How do I handle the relationship between adult addicted child and husband, his dad, who is not very forgiving? Or do I stay out of the middle?



I feel my son needs lots of support emotionally maybe even medical treatment but his dad feels he just needs to ‘buck up’ so to speak.


In my husband’s family his parents handled their children’s struggles with addiction very differently. For example, the mother joined our weekly family call and the father didn’t. It was almost like he needed to pretend the addiction issue wasn’t going on to be able to cope himself. I share this because, I think this dynamic you are experiencing is pretty common. For some reason, the men / father’s in the family tend to take a “harden up” approach and us women tend to take the opposite.

I don’t know what the right answer is here (I’m sure some of the mothers in this community can share much more concrete experiences and examples of how they coped with this - please do!!). But maybe a few principles that I believe might help.

  1. Your relationship with your husband is important so keep in mind that making space for that is healthy for you both.
  2. Connection is the opposite of addiction - your empathetic intuition + Science (evidence-based best practices eg. how to use positive reinforcement etc.) can help your son make the hard changes that lie ahead of him. Know that your heart is in the right place and that you don’t need to give up on him!
  3. Maybe for now it’s ok that you both approach the situation with your son differently, but I do like what @ErinHill said about finding ways to get on the same page with your husband too, but know this takes time.

How have others managed to get on the same page with someone not empathetic to an addiction situation in the family? I wonder if for men/dad’s that some reading / education might help. If they don’t have as much of the emotional empathy already there like we do…


Thank you Polly. I love the encouragement to work together as Mom and Dad. I am sure he needs both right now!


The more I think about it, the more I wonder, what gets through to fathers more? How can we get them to empathize more? It’s definitely a pattern, think of all the mothers here versus fathers. Love to hear from a father too!


@Raking Firstly (((Hugs))) - I can’t imagine how it feels to have a child in active addiction. My hubs was the active addict in our home, and while our children aren’t, I can speak to the general dynamics of the family unit and the addiction component.

As parents I believe we do the very best we can with what we have. Some people have more tools than others. You will need to reflect on what is best for your situation. I would encourage you to talk to your hubs and see if you can understand where he’s coming from. I know we want to protect our babies from any perceived threat - your hubs is NOT the threat. The addiction is. Perhaps you can start with a convo with the hubs to see if you can find a common ground.
Also, check on your interactions with your son. Sometimes our emotional support is more detrimental if it’s enabling, or allowing them to manipulate us in some way. This can be a tough one, because it can be easy for us to get wrapped up in the ‘should have’ or ‘could have’ or ‘would have’… so you may find a support group helpful too - a safe place where you can share your thoughts and feelings with others. Some communities have moms-only groups, or peer support services where you can find out what’s available and how to access treatment and recovery options <3


Erin Thank you thank you; you are very helpful, (((hugs right back)))

I hear all of what you are saying, hubs NOT threat , what a great truth.
And yes, I hear the ‘enabling’ and will keep myself in check.
A friend invited me to try Al anon with her, intend to.
Support here is so helpful.


Hey @Raking! Did you end up going to Al Anon with your friend? How was your experience?



Yes, we did go. As I feared, I cried, but it is good to be in a place where others both know and feel your pain. I will attend the Wed. meeting this week and see the difference. I am hoping my friend will too! Thank you for asking. This is a scary path but one that must be traveled. Again, thanks for being there. I will try to get better at participating with this group.



Maybe getting on the same page with your husband about what’s helpful and what’s not with your son, could help you come to some agreements / ground rules and get on the same page. Are there specific issues that you have most conflict on? Maybe we could work through some of those together here?


Hey @Raking, of course. Glad to hear that you got some benefit out of a meeting, and that you’ll go to another tomorrow!

Feels good to find connection, doesn’t it? Please keep us looped in - we’re happy to have your participation here in whatever way feels good for you.


Thanks Jane…I feel his Dad is too harsh piling on what he needs to do now, getting a bit loud, scowling ; ) and my son is overwhelmed. There may be more than just drinking for him, mental health issues that need to be addressed. My husband thinks not, but it has been going on too long to continue thinking he will just ‘get better’ if he wants.


@Raking I know what you’re saying. I’d add also - know that changing any habit (let alone substance use / addiction) is so hard. Motivation one minute can wane in another. The recovery road is long, like way longer than we might think, and often the substance use is a coping mechanism for other struggles, so yes mental health issues are likely at play - things as normal as a little social anxiety or performance anxiety can be covered up by substance use. I’ve seen this with my husband for sure!


I think this is a very common pattern. Dads want their sons to be tough and handle life. Moms are nurturing. I remember a psychologist once saying that mothers often provide the emotional life of a family, but dads fill an important role too. I think your son needs a strong relationship with you both, and you need one with each other to get through this really difficult time. Over time, my husband has softened his approach and I’ve moved away from easy handouts for my son if it’s something he can and should handle. I have gone to an Al-Anon type group for parents and I sometimes experienced their message as too tough and not compassionate enough. For instance, they taught that it’s ok if your child winds up homeless due to addiction, and I do not agree. But there was a lot of good I got from the group, too. Often there is a co-occurring disorder and your son needs extra emotional support and therapy for that.


Hey @Julie_Smith, I know this phenomenon all too well! On top of the general stigma against mental illness the US faces, men face an even greater stigma because they are raised to “man up” in tough situations. People often see this as an effective way of dealing with problems, but it encourages an emotionless approach towards dealing with personal issues, as well as shame towards vulnerability.

My older brother recently began hosting men’s “Vulnerability Dinners” in which he invites a few of his male friends and colleagues over for dinner to discuss issues of mental health and emotions. So far they have been very effective and have allowed for a safe space for these men to speak about what they are going through. I think activities like this are really transforming the negative stigma men face about being open emotionally and are invaluable to reducing the stigma.


@ashleykm3 Vulnerability dinners! I love this idea.


Great question and thanks for posing the issue. Seems many understand this situation. I had this with my ex hubby who was the father who knew my son longer than his biological father. My ex gave up On my son while we were still married… So that left me as the only family as his bio dad passed away when my son was 13; son now 28. My son is in recovery living with us on house arrest. Having a conversation can help yet can be a tense conversation between hubby and wife! I have yet with my current fiancé, figured out this different approach of hubby verses wife or dad versus mom. My fiancé has a past ex wife with Rx addiction. I find it difficult to always know the help, enabling and boundaries for things like a hair cut etc. There are many approaches and ultimately you have to have peace in mind and heart sometimes as a mom! I have talked with my son about enabling and sometime I may change my mind in things to set the stage. Thank you all for your posts and thoughts!


This is certainly a difficult topic to navigate and @Raking I hope that the support from this community and the meetings you’ve attended can help you find some solution, or at least a path to a solution, as well as knowing you are not alone!

A few things I’m wondering:

  • Is your son in any sort of treatment program (inpatient, outpatient, individual therapy, etc)? I ask because if the answer is yes, maybe you could ask to get a professional involved to help you come together as a family and work together to help your son. I know in most treatment facilities (inpatient and outpatient) a family program exists. In that setting the therapist can encourage all family members to have more compassion and empathy, and the environment fosters a sense of safety and no judgement. I have facilitated family sessions with very similar scenarios to the one you described, and have seen very tough, “macho”, uninvolved fathers finally let their guard down and listen to the needs of the other family members.
  • What is communication about the topic like with your husband? @Jane brought up a good point with trying to get on the same page, and I also encourage you to share any issues you have most conflict on here so the community can help!

Oddly enough, in my experience with my brother, my dad was involved and my mom completely disengaged from everything. I learned later in life that this was because she felt she wasn’t being heard and ultimately my dad enforced what he thought was right - she was conditioned to not be involved.

Everyone’s path is different, yet we can all relate to some degree! Without a doubt the times where we all were on the same page working together as a family yielded the best results. It took us time to get to where we are, but it is possible! Hoping things only go up for you @Raking :slight_smile:!


Hey @Marie_Marie, thanks so much for sharing your story! Sending you all the love and support for your situation. That’s an interesting dynamic you must have with your current partner, as both of you have been affected by others in your life who have struggled with addiction. How has your own and your partner’s experience affected your collective understanding of addiction?


Thanks for the virtual love and support Ashleykm3! Your question: How has your own and your partner’s experience affected your collective understanding of addiction? Interesting dynamic and question indeed! I thing this could be a long conversation topic.
While our experience plays a part, I also believe the “mom” versus “male/significant other/hubby” also provide a lens of how we look at the situation. For example: my partner’s past experience brings fast anxiety when we talk about the situation or if my son and I have a disagreement. He is quicker to believe if he messes up that out the door he should go. My current partner had an wife addicted to RX and took him to bankruptcy and sometimes job loss and hungry. He knows all too well how far one can go thinking they are helping yet are totally enabling. The “Mom” in me has a difficult time sending him off homeless to live in his car with no inspection or insurance while on probation. My son has a job and end of this month he is off house arrest. I also believe that family living together will have disagreements which distresses my man easily - he is so loving and sensitive. My partner and I have such bliss when not dealing with my son and we are back together after 30 some years (dated late high school early 20’s). We do have a unique dynamic relationship and background. I value his point of view which helps me to keep from enabling yet ultimately, my decision is the final one; my son has no other family but me. There is so much to say on the dynamics of past and present! Today, I am okay yet I question myself to holding to the boundaries I have set no matter the cost to my son’s life when he is making steps to move forward.


Find subsequent answers to this important question on this thread.