DEAR AMY: Our adult son has a drug problem. Family and friends know this because he has been in rehab and has had long periods of sobriety. He is a good person when he is not using drugs. But he will do what he needs to do to get drugs when he is using. He has stolen from us, and we've responded by not allowing him into our home. We've not allowed him to live here for years, but when he is doing well, we allow him to visit. Recently, he stole from us again. I am wondering what to say to family and friends who inquire about him. I don't really want to tell truthful details, because I am embarrassed and I still have hope that someday he will be clean for good. I don't want people to remember this about him. What could one say to be truthful but not share details? Are we enabling?Distressed MotherDEAR MOTHER: Being a victim of a theft doesn't necessarily make you an enabler -- though your attitude toward your son tells me your hope for him may be clouding your judgment about his reality.
Your family is riding the roller coaster of addiction, recovery and relapse.
A natural consequence of this latest theft would be for you to not allow your son into your home until he has passed a milestone of sobriety (several months) -- and even then you should "trust but verify" by locking away anything of value.
Detachment means you don't assume feelings or attitudes your son should be feeling and expressing. Your son's reputation is his responsibility -- not yours. If he is a thieving drug addict, then that's his reality.
He may recover from his addiction. At that time, it will be his job to clean up his messes, make amends and build trust.
For now, tell family members, "Bart has had a relapse and is using again. If he comes to you, please make sure you don't give him any money." Seek support for yourself by attending Nar-Anon meetings (Nar-Anon.org). You are not alone.