Rock bottom for parents of difficult children? Do we need to hit it?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by MidwestMom, Sep 2, 2014.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Something jolted me when I was posting. It appears to me (and correct me if I'm wrong) that just like our difficult children need to hit rock bottom to possibly change, we, as parents, need to hit rock bottom in our dealings with our difficult children to be able to practice detachment...indeed, to sometimes WANT to detach. There is an incident, something, that they do that makes us so done that we can finally detach and focus on our other loved ones without guilt. Or we just get so sick of wash/rinse/repeat with their bad choices that we lose our incentive to stay on the merry-go-round...thus we are then ready to detach.

    Just as some addicts never do quit, some enabling parents never quit either. Is it a disease to enable and is it a chronic disease if we keep doing it? Is it the disease of codependency? I firmly believe continuously engaging in our difficult child's abuse and bad behavior can kill us, just as their drugs can kill them.

    I'm not sure if anyone wants to discuss this, but I just felt like throwing my thoughts out there.
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  2. Hope_Floats

    Hope_Floats Member

    I just finished reading Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children by Allison Bottke (which I highly recommend, by the way) and in it she relates her "rock-bottom" moment. I can also personally relate with a moment as well that stands out in my mind as a turning "enough is enough" moment, when I gained a sudden clarity as to how much I was not only being used and manipulated but losing pieces of myself, bit by bit in the process and HARMING my child. It's one thing to be the martyr who would do anything to help a suffering child, but to give up your own life to the DETRIMENT of my child is crazy! Isn't it? Then to continue to do something that's crazy would appear to be maladaptive and a disorder of some kind. That's when I seriously went to work on my own codependency issues and started to examine my need to help, to be appreciated, to control someone else's behavior.

    It may indeed be an addiction of some kind, as I've noticed that even though the "Bank of Mom and Dad" has been closed for a year now, I still feel very anxious when difficult child starts bemoaning his financial stresses. Kind of like I guess a drug addict feels when in the presence of the drug. The nervousness of whether one will be able to abstain. I WANT it so much....I WANT to help. I have the money and I keep thinking that if only I took this stress away, he could get on his feet. If I took this stress away, it would help him recover from his depression faster. It's so hard to watch your child suffer and not help. But it's like an addicts brain lies to the addicted person saying "This will help....this will take away the pain...this will make it go away...this will make you happy." The codependent parent of an adult child has the same "brain lie" problem. It's a lie because the benefit is temporary, but then the pain/problem is worse.

    Excellent comparison, MidwestMom, and one I can easily relate to. I'm working on it. It won't help my child if we BOTH die.
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  3. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I do not like medicalizing relationships. We have a free will and our relationships to other people are two-way streets but also something we can make our own choices about. Just because one does make a choice A or B today, it will not lead to certain choice tomorrow. It is not some chronic disease, there you are only able to make choices A if you have a condition and only choices B if you do not have.

    At least I have never felt I need to for example help my kid financially with something, if I did help him with something else, nor do I feel that I can't help him with third thing, if I said no to second thing. Nor do I need some categorized subgroups that I have decided beforehand, like for example deciding that I will help out with medical expense but not with rent or food. Same goes to other things.

    Money has been a major thing with my kid and his addiction and I have had to make a lot of decisions in when and what to help with and when and what not with and I have never felt it would be difficult to make decisions one by one without any general rules.

    My son has issues. I do have some issues too, but they are my issues, not issues my son would had caused or that were dependent of him. I'm a mom of a person with mental illness and addiction issues, but I'm not mentally ill, an addict, nor co-dependent nor have I enabled my son to have those issues.

    To be honest, I don't really even understand the whole concept of enabling. Or I do, I can enable GPS on my phone when I want to use my Endomondo. Or I can provide my child a bus ticket so he is able to go to school every morning and thus enabling his education. But that doesn't mean neither tracking a distance I run or my easy child's school work would somehow be my doing. Endomondo is a neat little app and my son's success at school is totally his doing, not something I could or should take credit or blame from.

    EDIT: and yes I think and worry about both of my kids. And am happy for the good things. More so than about anyone else. But I also think and worry about my husband, our extended family members, my friends, my dogs and many other living creatures. I also think and worry about issues, like currently war between Russia and Ukraine. I just can't see, how thinking, caring or even worrying about something would be an illness. Nor I consider it a normal state of mind for human being not to think nor worry or enjoy things and people. I don't see our loved ones with issues be any different in this than our loved ones with less issues or different type of issues (I have never heard anyone telling that worrying about your mom who has a cancer is a disease, and you bet I had quite a few sleepless nights and was worried and sad, before and after my mom died.) Things happening to my loved ones or even the economy of my country do affect me. I would find it very weird, if they didn't.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014
  4. Childofmine

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

    This is absolutely true. I believe it is 100 percent the case. That is why it is so hard and we relapse over and over again in our enabling behaviors.

    We love them. We yearn for them. They are part of us. They are our CHILDREN. It is innate to take care of them. It is innate to want desperately for them to have good lives.

    Just like they yearn for and long for and physically desire their substances.

    Same exact thing.

    In Al-Anon, we know we have to be sick and tired for change to even begin. And then sick and tired has to manifest even more and more for us to start stopping. And even when we stop, we start again. We relapse. We just want it so much, for them to be safe and well.

    Little by little we let go of expectations, plans, dreams, hopes, "musts" for them. Must go to college. Must get a good job. Must be a contributing member of society. Must not take drugs or drink or smoke pot. Must not steal. Must not be homeless. Must not hang out with "bad" people.

    Things start to get simpler. We just want them to be safe. We just want them to be happy.

    We don't get it at all--their lives---but we want to accept it, for ourselves, because we are b_ts__t crazy if we can't or don't.

    Once I learned that my need to take care of him (i.e., control, manage, fix) was actually hurting him on a fundamental level---i.e., not allowing him to face the natural consequences of his own choices (that made sense to me), not allowing him to finally take responsibility and grown up (also made sense), that day was a huge wake-up call.

    I was miserable and nothing I was doing was "working" and beyond that: everything I was doing was actually hurting him.

    Wow. Huge. That was a turning point for me.

    And then once I started to turn the camera lens on myself, instead of him, I started to see how I had done that in all kinds of relationships. And there was/is a LOT Of work that needed to be done, right here in MY HOUSE. On me. Resulting in a full-time job, and no time for part-time jobs---working on the lives of other people. (what arrogance anyway, I mean really!).

    Yes MWM and Hope---we are as sick as they are. It's just not illegal.
  5. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Interesting question, MWM.

    I think: There is some genetic imperative at work in what happens between us and our children. Some of us see a young child crying for help, not an adult creating and responsible
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014
  6. Wendy23

    Wendy23 New Member

    Midwest Mom yes I totally agree. And just like our girlfriend's whose rock bottom's differ ours differ too! I have reached my rock bottom today.
  7. HeadlightsMom

    HeadlightsMom Well-Known Member

    MWM -- Fantastic insight and wording! Thanks for that written gift this morning!
  8. HeadlightsMom

    HeadlightsMom Well-Known Member

    MWM -- One other thought... You asked, "Is it....disease, enabling, chronic, codependent, etc...?" I tend to think one of the primary problems is becoming so "enmeshed" that we lose sight of what is theirs and what is ours. When we stay too close to it for too long (Hello? It's parenting......we're living with them for years!), it seems inevitable.'s my positive slant on it.... (as there usually is one, in my opinion)....

    Just as we chose to get "ENtangled" with them (we kept parenting), we can also choose to get "UNtangled". Not sure of how that fully looks upon completion, as I'm still UNtangling. :) But the UNtangling does feel good!

    Free Will...... I choose to practice my Free Will as positively as possible as I continue to learn.

    Thanks, again, MWM, for posting such a GREAT insight! Thinkin' 'bout tattooing it on my forehead as a reminder to keep UNtangling! LOL!
  9. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    MWM, this is very insightful. I definitely feel the addict's pull of wanting, no needing to help...the need to step in is a need to calm my OWN urges, even when I can see it is just getting back on the merry go round. That must be what it feels like for them when they have an urge to use, or skip work (Again) or steal (Again) or whatever impulses they can't control.

    Are they ill? Are we? I'm not sure I would describe it that way, but shining the light on the shared issue of impulse control and treading the same worn path is really interesting.

    Good thread!

  10. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    for his situation.

    I do that.

    I don't like detachment parenting. I wish it never had to happen to me. Echolette's description of what it feels like to let go of the rush of the fix, to let go of that opportunity to both save the day and prove again and again that we are the good guy's really hard to face what it is, what we're losing, without that.
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think some mothers come here wanting to get advice on how to fix their child and when we talk about detachment they are either so full of guilt at the thought or it is so alien to them (as it was to all of us at one time) that they are just not in that place yet and many leave, thinking we are totally selfish. Or maybe they will be that 80 year old enabling her 60 year old addictive son. Just as not all addicts get well, not all codependents get well either. I am convinced that some people don't want to quit using drugs and some people don't want to stop taking care of their adult children, even if it's not helpful for that adult child and even if that adult child is abusive, steals from them, abuses them, lies to them, ends up in jail over and over again and never tries. I guess that's why Al-Anon exists.

    Thanks for all of your kind comments about this sudden insight I had. It happened because I've noticed a few moms who come for help then leave quickly when we tell them they can't change their children, and that emotionally and financially detaching is a sane thing to do. I think parents also have to hit rock bottom before we are ready to let go and let God of our children. We have to realize that we can't help them get better by paying their bills and giving them a bed and enabling their lifestyle, but that often takes one big event that lets us see clearly.

    Many parents are not ready to hear it when they come here. Many also come back later on to say that they get it now. That's both a bright and very sad moment in our lives...that rock bottom hit and the lightbulb going on. It is a powerful time for all of us.
  12. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    That was me.

    But also for me was reaching a point where I realised that I was trying to control his life. Maybe it wasn't reaching a point, maybe it was a growing awareness.

    Trying to control his life was an exhausting, frustrating, impossible, crazy state-of-mind.

    Recognising that there was this crazy part of me was a very uncomfortable experience.

    This is slightly different from your take on things MWM, but maybe they're linked.
  13. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    Uh, headlights? don't do that!!

    Although sometimes I make a plan to tattoo something on my thumb, where I will see it many times a day...usually I want to write "he is not deaf" as a reminder that I keep saying the same thing over and over again, and the reason it isn't working is NOT because he is deaf, it is because he doesn't talking, Echo!

    But I haven't done it yet.

    I do have a very lovely tattoo on my wrist...a vine with all four of my children's names on it. And I have a less lovely one on my butt from a drunken night in Chicago about 30 years ago, when tattoos were rare and my butt was pretty....but enough about me!

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  14. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    You're on form tonight Echo!

    You've just missed the Edinburgh Festival, but you would have gone down a storm with some stand-up comedy routines.

    Thanks for changing my mood from deep, dark blue to merely pale blue this evening.
    Never underestimate the power of laughter.
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  15. HeadlightsMom

    HeadlightsMom Well-Known Member

    Echo -- HAHAAAA! You make me laugh and I love it! And I'm with should be on stage! Ba-dum-bum! (too soon for a bad double entendre?) :D

    Lucy -- FYI, we were in Edinburgh a few years ago (we reside in USA) and I just fell in love with it! One of our favorite places we've ever been!
  16. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    Yes Headlights, Edinburgh's fab. One of my favourite cities.
    Not a good place to be homeless though, my son was on the streets there for a while recently, I worried about him more than usual due to its terrible climate and even sent him some money to get the bus back to Wales (which I'd vowed I'd never do)! It's cold whatever the season :(
  17. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I started to read the responses then stopped so I can come at this fairly fresh.

    I do think we have to hit a certain point. husband hit his with Belle when , two days after major surgery, she went ballistic on him and ran off. He finally flat refused to bring her home. She was 16. But... Time went by and he softened (his little girl). So she came home and went back to her antics... Only she knew how to hide them a little better, and when she was supposed to be at work, was off drinking and drugging. I'd put up with her nastiness for a long time, though she had calmed some when Rose was around. But then... One morning... I was off work, and I went upstairs to take her to school, after she'd blown her curfew the night before, and she started screaming at me. We got in the car and I attempted to carry on a reasonable discussion with her, but when my attention was distracted enough by her screaming (and as you know I have good reason to be afraid when she goes off the deep end), I pulled over to the side of the FREEWAY.

    She got out, called me some names... I went home the long way, calling husband on the way and told him I was DONE.

    Things have been more peaceful since. Not perfect. But I think her behavior awoke the mama bear.