The difficulties of detachment

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by toughlovin, Apr 8, 2012.

  1. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Oh gosh I think I am doing so well and then it gets really hard. I got a text from my difficult child today.... he has found a homeless shelter about 20 miles away but he has no way to get there!!! I am not sure what I could have done but boy oh boy did I (and still do) want to somehow solve this for him!!! I didn't and just made suggestions about what he could do and then of course since I didnt jump in and do something he stopped texting me!!!

    We did think of calling hubbys parents who do not live far from where he is... our thought was they could pick him up and drive him if he called them. Now he does not like them all that much and that itself would be a stretch for him. And we would make it very very clear to them that they should not bring him back to their place. They really don't want to do that! However we don't want to say anything to him about that possibility until we talk to them and we were not able to reach them today. Of course it is Easter and they are probably visiting family.

    So I could not rescue him in this way which is maybe just a good thing.

    But now I am left wondering what happened and is he ok. I did check the phone records and he was using his phone to text the girlfriend up here until about 9:30.... so at least I know he is alive and that gives me some relief.

    But man this detachment thing is so so hard at times. Mhy goal right now is not to obsess about him and I have beed doing pretty well but when I get those calls for help it is so hard. We went out tonight to a dinner with friends and I did pretty well there and actually had a good time..... so I am improving. But on the way home I just got worried again.

    I am going to bed with my murder mystery and will read for awhile and hopefully get my mind off of him.... thank goodness although it is a murder mystery it is not about a homeless substance abuser!!

  2. Signorina

    Signorina Guest

    TL -I really like you. And I am going to say this with the deepest love...

    He's not sweating it and neither should you. You got his text & began to fret and look for solutions. Your best bet to solve his problem is his grandparents except that HE DOESN'T REALLY LIKE THEM AND IT WOULD BE A STRETCH FOR HIM?? Really?? Accepting a favor that solved his transportation issue may be problematic for him???

    And while you fretted and tried to solve it, he was happily texting his girlfriend...

    I don't mean to be harsh and I know I would likely do the same in your shoes. No judgment here. But I think detaching means detaching. He has the bear the brunt of his decisions. I know you are worried. I am too. But sometimes reassuring ourselves by kicking the can forward does more harm than good. I don't have the answers but if detachment is your goal, calling gramma & grandpa works against it. {{{{hugs}}}}}
  3. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Well you may be right but we did talk to the grandparents....and then i talked to difficult child. He is sleeping on the beach tonight. I told them we talked to the grandparents and they would give him a ride tomorrow if he called them. He said thank you. The thing is i am sure my father in law will give him a lecture...he wont be easy to face i am sure. Lol. It is up to him to call and if he really needs a ride he will. We made it clear to my inlaws to just give him a ride and they wont do more than that if we do not want them to.

    It feels like thisn was the right thing to do. First i feel better. I will sleep better tonight. I think difficult child is sweating it. second for various reasons we never ask for help from my inlaws and i suspect it made them feel good we asked them for help....they will call us if they see him which is good.

    So i am detaching...but not is just so hard when they are homeless. And it is hours later from when he first texted us and he still has to spend tonight outside.

  4. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    TL, you did the best you could, that's all any of us can do. I don't know, detaching doesn't seem to be either/or, either you do it or you don't, I really believe now that it is simply the choices we all make, and can live with on the lengthy road of detachment which is slippery, curvy, up and down and sideways. In the beginning of my CoDa group, all the parents kept asking "is this detaching? Is this codependence? Should I help, should I not help?" Each week we all kept asking those same questions. Now we all seem to know enough to trust ourselves (most of the time!). And, there is no cut and dry answer for every situation. It's flexible. Each situation is different, that's what makes it all so complex, I don't believe you detach and then that's it. You keep on making choices all the time. You can sleep tonight, your in laws feel involved and you found out he's sleeping on the beach. He can call if he wants to, that's up to him. You gave him an option, it's up to him to take it. You didn't jump in and save him. He's still sleeping on the beach. It feels right to you, that's important. Today, that's detachment. Tomorrow it may look different.
  5. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Don't you wonder what goes through his mind when he does whatever he does to get kicked out of every living arrangement that he is in? I mean it's happened now so many times that he has to know when he takes that drink or smokes that drug that he will be found out and kicked out. Does he not think about what the next step is going to be and what he will do? Does he not realize he will be homeless once again looking for a place to sleep and scrounging around dumps looking for food? It's the true definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Or maybe he doesn't expect different results, maybe he expects exactly what happens to happen and he doesn't care. It just boggles my mind that he gives no thought to tomorrow or next week and just calls you and expects you to bail him out and even when you don't it doesn't stop him from trying.

    And what must he be talking to his girlfriend about? Wouldn't you just love to hear that converstation? "Hey babe I'm on the street again." "Oh boo what happened?" "I just couldn't take those people any longer, you know they are idiots." "Aw well then good for you. So wat's good boo? You got some stuff to tide you over?" "Well I'm looken to score later today. Hey life is good, I'm just chillin here on the beach and my head is spinnin and I feel great." This is not exactly what the convo would be, it would be filled with a lot of profanity and words you wouldn't even be able to decipher.

    I don't mean to pick on your difficult child TL because mine is exactly the same way. For the life of me I just will never understand their thinking. Sometimes I think they both want to be wandering hippies. There is no thinking of tomorrow or even the next hour. They do what they want when they want it even knowing the consequences and they don't care. They don't worry like we do, so why should we spend all out waking ours being tormented by their bad choices. They don't worry about it nearly as much as we did because if they did they would change their behavior. They both say they are not addicts and they think they can smoke and drink. Well how's that working for them? Not very well.

    Just for a few minutes I wish I could get inside their heads. Maybe if we understood how they thought we would know how to help them.

    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012
  6. Tiredof33

    Tiredof33 Active Member

    It is easier for me if I don't hear from mine. Even though he is older he is just like Nancy described. It amazes me that he doesn't learn from the many past mistakes, but now he tries to hide it from me until everything has completely unraveled. He so desperately wants a romantic relationship but he is attracted to other difficult children, when I think about it, what easy child would put up with the **** they pull? I dread each time he tells me he has met someone, they always want to drag me into the drama, and I refuse to get involved.

    Trying to help my son has not worked, so I have completely backed off. It still stings that he would spend an entire year apologizing for being such a rotten kid (his words) and then BAM he does it again and she is in on it.

    I thought he was doing much better even after he lost his job several times and had a hard time finding one, but I found out exactly how much they had been partying on my money. He had conned me for 4 to 5 months and I was stupid enough to think he had changed forever.

    I wake up with the dread and I once again jump when the phone rings. But after I say my prayers and get active I am OK. The only way I can help my son is to stunt his growth by supporting him just like I see some of my family memebers doing. I refuse to enable any more. As hard as it is, this is his life.

    Like has been mentioned on this forum before, I love my son, but I do not like the person he has become. He simply refuses to grow up and I think he is petrified of responsibility, just like his father was. Often I have thought how much life would be easier if I had not had him, as selfish as that may be to some, they have not lived in my shoes.

    I hope that all of the young difficult children grab the chances to turn their lives around. Mine has had so many chances he has completely ignored, so I guess he must like his life the way it is. I don't so I will stay away.
  7. PatriotsGirl

    PatriotsGirl Guest

    Detachment? What is that? Seriously, I think we all have our struggles over this one. I think you are doing beautifully! :)

    And isn't it nice when someone else gets to give the lecture? I welcome every lecture in hopes one of them will sink in...
  8. Zardo

    Zardo Member

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  9. Elsieshaye

    Elsieshaye Member

    I'm with you, Tired. It's a lot easier if I don't hear from mine. I miss him, and I do check the folder his emails go into at least once a week, both hoping and fearing I'll hear from him. Every time he sends me some nasty diatribe, though, I just withdraw more. It's slightly better when he asks for things - at least he's polite then. I made the mistake of reading some of his earlier emails today. Well, "mistake" is relative. I certainly don't miss him as much as I did before I started reading 'em, but they make my head spin and I want to set the record straight (lots of misunderstandings and inaccuracies). But I know he's not receptive to that at this point, and I know it also doesn't really matter. I know he's physically safe, and he's got a girlfriend and seems happy, so that's plenty for now.
  10. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I am going to say something with the utmost of care and respect to you guys and it comes from my heart as a former difficult child.

    You are too tied up in your kids lives. I know you want to make them better and you want to get them into rehabs and make them stop using and become sober. If you could force this on them, it would have already happened. If you could love them into doing it, it would have already happened because you love them so much I hear it in every post on this board. I literally ache reading these posts. Truthfully, the kids couldnt care less right now. Right now they are not thinking about you. They are thinking about what they want to do right now or tonight or tomorrow. They arent even thinking about next week.

    The best thing you can do is to step back and realize that right now this is how your kid is. Dont try to change them and accept them as they are. Of course you are going to worry. Dont enable but but also dont do completely slam the door on them. Eventually they will probably grow up. Kids tend to grow away from parents naturally anyway. They should. In fact we should be pushing them away if they keep trying to hang onto us.

    I am certainly not certain of this or think I did it all right but I know that it just seems to me that my parents or none of my friends parents had a clue what we were doing and we didnt end up in rehabs or all that stuff and I think if they had, we probably would have. I dont think it would have done any of us a bit of good because none of us went on to become drug addicts or alcoholics. And I also think that if we give kids enough time to fall flat on their faces to make mistakes and learn from them, they tend to grow up.

    I dont know...just my opinion...take it for what it is. I am not attempting to be mean or anything like that. Please take it in the manner in which I am saying it.
  11. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Janet, I guess that is one of the reasons we have this forum, so that those of us who live with addiction have somewhere to go to voice our fears and hurts and loss and find support and sometimes ever find solutions or programs to help our addicts and in turn ourselves. Or sometimes it is just to find a sympathetic ear that will listen as we voice our thoughts and allow us to come to terms ourselves with what we should do, as TL did when she decided her difficult child's trip across America was crazy. It is a process, one that cannot happen just because someone tells us to detach and let our loved ones fall on their faces. If that's the way it was we wouldn't need al-anon or other family support groups. We would go on with our lives and not need this board.

    The same criticism of being too tied up in our difficult child's lives could be said on every forum on this board, why is this one immune from parents who would walk through fire to help their difficult child's?

  12. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Janet.... I was on this board when my son was younger so you all haven't watched my journey or what we went through with him when he was younger. I get what you are saying and sometimes I wonder if we should have stepped back when he was in 9th grade and using pot and out of contorl... whether wilderness and a TBS was all just a waste of money and a mistake.

    Then I think back to then and I remember the absolute terror at realizing my son had probably been sniffing gasoline... that he would try anything to get him high and it would not be long before we were looking at heroin addiction!! This was not what most kids smoking a joint on Friday night were doing... this was extreme. Did we react with major help yes.... did it help? Who knows but he is still alive today. I think if we had not intervened when he was younger he would likely be dead by now. So I come back to we did what we could and it probably saved him for a while anyway... gave him some major clean time while his brain was developing... and gave his sister with some time without him home.

    Now we are in a different place. He is now 20, not 14. There is nothing more I can do. You are right it is time for me to step back and I am doing that....but like Nancy says it is a process to get there. It is very very hard to let go when you know your kid is in so much trouble and hurting so much but let go is what we need to do. I agree with that.

    I also agree with not slamming the door in their face... I am not doing that but I am setting boundaries and I am starting to protect my own mental health... and each of us needs to do that in our own way. For some of us the only way to do that is to severely limit contact... for me it is easier because he is 1000 miles away and that really helps.

  13. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    I think there's something to be said for how much we and our contemporaries "invest" in our children, as opposed to the level of involvement our parents had in our lives. Not that I would change a thing. Speaking in generalities, I believe my parents and my friends and relatives' parents were far less interested in what we were doing, particularly once we reached 18, as long as we weren't sponging off of them! They cut the strings, and we sort of naturally and healthily detached from each other. Of course, we all knew of some hard-core problem kids, who ended up in jail, or sadly, died. There were no RTCs, or SA treatment centers that I even knew about - maybe they were there for rich people, (like the Kennedy's lol) but it was out of the question for people like us. Maybe there was a stigma about going to AA or NA, and none of the kids I knew who were messed up went to meetings, and I definitely don't think their parents did, either. So we either had to straighten up and get wise, or die, or go to jail, or panhandle. Most of us chose to straighten up. Consequences hit us sooner because no one offered anything to us if we crossed that line. Don't get me wrong, our parents DID love us, and they showed it, but if we would've done half the things our kids do, our parents would have disowned us, and we would have deserved to be disowned. Our folks sure wouldn't have chased and begged, and pleaded the way husband and I have done. They wouldn't have paid out of pocket for shrinks, etc. like we have. It's difficult to know if we were better off without a safety net, and without our parents helicoptering over us, or if kids our age who were really troubled would've been helped by a program that's offered today. I don't know, but I think when kids don't want to listen, they just won't...and when they want to do what they want to do...they will - no matter how interested or disinterested the parent is. From a teen perspective, parents are irrelevant. It's part luck, and part catching it before they're legally adults so we have some sort of influence. Meetings and a forum like this can be a lifeline - years ago, you probably would have suffered in silence and shame. Sure, substance abuse doesn't occur in a vacuum; there's depression and personality disorders, and trauma and other issues that trigger use, and those things weren't even diagnosed then, so people certainly suffered. But a lot of people just hung out, got wasted, and fell into a habit because they were dumb and that's what they liked to do. Their brain cells evaporated, little by little, and it was very hard to get out of that routine. If you want to be a fool, who's going to stop you? There are now more things available as far as treatment, intervention, DBT, wilderness, etc., but I wonder if there are more substance abusers now than there were when we were their age?
  14. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    And years ago young people got drunk on moonshine behind the family barn and drove down dark country roads and there was no such thing as pot or spice or heroin or crack. And people died at age 48 and you didn't need a college education to get a job to support your family and not much was expected of you, life was simple. And parents didn't get involved in their children's lives, The was no homework help or extra curricular activities. Life was simpler. There were no treatment centers or recovery programs. MADD didn't exist, highways weren't built, drunk drivers weren't caught, the risks were so much less.

    When we know better we do better.

  15. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    What an interesting dialogue you're all having. I think you all have really valid points. I don't know, when we're dealing with our kids, how does one define detachment, when all you want is for them to be okay. And, most of us would do just about anything to make that happen. Yikes. I read most of your posts every day and my heart just aches like Janet's, and from my own experience, I know how tough it is to not give them that one last chance, and then decide, once again, to let go. And, then do it all over again. Whose to say that last try won't be the one that does the trick? And, yet for some, letting go and having no contact is the needed and right thing to do.

    We each have to go deep within and examine that in ourselves, what can we live with, what are we willing to do, when is enough, enough. Geez, my kid is almost 40! You guys are talking about teens and young adults. I must be a real nimrod to be at it this long! But, my kid isn't on drugs, she's got a brain that doesn't fire right. And, underneath some of your kids addictions, is a similar brain, so how do we make those distinctions and love them in a healthy way which doesn't enable them, yet gives them a chance?

    And, I grew up in the 60's, in New York, so I saw lots of drugs and many reactions to those drugs. I think you've all got good points, and another is that it's simply a different time now. These young people today inherited a very different world, with way more pressures. With more affluence comes more options. With more options comes more complications. With more complications, comes more fear and fear causes kids to run scared into lives without all the complications. I've read a lot of books lately on teens and the pressures they face today in school, with sex, bullying, eating disorders, pressure to get in a good school, it has been a real eye opener for me. I think they live in way more complex and pressurized worlds then I ever did. As a grown woman, sometimes life is just overwhelming and I have 62 years and lots of therapy, what must it be like to be 17 and facing life with depression, or ADHD, or Bipolar, I can't even imagine.

    I listen each week in my therapy group to parents talk about their (mostly) young substance abusing kids and the agony they go through trying to help them. I hear the incredible compassion our therapist has for these kids and how tough the road back to sobriety is and how many relapses they go through. It is a remarkable experience for me to be part of this and understand it a lot better then I ever did. My therapist is the Director of the entire Chemical Dependency program which is enormous, and the armies of addicted folks who walk through those doors each day is unbelievable. I had no idea how widespread and deep rooted this issue is. And, they are learning so much each day about it, it is a relatively young psychology.

    You guys are in the front lines here of an enormous issue the entire society is facing. This addiction issue is growing to epidemic proportions and we are running as fast as we can as a culture trying to figure it out and fix it. I think those of you out there who are dealing with kids who have substance abuse issues are dealing with a helluva lot, and I think it's complicated, lonely, filled with emotions you never thought you would have and horribly frightening. And, I think you're all doing the very best you can. The fact that we can all can post our thoughts and feelings here is a blessing, whether we agree or not. My issue is different, but being a parent is (mostly) the same, that's where we all connect.
  16. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I dont think I said what I wanted to say right. Maybe it came out completely wrong. I think the helicopter parenting thing was probably what I was talking about. Arent there three types of those styles? At some point you cant be a helicopter parent anymore. Its great when they are little and you are trying to keep them safe from all harm but then you have to loosen the reigns a bit. And yes, I know I dont deal with sub abuse issues so I should just shut up. But in many ways the same things apply to the same issues that all our kids deal with. Does it really matter why our kids steal from us? Does it really matter why they are violent or steal the car? The action is the same but the reason behind it may be different. I dont know.

    I will shut up now. I wish all of you so much luck because I care a great deal about all of you and your kids. I only want the very best for everyone of you. I hate to see all of you in so much pain. It really hurts me.
  17. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    By the time there are substance abuse issues, it becomes very difficult to get to the bottom of it all.
    But yes, it matters. To the extent it is possible to know the cause, it opens opportunities to address the situation. And so, as parents who care deeply about our kids - when we cannot find the answers, it wears away at us. It isn't so much about trying to rescue, as it is about trying to find the missing key... and I'm not sure a parent ever stops looking for the key, except when the key is found. I sense, from time to time, that my Mom is still looking for the key for GFGbro... and GFGbro is over 50.
  18. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Janet - I know I appreciate your caring and support so no need to shut up... and your questions are always good food for thought and discussion. So I have been thinking about this morning... does it matter why they steal or do awful things? I am not sure it matters but I do think substance abuse adds another layer of complication on many levels.

    Many of us here have kids who were definite difficult children before they started using substances (I think myself, Nancy, Kathy and Patriots girl and others are in this situation). Some of us had kids who were basically PCs before drugs entered the picutre (Signorina, Vligirl and some others too). Yet once substance abuse enters there is a lot in common between the kids.

    I think if my difficult child had never started using substances some of his issues would have continued (such as stealing) but I think he also did at times have good sense and I think as he matured some of those behaviors may have gotten better. The drug use just complicated and made everything worse. For one thing it stunts your emotional growth so even though my son is 20, emotionally he is closer to 14. The drug use becomes a problem in and of itself, so he still has his original difficult child issues but now also has substance abuse as well. And you really can't deal with the underlying difficult child issues while you are still using which complicates things.

    And I think as a parent the drug use adds a whole other level of fear. Drugs kill people... they are dangerous in and of themselves. I think all of us with kids with serious drug problems are facing the fact that our kids may overdose from doing those drugs... and so there is this compelling wish to save them from death. The people they meet in the drug world are scary untrustworthy people....They just put themselves at so much more risk. And their difficult child behaviors are worse if they are using drugs... at least that is my experience.

    So I think being a parent of a drug addict is a rather unique awful experience. And letting go is so scary because you know that not saving them might mean death..... however the reality is once they are adults you can't save them they can only save themselves.

    I find it really interesting and supportive that so many of us are getting to the same letting go place. It is nice to know that I am not going through this process alone.

  19. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    TL I agree with everything you said. The drug use does add several more layers to their already dysfunctional or destructive behavior. Years ago before I had to face this issue I never dreamed of coming in contact with drug dealers and users who would think nothing of robbing you while eating diner at your table and then breaking into your house when knowing you are away. The fact that we had one of those drug dealers harassing us for a year, coming on our property, kicking our door in and waking us in the middle of the night designed to intimidate us reminded me that we are dealing with some serious underground criminals. And knowing our difficult child's are mixed up with them and watching as so many of those young people die because of their use just adds so much more fear that that could be our child.

    And so I too think it does matter that drugs are involved. I agree that many of us would have issues even without the drugs but they may not be life threatening and may allow the person to live a fairly normal life. Drugs take all of that away, there is no hope as long as they are using. In the al-anon meetings they call it a family disease for a reason. It affects every member of the family and beyond.

    I think about if my difficult child was not an addict and just had issues that made it very difficult to be around them or have any kind of meaningful relationship. Of course I am projecting because I don't know, but I am happy enough in my life that I think I could be content with them living their own life and having very little contact because I would know that they are safe and not involved in life threatening, illegal activities. I would not have to lie awake at night waiting for the phone call telling me my difficult child is in jail or dead.

    I agree that we all should work toward becoming as detached as we can from their behavior but not the person. It's hard to do when the likelihood that the person may not survive is very real. And so we continue to try to change their behavior until it becomes so obvious that we can't do that.

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2012
  20. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    TL and Nancy, well said, thanks, it really helped me to see what you deal with everyday. I admire you all for simply getting up each day and putting one foot in front of the other and dealing with all of it. I hope with all my heart that all your kids straighten out and become the people you know they are.