Ask Amy

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: I have an adult son who grew up with problems: ADHD, learning problems, poor social skills and rejection by peers.

When he hit adulthood (he is now in his early 40s), he developed addictions to alcohol and hard drugs.

It seems clear that his earlier problems are factors in his current problems. There are also possible genetic factors.

Knowing this makes it incredibly difficult for me to decide how to respond. I know he has been through so much pain.

He has gone through rehab, detox, etc. repeatedly, and sooner or later he relapses.

I believe I must make a decision soon to withdraw my attempts to help, hoping he will "hit bottom" and thus become motivated to help himself.

My therapist leans in this direction.

But what if he overdoses, commits suicide or goes into a deep depression (which runs in our family)? Can I live with this?

What should I do?

— Baffled Mother

DEAR BAFFLED: "Hitting bottom" is different for different people. The concept of "bottoming out" can be dangerous, for reasons you identify.

Addiction is very tricky to treat, and unfortunately relapse is extremely common. You should try to discern any patterns that emerge from your son's behavior of use, treatment and relapse.

You must face with courage what you or other family members might be doing to enable your son's addiction or inhibit his recovery.

In addition to therapy, you should attend Al-Anon meetings (check for local sessions), learn to detach from your son's choices, withdraw any financial support that may go toward his substance abuse and institute some very basic ground rules for your son's interactions with you (that he will be asked to leave your home if he is drunk or high, for instance).

This is heartbreaking. Your burden is to accept this painful situation as reality, respond with loving detachment and do your best to preserve your own physical and mental health.

Your son has complicated issues. Sobriety should always be his goal, but as an adult, he's going to have to learn to work on his problems and take personal responsibility for his choices.

DEAR AMY: I'm 15 years old and in high school. Recently, my two best friends, "Sandy" and "Ted," started dating. I can't stand it. They are always together.

The thought of them dating is repulsive to me, and I can't stand to be around them when they're together. Now when I hang out with one of them, I feel obligated to include the other.

They've both forgotten about me! They hardly ever talk to me anymore, although Sandy is better about keeping in touch than Ted.

I don't want to be a bad friend and not be supportive, but I also can't stand them dating. I've tried talking to them about this, and they promise to keep in touch, but then they don't. How can I deal with this?

— Left Out

DEAR LEFT OUT: When people start pairing up, unfortunately they sometimes exclude their friends from their private little world, especially if they don't feel they are accepted as a couple.

The dynamic of your friendship has changed, and you are going to have to get over your repulsion, accept their relationship and tolerate their togetherness if you want to stay friends with both of them.

Do your best to develop your other friendships, and include these two in group outings such as mini-golf or going to the movies. The "ick factor" should diminish.

DEAR AMY: You should reconsider your advice to "Ashamed in Tennessee."

In my view, it is best not to get too close to neighbors. If one has a problem with friends, you can just stay away from them, but you can't escape from your neighbors.

I maintain a speaking relationship with my neighbors, but I do try to maintain a short distance from them.

— Distant Neighbor

DEAR DISTANT: "Ashamed" hadn't yet spoken to her new neighbor. You can't maintain a "speaking relationship" unless you actually introduce yourself, and I hope Ashamed finds a way to do so.

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Filed under: Lifestyles

1 Comment on this post:

By: pandabear on 8/26/09 at 7:09

Baffled Mother:
Alcoholics drink because they want to drink.
Users use because they want to use.
You can't change that. I know people who are mentally retarded
and still have a long period of sobriety. I also know people who
"have it all" and can't stop.
If you don't understand it, don't know where to go, who to trust,
what to believe or how to proceed, you're in the perfect position in life.
Find the God of your understanding and ask for help.