A bittersweet birthday


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It’s C’s birthday today. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see him or not. He doesn’t have minutes on his phone so I can only get ahold of him through Messenger which he checks when he can get Wi-Fi. We arranged to meet downtown for dinner. I wasn’t sure if he would show or not, but he did. S said she would try to be there but she was a no show tonight.

I was glad to see him. It was also a gut punch. He is even thinner than the last time I saw him. His eyes are hollow. He barely spoke. He has a tremor that is congenital, but it was especially noticeable. He just picked at his food and boxed most of it up for later. He didn’t smell of alcohol, as he often does, but clearly was out of it and probably coming down off something.

He said he was sleeping friend’s floor for a few days so at least he is out of the cold. There is a bit of snow on the ground here. He was just in a light jacket and a tee shirt so we went to Target and I got him a warm coat, a hat and gloves, and some sweat shirts and jeans without holes. I’ve done this before. I’m pretty sure I got him a coat last year. But who knows where that got left. He no longer has the air mattress and bedding I gave him because it was too much to carry when the last friend threw him out and he thinks this person ended up throwing it all out. In any case that bridge is burned. His current friend says he can only stay there a few nights and he has no idea where he will go after that.

I asked if he knew what’s going on with S and he said, ‘honestly, mom, it’s better If you don’t even know. She’s not doing too well right now.’ And I’m thinking ...compared to you? You think she’s in worse shape than you are? What does that even look like?

Seeing him this way is honestly just shattering. I’m scared for both of them right now. And I can’t help them when they will not take any steps to help themselves. I feel like I’m watching them drown in slow motion, but even when I throw a life raft to them they won’t grsb on.

I am so tired tonight.

Tired out

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Oh Elsi, I am so sorry. I feel the pain in your words. I wish I coulddn't even imagine how you feel, but I can. I hope you can sleep tonight knowing C has a place to sleep.
Hugs and prayers sent your way.


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Oh Elsi, I am so sorry. I think I will see my son tomorrow and I am afraid of some of the same.

This is part that gives me hope:
‘honestly, mom, it’s better If you don’t even know. She’s not doing too well right now.’
He knows. He really, really knows. He is able to see through your eyes. He wants to protect you. He knows that he is living is misery. This is what it will take for him to decide to change. Sober first requires sober eyes. With that statement he is seeing through sober eyes.
Seeing him this way is honestly just shattering.
I feel shattered for you. What will I see tomorrow?
I can’t help them when they will not take any steps to help themselves. I feel like I’m watching them drown in slow motion
I feel so heartbroken for you. And for him.

We have to remember here. There are shelters. There are sober living homes. There is rehab. There is work.

But I understand and I relate to disappointment and crushing pain...that they choose what they do. I am so sorry.

On the new thread I did today somebody asked me if I was sure my son wanted to live. That if he kept ignoring that he had a disease that could kill him, that maybe he was indifferent to dying, and wanted to die. There was some discussion about what were my priorities. And I could not decide. Others were clear that first my son had to live. That I had to support him to live. I get so confused I don't know what way is up.

The thing is we don't know which way is up. Are they hitting bottom in order to make a base, so that they can turn things around one day at a time? We don't know. Your son with the baby, you did not know, before he made the change...that it would happen. We don't know.

I am sorry that this birthday was so heart wrenching. I could cry for you. But the tears won't come. I have to be strong for tomorrow.

He must have been so grateful and happy to see you and to be with you. What you represent to him is motherlode. You have given him that and he carries it inside of him. These men of ours are ridden with conflict and what feels to them to be self-loathing...but they know love. And they feel love. This is not a small thing.
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Yes, as Copa said, you gave him unconditional love, caring, stability. Everything you could give. That's all you can do. Also, and this is no small thing, you gave them each other and taught them to care for each other. What I wouldn't give to have a loving sib!

Congrats on a loving dinner and being a great Mom!


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Thank you all. I’m still really struggling this morning. I seem to be able to compartmentalise and keep my head most of the time with all this but actually seeing him again has pushed me out of equilibrium. I find I don’t want to listen to my music this morning. I couldn’t make myself get out of bed for my workout even though I know now is when I really need it most. My head feels fuzzy and my heart hurts. Starting in on laundry and cleaning bathrooms in hopes that it will clear my head before I try to get down to real work. I have a complicated project to work on today and I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

Smithmom, I’m trying to go to my desperation list here. Thank you for that.

Last night was the first time in a while R came with me to see him. And I could see the shock in her eyes when she first saw him. He looks terrible. I keep seeing his hollow eyes staring straight ahead and the shadows under his cheekbones. He has gone bald, and his bald head looked so vulnerable in the cold. I cut his hair for him for years, as a child and younger adult. Seeing him now made me think about all those haircuts. About the child he once was.

He was 6 when I came into his life, N was 3 and S just 1. It was a rocky start, as you can probably imagine. C in particular was angry and hurting from bio mom’s abandonment. He didn’t want to accept me right away and in retrospect I see their dad did a terrible job of bringing me in to the family, rushing into a whirlwind relationship with my young dumb self while bio mom was barely out the door. (Of course he did. He didn’t want to raise these kids on his own, and I was the only one naive enough to swallow his bait.)

I went into it the way I go into most things I don’t understand, with lots of research and analysis. I spent years reading every book I could get my hands on on parenting, step parenting, parenting adoptive children, child psychology, adult psychology, parenting difficult children. But I also went into it believing that if I just could love hard enough and well enough it would fix things. I thought I could love their dad into not being abusive to all of us, too. What a fool I was there.

N and S have no real memories of bio mom in their life so I’m just Mom with them. With C, it’s always been more complicated, since he does remember her, and was most aware of her missing presence In Their lives. Shortly after E was born, when he was 7, he asked if he could call me mom. Bio mom was supposed to have summer visitation for the first time since she left and blew it off, and he was upset. (She totally disappeared after this for about the next 10 years.) We’d always let him decide on his own what to call me because that’s what the stepparent books said to do. So I gave some bland book script of of course honey you can call me whatever you feel comfortable with blah blah blah. He was sitting in my lap. And he turned around and took my face in his hands and looked me in the eyes and said ‘if I call you mom, do you promise you’re never leaving?”

It hit me then just what I’d gotten myself into, and what it meant. I said yes. God help me, I said yes. And through all the pain and heartache of the next 14 years with their dad that yes stayed in my brain. Because I promised. I promised if you call me mom I’ll be mom forever. And I don’t pretend to know much about God or religion or theology, but I believe a promise of this kind made to a child is sacred and binding.

And I would go through that pain all over again if it would bring C and S to a place of safety and health and comfort. It hurts so much to see them like this now. And it makes me question my mostly hands off approach with them. Should I be doing more? Is there anything I can do? How can I just stand back and watch them do this to themselves?

Deni D

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Elsi, you are such a good mom. It's nice he did show but so sad for you to see the life he has made for himself on his face. He does seem somewhat aware from his comment about his sister. I know I can't help my son, if there's one thing he has proven it's been that. I wonder if your son would accept any referrals to organizations you might be able to find for him. I don't know what's in your area but I know for me having a few phone numbers in my back pocket to offer up gives me a little sense of control. A men's shelter, a mental health organization, a food bank and such.


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I am so sorry that what was supposed to be a pleasant birthday dinner stressed you out. You did what you could for him and got him some warm things to wear. My son always loses them as well but he has them for now. You also gave him a warm meal. I agree with others maybe he is getting close to realization that things have to change. Prayers.


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Else, I am so sad for you. As you know, in calmer times, there is nothing you can do for an adult child as far as being hands on because they have full veto power and you cant organize any help for them that they have to honor.

Street life and drugs is not healthy for anyone. Before my daughter finally quit drugs she looked like the walking dead with sunken eyes and I doubt she weighed 100 lb. It is hard to see. I hope next time you see him he looks better. And is better.

I know you are not big on praying but maybe it will help to just ask the Universe to look out for him.

He is lucky to have you.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

I think it was very kind that you bought him the warm coat and gloves etc.

I went to see the movie "A Beautiful Boy" yesterday which was very good. I read the book several years ago but had forgotten most of it. The part that stuck out the most for me was when David, the father (played by Steve Carrel) said " I don't think we can ever save another person".

This was said after he had been trying to help his son many times and taken him in even though in the end it had hurt his two younger children and wife. They all loved the beautiful boy desperately.

I thought he would make it after being clean over a year and even speaking to other addicts about his addiction.

It was sad to realize that in truth he did not get sober and stay sober until he was in his 30's. I knew I wanted to see this move before my own beautiful boy comes home this weekend. Not sure it was a good idea or not.

At the end of the movie in the closing credits it stated that he has been sober for 8 years now. I know that he wrote his own book also. A friend of mine said she could not get through it because it was too dark. Imagine.


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Thank you all. It helps to know I'm not alone in all this.

I know you are not big on praying but maybe it will help to just ask the Universe to look out for him.
I do pray, in my own way. I'm just not always sure who or what I am praying to anymore, or if I have any expectation of results. I guess it's more just for me, without any expectation. But I do pray someone is watching over both of them.

I wonder if your son would accept any referrals to organizations you might be able to find for him. I don't know what's in your area but I know for me having a few phone numbers in my back pocket to offer up gives me a little sense of control. A men's shelter, a mental health organization, a food bank and such.
So far, he has not been receptive to this. He gets angry, because he is not "one of those people." Those places are for people who are too dumb, too weak, etc. But it may be that he is getting closer to being ready. I will keep them in my back pocket. Perhaps this winter reality will set in.

I don't think we can ever save another person".
I know. And yet...some of you have. Some of you have been able to get your children into programs, and seen success. I hear the pain and frustration in the posts as people watch their children go through rehab, IOP, sober living, etc. and I just keep thinking I can't even see mine getting that far. I long for the day when they will at least connect to a program and try, even if it doesn't take on the first time. And I wish they were still young enough that I had some kind of power or control to make them go somewhere and get help. I'm sitting on the sidelines watching them slowly dying. And as much as I know that I have no power here, it still feels wrong to do nothing when I see them like this.


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Well I did cry reading this, for both of us. For all the love we put in, the hopes not yet realized, the pain we suffer seeing them suffer.

You said some parents have saved their kids. I think in your grief today you are misplacing the power. Those parents didn't save or rescue their kids. The kids did that. Those parents weren't more successful than the rest of us. We'd all be there if our kids asked for help. Their kids asked.

Tired out

Well-Known Member
Elsi, You are amazing. You are a mother by choice to N,S & C. You have stuck by and loved them. Look in the mirror and see the wonderful person you are. You have done your best and here you are still showing them that you are there for them.
Hugs, wishes and prayers for all of you.


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Thank you all. I am trying to get myself back on track today. Got up for my workout and yoga so that’s a Start! I know there is little I can do for them until they are ready, so what else can I do in the meantime but keep moving forward? My heart still hurts but I think I will be able to keep it in the background today.


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Elsi, I am so sad for you. I haven't seen my son since last January and fully expect I may never see him again, but if I do, I have wondered what I will see when I look at him. He too was a "beautiful boy" and it's hard to let that person go in my heart and mind. I am so sorry for your pain. I have prayed for you this morning, that God will comfort you and make His presence real to you.


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Well, a couple of bright spots today. C reached out to me by text and said his phone was back on. He apologized for being so "grumpy and out of it" on Sunday, thanked me for his birthday things, and told me he loves me and is glad to have me as a mother. (Tears here.) He explained that he was detoxing after "things just got totally out of control" and is making an effort to be sober again. He said this is his fourth day sober and he "is feeling better every day."

I'm not getting my hopes up TOO far here - he's made it to the 4-5 day mark before, but never beyond. He has not committed to sober living or even AA. He still seems to think he can do it on his own. He quit the bar job and is getting a job working somewhere that doesn't serve alcohol because he says he realizes he can't be around it at all. He says the friends he is staying with temporarily are supportive of him getting sober. He doesn't know where he is going next but says he is working on that plan. I'm not sure whether to push sober living just yet or if that will just set him off right now. I think I'll suggest it again gently.

And more happy news - N called to tell me my grandson, Baby M, had a clean bill of health from his cardiologist for his third birthday! He was born with the same heart condition Jimmy Kimmel's son was born with and had multiple surgeries in his first year. But it looks like no more surgeries in his foreseeable future! There is a chance he may need another as he grows, maybe around 12, but right now everything looks good. He is growing well and happy and healthy and doesn't have any idea that anything was ever wrong with his heart. I am crying with relief. They are not going to be able to get out here for the holidays but I'm trying to figure out if I can sneak in a flight out there soon just to give him a big grandma hug.

Oh, I just want all of our beautiful boys (and girls) to be OK!


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We will see what happens next! I’m not holding out a lot of hope that this is the final turnaround, since he has not committed to getting help or entering sober living. But perhaps each time he tries gets him closer. At least he’s acknowledging that he has a problem and showing that he WANTS something better for himself. I just can’t let myself get too invested in the success at this stage, or I will be devestated if he fails again. I will wait and see.

Great news. Being a heart surgery survivor I can promise you that other than the scar its not an issue.
Thanks Smithmom! He will always have a scar but it’s silvery and faded now.

His condition was complicated. His heart was essentially flipped so blood went the wrong way - backwards back into the lungs. They had to move the aorta so blood would flow the right way back out to the body instead of back to the lungs, repair a hole in the ventricle and replace a valve. They did the first surgery when he was just three days old. He had to have several more over his first year. And they have to keep checking to make sure the valve doesn’t need replaced again as he grows. A lot of times they do apparently. He is truly my miracle baby!