Addiction to Alcohol/alcoholic adult son


I suppose you have heard it all, but here is my story.
My son, who is 25,  has been drinking heavily since his teen years and has progressed to full-time seriously ill drunk since receiving a large insurance settlement after the accidental death of his father.  He does not work. He recently came to visit me (i live in a different state).  After a week here, he woke up not knowing how he got here and not remembering his flight here or any detail at all about the past week...he did not know he was in my home, he was completely shocked.  He also had problems with simple questions like his address ... he would give me his old address, his age ... he thought he was 22.  When I told him he had sent his girlfriend flowers a few days back, he broke down crying, because he could not remember.  I wanted to get him to a doctor or even an emergency room, but he refused to go claiming he had no confidence in the medical community in my area (I would tend to agree with that). Instead I agreed to fly back to his home with him and made an appointment for him to see a general practitioner as a starting point. I know it sounds kind of ridiculous, but I wasn't sure if I was dealing with long term blackouts  or head injury .. he tends to slam his head into hard objects when angry or frustrated. I got him as far as the doctors waiting room .. He walked out when they called his name...his explanation was that the doctor was only going to advise him to stop drinking.  He has been in rehab several times ...In the last 3 years he has completed an inpatient 30 day program twice.  Has rejected AA as viable.  In February he admitted himself to an inpatient rehab and stayed only 3 days, not even getting through the detox.  He was rushed to ER for seizures a month later with an overnight stay at the hospital.  As I write this I am wondering if I even have a question or whether my question is implied in the text.  He is an only child and every time I leave him and fly back home (in the last year I have traveled to him 4 times),  I feel like I am abandoning him...And he lets me know I am.. He is highly intelligent yet sadly immature. He can be verbally abusive and hurtful and I tend to unintentionally egg him on when I tell him his problems with self image and social skills would be greatly reduced if he just stopped with his drinking... I am wondering if I should just let go.  I enable him by coming to him every time he has a crisis, but I am his mom and I love him...he lost his dad.... What avenues can be taken at this point to help him?  By the way, I am a recovering alcoholic and have been sober for 6 years.  His father also had issues with drinking, but eventually found sobriety.. There is alcoholism on both sides, several generations.
Your insight and advice is appreciated.

Hi Maggie,

My apologies for the late response.  Sorry to hear about the difficult time you are having attempting to encourage some behavior change in your son.

The details of your letter had me thinking he has some sort of cognitive impairment.  The memory problems appear more extreme than I would typically would believe characteristic of a man his age, but on the contrary, he has several years of alcohol consumption so may have incurred some alcohol toxicity.  

Unfortunately, if he does have some sort of neuro-cognitive impairment, his judgement regarding drinking and rehabilitation will be impaired.  The alcohol may quell some of the confusion, anxiety, and "noise".  

I also suspect a depressive disorder.  Your family history might point to a genetic risk factor there, as well as looking at his early childhood history for signs.  Was there any appearance of a mood disorder?  Was he having trouble learning in school?  It's important to check history for clues to current conditions.

Unfortunately, you may have to be tough with him. Change may not come without further consequences.  Often legal system involvements can interrupt these negative behavioral cycles, though I don't want to see anyone arrested and/or incarcerated as a learning process; but I have to say that many times my clients respond to legal sanctions.  I run a group with all mandated clients.  If not required by their probation/parole officers to attend, most wouldn't.  Nor would they stop using.

You can set some ground rules if he comes out to your home.  Mention that he'll have to agree to treatment, and actually go.  Just my opinion, but I would not travel to him to provide rescue.  He can, and will, manipulate that situation to his advantage.

This is a difficult situation, and I wish you the best.  You may want to investigate or attend a Al Anon meeting in your area.


Addiction to Alcohol

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Peter L.


Any questions regarding addictive behavior, withdrawal symptoms, selecting treatment options, relapse prevention, defining abuse vs. dependence, self-help groups, denial and resistance, building motivation, physical health effects of alcohol, substitution of other addictive substances; holistic approaches to addiction recovery.


I have been a counselor, educator, and supervisor in the addiction field for 28 years. I hold alcohol and drug counselor certification and licenses in three states. I have experience with adolescents and adults, ranging from those who are experimental/casual users of alcohol to those with very progressed addictive disorders.

Masters Degree - Behavioral Science CADAC, LADC, LADC1

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