39 year old difficult child

I don't know where to start. I am 60 and recently retired. My difficult child was born with a congenital heart defect and was always very slow mentally. He had open heart surgery at the age of 4. At the age of 7 he was tested and found to be borderline mentally challenged. It was rough getting him through school. My husband was not very supportive and was hard on his self esteem. After graduating he married a girl much younger and they had two children. Needless to say his EXwife was as slow mentally as him. It was just one problem after another ..rent not paid, no groceties, etc, I was constantly buying them groceries, paying rent, paying car repair bills. He has always held a job, never paid good money though. He was a lot attendant at a local car dealership. He started drinking and got his first dui one month after his 21st birthday. Of course, I drove him around, pd fines, and basically did a rescue. His drinking increased, he moved in and out of our home 3 times. Everytime he moved out he got worse and worse with the drinking. Received his 2nd dui, got jail time...I drove him everyday to work release, helped him with bills, etc. He cannot handle money. His paychecks are gone two days after he gets paid. He is a very nice, kind, gentle person. It would be so much easier to cut him off if he was nasty and obnoxious. But he's not. It breaks my heart to even look at him. Im not sure if his cognitive skills make him lie, or what, but he is a pathological liar. You can never get a straight answer out of him. He moved out of our home again last november and his dad said he is never moving back. He met a girl 10 years older than him. We were relieved thinking she would help with bills and help him function. Ha...she is now in jail for a probation violation, the difficult child has lost his license because he was driving on a suspended license. Here's the kicker....the only reason his license was suspended was because he didn't pay a simple $127 fine for not having his car inspected. So, in addition to not having a license, he was fired. So of course he's on the phone to me. No food, no money, no way to get around. My husband is furious and says I can't help him. However he did allow me to take food to him. I helped him apply for food stamps, unemployment, and pull his money from his pension fund. The understanding is that this is for emergencies only and will be held by his dad until he finds work then will be put into another pension fund. I've also contacted his case manager from mental health mental retardation. His dad says if difficult child moves back in, he moves out. I am trying hard to be supportive of my son while abiding by my husband's rules. It is hard to turn off my feelings, but I am trying to prepare myself that he may end up on the streets. Since I have retired, I no longer have the money to help him. I think my biggest problem is separating the drinking and lying from the low cognitive abilities. I mean. There are a lot of mentally challenged people in the world who don't drink and drive and don't break laws. I think I feel his problems are somehow my fault.

Scent of Cedar *

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I'm so sorry this is happening to you, to your marriage, to your child.

It will take time, but I think the parents here will be able to make a difference for you in learning how to help your son learn to take responsibility for himself.

I know it's hard for a mother to hear, but I believe your husband is doing the right thing for all of you - your son included, in refusing to allow him to move home again.

Welcome, overwhelmed. You aren't alone with it anymore.

None of this is your fault. Your son has made very bad choices that I am sure you warned him about.

Others of us will be along shortly.




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Why don't you get him adult community services rather than making your entire life all about still being his mother? My son has autism and is 21 and out on his own with community support. Is he on disability? (He should be). You need to start at Aging and Disabilities and get him tested and eligible for services.

I think your husband is being a bit hard on an adult child with actual cognitive issues, however, he also has a point. Do you want to be 90 and still taking care of him? You owe it to him and any other loved ones you have, but most of all TO YOURSELF to have a wonderful rest-of-your-life. In no way do you have to care for your son and his family, delays or not. There is help out there and he needs it. You can't live forever. He needs to get confidence with the help of advocates who can help him move away from you, yet not have to pay so much rent and not try to do it exactly as if he is an adult without any issues.

Aging and disabilities: That should be your first stop tomorrow.

If your son refuses to get community help, then it's time to make him do it himself. He will see that he can't and probably give in and get the offered help. My son loves his life and does not depend on us. I am 60 like you and I won't spend the rest of my years being a "mommy." I need to enjoy my golden years. So do you and you deserve it as well! The money should be cut off now. There is money he can get from disability, he can get healthcare, housing and food stamps, and he should. These programs were set up especially for peopjle like our sons, who are a little bit different :)
If he was just a drunk and liar it may be easier to deal with. But the low mentality puts a different twist on it. It's just like...everything I try to preach to him goes in one ear and out the other. I'm so tired of living like this. I have been running interference and rescuing him.... well....since 1976. Thank you for your response.


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He may not be able to understand you. He is already almost 40. That's way too old to be living with you. As I said, my 21 year old son (autistic spectrum and cognitive disability not otherwise specified) took advantage of the services offered at Aging and Disabilities and has an apartment that he pays for (not me), a part time steady job, disability, and many wonderful friends. The community of disabled adults is amazing. Of course, he doesn't drink or do drugs or drive. I would be leery of your son driving, if it were me, since he drinks and may not understand that it's dangerous to drink and drive. If you pay for the car, maybe you can get him a free pass, since he is disabled, on public transportation, like my son has, so he doesn't need to drive.

It is your decision whether you keep rescuing him until you die or if you reclaim your own life. We give ideas and you can act on them or keep saving your son, which won't help him one bit. Getting out in the world will help him. I wish you lots of luck and hope you decide your life matters and make plans to have others take over his care. He can even get a guardian if he is incapable of caring for himself and a payee for the money. And it doesn't have to be you. My son has both and it's me, but he doesn't argue with me so it works. One day I may let somebody else take over.

If your son is an alcoholic, he will need to get services for that. But it is his decision whether or not to quit. I would not help him get out of trouble for doing something like driving drunk.
MidwestMom. Thank you for your response. Yes, I have been in contact with his case manager at MH/MR. That is what it is called in PA. My h6sband blows up, then calms diwn. If there wasn't the drinking problem snd the constant lying there most likely wouldn't be a problem with him living at home.
My sister had 23 year old with autism who lives at home. She us constantly trying to get him services but can't. He is high functioning and is going to college.


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My own opinion is that it is not good for these adult kids to live at home. They get a far more enriching experience if they don't, whether or not it is easy for you. You will not be here one day. Then what will he do? He will be like a little boy who has never lived away from his mother before and probably lose it. Of course, you have to do what you have to do, but I don't want my son to be so used to living with me that he can't handle it when he can't anymore. Plus I have seen my son grow, change and mature since he has been living elsewhere.

I don't think Mental Health gets services for cognitively disabled adults. I do think you have to go to Again and Disabilities regardless of where you live. Have you tried it? Has the state or county ever tested him to see if he is competent to hold a job that can support him? If not, you haven't been to the right place. Ditto for your sister. Her daughter will not grow and evolve if she lives at home until her mother passes away. Anyhow, that is my opinion.. If MH/MR won't help you, look elsewhere. Don't quit trying.
MidwestMom. I don't pay for his car. I'm not sure what state you live in, but it sounds like they have wonderful services. I have three grandsons with autism. ( NOT my difficult child's sons). All different levels on the spectrum. Pennsylvania is really cutting services.
My son has always chose to work. He has held a fulltime steady job since he graduated frim high school. I always felt he was eligible for disability. But who am I to tell him not to work, to go on disability. But, I'm going to get him in contact with the appropriate agencies to help him. We live in a rural area and there is no public transportation. So that's another problem for him.
MidwestMom. We have office of aging...but I am going to dig deeper into that. When we filled out his application for access and food stamps, I did see questions on there about ssi, etc. Oh, and just to clarify...I do not want him living at home. We retired so we could travel....not babysit a 39 year old. If it wasn't for my mother who is in a nursing home, we would be selling our house and moving away. I know the problem would still be there, but physical distance does help.


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zYou can work if you are on disability. Clearly he can't take care of himself and he's going to have to one day and you deserve your retirement. It isn't good for him to live at home. You an't be there forever.
Since I am new to this forum, I'm not sure if I completely understand the process of posting. I've been reading everyone's posts everyday and many of them have touched my heart and given me strength. I don't post responses becsuse I feel so weak and broken that I don't think I am in a position to give advice.
Since my difficult child has self destructed, I've been trying to supply minimal support...take him to the store, errands, etc. MWM...his case mfr did apply for disability for him.
So I'm trying to go about my life as best as possible, waiting to see .......what? I don't even have a clue. Sometimes I will be going sbout my business doing something I enjoy and something will remind me of him and his issues...and then I get this sickening heavy feeling in my heart and a pang of sadness....also in the mornings when I wake up, it's like a ton of bricks hits me as soon as I open my eyes. It would probsbly be easier if he wasn't such a gentle natured kind person......but that doesn't change the fact that you can never get the truth out of him. He would rather me find out things online or in the newspaper than him tell me. Like last week, I read online on the district justice's website that he got a dui back in july. Found this out 5 minutes after talking to him on the phone and him assuring me he did not getvone.


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Hi there. So sorry you have to join us. It is sad when our difficult children (Gifts from God...kind of a tongue in cheek title) are getting up there in age. I know. You must have read my posts so you know that my son is also closing in on 40. We, and I'm sure you, have honestly offered to do anything we could for son and he can't see anything really that wrong with him. In our case, that help started in childhood. Sounds like your son has substance abuse issues so perhaps he started older, but I'm positive you did all that you could and it didn't help. None of us can help a sick person who not only doesn't want to get better, but who won't even admit they are sick and need help. And it hurts us so much when it is our own child. Even if they have mental health issues, because of our laws, it is imperative that the mentally ill person participate eagerly in his recovery in order to get better over the long haul. That often requires medication, psychiatric treatment, things they often can't do, if they are that sick, and won't let anyone do for them. So....you have done the maximum you are allowed to do for an adult. You have been a brave and caring mother. Your son, like most of ours here, is unwilling to get whatever help hi needs and expects you to keep helping him out. Do what you feel comfortable doing. Don't do what you feel bad about doing. That's my best, from-the-heart advice.

I'm concerned about YOU. I have spent a lifetime fighting depression, and you sound depressed. Certainly you have a reason, but it is a very hard fight alone and I think it's time you should start caring about your own mental health. If you have not been evaluated for depression, I would go to a psychiatrist. If your son is an alcoholic or drug abuser, I would also try several Twelve Step Meetings. They have given relief to many of us and also instructed us on how to not feel guilty if we feel the need to detach and to get on with our own lives. A private therapist is also helpful...I have been going to one since I was in my 20s. Make sure the therapist is a good fit for YOU, if you go that route.

I understand how that "elephant on my chest" is there even before your eyes are open in the morning. For me, I just wanted to fall back asleep and not feel the depression. When my son is upset, as he is now, I am far more apt to have to double-hard fight my depression. I am better at it now. I have learned many skills. But that doesn't mean I don't get depressed if I let myself think about his sadness and how he expresses it to me. We all understand you here.

I have to go to work now. I'm going to leave you with the prayer that is my mantra. I recite it over and over in my mind when I am feeling like I have to "fix" one of my children or my husband or somebody else. I am not as apt to actually do it these days, but that doesn't mean the idea doesn't pop into my mind and take root.

"God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I can not change,
The COURAGE to change the things I can,
And the WISDOM to know the difference." (You don't need to believe in a God to live by this. I do, but I feel it is valid for anyone in the world you thinks we can change somebody else).

Other, smarter posters will be here with their wisdom :)


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You are doing wonderful on the site. Dont worry thinking that you have nothing to offer. Just telling someone you are thinking of them and/or giving hugs can make a huge difference to a person. None of us really can solve a problem for each other but we are here to listen.

I know how hard it is to break away from them. Little things bring everything rushing back.
I am getting "piecemeal" bits and pieces of my difficult child's one month of self-destruction. Just found out he got a 2nd dui. So all totsl, he has two dui's, 3 driving on a suspended license.......all because he was "upset" because his girlfriend was in jail. Omg...I did not raise him this way. I feel like I can not function...I tell myself to stop caring, stop worrying, let the pieces fall where they may. Having trouble with that. Plus, no income coming in, unemployment denied, and haven't heard anything about disability. I'm in a bad frame if mind right now....need strength.


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I just figured out (duh) that you posted at the end of an older post. You may want to post your own thread. You'll probably get a much bigger response that way.

Your son knows how to behave. He is just not behaving and is refusing help. It doesn't change him if you are so scared over him that you can't function. You did the best you could and he isn't put forth an effort and you can't change that. Get help for yourself. That is the best advice I can give you. You can't change one thing about your son, but you can make your own life better and your response to his bad behavioral can become calmer, more logical, and more realistic. There are ways to cope while a loved one is self-destructing.

You have a choice, like all of us. You can decide to get sick and go crazy over your son or you can decide to get healthy, live a good life, know you did your best and be there for your son if he decides he wants to come around. Our difficult children tend to suck all the air out of our world so that we make no room for our healthier adult/young children, our spouses, our SOs, our friends and our own selves. That's not fair to them or to us, in my opinion.

I hope you chose to do all you can to learn how to take care of yourself. I think it would be a good idea to start with a private therapist. Hugs.


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Staff member
Welcome Overwhelmed. I'm sorry you're going through this with your son.

You may want to read the article on detachment at the bottom of my post here, along with reading Codependent No More by Melodie Beattie. Both good resources for us.

Have you tried contacting NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness? You can access them online and they have many chapters. They have excellent parent courses that may help you with information, resources and support.

We are powerless to help our adult kids who refuse help. It then becomes about US and how we can work it out to not get pulled into all the drama and trauma our kids create around themselves. Getting support for US is very important because detachment goes against our natural instincts to care for, protect and keep our kids safe. You might try 12 step groups like Al Anon or CoDa or Families Anonymous.

Our kids don't always change, but we can change, we can learn to respond differently, we can learn to take care of ourselves first, we can learn to take the focus off of them and place it back on ourselves. We usually need support to make those changes, so my advice for you is to seek out as much support as you can, you will likely need it.

It helps to keep posting here too, just to release all the feelings to those of us who've walked in your shoes.........we understand. I'm glad you're here.