Dear Annie… Managing a family disease
Dear Annie: I have been married to my wife for 25 years, and I love her so very much. When we first met, she had two young boys, ages 2 and 7, and for the most part I helped raise them with her. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, we traveled around the country with our business. The boys went back to their father’s for a few years. When we sold the business, they came back to live with us. We found them to have changed. They were into drugs and gangster lifestyles. They are now 30 and 35 years old. The older son, “Tim,” has carved out a wonderful life. But the 30-year-old, “Robby,” has continued doing drugs. A few years ago, we agreed to take him in to see if we could help. He’s still here.
He has not worked or even looked for a job in five-plus years. He stays in his bedroom and watches TV, stays up until 4 or 5 a.m. every night and gets up the at 1 or 2 p.m. I don’t think he is doing drugs anymore, but I’m not sure.
I’ve tried to talk to my wife about setting boundaries: Telling him it’s time he gets a job and that he can’t just keep living with us and not even looking for one. But it always ends up in a disagreement.
I offered Robby a list of 10 ideas of jobs he might like and bought him a book to read called “Your Best Self.” He has never even picked it up.
I don’t know what to do anymore; I have almost left my wife over him. We are in our 60s, and it is getting harder. She defends everything he does, so it’s impossible to have a productive conversation about any of this. Tim has become frustrated as well. I don’t see any end in the future.
— Desperate Stepdad
Dear Desperate Stepdad: Addiction is a family disease. Living with your stepson’s drug abuse has warped your wife’s way of thinking. This is true even if he’s not using anymore. This situation has become too much for you to bear alone. I encourage you to attend a Nar-Anon meeting and ask your wife (and other stepson) to go as well. If your wife says no, go on your own, and try at least a few different meetings before deciding whether or not it’s for you. They’re free and confidential, and they just might offer that light at the end of the tunnel that you so need. Visit the Nar-Anon website for more information.
Dear Annie: In reading your recent columns about alcoholism and help/support for those stuck in that vortex, I would like to point you to another source of help for both alcoholics and their families. It is Celebrate Recovery. CR is a Christian 12-step program. While it won’t appeal to everyone due to its Christian undergirding, it has been a very effective program for many afflicted with the ravages of drugs/alcohol/addictive behavior. I pastored a CR program for many years, and we saw countless people helped through group support. CR is national and has programs in many cities. More information may be found on the CR website.
God bless you as you offer help to others.
— Retired Pastor
Dear Retired Pastor: I had not previously heard of Celebrate Recovery, and it sounds like a great resource for Christians looking for fellowship and support in their recovery. Thank you for bringing another recovery resource to my attention.
— “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.