Wow. I did not think about law enforcement. Does he have any interest in this? Actually, he sounds sensitive and kind. Maybe that's the wrong idea. Cancel that. Or being a merchant marine? (I had a friend who was an operating engineer on huge ships. He make a fortune of money. He worked just several months a year, if that, and the rest of the time was his own. He had very strong interests that kept him busy all of the time. He was an investor in depressed stocks. So in the several months he worked, he had things to occupy his time. And went all over the world. I used to go to the union hall with him. I like the idea of National Guard, and Coast Guard, and there is the Merchant Marine Academy. My dad was a merchant marine for a time, too, on big passenger liners. He loved it. But he was not an officer.) Your son seems like a person who wants to fit into a larger whole (which is a good thing) not a lone ranger, individualist type. He's searching for meaning and belonging. These are good things. Well. I know how this is, working in prisons. Finally, I quit and became an independent contractor, to avoid that sense of being owned. The thing is this: Until we own ourselves, we're owned. And how do we own ourselves? Through surrender. Through prayer, meditation, study, exercise, discipline, creativity, devotion, order. I struggle with this too. Either I am a very slow learner or it's life long. I don't know. It's hard to convey this to somebody else, especially our kids. It's like we have to fall into a huge vat of molasses, and lose touch with everything (like those of us here on this site) and then little by little find our way blind. How do you explain that to somebody else? Especially somebody you love and fear for? The paradox for your son is it sounds like on one level he wants to belong to something larger than himself. But to not be a cog in a wheel. And keep his autonomy and self-determination. It's a tough one to finesse. To be a part of something meaningful and purposeful, yet his own man. I wonder if he knows this about himself. But life has taught me that I have to fight my way to this place. It doesn't just show up. Your son sounds like a great guy. The more I think about it, the more I think he is on the right track. But this is really, really a struggle for us. To watch them flounder and suffer. And to live with our hearts in vices. I am in the same place. There's nothing really to do. You are in a conversation with your son, and he listens, and tries. And he's in a conversation with himself. How many people really are? Especially at his age. He is to be admired. I see a lot of good in this. In him and his process. Like you, the drinking makes me anxious. I drank too when I was very young. I thought it was fun and an adventure. Stupid me. And then when I found purpose, I stopped. Where you are should have a merchant marine academy nearby. I will check. Military to Mariner | MARAD There is not a merchant marine academy near Alabama. The main ones are in NY and CA and there are about five other colleges throughout the country that have programs. The link above talks about different routes to become a merchant marine officer via the National Guard, etc.. It's not just on ships, it's in ports, too. I always wanted to ship out.