and hald later it seems we did a right choice, but of course we can not know, what would had happened, if we had chosen differently.
  13. exhausted

    exhausted Active Member

    Welcome to the board. I have a 17 year old daughter who uses pot. She never has used daily and will go weeks without it because she has no money. I believe she may be emotional well during that time. When she was working-her checks disappeared. Looked like she was eating out quite a bit (munchies from mj?)and I suspect buying pot-though we never saw the signs during her 4 months of working. She has not escalated to other drugs (as of yet) but there is no good that comes from mj use either. She tends to use it with her friends (all poor choices) and when she is upset-a "go to" numbing devise, rather than solving her issues Our daughter has mental health problems that are deeper than depression so her issues are complicated. She is bright, was identified as gifted, yet could not make it through public school. She graduated this past Dec. a year and a half early with a GED (they give state diplomas when kids do this here).

    My older son is ADHD and has done so well. We read so much about medicating or not medicating him. What we found was that they will self medicate most of the time if they are not treated early. He was medicated from ages 5-16. He is now able to deal with it on his own. He is a great kid and we have never had drug issues with him. I really think seeing a psychiatrist is in your best interest. Antidepressants have been a nightmare for my daughter, but for many they are a God send. My son even did them for a year when he was 14-he too had trouble fitting in and the beginning of high school is tough.

    I think being bullied and not fitting in causes huge self-esteem issues. As a long-time teacher, I watch the viciousness of this get worse and worse with all the cyber stuff and the kids who are more socially delayed as a whole than they use to be. They lack the social empathy that was more the norm when kids played all day with each other and spent less time "plugged in" and more isolated. Both of my kids were different. Larger than the other kids, gifted intellectually, and more perceptive. These kids are more sensitive and get hurt at a deeper level. This triggers greater mental responses and can cause huge self-doubt, worry and frustration and then finially clinical depression among other things. I would take this seriously.

    I go to Families Anon. meetings. I did not find comfort at other 12 step meetings. At FA everyone is a parent, sibling or spouse of an addict or emotionally disturbed person. I instantly felt understood. I tried NAMI and years ago CHADD with my son. Both of these were helpful as well-esp. to understand ADHD and my daughters mental illnesses.

    My greatest comfort now is to know I have done all I can and as my daughter is almost 18-she has got to make her own decisions. I am working on distancing myself from "helping" which ends up not being help. When I do for her, she gets the message she is not a capable person (has even said that to me). It is hard to watch as they make bad choices and make huge mistakes that mess up their chances or change the course of their lives. But I am truelly powerless. I am there if she wants help or treatment. I will listen and I will recognize any victories. That is all we can do. Sounds like you have your head on strait. Continue with your plans. Keep us posted and come here to vent if you need to. ((Hugs)) We understand.