I am usually not available when your show is airing live, but have a question for you. What is the biblical response to so called "drug and alcohol addiction" for families? I have a grown child who has been addicted to hard drugs for many years. He recently asked if he could come home in order to get off of the drugs. I welcomed him in and he started to detox, which proved to be more difficult than either of us could manage so he started taking methadone at a methadone clinic, planning to taper off of that. He continues to use marijuana (fairly heavily and recreationally). He rejects Christianity. I allowed him to move in with me in order to help him in his recovery and to witness to him but he refuses to stop the marijuana use. I feel like I should take a firm stance against his marijuana use but that will likely end with him relapsing. I am advised by his counselors at the clinic that I should tolerate this in order to reduce the risk his going back to the streets and back to hard drugs. When I allowed him to move in I was following a strong conviction that I was having that I should open my home to him and show him the love of Christ. Now I just feel like I am enabling him to continue to use drugs in a more comfortable environment. He is extremely stubborn about this. Can you give me some biblical perspective on this subject.
Thank you, T—
A family counseling situation like this has multiple levels, and can hardly be analyzed sufficiently by a series of emails. For me to give clear counsel would require my being able to sit down with your son and with you, or to reconstruct a more complete history of the problem, etc. Thus my counsel should be taken with the caveat that what I am suggesting may not be right in this specific case, and should be decided with the counsel of those more familiar with it.
Generally, I would say that you should take a firm stand with your son. He is not a child and is responsible for his choices and their consequences. It is a good thing for a parent to assist an adult child who is seeking to be restored to normalcy—but not on the child's terms.
Because you are his mother, he has found that he is able to take advantage of your mothering instincts, and ignore your authority, without being forced to leave or to change. You should, I think, communicate the following to him:
1) He has no innate right to live under your roof, and, like anybody else, can only remain there on your terms. If he does not accept your terms and abide by them, he must go elsewhere;
2) His only hope of being permanently freed from his addiction is to be completely transformed. The reason he is in his situation is that he is not subject to God or living according to God's prescribed patterns. So long as he remains in rebellion against God, even rehab will not normalize his life. He may get some freedom from drugs, but without conforming to God's patterns, his life will find other ways to express dysfunctionality. He cannot be require to become a Christian, but he must conform to behaviors consistent with Christian standards, if he intends to live in your home. He must make a sincere effort to find the truth about God and God's claims upon him—not excluding a fair inquiry into the reality of Christ and the Christian faith;
3) You have a zero-tolerance policy for recreational drug use. Including weed. Drugs are his problem. The dependency on drugs to help him cope is that which keeps him in bondage. He cannot be free until he gives them up completely. Recreational drug use should be banned from your home. Your son can choose the weed, or your assistance. He cannot depend on both, since you and street drugs will not be partners in his recovery. It will be one or the other.
I am sure that you know he may make the wrong choice. It is fear of this very thing that is likely to prevent you from taking the above stand. If he leaves under these terms, and things get worse—or, God forbid, he dies from his addiction or its consequences, you will be tempted to blame yourself (wrongly) for causing his destruction.
I had the same situation, as a single father, with one of my adult sons. He lived with me, and broke every rule I made for him. He used drugs, and did other things that I forbad to be done in my home. My younger son told me that I should require the older son to leave, but I knew that he would end up living under a bridge, and possibly dead—and I knew I would tend to blame myself if that happened. Thus, I foolishly allowed him to stay, and he never improved. Eventually, I remarried my present wife, and moved away—not allowing my son to come along. He ended up temporarily homeless. Now he supports himself and shares accommodations with other single men. He still has habits inconsistent with Christianity. However, he is 33 years old, and it is inappropriate for me to carry responsibility for his irresponsible, adult decisions.
My new wife was wiser, when she faced the same situation. She, too, had an adult son living with her, whom she would not allow to use weed under her roof. He tested her resolve, and smoked weed in her home. She did not let him live at home with his drug use, so he left, and slept on park benches for two weeks. Then he got smart, came home, and lived under her rules of the house. She would not enable him to live irresponsibly, and he decided he could not enable himself to do so, without her support.
My wife has an uncle who had a mildly-retarded son. He decided that he would not coddle his son or keep him dependent, so he raised his son to know that, at age 18, he would be required to live on his own. When his son turned 18, his dad drove him to another town, with a suitcase and a little spending money, left him on the street corner, and returned home!
The boy found a job as a janitor. Many years later now, he continues to work as a janitor, but has remained self-sufficient, has married and maintains his own home. It's an amazing story, and seems shocking that a father would do this to his son, but the outcome indicates that the father's philosophy of parenting was more enlightened than our sentimental inclinations. He loved his son, so he did not allow him to live a sub-standard adult life by coddling him forever.
You didn't mention your son's father, and I am imagining you as a single parent, which I was for over ten years myself. I know that, for parents who have no partners, there is enormous emotional pressure to keep our children on our side. We tend to coddle our children—who, to their detriment, we tend to use as surrogate partners, in the absence of a spouse. This is our own weakness and neediness manifesting in weak parenting, and is not good for our children.
I don't know all the factors in your son's life, or yours, but I suspect that your son needs for you to be standing firmly for your principles. Only then will he be shown a true alternative to the unprincipled life he now leads. If you take my advice, you must be prepared to leave his fate in the hands of God, to whom alone he must answer. If harm comes to your son, you must know that you are not to blame. We know very well that many adults make wrong choices to their own destruction—and we do not blame ourselves for that. It is harder for us to see our own adult children as grow-ups responsible for their own destinies. I fully sympathize with your plight. May God give you courage and wisdom.