How can i help my 17 year old, angry and on drugs?

Dear Suzie, 

I have a wonderful son, he is 17 years old. He is very angry with me right now. He has been using drugs since he was 14, hard drugs like cocaine and speed. I have sent him to residential treatment for 3 months a year ago. Now that he is 17, well I can’t send him because here in Canada, once they turn 16 they can only admit themselves. We have been riding the drug roller coaster since. In December, he started using again, and when high he is violent. I have a 12 years old daughter as well so we were living in fear. (stems from being raised by a mean alcoholic father).


I have never done drugs so I have a hard time understanding why he does it. So I had to kick him out of the house, actualy not him but him on drugs. That was a hard desision but I had tried everything else. He sold everything he had and got in trouble…got high and lost 15 pounds…after 10 days on his own. So he came back promising to stop again, actually he even decided to move in with my boyfriend 3 hours away so that he would not be amongs his “friends”. I think that is very smart of him…he has been clean since. The anger is still there…he says I hate him because I kicked him out and is very angry with me. I am afraid he might relaps!


I had him when I was 22 and he met his real father only 5 times. I had my daughter with another man and thought that would be great for my son to have a wonderful role model. 

We separated in 2000 and altough my daughter goes to see her father all the time…well my son does not have that luxury, and so he feels rejected once more. He hates his sister and thinks I love her more…to be honest I love them both equally but I get along with her better because she is more pleasant to be around, because she has had it much better than him.

I can see why he is quite angry and does not feel loved…I have tried my best to show him but he refuses it all. I don’t know what to do anymore. I know I did wrong by him, and I told him I was sorry and that I only made these choices because I thought I was making the right ones.

How can I mend this broken relationship with my son?

I don’t want him to think he was not loved is it too late?

I hope you can help me. I offered him that we go to counselling together and he refuses so I know it’s up to me to prove him how much he means to me.


Thank you for being there, as I can see you have given others wonderful advice


Dealing with the fallout of the sort of loss and the resulting anger and pain experienced by your son is really hard and you do have my sympathy. You’ve made many good steps to deal with and understand the situation and I applaud you for it. There is one further step I think you have to take to make more progress and it’s probably the hardest for a parent, especially a mother. You said “I know it’s up to me to prove him how much he means to me.” Actually, no, it isn’t. And you really, really need to see that. You didn’t do wrong by him. Wrong was done to him, but not by you.


You’ve told him you love him. You’ve showed him you love him. He knows you love him. What he’s missing from his life, what makes him angry, is that he doesn’t know his father loves him. His father left. You may feel his father left you. Your son feels his father left HIM. He feels abandoned, rejected and thus worthless. But he can’t place his anger where it belongs, at his father’s feet.


He can’t have it out with his Dad and either have the satisfaction of telling the son of a bitch what he feels about him, or hearing an apology and an offer to redress.  His anger is frustrated and keeps coming back to hit him in the face. So he directs it at you. He directs it at you because he knows you won’t abandon or reject him. He directs it at you because you stood by and will stand by him. But he keeps doing it because expressing anger at you doesn’t have the desired effect of making him feel better because you’re not the person he really feels angry at. And showing you anger also makes him feel guilty – and thus even worse. So the circular process goes on.


Some times trying to talk these things through comes up against a wall of pain and frustration. We say the right things but the other person simply can’t hear them. I’m a great believer in using the written word. You can say it all and not be sidelined by the other persons’ reaction. They can also keep your letter to refer to if their initial reaction is anger or tears.


If I were you I’d send him a letter. Tell him first and foremost you love him and always will. When people say “You hate me” what they often mean is “I’m angry with you.” The effective response is to say “I can hear you’re really angry with me. I love you and I’d like to help you resolve that anger. What can we do about it?”


 Tell him you’re really saddened by his pain. But DON’T take responsibility for things that aren’t yours to take. That’s a very valuable – indeed, vital – lesson he needs to learn. That while some things may be yours to hold you hand up about, others are beyond your remit and are either his or his father’s or simply pat of what happens in life.


His father is the one who left. His father is the one who made him feel so awful. You’re the one who stayed. And he and he alone is the one who chose to deal with his feelings with drugs. He can’t help feeling anger – that’s a natural reaction to his situation. But he didn’t have to do drugs – he could have done therapy. And as you say you threw out the boy on drugs not the boy. He needs to hear that – he needs to know you love him but you can’t and won’t and shouldn’t put up with bad behaviour.


Say you suggested you went to counselling together and the offer is still there. Indeed, I’d very strongly suggest you don’t make this a negotiable request but go ahead. Find a counsellor and start, letting him know when your first session will be and telling him the offer for him to come then or subsequently is there but that you are going whatever. You need some help in sorting this all out. He needs to have the opportunity to express his anger and having it heard in a safe and contained situation. Then he needs the opportunity to move on.



If he relapses, that’s his choice. You need to know that and so does he. What he perhaps needs to hear is that you understand and are there for him but you aren’t his whipping post. He has the choice and the opportunity to do something about his feelings and his life and you’d like to help. But it’s time he acted like a 17 and not  a 7 year old.


It’s a really tough situation but it isn’t too late, by a long shot. Get some help for yourself and you may well find he follows your lead in accepting some too. Good luck!

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