I still struggle with "how responsible am I" for my son's life, choices, if something bad happens



My adult son decided to self-detox from Suboxone because he was tired of using it after about 5 years. Everything is “do it himself” and he went to a friend’s house over about a week and accomplished that. There was a period of several weeks where he experienced sobriety. We met outside at a park for Mother’s Day, at his suggestion. He had gotten a haircut, bought clothes, and looked like he was doing well.

But he sounded like he was back on drugs when I talked to him briefly recently, and he was of course busy and had to go.

There is a boot camp for coding that he wants to do in a few weeks and he doesn’t want to go into treatment such as rehab because he says he’s focused on that.

He lost his job because they wanted to drug test him & he refused. He has mostly broken up with his girlfriend. But he is not at a point of wanting help, still. We said he couldn’t come home - for a variety of reasons - so he is staying at a friend’s house.

I have become quite successful at detaching from him and his problems. I have a full life of my own, and I have been able to let go of regrets for the most part. I know I don’t control his addiction or his recovery. But if something bad happens, I will feel very guilty and responsible, like I should have done more to help him. But what would that be, that I haven’t already tried? Is it really the best choice to interfere in his life? I feel like we’ve been doing that (my husband and I) and if anything, it has shielded him from experiencing the consequences of his addiction.



My mother struggled with guilt over my life choices as well. I know my parents loved me and did the best they could, with the knowledge they had at the time. When I was in my teens and early 20s it was easy to blame my parents for everything that went wrong in my life but there is no possible way any parent could raise a child perfectly. As we grow up, we change frequently. We don’t even know who we are so how could our parents. An older man, a father once told me that "parents are responsible for the effort, not the results ". When I repeated this to my Mom I think it struck a nerve. There’s no way to tell what type of adult your child will develop into, the only way a child could be raised perfectly is if his Mom or Dad were psychic. Please don’t blame yourself. Ultimately it is our own choices that get us where we are. If you know you did the best you could…let go of the coulda woulda shoulda’s.
Good Luck.


I’m sorry you’re going through this, Julie. I’m sure the emotions around watching your child struggle are complex and so challenging.

I know this feeling. The guilt we can feel for “letting” something happen, but I think it is necessary that we let our loved ones feel the results of their actions. I spent a lot of time shielding my husband from the consequences of his drinking and it only made things more difficult for me and probably prolonged his use. It sounds like you have established your boundaries and are sticking to them, which is so important. I think the other thing we can do is love them where they are. Spend time with them and show our concern when they’re sober and try to make those moments count. Keep believing in them when they can’t. Hold on to the hope (and knowing) that people can recover. And be there for him when he’s ready.


Your heart is telling you to not give up on your son and your heart is right. The opposite of addiction is connection. Keep telling your son you love him and the addiction is a result of pain, and a disease, but not who he is. Tell him you love him no matter what and you are here for any recovery help he needs. This does not mean enabling him. Help with recovery means remembering your son is not the addiction. He is a person with with a substance abuse disorder that still needs to find the right treatment. The goal is always to find the right treatment and that takes time, and will involve a lifelong recovery program, and yes this will likely involve relapse. Relapse is part of recovery…you cannot not make him do anything. Just tell him his is not the addiction he is your son with an addiction disease and you are here to listen any time he needs someone to talk to. Just listen and love. Don’t judge, not be angry with him, don’t give up on him.