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Should I allow my addict child to live at home?

Do I let my son or daughter live at home?

Having your [adult] child live with you is indeed tricky when they are abusing alcohol or drugs.  Do you throw them out, as some would suggest, or do you keep them home, where you can keep a close eye on them and help protect them from harm?

As a parent, both of these choices probably sound terribly difficult.

Here, we’ll explore this issue in depth. Then, we’ll give you an opportunity at the end to share your questions or thoughts. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate comments with a personal and prompt reply.

So, what do families actually do?

In all the years we’ve been working with families at Allies in Recovery, I’d say our informal polling has found that families are about evenly divided between which is harder: having them home or having them live away from home. Neither is easy.

When they are home, the urge to overly focus on your loved one can be exhausting. When they live away from home, the worry of not knowing if they’re okay can be equally draining.

There IS another way – Use the CRAFT principles to guide you

In our work using CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) with families, the issue of housing has come up time and again. So, how do we at Allies in Recovery help families think through their decision about what to do, when it comes to children and housing?

To review the main principles of CRAFT, family members are encouraged to:

  1. reward non-use (rewards range from hugs and pizza to housing and college)
  2. disengage, remove rewards, and allow natural consequences to occur when there is use (natural consequences range from oversleeping and missing work, to not being bailed out when arrested).

Humans like to be rewarded, and we’re not alone: dogs, dolphins, and countless other species also respond positively to rewards. We are all a lot more likely to repeat a behavior if we are rewarded with something we value. With CRAFT, rewards are a way to reinforce moments of non-use.

However, keep in mind that a reward is a good reward when it is rewarding to your loved one.  I may like it when the cabinet shelves are clean, but that doesn’t make it rewarding to my loved one.

An example of implementing rewards: Your son comes home from school on time and his eyes look normal, both indications he didn’t smoke pot on his way home. You take that new gaming video out that you’ve been saving, give it to him, smile, and comment on how you love it when his eyes are clear.

Rewards influence future behavior

A reward is given when your loved one is off substances in the moment. Rewards should be easy to give. Good examples are a scrunch on the shoulder, a kind word, or just listening intently. The person needn’t know the reward is for non-use. A reward just feels good and it’s that good feeling that can actually compete with an urge to pick up a drink or a drug.

This is what CRAFT does so well. It helps families focus their energies on what their loved one is doing right. It’s the flip side of “not enabling use”, which we’ve all heard of by now. CRAFT says enable the non-use through words, actions and things that signal to your loved one that sobriety for even one day is worth celebrating!

Belief also influences future behavior

We spoke to a mom not long ago who was holding on to her anger about her son’s drug use. Her son had been off drugs for a week, but she didn’t trust it. She had seen it over and over. It was “just one week” after all.

Yes, people try and fail to get sober. Day 1 of sobriety can be meaningless or it can be followed by Day 2, and then Day 3.  Families need to act like there will be a Day 2.

Providing housing is a reward

Q: How do we define “housing”?
A: Housing is allowing someone to stay at home rent-free or providing rent for someone.

A simple as it may sound, housing is often a huge, complex issue to sort out.

Housing, like paying for college or providing a car, is tricky to use as a reward because it is hard to meter out little by little, and conversely, hard to take away when you see use. Ideally, a reward is given for non-use in the moment, and taken away when there is use – hard to do with these big-ticket items.

According to the CRAFT model, housing can be granted in support of non-use or very limited use because the loved one is making a real effort to address the substance problem.

How does being home influence their behavior?

Providing housing is not a black & white matter, as in “they should never be home” or “they should always be allowed to be home”.” It’s a matter of how “home” influences their behavior.

Home or no home depends on whether your child is following a treatment program and maintaining a good level of sobriety, or whether they are actively using with no efforts to stop.  Ask yourself:

  • Is being home an aid to staying sober?
  • Or, is being home providing a cushy, free pad that helps subsidize their drug use?

The answer to this can change at any time… so it helps to make everything temporary, and re-assessed weekly together, if possible.

First, do you part: Learn CRAFT Principles

If you’re new to the CRAFT model and your child lives at home or in a home paid for by you, we would suggest you follow our program for 8 to 12 weeks. In other words, clean up what you can on your end, in terms of your communication and behavior towards your loved one. In addition to these internal changes, CRAFT shows you how to unblock the situation and engage your loved one into treatment.

Home is not a place to continue to use

However, after you’ve become well-versed in CRAFT and begun applying the principles, if your loved one still continues to actively abuse substances and refuses any help, you will need to reassess their living at home.

Put another way: If you are inadvertently supporting a drug-using lifestyle by providing housing, it may be time for your child to leave home. Steer your child in the right direction by thoroughly researching the resources, then provide them with options:

STEP 1: Figure out addiction treatment options for your child.  Put some options down on paper. We provide a description of the kinds of treatment under Our Treatment Resources: Levels of Treatment Providers.

Be specific and make sure each suggestion is really possible (there is room, it can be paid for, (s)he meets the admission criteria…). Is there a phone number to call that gets to a live person at these places? If it is possible, include as options: residential, medication-assisted treatment, intensive outpatient therapy, various types of self-help, sober homes …

STEP 2:  Consider housing options if she does accept treatment. Some options might include your home (reassess weekly), or help with rent in a group house situation, or a sober house for, say, two months (the sober house only if she can get clean and meet the criteria for admission). Help with food and transport.

Or consider housing options if she doesn’t accept help. Outline options including  local shelters. Provide her the numbers for local homeless supports, social services, or community-based NGOs.

STEP 3: Allow your child to make a choice. Once the information is in her hands, the choice is hers to make.

Help your loved one formulate the plan and let them make their own choice. If they turn down the help, moving to the shelter is a natural consequence for an adult in their circumstances.

How do you talk about housing with your child?

a)  When your child is using….

The conversation is quiet, calm, and loving. For example:

  • “Our home is not a place where you can continue to use. When you want to get sober, there are programs on this paper. Choose one and get into it. We will help every way we can. We would love to welcome you home when you’re sober and in treatment.”

b)  When your child is working on addiction recovery …

When they are addressing the substance problem and tell you they want to come home, the conversation can go something like this:

  • “We are proud of you. We feel so good about the progress you are making. We like having you live here. We need to be clear that living here is transitional until you can afford and find a more permanent place to live. We’d like to take it week by week.
  • For your part, you’re going to have to show a good faith effort at staying sober and doing your recovery work. For our part, we promise to keep out of the details of that. If we have a concern, we’ll let you know.
  • Secondly, we also need you to help out with the bills a little. We realize that money is tight and that you have debt, so we’re going to ask for only $100/week (or $50/week), payable at Sunday dinner each week.
  • Thank you for listening to this and for being clean and sober. We are so proud of you.”

Then, ask them to contribute, even a symbolic amount

The key here is, this is less about the amount than it is about the transaction. Your child pays something and you feel like they’re not getting a free ride. It also makes sense to want to keep the amount of money in their pocket low…

Set your limits

Lastly, decide together as parents on what amount of use or non-payment you will tolerate from your child. For example: a brief lapse in sobriety with continued recovery activities may be tolerated; two weeks of non-payment of rent may be the limit.

If you feel you can say it, then add these limits to the conversation.  It helps to keep things transparent, should you have to ask them to leave.

The key is to stay flexible. Make it clear that housing is transitional and temporary, to be assessed weekly. If this sounds like work, it is. But looking at housing in the way we suggest – as a reward employed in the service of sobriety – is clear and puts everyone on the same page.

Questions about housing for kids and addiction

We hope to have covered this topic fully, but realize that you still make have questions. Please leave us your questions in the comments section below. You are not alone!

Leave a Reply

27 Responses to “Should I allow my addict child to live at home?
4:22 am April 27th, 2016

Loneliness and aimlessness are two of the main reasons behind drug abuse. Living at home make them feel connected and reduces drug abuse. Reward system also improve their performance many folds. Many drug rehabs also provide genuine family programs.

3:05 pm March 22nd, 2017

Hi Dominique. Very well stated. Jerry

4:07 pm November 13th, 2017

Hello all: I am asking for advice, support, etc regarding our 21 year old son. for the past 7 or so years, my wife and I have been attempting to cope, assist, guide our son who has been involved with numerous drugs (cocaine, marijuana, oxy, heroin, xanax, alcohol, etc.) to the point where we’ve had many. many occurrences of police having to summoned to the house (about 6 times) resulting from verbal aggression, damaged property (walls, doors, windows, etc.). He has been Baker Acted twice, and most recently went through 90 days of rehab. My older 25 year old son and 23 year old daughter (both away at college but within 1 month of graduating and returning home) are afraid to come due to the eventual arguing escalating to threats and other verbal threats, etc. He cannot hold a job as he will not be able to get along with others, get in arguments, etc. he has either been fired of quit at least 8 jobs in the past 2-3 years.
My wife and I are teachers and live in the community where we teach. Admittedly our son buys and sells drugs in that community. After his 90 day rehab, he was getting ready to transition to a half way house. Unfortunately, due to an approaching hurricane, the halfway house was out of commision, leaving me no choice but to allow him to return home. Things were Ok for about 3 weeks until his 21st birthday. We decided to buy him an IPAD in order to allow him to complete on line applications, etc. for employment. 2 days later, he sold the IPAD for a portion of the value, for cocaine and alcohol. We were obviously very upset with him but trodded on. A couple of weeks later I found an empty liter of vodka in his closet and numerous empty beer cans. this was after I suspected he was drinking due to slurring, etc. Two weeks ago, I replaced the door to his bedroom (one that he had broken over a year ago. After requesting that he help by painting the door, he argued that id did not need painting, escalating into an argument with his mom and I and eventuals vulgarity (called me a b**** and said f*** you numerous times)
The final straw was last Monday when I returned from work at 3:00 to find him passed out in his bed, with throw up all over toilet and wall. We gave him the choice to either return to detox and rehab (covered by my insurance mostly) or he had to make it on him own, not being allowed back in our home. Today is the day he chooses. He has been calling us numerous times each day while in detox, claiming that he is not returning to rehab, doesn’t need it, we’re over reacting, etc. BTW- I had taken him the week before to his psychiatrist and she prescribed him ADHD meds, anti depressant and sleep meds. all meds that he has taken in the past. Even though I know I cannot enable him, I am having a difficult time with this. He has no job, no money, no where to stay if he chooses not to go back to rehab. Constructive advice and opinions please.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
6:40 pm November 21st, 2017

Hi Rod. You are in terrible position. It seem to me that you need help from a professional, and I suggest that you consult with an interventionist. Also, you may look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:

6:50 am November 18th, 2017

My problem is slightly more complex. My addicted son is a single parent of three young boys and he has custody of them. He and they live in my home. so far I haven’t seen a lot of information addressing the impact on his children of asking him to leave because of using. I have no desire to see my grandchildren homeless hungry or living in a crack house. To this point in their lives I have been more parent to them then either biological parent. However under the law my son is free to take them into instability or danger should I ask him to leave.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:53 pm November 22nd, 2017

Hi Rachel. I suggest that you consult with an addiction interventionist. You may look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:

9:03 pm December 8th, 2017

Our son has been living with us for over 10 months with no job and no motivation. He has said that he was in such a deep depression and that was causing all this lack of motivation. We have had proof that he has been taking some types of drugs, though, he claims that they are legal. They are “research chemicals.” It is a long story of the ten months with several falls one that required brain surgery. We have gotten through all this. We have had trouble saying to him, particularly after the surgery, that he needed to move out. He has some money. It has been 2 1/2 months since the surgery and he has been released by the neurosurgeon and the neurologiist as healed. But he had a psychotic episode just this past week that was determined was substance induced. After this we have had numerous talks all in a calm manner. He has told us that the reason that he takes the drugs is to cope with living here at home. We always have had a very loving relationship with our son, but the substance abuse has changed him. I asked him why he didn’t want to move out if the we were causing him to use drugs. He had no answer. So we have set a date for Jan. 1st for him to move out. In this situation, it seems the best solution since it seems to me that he is using this as an excuse. I would appreciate your thoughts.

4:22 am January 29th, 2018

If you have an adult child that smokes waaay to much pot and abuses perception drugs and does not want to stop and will not help them selfs with therapy or anything not to mention being disrespectful. Im making her leave and gave her a choice rehab or you can’t live here is that wrong?

8:51 am January 29th, 2018

In July 2017 our son was pulled over for speeding and ultimately arrested as he was in possession of a minuscule amount t of marijuana. We made him stay in a holding cell overnight. He was released the next morning without having to post bail. He told us he had been smoking weed anout 5 times a week but when he met for his evaluatulion for court he indicated he only has used once or twice. Since the time of his arrest he went to college and dropped out working anout 6 weeks after burning through over $1000. Since coming home he is extremely demotivated….just got a job this
Last month. He is refusing to seek treatment as he indicates he does not have a problem while all of his clothes smell like weed and he leaves early in the day and doesn’t return home until after everyone is in bed. Part of the day is spent at a friends house where he shot video previously of smoking weed and the taking a pill of some
Sort. He has admitted to using oxy as well as Xanax. We are currently allowing him to live in our house because he has no money. He is disrespectful by not washing his clothes, leaving them lie with wet towels on the floor. In addition he has resorted to eating things like raw ramen noodles and leaving wrappers lie around. Today he had two open two liter bottles in his nightstand drawer and an open cannof soda on his nightstand. He goes all day without eating, at least not eating frommoir house in our presence. I did forget to mention we also learned he was selling while at school. He says foemknjy a week but regardless huge ramifications. Needless to say we are at a loss. We have three younger daughters but I seemingly can hardly function with his lack of respect and refusal to get help. On a side not he has refused to get a checking account or debit card for his checks. This week he has spent over $100 of his work check in a day when he has no expenses. I am losing slee because I am constantly worried about where he is and what he is doing.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:25 pm February 15th, 2018

Hi JeanAnne. I suggest that you seek help from a professional interventionists. Here are useful links where you can search for a Certified Intervention Specialist:

Also, you may look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. One NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading that can help:

11:57 pm March 5th, 2018

We are in Rods situation with our 26 yr old son, who is living with us in the presence of our 14yr old. Two middle kids are away at college & independently productive. Please tell us what to do. We are heartbroken, worried, and exhausted. Thank you.

7:41 pm April 10th, 2018

My step daughter is a drug addict she’s only been in a treatment 2 times both times only one week. She has lived with us but I’ve had to kick her out due to using drugs and stealing. She also would bring around her boyfriend who would bring her drugs. She has her own place and is still trying to move back in but she wouldn’t get a job while she was living with us it’s just a revolving door with her. Wouldn’t she be better off living in her own apartment along with support? Her living at home would have her going backwards.

10:53 am April 18th, 2018

My son is 32 years old, has been using drugs (anything he can get or try) for 15 years, I have sent him to several different rehabs and had implants and got him this new medicine that helps heroin addicts, nothing has helped him.
he has no place to stay, no money, no job. I have let him come live with me for the passed year, given him a job, he lasts about 2 weeks and then disappears once he gets a bit of cash. he has sold most of my garage tools and things in the house that he can hide from me. he is married with 2 kids, 4 years old little boy and a 2 years old little girl. his wife used to use drugs with him, we have got her a job, which she has kept and given her a car for transport. she is living with her mother at this stage. she has denied my son the right to see his kids, I have asked her for banking details so i can pay maintenance, her response is no she does not need money, but she wants a divorce, and sole custody of the kids, that is the reason for her not wanting maintenance. He has also been tested positive for HIV, he started the treatment, it made him very sick, so he has stopped taking his ARV’s. He said that he will take them again when he feels weak or the need.
He was also arrested for crystal meth, has a court case going on since last year, he has skipped bail twice, I bailed him out, if only i left him there. there is a warrant out for his arrest now. do i call the police and have him arrested? maybe this will help him.
the sad part is that he is such a beautiful sole, helpful and a hard worker, but a drug addict.
i am not going to send him to any rehabs, he has used up all my money. he refuses to take medicine. I have a double garage that was used for an office, tiled out and clean, do ilet him stay in the house or the garage?

5:33 am April 24th, 2018

Thank you for the above information, I am struggling with how to help my 26 year old son. He started out with being addicted to fentenyl prescription and now he is using street fentenyl and her ion. He has been living with his father as his father has been supplying him with his drugs. This is a cycle, I try and get him away from his father who is an addict and also has a restraining order against my son. Then my son goes back to him police get involved, he goes to jail cleans up for abit then goes back to his dads. His dad after awhile gets angry phones the police back to jail he goes. I have tried to step in a couple of times over the last year, giving him a place to stay however I am on disability for anxiety and depression and this isn’t helping, when he stays with me he is good and then his father starts showing up and then my son changes. He is up all night. Forging through cupboards, I am afraid to leave my house as he steals stuff what do you do? I want my son back however this person isn’t the person I raised for years by myself. My psychiatrist told me I shouldn’t say I don’t trust him! Which I don’t. I want to be hopeful that he will stop. He has burnt out his grand parents as well as myself! How do I help

5:25 pm April 24th, 2018

My 31 year old son is housed rent free…at our home…he is in a methadone program..after many attempts wo nt go to another 12 step rehab….hes been sober a lot however set backs bother him so much…he self medicated with xanX in large quantities 3 or 4 bars and then insists he fine…like a drunk telling you hes not drunk…what to do?

11:05 pm May 16th, 2018

My problem is as a mother I have read all what has been said. The difference is my daughter is living at home with her dad and I with 3 young childten has relapsed and continues to use under my roof or go and come home under influence. Have had to tell her to leave for the grandkids sake. Its too much for all of us.

7:26 am June 1st, 2018

I’ve got a son that is using substances and stealing ,selling my important things. He is 19 years old. I do not know what to do. I’m in East london ,EC province. I need help.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:18 am June 1st, 2018

Hi Bukiwe. You may stage an intervention for your son to help him see his substance abuse problems. I found this helpful website with directory listings near you:

11:08 am June 7th, 2018

My adult son just got out of jail,due to drug addiction..we are about to go out on a vacation trip to hawaii..should I leave him home alone with limitations or with relatives.. advise please!! So worry..dont know what to do..

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:34 am June 7th, 2018

Hi Dodanim. Talk with your son, and together choose what it’s best for him.

6:00 pm June 15th, 2018


Lydia @ Addiction Blog
11:43 am June 18th, 2018

Hi Charmette. Have you tried with staging an intervention with a professional? I suggest that you seek help from a certified interventionist who can help you stage an intervention for your son. Here are useful links where you can search for a certified intervention specialist:

4:54 am June 21st, 2018

my 30 year ld son is a drug addict and I want him out of my house now please help

5:19 pm July 24th, 2018

I have adopted my daughters twins at two months of age now the twins are twelve, three months shy of thirteen. Their mother whom is a heroine addict says she’s clean and wants to move back home. What suggestions can I give her for I can’t have her around the twins to see her in this condition. She has stole from one of the twins once before. She said we are the ines to save her putting a guilt trip on us. Please help.

3:56 pm September 15th, 2018

My son is drug abuse and don’t listen to me and he wants to go to college what am i supposed to do?

5:02 pm September 18th, 2018

Hi Mom. I suggest that you consult with an addiction interventionist and look into the CRAFT model for families and interventions. Also, the NGO called Allies in Recovery has some online reading you may find helpful help:

9:34 pm October 2nd, 2018

I evicted my 24 year old 3 years ago. Her boyfriend died a couple of months ago at 34 years old. You can’t save people.

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About Dominique Simon-Levine, PhD

Dominique Simon-Levine is a Ph.D. substance abuse researcher, who is in long-term recovery. She runs an award-winning program for families called Allies in Recovery. Founded in 2003, Allies in Recovery has helped hundreds of families to climb out of the abyss of addiction. Her work is featured on HBO and on