1st Post - (Hi!) Have Been Struggling with Tough Love


New Member
This is my first post - but want to THANK YOU ALL since many of you unknowingly helped me in a time of crisis last night. I was faltering on a stance I've taken with my older son, and googled some long sentence about the issues I'm having with him just to see what would come up. This post did:


I google everything. Have been doing so specific to my son for years and have never come across something so relevant, with responses to the OP that were so helpful to me. I was literally talking to my computer screen last nigh. "Yes!!" "These people get it!" lol

In any event. I could write pages but am going to try my best to keep it simple/short. The first thing I did after becoming a member today was to save the Detachment Article into a Word document. SO helpful. I know that detaching is right, but it is so very hard when I am getting text message barraged by my son, and reading the article helps uncomplicate my brain. Know I will refer to it often to help me think clearly again.

Issue at hand: My older son will be 19 in May. After years of being on a slow decline, and being raised in a home where his parents didn't get along very often, and his dad was verbally abusive to his mom (me) and him being a "sensitive" child, who would bravely stand up to his dad and tell him to stop calling me names, in May of 2013 I finally left his father. This took me so long because I stayed home when my kids were young, had to get financially secure, and I was TERRIFIED to leave. Another long story. What is relevant is that both of my sons went off the deep end after I left their dad and moved them and their sister into a great place.

It's probably also relevant to note that their dad had a total nervous breakdown after the separation, and is not currently a well-functioning adult. He does the bare minimum to survive.

2013 was a summer of lies, drugs, sneaking out, fights with me, and abusive behavior. Basically they turned right into their dad. I had mental health provisions in place for them prior to this for ADD and some depression issues but tried to ramp things up.

My older son (just gonna do OS from now on) decided it would be a great idea to show me how I could not control him - and stopped taking his Lexapro June of 2013. It had really helped him. Long story (again short and leaving out my younger son's story) by April 2014 he had dropped out of high school about 6 weeks before graduation. He also had lost his job in Fall 2013 and failed to get another one. He was smoking pot in my house, outside of my house, and I found another substance I haven't been able to ID. He was a mess.

I've been in counseling for nearly 20 years. With the help of my counselor developed some boundaries, and gave him an ultimatum to move out or get his HS Diploma/GED. After moving 1/2 of his things out, in September 2014 he ended up coming back and getting his GED within days.

I should also note that in the year+ at the "new house" I called the police on him 3 times. (they didn't care about the pot - and honestly I didn't use to care about pot that much until I saw what it did to him. His was also very potent). He had rages, punched holes in walls, walked around with a golf club in a threatening way, called me every name in the book but never actually hurt me. Was just afraid he would hurt me or himself.

With the help of my counselor decided on a second ultimatum. A job. He HAD to get one. He had briefly worked at a grocery store over the summer of 2014 and quit the job because he said they weren't paying him fairly. Let him know - you're in a Union - it's illegal to do that so if that's the issue talk to your Union rep and they'll handle it! Anyhow. I gave him plenty of notice, then put the hammer down with a typed note and gave it to him on a Monday, and gave him until Friday to just show me he'd applied somewhere or he had to leave.

We had a terrible fight. He left to meet his long time girlfriend. He had packed a bag. The fight was so bad I was adding a slide lock to the back door and had called ADT to change the security code and secret word. As I was installing the lock he threw himself on the glass door and was hysterically crying. Have not seen him cry for a looooong time. Since he was a small boy. His girlfriend had broken up with him (and his phone had broken). I said the wrong thing - mentioned it could be good for him - that since he'd dated her his life had been harder. Again, long story short, he ***trashed*** my basement, I took the dog and ran outside and called 911. Hung up. Then they called back. He took an entire bottle of my Xanax and about 1/3 of a Costco sized bottle of Tylenol plus a bottle of prescription Motrin. Then he took off.

Police swarmed my neighborhood, fire truck, ambulance, and more. When my OS took off he left the back door open and my dog was running loose. Just imagine the worst chaos. He went to the ER. My ex blamed me for separating from him and "breaking up the family" and asked if we could get back together as I sat in a chair in the ER waiting room while they stabilized him. Incredible. After hours of bradycardia with extremely low oxygen levels, BiPolar (BP) and heart rate and saying they may have to intubate him - but didn't because he extremities didn't get cold - he was then admitted to ICU and put on the Tylenol antidote. They said he was lucky he didn't go into liver failure and he wouldn't survive a second time of doing what he'd done.

After a couple of days with the antidote and needing to make sure the levels of it were flushed out of his system - they were originally going to discharge him. It's yet again another long story - but he's 18 and he told the hospital psychiatrist he was fine. ..... we live near a huge metropolitan area with world class facilities - and they were going to discharge someone with a rage filled suicide attempt because he said he was fine (?) The system is clearly broken. I created a situation where they were going to detain him if he didn't voluntarily go for an inpatient evaluation. Last minute he went on his own. Less than 48 hours later they discharged him. I was scared and not happy after doing SO much to get him seen - and really, for what.

While he was in the hospital I, along with my two other children, decided to move. Too many bad vibes in the house I had been so proud to be in. I rent. My landlord wasn't doing well, I was month to month, so found a place and moved January 1. I gave my OS an ultimatum to get a job, get counseling/treatment, or he couldn't move in with me.

So here I am. He, 3 months later, hasn't done that. He has slept on the floor of the room that his father rents for 3 months. It’s a small basement room of a townhouse and the landlords are kicking out my OS within days because the lease states only one person can live there and they're fed up. It’s about 9 x 12… His dad was supposed to move to a 2 br apartment but told me he, "isn’t ready." My OS is LOSING IT. Just losing it. He is so depressed. His sleep is all messed up. He hardly eats. My heart is breaking. He just wants to move in with me and tells me, “I’m your son, not your enemy.” “Help me.” And then when I stick to the ultimatum he tells me I’m effing stupid, he effing hates me, I’m a selfish **tch. And on.

I never thought I’d leave one of my children behind. I intellectually know I am doing what is right. I think? But emotionally it’s killing me and making my own depression nearly unmanageable but am trying. One step, one day, trying to be ok for my other son who lives with me and who I have in an in-home intervention due to his levels of depression and anxiety. It’s been so hard.

If you’re still reading at this point – you are awesome!! It is helpful to write all of this, even though I left a lot out – still so long. But it’s nice to know I’m among like-minded people in the sense that it seems we’ve all got similar situations we are dealing with//have dealt with.

If anyone has advice on not letting this nearly kill you on the inside that would be great. It makes me internally falter on my choices, but know it would be terrible if he lived with me at this point. So I am two sides of a coin nearly all of the time. (if you can't tell - I'm apparently a very good enabler) :)


New Member
I just read WearyMom's post about her daughter moving back in and am again second guessing everything. I do not want him to be homeless. He is very young. In any event - very happy to have found this group.


Well-Known Member
HUGS huge HUGS. You are doing what you need to do. He is NOT. You can't force him to seek help. All you can do is lovingly say that you love him, and that you know he is hurting and to please get some professional help.


Well-Known Member
Hi firedancer...I like your name.

PLease read that detachment article, then read it again. Your son is in a bad way, and he is continuously making choices that make it worse. What will be different if you let him move to your house again ? (I"m not going to call it home, because it is not his home. It is YOUR home, and he makes it feel unsafe and stressful for you and for your other children.)

I am strongest when I remember that my other kids have rights and hopes and dreams too, including the right (I think) to a safe home, emotionally and physically. No one has a right to take that away from them to suit their own needs, that I am sure of. I have more than one friend whose Difficult Child seriously damaged the lives of the other kids, impacting their social lives, their sense of security, their ability to have loving relationships, and their ability to relate to their parents (us).

I'm sorry, the Difficult Child's of this world don't have the right to do that to us all.

YOu may remember that Weary Mom's daughter was in fact homeless for a month before she saw the light, if in fact she has seen it and isn't poised to break her mama's heart (sorry, Weary Mom!). COM's son (another one who looks like he may have turned a corner of some sort, although he may still be in a maze) was also homeless for a while. Both moms stopped stepping in to fix everything, at least for a while. They learned about boundaries, about setting rules EVEN WHEN THINGS ARE NOT IN CRISIS. We all know how to call 911, lock the door, issue ultimatums when things are awful. What is longer to learn is the setting of boundaries for every day...the recognition that your life has value, your needs and choices have value equal to his, your other kids have value.

You offered him some options, with clear parameters. He has chosen not to avail himself of them. He doesn't need a job that will make you proud...he just needs a job. Dishwashing is good for kids like ours. Construction lots need helpers (although there are a lot of drugs there).

Too hard to find a job in this economy with no skills? You also asked him to get counselling.

It is easier for him to beg you (oh, and threaten you and call you names) than it is for him to stand up LIKE THE MAN HE IS and do what has to be done to take care of himself.

As Cedar often points out...men his age are putting their lives on the line to protect us, every day. They are in the military, they are police officers, they are fireman. Where does he get off whining?

As MWM points out...the mentally ill need to take responsibility for managing their illness, be it depression, bipolar disorder, what have you. She does it. I do it (I am bipolar...there! I said it!).

He will not be OK till he learns that he needs to be OK to himself. You do him no favors as a mom to engage in the charade of pretending otherwise.

Happily it is warm out now, or warm enough soon. Being homeless isn't so bad in spring. If it helps you, find the name of a shelter, a food bank, a job readiness program (JEVS is a common one). Give them to him, tell him you love him, you have faith in his ability to work things out...and send him on his way.




one day at a time
Hi firedancer...I like your name too! Welcome to this forum. We get you and we get your situation. We have all been there in some way, shape or form.

I was divorced from my husband (the dad of my two sons) when difficult child was a junior in high school. Bad time for him. Bad time for all. I tried to wait just...one more year...but I had already waited years and years and it was not to be. It was hard on him and I think he used that as yet another excuse to perform badly.

Anyway, fast forward...lots of things happened...lots of chances given...but he was abusing alcohol, smoking pot, then started taking pills---Oxy and Xanax that I know of...started getting arrested for public intoxication, possession, selling drugs (two felonies)...threw away his chance at a four-year university, threw away his chance at a community college (step by step by step with a million more chances given) threw away the apartment we agreed to pay for with the college...threw it all away...one step at at time. And I set boundaries one step at a time, as things got worse and worse and worse. Tried to get him all kinds of help. Paid for rehab for one month---$6K on a credit card. He "didn't need it." Stayed the month and then kept on doing what he was doing. He wasn't ready and had no intention of changing.

The saga goes on and on, like I'm sure yours does.

Suffice it to say, I also have had about 20 years of counseling. The counselors all said from the get-go: You are very self-aware.

Well, okay, I learned---learned the very hard way----that I had a whole lot of changing to do. I was a great "fixer" of people, except I couldn't fix them and nothing changed, except I drove them and myself nuts. I begged, pleaded, argued, cried, yelled, cursed, wrote contracts, reasoned, got other people to reason...you name it, I tried it. Nope. Nothing.

So finally, being the very slow learner that I am...I started learning how to stop. After all, it had been nearly a decade of trying to make things perfect. People places and things. The first thing I learned is that I can't do a thing to affect other people places and things. And I didn't like hearing that ONE SINGLE BIT.

I heard that I needed to stop...and work on myself...because that would turn out to be a full time job.

Well you can imagine how much I liked hearing THAT.

Anyway...fast forward again...the whole story is on his forum for the past two years...mine, yours and each of ours...not so very different at all...and finally I have been able to let my son, my precious youngest son...go.

And then, once I figuratively let him go, emotionally and physically and financially...he has been homeless multiple times, some of those times for months at a time. And you know what, he has survived.

He has lived on the street in the dead of winter for weeks. My son????? I never ever in the world would have thought I would have allowed something like that...but I did.

I did it for him...and I did it for me.

And today, for some reason, he is almost 26, he seems to be "getting it." Seems to be. How do I know what is in his mind and heart? But this Sunday, on Easter, he is coming over to cook out steaks. He is bringing his girlfriend who he lives with. He is working a 50 to 60 hour a week job. He is paying his own bills. He is sweet and kind when I talk to him on the phone. He says he loves me. I say I love him. We joke around.

Is it perfect? No. But perfect is a myth we all bought into. It doesn't exist. My son is making progress...just for today. Today is all we have. What do we want today to be like?

We are glad you are here. Stay with us. Read and listen and write. We are here for you no matter what you decide to do. Warm hugs today.


New Member
You have each touched and strengthened my heart with your replies, and have given me not only hope, but that impossible to replace feeling of being understood. Thank you so much.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
Hi FireDancer, Welcome to a group no one wants to belong to. I'm so happy you found us.

Your story is very similar to mine and many here. My son also would fly into violent rages. I also dealt with holes punched and kicked in walls and trashing my house. One day he took a butcher knife to my kitchen counters and hacked away at them. I know what you are going through. My one and only child, my son is 33 and is homeless / couch surfing. He usually manages to find someone who will feel sorry for him and take him in until they find out what he's really like and the cycle continues.

You are doing so many things right. You have set clear boundaries, you need to stick to them. Your number one priority is you and your safety. I know how much it hurts to see your child self destruct. There is no other pain like it and we have all been there.

I can tell you this, you can survive this and go on to live a very happy fulfilled life. I am proof and there are others here too. I will always love my son but I cannot live his life for him and I will not allow him to destroy mine. I do not know why these Difficult Child of ours choose to live the way the do, they just do.

From what you have said about your ex and his behavior, I would say most of what you are seeing with your son is genetic. My ex and my son are two peas in a pod and my ex has been out of my son's life since he was 4. There really is something to nature vs nurture, I totally believe nature can have a stronger impact than nurture.

I know your heart is breaking but you need to take care of you.

I really like what Echolette had to say.
As Cedar often points out...men his age are putting their lives on the line to protect us, every day. They are in the military, they are police officers, they are fireman. Where does he get off whining?

As MWM points out...the mentally ill need to take responsibility for managing their illness, be it depression, bipolar disorder, what have you. She does it. I do it (I am bipolar...there! I said it!).

He will not be OK till he learns that he needs to be OK to himself. You do him no favors as a mom to engage in the charade of pretending otherwise.

I have had messages from son threatening suicide, saying he was going to freeze to death, he's going to starve to death, he hates his life, etc.....
Yes, it's heartbreaking to get those but I stand firm in my resolve. You must understand that my husband (who adopted my son) and I have given my son many chances. We have paid rent more than a few times, bought clothes, a car, food, gave him money and all he had to do was get a job. We finally got to the point enough is enough. I am done "helping/enabling" him. My son, your son and all the other Difficult Child have made choices to live in an irresponsible manner. Even if they have mental health issues, again they make choices to not do what they should. The really maddening thing is that my son always manages to find a way to get his pot/drugs and booze.

Do not let you son guilt you into enabling him. He will use the word help but that's not true. He wants you to take care of him all while continuing to smoke pot and do whatever he wants. He needs to put for the effort to change his life. You have done all you can.

((HUGS)) to you........


New Member
Welcome! I am new to this horrific journey as well. You will find strength and great wisdom from this amazing group. From that you will learn to build a support system which will help you cope. Sending you strength and prayers.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Welcome Firedancermom. Your story is not unlike many of ours.....we know how you feel, we've all been there. The other warrior mom's have given you stellar advice, they know what they're talking about.

You're in that sticky place where we teeter on the razor's edge of love for them and the knowledge, often buried deep within us, that we cannot abide their behavior any longer...our own lives are now at stake...often we teeter on that sharp edge for a long time....you've worked though a lot of it with the support system you have, you're doing a pretty good job amidst the insanity you've been living with.....you are a strong warrior mom too. Stay the course, you know in your heart of hearts that what you are doing is the right thing. Your son has made his choices, bad as they may be......there is nothing you can do now, it's ALL up to him.

As the others have said, it's warmer, there are shelters and food banks, food stamps and health care, he can even get a free phone........our kids are resourceful and highly manipulative........our best course of action is to refrain. Don't read the texts, don't respond, take a step back and then another. Read books like Codependent no more, by Melodie Beattie.....anything by Pema Chodron, Brene Brown and Eckhart Tolle. Living in uncertainty and chaos is a real learning curve for us humans.......we don't usually do change, chaos and uncertainty well. But we can learn.

It's a strange trajectory, it is not a linear process, it is up and down and sideways, we have to learn how to respond differently, how to let go, how to set strong unbreakable boundaries, how to keep our inquiries to ourselves, how to walk away, how to not take on the guilt, how to say a resounding NO, how to put the focus on ourselves and our other kids, how to enjoy life again, how to recognize manipulation......... and, how to accept what is with as much grace as we can muster (and sometimes grace is way too far out of reach, we just do what we can). None of this is easy. Yet it is doable. Most of us here are doing it......and some of us have gone through the 'forrest of doom' and emerged out the other side. There IS light at the end of that dark forrest.......

Keep doing what you're doing, get as much support as you possibly can, we all need that, be very, very kind and generous with yourself, treat yourself, love yourself, nurture yourself.......keep writing and expressing your story........hang around with us.....we're glad you found us, glad you're here.......sending you a big hug for your hurting mothers heart.....


Well-Known Member
Welcome, Firedancer.

So much of what I am going through, I see in your note. You are three steps ahead of me (divorce, new home, ER) but oh, so similar.
Yes, the system is broken.
Yes, it's genetic.
Yes, people can learn.
Yes, we should do Tough Love.
Yes, it is almost (?) harder on us.
I'm working on bits and pieces of Tough Love at the moment.
It is ripping my heart out. Just trying to get difficult child to quit the drugs, and then hoping to move on from there. Trying to avoid having him run to the Dark Side forever.


Well-Known Member
The truth is the more we do for them the further we lead their happy butts to that dark place. Self reliance and self respect come from doing for ourselves.


Welcome and hugs to you. I have gotten so much support and love from this group and I have learned so, so much over the past month or so - I just can't say enough about these folks. I too, felt like I had finally found a home; a group of parents that 'get it' and I never thought I would find someone, let alone an entire group of people that understood but here we are!

My Difficult Child is and 18 year old girl so like your son, she is very young. I was an enabler of my child's drug use and took some of the very same abuse you have encountered with your son. You can only change what you acknowledge and that you have - you know you have enabled so that's a start.

No one here will mislead you and say that there is an easy road ahead - it's not easy - BUT it's the road to peace, the road to acceptance and the road to living your life in healthy, happy way. I am living proof that within just a few weeks, you will feel better armed with the tools you will learn from these folks.

You set boundaries which is something I am still learning to do and that is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Unforunately, we have to protect ourselves from our children in these situations. At times I have felt such deep sadness and depression I just wanted to sleep, hide from the world or run away but those times pass and they become less frequent as time goes on and you gain the strength you need to accept the situation and continue living your life.

You are in the right place, we understand your feelings and you can write anytime and someone will be there to listen and respond. I have found such comfort and support here and I know you will too. Many of these ladies have heard/read every details of my Difficult Child's dysfunction, my dysfunction and literally every event that has happened in my life since joining and although at times I felt like they must all be saying, 'Geez lady, enough already!', they didn't.

You have made a strong start, hang in there, post often and take care of YOU.

Hugs --WearyMom

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
You are doing so many things right. You have set clear boundaries, you need to stick to them. Your number one priority is you and your safety. I know how much it hurts to see your child self destruct. There is no other pain like it and we have all been there.


It helps me to remember that it is the situation that is bad. Not my child, not me. The situation. That way, I can see more clearly what action to take and stick to it.

Most of the time.

The truth is the more we do for them the further we lead their happy butts to that dark place. Self reliance and self respect come from doing for ourselves.

Pasa is right. When we help too much, we can be pretty sure we are twisting the child's ability to step into self-respecting adulthood. After a point, we encourage dependence instead of independence. The change happens in the child's mind. That is why they remain fixated on us well into their adulthoods.

We have to stop doing that, and let them (or force them into) growing up.

Self respect is a precious thing.

Independence is a precious thing, a wonderful feeling compared to dependence.

(According to our Recovering Enabler, we can tell we are enabling when we resent the help we are giving.)