My Son is a Drug Addict

Category: Weekly Columns


A dear friend of mine is taking his son to rehab today. His story is nothing unusual but it’s worth telling on the hope it helps another family. And, I’m optimistic his story will have a good ending.

Over a decade ago, I joined a men’s (support) group. At the time, I knew my marriage was ending and I knew I didn’t have the kind of (male) support that I needed in my life. I stayed with that group for a long time and it was invaluable in supporting me through the inevitable divorce, helping me help my boys through that horrible period, and re-entering the dating world.

Amy Winehouse - Rehab

I made some good friends and, naturally, the other men had their own problems, which prompted them to join the group. What was special about this group was our honesty with each other. Over time, when a man would bring a problem and resist the group’s collective feedback, we would all laugh deep and hard.

Why: because if every man in the group saw the folly of one man’s story, it was comical that this man would resist and stay defensive. Over time, each man would quickly “let go” and allow the other men to truly counsel him.

One man came with the common problem of disagreement with his wife about how to raise their children; an adopted boy, a girl they had later, and a grown child from a previous marriage.


Their adopted son is a super bright and talented kid with a stubborn streak. When he was a tween, he began sneaking into their liquor cabinet. Dad and mom were clueless for years.

He enhanced his drinking taste and began stealing good wine from their modest wine cellar. When “mom” discovered one of her beloved bottles missing, she looked in his room and found empty wine and liquor bottles in nearly EVERY drawer in his room.

Anatomy of a Teenager's Brain

When their son was in middle school, a neighbor introduced him to marijuana. Cool stuff. And, he was “cool” about covering up any symptoms because mom and dad wanted to believe they’d already licked the problem with a stern lecture and a long grounding after the discovery of the stolen booze.

What most parents don’t realize is that our teens are tough SOBs and their son “took” his confinement without complaint but found ways around it when at school.

heroin foil

Things escalated in high school where he got in with the “perfect” peer group of drug users. By now, he’d perfected the cover-up. His grades were adequate and he was the Eddie Haskell of polite to his parents and other adults.

In his junior year in high school, there was a horrible tragedy in which three boys died. One by stealing his parent’s fancy car and driving off a cliff, and another by over-dosing on drugs at a friend’s house who mistook his “passing out” and thought he’d sleep it off, which he did – permanently. And the third jumped off a bridge – also high on drugs.

Teen Brain

This was a huge shock to the community, and mom and dad attended the candlelight vigil along with their son and so many other parents and kids. They were very moved. Their son used this tragedy to further convince his parents of his sobriety and the dangers of using drugs.

Their son had a large group of friends and they would hang out at his parent’s home. Most were drinkers and drug-users but they all channeled their inner Eddie Haskell and were oh-so-friendly with my friend (his dad). My friend believed he was the cool dad to his son’s friends. He liked that. He even went to some rock festivals with his son and their friends, reliving his own teen years. At these events, he later learned that his son and all his friends were stoned out of their minds the entire time. Dad had a beer.

Teen Heroin Use

Their son loved photography and was accepted at a prestigious arts college back east. Boy, things were turning out well. My friend and his wife could kvell to their friends about how well their son was doing. “Progress Reports” from college were abundant because their son could play the game so well simply by staying in touch.

However, he didn’t like this particular arts college. Their son escalated his drug use. A photography friend introduced him to heroin. By now, he’d tried everything else, including LSD.

One of his masterful tricks was telling his parents about the descent into dangerous drug use among some of his friends and how he could no longer hang with them.


Finally, mom and dad could no longer be fooled. They found drug paraphernalia in his room when they were cleaning up in anticipation of a painter coming over to repaint their house.

Their son fessed up. He’s heading to 28 days (or longer) of rehab. I share my friend’s hope things will turn around. Time will tell, but I think my friend and his wife will never fully trust their son again. Very sad.

What lessons can YOU take from my friend’s experience? Simply, do not believe that it cannot happen to you. Stop thinking your “precious” son or daughter would never do such a thing. Stop being their friend and be their parent and that means a little tough love now and then. Don’t be naïve.

  • NoelleNotNoel

    I hope your friend’s son is committed to getting clean, otherwise it’s not going to do anything. Always sad to hear stories like this.

    • Bruce Sallan

      You clearly know about this sort of thing @NoelleNotNoel:disqus – without THAT kind of commitment, recovery is impossible!

      • NoelleNotNoel

        Fortunately not personally, but I’ve known enough people that have had to deal with it in their lives. Just reading about how this sun was so good at “acting,” just makes me wonder what his commitment to rehab will be. I hope he can figure out and deal with the underlying issues that he’s been trying to ignore through the drug use.

        • Bruce Sallan

          I agree @NoelleNotNoel:disqus – I hope and pray…

  • jack43

    Where there’s life there’s hope. Where there’s drugs, there’s little else. Users betray their friends, sell their babies, and more. They become boring as their only thoughts are on the last high and the next fix. Rehab, sadly, is more often than not a ploy to escape pressure to quit. Nothing like being surrounded by addicts to keep your mind on track, eh what? Yes, I know that there are success stories, but only enough to give false hope to loved ones. Almost anything we do enables addicts to continue their addiction. I wish it were otherwise. I pray that it could be otherwise. However, if you love an addict, it’s best to get on with the grieving.

    How do I know? You don’t want to know…

    • Bruce Sallan

      Wow @jack43:disqus – that is pretty sobering AND depressing. I do have to have hope in my life and for my friend’s son…otherwise, life has no meaning!

      • jack43

        Dum spiro spero (Latin) As I breathe I hope. Interesting, isn’t it, that “spiro” and “spero” are so similar. Keep in mind that in those days, breathing was the only reliable test of life. Thus, breath and life were reasonably equated. But, the relationship of hope and life is more of a stretch. (Yes, I love words and exploring their etymology.) However, those who created the words seemed to see a relationship and codified it in their lexicon.

        That’s why when I worked with gang kids I used to teach that the best way to handle trouble was to avoid it in the first place. Once you’re in trouble, your options are limited and none of them are any good. I illustrated the point by telling them about the fact that sailors are assigned to escort every workman who boards a ship while in port to make repairs. Their principle duty is to make sure that they don’t smoke. Why? The fact is that improper use and disposal of smoking materials is the number one cause of fires on ships and that most fires can go undetected until a ship is well out to sea. Guess who has to fight them?

        Well, that lesson holds with all types of addictions: Drugs, alcohol, sex, etc, etc, etc.

        It’s also true that there are predispositions to addiction. These should be recognizable to parents. Unfortunately, these days, most are so busy with their own lives that they fail to see the warning signs in their own children.

        One last thought; it’s an important lesson that I shared with parents who asked me what they could do to help keep their children on the right path. I told them to always be aware of who their children’s friends are. Every gang kid I ever worked with was led into crime by their peers. Not one of them ever sprang intuitively into crime on their own. Indeed, almost all of them who were incarcerated were simply the ones who got caught.

        • Bruce Sallan

          You are adding MUCH appreciated wisdom to this column/discussion @jack43:disqus – thank you VERY MUCH!

  • ginavalley

    It breaks my heart to read this. I can imagine the pain of both worry and disappointment your friend and his wife are feeling.

    It’s a horrible blow to realize a child can’t be trusted. It destroys dreams we might not even realize we had.

    But, I believe there is hope. Yes, I agree with what others have commented, that an addict is an addict for life. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t have an amazing life. If the desire to recover is there, if the support they need is there, if the issues that nudged them to the initial addiction are addressed, there is hope.

    I have a dear friend who is a music agent and producer who openly tells everyone she is a recovering addict, even though she’s been clean for decades. She is a wonderful wife, mother, and friend.

    I have a friend who is a film editor for many top shows. He also is open about his status as a former user. He’s a great dad, father, and friend.

    I have a friend who owns a chain of furniture stores, one who is a pastor, one who is a truck driver, several who are college professors, and many more; all refer to themselves as recovering addicts, clean and sober for years, even decades.

    There is hope. Honesty and hard work will always be a necessary part of the recovering addicts life, but there is hope.

    I’ll be praying that your friend’s son has the desire to recover and to live the amazing life he was created for.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thx @ginavalley:disqus for sharing these stories of HOPE! Encouraging to all…

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  • KawarthaLakes Mums

    I’ve had the opportunity to hear many reformed addicts speak, and there were two things they all have in common:

    1. They had to hit rock bottom before they could look up.

    2. They were saved through miraculous intervention, by the Grace of God.

    Many speakers share that in rehab, the focus is on what NOT TO DO especially drugs and the effects they have, rather than focussing on what TO DO with their lives, so that when they came out of Rehab, they were prime pickings for the dealers that were ready for their bated hunger.

    A program that has had a lot of success is Freedom Village USA.

    Your friend may want to contact them for support. Fees are flat rate or 1% of the parent’s income.

    • Bruce Sallan

      @kawarthalakesmums:disqus – thank you so much for taking the time to share. I’ve heard the same things. My friend seems to be on a good path with his son since his son is wanting to be sober and that is the biggest part of the battle. And, as we’ve learned, it’s a lifelong battle!

  • David Weber

    What a horror story. I would hate to be in the positions of the parents.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Me too David, me too – (I’d HATE to be in that position)!