Going Broke With Counselors

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on June 22nd, 2008 - Last updated: February 5th, 2014
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My son and his counselors think they are doing fine, only I’m going broke; how do I stand up for myself?

Dear Dr. Peele:

My husband and I have a 23 year old son who is currently in a rehabilitation program run by the Salvation Army. In November he was in a 6 week rehabilitation program. Upon his release, he came back home and immediately began using again. We are a very active loving family, he is the middle of three sons, the only one with this type of problem. My husband and I met at 16 and married at 20-21. We are having a severe problem coping with this son, whom we love very much and find ourselves going out of our way to try to “straighten out.” Our problem is that we are at a loss how to deal with certain aspects of the situation. Because he is an adult, he has adult responsibilities. A car which we co-signed for and numerous bills (when he returned home after the first stint in rehab he charged up credit cards with electronic equipment and sold them to buy drugs).

With the hope that he would straighten out and return to a productive life, we have expended quite a large sum of money keeping up his financial obligations. We have been told to let him suffer for his actions, but this is harder to do than one would expect. We have a hard time seeing how letting him get further in debt (as credit cards add penalties and interest each month) insofar as he is in a rehabilitation setting and there is no way for him to repay these obligations at this time.

In the meantime, we are not sure about the situation he is in. We do not buy into this whole 12 step thing and the feeling that he is powerless. His counselor at the Salvation Army REFUSES to meet with us and just repeatedly states that your son “is in a program.” I have a foreboding sense that something is just not quite right about this program — that it’s almost cult like. The other thing that does not set right with us is that our son seems to be content there and refuses to discuss any plan for a future that does not include this type of living arrangement.

When he was in the 6 week program and I tried to speak about my hopes for my sons’ future, I was always cut off by counselors who said that I just “didn’t get it” and that he has a sickness and can’t think about a future.

Our goal is to find out the program’s plans for our son, as he also refuses to ask any questions for fear of getting thrown out of this place, and possibly to get some input as to how to handle his financial obligations.

Does it seem strange to you that a counselor would not want any input from the family of someone they are supposed to be counseling?


Dear Deborah:

My reactions are the same as yours. Your son needs to plan for the future and to undergo staged exposure to greater requirements and rewards/penalties for assuming/not assuming such responsibility. This needs to be built into his treatment, and the ideas that (a) your views are irrelevant or wrong, (b) you can be excluded from treatment for your son’s problems and what to do about these, are wrong on any number of grounds — including that you are paying for these problems and that you have a right to be respected.

I would suggest putting your foot down with both the treatment people with whom you are dealing and your son — who seem to be engaged in some secret society. I would do so by withdrawing your funding of this entire operation — treatment and your son’s maintenance — at least as far as creating a repayment plan for your son. Tell me, why would you cosign for a car for him and allow him use of a credit card if he was not keeping up his financial obligations to you, among others? And as far as the jerk at Salvation Army, tell him that you will not pay for the program any more unless you are satisfied with it and are able to make inputs — citing the failure of the previous inpatient program which made similar unfulfilled promises to you.

Have you ever thought of yourselves as needing therapy for being able to resist providing, in the name of love, the wherewithal for this whole operation, which is wrecking the rest of your family life? I’m not suggesting “tough love.” I’m suggesting that you stand up for yourselves and your other children, who might at this point be right to feel that they should act out in order to get their fair share of family concern and resources.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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