My son relapsed


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
Many of you know my story. We have planned to move back to Chicago due to my husband's job. We have been living on the Gulf Coast of Alabama for 4 years this month due to my job. My son joined us right from his 13 month Christian rehab program that he successfully completed.

We had a few snags while he was back living with us but he was mainly working and going to college so we paid his phone and car insurance and he paid his car payment and helped around the house. We got to know him sober as an adult and we had a lot of good times.

He had really pushed for this move back as he missed Chicago. However a few months ago he stole my husband's Vyvanse and abused it. We told him to leave but he did turn things around. Then it happened again last month. He was using Vyvanse (which is a stimulant used for ADD) and gamed and lost his job due to attendance. He also somehow got Xanax from his doctor and then went on to abuse that until it was gone. We found out yesterday that he did NOT finish his last class so will not graduate this week with his associates degree. He is sober now again but the damage is catching up with him.

He said he feels shame and guilt and that somehow it "got him". He expected us to follow through with plan of living with us for a few months in Chicago until he found a job.

His latest behavior changed everything. We now told him that he can never live with us again and he has to be on his own. He will be 27 next month but like many users, isn't really 27 mentally; probably 24 at most. He was very upset but is starting to accept it. He is very sad and does not want to be alone, but WE want peace and want to focus on OURSELVES. We are both 61 and sick of dealing with his issues or knowing every move he makes as you do when they live with you. It is time for him to leave the nest.

We have told him we'd pay for an apartment/hotel for a week while he finds work and his dad will help him find an apartment at that time. We have some furniture and things for him also. We told him many parents would not help him at all for all he's done to us.

He is actually leaving Alabama by himself on Wednesday to go to a job interview at Amazon (near our new home) on Friday. We are leaving to drive back to Chicago on Friday.

We will not let him live with us. It is time for him to fend for himself. This is very hard on us but we feel that this is the time for this to happen based on his behaviors. He did say that he was stressed about move and graduating etc. and it was a trigger. But instead of using skills he has certainly acquired or talking to us about his feelings, he used. Consequences right?

I am very sad.


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Dear RN
I feel sad for you and your husband and for your son. I feel especially sad your son sabotaged his success when things were coming together for him. He deserved the cheers at the finish line. He worked so hard. I am so so sorry, RN.

We all know that relapse is part of the process but we had all of us pinned our hopes that your son would beat the odds. and that you would not have to suffer this. He has done so well with your loving support. There is no reason to think he won't get back on track.

On another note, I had no idea that your move back to Chicago was so far along. It must be very, very difficult to have to deal with both of these things at the same time, the loss of Alabama and a new beginning in Chicago, and a parallel set of losses and new beginnings involving your son.

I think what you describe is the very hardest thing, the gut punch that comes from recognizing that we can't help them or that our support of them does not do the trick. In my own life, I feel a great deal of despair when I have to look squarely at the reality of my life when it is not tempered by fantasy and hope. In moments I can find it devastating. It's still the hope in magic, that my love has got to be able to help my son, and facing the reality that it hasn't and never will--there is something deep inside of me that feels that I can't bear that and won't survive. I will and I do. And you will and you do. Our sons can create their own hope.

That is what you are allowing your son to do, by stepping back. It's also the reality that he needs to face himself. He is abusing drugs and abusing himself, by hobbling himself at the finishing line of his schooling. I feel so, so badly about that. But it has to be faced.

I am remembering parents over the years that have come to the forum, whose adult children were in college and abusing drugs or alcohol and they would write that they couldn't stop paying for college, because it was the most important thing. We would try and tell them that they were allowing their child's life to be in danger, putting college over and above, the addiction. Or, at least I remember writing that, in a kinder and more indirect way.

This is what you are NOT doing. You are underlining and underscoring what happened, and putting it front and center for your son to deal with. You're saying NO forcibly and directly in the only way that a parent can in this situation. By setting clear and appropriate boundaries.

This is a gift to your son and a necessity for you as his parents. I know doing the right thing sometimes feels like cutting one's heart out. Oh, how I know.

But I know with all of my heart that by this you are loving your son in the most powerful way possible. Any other response by you would not have been love. I am so sorry this is so difficult, RN. It is for me, too.

Love, Copa
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I’m so sorry & I hope he can figure things out on his own. Your story was always so inspiring & gave me hope . Amazon is a great job , I hope he will continue down the right path and dosent let this set back affect him, he’s done so good . I hope you and your husband can enjoy your time alone.


Dear RN,

I am so sorry to hear this about your son and I am sad along with you. Your son has had so many successes—successfully completing the 13 month treatment program, going to college, making the dean’s list, getting and keeping a job, and maintaining sobriety for several years.

He is obviously a very capable young man and even in the midst of his addiction, seems to have the strength to turn things around. I’m wondering if a support group such as AA or NA would help him stay on the path, perhaps with a sponsor to help during times when he is vulnerable.

But in any event, I firmly believe you and your husband are doing what is necessary to help your son begin to accept responsibility for his actions and to grow up. I’m sure it is a rude awakening for him but sometimes that’s what it takes to open their eyes. It’s good to hear that he already has a job lined up. Good for him. He is resilient for sure.

Best wishes to you on your move back to Chicago. It has to be difficult, all these changes at once, but I know you‘ve been around here long enough to know how to practice good self-care. I hope that having good friends and family close by will give you the extra support that you need during this difficult time. Hugs to you.


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Staff member
Im so sorry. What a shocking and sorrowful turn of events. And in a certain way it’s reminiscent of that last “situation” with our daughter where her hugely poor behavior coincided with other issues. It was fairly common for more than one thing to be going on at the same time and quite frankly, was too much. Moving is a major stressor. Best guess he hasn’t thought of YOUR extreme stress one bit. Only his.

On the positive side, he has demonstrated much ability to hold down a job and to attend class regularly. I hope he isn’t using the move as an excuse to fall apart.

But, it’s as if a piece is missing and he gets pulled back into his addiction when the going gets tough.

I vaguely recall he didn’t like AA or this type of support. Yet, he definately seems to need something.

You’ve certainly done everything in your power to get him the help he needs and to be supportive.

This does seem like the breaking point. Certainly for you and your husband. Both literally and figuratively. A move represents change and a new beginning. You’ve sacrificed in hopes that your son can and will lead a healthy and successful life. You’ve role modeled that as well. But as I ve said here before, he must take the ball and run with it. Instead, he dropped the ball completely.

This, to me is a good step. A much needed boundary. It might of been somewhat debatable that he would stay with you anyway due to his age and the move. But his behaviors indicate it’s NOT debatable. He needs autonomy , consequences, boundaries and a wake up call.

It was a realization, in a certain way, I had myself in our situation. We are at an age that this is greatly hurting us. Life is too short. We deserve peace and happiness. We gave and gave some more. It provided little and mostly no help. These were her choices.

Our adult children simply need to grow up. On a smaller scale , we did this with our son. Sort of a “tough love” approach. And he rose to the occasion and is very successful today. We pulled back and he found the inner strength and pride to make it in on his own with no help from us. He is ultra responsible today.

Sending good thoughts and prayers to you and your family. Remember, he has demonstrated some ability. A true positive sign. But…it’s up to him. Not you.

I will pray often. I know these next few weeks in particular will be very challenging. Blessings.
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100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
Thank you all for responding and I am glad that you all feel that this is the right move for us. It just feels like we need peace now and after all we did for him, he chose drugs (over hugs as they say). Last night we had dinner with a neighbor couple that is ten years older than us and they love Jake. He showed up high which greatly upset me. It was marijuana but I am still upset. Like really??? So disrespectful to me. I am sure the neighbors didn't know anything thankfully but of course I know all too well.

I'm hoping and praying with all my heart that he can turn this all around. Thank you.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
My son is leaving tomorrow to drive to Chicago. He is staying in Memphis one night with a guy he went through the 13 month program with. He is about 10 years older than my son but is doing well. I am glad for this. Not sure if it will make an impact on him. This is so out of my son's comfort zone but I told him he had to start living outside his comfort zone. He said he is leaving luxury. Well I wouldn't go THAT far but we do have a nice home and comfortable life.

I do agree he needs SUPPORT from a program as many mentioned, but again that is up to him. He will be 27 in a few weeks. I cannot DO this for him anymore. He has to get sober for himself. And when I say sober I mean from pills mainly. If he does a bit of drinking or whatever and can handle it and progress that is fine with us. The pills are what does this to him. I cannot determine HOW he moves forward successfully.

I am hoping he can do this. I know he can if he has a clear head; otherwise definitely not but either way, not in MY house.


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Hi there. I am too sorry to express it adequately. It is just simply tragic.

I mean no offense, but I do want to share this nugget. In Narcotics Anonymous, if he goes, it is not at all acceptable to drink at all ever or to smoke pot. I personally agree from what I have seen in Program. Addicts are VERY ill and are only one second away from using some substance again. Any addictive substance, including beer, is a big risk and can lead to worse. Addicts could easily become alcoholics too and/or pot Addicts as well.

My Sponsors husband has been sober for 36 years. Never ever drinks. Not even mouthwash with alcohol To him, there is no other way to stay sober. He is a great example of long term sobriety. I am uncertain if one can drink and stay sober from anything else.

I hope you consider this. If he attends NA this will be reinforced.

I wish you an amazing trip back to Chicago and prayers for all of you.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
Yes Busy I understand.

But it's his life and truly up to him to get the help he needs.


Well-Known Member
Based on what I’ve seen, 12-step programs have a high failure rate. There are other forms of treatment for addiction. DBT or EDMR helps get the bottom. Drugs and drinking are often a symptom of a bigger disease, whether it’s depression, anxiety, childhood trauma, chronic pain, etc. Most addicts or alcoholics have some type of mental illness, even if it’s mild.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
My son has anxiety and I think the move back to Illinois triggered him even though the move back is what he wants.

In any case, I think that God makes things happen for a reason and I'm thinking the reason is so that we would not let him live with us any longer. It is time for him to leave the nest.

I have met people that quit using on their own and had never even been to one rehab. These were young men that I met while my son was in programs when he was younger. There is no one size fits all. Anything is truly possible.

I have also know people that can have a few beers that used to have a drinking problem. Maybe they were not true alcoholics but they used it at a time in their life when they needed a crutch. People can and do grow and change. It's really up to the individual on how THEY want to live their lives. It is not for someone else to decide what is right for them.


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People can and do grow and change. It's really up to the individual on how THEY want to live their lives. It is not for someone else to decide what is right for them.
The man I lived with for many years is an alcoholic. He was completely sober for 19 years. He had quit drinking completely without the help of any program because he chose to. He returned to drinking and then again stopped, cold turkey, without any help, when he chose to stop. He is somebody with a very strong will. When he wanted to drink, he drank. When he wanted to stop, he stopped and stayed stopped.

I have urged my son to go to programs several times, and he complied while there, then left. He never bought in. He has gotten worse and worse, and our relationship has gotten to the point where I can't bear much of any interaction with him, and he feels the same about me. I can't bear who he is and how he lives. He can't tolerate the intensity of how much I care and my suffering. It looks almost like we don't love each other anymore. All of my worst fears have come true. The thing I fought against all of these years has come to be far worse. I could have never ever imagined what our life together has become.

Except guess what? 99.9 percent of the time I am okay. There are deep valleys of anguish but I recognize most of the time that he has his life and I have mine. I can be okay and I am. The sad reality is that I have erected boundaries in my head and in my life. The change has come because I accept that I am not him, and he is not me. I know that this sounds self-evident, but on a psychic level, we were merged. If we are anymore, it
is way, way less.

It is a hard, hard thing to say no to a vulnerable child, even when an adult. in a sense, this is what this entire forum is about. Empowering mainly mothers to find the muscle inside of them to begin to say No and yield the responsibility and the respect and autonomy to their children, to decide their own lives, and to recognize that this is still love.

In my mind, this is what RN is writing about in this thread. Of course, her son is going to decide how he lives his life. He will decide what kinds of limits and support and treatment he requires. He, not RN, will decide whether or not alcohol or marijuana can co-exist with his sobriety from pills.

But the decisive action here is by RN, to empower her son, and free herself from the bondage of responsibility to a young man who is no longer a child, but still feels he needs and wants parental care, to find those strengths in himself. Or not. This is what this moment is about. I have lived this. I still do. And it is the hardest thing I've done in my life.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
Copa: That was beautifully said and you really know exactly what I am dealing with at this very moment.

I have had a very emotional few last days at work. Lot of gifts, tears and hugs. I cannot believe the wonderful things that people said about me. I have helped so many but I am unable to help my own son.

I was up a lot last night crying and praying and the messages I got were Be Brave and that God can turn something beautiful out of nothing. I am not sure if that was for me or my son but maybe both of us.

He just left for his trip to Chicago and it was emotional. He said he was afraid to be alone. I can understand that but we all are really alone. He has his family and we are all going to the same place. I think that this will strengthen him and he will grow and see that it was the right decision for him.

Yes it is the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life.


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He has his family and we are all going to the same place.
When I first read this I understood it in another way. Which I will share in a moment.

You all know I adopted my son. I knew something about his birth parents' lives and what they had come to, and the circumstances into which my son had been born. I was so in love with him all I saw and felt was that, my love for him. He was G-d's gift to me.

Last week was especially crushing for me, as my son returned here for a few days. I said to a trusted friend, it's as if my whole life was a death wish. What I meant was that by my choice to adopt my son, governed by my love for him, I had set in motion a story that would end in the deepest anguish and sometimes the wish to die to escape it.

And then when I felt better I put this into another context, from which I misread RN's words. I read them, that we are all of us going to die, on the way to death. No mother here or child here will not one day die. We are all going to the same place. In this sense, none of us get a fully happy ending.

Yet, there is great emancipation in this. This is the truth of our lives. But it isn't sad. We are all of us left with the responsibility to live well when we are here. And living well, in my book, is what we are learning to do here on this forum.

Living well entails accepting reality, taking great hits to the gut and heart, and tolerating despair without caving. In my view, all of these things bring us to G-d. Stepping out in front of our adult children to save them or protect them from their own crushing reality is, I believe, to deprive them of their true purpose in this life, for which all of us are here: To learn to live fully and well, as good and strong people by finding the only things in life that are worth having. Oh, I have changed so much since I have been here on this forum. Be well and happy, RN. And everyone here.


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Staff member
I know these two elements 1. We can't control our adult children and 2. We can only control ourselves and life moves on....were extraordinarily powerful when we went to the FA meeting. It's not that I hadn't heard this before. But, when we went to the first meeting and were totally destroyed by years and years of insanity finally blowing up into one gigantic horror...with me literally crying in a pile of MUSH...we got in the car afterwards and my hubby was bubbling over with energy and maybe even JOY. This is about Us...he kept on saying in one form or another. It's about US. Not the child. US. What can we do? We can only control ourselves. We can chose to put this behind us and to accept what might seem unacceptable...but we have no choice in the matter, anyway. The idea that WE had choices and control...the choice to move forward even with this craziness in the (DISTANT) background was ours to make and we made it. And we always and forever have control over US and we chose to make good and healthy choices and chose happiness. It sounds almost a little basic. was mind boggling and freeing. We've taken our life back. Sure, we hope for the best...for her. BUT the energy behind that isn't there. There is no enmeshment. It's up to her. That good and healthy energy is with US.....our We are essentially free. I have moments very similar to what Copa describes. They are very painful. But, they are brief. They are only moments. Life moves on and it really is good. Blessings.
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Well-Known Member
RN, I have not read this whole thread yet, but I wanted to jump on and say I'm sorry. It's is such a tough ride we are all on. Even when we think it's over and we can get off the merry-go-round, it starts up again. I'm so sad for you, but I know you are strong. You have made the right decision,


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
Thank you to all.

He arrived safely in Nashville last night and is now on his way to Chicago area for his interview on Friday. This will make him more independent. Drugs steal everything from our kids.

I feel much less stressed without him here. I hope someday he thanks us for pushing him out of the nest but I won't hold my breath.

Deni D

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
Staff member
Living well entails accepting reality, taking great hits to the gut and heart, and tolerating despair without caving.
Yep for us
Stepping out in front of our adult children to save them or protect them from their own crushing reality is, I believe, to deprive them of their true purpose in this life
and yep for them, whatever that is

RN, I think our adult children are triggered by life and roll back instead of rolling with the punches like other adult children do. Maybe from a lack of resilience, maybe from a lack of trust in their abilities they are still working on. From the outside to me it seems your son has accomplished a lot, still is trying to figure out where he fits in this world, but he's moved forward towards a better life for him over the last years so to me it seems he wants to continue that trajectory, whatever that is for him in the future. I hope and pray he has much success in his life as he defines it.

but I won't hold my breath.
Seems like one day at a time for this. Practicing not holding my breath, literally deep breathing is a daily thing for me.

in a daze

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I am so sorry to hear this RN. He was doing so well for so long! It seems that addicts, at least the ones I know, need constant support from counselors, psychiatrists, and support groups like AA to stay sober.

You’re doing the right thing.