Author Ricki Townsend is a Registered Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, Ncac1, CADC-CAS, Bri-1, Chaplain and Grief Recovery Specialist. Find her at A Path to Recovery.com
Offering an ultimatum can be a powerful tool in prompting a beloved child (of any age) to seek help. And I try to avoid the language of “kicking your kid out of your home” because that sets them up as victims, with the parent calling all the shots. It is disrespectful to them. The truth is you aren’t kicking your son or daughter out; you are giving them a CHOICE to get treatment for a potentially deadly brain disease that drives their deceitful, dangerous and manipulative behavior. You are also giving them the choice to live somewhere else, wherever that might be.
Instead, I would suggest that you consider using other language if you reach the point of setting limits around your support for an abusing (and often abusive) child. Some of the families I have worked with have conveyed their “bottom lines” like this:
- “I love you dearly, and you cannot live in my house if you are using alcohol or other drugs.”
- “We have changed. Our home is now a sober home, and the price of admission is sobriety.”
- “It breaks my heart to witness your drug abuse, and I cannot spend time with you unless you seek treatment. If you would like to remain part of our family, then I will help you find treatment.
- “We won’t watch you die. We will support you financially and emotionally only if you seek recovery.”
Yes, it is heart-wrenching to usher your child out the door. Parents worry immensely about how their children can survive on the streets, and with good reason: It can be dangerous out there for both men and women. But it can be even more deadly to tolerate or ignore drug or alcohol abuse at home. As a Chaplain with the Coroner’s Office, I remember entering a bedroom where a young man had died, the walls lined floor to ceiling with empty alcohol bottles. His mother had let him live there for fear of what would happen if she made him leave. Her worst fear had come true….in her very own home.
There are no guarantees anywhere along the rocky road named Substance Use Disorder, but I have often seen a parent’s ultimatum inspire a turn towards treatment. The fear of losing the family or the worries of living on the street may be just the thing that prompts your beloved child to choose treatment.
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