Dear Amy:

I am at the last straw with my 18-year-old son. Eight months ago, he was the driver in a near-fatal car accident. There were three other teens in the car and, although we know there was pot involved, the police did not request a drug test and my son did not get cited for the crash. He underwent months of therapy for a traumatic brain injury, and he ended up not graduating with his class. He has since dropped out of high school altogether.

Our son has had a series of jobs, but he has been fired from all of them. He has no motivation to find a job or do much of anything except get high.

He is in counseling for addiction and is on probation for attacking me. Somehow, he manages to pass all of his drug tests by cheating. My problem is that he has created such a sense of mistrust and discord in our home that none of us wants to be around him anymore. He does not respect his father or me, constantly fights with his sister and ignores all of our household rules. He does not help with chores or even clean up after himself.

He has been offered a fantastic opportunity to move to a new state and start fresh with supervision, but he has declined it. I don't know what to do anymore. At this point, I would like to ask him to leave, but I don't want him to think that I don't love him anymore. I just don't like him very much and cannot seem to make him understand what his actions are doing to our family.

Any suggestions?

At My Wits' End in Georgia

You need to lay your feelings -- and his -- aside for now and focus in a concentrated way on his recovery. I'm not sure what this addiction counseling is doing for him if he continues to use drugs, abuse you and cheat the system. Your son's counselor should be mentoring your whole family through this, and if he or she isn't doing that, then it's time to find one who can. Your son might need intensive, inpatient treatment, or at least a more concentrated outpatient program.

You should start by making sure that he has a neurological clean bill of health. His brain injury might be affecting his behavior, and even if it was of his own doing, he will need for you to be sure-footed, consistent and compassionate (not pushovers) in order to have a shot at recovery.

At age 18, unless it is court-ordered, your son can refuse treatment -- especially if you and your husband support him financially and tolerate his abuse.

You should explore residential programs that combine detox with counseling and life-skills training. Your son should be presented with a well-devised and consistent plan. His options should be limited to committing to the program or leaving your home, because things sound bad enough that your entire family is at risk.

Leave your feelings of "love" and "like" out of it. You are his parents and you are trying to save his life. If that's not love, then I don't know what is, and even if he doesn't realize this now, he will through recovery.

You can get information on local treatment programs by calling the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 800-729-6686.

Dear Amy:

When our children announced their engagements, we gave them each a gift of a sum of money for their wedding.

We told them they were free to use it for a wedding, a trip or a down payment on a house.

We greatly enjoyed the weddings they planned. No stress for us! Minimal stress for them!

When anyone complained about a wedding detail to me, my easy answer was, "It's their party, not mine."

Grandma in Virginia

A very wise solution. Momzillas everywhere, take note!

Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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