17 year old son has us feeling trapped

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by Concerned parent, Nov 11, 2016.

  1. Concerned parent

    Concerned parent New Member

    Our son just turned 17' and is a very bright young man. He has started skipping class, is failing classes this term, and evidently has hooked up a crowd of young people who smoke a lot of pot. We have certain rules in our home, such as basic respect and a non smokimg household but have returned several times to find our home reeking of pot. We have also made it crystal clear that pot usage is illegal, and the physical and cognitive effects in usage by adolescents is not fully understood. Twice he has taken our cars and driven them without a permit and possibly while stoned. We are terrified he could hurt himself or another person, since he really does not know how to drive. And he is driving illegally. When we attempt to hold him accountable for boundaries and rules, he sometimes rages at us, calling is terrible names, kicking holes in the walls, and destroying property. We are ready to call the police next time this happens and wish we had done so previously when he took our cars. We only found out after the fact. Now we are locking up spare keys if we are not home, and bringing the other key with us. We live in a state of constant hypervigilance and cannot trust a single story he tells us. We do not wish to involve our son in the criminal justice system, but he seems to have no respect for us as his parents. We are at a loss, and miss the strong, loving connection we once had. We also are frightened that he will continue to push the edges of risk taking until it lands him either in jail, the hospital, or both. We have talked to him about our concerns when things are calm he just thinks we are being overreactive. ??? We feel somewhat trapped in our own home, waiting for him to come home at 1:00 in the morning or 5:00 in the morning, and we must be vigilant about hiding money, keys and other items. He has a counselor, but our son does not see these behaviors as problematic, so there does not seem any real motivation to change. He is 17 and so we cannot demand that he leave. However, we cannot imagine another entire year of verbal abuse, school truancy and getting stoned then sleeping all day.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2016
  2. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am sorry that you needed to find us, but am glad to meet you. The next few years are likely going to be very difficult for your family. I strongly suggest that you and your husband see a therapist together so that you are on the same page as you deal with the very challenging situation with your son. I really wish that my husband and I had done this as we dealt with our very difficult son. I think it would have helped our entire family and our marriage. It would have kept our son from being able to triangulate and work us against each other also. It is incredibly important that you and your husband present a united front to your son no matter what.

    I strongly suggest reading the book Parenting Your Teen with Love and Logic. It won't fix everything, but it can give you some concrete ideas. I would also insist that your son take some very real responsibilities for himself. Many things that kids think of as necessities are actually privileges, and I would take those away as long as he is abusing substances and skipping school. Given the lack of respect, the verbal abuse, the property destruction, etc...., you may want to consider a CHINS petition (child in need of supervision) with the court. It pretty much gives him a probation officer who will drug test him, give him a curfew and rules, and it makes the court the bad guy. The other option is to crack down yourself.

    You are required to provide clothing for him, but not clothing he likes. I would remove the clothing he likes and leave seven basic outfits and a pair of shoes. I would leave his school books, his bed, sheets, his blanket, pillow, lamp, probably some fiction, and mostly remove everything else from his room. I would cancel his phone, his other technology, lock up his other items. I would be searching his room on a very regular basis. If I let him keep a phone, it would be a very basic one that I would keep a GPS tracker on. I would make sure he knew that I owned his room and had the absolute right to search it any time I felt the urge (my kids know this and have always know this). Doing much of ANYTHING would have to be earned, and every single day he would have to prove that he went to school, that he did his work at school, that he turned in his work at school, and that he did his work at home. He would have to work to get a job after school, and he would end up doing hard physical labor to pay for any property damage or disrespect.

    We did this with my son during his teen years. My father was a junior high and high school teacher and swore it was the best way to get through to difficult boys. While I was unable to do the hours of yard work with my son, my husband and father both worked with him for hours and hours and hours as he learned that he WOULD end up working off the disrespect and damage to property that he created. Eventually my son decided it was better to moderate his behavior rather than to spend all of his free time doing endless yard work.

    I don't know that this will fix your son's behavioral choices, but it is all I can think of in the time you have left before he becomes an adult. I urge you to cut off the funds for his luxuries and to make him work hard to earn those things with good behavior and hard work. Make sure that any privileges he pays for are bought with money he earns from legitimate work and not from marijuana sales.

    As for the driving while stoned and without knowing how to drive, this is so incredibly dangerous. Please do more than just hide the keys. If you cannot disable the cars, turn your son in if you know he is driving. I realize it will seriously impact his future, but not nearly as much as hurting or killing someone because he was driving while stoned. The younger brother of a close friend accidentally killed a teen on a bicycle just after he got his license. This was over 30 years ago and still causes nightmares. It was not his fault, it was the fault of the bike rider (no light, all dark clothing, after dark, crossed the road less than ten feet in front of his car, he was driving under the speed limit) but it caused major problems in many areas of his life and even his doctor and therapists remarked that a DUI would have been easier to recover from than the aftermath of this accident. So there are worse things than the aftermath of the legal system.

    I am NOT saying that you should turn your son in. I am not saying not to. You have to make that decision. I am saying that you MUST make sure that he is not able to operate your vehicles under any circumstances. It is pretty easy to remove fuses and put them back in (the owner's manual has directions and they are cheap to replace) and if you pull the right ones the car won't start or run until they are replaced. This is a guarantee that he cannot drive the car unless he can figure out how to fix the fuses. You just have to be sure that he doesn't see you fix the fuses before you drive him somewhere.

    These are just ideas. You don't have to follow any of them. Whatever you decide, know that we are here and will support you. I am so sorry that your son is making such poor choices and is being so disrespectful to you.
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  3. mof

    mof Momdidntsignupforthis

    I'm sorry to hear your pain and frustration. A big part of our sons drug use was self medication. I would if you can get him to a psychiatrist...what snapped in your young man to act this way?

    Many young people feel pot isn't a big deal...but it generally does not make you violent..etc. I would strongly drug test him and follow some of the previous advice.

    We all do what we know how with the ultimate best intentions.

    Hugs to you..we get it, weekends are slow here...but more will come along with more wisdom!
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  4. UpandDown

    UpandDown Active Member

    Concerned parent,

    I have been exactly where you are with my now 17 year old son. I can feel your pain and I so very sorry for your pain. It is a nightmare where friends drop away very quickly. A quick summary of my story... My son is very bright but has always found it difficult to follow through on school work. We had high expectations for him as all of our children. He has one immediately older sister and 2 younger. He had lots of friends and was a strong athlete that played both travel and schools sports.

    He recently told me that this all started when he asked another kid in school one day who was known to smoke pot if it helped with sadness. I had no idea he was sad but apparently this set in motion the desire to try pot. He did and thus began our hell. We went through the verbal abuse, the kicking and punching of holes in the walls, broken dishes, you name it. Usually this was in response to me intercepting a text about buying pot, or finding his stash and flushing it down the toilet. Any consequence ended in this. He would also smoke in the house. I would walk upstairs and smell a strange skunk smell and he would flip out and the pattern went on and on. He dropped out of sports and barely passed school. We were on him all the time and I felt my life draining away with the load of it all. I have young daughters and the responsibility of sheltering them was very very difficult. We did several things that over time have begun to stick and he is way way better than he was. We still have a major hurdle of getting him to graduation in June and we continue to work with him.

    We did send him to wilderness therapy and I am not sure I would do that again and it didn't really stop the pot smoking. It was outrageously expensive. Who knows what might have happened if we didn't though as he was demonstrating extremely reckless behavior before we did that. He was sneaking out and night and running away and we were scared for his life. Wilderness therapy did end that. After a few months of coming home, he started smoking again and slowly the verbal abuse began, etc. So this time we filed a CHINS (Child in need of service) with the local court. They rejected that we needed a CHINS but instead we filed a complaint against him for destruction of property. We did have a police report of one time when he got so angry that he broke a window and I called the police. I do think we needed this paper trail to set things in motion. They assigned him a probation officer and a long list of things he had to complete. 50 hours of community service, random drug testing, weekly anger management classes , and weekly therapy. If he was able to fulfill all of these, it would never be on his record. He did all of them and actually found that he enjoyed volunteering. Of course, all of it was a lot of driving for me and honestly a lot of work on the parents to push him to do it all. Yet, I think he was scared straight for a long time. That was a year ago. We also only pay for his necessities. He pays his own cell phone through prepaid cards and pays for his own gas and car insurance. He has a job to pay for what he wants. He is not all the way there yet as he still smokes but he has accepted that it is not allowed here and I have accepted that I can't control what he chooses to do away from here. He knows if he drives high, then he loses the chance to drive. We have had times where we did disable the car because he was that brazen too. We do still pay for twice monthly therapy for him and that is incredibly helpful for him.

    It sounds like you are working very hard to set boundaries with him. I dont think one thing magically works. For us it was a combination of taking away all "handouts", intensive therapy for all of us, and getting the courts involved.
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  5. mof

    mof Momdidntsignupforthis

    Just curious...up and down...does your son take am antidepressant
  6. UpandDown

    UpandDown Active Member

    MOf, no he does not. He won't. There have been short periods where he did comply and take them but never long term. He does suffer from anxiety and depression. Marijuana seems to be his "coping" mechanism. His therapist is working on getting him to the point where he accepts that he needs to .
  7. mof

    mof Momdidntsignupforthis

    Prayers...our son medicated too. Pot first...but his clinical death seemed to wake him up. He tried to help himself...but just got worse. It takes some trial and error...but he could feel so much better.

    He is lucky to have support.
  8. UpandDown

    UpandDown Active Member

    Thank you Mof. Prayers for you also.
  9. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    With the caveat that I quit smoking weed at 22 years of age and know next to nothing about the newer stuff, I found that weed made me depressed and EXTREMELY anxious and paranoid. It doesn't make all people "happy, relaxed, and mellow".
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Same with me, GN. Paranoid, totally spaced out of my mind, nervous and hungry. Is it supposed take you happy, like speed? I can't imagine pot as a mood enhancer. A dullong of all feelings, yes
  11. Concerned parent

    Concerned parent New Member

    Thanks so much for your responses. I am still getting the hang of this discussion forum, so please bear with me in the learning curve. We have secured our spare keys in a lock box, which is hidden away. We will look into other means of disabling our cars, but he is a very smart kid, and always seems 12 steps ahead of us. We are terrified , yes,that he will kill or maim another person by driving the car without skill or legal privilege or possibly, sobriety. We will dial 911 again immediately if it happens again. Also appreciate the reminder to take away the luxury items such as his favorite foods (we will provide basic nutritional items), the phone, etc. He has long standing anxiety issues and a pretty severe learning disability. It seems when he started high school all of the prior empathy and emotional intelligence he had once exhibited got shoved aside as he has had a hard time fitting in with peers and struggled in school. All of that cautiousness he had before that time has become just the opposite with very scary risk taking. We will take away his allowance, which is a small monthly amount, as well as put up other limits so that being home is not like living in a hotel with room service. He does go to therapy weekly, but I think avoids dealing with these issues by focusing on girlfriend drama or other distractions. He is likely using pot to self medicate. He has connected with a "friend" who has dropped out of school at age 18 and lives at home, has no job, and has been in and out of living at home. I appreciate this board so much. There is such fatigue and shame and isolation which we feel, and it is hell not being able to trust a child who once seemed to care about his integrity, once was a rule follower. He is adopted, so we believe there are also pre adoption trauma issues at play here, but whatever the reason, we need to give him a clear message about boundaries and limits. He is on a fast road to self destruction and he is destroying the peace in our home. We do not have other children living at home, but our decisions might need to be different in that case, the impact on siblings. I am still working on figuring out how to post a signature, thanks!
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  12. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    This is the direction my hard drinking, pot smoking, truant 16 year old stepson is headed down, as well. Your description of your 17 year old is exactly like him, very smart but troubled, socially awkward, anxious and depressed, unwilling to take prescribed medications for these conditions. I was actively trying to get his parents - my wife and her ex husband - to wake up and take action. I have since realized this was just my own codependency and was quite unhealthy for me not to mention not helpful for the situation. The parents are both in denial, not on the same page and cannot co parent because their relationship is so toxic. It is a shame but my stepson is going to have to figure it out on his own. The school resource officer lectured him about his truancy recently, and the next time he does it he is going to be fined. Not sure if this is a deterrent for him or not.
  13. Elisabeth

    Elisabeth New Member

    This sounds very much like my 18 year old who is a senior. Straight A student, high standardized test scores, super smart kid - but last year he started hanging out with a cool group of kids and smoking pot. I didn't understand what was going on - I thought the problem were that he was having troubles with focus and since ADD runs in our family (I have it), I got him on ADD medications which made him anxious (according to him) so he started to smoke pot. I found pot - the house smelled of skunk - I confronted him and he promised that he wouldn't do it again. I know have a kid with Straight Fs who is stoned nearly all of the time hanging out with kids that I hate but since he is 18 I have no control over being held hostage - Can I talk to the school without my kid getting busted is my question? I have no idea what to do - his dreams from a few years ago of going to an elite college and doing something with his life just seems to melt away and the whole family is now fighting fighting fighting and he takes this high ground that he is 18 and it is his life. I am so tired of it!
  14. Kathy813

    Kathy813 Well-Known Member Staff Member

  15. Concerned parent

    Concerned parent New Member

    Right, there is no one "magic" response, and every child is very different. I appreciate your response. We looked at wilderness therapy programs a couple of years ago, when he was also having a hard time, but very expensive, and some of the places sounded more like prison than truly therapeutic environments. Then for a couple of years, he seemed to be much happier with himself, on track, liked school, no major meltdowns. This year, though has been really rough, and we talked with him in clear terms that if he has another "meltdown" in which he is destroying property, we will call the police. We believe (and we may be wrong, we just do the best we can) that he does have other skills for dealing with intense emotions, but is, at some level, choosing this kind of response as a way to keep us paralyzed. No way to live. We also repeated how horrified, angry and scared we were that he used the cars, and the potential consequences. And the same mantra, we know that he has taken the car again, we call 911 immediately. He didn't have much to say to that, but I'm sure in his world, "nothing bad" ever happens because he has that adolescent view of immortality and invulnerability to life's realities.
  16. Crayola13

    Crayola13 Active Member

    Online high schools were designed to help students who have various problems, truancy for example. Some of my students did that, but only half of them saw it through. This might be an option for him.
  17. Concerned parent

    Concerned parent New Member

    This might be an option to explore at some point. Right now he does not seem to have the self-Initiative to follow through, but appreciate the idea. He seems very lost, self-medicating, and seems to not care about anything but what he wants right in front of him. Executive functioning and judgment seem to be totally missing, although there are moments where he seems to be more on track. We have had a somewhat quieter week, he shared a meal with us, talked about what he is learning at school, says he wants to be on track. The next day he turns around and skips a class or two or three. At least he is going to some of them, and until this semester was fairly on track academically, even if he struggled with school due to learning disability and probably major executive functioning issues. Our theory is that the pot is what he is using to numb out just how out of place he feels, but regardless, he needs to find different ways to cope, constructive ones, or at least that is our hope for him.