Unfortunately, your ability to control your adult son is minimal. You don’t have that kind of power. You have no power to force an adult to do anything that they don’t want to do. No one does. Your son has to decide that he wants help. He has to be the one to make the decision that he is ready for treatment. If he’s unwilling to do that, then there may be little that you can do. Unfortunately, you can’t make these decisions for him. There are no magic words that you can say that will positively affect the situation.
You did not mention his living situation. If he were living in your home, you could potentially coerce him into treatment by informing him that he can no longer live in your home unless he seeks treatment. If you are giving him money for living expenses, etc., you can say that you will no longer give him those funds unless he seeks treatment. If there’s anything else that you control in his life, you can threaten to take it away unless he seeks treatment. Short of that type of coercion, your power is limited.
He may not want treatment. He may not realize that he needs treatment. He may simply not be ready for treatment. No matter the case, if he’s unwilling to go, that’s his choice. Understandably, that’s an exceptionally difficult reality to live with, given that we know that he could greatly benefit from treatment. Sadly, unless he makes the decision to go, forcing him to go will likely be nearly impossible.
You might try attending Al-Anon family groups. These groups are comprised of individuals who know what it’s like to worry about someone with a drinking problem. Check to see if there is a group in your community. You might find one near your home. What’s great about these groups is that its members will know what you’re going through because they are going through it too. Members share their experiences and can support one another.
You might also consult an in-person therapist. A therapist can help you to explore how and if you can help your son and deal with the emotional challenge of having a loved one who may not be willing or ready to seek help for themselves. Because I cannot interview you, and gather more information about your personal situation, I’m limited in how I can advise you. It’s best to meet with a therapist, in-person, who can evaluate your options. The more help you can acquire, the easier it may be to come to an effective resolution.
I wish that I had a more satisfactory answer for you. It’s difficult to watch someone you love suffer with these kinds of problems. Especially, given that there are good treatments for both depression and alcohol addiction. Hopefully, he will come to understand the severity of his problems and willingly seek help for them. That would be ideal. Good luck with your efforts. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle