My teen son drinks him­self to sleep

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

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 with Dear Mary-anne in the sub­ject line.


A 19-year-old who needs al­co­hol to get to sleep could be mask­ing anx­i­ety.

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