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.

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

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked mental health speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational mental health keynotes, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, anxiety, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

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

  1. 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/

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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…”

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