Should you kick your addicted child out of the house?

Fill in the blank here. Addicted spouse, sibling, friend.

Living with someone who is addicted is hard and you have had enough. The lying, manipulating is bad enough. Your loved one swears they are not using but you know the signs. They are not going to rehab as they said.

Why won’t they get help? Why are they lying? Why are they torturing you like this?

You think they are selfish and unkind but what you are seeing is the disease. Your loved one is buried under all that behavior. They have not surrendered to the fact they have a problem. And you probably haven’t surrendered to the fact that you need recovery, too. Your reactions to their disease are probably not helping. Because it’s cloudy when you’re trying to control the outcome over which you have no power. What’s more, it’s exhausting.

You are so tired of it and feel like you are a prisoner in your own home, afraid to leave your room at night for fear of what you might find. You are more terrified to walk into their room and find they are not breathing.

This has to stop or you will go out of your mind.

Watching someone you love more than your own soul succumb to this disease is not a bad movie, it’s your life. Pulling yourself out of the chaos emotionally is exceptionally challenging when your loved with SUD lives with you.

I have been there. And I’m going to level with you. There are no perfect solutions.

If they are 25 years old, they should be on their own supporting themselves. That’s what we do in the United States. But deciding what to do next is not a decision you should have to make. There should be solutions within the healthcare system for this disease like every other disease out there. For COVID we set up temporary hospitals but there are no rescue operations for the addicted–despite mortality numbers that eclipse almost any other disease, virus, or illness.

Many parents will rent or buy a place away from them for their loved one who is sick from substance use disorder. What usually ends up happening is that place away from you becomes a hangout to sell, buy, and do drugs. The parents find out, become more discouraged. And poorer.

I know parents whose kids have lived in the woods outside their home, the garage, the tool shed, a relative’s farm, a treehouse, or jail.

But what do you do?

Asking someone whom you know to be sick to leave your home when they have nowhere to go is not a move we want to make. And if you ask them to leave and they die? We fear living with that guilt.

We are sure it would then be our fault because we turned a sick person away, our own child in many cases, and now we have to live with our decision. We fear living with them as they are, too.

Before I go further into this conversation, let’s change the language.

Well-meaning friends say, “Kick him out of the house”

They wouldn’t find that so easy if it were their own. So eliminate the thought of “kicking” or “throwing” anyone out of the house.

For the sake of your own mental health and the safety of you and others in the household, you simply have found it impossible to live with your loved one suffering from SUD (substance use disorder or addiction).

Or maybe you haven’t yet found a solution with which you could live with your loved one who uses. Maybe their being there has made your relationship toxic and you need space to think without the constant worry of the safety of those in your home.

Know that if you ask them to move out, they will pull out every stop to make you feel like the worst human being alive. You are the worst parent, sibling, spouse, etc. Even if you offer a generous deadline. The person struggling with addiction can’t see past their habit. Their brains are holding them hostage and telling them that they NEED their drug and to maintain whatever circumstances they can to keep the supply coming.

They don’t want to go to sober living either

They’ll do anything to make you feel guilty for making that the option. Screaming, yelling, accusing you of not loving you sort of argument. After all, they know your soft spots and desperation has backed them into a corner and they’ll bring out their harshest weapons of love. Of course, a recovery house isn’t an option if they are using. They’d never qualify which is why you are in this quandary in the first place.

But if they are coming out of recovery? That’s where they should be. And that’s advice from those who fought it, lived through it, and found recovery. They’ll find friendship and support in a recovery house that holds them accountable.

Whatever you do right now has to come from a place of love and empathy. Making your love a bargaining chip contingent on their finding help will only add to their shame and accelerate their feelings of worthlessness. There is no way to shame someone into recovery.

In our situation, Charles went to detox, rehab, recovery house where he relapsed. They took him back to detox and he walked out of there. We had paid rent at the recovery house and that was the option we made available. The rest was up to him.

I know you wish I’d give you a recipe on how to usher them out gently with some sort of transition housing they’d qualify for as active users. And while there are those who’d say you are “enabling” them if you allow them to stay, I would never pass that judgment if that’s where you ended up.

Because this is an impossible situation, a gut-wrenching choice. And what you do depends on your individual situation, what you can and can’t live with.

What I will say is that you should become more educated and find support for yourself. Those who are in support groups have been through this and have weighed all the options and it’s where you’ll find more stories, examples, pros and cons. Because this is a family problem. And the answers are not easy.

(Al Anon, Nar anon, Families Anonymous are national family support options for those struggling with a family member with an addiction.)

Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

24 thoughts on “Should you kick your addicted child out of the house?”

  1. After reading these posts, I am in tears. My husband and I have kicked our 33 yr old son, and he is literally on the streets with no car etc. I have so much guilt, and starting to feel like making our son ‘hit bottom’ is not the best action.

    1. It’s so hard to know. There were parents in my group who had to resort to that step for many reasons. For some it turned out. There are no good solutions here. I am not going to pass judgement because I know what it took for you to be exhausted and done. Because if the one addicted is too comfortable, there is no incentive to change. If you read Ryan Hampton’s book, it might help you. She didn’t allow her son (Ryan the author) who was addicted to live with her but found a balance and took him food and out to meals. So she kept up with him and let him know she loved him no matter what. She just couldn’t live with him. And he was about that age. It just might be the book you need right now. I know it helped me. It’s called “American Fix.”

      Here are resources that might help particularly the CRAFT approach which you might already know about.

  2. My mother is 45…she lost custody of me at a very young age and she eventually gave my brother to my Aunt ( her sister) when he was 15. I lived with my grandparents, her parents, and they raised me. She moved back in with us when I was a junior in highschool after she DESTROYED a 150,000 dollar property they bought for her. That was their last attempt because they had bought her a house before, 10 years prior, that didn’t work out and they helped her with money over and over again after being kicked out by many landlords. So they just bought her one last place. She can’t sign up for electricity or water because she owes the companies thousands of dollars. She can’t drive. So no more vehicles. She rides a bike. Four years ago she relapsed, she came and found my house that I NEVER told her the address of and was tapping on my windows to try to warn me about “the Cartel” coming after her and going to kill me. I didn’t know it was her so I called the police, she then some how was sent to the ER and she went to a rehab and detox. She tells people that we sent her to the “loony bin”. They put her on so many medications she reverted back to 5 years old. She got off her meds and has stuck to just being a severe alcoholic for a couple years. From what we know at least. I moved away and just kept her at a distance and with strong boundaries so I was able to visit my grandparents peacefully. My grandfather was diagnosed with liver cancer this year. I moved down here to help them. While they were in treatment and I was watching the house, I was living in hell. She destroys EVERYTHING she touches, and she started fights all the time. But 90% of the time she was scaring the absolute hell out of me with her paranoia about the cartel coming to kill her and me again. I am a 25 year old adult, hiding behind the couch in order to avoid her in my own home. My husband finally came down with me and she calmed down. My grandparents came home and we spent the last month of my grandfathers life taking care of him, she stayed out of the way for the most part. Which is best because she makes everything absolutely worse and caused him such extreme anxiety and grief it was best for her to be away anyways. He passed away. My grandmother is moving by next year so we are selling the house. She can’t live with her anymore. My aunt has teenage boys she has to take care of and consider, so she can’t live with her. She can’t live with me and I won’t let her even if I had a home for her to move into. My little brother will be living his grandparents from his dads side. She HAS NO WHERE TO GO. She’s deaf, has MS, Bipolar, severe PTSD and the list goes on. I’m beginning to think 4 years ago when she was on meth it caused a drug induced schizophrenia about the Cartel. But I’m not sure. I’ve given her the benefit of doubt because I thought she was more then just mentally ill all these years but my mother was an addict even before I was born so I don’t know a sober her and never have. We were trying to help her by getting her into a psychiatric appointment so we can start actually diagnosing her properly, because there is no possible way she can live on her own no matter what she THINKS she can do. 45 years and she’s never been able to be FULLY on her own and she’s destroyed every property she’s ever lived in. So obviously she needs some help right? She brought a friend over ( a friend who’s been giving her Xanax for years) to get her to fight her way out of the appointment. So I told her “you have a choice…go to to this appointment or become homeless” that started a huge fight. The next day she packing her bags and leaving to go live with her friend who’s been a known meth addict “to get her life together”. Right before that I heard her screaming at my grandmother “I’m deaf not mentally challenged”. So… it’s been a week since then and she’s stirring the pot again, I’ve had to fight this on going battle in my mind… if my mother really isn’t mentally challenged…then that means she really is an addict who is that AWFUL of a person. I’m not going to explain all the details of what we have been living with, but I’m sure you can only imagine. Nobody can live in these conditions…but she’s my mom…I don’t want her to die thinking I don’t love her. I do. But I want to start my own family and she would be a danger to them if I let her in my life. And everyone else feels that way too. She hasn’t come home but she’s trying to turn everyone against my husband and me. Nobody is listening to her and thinks she’s being ridiculous. My grandmother says this is how she acts when she’s on drugs. A part of me wants to give her the benefit of the doubt that she isn’t on drugs and she’s just this mentally messed up and it makes me feel so guilty. Another part of me knows she’s most likely on drugs. We’ve come to the conclusion we’re going to play it by ear and make sure she sticks with her choices. Hopefully she chooses to move out. But we wanted to help her get into a home. She lost that chance. We’re done. Nobody is going to put their lives on hold for her. Her father did…and he died never knowing real peace because of her. Hopefully he is at peace now. Bless him.

    1. You are a beautiful, wonderful person. I am so sorry addiction and mental illness have ravaged your life so. There are no easy answers and you have done so much. Thank you for being so candid and helping others feel they are not alone. I have felt every emotion you have described in our journey with addicted loved ones.

  3. I understand all these stories sadly I lived this daughter drinks so much she was breathing only 30% in the intensive Care unit they found her unconscious in a field and the fear of them sleeping in your home and scared you’re going to find them not breathing I live that for years my son would drink alcohol in excess also they drank everyday for years

  4. I have two sons living with me from different fathers. Im currently married to my second son father for 32yrs. My youngest son is going to be 30. He started with the pills and continued on to smoking Heroin to shooting Heroin. I have tried to kick him out and reluctantly I let him come back. My oldest son has a addiction to alcohol or anything he can get his hands on. He has always had an anexiety disorder but he will only take meds that get him high. His wife left him and now I have him at 38 yrs old. He has never held a job and is very hard to live with. I have kicked him out before when he started meth. It ended up that he got cancer and is now back living with me. I am beside myself. My husband travels half the year and is no help. I have become hopeless and depressed because i always looked to fix the problem. Now I realize that is easier said then done. I feel guilty, mad, angry and sad. My youngest son is a lier and he will steal. I need to try and stay ahead of him. Which doesn’t always happen.
    My oldest is verbal abusive and a narcissist. I’m trapped in the horrible place called addiction. 😔

    1. Tonya. It is a living hell. I am so sorry. A support group helped me live through it. Families anonymous and bar-anon have helped many. They is also a book called BALM that might help you. I got depressed too. It was so hard. So before my son took his life he was addicted to heroin. Addicts lie. And those who use are often awful people. I have a relative who went into recovery but he is still an awful person. But my son was clean for a brief period and he was not awful. Thank you so much for sharing

  5. I feel so out of control as a mother. I blame myself and I don’t know why. I dont make him drink and take drugs. We used to be close but I hate him for this. I’m at my end. I’m depressed, and stressed so bad I can’t eat or think straight. I’m not sure what to do. I know I cannot live this way it’s litterally killing me.

    1. Oh my gosh I remember being in that place where you are now. So vividly. That’s when I decided I needed support and went and got it. I joined a families anonymous group. And I went every week for 4 years. I lost my son to suicide but I want you to know that recovery is not only possible it’s probable. Most who went to that group have children in recovery now. Because being there changes your perspective. You learn it’s not your fault, you meet others who are GREAT parents and you learn that it’s not lack of love that made this happen. And that there is something they are struggling with that drove them to this awful disorder. It does feel like they are doing this TO US. But they are doing it to themselves and there are things that can improve the chances they will find recovery. Let me know if you have questions. Also I want to share the resources I know.

      Here is one post with a great book called Beyond Addiction. https://annemoss.com/2022/07/20/how-do-i-help-my-loved-one-to-stop-drinking-or-doing-drugs/

      And other resources for addiction here: https://annemoss.com/resources-2/addiction/

  6. Last January 2022 my niece was found dead at her brother’s apartment. The son got tired of her fighting him. So he had to put a restraining order on her. She had no choice but to stay with her brother. She was sick. She had alcohol problem. She was also anorexic. The sister was very much blaming her step dad for kicking her out of the house and letting her die.
    If only the family understood her for being who she was. I only told the mom that she was very much in pain that she had to numb her feelings through alcohol.
    She was only 41 yo. She was always silly and making us smiling and happy. And yet she had the problems.

    1. First I am so sorry the pain you and your family are feeling. It’s so devastating. And drug-related deaths and suicide often come with a lot of blame and finger-pointing. If we aren’t blaming ourselves, it’s someone else’s fault. As you read here in this post, it can happen in the house right under your nose which has happened to many in our tribe, out in the streets or in someone else’s home. There is no place to really protect someone from themselves except solitary confinement in a straightjacket and that’s downright cruel. There is no right answer but at some point, many just can’t live with all that destructive behavior. It is so heart-wrenching to try and figure out this step.

      Elizabeth- Thank you for sharing your story. I really appreciate it. The comments get read as often as the articles do.

    2. I understand what it’s like to have a child that has a drug addiction… I myself am 68 years old a 18 year recovering alcoholic… Im raising a 16 year old great-grandson who is a drug addict he was put into my care as a acting foster parent June13/2020 by Child Services since he was almost 13 years old or either put in a group home for boys.. I endured so much since he started his drugs January or February of 2022… I’ve gave up on him and threw in the towel after almost 1year 9months of his addiction behaviour and kicked him out before that I worried about his well-being his education was very important which he also lacked when he started his drug addiction I got him into a 21 day counselling later a 10 day Inpatient Program for young Juvenile drug addicts when he was discharged that same day he started again.

      1. So young. It’s so hard living with those who use. You have my empathy. I have been there although Charles was older. Still hard. No judgement here. I mean what does a person do? There are just no good answers

  7. Best article yet! Guilt if you do and Guilt if you don’t. I know a parent who attended alanon for years and bragged about being the only parent with a child who was still alive or not missing. He spent all of his money on her treatment for years – in and out of detox and recovery homes. She finally overdosed and died. I’ve seen other kids who lived on the street and I placed in detox, some made it some didn’t. I don’t know why some did and some didn’t. Rarely is there a happy ending – but there are some.

    1. I think we need a study on why some make it and others don’t. I’d love to see if there are any common threads. Or none at all. I do know that support groups help us learn communication skills that don’t BLOCK recovery but unfortunately we can’t do it for them. As much as we want to. Thank you for commenting Dr. Lee.

  8. Seeing both methods used in my family’s struggle, across the board, I can say from MY experience being on the outside, looking in, neither really worked or didn’t work. It’s going to end how it’s going to end. And as you nailed it, Anne, it’s up to the family and how they can or cannot live with their decision.

    I saw complete enabling not work on my sister and I saw tough love not work on my sister, as she battled with addiction for her adult life, until her death at age 28, succumbing to her disease and dying as a direct result from the disease. When she was “kicked out” of one home, the disease didn’t get “kicked out.” It stayed with her, with us, with everyone and every thing surrounding all of us. When she finally moved into the other home (split parents), the enabling method was used and her bills were paid, if she wrecked a car another was purchased for her, when she needed money, it was handed to her hand over fist, and the disease was still there, alive & kickin’. It was still there with all of us. No matter where she lived, how she got there, how she left there, even across state lines, the disease was there.

    Now, I will say this to the parents, because usually it’s a parent doing most of the “kicking out”, later that decision goes to the siblings and other family members, and/or friends, but to the parents…when my sister died from an accidental pill overdose, the “tough love” parent felt tremendous guilt and the “enabler” parent felt tremendous guilt. Even though my sister was no longer with us, the disease was still there. For then, my family had to deal with my sister’s disease within themselves.

    So, like you, Anne, I say there are no real, cut-throat solutions. You are going to feel guilt no matter what. So, why not go ahead and get a jump on YOUR recovery if your loved one cannot or will not quite yet?

    As I said, both parents, from both ends of the extreme spectrum, felt guilt. They felt guilt throughout her disease, they felt guilt after she lost HER battle with her disease because as I said, her disease lived on. Heck, I felt guilty at a time for not taking her in or for not trying to get her more help. As a side note, which I believe is an extremely important fact to point out in our situation too; my sister successfully completed in-patient rehab THREE times in her adult life as an addict. At her time of death, she had been clean for about 4 months, relapsing 5 days before her death…something she obviously had been through two times previously to her final relapse.

    Talk about trying everything….

    Take care of yourself and your mental health. As I always say, brains get sick too. And that is perfectly okay. Having strength to get help for a sick brain is something that needs to be as routine as help we seek for a strep throat. You just gotta do it.

    1. This is so awesome, “You are going to feel guilt no matter what. So, why not go ahead and get a jump on YOUR recovery if your loved one cannot or will not quite yet?” That is the whole point. We have to make a decision for ourselves and the situation. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  9. This was an interesting article and brought back many painful memories for me. We wrestled with this problem; gave our son the money to move out for a couple of years and, predictably, he flopped and sank even further into his abyss. When he finally crashed and burned, we brought him back home where he continued to relapse for a couple more years. It was hellish and I was angry and resentful. However, in hindsight, it was the best solution as it had a good outcome. He is sober and doing well. Everyone’s situation is different, so I feel the decision should be very private and customized to the family’s needs and expectations. We were one of the lucky ones and I am so grateful.

    1. I really appreciate your sharing this story. Because it helps to see how others walked that journey and the hope that that outcome offers. You are right. No easy answers. And it has to be individualized.

  10. Excellent article AM…dificult and heart wrenching place we have all been. I don’t like the term ‘kicked out’…altho that is how it is used when we get to this point. Our homes need to be a place of serenity and peace, not chaos. Boundaries have to be set and if agreements about those boundaries is not met the person will be asked to leave. But, we all have to wake up every morning and look ourselves in the mirror and be comfortable with those decisions so no one should judge the path you take. There are many pathways to recovery and we families also need to work on our own recoveries..even tho we may feel we don’t have to. Educate yourself about this disease..it is cunning and insidious..and find a support group for yourself. SUD is a chronic disease and like any other chronic illness some get it right away, some it takes awhile and some never do. Keep the lines of communication open and let them know you love them but are not going to watch them self destruct…help will be there when they are ready.

    1. This is one of the most awesome comments ever. Thank you Connie. This is SO important, “There are many pathways to recovery and we families also need to work on our own recoveries..even tho we may feel we don’t have to…”

      1. I am so hoping you will contact me. I’ve just buried my 2nd son lost to drugs in August 2023. I was pushed to force him out of my home by family and friends for my safety. I’m totally disabled with now a terminal disease. I feel I killed him to save me. Why? There is very little mental health here. My first appointment isn’t until November. My own daughter, a LMHC, refused him family holidays or to help us. When he layed in a coma on a vent in the ICU, she showed up after 4 years of no contact. Then she blasted his death on Facebook and a text blast of what the doctors told her before we, his parents, could hear. I’m all alone in my grief. My family is destroyed.
        What I can say to others, don’t push them out. The guilt is beyond anything you have ever experienced. I want both my sons back, but I can never have that. The stigma is horrid on “junkies”. Let them live in the street they say. That will make them stop. Well, it does not.

        This country fed drugs to kids in middle school only to treat addicts like lepers when they’ve become addicts. Shame on those who have made money off of people who become addicted. It’s a disease equal to a heart condition. This one is man made from pure greed. It is wiping out generations and destroying families. The minute amount our government puts towards rehab and research to improve treatment is pitiful. Let’s make a change!!

        1. I cried with you. The whole tough love crap is a myth. So many say they had their moment of enlightenment in a coffee shop. So our withdrawal of love and weaponizing it is not effective.

          I am so sorry you lost your precious children. I hear you. I feel your story. Life is not supposed to unfold this way.

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