How do you handle watching your loved one not step up to responsibilities and opportunities?



What gets me crazy is watching someone not stepping up to his/her responsibilities and opportunities. Missing the boat is an understatement. Opportunity is at the door and no action or when asked, there are what seem to be excuses. My son has opportunities presented all the time to him! His table has been blessed as an addict and in recovery! Yet I see him not stepping up and rising to the occasion without reminders and discussion. This can be as simple as getting chores done in a timely fashion to applying to jobs posting for nearby work to really cleaning his car to sell . I detach as it is not my life, however I get to hear Family members judge and I’m in the middle. It’s a balancing act between learning life lessons, peace at home and detachment. I would like to hear how others handle this.


My son’s living conditions really were depressing to me. I have no idea if he was washing the sheets on his bed, and that’s just an example. I realized I could not get him to clean up if it wasn’t a priority to him! My solution was to avoid going into his apartment. It was messing with my emotions too much. Plus, I came to understand that what I saw as important was not on his list of high priorities. I do encourage him to do certain things like take care of his car and keep his dr. appointments. He still seems to be challenged by life quite a bit, like everything comes at him too fast to process.

I would suggest that you don’t have to explain your son’s behavior to other family members, especially if he’s an adult. I wonder, with my own son, what other co-occurring mental health issues may be there. Even something like ADHD can cause problems with follow-through.

Focus on the positive, don’t let these problems get to you! If you focus on the good, it will help lift his attitude and everyone around you. It’s amazing and wonderful that your son has found recovery. Progress is great, even if it’s slower than we would wish for.


An ongoing process of setting and sticking to boundaries has helped. My son hasn’t been able to hold down a job for a significant amount of time ever (he’s 37). He has so many connections to people who could help him, has had many opportunities, and is one of the smartest people I know. However, his motivation to follow through was lacking a lot in early recovery.

As a result of his heroin use he had extensive damage to his teeth, and a basic task of personal hygiene had gone out the window. Shame and guilt kept him from taking care of his teeth once he was sober because the damage was a direct result of his use. I helped him find a therapist that I paid for who had a release to speak with me, and the therapist worked with my son initially to get him to the dentist. After some time and patience he went and got his teeth fixed, and with that he learned he could accomplish things and began to seek out more opportunities.

I tell him how proud I am a lot, but when he doesn’t show up or doesn’t follow through I let him feel the consequences on his own.


It was very hard for me. I actually had to step back and let my husband take charge. But when my husband got sick and I had to step up to the plate. I planned out what I was going to say about him getting a job and how he couldn’t rely on us for money anymore, and we had a conversation where I told him I loved him, but at this time my energy was focused on my husband getting better, and told my son that this was an indication he may not get any financial support from us anymore, and it was time to make a plan for a steadier income.

Months went by and he didn’t find a job. It was frustrating, but I continued to relay the same message which was basically, “Your father and I won’t be around forever, how are you going to support yourself once we can’t?”. 7 months later it feels like he heard us and has made a plan for following through on a job.

@Marie_Marie I relate a lot to people judging (family friends we are very close with roll their eyes) but they don’t know my experience, they haven’t directly coped with a loved one’s addiction, and therefore I take their input with a grain of salt. Like they say, “What other people think about me is none of my business!”


Hi @Marie_Marie, thank you for asking this. I can totally relate.
I’m interested, how far into the recovery process is your son?
I know with my husband who is about 2.5 years into it I deal with a lot of what you’re experiencing still.
More recently he’s verbally acknowledged this struggle and expressed how frustrating it is frustrating to himself.

Though I do find it super frustrating to watch the failure to act, now that we are out of the ‘woods’ and not in the active addiction place, I find myself finding the balance between doing 2 things:

  1. Supporting him when he does take action by either actually helping on the task if he asks for it (eg. this morning I carved out an hour to review some work with him for his presentation) or just picking up slack like making the bed / keeping the house in order.
  2. Letting him take his time to find what works for him. This is a totally new world to the one he / we lived in before, where addiction picked up the slack. I try to stay positive that we’ll find the right rhythms moving forward…eventually :wink:


My son is 28 and way over 90 days and on house arrest with us (me, hubby and my mom). He interviewed and may have job just found out today! I inquire about items that have not been done in a non judgement way. Yet, he is treated differently than I would others; sometimes I just don’t feel that is quite fair. It’s a balance and it is up to him to on many things. I have found patience does work, and my son does come to the right conclusion. He seems to have long pauses between making a decision, action and then deciding to act. It is a very nice learning for me to be calm and utilize my words better which I can also apply to other relationships.

My hubby judges. He does not have any children of his own. He had a wife with Rx addiction that led him to bankruptcy and devastation of emotion - like PSTD, I think we came to an agreement without saying, just not to talk about my son. My brother won’t forgive, which I would have to say he did the same to my dad who was an alcoholic. I have to release the expectation that he will act differently.

I so very much appreciate your words and sharing of your experience! I always stay positive and ultimately his life is his! My life is up to me!
Thank you!


My 27 year old is on a second dui, which is pretty bad. We are finally accepting he has a problem so this is all so new to me. Painful. He does not seem to follow through on anything and being between him and his Dad is the hardest thing of all. Finally, this time, I believe my son does realize he is an alcoholic. Thank you for being here.


Thank you for being here too @Raking - we are not alone in this journey, it has many ups and downs and progress may happen slower than we wish but change is possible. We’re here with you. Sounds like your son has a lot of healing ahead of him. Sending love and strength to support you and your family through this.

Your comment about the other family dynamics at play here made me think of this community question too: How do I choose my husband over my adult addict daughter?


This already feel so incredibly loving and helpful. Your suggested post “choose husband/adult child” is much needed. Thank you. Since I reached out, TODAY, good things already have happened.


Thank you for sharing your question, @Marie_Marie.

The last sentence of your question makes it sound like you are able to detach from your son’s behavior patterns (or lack thereof), but it may be harder to separate yourself from the judgment and opinion of your family.

When I hear other people’s unsolicited opinions of my dad, I try to just say, “I’d rather not talk about this/him right now.” This way I don’t get defensive/excuses for him, and I don’t fuel the fire by getting equally judgmental or gossip-y.

My questions to you might be, How do you want to feel when you talk about your son’s addiction & struggles? Who can you talk to who will make you feel that way? How do you step away from an unhealthy or unnecessary conversation with family or friends? What phrase can you literally practice at home to use when you recognize the icky feeling of judgment creep up?

No need to answer here, unless you feel comfortable. Simply food for thought. :slight_smile:


Great question to ponder!


@Marie_Marie it can be extremely frustrating to watch our loved ones not take advantage of opportunities that would completely change their lives around. To us, it can almost seem like they are blind to the light.

In these contexts, it’s important to remember that individuals who are in similar situations to your loved one may be so deep in their addiction that they literally cannot access those positive opportunities. In order for them to one day be able to step up to the plate to those opportunities, they first have to receive help in treating their negative symptoms.


Great questions and responses here. I think this is a topic that is still relevant to many of Villagers today. Bringing it back up to the top of the feed!