Find out who the other parents are: It generally helps when parents band together. There are probably at least a few of his friends with parents who are as concerned as you are. Get together and brainstorm ways to get your kids busier with positive things. Take turns taking the kids to events, or tutoring them, or coming up with jobs. If you can agree on consistent rules about curfews and responsibilities, the kids will be less able to use the old excuse of “everybody else’s parent let’s their kid . . .” Most important, you can build a support system for yourselves.

Let him know, calmly, that the rules are the rules. Your son is engaging in illegal and risky behavior. Remind him that it is a parent’s job to help their kids grow up physically healthy and emotionally strong and you intend to do your part. You don’t want him to go to jail, overdose and get sick, or die. You will therefore never get off his back about drugs. But perhaps together you can figure out where you can back off. Hair style? Clothing choices? Work together to set reasonable rules for your home.

Figure out what you will and won’t do if he gets into legal trouble. Will you get a lawyer to help or is he on his own? Calmly tell him what those limits are – and mean it. Then be prepared to follow through. Some kids seem to need to test all the limits. You can’t force him to be a law-abiding citizen. But you can go with him to court and quietly be there for him while he deals with whatever the justice system decides to do. Although I would never recommend jail time as therapeutic, it’s an unfortunate truth that it is what it takes for some kids to get it. Maintaining the relationship will give you a shot at helping him turn things around when he gets out.

Consider finding a therapist who specializes in teen substance abuse: A column like this one can only give you very general ideas. It is no substitute for talking with someone who can help you take a look at the total situation. If your son won’t go, go yourself. An experienced therapist will be able to help you figure out how to approach your son and what you can do for him – and for yourself.

You are probably asking just how you will have time for all of this. You probably don’t want to have to do any of it. You probably wish it would just all go away. I don’t blame you a bit. There are few things as difficult or as frustrating as maintaining our love and our cool when a teen is doing everything in his power to drive us away. This is the ultimate test of our own adulthood and our own character. Like most tests, it isn’t fun or easy.

You are fighting for your child’s life because you love him. You probably couldn’t live with yourself if you didn’t at least try your best to save him. The truth is that you’re already spending time and emotional energy saying things and doing things that haven‘t been effective. It’s possible that if you direct the time you are already spending a little differently, you will start to get better results. With support for yourself, a lot of love for him, and more than a little luck, you may help your teen figure out that being drug-involved gets him nowhere except in trouble. You are there to show him the way out.