Feeling hopeless for my adult homeless son

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Caybre, Apr 2, 2015.

  1. Caybre

    Caybre New Member

    My son is 27 years old. I have always said I would never give up hope, but I think I am coming to realize that I can't give him hope, he has to find it. I have spent years trying to "help" him. I live in Florida and recently sent him to Texas to yet another program. He lasts for about 4 days to a week, and then leaves any program I have sent him to. He has been in and out of jail and just got out of prison a few months ago. I live with guilt trying to do the tough love thing. I feel like it's my fault that he's messed up. He has bipolar disorder and drug addiction. He tells me he wants to live on the street and I just need to understand. Problem is that his "homelessness" costs me big money. He begs me for money and there's always a story behind it. I feel like I am out of control with trying to save him. I have put over $6k on my credit cards since November and that doesn't include all the cash I have spent on him. I need to stop before I lose everything, including my marriage. I love my son and my heart hurts to no end. I feel so unbelievably alone and hopeless. I wish I knew how to handle this, but I don't. I want him to be able to tell me what will make him better but I don't think he even knows at this point. 27 years old and he has never worked. He sponges off of me and any one he can get to help him. If he doesn't get help, he takes it. Which is why he went to prison. I pray for him and for my sanity. He is driving me nuts! I love my son and always will but I just need to get off this crazy ride he has me on. I don't feel like things will ever get better. Not sure what to do any more.
  2. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member


    Your story is very similar to what I went through with my son. Starting around 14 getting into trouble, drinking, smoking pot, in and out of jail, then prison. My husband and I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on counselors, paying rent, buying a car, clothes, cell phone, etc.......... We spent years trying to "help" him. I had to come to the realization that my son really didn't want help, he just wanted someone to take care of him while he partied and continued to live an irresponsible life. I realized that all I was doing was enabling him and making things easy for him and hard on me.

    Our adult children make their own choices and there is nothing we can do except let them live their life and we live ours. The only way to do that is to detach. The biggest thing you need to understand is this is not your fault, you did not "do" this to him. It was his choices that let him to where he is.
    Again, he is counting you feeling guilty so you will give in and rescue him.

    If this is what he is choosing then you need to accept it. It doesn't mean you have to like it but with acceptance comes the freedom of letting go.

    It's time to close the purse and tell him NO. Since he's in Texas and you are in Florida how is contacting you so he can beg? You should limit your contact with him. It is important to set boundaries.

    This is no excuse for him to not take responsibility for his life. There are people on this site that are bi-polar and they manage their lives, it's the choice they make.

    You have answered your own question here, yes, you need to stop!!

    Are you getting and counseling for yourself? I would suggest that you do. A good therapist can help you to learn and navigate how to set boundaries. Also, how to help you understand that you have nothing to feel guilty about.

    I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. I'm glad you found this site. You will learn from these pages as there are years of experience and wisdom. We are warriors, we are survivors, we live our lives and we thrive. You too will one day claim that. I have been where you are, the feeling of hopelessness, the guilt, the desperation, the confusion, the exhaustion, all of it. I am proof that you can get through this. It's time to start detaching and take your life back. It's ok to that, really it is.

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  3. in a daze

    in a daze Well-Known Member

    I am so sorry you are going through this. My kid is a year younger than yours.

    I would get yourself a therapist. I have one and she's been invaluable to me in helping me set boundaries and helping me understand why he acts the way he does and how to respond. Also, support groups like Alanon and Families Anonymous are so helpful and comforting because those parents are or have been where you are. And of course, this message board. The parents who post here have had, and have, adult children on the streets and have much experience with this terribly sad and unfortunate situation and can be a great source of support, strength and compassion for you. I hope you keep coming back and posting as things with your son develop.

    And please, please stop giving him money. There are social services and shelters and food pantries for people like him. The money doesn't help, it hurts and prolongs the dysfunctional agony. Read some books on enabling, like CoDependent No More. Read the post on detachment which is the first sticky post on top.

    I wish you the very best.
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  4. Annie2007

    Annie2007 Member

    Everything you mentioned I have been living with for many years. My son is 33, homeless many miles away. I am learning to detach and have cut him off financially. I worry day and night. The only time I am at peace is when I know he is in jail. He has the same problems, bipolar and addictions. He thinks I am the worst mother in the world. Pathetic life he lives, but I have learned I can't fix it. God bless you. I know you pain all too well.
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  5. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    This is very common. They don't want to take responsibility for their own lives so they blame us and when we stop enabling them, well then we are the worst parents ever.
    Good for you that you have learned that you can fix his problems.
  6. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    He is 27.
    He is bi-polar - and probably not medications compliant.
    He is an addict.

    Not a good combination - but at his age, HE has to figure out where he wants to go and how to get there. If he can even really address the first step, there might be things you can do to help. Right now? Sounds like he doesn't WANT help - he wants to be supported in doing exactly what he is doing now. You are not required to support his unhealthy choices.
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  7. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    My son is 28.
    He chose homelessness, currently lives in a squat, but is under threat of imminent eviction and will be homeless again.
    I really feel for you and rememember well all those feelings of panic and confusion and sadness that I had over his life choices.
    But it's a lifestyle that he's chosen, just like your son. There are lots of young people who have made those same choices. My son can't live in a house and can't fit in with any society norms. He's out of his tree in more ways than one.
    I know it's impossible for us to imagine choosing this lifesyle or enjoying this lifestyle or surviving on the streets. But they do. They have their own community and support network.

    You need to find your own suport network and, immediately, stop giving him any money. Now. You need to accept your son's life choices and stop thinking that the world will end if you stop financing it. You need to accept his choices, tell him that you have faith that he will manage and that you have confidence in him. Tell him that you love him and that, although you find it very hard to see him living like this, you respect the fact that he is an adult and has made these choices and you know that he'll sort it out.

    I know this is hard to hear and I know that it goes against all our mothering instincts to step in and rescue them. But you are doing him no good by funding him and you will become more and more resentful and it will ruin any relationship you have with him.

    I accept my son's life and meet him regularly. We use humour often as a way of dealing with the lifestyle gulf between us. I do not provide any financial support of any kind, apart from taking him warm socks and pastries whenever I visit. I don't know where he will go when he is inevitably evicted, but he definitely won't live in a house and won't have a normal life by my standards... and that's fine.
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  8. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Caybre, this path you are on with your son is unhealthy for both of you. The only one who is going to stop it is you, he is getting a free ride so he will not stop it. You must. You may want to read the article on detachment at the bottom of my post here. It sounds as if you are no longer helping your son, you are enabling him. You are doing things for him he should be doing for himself. He is a grown man. Even with bi-polar and addiction he is making the choices that keep him stuck where he is. You cannot save him. You didn't cause this. You can't fix it. You can't control it. All you can do is learn how to respond differently and usually that takes us getting professional support to do that.

    Detachment is a difficult path and most of us need help to do it. I would strongly suggest you contact NAMI. They have excellent courses for parents, you will get help, guidance and information. You can access them online. It may also be prudent for you to get yourself in to a 12 step program, like Narc Anon or Families Anonymous or find a private therapist who can help you face the guilt and the sorrow that this brings to us. We all feel guilty about having to detach from our kids, but there comes a time where there isn't any more we can do, it is up to your son to change. Guilt will keep you stuck helping him and he will use it to manipulate you to continue paying for his lifestyle and his choices.

    Letting go does not mean you do not love him. Of course you love him, but at 27 he is a grown man capable of making his own choices.......letting go means you love yourself enough to take care of you and allow him to take care of himself. You've parented him and given him tools to live, he is choosing not to use those tools, but to use you instead. This is unhealthy.

    Now is the time to begin to take the focus you've had on your son and place it on to yourself. It is time to separate his needs from your needs, your needs are the priority for you, his needs are the priority for him. Letting go is tough, it is not a natural feeling when our kids are troubled, but enabling your son will only keep this situation going indefinitely and it is not hard to hear in your tone that you are at the end of your rope. Usually that is when WE change and WE begin the process of detachment. When we are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    Boundaries are what needs to happen now. Saying no. Refraining from responding to all of his requests, which as you mentioned are relentless. Tell him you know he can figure it out and begin to step back. It will feel pretty bad at first and he will likely up the ante calling you every name in the book and threatening and crying and acting out in every possible way........it will all be to get you back to helping him. You will likely need help to get through that part. It's not easy to say NO, when we've been saying yes for many years. We feel awful doing it, but it is necessary to break this cycle and to begin to get YOUR life back.

    I am sorry you are going through this. Your story is much like all of ours. Keep posting, get yourself support as soon as you can, begin the process of detaching and take very good care of YOU now. Do kind and nurturing things for YOU. You are depleted and exhausted from giving and giving and giving......it is time to give to yourself.
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  9. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    C---you have received wonderful advice from many loving and caring people here on this site.

    There is the What to do...and then there is the How to do it.

    Slowly. This is not a fast turnaround change---we know that. Start thinking about one thing you can do differently right now when it comes to him. Write it down and write down your ideas about what you will say, any possible exceptions and a timeline.

    It doesn't have to be all nailed down and perfect. Believe me, he will come up with a reaction you haven't thought of. That is why writing it down is vital. When you get rattled and confused...go back to what you wrote and go by that...not your current emotions.

    If he throws you a big curve ball, and you don't know what to say or do, say I don't know. I'll have to think about it and let you know in a day or two.

    I promise you that almost nothing is an emergency.

    Go slow and give yourself a lot of time and space and grace and mercy. If you decide to do something and then you can't or don't do it, well okay, you can do better next time. It's okay. It really is.

    Hang in there and stay in touch. We are here for you and we care.
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  10. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    This is a good place to begin to see what is happening to you and your child from a different perspective.

    So here goes, then.


    We are their mothers. We loved and kept them safe when they were little. It was after they were away from our care that they began making self-destructive choices.

    We could not stop them.

    That is a very different perspective than believing we are responsible, or that we are at fault somehow, for the actions they took or the choices they made once they were away from our protection.


    I felt as you do for the longest time. I lived in this desperate place where nothing mattered but how to help my kids and recover our family. Things did not begin to change for our children until my husband and I stopped helping. I think what happens when we help too much is that the kids develop an unhealthy dependence on us. For the physical stuff, but more important to the kids' own development and maturity, for things like moral strength and the capacity to make good choices.

    They learn to trust us, and to distrust themselves.

    But the awful thing is that until they can step up and learn to believe in and trust their own judgment, they cannot develop the strength it takes to beat an addiction, or to function in spite of a mental illness.

    He is young and strong. He can turn this around.

    He will need to learn to rely on and believe in himself before he can do that.

    It is good to come to the place you are at, today. You are willing to try something different, and that is good. I think what you are really saying here is that you don't know what else to do to help him. But you do know that what you've been doing hasn't worked.

    Expect his behaviors to escalate when you begin to say "NO".

    It helped me very much to research what services were available for the homeless in the area where my daughter went homeless. If you research this online, if you make phone calls to hear the voices of those willing to help those in your son's position, you will feel stronger and better able to say "NO MONEY".

    And saying "NO MONEY" is a really important first step to helping your child regain his integrity.

    He is a man.

    He cannot see himself as a man if his mom is arbiter of his life. For his own sake, your son needs to take responsibility for himself.

    Once I could see my children from this perspective, I was better able to say no and live with myself. It is a very hard thing, to say no. It continues to be hard. There will be people in your child's life who will give him money after you have refused, and that will feel really bad. But I have been at this for a long time, and I think it is best for the kids if we stop helping.

    It's really hard, though.

  11. Carri

    Carri Active Member

    As hard as it is, I also have gotten to a place where I [act] like I accept my 30 year old sons life style of couch surfing, living in hotels and cars, anywhere he can find; allowing him to continue his lifestyle of heroin addiction. Of course I want him to seek recovery (again) but I realize that might not happen. I also realize he's playing Russian Roulette with his life each time he shoots up and that I may not see him again, so I'm willing to have him over for meals, let him wash his clothes and maybe even take a shower, when I'm home. He knows he can't come over when I'm not there. I TRY not to give him advise, or interrogate him, but let him know I love him by just being his mom. He doesn't stick around long, which is fine with me...it's stressful seeing him dirty, thin and nodding off. But at least I won't have regrets if something bad happens I look forward to him getting arrested so he goes back to jail and I can have some peace. Crazy huh? Who would have thought things would have turned out this way? Obviously we're all loving, caring parents or we wouldn't be here sharing such similar stories. Hang in there and be gentle on yourself.

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  12. HeadlightsMom

    HeadlightsMom Well-Known Member

    Caybre -- It will never work for you to be living both YOUR life AND HIS. You are very strong. It has nothing to do with that. The reality is that it's just not physically possible for ONE person to live TWO lives. You have your life and he has his.

    Please understand that I'm pretty darned certain most all of us have tried varying degrees of the same things you have. This is valid that you tried what you could. But there is nothing more. If it could work, we ALL would gladly do it. But it cannot work.

    ONE person cannot live TWO lives. He has his life and you have yours.

    We understand (believe me, we do). We care about your health and happiness, too! As much as his health and happiness matters to those who love him, your health and happiness matters to those who love you.

    It's a painful step, but a necessary one. Give it a try. Let go. You may be surprised how much both your son and you may learn in the process.

    And let me just validate your feelings one more time.......... It's a HARD thing to do! But it is the reality.

    Boundaries don't limit love. Boundaries only limit pain.

    We're all cheering you on!
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  13. Annie2007

    Annie2007 Member

    Same old thing going on with my son. Still homeless and broke, but has managed to leave Hawaii, somehow got to Tx, then Phoenix and now Ca. Do people still hop trains? All in a month. Have no clue. Everyday is full of angry, hurtful and delusional conversations. I usually don't answer when he calls. Says he is tired of sleeping on the streets, but just wants "assistance" from family. He still thinks the government, wi fi and internet are watching him and I think that is why he stays nowhere long. This situation seems to be getting worse everyday and rock bottom does not seem to be happening with him. Not sure how much more I can take.
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    If he actually feels he is being watched by the government, wi-fi, TV waves are talking to him, etc. those are classic symptoms of schizophrenia. That is not being different or rebellious...that is having the most severe mental illness that exists, untreated. Has he ever mentioned voices telling him things or seeing things that aren't there?

    Even if he has a severe mental illness, you can only do so much. He has to get help. However, if my adult child had symptoms of schizophrenia, I would throw away the "you can do it yourself" rule and try to get him home and into a hospital. Medication and close outpatient therapy after the person is stablized is the only thing that helps schizophrenia or schizopaffective disorders. These are not drug addict symptoms. These are symptoms of somebody who may not know reality from fantasy. Yes, they can be mean, but it is because they feel you are against them, maybe poisining them with your vibes, etc.They also often use drugs to try to self-medicate, which does not help the issue at all. And, of course, if they 100% refuse to get help or to come home and let you take them for help, you can not legally force them to do so. Dumb law, in my opinion.

    Are you sure he is not the way he is due to severe mental illness? I put that in a different category from those who deliberately fry their brains on drugs. In my opinion, they need a different sort of handling, no matter how old they are. I would help a 50 year old who was walking around the street, talking to herself. I'd probably call the police and tell them somebody seems to be lost and possibly sick and would not report them as criminal in any way. These are the homeless we hear about who are mentally ill without the right treatment, the 1/3 of those on the street who are not that aware of what they are doing, who may be paranoid and believe everyone is in a plot to get them because they have superior knowledge or powers. They are the sick menally ill, on the streets because we have shut down our hospitals that are supposed to help them get well (I'm not sure all of them did help, but at least they had a bed and meals and maybe electroshock therapy). So sad. I hurt for you and for him.
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  15. Annie2007

    Annie2007 Member

    He has been diagnosed with bipolar with psychotic tendencies. He has been in numerous hospitals and rehabs. Problem is they always put him on medication and release him within a week. It is a cycle. He will not take the medications as he prefers to self medicate. I have had to call the police several times and have him removed as he gets violent. I am scared of him as he attacked his stepfather who has had a traumatic brain injury. He can't live here. The mental health system is broken. I have even had a judge commit him to a facility. We took him, paid a lot of money. Within 4 hours they kicked him out at midnight with a bus ticket. And yes, he has heard voices. He does not want medical help as he says there is nothing wrong with him. He just wants a free place to stay and someone else's money. Very hopeless feeling for me.
  16. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Annie...then there is nothing more you can do except hope that one day he is taken to a place that realizes he needs to live in a group home. Of course, our legal system won't make him stay there, even if he is psychotic and doesn't know how to help himself or he thinks his medication is poison so he stops it. Or he forgets. Mental illness that includes psychosis can affect your memory. The system is failing your son, not you. You can not be in danger and he is not going to let you help him.

    I feel the most sorry, I think, for those whose adult children are mentally ill and thrown to the dogs. Often, they do not believe or know they are ill, I know. I would try going to The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill so you can understand him and why you can't help him and meet other parents in the same boat. You could make some new friends and feel lighter in yourself because you truly have done all you can do.

    I saw a very sad program on MSNBC's Lock Up, which is on every weekend at night. It shows prison life. One show was all about how prisons have become the new psychiatric hospitals and it showed a floor of mentally ill prisoners and how the rather compassionate people there tried to help them. But, after all, they are deemed prisoners and are still treated like prsioners. Still, they had medication, meals, and a place to sleep and could talk to somebody if they needed to.

    We are in very sad shape if our prisons are our psychiatric hospitals. I feel terrible for both you and your son, but do not blame yourself for a societal problem that you can't change and do please go for support or therapy so that you can cope better and still live a good life, even though your son is struggling.
  17. Annie2007

    Annie2007 Member

    There is no NAMI in our area. Just like there are no support groups for caretakers of brain injury patients. I am still considering going to alanon meetings. I know that would help me.
  18. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I liked Al-Anon a lot.
  19. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Caybre. Your story with your son could be my own. I am a new member, too. I will read your posts and the replies and get back to you.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2015
  20. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Caybre, you need to make things better for yourself, first. How can destroying yourself, help your son? I am doing the same thing with my son. He said to me today: "You are sick in bed when you don't know where I am...but when I am here you cannot tolerate being around me. You are the problem." Great. He is right. My self-destructing and acting as if I am the problem only deflects responsibility from him. And it is killing me. Why don't we start taking care of ourselves? I will if you do.