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How can I help my 26-year-old son move on from drugs and get his life together?

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My 26-year-old son has been going to school now for seven years. He started taking Adderall in junior college, he worked in a pharmacy, and always put more energy into all-night video game playing parties with his unemployed, go-nowhere friends. He failed classes and retook them at our expense. Eventually, he moved out of our home and is currently in a chemical engineering program at a state college.

He takes Vyvanse and seems over the edge with sleep habits, inability to assume much responsibility, can't hold a job, not attending class, resulting in failing, and it's impossible to communicate with him in any capacity. He told me about a year ago that he saw the Grim Reaper outside his window. I worry for his state of mind, but no one can talk to him. He has my husband’s lack of patience and short temper and quickly gets loud, angry, and runs off. He will, from time to time, say what you want to hear but rarely follows through.

How can I help him? I long ago stopped approaching his behavior as a parent...yet he knows our unspoken thoughts. Please share your thoughts with me. I wonder if he's had a nervous breakdown of sorts. I worry so for his well being and am at a loss as to where to turn next.

This question was submitted by 'Cindy'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hi Cindy and thank you for writing in. This must be such a worry for you and your husband.

A situation is, of course, always complicated by drug consumption. Side effects from both Adderall and Vyvanse can include hallucinations, as you probably know. So it's hard to say whether your son had a psychotic breakdown; he may have just begun to have more adverse reactions to these products.

He is at college, so he is at least trying to do something, but he doesn't seem able to take responsibility for himself. And yet he may come through all of this, sort himself out, and become a worthwhile and fulfilled man. It sounds like what he really needs is a mentor who isn't family, who doesn't feel like a threat, and who can 'show him the ropes' of how to live differently.

The prognosis may be better than it seems because as people age, they tend to naturally get better (as long as they stay reasonably healthy). Your son, like everyone, has needs. Perhaps you could look at the list of primal human needs here and ask yourself how he has been trying to meet them (unhealthily) and also how he might be encouraged to start meeting at least one or some of them more healthily. This, at least, will help clarify a few things.

You are right in that you can't live his life for him or be the kind of parent that a much younger child needs. But the fact that you are there, have supported him, and tried to encourage him give him a sense of security on some level, even if he never seems to appreciate what you have tried to do for him.

I also think you and your husband need to focus on looking after yourselves, too. One person in a family can sometimes (inadvertently) come to dominate so much through the weight of their neediness that everyone else's needs get blocked out. Sometimes, deciding to focus on what you need helps more seemingly needy people start to see you as a real person and not some shadow of their life and their needs.

There is no easy answer, but people have and do turn their lives around all the time.

All my best,


watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - November 18th, 2014 in

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