Mr. Atwater: My son has been in treatment for drugs and alcohol twice in the past couple of years. He started out very well, and we felt like we had our son back.
Recently things have started to unravel. He has started to hang out with some of his old friends. He’s become a night owl again, and his formerly helpful attitude has disappeared.
Every time we try to bring up our concerns, we get defensiveness, and he justifies everything by pointing out how well he’s doing, when to us he isn’t doing well at all. How do we talk to him?
Dear Reader: Emphasizing the imaginary positive to divert attention from the obvious deficits comes right out of the Scamology 101 textbook, along with avoidance and withdrawal, counter-blame and guilt tripping. The problem with this technique is that the imaginary positives become increasingly farfetched.
Little Johnny didn’t come home till 3 a.m., but when confronted about his gross curfew violation, he states emphatically, “At least I didn’t stay out all night like I used to.”
Little Linda brings home an atrocious report card with several D’s and an F, but when confronted about her plummeting grades she snarls, “What about the C in English.”
My first suggestion would be to stop trying to reason with your son. If he is an addict, reason isn’t a useful tool at this point. I would assume you had some stated expectations for him when he came home the last time.
I assume that the treatment program sent him home with an aftercare plan, in which you had some input. If so, get out the plan or review your requirements for your son’s continuing stay with you. My guess is that you expected some continuing counseling after his treatment and some 12-step meetings. Are these requirements being met? I also assume that you have other requirements about help around the house and hours. Are these requirements being met?
I would suggest you have a family meeting about these things and remind your son these are foundational requirements for his continuing residence.
You may want to get some counseling for yourself and also a re-introduction to Al Anon or Families Anonymous to support your need for boundaries.
• Richard Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor. He can reached by email by visiting northwestcommunitycounseling.com.