New here: Adult son steals, plus more...

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by SadAndStressed4TooLong, Jan 16, 2015.

  1. Hi everyone:

    I'm glad that I found this forum, but so sorry that so many of us are each dealing with such heart-breaking situations. :(

    I'll try to be as brief as possible with the background:

    Me: 53, diagnosed with PTSD, Social Anxiety, etc ALL after and due to difficult child (son age 26) suicide attempts in 2008 and 2009, plus subsequent issues. I also have rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, IBS, etc. I have been unable to work for the past year, and was approved for SSDI as of 5 months ago.

    husband: 51, he is my children's step father. No kids of his own; basically has treated my sons as his own. He works as a global electronic engineering manager. Works M-F, 9-5, makes decent money. He has paid for the boys' college tuition and books, they both lived at home and commuted.

    difficult child Son, 26: Was born an extremely happy and content baby, and was the same way until he started to get bullied in school when we moved to a new state when he was starting 4th grade (age 9). Looking back, he started smoking pot and drinking in high school. This child, now a man, has never been a typical discipline problem. Has never, even to this date, thrown a tantrum, yelled, been destructive physically except to himself. He's soft-spoken and polite. He was deemed "disabled" as of 2008 but we didn't know that he should apply for disability until 2010. He was approved immediately, and has been on SSDI (social security disability insurance). He qualified for this because of his age; he had earned enough work credits to qualify because he worked from age 16 - 20.
    Dropped out of college twice; basically never went to class.
    He is not a disruption at home until things are missing (jewelry, small electronics, cash from his brothers room, etc).
    He has no self discipline; he will eat food all night long, even food he shouldn't be touching. It's as if he has no sense of consequence when he's in the moment.
    He usually will confess, and says he doesn't know why he continues when he knows he will be found out.

    easy child Son, 23: Excelled in school, had good group of friends all through school, extremely motivated. Graduated from University in 2013 and immediately found a paid internship in his field. Now a year and a half later, he is still with that company, having been given 2 promotions already. He is well liked and well respected by his friends and co-workers.
    All of his life experiences have helped him become the person he is now; when he was young he was diagnosed with Asperger's but it has never been an obstacle that he couldn't overcome. Since age 5 he has pushed himself beyond his comfort level, a tiny step at a time. We are very proud of him.
    He has a slight superiority complex.

    Sorry, I tried to keep that brief. I failed.

    There is so much more to our story, but the reason I am writing tonight is because an acquaintance of difficult child came to the house today claiming that difficult child stole some personal property the other day when they were out somewhere. difficult child has never been arrested or in trouble with the law. He has stolen my jewelry and other items of value to sell for drugs (he is not currently addicted to hard drugs but smokes pot). We are home together all the time; he is stealing to fund his pot purchases and to fund his hobby which is playing the card game "Magic The Gathering".

    I guess I'm not asking for advice, just upset that he is still stealing. Is this a conduct disorder of some sort? He is seeing a new therapist since the one that we both had been seeing died last spring. We both miss that man dearly. He helped my son overcome his feelings and actions of attempted suicide. In 2009 he nearly succeeded and was in ICU for several days.

    Ugh..this is really long. That's it for now. Thank you, if you read this far.
  2. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    SadandStressed, I'm so sorry you have to be here. What has your son been diagnosed with that led to the disability finding? If he gets a check, I don't understand the stealing to pay for pot and Magic. I know Magic can be an expensive game...but if you are supporting him, what else is he spending on?

    I wish I had words of wisdom, but others here will be of more help. The best thing I can tell you is you are not alone.
  3. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome Sadandstressed. I'm sorry you are going through this with your son. Having a troubled adult child, especially one who is stealing from you and apparently from others is a devastating experience for us parents. It's difficult to wrap our brains around that behavior and the possible consequences. It's also hard to set boundaries around that behavior.

    If you are not in a supportive environment, I would strongly encourage you to find one. A couple of suggestions are NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which has chapters in most major cities and they offer parents excellent courses to help us with our kids who suffer from mental issues. 12 step groups like Al Anon, Families Anonymous and/or private therapy and parent groups, anywhere you feel comfortable which will offer you support,guidance, information, empathy, understanding and place to go to vent. This path is very difficult for us parents, it's wrought with many mine fields which blow up often and drag us around wrecking havoc, chaos and drama.

    You may want to read the article on detachment at the bottom of my post here.

    Since your son is living in your home, you have every right to be able to feel safe enough that he will not steal from you. That behavior is unacceptable. There are many parents here who would press charges and allow their child to suffer the consequences. I am not advocating that, however, I am suggesting that setting boundaries around this kind of behavior is necessary for YOU. Your son should have strict lines around him in your home which prevent him from stealing. His poor choices should have consequences. He should be held accountable for the behavior of stealing from someone outside the family as well, even if that is that he admits it and comes clean and faces the person himself to try to make amends.

    Whether he has a conduct disorder, or mental illness, stealing is against the law, having a disorder does not condone the behavior. Unless he is psychotic or so mentally challenged as to not know right from wrong, he is responsible for his behavior. If he is on disability, lives at your home and is funding his pot and gaming habit by stealing, then something has to change. I can understand how scary it is to have a suicidal adult child, and given his recent loss of this therapist, I can imagine you are walking on eggshells not knowing how to respond. That's understandable. Yet, he has to face the reality that his behavior is not acceptable and that there are consequences. Stealing is a serious issue.

    From my perspective (and I am not in your shoes), it sounds as if you need support to make the changes necessary to make reasonable guidelines and boundaries so that your son can learn that it is not okay to steal from anybody and for you to develop a different response to his behavior. Often that requires professional support for us parents, we have trouble seeing our kids clearly and defining what boundaries and consequences are and how to enforce them.

    We can offer support and understanding because many of us have been in your shoes, however, in the final analysis, you have to live with the choices you make. Keep posting, it helps. Get yourself support. I'm glad you're here............
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  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I'm also interested in what he was diagnosed with. Is he on the autism spectrum?

    I'm not sure there is anything you can do. My son is bright, but he is on the spectrum and we have guardianship over him. He is a very good kid, everyone loves him, but he lacks any impulse control when he wants something. He has stolen from us so we locked up our money. It was never large amounts and that made him HAVE to control his impulses. He lives alone now. He has never stolen anything from anyone else and has his own money now and disability plus a part time job. We still have guardianship over his money, but make sure he ha enough from his own funds.

    If we didn't have guardianship, he would spend his entire disability and paycheck as soon as he got it, due to his still impaired impulse control. If your son is remorseful, like mine was, and angry at himself for what he does, he may need your help controlling his impulses. It is unusual for anyone to get SSDI the first time so something must be different about your son. Perhaps you can get legal guardianship. My son likes us having it...and he is maturing. Aside from the money part, he probably won't need a guardian much longer. Just a payee for his money.
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  5. Childofmine

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

    Welcome to the board. We do understand, as many of our stories have very similar elements to your story.

    My son, when he was using drugs, stole from us, from the neighbors, from his employer, from his "friends," from acquaintances, from Wal-Mart...anywhere and everywhere, and lied about all of it.

    I would find the evidence, and show it to him, and he would still lie.

    Lying and stealing come with addiction, as I am sure you know. They both hold hands with addiction.

    Once I learned that the craving for drugs originates in the same place in the brain that the craving for oxygen does, that was illuminating to me. It becomes the most important thing in an addict's life, and that person isn't thinking about anything or anybody else.

    Whatever he has to do.

    That didn't excuse any of his behavior---because people are always 100 percent responsible for what they do (unless they are psychotic and out of touch with reality), but it did help me to not take it so personally.

    Once my son started stealing from me---when he lived here---I had to kick him out. I'll never forget the day my now-husband and I went to Home Depot and bought additional locks for all of the doors. One day soon after that, my son tried to get in when I wasn't here---wonder how many times he did that?----and found out he couldn't get it, he was furious. It was almost funny.

    He hasn't lived here since, and it has taken multiple times of him being homeless, and in jail and on and on, before today has come, and it finally looks as if he is trying to change. I say that slowly and without certainty because I know that anything can happen. There are no guarantees.

    I had to completely let go of him, and stop "helping" and even create a lot of physical distance between us for a period of time.

    It took time and a lot of tears, deep grief, changing on my part, Al-Anon, hard work, etc. etc.

    I am sorry you are living in this nightmare and I so understand. I have a easy child son as well, he is a wonderful young man, who has made many good decisions about his own life. The contrast is remarkable.

    Warm hugs. Keep coming back. We get it. We care.
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    COM, I must have missed the update on YOUR son. I'm so GLAD he is working and has his own place. That can only be a good thing!!!!!!

    Kudos to you for sticking it out with him until he grew some common sense. So many can not stand strong. I could be way wrong here, but I'm convinced the only way to make our criminally inclined adult children to start behaving is to stand strong and not pity them, at least out loud.

    Kudos also to Al-Anon...I know you go there. So did I.
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  7. Hi:

    He's not on the spectrum at all. When he was 16 and had his first real job he was very responsible. He owned his own car, paid for his own car insurance and gas, and always showed up at work when he was scheduled.

    It was during his last year or so of high school, and then even more when he started college (he lived at home and commuted to a state college). We found out that he wasn't even going to classes. He'd leave the house in the morning and then return after we'd left for work. It wasn't until his report cards were mailed here that we found out about it. This is when he started drinking heavily, smoking pot, and I don't know what else.

    He did all of those things out of our house; I had no clue. When he came home he was never drunk or inebriated or anything. He did become very sullen and defensive and just didn't seem happy. He was not, and never has been combative or abusive or anything like that, even to this day.

    After his first suicide attempt he saw a therapist for "major depressive disorder" which was accurate, but only the tip of the iceberg of what his problems were/are.

    Sept 2008-June 2009 was rough; he had a girl friend who was a major enabler and also did drugs and drinking with her. In Dec 2008 he moved in with his girlfriend and her mother. He moved because it was the one and only time that my son spoke to me disrespectfully. He wasn't going to his out-patient program and when I asked him what he was going to do about all of his issues, he replied "I'm going to sit on my :censored2: until I die". I told him "You will not be doing that in front of me; don't come home until you get your act together". This was over the phone.

    So......he called me crying in June (2009) and asked me if he could come over to the house and if I could take him to the emergency room because he felt like harming himself. I told him yes that I would do that.

    He was in the hospital in the mental health ward for less than a week. They discharged him with a long list of medications and told him that his former therapist did not want to see him anymore, and that he should find someone new. They gave him a list of therapists to call.

    For the next month he was moved back in with us (he broke up for good with his girlfriend while he was in the hospital). I thought it was crazy all of the medications they gave him to take, and no one to oversee them.

    Less than a month later, completely out of the blue (he seemed "normal" during this time period) I came home on a Friday afternoon from work and found him almost dead from an overdose. He had broken in to husband's locked office where we kept our prescription drugs, and took every one of them. I called 911 and followed the ambulance to the hospital. They brought us (my husband met me there) to the "little room" and I almost lost it, thinking this is where they tell people the worst news. :(

    Oh geez this is getting too long. I will continue later or tomorrow ok? :(

    I do want to say that I am his Rep Payee; he doesn't have direct access to his money, or he'd spend it on food, Magic cards, friends, pot. Food would be junk food; Dominos pizza, etc even though he eats his 3 meals here with us. He gets money for pot by selling off his "good" Magic cards that he wins when he plays at the game store and Magic tournaments.

    He has also stolen from us and sold/pawned the items for money which I assume he spent on all of the above. When pressed, he fully confesses to having stolen the items. I don't usually realize right away when things are missing.

    He also "steals" food in the middle of the night; he eats food in the house that either isn't his or is being saved for another meal, or finishes off the ice cream or cake, etc. He has stopped stealing food for the most part but that was after many times.

    He seems to lack impulse control, and thought of consequences. Like I said, he admits it when asked, and says he doesn't know why he does something when he knows he will just get in trouble for it.
  8. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Your posts aren't too long, sadandstressed, post away as long as you want to keep writing. I felt sad for you and for your son too in reading your post. He doesn't exhibit the obnoxious behaviors of many of our kids, but that stealing thing, that has to stop. Have you tried calling NAMI, they can help you and help your son not only cope with what is going on, but also to find ways to thrive. It sounds to me like you both need an advocate, a guide, someone to help you find solutions, set boundaries, find ways to impact your son in a way that introduces change for him. Maybe the new therapist can help you.

    I hope you are receiving support for yourself as well. In my opinion, that is essential. Support for you will lessen the pain and smooth out the path and shorten the suffering. Hang in there.