Need a Little Advice from Those Who Have been there done that

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by Petunia, Sep 24, 2013.

  1. Petunia

    Petunia New Member

    OK, guys. I think I need some advice. I haven't posted much, but I lurk often and always draw strength and resolve from others here who seem to be writing my own story. Quick background: difficult child began smoking weed at 14, quickly moved on to harder drugs. We tried doctors, rehab, therapy. Eventually we turned to law enforcement after multiple drug/paraphernalia finds, stealing money from us, etc. difficult child was in juvie for 9 months, which included 90 days of intensive drug rehab - much better than anything we could afford on the outside, actually. Got his GED, was accepted to community college, was a totally different kid. He came home and all was well for about 6 weeks, then small behavior changes began, eventually an arrest for shoplifting. Served 30 days (in adult jail, but a juvenile charge). During this time, difficult child turned 18. He was asked to follow 3 simple rules to remain in our house: 1. NO drugs in our house. Ever. 2. You must work, go to school (community college) or both, you can't lay around the house all day. 3. You must respect our family and our property (no disrespectful cursing/tirades, no holes in the walls or doors ripped off the hinges). He felt these rules were excessive, so we told him to pack his things and leave..and he did. He couch surfed, wore out his welcome everywhere, and eventually wound up on the streets in the dead of winter. He called, begging for help, telling us he would change, had learned his lesson, etc. He had gotten a job and was going every day. Hoping for the best, we agreed to help him, but decided he was not going to live in our house (we have a younger son and difficult child makes life very, very difficult to put it mildly). So we found a very cheap nice apartment near our home, paid the deposit, told him he had to pay half of the weekly rent for the first month or so, then 3/4 of the rent, eventually working up to paying it all himself. This would allow him to get settled and allow him to get used to paying his own rent, working full time, etc. We assisted with food, laundry, toiletries, furnishings, etc. This arrangement worked well for (you guessed it) about 6 weeks. Then he was arrested for public intoxication. We didn't bail him out and he spent a few days in jail. He lost his job and we told him we'd help with the rent for a few more weeks until he got another job and could pick back up (we realize relapse is part of the picture and hoped he'd made a mistake and would turn around). He refused to go back to therapy or NA, and his behavior merely spiraled out of control. He refused to look for work, was using heavily (including heroin), and soon became a suspect in many thefts about our town. He really only spoke to us when he wanted something, which is pretty standard (that's OK, just giving some background). We stopped paying the rent and he was evicted, became homeless again. I know there are those of you here who know what that's like and how hard it is. I would provide food and a shower, but no cash ever.
    Here's where I need advice: He has now been charged with (among other things) destruction of public property - a well-known structure in our town. The destruction was featured in an article on the front page of the local paper a few months back. He was questioned initially, but now the investigation has concluded and he has been charged (along with a couple of juveniles, but he was an adult at the time). The front page of the paper yesterday was a story about difficult child and the destruction he caused and how he was the mastermind, etc. Many people in our community know us because of our jobs in town. My question: What should I say in response to people? What should easy child say in response to people? How do you properly handle publicity? Here are some of the things we've gotten so far: "I'm so sorry you are going through this. What is wrong with difficult child?" or "I wish I knew how to help you. Clearly you need help" or my personal favorite, "Why did difficult child do that?" The first person that stopped me (on my way to my car to head to work), jumped out of her vehicle, ran to me crying, and threw her arms around me saying "I'm so sorry for you. What a terrible, terrible thing he has done. What are you going to do?" My response? "Gosh, this certainly isn't the worst thing that we've been through, it just made the front page of the paper." She backed up 3 steps, blinked rapidly, and got in her car and sped away. I guess that was the wrong response? I do not aspire for public attention and I don't do emotions in public very well either. Have any of you been in a position where your difficult child's actions made news headlines? I want people to know I care, but that I'm not responsible for his actions. I also want easy child to be able to respond to people who make careless comments to him (such as, "hey, do you know who did that destruction? My mom read it in the paper, it was your brother!") Furthermore, why does this even bother me so much?! Why am I expending energy worrying about this? Guilt? Shame? Maybe what I need advice on his how to detach myself to the point that I don't actually feel responsible in some way for his choices and actions? I went and withdrew a bunch of cash so that I won't have to use my debit card in town and have people see my last name! That's ridiculous! I know you all will be able to read this and know what it is I'm feeling and what I'm trying to say and what I really need to be worrying about/working on here!! ARGHH! Help!
    By the way, he has called several times from jail (I accepted once) and he was in tears, begging us to bail him out. We won't. He's facing a number of felony charges and probably looking at serving real time. He is also threatening suicide if we don't bail him out, which I let the police know so they can put him on watch. Of course he also promised to go right into rehab directly from jail, promised anything if only we'd just bail him out (I don't believe these promises. Burnt too many times). I'm not taking his calls now. Is that wrong? It breaks my heart, it really does. But if we bail him out, we can't have him live here and I'm afraid he'd have no reason not to hurt himself to avoid going back and he'd just be homeless again (and all the stuff that goes along with that on our end, sleepless worry-filled nights, and all that). Thanks in advance, guys.
  2. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    Gentle hugs......I am not sure there is a proper response. I would probably remain silent.
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have never had it that bad so I can't imagine your mommy pain, but do understand that he is an adult and his choice to use drugs, including heroin, were not your fault unless you held him down and injected it into his arm. In jail he will hopefully not have the ability to get as many drugs as he can on the outside. maybe he can even get help. Could turn out not being a bad thing as heroin is hard to kick if you have access to it.

    You are expending energy over this because, in spite of everything, you love your son. You are sad that he made such terrible choices in his life. You wish things were different, like all of us. But you did all you could have done and it didn't work. It's his turn now.

    As for other people, my response would be, "I really would rather not talk about it" and leave it at that. Anyone who prods you after that is just looking for a morbid fascination fix. Hold your head up. You did nothing wrong. easy child is younger and it may be harder for him, but it would probably help if he said something sort of in the same category. It is embarassing, I'm sure, but I read somewhere that people are very ADHD these days. Today's news fades fast and then the next big story hits and the drama junkies move on. You don't owe anybody anything.

    Hugs and wishing you a better day, one where you take good care of YOURSELF because you are worth it and you deserve a good life in spite of your son's bad choices.
  4. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Petunia, there will likely be others along who are more knowledgeable about these issues then I am, however I just wanted you to know I read your post. I can certainly understand the impact this has had on you and why you would feel the way you do. Although I agree that on some higher plane of existence this kind of stuff shouldn't bother us, what others think and say.............. but of course, it does..............I think our own guilt or shame or belief we have some responsibility for our difficult child's actions makes this a lot worse...........

    Perhaps the article on detachment at the bottom of my post will offer you some useful information.

    It sounds to me as if you've done all the appropriate and caring things for your son and now it is necessary to let go and allow him to suffer the natural consequences of his actions. Not so easy for us parents to do, I completely get that having my own difficult child.

    I live in a small town where my daughter went to school and many people know us. When I am confronted with questions about difficult child I have a standard line I say and then I drop it. I say, "yes, my daughter is still struggling." And then, "oh gee, look at the time, I have to run." End of story. In my head I repeat the line, "what they think of me is none of my business." Like many things about living in difficult child land, it's all a practice as we learn the ropes of detachment. Sigh.

    The good thing is that stories fade quickly as the next hot topic emerges, so this intensity will go away in a bit.

    If your son has to spend time in jail, as many of us can attest, you will likely feel better, you know where he is, he is safe and warm and eating.

    This is a tough road, I'm glad you're here with us warrior parents...........keep posting, it helps. Find some support system for yourself and your family, difficult child's do harm to us with their antics and we need a lot of support too. Wishing you peace of mind.
  5. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member


    I have been there, in the way. Circumstances were little different, my son's misdeeds were against specific individuals and also against core values of the organization there it happened and also value's of the whole concept of the team sports. In fact most consider breaking that team honour code more serious than criminality of the acts themselves. Still, even though fans of the team this happened in etc. claim my son to be a rat bas**rd, scumbag and traitor of the worst order, they can hardly claim personal violation. Also our publicity laws prevented any mainstream media publishing my son's name, but that only helps him later in life, when people will not so easily find information of this if they google his name. They were giving enough identifying details that everyone knew about it anyway. And there is still awfully lot of innuendo. But we were again lucky it did reach the media only half a year after it happened and difficult child was in the much better position when that happened. Still, ending up in the front page of country's biggest tabloid due to your misdeeds is huge. And also I, husband and our younger son have gotten our share of the shame.

    First thing I want to say is, that time helps. People do forget, and even if not, they move on. After the first blow, those same people don't bother you with it that long. With new people it may come up depending on how violated people feel or how juicy gossip it makes. And if it comes again later (for example when court takes place) the second blow of public reaction is usually milder.

    I have tried several different approaches to people coming to talk about it with me. It mostly depends about how I see motives of that person. I haven been everything to haughty to sorry and from sharing parts of the struggle it is to almost not acknowledging the whole thing and ignoring all the attempts to take conversation to that direction. One thing I decided early; I haven't done anything wrong and I will not be bawling my eyes out and begging for forgiveness in public.

    My tactics vary from simply looking a person from head to toe, flicking an eyebrow and turning away to actually discussing difficult child's issues and how he is currently doing in sincere way. Mostly somewhere between those two. My staples are "Yeah, it is very unfortunate. difficult child does have some issues and is very sorry for what he did. He is fortunately doing better now." and "yes, it was such a shock to us too. difficult child can't really explain it himself, but he is now in better path and I really hope this taught him a huge lesson." But as I said, we were fortunate it didn't become public right after it happened and we could actually say difficult child was doing better already, when it came public.

    We are now almost three years from actual deed and two years from it coming public, so few people ask or comment bluntly any more, it is more heavy innuendo etc. and that I try to ignore and avert.

    It is more difficult for my easy child. He moves in same sport circles as difficult child and people do use it against him. Mostly to rile him up. He and his team mates get questions and comments shouted from the stands and from opposing players to be careful if easy child is like his brother, during the arguments there are comments about things running in the family etc. easy child has adopted an attitude that he is not his brother and WTF it is their business anyway.

    I think that over the time we all have become bit colder towards people bringing it up. The first comments could had been about actual concern, for now it is just juicy gossip or even deliberate slander for most people still bringing it up.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2013
  6. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Hi Petunia,
    Mortification and unwanted notoriety is often a side effect of parenting a difficult child. My own difficult child is well known to the police in my small town, and difficult child has (had) a terrible reputation around here, which, rightly or wrongly, reflected on us as a family. It's the ripple effect of living with my son, anyway.
    I am by nature, a very conservative, law abiding, quiet person who has respect for people and property, as well as my country. When my son was in the throes of his drug use, he would rail publicly against our country, against me and his father, against society, against law enforcement, to any boob who would listen. He broke into an abandoned house in town, he was caught with drugs and alcohol, he was in constant trouble at school. I have other relatives who live in this town, and in the town next to us, and their kids are all PCs, very smart and accomplished. I would want to just dig a hole and jump in it when difficult child would "do his thing." Maybe I shouldn't have taken it personally, but jeez, I'm his mother, and it does reflect badly on me, so while my in-laws would rightfully bask in the afterglow of their kids being A students, or getting scholarships or volunteerism awards, I'd just want to disappear. Petunia, people must have had mercy on me, because one look at my prematurely aged, careworn face, and I think they understood I was going through my own private he** and they backed off. I didn't feel their condemnation as much as my own condemnation for myself. One of my sisters in law is the nosiest, most cluelessly intrusive individual I've ever met, and she never takes a hint, and always attempts to pry into our business - not because she cares, but because she wants to make sure her kids are doing so much better than mine. I usually avoid her calls. As far as my daughter was concerned, she just let it roll off her back. She would agree that her brother was an idiot and she offered no defense!
  7. Petunia

    Petunia New Member

    Oh my gosh, thank you all so much for your words of encouragement and wisdom! It helps so much to have some non-judgmental, good, solid, understanding responses!! Normally I feel better when difficult child is in jail because I know where he is, that he has food and a bed and clothes to wear and he's not out drugging and stealing and destroying. But for some reason this time I'm all keyed up. I feel restless inside and am fighting the urge to run to the rescue. I'm in a wash-rinse-repeat cycle of saying "I won't do it. It's not my fault. The natural consequences must follow", repeating the Serenity Prayer, as well as not projecting in to the future what-ifs. You know how it goes.
    I am happy to report that aside from a few morbid curiosity seekers, the response to us has been mostly positive. Notes and calls of encouragement from others who have made the news in town or have SA issues in their family have been sent to me and easy child has only had a few comments to deal with, which he seems to be handling well (he's 13 but an old soul). easy child is quite concerned for his brother's well-being and stresses out when we have a crisis - which is all too often. I'm kind of basing my response on who the person is that is talking, just like SuZir suggested. Our friends and families have been very supportive through it all, which is immensely helpful as well. It's just that they can't understand because they haven't really lived it. But the members here on this board can. You know? husband and I were both brought up in homes that can only be described as pretty normal. Our close friends haven't had difficult children (or if they did, they were so mild as to be laughable) and our siblings are raising herds of PCs as well. I know I need a real-life support group of some sort. I had tried before to find a local *-anon group or NAMI, but it appears the closest ones actually in operation are about 50 miles away. Which is terrible, because we have a serious, serious need in our community for such things. At one point I had reached a tolerable level of detachment and was doing quite well, but I think I've let myself somehow slip back into Control Freak Mode (I had even gotten my eye to stop twitching and the ringing in my ear to go away, but they're back now). Anyway, I shall continue on in my search of real-life support groups and combined with this virtual support, I think I will survive. Next on the list is to thrive, rather than just surviving. Looking at what many of you have come through, I know it is possible.
    Thank you to each and every one of you that took the time to respond to me in such a gentle way. It helps more than you can know. :D
  8. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Don't for a minute believe they all have all PCs either. You do not know what goes on behind closed doors. And they may have not made the peper yet, but rest genes are working throughout!
  9. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    "Mortification and unwanted notoriety is often a side effect of parenting a difficult child." AMEN!!! CJ phrased it perfectly!

    I would likely say that we each make mistakes and are responsible for them and hopefully we learn from them. If pushed to comment more, or to comment on how you feel by someone who seems to want to slurp up the drama, I would probably say that it is easy to poke and prod at those who know the person who messed up, but it isn't a question that has any point other than to create conflama. (Conflama = conflict + drama, awesome word from Iyanla VanZant years ago.) That seems to end that topic of conversation for most people.

    Other possible responses are "Thank you for your concern.", "It was a bad choice of difficult child's, wasn't it?", and "Why do you asK?" The latter is one I reserve for those who asking for the sole reason of making you uncomfortable. For may people the shock that you have the stones to stand up for yourself and to openly question their motives is like walking into a wall. You have to look around to see where you are going to go and you don't always like what you see. I love a teachable moment.

  10. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Reading your post triggered "damp eyes"...even though I am "detached", LOL! In our community juveniles were for many years listed in the local newspaper when they were arrested for pot or whatever. MOST people didn't say a "you know whattin" word. Others sought me out, I think, for the "details". Almost every parent told their teen to stay away from our easy child/difficult child who had ironically been featured in the newspaper as a gifted student who made awesome history in our City for sports achievement. It's been over ten years and your post moved me. So much for advanced detachment!

    My response?? Usually, I simply said "thank you so much for caring". Sometimes I said "We've raised a couple of teen boys already and understand that weird things happen during adolescence...thanks for caring!" I understand your pain. Many of us understand your pain. I hope he get's his act together soon and that you are able to study the Detachment concept AND take comfort in The Serenity Prayer. Hugs DDD
  11. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have no idea if anything about my son made the papers because I dont read them unless I absolutely have to. My feeling was it was his problem to deal with anyone who asked questions. We have run into people who knew my boys from when they were very young and they always ask how they are. We have stock answers: Oh B is doing pretty well and works retail now, J has done pretty well two and now works for the sheriff's dept in VA after his stint in the Marines, and well C, he is still C, but he has given us some wonderful grandchildren to enjoy.

    Most people sort of laugh when we say C is still C. I have found so many people have a difficult child in the closet somewhere. Those that dont wouldnt understand if I stood on my head to apologize for him.