My teen son drinks himself to sleep
Q: My son, 19, has started drinking a lot on his own every night. He also smokes a lot of marijuana. He says he can’t sleep unless he is drunk. I’ve tried talking to him. There are alcoholics on both sides of his family. His father and I are not together. I have boundaries around him being sober at my house. I am struggling as he refuses help. What can I do? I love him so much it hurts.
A: Your son is 19, so in health terms he’s an adult and this makes it difficult for you to march him off to get help for this. He is going to have to recognise his problem and want to get some assistance for it, himself.
If you insist that he’s sober at your house, yet he’s drinking a lot on his own every night, then where is he sleeping?
I sense the desperation in your letter with the comments; you’ve tried talking to him, you’re struggling and you love him so much it hurts.
I rang the Alcohol Drug Helpline and also checked its website.
It has a specific assist area called ‘‘concerned others’’ and it’s for people like you who are affected by someone with a drinking or drug problem.
It recommends that the ‘‘concerned others’’ work out where they stand, so decisions are not desperate and muddled. It will help you with a plan so you have a way forward and just speaking to the helpline made me realise what a good place this would be for you to start.
It’s heart-breaking that your child seems hellbent on following a destructive path but your angst may not be helping him either.
You may need to step back, remove some of the emotion, (easier said than done) and be strong about your plan. I’m assuming your son has a job to support his drug and alcohol habit but, if not, and this addiction is being funded by an allowance from you, then I’d suggest you dry that fund up.
A concerning factor is that your son needs these props to get to sleep. It suggests that he’s masking some anxiety and that could be a place you could start a conversation from.
Alcohol Drug Helpline: Call 0800 787 797 or text 8681, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to speak with a trained counsellor. All calls are free and confidential.
Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and written three novels for young adults, all of which have been shortlisted for the NZ Book awards for children and young adults. As one of seven sisters, there aren’t many parenting problems she hasn’t talked over. Please note that Mary-anne is not a trained counsellor. Her advice is not intended to replace that of a professional counsellor or psychologist.
To send her a question, email email@example.com with Dear Mary-anne in the subject line.
A 19-year-old who needs alcohol to get to sleep could be masking anxiety.