Few legal options for addicts’ bad decisions

Q: Our son is addicted to cocaine. At the moment he is in a treatment program where by all reports he is doing very well. He is at least doing better there than he has done elsewhere. Dare we be so hopeful as to think that maybe this time he will get on top of this whole addiction thing?

Despite everything we still have a concern. He will be discharged from his treatment program in a few weeks and once he gets out, he seems determined to move back into his previous apartment and go back to work where he was before. That is scary. Those dealers who kept him supplied with drugs know where he lives, they know where he works and they even know the pay periods from his job.

They and his other addicted friends are not about to let him off the hook. They will be around encouraging him to start using cocaine again. We have a few extra dollars. We would gladly help our son move to a safer place to live and to wait it out until he is able to find a different job. But he will not hear of it.

His dad and I feel strongly about this, so strongly that we would do almost anything to get him out of that dingy apartment and into safer places for him to live and to work. Is there anything that we can do to force the issue? Can we take him to court to force the issue, to get him to go along with our suggestions? We just want this thing to work, that is all, and we don’t think his plans will let that happen.

A: I think that you have every reason to be concerned about your son and to be on edge with the fear that he will relapse once he is back home and into the community.

Twenty-four percent of those who successfully complete rehab return to drugs within their first year of sobriety. Another 17 percent readmit themselves to their treatment programs to get a little more support to help them deal with their addictions. Recovery is hard enough. Your son’s proposal, that he return to the life he led while he was actively using, makes it even harder, and it is scary. Relapse is highly probable.

The problem that you have is that addiction does not qualify in itself for designate mental health legislation depriving people of their freedoms and rights to choose where and what they pursue. They may make bad decisions but unless they evolve into complete incompetence for significant periods of time they continue to have their rights to self-determination. Our ancestors fought for those rights for hundreds of years. No court is about to overturn them because of an addict.

You need to support and encourage your son as much as you can. You need to share with him what are some of your concerns about his recovery. You need to let him know that you fear for his relapse back into his addictions. You need to help him move and reconstruct his life when he signals to you that he is ready to do so.

But you also need to respect his rights as a mature adult. If he is making bad decisions, like using cocaine again or hanging around with those who do, back off. Protect yourself. You do not need to be a part of that. Just don’t try to force the issue for him.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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