New to page - adult stepchild issues. HELP PLEASE

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by dianeg, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. dianeg

    dianeg New Member

    Never thought I would be posting on such a site.....My husband and I are both professionals and VERY respected in our community......How did this happen......
    I became a step mom to two kids last year. Been in their lives for 6-7 years. Very good (nonparent) relationship with both. Both were adopted, mental illness in both families of origin. Adoptive parents (my husband and his ex) were guilty of giving them EVERYTHING. But did provide a solid base, although too lenient in my opinion.
    When step daughter was 17, she shoplifted for first time (well, first time caught is probably more like it). Things have been escalating including DUI's, driving with-o license after revocation. Adoptive mom and dad bailed her out continuously. She then stole from mom, and still not 100% held accountable. Lots of minor stuff to date which has her on probation. Living in squalor with a lady with 4 children (lady is 24). Fortunately, my stepdtr has no kids (YET).
    She has babysat for other friends of ours for 5 years for their two children (ages 5 and 4). Friends are very wealthy and have been very good to our dtr on a variety of levels (financially, including her on family outings, being good sound boards when she needs to talk, never giving up on her, etc.). Found out last night that she has been STEALING FROM THEM and from their CHILDREN (piggy banks). Long story, but caught red handed.
    What do we do??? She is almost 21, lives on her own, is not speaking to us about this, we are MORTIFIED.
    Advise on handling an out of control (almost) 21 year old???
    She dropped out of college (that we were funding), sold her car (that we purchased for her) and is now working part time at McDonalds. Seriously......Any advice??? I am heartsick.
  2. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Well, if she's not living with you, and she is over 18? I don't know what you can do, except let her suffer the consequences of her actions. I hope the people involved will press charges for the thefts. I understand how embarrassing this is for you, since her victims are your friends. But this is not a reflection on you ... she is an independent adult and is solely responsible for her own actions. You can't change her behavior, you can only change your reactions to her behavior.. and refuse to support her when she's doing these things. Do not buy her another car, do not give her any money. Let her figure it out.

    Do you think there may be a drug issue? Stealing is often related to that, I'm sorry to say.
  3. dianeg

    dianeg New Member

    She is almost 21, so I realize that I cannot do much. I do believe there are MANY AOD issues. I do not believe other drugs. I do believe mental health issues as birth mom is bipolar (and has many of the same tendencies) and bio brother is institutionalized. My husband and his ex did not know any of this upon adoption at 3 months. Mom also had no neo-natal care.
    To say this is embarrassing is an understatement. We are repaying our friends (against their wishes) - and the police will not allow them to press charges as the evidence is not concrete (nanny camera caught her).
    Seriously.....what can you do other than watch her implode???
  4. elizabrary

    elizabrary Member

    Yes, I can't give you any better advice than Crazy has given. There is a point where you have to let it go and focus on you, which is easier said than done, but we all work on it on here- detachment is the term. I too believe she is probably abusing drugs and she will not stop until she is ready. Let her know you will support her recovery in any way possible, but you will not support her current lifestyle choices. You must cut off all financial support- this includes paying cell phone bills, etc. Don't give her any cash as it will go to whatever her substance of choice is. The best thing you can do is learn about detaching, which basically means focusing on yourself and your life and allowing her to live as chooses since she is a grown up. When you detach you do not do things for another grown up that they should be doing for themselves. And, yes, you can still love her and not support her choices or allow her to manipulate you. The busier you can keep yourself the better you will feel. I'm sorry you're going through this, as I am in a similar situation, except my daughter has a 2-year-old, which makes it really hard. You found a great place for advice and support.

    I also forgot to mention that you will learn to develop a thick skin about your daughter's issues. Keep this in mind: they are her issues, not yours nor any reflection on your parenting. A wise person on this board once told me this is not my fault unless I purposely neglected, abused or otherwise tried to inflict a bad life upon my daughter. Of course none of us here did those things, or we wouldn't even be here. But you have to learn there are a few people in your life who will listen and not judge you and there are a lot of people who want to hear your tales of her trouble for the shock value. Once you figure out who's who you can just focus on those who are your true friends. I have learned to give some pretty honest answers when people ask me about Kat and those who were just looking for the shock factor are stunned when I put it out there bluntly. It gives me a little laugh inside when they don't know how to reply.
  5. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Accepting that you did not cause her behaviors is paramount. Most of us have learned a bit of humility due to having difficult child's when none of us ever expected to live a life that includes addictions, the justice system etc. I'm not saying it is easy to accept the things you can not change, changing the things you can and learning to accept the is NOT easy. The Serenity Prayer (originating with AA, I believe) is extremely important to many of us. I'm sorry that your family is in this postiion but very glad that you found this wonderful site. Welcome. Sorry you had to find us but glad you located us. Hugs DDD
  6. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Unfortunately, this is what you need to do. She is unlikely to change her behavior, until she has no choice because the consequences become overwhelming; when she "hits bottom" as they say. Your job is to not support her in the bad choices, and to not do things to keep her from that downward spiral. It needs to happen. If people keep bailing her out, what reason does she have to change? None.

    As Eliza said, that is much easier said than done. That's what we're here for, to support each other as we deal with our own feelings about watching our kids make these horrible choices for themselves. Many of us also are involved in support groups such as Al-Anon or Families Anonymous, or with therapists who are experienced at dealing with families of mentally ill adults. Your local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter may be of help to you as well.

    As we often say here, we're glad you found us, but sorry you had to.
  7. Signorina

    Signorina Guest

    Welcome to our little corner of the web- we've all been in your shoes. I hate to say it, but the shock will wear off and the flutters in your stomach will become a dull ache that you can ignore once in a while or get used to feeling. I found this board in a crisis fueled google frenzy because I needed ANSWERS. I haven't really found any answers but I have found a lot of support. You can lean on us.

    You can't do anything to change her behavior. Trying to do so will be futile and aggravating...BUT you can change how you let it affect you. I wouldn't be so certain that it isn't drug related (been there-SURPRISE-yikes!) but the reason for the behavior doesn't really matter.

    A few things I've read that have helped me navigate my new reality:

    It is possible to be a devoted and conscientious parent and still have it go badly. You can do everything right and your child can still grow up and not want to have the kind of relationship with you that you always hoped you’d have. You can do everything right, and your child may still end up with a drug problem that costs you thousands of dollars and endless heartache. You can do everything right and your child may still choose the kind of friends or partners that you never imagined she would have chosen because these people seem so lost and are dragging your child into losing more. You can do everything right and your child can still fail to launch a successful adulthood despite being gifted and talented or possessing an IQ that most people would kill for. ---
    Dr. Joshua Coleman San Francisco, Oakland Psychologist & Couple's Counselor | Dr. Joshua Coleman

    Allison Bottke's "ten commandments" could help you break that negative pattern. (the ones in bold are the ones I need to remember)

    1. You shall take care of your own spiritual, mental, physical, emotional and financial health.
    2. You shall remember to express love and attention to your spouse and other family members and friends in addition to your troubled adult child.
    3. You shall not accept excuses.
    4. You shall understand that a clear definition of right and wrong is imperative for a disciplined society. There is no room for gray. Don't make excuses for what you believe.
    5. You shall make fact-based judgments without excuse, and feel okay doing so.
    6. You shall uphold standards of behavior that protect your morals, values and integrity.
    7. You shall give your adult child unconditional love and support without meddling and without money.
    8. You shall listen to music and read books that will focus your mind on your HP.
    9. You shall celebrate life and love as often as possible, even in times of trouble.
    10. You shall consistently practice the six steps to SANITY:
    S = Stop enabling, stop blaming yourself, and stop the flow of money
    A = Assemble a support group
    N = Nip excuses in the bud
    I = Implement boundaries
    T = Trust your instincts
    Y = Yield everything to God.
    Adapted from Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child Study Guide. Copyright © 2008 by Allison Bottke
    In the mean time, take the steps to secure your own home and assets and warn your friends and family whose homes may be open to her visits (and pilfering). I know the idea of doing that is gut wrenching - but you will feel better after you do it - and you may be surprised at what your friends and family tell you in return. People will be supportive.

  8. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Welcome to the board.

    First step, and it's rather large, stop taking her behavior onto yourselves. She's an adult, she makes her own choices. Her adult behavior has nothing to do with you as the parents, has little to do with how she was raised, especially if you strongly suspect mental illness may be involved.

    You might want to discuss with the family she was stealing from on pressing charges on her instead of paying them back. (I understand the desire to pay them back) As that would do your stepdaughter far more good than cleaning up after her.

    As much as you may not want to go there, the stealing is a red flag for drug use. It's not uncommon for people to attempt to self medicate with street drugs. Does that mean that is what she's doing? Who knows? But it's a good idea to keep your minds open to it so you can pick up the signs if they start appearing.

    You've landed in a wonderful place, and we truly do "get it".

    You've gotten some wonderful advice above. I can't think of much to add to it.

  9. dianeg

    dianeg New Member

    Just got home from work and I am bawling as I read these responses. Seriously - I think God absolutely made me type in ADULT CHILD STEALING to my search engine. I honestly did not believe that anyone else out there was in this position. So many of you hit the feelings I/we are having on the head. And oh, does this cause strife between me and hubby (as he is not quite at the "let her hit rock bottom" stage....YET).
    The police will not allow our friends to press charges, as the film is grainy and the amount was fairly small.
    I am still not convinced she is using street drugs, but do know she is completely into alcohol. And does not matter. She is abusing.
    Finally, THANK YOU for validating my feelings of guilt, shame and responsibility. I think back to when she got her first tattoo at 18. I thought that was the end of the world as "we do not do things like that in our house". Holy cats, I did NOT know what the next three years would bring. A simple tattoo is such a small thing right now.....I wish that was my biggest worry!
    So last question. My family (remember, I am step mom) knows very little. They have seen a few charges in the paper (DWI, driving with no license), but really do not know the full deal. If she comes to my family's Christmas, they will see everything (as she is just wild and abusive at times). Disinvite her? Tell my parents upfront what to expect (they are in their 80s and do not drink/swear). So many questions.
    Happy holidays. And thank you for your support!
    It is so good to have people who understand.......
  10. elizabrary

    elizabrary Member

    I have been very up front with-my family, which was difficult at first. I don't tell them every gory detail- it would just cause everyone to worry- but they all know she is unstable. My parents have been very good about not blaming me (which has actually improved my relationship with them- go figure!) and asking me whenever they want to do something for Kat if it is a good idea. They have the monetary means to help her and have paid for things, but they always send the money to me and I pay it for what it is actually supposed to be used for, like my granddaughter's childcare. Also, if she just doesn't show up for a holiday or if she acts like an idiot everyone knows what to expect and we are on the same page with how to deal with her. Fortunately she is usually on her best behavior around other people, so that doesn't come up. I have also been very up front with her dad, and he and I did not have the best relationship, but now we sort of have this common bond, so that has been somewhat helpful.

    As for the tattoos, hahahahaha- you've got nothing on me, lady. Kat called me when she was 18 and at the tattoo parlor getting inked by one of my former students. She asked me to come down and watch. Four more tattoos have been added over the years, with two gigantic ones on her chest. The only way you can't see them is if she wears a turtleneck, which I don't think she owns. I don't mind tattoos and have one on my back, but I think they should be someplace where they can be covered and TASTEFUL (if that word actually applies to any tattoos) which hers are not. But really, in the scheme of things, it could be worse- at least she didn't have her face tatted! :whew:
  11. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Hi, I have no advice, but wanted you to know I care.... And I think many of us feel that we were lead to this board.... so glad you joined us!
  12. Kathy813

    Kathy813 Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hi and welcome to the CD board!

    My difficult child is now 26 and we have been dealing with issues like yours since she was 16. My difficult child is currently in a halfway house after a 30 day stay in rehab. She, too, was stealing from us and it turned out to be drug and alcohol related. She also has mental health issues and we blamed her behavior on that for a very long time. However, I think the substance abuse was a much bigger factor than we realized.

    If your difficult child is living on her own I would just let things be. She is an adult and is responsible for her actions. When I first came here years ago someone told me about the three C's - - you didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it.

    My difficult child finally agreed to rehab after she stole from us for a second time in just a few months to buy alcohol and we kicked her out. She had nowhere to go and was basically forced into going into rehab. She came out admitting that she was an addict and is currently living in a halfway house (again because we refused to help her in any way unless she went).

    I don't know if your difficult child has a substance abuse problem but don't rule it out just yet. In the meantime, you have truly found a place where people understand what you are going through and provide a soft place to land.

  13. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Hi and Welcome from another mom who has been there, is there!! I think all of us here really understand what you are going through. It is so hard and so heartbreaking.... and getting past the feelings of guilt of what did I do wrong and also the embarrassment is difficult but a huge important step.

    I too really wonder about her drug use. As you said she is already abusing alcohol, chances are she is doing other stuff too... may not be street drugs... may be pot or pills... but substance problem is there it sounds like.

    If you can possibly find a parents alanon group that could be very helpful... especially if hubby will go with you. We found an absolutely wonderful group here and it has helped me immensely... just being around people who understand helps... and the readings help. Getting the point of the 3 Cs... you didn't cause it, you can't cure it, and you can't control it. All of those things are true... especially when we are talking about a chlld who is now legally an adult.

    At this point it is about you, taking care of yourself. Holding your head up high..... be proud of who you are, what you have accomplished in life.... the fact that your dtr is making bad decisions and doing self destructive things is not your fault and really (no matter what anyone says) is no reflection on you (or your husband or his exwife).

    It is a hard step to get to the point of not enabling her... not surprising you are getting there first...everyone has to get there in their own way I think but support along the way can help.

    As far as the holidays I think you should do what feels the best to you and your family. I think I wouldn't have her come with no warning to your parents about how she might behave.... either prepare them or don't have her come. I see nothing wrong with disiniviting her as you and hubby deserve to have a nice holiday.

    I am one of these people who tend to pretty open about things, kind of wear my heart on my sleeve. So people in m life know what we have gone through with my son. I just find it easier that way. I have been embarrassed in the past but I am over that now. He is making hs own choices and people who know us know we have done everything possible to try and help him and now it really is up to him..... I won't go into detail here as there are plenty of threads which tell my story. One thing I have found is many many people have a family member who deals with these types of issues.... mental illness or drug/alchol addiction etc. It is much more common that you think... people often dont talk about it, but when you do they will also open up.

    And yeah some people it makes them really uncomfortable to hear.... and they will walk away... so let them.

  14. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Has she had any treatments, medications, therapy etc. in the past? Like most others here I would assume that if alcohol is into play drugs are involved too. I'm just curious, with her biological history, if she has been responsive to any interventions in the past. Hugs. DDD
  15. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome to the club no one wants to belong to. My son also did the whole stealing thing from us and other people. I am shocked that they wouldnt arrest her with it being on a nanny cam. Keep doing what you are doing, dont take this own as your fault. You didnt steal. I would explain to your family as best you can what is going on. In fact, I might not invite her to any major family gatherings if there is a chance she would show out.

    Things have gotten much better in my world but it came after a ton of work.
  16. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi. Guess I'm reading this late, but wanted to agree with what the others have said...there is nothing you can do.

    As an adoptive mom, I also know that kids who are adopted older, with mental health issues in their background as well as poor prenatal care (sometimes including drinking and drug use during pregnancy) these kids probably would have been this way even if your hub and his ex had been strict. There are likely some attachment issues and then your hub divorced and THIS family broke apart...and they are probably even more vulnerable than kids who did not suffer losses. Not that there are no biological parents here. Far from it. We have all kinds.

    When an adult child is abusing alcohol and drugs (and the stealing part screams at me that it is also drugs), there is absolutely nothing you can do except detach and offer to help if the child wants treatment. That was what we had to do with our daughter. We also attended Al-Anon and Narc-Anon meetings...they are both pretty much the same. The real time advice in my opinion is very soothing.

    I know it's frustrating and wish I had more hopeful advice, but it's pretty much up to the adult child if she wants to change. We run out of legal options when they turn eighteen unfortunately.
  17. PatriotsGirl

    PatriotsGirl Guest

    Wanted to add my welcome, too! Sorry you had to find us, but this site is a Godsend for warrior parents. :)

    I'm so glad I read this thread - I really needed to hear some of those words myself tonight. I agree with everyone, of course. Letting your child hit bottom, I believe, is one of the hardest things to do as a parent. It is our natural instinct to protect. Your husband needs to know that the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do. The more we save our children from bottom, the longer it takes for them to get there - and they have to get there. Do you think you could print out the posts or have your husband read the site? This site is how I learned to cope! :)