Setting aside partisanship, politics, and whatever one might think about all the layers and controversial issues surrounding it, the recently released audio of President Biden’s 2018 voicemail to his son, Hunter, may likely elicit knowing and empathetic emotions in many parents.

“It’s Dad,” the message begins, the future president sounding either dejected, downcast, tired, or emotional – or maybe all of the above.

“I called to tell you I love you. I love you more than the whole world, pal. You gotta get some help. I don’t know what to do. I know you don’t either. I’m here, no matter what you need. No matter what you need, I love you.”

Hunter Biden is 52 years old, and the second son of the 46th president. He’s a lawyer by training and has worked as a lobbyist and held various roles in finance. His substance abuse problems and corresponding challenges have made headline news for years.

In this voicemail, the future President Biden is being direct but also trying to relay love for his son. What father would not want to express such sentiment?

It would be impossible to overstate the heaviness that many parents experience and navigate when it comes to dealing with adult children suffering similar addictions. In fact, here at Focus on the Family, we receive calls from these mothers and fathers each day – many of them exasperated and exhausted. All of them are brokenhearted. Like Mr. Biden, many of them are unsure what to do.

What is it like to care, nurture, raise and release your beloved child to the world – only to have them get hooked on dangerous and destructive drugs or other deadly behaviors? Mothers and fathers endure a unique type of pain and anguish when this happens. And tragically, with an escalating opioid crisis in America, it’s becoming increasingly common.

Some parents blame themselves. “I could have done more. I should have spent more time with them. I saw the warning signs and ignored them.”

Other parents may be inclined to completely detach and distance themselves, maybe even ignore the elephant in the room.

Focus on the Family’s counselors recommend a balanced approach:

As soon as you can, share your concerns with your son or daughter openly, honestly, and humbly. But remember that you have issues and problems of your own – it’s not your place to “fix” them.

  • Cast a vision for them by focusing on their good qualities. Help them see that God has a better plan for their life. Say something like, “You may see yourself as unloved, unappreciated, or unable to cope with life without drugs. But I love you, appreciate you, and see your life in an entirely different light. I believe that you will seek help someday.”
  • Encourage them to face their addiction and find professional treatment.Get involved in the therapeutic process together as a family. Call Focus on the Family’s counseling staff to get started. They’d be happy to give you referrals to helpful programs or a list of qualified therapists in your area who specialize in treating drug addiction.

What if they won’t listen?

If they won’t willingly get help, an intervention strategy might be necessary. Professional intervention can be expensive, but you can organize something informal by asking friends and family for help.

  1. Limit the group to three to five individuals. (Any more than that might overwhelm your son.) You also may want to involve a professional counselor or the pastor of your church.
  2. Gather everyone together at a time when your child doesn’t suspect what you’re up to. (The element of surprise is crucial to the success of an intervention. If they knows it’s coming, he or she might not show up – or they’ll have time to prepare a defense.)
  3. Once you’re all in the room and the door is shut, go around the circle and have each person say something positive and supportive about them. Then give everyone a chance to describe their observations of their behavior and express their concerns about the addiction.
  4. Recommend concrete and specific treatment at a hospital or detox treatment center. Then press them to make a decision on the spot. Do not let him put the decision off until the next day. (In the event he consents, it would be good to have a car ready to take him to the treatment facility right away.)

Remember that the detox process is going to be long and difficult. When you’re dealing with opioids, it usually takes at least 13 days to purge the drug from the patient’s system and at least another week’s stay in the hospital to deal with related after-effects.

Pain and addiction have a way of leveling the playing field. It’s no respecter of position or paycheck. As we have for the last 45 years, Focus on the Family stands ready to help any mom or dad seeking similar assistance or support.