Focus on the Family by Jim Daly

No Quick Fixes When Dealing With Teen Son's Alcohol Dependency

Q: Our teenage son has a drinking problem; in fact, at this point I'd call him a full-blown alcoholic. His behavior is impacting everyone in the family and tearing our household apart. Help!

Jim: You're not alone. Unfortunately, substance abuse can affect even close-knit families with strong values. Our staff counselors have several recommendations in this case.

First, denying or ignoring the problem will likely just make things worse, so you've made a good start by asking for help. Second, don't allow yourself to become burdened by false guilt -- most parents assume extensive self-blame when an addiction surfaces in their home. Third, don't look for or expect quick-fix solutions. There will be no complete healing until your son learns to accept responsibility for his actions. This could be a long process requiring a great deal of patience and perseverance on your part.

We strongly recommend that you seek professional counseling as a family. The most successful treatment programs involve intensive evaluation with therapy in an environment of community and accountability. Our Counseling Department can provide referrals to helpful programs and qualified therapists in your area; call 800-232-6459.

If the situation continues to escalate, options might include an inpatient detox treatment center, a halfway house, a boot-camp program or youth home, or staying with a relative or friend for a defined period of time under strict rules. More extreme possibilities may need to be considered, such as making your son a ward of the court or even turning him over to the police if criminal activity is involved. He has to face the consequences of his behavior before he will be motivated to change.

Q: Hey, Bob, I'm curious: When you compare today's media environment to what you experienced as a teenager/young adult, what's been the most impactful change?

Bob Waliszewski, Director, Plugged In: Without question, the most impactful change has been how easily young boys (and girls) can access pornography. When I was a teen, porn was available primarily in magazines and XXX bookstores. Nowadays, of course, pornography is just a click away.

A Tru Research study of over 2,000 teens, ages 13 to 17, found that a third admit to intentionally accessing nude or pornographic content online; 71 percent of them said they had done something to hide what they do online from their parents (this includes clearing browser history, deleting inappropriate videos and lying about behavior).

Another comprehensive survey by Josh McDowell Ministry found that more than one quarter (27 percent) of young adults ages 25 to 30 first viewed pornography before puberty ( Plus, we've all heard the stories of middle and high school students sexting risque/nude photos of themselves or others -- becoming not just consumers, but providers.

Is all this simply an innocent rite of passage? Not hardly! The research is pretty clear that porn use is wreaking havoc in the bedroom (not spicing it up), increasing depression as well as anxiety, stress and social problems.

So, what is the answer? Short of writing a thesis on the subject, let me just say that the first step, as difficult as it may seem, is for parents to pre-emptively sit their young person down for a chat on the subject. Ask if they've accessed porn intentionally. Accidently? What about their friends? Discuss what it means to live a porn-free life (including saying no to inappropriate movies/TV). Be sure your young person knows he/she can be honest without fear of reprisal, and that you'll be there to help no matter what.

If you need help along this line, you can talk to one of Focus on the Family's licensed counselors at 800-232-6459.

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at or at


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