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What Can We Do to Help Our Adult, Drug-Addicted Daughter?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

We have a 30-yr old daughter addicted to drugs and alcohol. She recently lost custody and is supposed to have supervised visits with her son, who is 7. He lives with his dad who lets him go over there and spend the night even though the courts have said NO. We no longer have a relationship with our daughter, we dont help with anything. She lives in a rent free apartment with her drugie boyfriend, gets food stamps and doesnt keep a job for more than 2 months at a time if she works at all. We are not enabling her, but the system is. Why doesnt she have to be drug tested to receive these programs?? I have to, to keep my job, no wonder she doesnt change. What can we do? she wont go to rehab or get any help ... we are lost. - Frustrated Father

Dear Frustrated Father,,

Thank you for your question. I’m sorry to hear about your painful situation. It’s so difficult to see someone we love self-destructing in their addiction. However, it sounds like you have done all you can in not supporting her financially and refusing to enable her in any way. I know you have been through a lot already, but I have two suggestions that might help relieve some of the stress you are currently experiencing. First, I highly recommend that your entire family and circle of friends get some support. Addiction has a traumatic effect on everyone in the family, even those family members who are not living in the same house with the person struggling with the addiction. Just being able to “vent” with other people who can relate to your situation will provide a great deal of relief for you. Look for a counselor who is familiar with addiction and/or consider attending al-anon meetings. You will be able to get some practical suggestions, and you will be able to find emotional support as well, to address that “lost” feeling you refer to. Also with the help of a counselor, you can begin to address any anger, remorse, anxiety or other emotional feelings you are experiencing. This type of support will also help regulate your own physical and mental health, which is at greater risk of dysfunction because of the stress you are under. To find a counselor or therapist, begin by contacting the nearest drug/alcohol treatment center, or hospital that offers such a program; these facilities should have social workers who can offer suggestions. Or perhaps you can search for a therapist on this very website.

Secondly, I want to address the issue regarding your grandson. I’m concerned that even though the courts have said he can’t visit his mother, his father is disregarding that decision and providing visitation. Someone needs to make sure the boy is not being exposed to any risky or shady situations when staying with mom, especially considering that both mom and her boyfriend are actively using. Hopefully mom remains fully cognizant during his visits, and I don’t mean to suggest she isn’t — but addiction is a wild card, and if the youngster is being exposed to any hazardous circumstances (i.e., mom and boyfriend are too “high” to watch after him while he’s there), then those visits should stop immediately. If you have reasonable suspicion the boy isn’t safe, and your son in law refuses to take appropriate action, then you might need to contact your local child protective services or the courts and inquire about your options – you can do so anonymously in most cases, if only for advisement.

You might also, if you wish, occasionally let your daughter know that it’s her addiction you dislike, not the good person underneath, as a reminder that you’re willing to reconnect if she seeks help facing her problem. That is if you feel comfortable doing so; and it is perfectly understandable if you do not. It’s just that, stressful as these situations are, coming from a position of love while holding proper boundaries can sometimes break the ice – if, of course, the struggling person truly wants help. I hope your daughter does get help, sooner rather than later. Thanks again for writing.

 
Comments
  • Betsy Quail July 2nd, 2012 at 6:22 PM #1

    My prayers and thoughts go out to you and your daughter, having a child with an addiction is a tough situation to be in for the friends and especially the parents. We lost a daughter as she could never conquer her demons. Through church and through our relationship with god we have come to grips with the whole situation.

    My suggestion would be to discuss the situation with a support group and to get help for yourself and those remainign in the family . It is impossible for a person to make another person happy.

  • Elsa Criger February 6th, 2014 at 2:26 PM #2

    What do I do. My daughter is 30 years old, takes drugs, currently she is homeless in Seattle. I have brought her home twice to live with us and for short periods of times she does well, but my husband and her do not get along. She is very strong willed and refuses to stop smoking and using. She associates with people who use and will bring them to our house when we are not around. At times she gets violent and I finally had to send her away, she will even get violent with her other brother who lives with us as well, he has Autism. I use to send her money, not very much, and lately I have cut her off completely. I don’t understand how people go on with life, because I find it very difficult. Everyday is a struggle, my mind is on her, I think about her, where is she sleeping, is she safe, is she eating, does she have warm clothes? I worry, I find it so difficult to function. I cannot share my thoughts with anyone, since when I do try with family members, they want to write her off. I cannot write my daughter off, I love her, she is part of me. I pray for her on a daily basis. I want to hear from her and at the same time I dread to hear from her. My job suffers, my faith is what holds me together. How do people survive. When she calls me and tells me the things she does and who she associates with, I just want to scream. There have been times I have thought of leaving this earth, but I have another son, I just care for, and I it would not be fair. Any suggestions.

  • admin2 February 7th, 2014 at 1:33 PM #3

    Hi Elsa,
    Thank you for your comment! Your comment caught our eye, and we want to make sure you have the resources you need.

    If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, in danger of hurting yourself or others, feeling suicidal, overwhelmed, or in crisis, it’s very important that you get immediate help! You can do one of the following immediately:

      Call your local law enforcement agency (911);
      Go to the nearest hospital emergency room;
      Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY:1-800-799-4TTY)

    You can find further resources on this page: http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html
    In addition, you can look for a therapist on GoodTherapy.org here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/advanced-search.html

    We wish you the best!
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • dee April 27th, 2014 at 12:26 PM #4

    I really think a parent Shoukd give Al Anon at least a try. Other people going thru same situation will be supportive. Also family therapy to address your grief and turmoil and how to stage a family intervention with firm boundaries. My fiance daughter is addict with mental illness and has just smashed into a tree and has head Injury. At least the hospital has been detoxing her for 2 weeks while dealing with brain injury.

    Ca. Read families apart badly. Our compassion can blind us and make us open to manipulation!
    Darlene

  • Eileen C May 14th, 2014 at 8:36 AM #5

    I feel the ‘elephant in the room’ is not being addressed. When we as parents of addicted daughters and sons ask for help it is not about us.! We are asking for help for our kids. As I stood next to police officers last night trying explain how my daughter who was such a lovely wonderful, thoughtful caring child can run out of a restaurant without paying the $65. Tab and leave her boyfriend there I realized that the police are not there to help. They might want to because they see the situation but unless it deals w law what can they do. My husband has excellent health insurance and our daughter is only 23 years old so is still on our policy, but the co-pay for in care at a mental hospital is $450 per day and there is no guarantee that they can help her. These young adults need our help and yes I’ve gone to alanon but will not give up on my daughter.

  • Nikki May 31st, 2014 at 3:20 AM #6

    Hi, I know your pain. I’m sure there is not much we can do. I think that there comes a time where we have to except no responsibility and allow our children to learn but it hurts so so much. . I’m so sad to say but my 20 yr old daughter uses and I’m angry and embarrassed. I also am at a loss. I would love it to just magically get better but it isn’t :-(

  • cindy June 7th, 2014 at 9:58 PM #7

    My daughter is an addict she is 22. I discovered it this past Christmas day. She smokes opiates and now I think it is “H” because it is cheaper. We put her in out patient because she was going to college and didn’t want to miss school..(this is the only positive in her life right now). I caught her in her room smoking about two months ago and just turned around and walked out…started crying..didn’t know what to do. She came in my office and said she needed help to go to detox. we put her in detox they only kept her for 3 days…said she was good to go. Well she isn’t. She got fired from her job (I think from stealing) and now she steals from me. last week she stole my debit card, all my DVDs are gone…and now tonight I just noticed my yard power tools are gone as I went to work in the yard.

    I am beyond knowing what to do. She keeps saying she is clean and I know she isn’t. I find a hoot here…a little zippy there…not searching they just fall out of things when I clean house.

    Still denies that she is using. Her dad thinks she is clean, her best friend, and her brother…she is hiding it well – she lives with me…all my valuables are locked up…I keep a key on me as I go running or leave the house…now I am thinking of putting dead bolts on my office door and my bedroom door…This is killing me. I am all alone. I don’t know how to help her anymore…I don’t think I can.

  • arlene June 15th, 2014 at 5:58 AM #8

    We have been struggling with our adult daughter for the past 8 months.
    In and out of rehab and halfway houses.
    She is good for awhile, but relapses. (this has happened twice)
    We have things locked up as well. Seeing them totally out of it, and ending up in emergency room, they look so sad and helpless…but the truth of the matter is WE are the ones who are helpless.
    WE are helpless as WE can’t change the situation.
    THEY are the only ones.
    Until they do, they go thru hell along with everyone else around them.
    Sooner or later you have to get tough and learn the word NO.
    Have you ever gone to Naranon meetings?
    They are a support group. They not only are a safe ground for you to vent your feelings for all that you are going thru…but may even offer some good sound advice.
    I URGE you to seek them out and/or a therapist for yourself.
    I have finally done this after our long 8 months that seems to be getting only worse.

  • Darren Haber June 15th, 2014 at 9:34 AM #9

    Thanks to all those who have commented. I can’t agree enough with those who have found their own support in 12-step meetings and/or their own counseling. It is VITAL that this happen given that addiction is a family illness. Moreover it is excellent role modeling for the addicted person to see family members doing what he/she could be doing. Do not be alone with this. It happens more often than you realize. Thanks to all those who read and comment on this blog. Kindest good wishes to all.

  • Margaret July 9th, 2014 at 10:00 PM #10

    Hi we too have a 32 year old drug addicted daughter who has put us to hell and back for the last 7 years , she has been arrested and been sentenced for drug issues also lost her driving licence , stolen things for our home to sell , her only sibling and her have no relationship , she lives with the latest loser boyfriend who has just been sent to prison , this is a smart girl with a university degree and then went back to study law but couldn’t finish because of her addiction. We have tried everything even tough love , nothing has worked so far we just get accused of not being supportive …it just goes on and on with no end in sight … Last resort open to us is cutting off all contact .

  • Darren Haber MFT July 11th, 2014 at 8:23 AM #11

    Hi Margaret…so sorry to hear about your trials with your daughter’s addiction. This is what we mean by family disease. Do you have any resources in your area to get some support? For instance al-anon meetings can be a very effective way of coping with the stress of a loved one’s addiction. You might even want to seek out counseling, either with a professional or even via a sliding-scale clinic at an institute or university, depending on where you live. Don’t do this alone, it’s impossible and helping yourself is the same as helping your daughter. You’d be amazed how many people go through this; it’s virtually a silent epidemic in our society. Thank you for writing. And I hope and pray for your daughter’s recovery.

  • nicola July 25th, 2014 at 4:59 AM #12

    I have a daughter who has been addicted to drugs for the past 6 years, she is 25 now. she put her self through rehab for 4 months and we supported her,she begged to come back home and said she will stay on the 12 step program. we soon realised that letting her back was a mistake as she quickly went back to her old habit’s of staying in bed all day, being miserable and moody. Hanging around with people on drugs. She said all the right things, manipulated us so much.
    She has never hit rock bottom as I have always been there.
    She is adamant she is not on drugs but then she always has been even when we find her with them.some day’s I can’t function properly ,and the nights are really bad as I can’t stop worrying about her.I have not found anyone I can talk to about this and feel all alone. Nicola

  • Darren Haber July 25th, 2014 at 8:56 AM #13

    Hi Nicola. Thanks to you and others for your feedback. Sounds like a very painful ordeal you and your family are enduring. I highly suggest participating individual or family counseling, as well as al anon meetings at the least, for some support. Addiction is brutal and affects the whole family. Don’t do this alone; it’s practically impossible. I do hope you and your daughter find the help needed sooner rather than later.

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