How far should I go to help my addict son?

What would you do and how far would you go to help someone you love get the healing that they need? “This question probably confronts all of us as sometime, because we all have friends and family that at times need help,” says Msgr. Stuart Swetland.

A mother asked Msgr. Stuart Swetland for advice about her own situation, saying, “My son, father of two and my former business partner, is a heroin addict. He has attempted sobriety for the last ten years with no lasting result. … I pray devoutly for his and his family’s recovery. He is in financial distress and I anticipate a request for money—he has thrown away hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years and his family has suffered greatly. If he does ask for financial assistance, how can I bring the Gospel and God’s love and mercy into the conversation? I would like to say something like, I will teach you to fish (i.e. manage your money) but not give you a fish, however I can’t imagine letting he and his wife and two children lose their home.”

Msgr. Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM on Relevant Radio®, replied: “I appreciate that you’re doing everything from your angle that you can do … in helping your son and his family as best you can. And you’re right not to just give him money, this would enable him to continue an addiction that his killing him and destroying his family as well. And I can understand you don’t want them to lose their home.”

“He has to get sober. God wants him sober; his wife wants him sober. His children deserve, in justice, as well as desire it in charity, want their father to be sober—to be the man that he can be. And you, as a mother, want him sober. He has got to face his addiction and get over it and you’ve got to do what’s necessary for that to take place.”

“I’m not sure exactly the circumstances, so you, your pastor, his wife, those who love him have to intervene and get him into a program where he will get sober. Until that time, he needs to be cut off totally from any financial resources. His wife has to become the sole person in the family dealing with finances. He can’t be on any checkbooks or any credit card—he has to cut off from the money that he’s wasting and that feeds his habit. Normally, this would not be in a marriage, but in a marriage like this, he has to be completely cut off from any sources that are going to be a near occasion of sin for him.”

“And so, the finances that you want to help and should want to help to keep his family in a home have to be completely controlled by his wife. And if his wife cannot stand up to not giving him money then this is a further problem and perhaps a temporary separation of he from the family until he is sober will be necessary. Because, for his own sake, he needs to get sober and the only way he’s going to do that is if others help him.”

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.