Can’t apply tough love?

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Can’t apply tough love?

by Brandon

My son Brandon has been on opiates for the last 8 years, and he is now 25 years old. I want to believe him so badly and he knows that… His mom wants us to apply tough love and so does his sisters. I can’t do it and this is affecting our family, my marriage and my life?

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No easy answers

by: Debbie Wicker

Dear Brandon,

There are no easy answers to your problem. You love your son and want to do everything you can for him. It’s unimaginable for you to let him suffer.

The issue you have is that opiate addiction is a FATAL disease that attacks the brain. It has turned your son’s brain against him and he will do ANYTHING to get the drugs his brain has convinced him he NEEDS. He will lie, steal, and violent behavior to get the money for the drugs is also a very strong possibility.

Your son has been opiate addicted for eight years so it has a VERY strong foothold on him. If he does not successfully get treatment and stop using the statistics aren’t on his side. Suicide or an overdose are the most likely thing that will happen to him.

I would recommend that you contact your local hospital and ask them for a referral for a good opiate treatment program. Inpatient if possible.

Work with the treatment center and do an intervention with your son and outline the consequences of what he is facing. Don’t do this without good professional support. Let them define what your steps with your son should be and follow their advice. Hopefully they can get him into treatment ASAP!

View this as a life or death situation for your son. Don’t enable his addiction in any way but also show him you love love him and want to support him any way you can.

Opiate addiction is a huge family problem and you and your family need support to work through this so that it doesn’t destroy your family. Please consider attending local Al-anon meetings with your family. Go together if you can and try to learn how best to work as a cohesive team for your son.

A very common tactic of the drug attack is divide and concur. Get each of you fighting each other and then he can manipulate each of you. He isn’t doing it, the drug in his brain is.

If you can face this as a strong family unit who agree on the steps to take, you are much more likely to help your son.

Good Luck and may God Bless your family during this terrible crisis!


I want to help

by: Jake H.

Debbie, thank you so much for your reply to the post. I found it very helpful. I was a psych major in college, and we talked about drug addiction quite a bit. In one of my more biology-based classes, Physiology of Behavior, we learned about how drugs affect, and eventually, CONTROL the brain. We learned the physiological processes involved in drug use and what happens when the person stops using. That’s the scary part.

You are 100% correct about opiate addiction/withdrawal being a life or death situation. My brother has been addicted to opiates since he was 17. He’s 25 now. About a year ago, he mentioned starting Methadone treatment to help him quit abusing opiates. We believed his lies, as we always do. He traded a risky, very expensive, very illegal addiction for a reliable, legal, controlled, and overall less expensive way to get high. He’s been on it for over a year now, and his dose is still so high!! As long as they’re getting their money, they don’t seem to care about the people who come in.

Two weeks ago, he was arrested for DUI. He lost his way to work, so, of course, he lost his job. Now he has no way to pay for the methadone treatments ($70+ per week), and he is going through serious withdrawal. He came to my mom this morning, begging for some money to find something to make him feel better. He was going to try to find some methadone on the street. She caved, and called me sobbing. She knew she just “enabled” him, bit we are all afraid he will die of we don’t help him.

Tough love doesn’t always work. Yes, it forces the person to see the situation for what is it, and it eventually forces the person to seek help, but in some cases, withdrawn support is just not the answer. It’s in no way black and white.

Thanks again for sharing.

-A supportive but frustrated brother

You and your mom NEED to stick together!

by: Debbie Wicker

Dear Jake,

There are no black and white answers accept one:

Opiate addiction will likely kill your brother if he doesn’t stop using.

From the little I know about your story I would assume that your brother has been taking more than just the Methadone he is getting at the Methadone clinic. He lost his job because he is an opiate addict and he is trying to use any ploy he can think of to get money from your mother.

He tells your mom it’s not his fault he lost his job it’s because of the DUI. The DUI is not his fault because the Methadone clinic is giving him to much and he is still addicted. From his world view he is the victim not the cause of his problems. One thing you and your mom know for certain is that he will be back and he will want money. Very sadly, this is not going away anytime soon.

Your brother is ONLY 25, if he can shake this addiction then he can lead a relatively normal life. There are a couple of free programs that I urge you to get him to go into:

The Salvation Army Addiction Treatment Program


Teen Challenge

You and your mom need to start going to Al-anon meetings together and work with a sponsor to develop the right strategy to deal with your brother’s addiction. You both also need to start working the 12 step program to understand all of the aspects of addiction that your brother is dealing with.

In my opinion, giving him money to get high is NEVER the correct strategy. Taking him to treatment, taking him to the hospital, even taking him to jail are better options because they could start him on the path to recovery.

He needs a 12 month inpatient/sober living treatment program, where he can’t use, to have a chance to recover from his addiction. If he leaves his current environment and lives sober for a year then he should be able to avoid relapse.

There are no easy answers but there is always hope, but hope is never found in giving him money to feed the addiction that is likely killing him.

I’m somewhat concerned about your mother’s safety, does she live alone? Is she physically capable of protecting herself? Does she really know who your brother is dealing with? Does she truly understand what the addiction will make him capable of?

She certainly needs your support and you need to turn your frustration into action so that you can help your brother as much as possible, but at the same time protect your mother from unforeseen issues and problems that may arise from this awful situation.

I have worked with MANY families in similar circumstances and all of them have underestimated what the addict is capable of.

You and your mom need to work the 12 steps, learn about your brother’s specific addiction and get him into a place where he CAN’T use!


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