Am I too detached?


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
For those of you that know our story, our son is in rehab again after relapsing (can it even be a relapse if not totally sober?) last month.

He was sent to Intensive Outpatient (IOP) in Florida last March (2016) after completing a 30 day program in Illinois near our home. He has been using drugs and alcohol on and off for 5+ years. He would start good and then go into sober living and then decide he should be able to have a beer if he wanted and bounced around a bit but then found a job and a place to share and took a class and we were helping him a bit since it seemed he was really trying hard to move forward.

He never did give up beer and weed but we couldn't control it and it seemed to be okay until he got a hold of benzos again which he got from a doctor. He took money - a few hundred dollars - out of an account without our permission and also bought a $700 Iphone on our account without permission.

Per his therapist, he has done very well in the program he is now in and is moving to sober living Wednesday. We have taken his car and phone as we were told to strip him of everything and let him earn it back. They are ready for us to give his phone back so he can talk to sponsor and look for a job. We are giving him an old flip phone.

I just had a conversation with son and therapist. He is homesick. He misses us. I get it but dad had told him previously he was sent to Florida to get sober and get a college degree/certificate or whatever. He would like to come home and go to a community college. I said we tried that and he was drunk first day of class.

I said that was not a good idea. I felt he would use us as a crutch. That the work was really just beginning and he needs to go to school or get a trade so he can support himself. I do not want him back home. I cannot go backwards.

I don't think a reason to get or be sober is because you want to come home. I cannot commit to that now or ever. We had said if he gets a job back here then he can live near us. No reason to live with us.

His therapist asked how I got so good at boundaries. I told her lots of therapy (and this forum probably more so which I did not mention). She says we want to stay positive. Yes I am but we've done this before. Not my first rodeo.

Incidentally therapist has a son that is an addict and he is not sober. She is impressed by our son at 21 doing what he's done but maintaining sobriety to me is the real hard part.

I feel like a cold fish when I talk to him (them). I love him so much and want more than anything for him to be happy and successful but yet I feel angry that he is putting this on us. We cannot make him be sober. We can support him and love him but I really feel like he needs to be away from us and stand on his own two feet. I don't want to deal with the day to day of his life.

I think he is old enough now to do this on his own so why do I have to feel bad? I honestly think him coming near us even to be in sober living would be a huge mistake. I'm trying to sort out my feelings.


Well-Known Member
I think any 21 year old is old enough to be on his own. I work with many who are and all my own kids were, even autistic son. I am wondering if he isnt playing you. Homesick? That can pull at heartstrings.

Nobody was doing well when he lived with you. I also dont believe he is ready to go to college and actually finish. Let him take out a loan if he really wants this. Prove he wants it, not your housong and money. He finds a way to get drugs snd drink. If he really wants community college he will find a way. Often they spew aboit college to excite us
They know that is a trigger for us to forgive them.

He is fresh from stealing from you.

You have to do what you have to do but please go to YOUR therapist to help with this.

What our adult kids say and do are different. Promises mean nothing. Words are not prodictive action. If son drinks and smokes weed he is far from sober. He definitely has an alcohol problem.

Jmo. Take care of YOUR needs. Your son will figure it out if you let him.
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100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
Yes you are both right. Thank you.

I just need confirmation of my feelings.

I felt angry after the call. I plan to let his therapist know how I feel when husband and I talk to her tonight without our son present.

Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.


i don't blame you for feeling angry. He has stolen from you yet again, and now wants to come home because he is homesick. Stay with your boundaries. You are doing the right thing. He needs to earn his way back into your lives. No just do the drive by. Stay strong. Hugs!


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
He won't do that when his dad is on the call interestingly. He has to be shocked that what he tries isn't working with me - well yes it works on my emotions after the call but it doesn't sway me really.

I do feel this is right for our family - to make him stay there and do the hard work. I just want to be sure I'm not being selfish because I am so happy that he is away from us and our life is better. How could it not be better than living with an addict? Anything is better than that!


Well-Known Member
It is hard to live with even a well behaved thriving adult child. They are still adults and we have to remember that (which is hard when they live with us) and they want to keep certain things to themselves and have privacy.

And so do we.

It is easy for two many adults in one home to get on one anothers nerves, contrary to homey but unrealistic sit coms where whole families live together.

Our culture promotes independence for adults and that doesnt work well if the whole gang lives together.

I also think this makes all child adults regress and depend on us at a time when they need to learn to stand on their own, either through hard work or community services if necessary.
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Well-Known Member
I'm with you RN. You are not too detached.
I do feel this is right for our family - to make him stay there and do the hard work. I just want to be sure I'm not being selfish because I am so happy that he is away from us and our life is better.
I agree. You know the ropes and know what's best for your family. You are not selfish, and I also know that feeling of relief when he is away.
I do not want him back home. I cannot go backwards.
That's right. You cannot go backwards. We understand here. You are doing so well, and are an inspiration. Stay strong.
You are going to be alright.

so ready to live

Active Member
Hi RN. Yes..stay strong. Trust your gut, you have worked hard at detaching and have earned peace in your home. Like you, our son has been away (next town only) and we do continue to help with rent as long as he makes appointments and appears to be trying. We give no cash and all of us know he can never come home to live again. I do believe your son is still manipulating, he may be homesick but your detachment is not only good for you but just consequences for his behavior, ie. if I don't trust you, I hide my wallet and don't give you free reign in my home, right? Hold tight. It is always reinforcing to me to remember how much more peaceful it is now in my home. I know that I am somewhat like Copa in that I'm most relaxed with our son near, but near is not here. I need, for my wellbeing, in as much as it is possible, to know he has a roof over his head. I now know that is my line.
I do pray for us all everyday, for strength beyond what other moms could possibly understand. That we could look forward to our life each morning despite the circumstances of our kids. Reach out today, we'll walk together.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
Thank you all.

His therapist asked us to write him an "impact letter". A letter saying how it would be for us if he were not here any longer.

Gulp. That is going to be hard. I know my husband probably can't even begin to put words on paper so it is up to me but we will agree on it before we send it.

He moves to sober living this evening. They have such a great program there and he will be successful if he wants to be. It really is all on him.

I look forward to the day when this will all be easier and I do hope it comes.


Well-Known Member
His therapist asked us to write him an "impact letter". A letter saying how it would be for us if he were not here any longer.
I’m interested about the “impact letter.” Are you writing it to say how you will feel if he is “no longer in your life” or “no longer on the earth” or what? I guess these kinds of letters may make a difference with some people. What is it that the therapist wants you to write that they think will make an impact? I'm trying to think how this would work in my own situation, and I don’t feel it would help, but very likely make it worse.

For example, if I were to open and spill my heart about the despair and anxiety and grief and sorrow and pain we went through: or if he were no longer here, all the sadness and feeling of “waste” and loss we might feel , I think this would only serve to make my son feel guilty, resentful, perhaps thinking I was trying to make him feel bad, (all of which he cannot handle well ) ~ with the result that he would likely want to punish himself by going deeper into poor behaviors in order to suffer the bad results which he knows hurts/ punishes him also. ~ thus only making it all worse for all.

My own thought right now is that since I have detached and become somewhat calloused and have receded from his needs to large a degree by now over the past 2 years, that I honestly know now that I would survive my son no longer being here. Of course, it would be hard to get through the grief process etc., but I have learned on this forum not to identify with my son and to be detached from the outcome. I have strengthened my joy and heart to know I can be thankful in all things. So, if I were to tell my son these things in thinking how it would be if he was no longer here, he may think that I would be glad and feel free if he was not here. And that too could cause him to pull farther away and lose some purpose.

Not sure if I am making any sense, but I am confused. I don’t see what good impact the “impact letter” would have. I guess depending on how and what the person is receptive to, perhaps how old they are, and how much they really are tied to you and fear losing your attachment, and if they are of the temperament that leans towards feeling remorse and repentance. Your son is much younger than mine, so maybe the link to his parents is still much closer to make a meaningful impact.

Has anyone else done an “impact letter” and how did it work out? I searched for some more info on the internet, but did not find much to clarify.

My best to you RN. Perhaps you can share in your situation if you think writing this kind of letter will make an “impact” as intended. I will think more about this. I am following along, and find everyone's wisdom so strengthening. Thank you all.
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I think an impact letter, as to what would they do when we are no Longer here to help them and take care of their needs.
Maybe they would be more greatful and learn to be more responsible.


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

I agree with everything you have said. I have done well on my detachment also and it has been excruciating to work through. My therapist actually told me that I have compassion exhaustion right now and I really believe that to be true.

My take on the letter would be to let him know how wonderful we think he is. How smart, how handsome, how funny and how much joy he has brought into our lives. How much we value him as a person and as our son. How we look towards a bright future for our family with him happy, healthy and successful.

I don't plan to go to any dark places. Lord knows I've been in enough dark places. I want it to be a positive thing. That is what I am going to do.


Well-Known Member
.... let him know how wonderful we think he is....... How much we value him as a person and as our son. ...... I want it to be a positive thing.......
Staying positive is a good thing, and it can serve as encouragement for someone who wants to change and recognize the positive potential. Hang in there. We are in this together.


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

Thank you. I am so happy that you have some peace in your home now. It's funny how those that have not dealt with this take that for granted!!

How is your wife doing with the drinking you have been concerned about?

I do hope your stepson turns his life around. The drugs/alcohol cause them to be very immature. The therapist and program director have to keep reminding me that my son is not really "21". I'm rather sick of hearing it. He's a giant toddler.

My son is sweet and kind and caring but he has a lot of growing up to do. He has wonderful mentors where he is and I hope and pray he takes advantage of that this time.
My wife knows that I will not let her son back in the house again to live. Only time I will allow him in our house is when he has a vacation and wants to spend few days. However, he won't be able to do that by himself paying for flying tickets.

Her drinking has gone down after her son left. I guess stress with him made her drink more. She knows she has an issue with drinking and trying to control it (I know it is impossible) as much she can. She has 3-4 dry days a week. On Saturday night when we go out, she drinks. Sometimes without drama, sometimes she continues to drink when we return home and I go to bed. It is a lot better now... Thank you for your concern...