Ask Amy: Two Views on Dependancy and Restoration Lifestyle


Dear Amy: My wife and I are in our early 70s. We are blessed with healthy retirement and good health, but without peace of mind.

Our only son is an alcohol and drug addict (cannabis). He is married and has two young sons.

He falls back every few months. Then his wife is very angry and writes us long letters asking us to intervene and support her.

In earlier days, her letters suggested that his addiction was our fault and that we did not give our son enough support in the rehabilitation process, which is not true.

We have done everything in our capacity. But now we have nothing under control. We try to give advice to our son, but he no longer listens to us and he lies – like addicts do. We do not have the courage to tell our daughter-in-law to stop writing us these letters for fear of alienating her and losing contact with her grandchildren.

She does not understand that the situation is out of our control and it upsets us terribly and ruins our peace of mind for days after contacting us.

What can we do to bring peace into our lives, but also to keep us away from our son’s life?

– Distraught grandparents

Better to be disturbed: If your only child has an addiction disorder, complete peace and quiet is likely not in sight. Your son’s illness affects everyone around him. As a parent, you need to keep doing the job of getting rid of his addiction – or some particular outcome related to it – while loving him and his family as best you can.

You have wisdom to share with your daughter-in-law, and if she asks you for assistance, maybe you should offer it!

You could at least tell her how sorry you are about to cope, remind you to do your best to take good care of yourself and protect the children, and offer her ideas and resources where SHE can help receive.

She may use guilt and shame to share her pain with you, but you don’t have to take responsibility for your son’s relapses.

Stop offering advice to your son. Only offer help if it will aid his recovery.

Do not ask your daughter-in-law to stop contacting you. Let them know that the safety and wellbeing of boys is extremely important to you.

I can only recommend one support group “Friends and Family” (like Al-anon) to all of you.

I also hope you all read the extremely helpful book, “Addicts in the Home (A No-nonsense Family Guide through Addiction and Recovery)” by Robin Barnett (2016, New Harbinger).

Dear Amy: I had my last drink on March 17, 1981, and had stopped drugs five years earlier.

The following years were spent recovering, discovering, and treating mental health problems, as well as hours of meetings and church services.

It is my observation that addicts and alcoholics very often self-medicate with mental health problems. Because these are familial disorders, so many of us show signs of PTSD.

You may want to warn those who call you in early recovery that part of the process can include violent mood swings and periods of anger as the body detoxifies. Insomnia and nightmares can also be problematic. Fortunately, the worst is over within a few months.

Many of us also have severe clinical depression and need help and medication.

In my opinion, it is important to accept that we are flawed people and to make good use of step 10: “Continue to take stock and if we were wrong, we immediately admitted it.”

– Brian

Dear Brian: Congratulations on your recovery and thank you for your wisdom!

Incidentally, step 10 applies to all of us.

Dear Amy: I was so offended by your response to “Confused” about disclosing DNA test results to siblings.

I do NOT want to know any possible half-siblings and have told my siblings that they need to keep the results to themselves if they want their DNA tested!

– Offended

Dear offended: I did not advise Confused to reveal the fact that she discovered half siblings. I suggested that she tell siblings that she had DNA tests and the results were “surprising,” which gave them an opportunity to learn more.

You gave your siblings a heads-up to get them out of this dilemma. Good for you!

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter, askamy, or Facebook.)

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