Boundaries: It's Killing Me to Say "No"

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by seek, Jun 29, 2017.

  1. seek

    seek Member

    My young adult grandson is an alcoholic. He has been in many treatment programs, sober living environments, etc., etc. I have "helped" a lot - my theory was always "If he's sober, I will help." I thought I was giving him time to grow up, to get strong, etc. (Giving food and shelter, towards that end).

    This most recent time, I told him I can't see him until he has some solid recovery (which he had had almost a year, so I don't even know what I mean). He is virtually homeless - got kicked out of last SLE - he is temporarily staying with a relative - but that person is also alcoholic and lives in a tiny space with someone else and had only said he could stay a few days.

    I had told him to only text me with good news, which he did last night (has a job prospect).

    This morning he texted me asking if he could use my printer to print out a resume - since he doesn't have a computer, it would be my computer and printer and he would be in my house.

    He and I are very close and he has spent a lot of time at my house - and I have taken him in several times when he was detoxing and played nurse!

    My house is my sanctuary - and I am too much of a softy - I want to feed him and tell him to take a shower, and wash his clothes - that is just my deep instinct (to assure his "safety" which makes me feel safe in the world).

    So I texted back advising where the library is - when he responded I said I wanted him to be independent and then said some encouraging stuff.

    Then I cried. This goes against my nature and I question myself. If he's trying to get a job, why would I not allow him to use my computer and printer?

    It's just so hard to say "no," when you think that saying no could lead to bad things: He'll feel unloved, he'll get depressed, and then he'll drink - and it will be all my fault for not being supportive - it wouldn't have hurt me (but it would hurt me because I am not strong enough to be around him).

    I am gagging right now, which is something I do now when upset - and my dog has learned this too. It's very weird!
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  2. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    I'm sorry you are so sad and conflicted, but you did exactly the right thing and should be proud of yourself instead.

    Until I read that you had already done so, I was going to suggest that your son go to the library as well. They don't have the fancy printers that the office stores do, but then again, libraries don't charge for the use of their equipment, either.

    There is a proverb, can't remember if it's religious or not, but it involves first letting a camel put its nose under the edge of a tent and then eventually winding up with the entire camel in the tent.

    I think it was written for situations like this.

    Be strong. You are actually helping your son by making him problem solve on his own, and deal with stuff like this.
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  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Please be kind to yourself...and logical.

    Did your unrelenting kindness, home and food stop him from drinking in the past? Are you so young that you can take this on without getting sick yourself?

    Addiction is very different from other illnesses. I am an oldster on this forum...fifteen years or so. I have seen no evidence that addicts thrive under loving care. Just the opposite. It seems all the happy endings are after we detach and say no more which is one reason I did it for my daughter.

    It was very hard to do.i cried and did not sleep. She was only 19 but ai had two young kids who were scared of her drug rages and the police dropping by. She had dangerous associations.

    She quit with no help from us. And she had used meth and cocaine as well as other horrible drugs. She told me "Using drugs was too hard." Her boyfriend helped her quit. No rehab.

    I think it is hard to detach. We see every little posifive as a miracle and a great sign so we let them back in again and again. I saw my daughter quit and relapse three times. She had to be clean and sober of her drugs for two years before we believed it. By then she also haD a job, was taking out a loan for school and had stopped associating with drug addicts. Today, 12 years later, she is a normal housewife with my beautiful granddaughter and her own house and the same boyfriend. She did get a two year certificate at a college. It was a joint decision with her boyfriend that she stay home with their child. She is a great mother.

    It is hard to get her to take a Tylenol and she is into organics and healthy lifestyle, gardening, cooking, art and enriching her little girl.

    Would this work for your grandson? I dont know. But whay you have done so far has not worked. If we dont change, nothing changes.

    No reason grandson cant use library. You will be vulnerable to babying him if he visits you. You deserve wonderful golden years. Grandson will HAVE to live eithout you one day.

    Take care!
  4. seek

    seek Member

    Wow. I love that camel proverb. I am going to have to find it. That is exactly the situation I am trying to avoid. Thanks for your feedback. My thing is always wanting to know that I am doing the "right thing." I wish difficult, challenging kids came with manuals - it would make it all so much easier.

    To the mom with the happy ending with your daughter: It's great to have these examples. You are very generous to keep providing support to others.
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  5. seek

    seek Member

    The other thing I just realized is that I don't feel I "deserve" to have my own life - to do what I want to do. Somewhere inside I feel I am "supposed to" put others before me - and that I am being selfish to want some peace this morning - to want to enjoy my day without drama and needing to fix someone else.

    And no, I'm no spring chicken.

    I will create my signature when I have enough energy to work on what I want to say.
  6. seek

    seek Member

  7. Teriobe

    Teriobe Active Member

    Im sorry you have to deal with this. I too feel i am here to help others and put them first. Always have. Ive come to the end of my rope thou. Im starting therapy today to change, but feels weird to change but i want to change. It will be easier right now because my sons in prison, not knocking on my door cause hes homeless and hungry. Good luck
  8. seek

    seek Member

    Ironically, I am going out on the streets tomorrow, to hand out supplies to homeless people. It's something I like to do. With these "strangers" there are no strings attached and I can say "no." (They often ask for money and other stuff).

    With my grandson, I am trapped in "wanting to help" to get him "healthy." I have a belief that love and care = health, so it is very counterintuitive to go against that belief.

    I am also remembering that my dad told me that he "worked all summer for my dad, and he didn't give me a dime" (he had traveled to help his dad out and he did and his dad reneged). My dad went on to create an amazing life from nothing - but he wasn't alcoholic - I am trying to give myself some ammunition to not "help" or coddle . . . it is so hard because I am naturally generous. It feels stingy to not help, especially when I have resources he doesn't have.
  9. Carol55

    Carol55 New Member

    I an a newbie here, but this was given to me last night during our first family meeting at my son's drug treatment center. I will be reading it over and over. Coincidentally, I already have her book in my home (see info about the book at the end of the post), but I haven't started reading it yet. I hope this is okay to post.

    Eight Reasons Why Detaching with Love is Good for Your Addicted Loved One
    By Beverly Conyers

    Detachment is neither unloving nor unkind

    Anyone who's ever attended a Twelve Step meeting knows that DETACHMENT looms large in the toolkit of suggestions for coping with an addicted loved one. "Detach with love," we're told, "if you want to preserve your sanity."

    Which is all well and good, you may think, but what about the addict? Don't we have a duty to try to help? Doesn't detachment seem a little bit—selfish? A little bit like—well, giving up?

    It can definitely feel that way at first. Especially if we've come to believe that our loved ones can't get clean without us. But here's the problem: the longer we're with them on the roller coaster of addiction, the less able we are to be helpful in any meaningful way. When we're right there with them through those peaks and valleys, we're not able to step back, regain our balance, and offer the kind of clear-sighted support that might make a difference.

    Detachment is neither unloving nor unkind. It's simply accepting the fact that we can't live our loved ones' lives for them. It's coming to understand that detaching with love is one of the best things we can do for our addicted loved ones. Here are eight reasons why:

    • Detachment lets fresh air into your relationship. If you're involved with an addict, chances are your relationship has become unhealthy. In our efforts to rescue our loved ones from their self-destructive choices, we often resort to nagging, scolding, crying, threatening, shaming, or other damaging behaviors that create conflict and tension. All that stress gives addicts one more reason to use—one more excuse for turning to substances to cope.
    • Detachment allows addicts to face consequences of their choices. Wouldn't it be great if we could learn important life lessons simply by being warned about negative consequences? If that were the case, we'd all make fewer mistakes and have fewer regrets to look back on. Unfortunately, most of us have to learn through experience, which means facing the consequences of our choices. That includes addicts. To fully comprehend the negative effects that substances have on their lives, they have to suffer the consequences of their choices.
    • Detachment saves addicts from the harmful effects of enabling. Enabling means doing for others what they could and should be doing for themselves. When we try to solve their problems and soften the pain that addiction is causing them, we're preventing our addicted loved ones from taking a crucial step towards maturity: facing problems and learning from success and failure. When we enable, we keep our loved ones perpetually dependent and immature.
    • Detachment empowers the addict to behave like an adult. Addicts tend to get stuck at the age they were when they started using. That's because addiction limits their exposure to the kinds of experiences that promote emotional growth: preparing for a career, finding a job, forming meaningful relationships, developing a moral belief system, and becoming financially self-supporting. When we detach with love, our addicted loved ones have the opportunity to look inside themselves to develop the resources they need to build satisfying lives.
    • Detachment allows addicts to experience the satisfaction that comes from personal accomplishment. Sometimes, when we solve problems and find solutions for our addicted loved ones, things turn out well. The problem is, it's our accomplishment, not theirs. They don't get to experience the satisfaction and build the self-esteem that come from knowing they did it on their own.
    • Detachment deprives addicts of a convenient scapegoat when things go wrong. Sometimes, when we solve problems and find solutions for our addicted loved ones, things go wrong. When that happens, our addicted loved ones can point the finger of blame at us: "This is your fault. You set this up and now look what happened." Even if it's the addicts who turned a wonderful opportunity into a disastrous mess, our involvement makes us the target of their anger and disappointment. Instead of looking at their own role in the outcome and learning from the experience, they look at us.
    • Detachment reduces the shame our addicted loved ones feel about themselves. Most addicts don't like themselves very much. On some level, they know they're messing up their lives, but they don't know how to stop. Their sense of shame grows deeper every time they see us look at them with disapproval, every time they disappoint us. Shame is one of those damaging emotions that can keep addicts stuck. One way we can stop contributing to their shame is by detaching from our expectations of them and allowing them to find their own way.
    • Detachment is an expression of love. Far from being a selfish act or an act of giving up, detachment can be a powerful expression of love. When we detach with love, we are expressing our belief in our addicted loved ones. We're saying: "I believe you have the inner strength and intelligence to handle this yourself. I believe you're going to find your way through this." What could be more loving than that?
    Beverly Conyers, author of Addict in the Family, Stories of Loss, Hope and Recovery, is the mother of three grown children. She began writing about addiction when she discovered that her youngest daughter was addicted to heroin. She knows first-hand the anxiety and heartache that families endure, and she has gained deep insight into the process of recovery from addicts who share their experiences in her books. Above all, she knows that there is no such thing as a hopeless case. Everything can change even when we least expect it, and the miracle of recovery happens every day.
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  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I am generous too. Unlike you, it is easier for me to give to people I dont know...i cant pass up a person who is begging without giving food or money, but I did not give money to my daughter because she was my daughter and i didnt want to give her a dime for drugs. I also volunteered for many places, including a home for domestically abused women and a homeless shelter. I did not want my daughter to end up like the clients in the shelter. Desperate and unable to quit using drugs. I felt tough love was best after trying love and kindness snd second chances and my own denial. I followed Al Anon.

    I am still generous to people. But I think adults feel better about themselves if they dont need their parents. I truly think so.So I raised my kids to be indedependent and even my autistic son works and has his own place on his own dime.

    My attitude is that although I would easily take a bullet for my kids and granddaughter, the best gift I can give them is the feeling that they can stand on their own two feet, even the young man with a disability. I was not brought up knowing how to be independent. I wasnt given any life skills at all. So I married young and it wasnt good and I didnt get out for seventeen years. Thankfully I grew and changed and am happily married now with coping skills. It took therapy I may not have needed if given to me by my parents.

    I know all my grown kids can sustain when I am no longer here. That gives me the peace of mind and freedom to plan great golden years. They are not needy, not even autistic son. All are very responsible.

    I have a close relationship with my kids, but none ask for anything and it is not asif they never had any problems...older daughter used drugs, oldest son has some mental illness and there is my autistic son. My youngest daughter overcame severe learning disabilities and will soon be a police officer. Three were adopted which is a risk all its own, but they are wonderful adult kids.

    So i look at things differently. I see independence as the most important thing we can give our younger ones, even if its hard for both of us. And I still cry like a fool each time I leave my daughters, the oldest whom i see every two months and lives in the next state and my youngest who I see every other week and lives an hour away. I am very silly that way :ignoring:

    Good luck. You sound very kind. Value my opinion help grandson learn which services exist that can help him help himself. He will know you still love him.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  11. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Seek, it is very hard to say no. And yet, often we have doesn't feel good, I know....

    Perhaps this article will offer you some solace......

    What is detachment?
    Detachment is the:
    * Ability to allow people, places or things the freedom to be themselves.
    * Holding back from the need to rescue, save or fix another person from being sick, dysfunctional or irrational.
    * Giving another person "the space" to be herself.
    * Disengaging from an over-enmeshed or dependent relationship with people.
    * Willingness to accept that you cannot change or control a person, place or thing.
    * Developing and maintaining of a safe, emotional distance from someone whom you have previously given a lot of power to affect your emotional outlook on life.
    * Establishing of emotional boundaries between you and those people you have become overly enmeshed or dependent with in order that all of you might be able to develop your own sense of autonomy and independence.
    * Process by which you are free to feel your own feelings when you see another person falter and fail and not be led by guilt to feel responsible for their failure or faltering.
    * Ability to maintain an emotional bond of love, concern and caring without the negative results of rescuing, enabling, fixing or controlling.
    * Placing of all things in life into a healthy, rational perspective and recognizing that there is a need to back away from the uncontrollable and unchangeable realities of life.
    * Ability to exercise emotional self-protection and prevention so as not to experience greater emotional devastation from having hung on beyond a reasonable and rational point.
    * Ability to let people you love and care for accept personal responsibility for their own actions and to practice tough love and not give in when they come to you to bail them out when their actions lead to failure or trouble for them.
    * Ability to allow people to be who they "really are" rather than who you "want them to be."
    * Ability to avoid being hurt, abused, taken advantage of by people who in the past have been overly dependent or enmeshed with you.

    What are the negative effects not detaching?
    If you are unable to detach from people, places or things, then you:
    * Will have people, places or things which become over-dependent on you.
    * Run the risk of being manipulated to do things for people, at places or with things which you do not really want to do.
    * Can become an obsessive "fix it" who needs to fix everything you perceive to be imperfect.
    * Run the risk of performing tasks because of the intimidation you experience from people, places or things.
    * Will most probably become powerless in the face of the demands of the people, places or things whom you have given the power to control you.
    * Will be blind to the reality that the people, places or things which control you are the uncontrollables and unchangeables you need to let go of if you are to become a fully healthy, coping individual.
    * Will be easily influenced by the perception of helplessness which these people, places or things project.
    * Might become caught up with your idealistic need to make everything perfect for people, places or things important to you even if it means your own life becomes unhealthy.
    * Run the risk of becoming out of control of yourself and experience greater low self-esteem as a result.
    * Will most probably put off making a decision and following through on it, if you rationally recognize your relationship with a person, place or thing is unhealthy and the only recourse left is to get out of the relationship.
    * Will be so driven by guilt and emotional dependence that the sickness in the relationship will worsen.
    * Run the risk of losing your autonomy and independence and derive your value or worth solely from the unhealthy relationship you continue in with the unhealthy person, place or thing.

    How is detachment a control issue?
    Detachment is a control issue because:
    * It is a way of de-powering the external "locus of control" issues in your life and a way to strengthen your internal "locus of control."
    * If you are not able to detach emotionally or physically from a person, place or thing, then you are either profoundly under its control or it is under your control.
    * The ability to "keep distance" emotionally or physically requires self-control and the inability to do so is a sign that you are "out of control."
    * If you are not able to detach from another person, place or thing, you might be powerless over this behavior which is beyond your personal control.
    * You might be mesmerized, brainwashed or psychically in a trance when you are in the presence of someone from whom you cannot detach.
    * You might feel intimidated or coerced to stay deeply attached with someone for fear of great harm to yourself or that person if you don't remain so deeply involved.
    * You might be an addicted caretaker, fixer or rescuer who cannot let go of a person, place or thing you believe cannot care for itself.
    * You might be so manipulated by another's con, "helplessness," overdependency or "hooks" that you cannot leave them to solve their own problems.
    * If you do not detach from people, places or things, you could be so busy trying to "control" them that you completely divert your attention from yourself and your own needs.
    * By being "selfless" and "centered" on other people, you are really a controller trying to fix them to meet the image of your ideal for them.
    * Although you will still have feelings for those persons, places and things from which you have become detached, you will have given them the freedom to become what they will be on their own merit, power, control and responsibility.
    * It allows every person, place or thing with which you become involved to feel the sense of personal responsibility to become a unique, independent and autonomous being with no fear of retribution or rebuke if they don't please you by what they become.

    What irrational thinking leads to an inability to detach?
    * If you should stop being involved, what will they do without you?
    * They need you and that is enough to justify your continued involvement.
    * What if they commit suicide because of your detachment? You must stay involved to avoid this.
    * You would feel so guilty if anything bad should happen to them after you reduced your involvement with them.
    * They are absolutely dependent on you at this point and to back off now would be a crime.
    * You need them as much as they need you.
    * You can't control yourself because everyday you promise yourself "today is the day" you will detach your feelings but you feel driven to them and their needs.
    * They have so many problems, they need you.
    * Being detached seems so cold and aloof. You can't be that way when you love and care for a person. It's either 100 percent all the way or no way at all.
    * If you should let go of this relationship too soon, the other might change to be like the fantasy or dream you want them to be.
    * How can being detached from them help them? It seems like you should do more to help them.
    * Detachment sounds so final. It sounds so distant and non-reachable. You could never allow yourself to have a relationship where there is so much emotional distance between you and others. It seems so unnatural.
    * You never want anybody in a relationship to be emotionally detached from you so why would you think it a good thing to do for others?
    * The family that plays together stays together. It's all for one and one for all. Never do anything without including the significant others in your life.
    * If one hurts in the system, we all hurt. You do not have a good relationship with others unless you share in their pain, hurt, suffering, problems and troubles.
    * When they are in "trouble," how can you ignore their "pleas" for help? It seems cruel and inhuman.
    * When you see people in trouble, confused and hurting, you must always get involved and try to help them solve the problems.
    * When you meet people who are "helpless," you must step in to give them assistance, advice, support and direction.
    * You should never question the costs, be they material, emotional or physical, when another is in dire need of help.
    * You would rather forgo all the pleasures of this world in order to assist others to be happy and successful.
    * You can never "give too much" when it comes to providing emotional support, comforting and care of those whom you love and cherish.
    * No matter how badly your loved ones hurt and abuse you, you must always be forgiving and continue to extend your hand in help and support.
    * Tough love is a cruel, inhuman and anti-loving philosophy of dealing with the troubled people in our lives and you should instead love them more when they are in trouble since "love" is the answer to all problems.
  12. seek

    seek Member

    It's very complicated for me. It has to do with my childhood wounds, my fears, my love for him, and my BELIEFS - which I need to change (and this is what I am looking to do here). I was in 12 step for years and don't dig that anymore (too sad). I don't see myself as "sick." I do see that I have beliefs that are counterproductive to me and maybe to him (that is what I need to convince myself of).

    I believe that generosity is a virtue, for instance (and in this case, it is not - so I must modify it - not easy when I have so many things that could benefit him).

    It's all very confusing to me.

    He posted something on FB which made me believe he is feeling bad and that pains me. I am an empath and I can feel the pain of others - especially those I love. I know that boundaries are necessary here - I have techniques I use to help me with boundaries - need way more.

    If "God almighty" came down from Heaven to say: "Do not ever do this again," or "Do this" - it would be helpful, but NO - I have to struggle to figure out what is RIGHT for both of us. That is so hard to do. I can't tell, in any given moment, if what I am doing or thinking is RIGHT. That's my biggest problem.
  13. seek

    seek Member

    Yes! That article is spot on. The problem is that I need a live-in coach to advise me, 24/7.
  14. RN0441

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


    If you keep practicing it, it will come as second nature.
  15. Carol55

    Carol55 New Member

    In the end, we all have to do what we can live with. Our son is 39 and we just can't do it anymore. But it has taken us over 20 years to finally take a stand. I have resisted going to Al-a-non for years, even though I went through a 12-step program for my own gambling addiction many years ago. We are going to start attending the meetings now.

    My point being, I really empathize with you because I couldn't, and didn't, detach from my son when he was a young adult.
    In hindsight, I wish we had been able to.
  16. RN0441

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

    I think once we realize that we as mothers cannot save them. We cannot make everything alright. We cannot fix them. Then we know we have to step away. It's like watching a horror movie only it's real.

    It is all so hard to accept because as moms we feel this is our job for life.

    I'm actually glad we sent our son to Florida when we did - in the hopes that he will figure this out now and not waste more time like he has already. He is actually better than he was at home. I have to keep reminding myself of that. It's such a slow and long process though.

    I've had to learn to live my life to be happy because if I wait for him to figure things out I will have wasted so many years.
  17. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    If it doesnt help them change, is it right for them? Or is it more for us?

    I had to accept my discomfort to do what motivated my daughter to quit. I didnt ever feel good sbout it until she told me that drugging on her own made her see how awful it was, especially as she faced each day alone needing to get money for drugs. She said i did the right thing. Until then I felt guilty, thinking that moving to a new state in her middle school years and a divorce contributed to the drug use. They both most likely did.

    I was desperate to stop the bleeding. She made no real effort to stop under our roof. She started using at 12 (yes, twelve) so it was six years of hell until she was told to leave and then she quit.

    If our nurturing and love cured addicts, none would be addicts. Addiction changes their brains. They dont seem to try unless we take desperate measures.
  18. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hi Carol55, welcome.

    Just a heads up, you may want to remove the photo if that is you and perhaps your name as well....remember, this is an anonymous site to protect you and your children.
  19. Awakening1990

    Awakening1990 New Member

    Wonderful! thanks for sharing this. it puts it all into perspective for me and my situation. Thanks again