A tough question to answer ...

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Elsi, Sep 24, 2018.

  1. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    So, I talked to C again this afternoon. He no longer sounds angry. He just sounds depresssed, resigned and defeated.

    He’s avoiding going back to the room, since he says he’s been made to feel unwelcome there. He’s slept a couple nights on someone’s kitchen floor. He’s not sure he’s going back tonight, though his eviction isn’t final for a couple more weeks here. He has no idea what’s coming next and repeats that he is out of options.

    Then he got quiet and asked me, “mom, are you afraid of me?”

    I asked him why he asked me that. There was a long pause and then he said, “I don’t think I could stand it if you were scared of me. I couldn’t live with myself if that’s how you felt.” When I didn’t answer right away he said, “I’m not like dad. I’m not going to be like that. I can’t be like that. Just please tell me you’re not scared of me.”

    I said very carefully, “when you are sober and being reasonable I’m not scared of you. I love you, and I know you love me. But it is hard to trust you when you are not sober. When you are not sober you aren’t in control of yourself, and I can’t be around that.”

    He was quiet for a long time and then said “I guess that’s fair. I understand.”

    We didn’t say much more after that.

    His question is troubling for me. The truth is, he does have some of his dad’s violent temper in him. He had a DV 5 years ago (though it was a two-way street and both parties were arrested). When he’s sober, he’s usually very gentle and rather intellectual and philosophical. When he’s drinking he can be out of control. And he’s much bigger than me. So yes, sometimes I am scared of him. I would be scared to have him here. I know R would be scared to have him here.

    But it breaks my heart to say that.

    His question also stirs up my own demons from my marriage. His dad was violent both drunk and sober, far more so than C has ever been. It’s hard to think back on those years. I know C bears his scars, as I bear mine.

    I don’t know how to put these demons to rest.
  2. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    I think this was a really good conversation as hard as it was. He asked you a good question and hopefully it made him think. I think your answer was honest and too the point. So hopefully he will get that his substance use has a serious price and will make him think that maybe that is not the way he wants to live. So I think this could end up being a very positive conversation.
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  3. newstart

    newstart Active Member

    Elis, You answered that question perfectly and with love.
    My prayer is that your son has made a turn around and will keep on that good path. He saw first hand how ugly his dad acted and something may have changed inside of him to not want to repeat that pattern.
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  4. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Thanks TL I hope you’re right!
  5. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    I really hope so. It’s so hard to break those patterns. I am very grateful he knows himself well enough to know he should not be a parent at this time, and had been responsible enough to take steps to keep that from happening. I hope and pray he’ll be able to get sober and maintain the self awareness to keep his anger issues in check. He really is a very sweet man most of the time. But of course his father could be very sweet and charming, too...until he wasn’t. That was always the hardest thing. The dichotomy.
  6. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree Elsi, I think your response was loving and truthful, as well as reiterating your boundary. You made a distinction for him he may or may not have realized before, so it may give him reason to pause and question his choices. I believe every bit of loving truth they can hear adds up.

    It's hard stuff we do here......many hugs to you Elsi.
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  7. Tired out

    Tired out Active Member

    You both deserve lots of hugs and a better peaceful life. I hope C can turn himself around. His thought process must be working to lead him to ask you that question. It is so sad how you have both been marked by his father.
  8. Triedntrue

    Triedntrue Active Member

    I have never been in an abusive relationship with my husband but feel that the love you have shown your son has given him that side of his personality that recognizes what his father did was wrong and the times he is sweet and gentle. It sounds like he is a step closer to that side winning this battle.
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  9. Nature

    Nature Active Member

    Elsi you are my sister in spirit! You answered honestly and truthfully in a way that your son understood your reasoning.

    Ironically ,my son and I had that same conversation a few years ago. At that time I told him I was feeling sad because he was so different when he was under the influence of drugs. I remember the hurt look on his face and he responded with "Mom, I would never hurt you". I replied " I know the real you- the person I love would never harm me but the person you become under the influence is so different". The conversation that followed was very similar to yours with your son. They need to hear it.

    Elsi don't beat yourself up for your discussion with your son. You have a right to be free from violence and fear. In my case my fears were not groundless as under drug induced psychosis my son did try to harm me a few weeks after our conversation. I even brought it up to the lawyer when he was charged.

    Your fear is based on your past experience and the need to protect yourself. You spoke the truth and I feel you chose your words carefully so that your son would understand. You know in your heart that your will never feel 100% safe having your son living under the same roof as yourself. It hurts and wounds your soul having to say those words to your child but in reality you would have disliked yourself more for not being honest with him.

    I grew up with a violent father who drank a lot. As a kid I remember the fear I had and never wanted to repeat that in my lifetime. It broke my heart that years later I experienced that same fear of my own child. I suspect there is a lot of guilt in your background in regards to your son growing up in a household with violence. It was never you Elsi you were the demon fighter...you continue to be. You are the light in his dark moments. Stay strong my friend.
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  10. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Elsi, I think you handled it beautifully. You were honest with him. I also think it's good that he is aware that he can have these tendencies. It was good that he felt he could ask you.

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  11. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Thank you all. It's hard to explain how much it rattles me. It's bringing up so many emotions and memories from the past.

    I so hope so! the thing that breaks my heart is thinking that once upon a time, their dad was a vulnerable young man, too. He wasn't a monster 100% of the time. Inside almost every abuser, I think, is a hurt child. How do you heal the child so that the man can stop the cycle? C is self-reflective, when sober, and that does give me hope.

    Nature, thank you so much for sharing your story, and validating my need (and right) to remain safe. You're right - I wouldn't feel safe with him here, and I know my partner would feel very unsafe. She doesn't see the hurt little boy when she looks at him, because she wasn't there. But the bottom line is I cannot, cannot, cannot think about going back into that sense of constant anxiety and fear I lived with for so long. It's ridiculous that it took me until almost 50 to finally have a home and a life I feel totally safe and comfortable in. I can't go backward. I can't give that up.

    Oh dear God so much guilt. So much regret that I couldn't get them all out of that. He put all of us through hell. I was never able to adopt my older three, because he said biomom would never voluntarily give up parental rights and we shouldn't "poke the bear" by trying. I know now that terminating her rights would have been entirely possible, since she had no contact with them for years at a time. He just wanted to retain the power over me, to be able to say "I'll throw your :censored2: out and I'll make sure you never see any of them again." I couldn't call the cops because he WAS the cops. I wasn't able to leave until C had already moved out and severed ties with his dad. N was an adult and in an extended treatment program following his Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). S was 17 and I planned to take her with me, legal complications be damned, but then she had a breakdown and tried to run me over with a car...I realized I couldn't handle her, and couldn't trust her not to give up our location to her dad, so I had to leave her behind. E was the only one I was able to get out, and just for her last 3 years of high school. She was the only one I had a legal claim to. I don't know if S has ever fully forgiven me (she says she wasn't really going to hit me with that car...sigh.) Writing it all down...have you ever heard of so much drama? If I wrote it all in a novel it would get rejected for being too unbelievable!

    When I look back at those years I remember one nine-month period when my ex had been recalled to active duty. The kids were all upper elementary - early high school. And for those nine months, everything worked beautifully. We pulled together. The kids did chores. We sat together at the kitchen table and did homework every night. We played cards. I'm sure there was conflict between the kids but I don't remember any - it was like everyone was trying extra hard to make it work and be gentle with each other with him gone. I look back at that time and think what if? What if I had been able to raise them all exactly like I wanted?

    But then I know there are no guarantees. So many of you gave your kids picture perfect childhoods and still ended up here. I know mine still would have mental illness, genetics, and biomom's substance use against them. So maybe it wouldn't have made a difference at all, in the long run. I don't know. But it's hard not to wonder.

    I just want to see them all succeed, whatever success looks like for each of them individually. I don't care if C never owns a house or has a family or has a professional career. I just want him to be happy, and safe, and live a decent life on his own terms. S, too. I'm so scared they'll never get there.
  12. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Oh my Elsi, what a story......you've been through it and back again.

    You raised 4 kids who aren't your bio kids, 2 of whom have mental illness..... you had the courage and strength to leave an abusive relationship and begin a new life. Two of your kids are doing well, which is easy to see YOU were the role model for them. And, here you are with us, worrying about your wayward oldest boy........you deserve one hell of an award and a lifetime of 'attagirl's' for all the love you poured into your kids and all the years of trying to keep them safe in an unsafe environment.

    NONE of this is your fault or your doing. You provided the children with love and everything you could offer, which is enough. The fact that their father was abusive is HIS problem, not yours. You were a victim of his (or survivor which is a better way to look at it) just like the kids were.

    The guilt you feel is misplaced I believe. It should be put squarely on the shoulders of their father. You were the protector, the nurturer. If they had not had you, well........we can imagine.

    The guilt has got to go. (I say that smiling, I know how it sounds, but I'm serious). Guilt does one very important, negative thing, it keeps you stuck on the hamster wheel of self punishment. Perhaps out of your awareness. But if we feel that much guilt about anything, we will find ways to punish ourselves...I discovered many ways I punished myself once I began to heal.

    My bio family is riddled with mental illness and my daughter inherited some form of that too. I know what it's like to live in hell with raging and drama, fear and intensity.......I have 4 siblings, 2 are mentally ill (schizophrenia & bi-polar/schizoaffective/Aspergers) one who is 'lost' and one who is ok. I've now had 25 years of therapy to get over my childhood...and to let go of my own "survivor guilt." I've had to learn the PHD of acceptance or I would not have made it out of there alive. It taught me a lot about how much I cannot control. My daughter then brought the rest of the lessons in acceptance and detachment home. It's been a long journey. I understand much of the path you've been walking. I'm so very sorry you've had to go through any of that. It hurts.

    You are a loving, nurturing, wise, compassionate, empathetic woman whose had a rough ride....... perhaps it's time to focus on YOU, to nurture and nourish YOU. You matter too. During all my years in therapy, I think the single most important breakthrough I had was when I discovered that my compassion was not extended to me, only to those I loved and cared for. When I made a conscious commitment to be kind, loving and compassionate to myself, a lot changed. When I turned the light of my own love towards myself, it began to shift everything.

    You made an enormous difference in all of your kids lives. The fact that they are not all living the lives we would hope for them does not diminish your contribution to their lives and your obvious deep love for each of them. In my belief system we each come here with our own fate, our own destiny...... my daughter and your son and daughter and my siblings are living out lives they are choosing.....to learn whatever they come in to learn. Maybe it's to learn how to survive on the streets, we don't know what another's life destiny is.....we can only measure it by our own standards, (which I know are not my daughter's standards by a long shot).

    You're not alone Elsi, we're here with you. Take really, really good care of yourself......
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
  13. Tired out

    Tired out Active Member

    Don't second guess yourself. My son had the picture perfect childhood. His dad is the picture of a perfect dad and husband. Loves us all to the moon and back. sports, coached, everything for this boy. I was the June Cleaver stay at home mom, room parent etc. Family vacations the kids helped plan. Never let any of the kids off the hook when they were out of line, never did the "not my johnny, he wouldn't do that" And yet...here I am. with a 21 year old irresponsible, hurtful, thief for a son. I have gone over and over, What could we have done differently. The only thing would be to turn back the hands of time and only have the 1st 2 kids. But...the thought of missing his 1st 12 years, before he started to turn..that is sad.. and years 13-16 had more good than bad. 16-21 have been very trying. I am going with the "this too shall pass"
    I have never been a super religious person. I pray there is a higher power watching out for these people and trying to guide them and helping us to move forward.
  14. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Thank you Tired and RE. I’m feeling a bit more balanced tonight. It’s hard not to revisit the past sometimes, but I know ultimately it’s fruitless. It is what it is. And I have no way of knowing how things would have turned out even without their dad’s abuse. They still have a lot of strikes against them, from DNA to prenatal exposure to early experiences of abandonment. To imagine what life would be like otherwise is simply to imagine having entirely different kids.

    Spent some time with E tonight talking about her grad school plans and had a video call with N and my grandsons. Haven’t talked to C since this call. And S is MIA right now. I have no idea where she’s living or whether she’s working. But for tonight I’ll just focus on the good relationships I have with E and N and N’s family.

    Thanks, RE. All of you have helped me tremendously.

    Same. I definitely struggle with faith. But what else can we do?
  15. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Elsi. I am sorry I missed this thread. I have been wrapped up in myself.
    I think he was courageous to bring this up.

    I feel sad for him. It sounds like he is struggling to confront his own sense of guilt and responsibility for his bad acts. What a blessing that he has you. If he did not he would be left to deal with a sense of self solely in relationship to his father, and what a mess that would be. It is hard enough as it is. When he thinks about you it seems that he has the courage to face himself. What a gift.
    I agree with everybody else. Yours was a perfect response. You were honest but kind. Direct but gentle.

    I think he must still be angling to go to your house, but knows in his heart he cannot.

    Our kids DO NOT THINK OF US as deserving privacy or space, or even do they think about us as having independent needs apart from their own. I wonder if typical kids that age are able to step back and see that their parents have needs. I think they do. But all and all he sounds like is doing as good as can be expected.

    My son and I used to have these kinds of talks, but not for a long time. I am not sure why.
  16. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    Agree that you handled it great.

    Agree that you need to focus on the kids/ grandkids you can help. Its all about what is and is not in your control.

    Just my own twist. I always say that I love/ trust you... The clean you, the you inside, not the you controlled by drugs. When drugs have control its not you. The thoughts, the actions aren't yours, its the thoughts and actions of drugs. Thus why I need you to be 100% clean. I can't allow the drugs in the house or near the sibs. Can re-word that to religious words. For some the religious words fit their values. But in sub abuse terms there's the addict and the addict in recovery. As long as you're an active addict we can only have a relationship separated by some amt of space. If you need a place to live while an addict I can give you names of rehabs. When you are clean we can resume a closer relationship.
  17. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    Tired sounds like the same dynamics of our family. Our youngest was wonderful til 14 and has been a handful ever since. I think now he has finally changed in his Christian program but time will tell. He comes home in 2 months.
  18. Tired out

    Tired out Active Member

    I hope your son has found a new/better way to cope with life. I don't see much of mine.
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  19. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    I think you’re right. I didn’t hear from him again today, and I’m a little afraid to make the next move. But I’ll reach out tomorrow to both C and S and see if they’ll respond to me.

    Some do. E always has. She’s always been an intuitive kid. And we got very close during the time of was just us. We restarted life from a DV shelter with two suitcases and 4 trash bags of stuff I grabbed on my way out the door. She was heading into her sophomore year of high school. And never once complained. Now she’s newly married and doing great, and we have a really great relationship. I enjoy spending time with her as a person, not just as my child.

    N took longer to get there but he’s there now, and often very sweetly protective. We had a lot of time together during his recovery for the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). But oddly our relationship really changed, and we really bonded, while he was in prison. As he moved into the rehab center and had more freedom, we did a lot of talking. And things seemed to come into focus for him.

    For C and S, who knows. There are flashes, sometimes. But when they are always in survival mode, I think it’s hard for them for focus on anything except themselves and their own needs. They are like a drowning person who will grab on to someone else and push them under in a desperate attempt to get air. If they were not drowning, they would not do such a thing. But in the moment, the body and the primal mind just think ‘I must have air,’

    I think you’ll have more talks with your son again. It ebbs and flows. Right now, he’s grasping for air.

    I’d like to say this. But with mine, I’m not entirely sure I can blame everything on drugs and alcohol. I often think the drugs and drinking are as much symptom as cause. The mental health issues, the anger management issues, the impulse control issues, are underlying everything.

    Their dad didn’t do drugs and only rarely drank. He was just a rageaholic. He could go from gentleman to raging bull in the blink of an eye, stone cold sober. And you didn’t always even know what triggered it. I used to say I WISHED he was a drunk so I could have something to blame it on, and some hope that there was a possibility of change if he stopped drinking. But it was just the way he was, no alcohol required.

    As far as I know, C has only really lost it while black out drunk. But - there is a whole lot about his life I don’t know. S is extremely volatile even when sober. Less scary, since she’s less than 5 feet tall and probably 95 pounds soaking wet. But still disturbing when she loses control.

    So I don’t know. Would getting sober help? Absolutely. But I think with mine it’s only a piece of the puzzle. They both need serious mental health care that they aren’t getting. Without that, I think sobriety and stable lives are just not possible. It just seems to be out of my power to make that happen.
  20. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    It is, has been and will always be out of your control to get anyone to do anything. Would you really have it any other way?

    I hear you that what I said doesn't apply to you. But in a sense... Not that I'm suggesting dual personality disorder but I am suggesting that our kids have very different brain function at times. In my kid's case I can predict when it will happen. You can't. But maybe in both cases it's beyond their control when it happens. Whether or not a mentally ill person has control is always the question.

    I can speak to my own unipolar depression. I am always on guard against that depressive thinking. I have to be though the risk is low now thankfully. But there have been times in my life when it took over. My normal optimism disappeared. I was not another person but the depressive thoughts were in control of my actions. Recognizing the warning signs and clutching onto the moments of reality to get help were lessons I had to learn. So I do have more than avg sympathy for the mentally ill person who can't control their thoughts.