21 year old son

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Greg Benson, Nov 15, 2015.

  1. Greg B

    Greg B New Member

    Glad to have found this site. I'm a long-suffering divorced/remarried dad whose older son is 21. A brilliant/talented guy through childhood, he began smoking pot at around 16. His life spiraled downward as his pot smoking pals all thrived and went on to college. My boy procrastinated on assignments during his senior year, then found he couldn't recover, so he coolly dropped out. Though he later got his GED, he's been pretty much a waste of a human being the last three years or so. He plays guitar and is very talented, but is into that Cookie-Monster nihilist death metal crap--even though he was exposed to a vast variety of good music from day one. His mom and I, who are on good terms, have paid his rent/bills for a year. We've agreed to stop doing that, warned him two months ago, and he's still not taken any initiative. Same old procrastinating, talented boy who obviously doesn't realize pot and his mind do not agree. He did a short stint in jail last year, and when we visited we ironically felt as though we had our boy back. Naturally his "friends" encircled him upon his release and he's a daily smoker again. (I'm not ideologically against pot, by the way, still have a puff now then. It's just not a way of life for me.) So we're a few weeks away from seeing him ousted from his crappy place and tossed into the street with his five guitars. Of course we've been told we've given him too much, blah blah, we're enabling him; we know we did our best with him, with lots of love but with structure too. I'm angry and sad and scared for him. And feeling like a complete failure. I'm grateful for non-judgmental comments.
  2. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Hi and welcome. I recommend if this is your real name, that you change in to protect your family's anonymity.

    I'm sorry about your son's choices. My son went down the same road, but his first drugs of choice were alcohol and pot. Then it progressed to pills and I don't know what else. He "went all the way down" and after years of really bad behavior, started turning his life around almost 18 months ago.

    He has a long way to go, and a big hole to dig out of.

    There are people who can't use substances of any kind, including alcohol and pot. My son is one of those.

    Friends are a huge indicator of where they "are" in their lives.

    I know how hard it is to stop. My son's dad and I are divorced, and we worked together to determine what to do and how to do it during the really bad years. I stopped before he did. While I hoped and prayed and waited for him to stop, I had compassion for him. I worked hard to detach from my son with love, and I went to Al-Anon faithfully. It saved me and saved my sanity, and it's helped me become a better person---more honest, more humble, more accepting of myself and other people.

    This is a very very tough road to walk. Most of us have walked it here, and are at varying points on the journey.

    We will offer you ideas, support and encouragement, and we understand that you will need to do whatever you decide to do. We have no advantage and cannot know the whole story.

    Most of us have found that it's necessary to change ourselves, because we can't change other people. Even our own precious children. And helping doesn't help. It just perpetuates the current behavior. If change is to come soon, it has to be from us.

    Great books to read are Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend and CoDependent No More by Melody Beattie. These are two first books I read. They helped me so much and I read and reread them. Also there is a great post on this forum about detachment. I printed it out and read it over and over.

    We're here for you. Let us know how we can help.
  3. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    Hi, Greg, and welcome to the forum.

    We have all been where you are, to one degree or another.

    We have to try everything we can think of, to try to help our young adults get started on their lives. Many of us have paid their expenses, bought them things, paid their legal bills. Don't feel bad about that. We do that for ourselves as much as for our young adults.

    It is akin to the stages of grief, I think. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. We help, we push, we bargain, we do it ourselves, we say 'this is the last time' and then we finally start to let go and allow these young adults to live their lives on their own terms. It is a process. Don't feel bad about trying.

    Stay with us, Greg, as we all help each other.

  4. Greg B

    Greg B New Member

    Thanks for the quick and supportive responses. It's going to be a tough couple of weeks and I take solace in knowing there are those who understand. I live in a small college town and my son's troubles are well-known. People want to point to a cause, and I often feel as though they think I'm it.
  5. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    No one wants to believe that this can happen to them, to their kids.

    So the response becomes 'those parents did something, or didn't do something, to cause this'.

    It also, inadvertently, sends a message to the young adults that they are not responsible for their actions, it must be someone else's fault.
  6. Greg B

    Greg B New Member

    I have found what you wrote to be very true. "There must be a reason--otherwise this can happen to me no matter how perfectly I am parenting." Randomness is tough to reckon with for many.
  7. in a daze

    in a daze Well-Known Member

    A lot of it is luck and genetics. I've seen mediocre parents have kids who turn out ok, and good parents have kids who fail to launch because of substance abuse and mental illness. For example, read my signature.

    These people who blame you for your son's issues are ill informed and judgemental.
  8. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    The real problem is the second half of the statement.

    Once my kids (at a young age) began to show signs of being really challenging... I learned to NOT point fingers at the parents. In my experience, there is always a cause - but we don't always find out what it is. And most of the time, it's going to be come combination of genetics, development, experiences, and choices - and many of the experiences and choices are totally outside of a parent's control (think of all the hours spent at school etc.).

    School tried to pin problem behavior on our "unusual" home situation (not that unusual but a little bit different)... the real problem was developmental and mental health issues, but school didn't want to acknowledge that or they would look bad for not having been supportive earlier. Sure... CYA disease.

    I played the "developmental and mental health challenges" card many times, and it helped.
  9. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Hi again Greg...I live in a mid-size college town and I'm very visible here because of my profession. A lot of people know about my son's troubles.

    I wrestled with this a lot. I felt ashamed. I felt guilty. I was jealous of other people and all of their kids' great accomplishments. I felt like my son's name would never be "clean" again and his actions were going to follow him forever.

    I used to say nothing. Sometimes I said too much. I used to change the subject when it was about to be my turn to talk about "my kids and what they're doing now." I didn't go places because I didn't want to be asked.

    Over time, I came to believe that nothing I did or didn't do caused this. And I have also come to believe that it's not only okay, but it's good, to talk briefly and honestly about what I have been through.

    My only struggle with it today is protecting my son's anonymity. I don't want to label him myself---he is the only one who can call himself a drug addict or an alcoholic...not me.

    Anyway, I really understand how hard it is. My son is well known to the police here and I know the police here, including being friends with the Chief.

    Anyway...I get it. I can only say work to hold your head up and tell whatever amount of truth you want to tell.

    People have struggles in this world, and mental health struggles are still one of the last frontiers of shame and guilt and silence.

    At this point, I feel like I want to shed light on some of this, but within parameters and within the bounds of appropriateness. You may not feel that way.

    There are so many people who struggle with their kids and their choices...but never talk about it.

    When I started talking about it, I was amazed at the people who came out of the woodwork to start talking about their own situations.

    Hang in there.
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  10. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    There is an old saying " The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"
    I say " My tree is on a steep, steep hill and those two apples....rolled."

    Nuff said.

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  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I love this. It is also true..It is usually not us, unless we lock our kids in closets and beat them. I believe genetics is a large part, but that's just me.
  12. Greg B

    Greg B New Member

    Thanks for those wise words. I am lucky to have several friends with whom I can be frank about my son and not feel judged. It is liberating to talk about it. But I do feel as though I need to be selective; concern is often a mask for Schadenfreud.
  13. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    I just learned a new word, schadenfreude, thank you. It is true, some folks derive pleasure from others misfortune.

    I am glad you have supportive friends, that is important.

    Keep posting, we try to help each other here. It is a mutually beneficial story sharing, problem solving site. I do not think there is anything that compares to receiving comfort and solace from ones who have "been there, done that" or are traveling similar paths.

    Take care
  14. Quicksand

    Quicksand Active Member

    My son, whose biological father signed off on him before he turned 2 years old, is the same as bio. He met him a few times when he was 17 which I greatly regret. My husband adopted my son and we've live a pretty normal life. My son is now running around the west coast shooting heroin and using women. His bio did the same thing, except his drug was alcohol. He used me and many other women up to this s day as far as I know. My son didn't see behavior like this while growing up. I believe in genetics.
  15. Greg B

    Greg B New Member

    I feel as though I've found a safe place to discuss my son and my morass of emotions surrounding him and his struggles. The next few weeks are going to be tough, and there may be the occasional late-night alcohol-induced rant--I apologize in advance.
  16. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Ha! Rant away, we shall rant right along with you. No advanced apologies necessary.
  17. Greg B

    Greg B New Member

    Thanks--and have fun with that new word.
  18. Greg B

    Greg B New Member

    Well, it's Thanksgiving week and the only evidence he's still alive is his the semi-daily visit to her house to raid the fridge. He doesn't even try to hide his tracks, and leaves empty cans, cartons, etc. for her to clean up when she gets home from nine hours of work. Who is this kid? I go back and forth between wanting to start a fight with him and wanting to hug him and not let go. Now that we've agreed to stop paying his bills, his mom is preparing the guest room in her house when he's booted out of his place. Then it's back to the 3 am feast preparing and deadbeat friends hanging around, making her life a nonsleeping hell. I want to talk her out of it, but my fear for him being homeless stops me.
  19. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Hi Greg,

    My ex-husband and I were at different points with our son as well. I was ready to stop enabling and set some firm boundaries at one point...and my ex-husband kept giving Difficult Child lots of chances after that for months. I had to learn to live with it, and I finally was able to take a step back and realize it would happen whenever it would happen, or not. Again, I couldn't force it.

    Finally, my ex-husband was sick and tired enough as well. The last straw for him was my Difficult Child stealing from them.

    He was ready to set his own boundaries at that point.

    I also felt relieved, some part of me, about our son not being on the street even though I knew it wasn't good for the enabling to continue.

    His mom will get sick of it as well, at some point.

    Hang in there, and try to enjoy your Thanksgiving. It's hard to do---and the holidays ramp it all up for all of us.

    We're here for you in the meantime.
  20. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hi Greg, my daughter had the same problem with smoking pot and drinking. She barely graduated high school and was suspended from college in the first semester for smoking and drinking. We live in a medium size community but my husband is in the legal profession so every time she had to go to court it was uncomfortable. Of course all the magistrates and judges knew him so they figured we were already doing a better job than they could have. But for a long time I was afraid to show my face in our community. Then I learned that we were not alone and there were many other parents living the same nightmare.

    Aren't you amazed that so many other young people can smoke pot and have no negative effects yet ours are completely unmotivated and irresponsible? They are trying to legalize pot in my state, it was just turned down this month, but it will pass soon I am sure. That will just reinforce to her that's it's ok. Fortunately she saw that her life was unmanageable and stopped smoking, but still drinks way too much. She obviously has the addiction gene.

    Hopefully being out on the street on his own will wake him up. Of course he will blame you because after all everyone else smokes and they are ok. They don't get that they process it differently just like an alcoholic does.

    by the way I was saddened that my daughter threw away every opportunity we gave her and now struggles in life because of it, but it was her choice. Even though she works and we now have a good relationship she gave up so much by her early choices. Sad isn't it?