Dear Dr. Romance:

My son is having a substance abuse problem. It surfaced a few months ago, he promised to stop, and I just caught him using it again. He just turned 18. What can I do to help him?

Dear Reader:

I'm so sorry you're going through this with your son. If he wants help, counseling and treatment can help him. But the fact that he promised to stop and then you had to catch him again probably means he's not going to stop willingly. Dealing with an addiction problem is tricky. It turns things upside down. What you think of as good parenting and helping behavior may make the problem worse. Why don't you make an appointment for yourself, so a therapist can get a clear picture of the whole situation, and you can find out what's going to be necessary on your part to get him to admit he's got a problem. "Guidelines for Finding and Using Therapy Wisely" will help you find the right therapist. "To Help an Addicted Friend" will help you help your son.

If you can, get him right into Ala -Teen, and have him get a sponsor. If that is sufficient, good. If he needs a rehab program, the 12 step program and your family therapist will help you figure it out. The Real 13th Step: Discovering Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs will help you and your son understand the roots of addiction, why it is such a difficult problem, and how to heal it.

For low-cost counseling, email me at

Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.