difficult child (Sociopath?) Leaving - Mixed Emotions

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by stressbunny, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. stressbunny

    stressbunny Guest

    Dear Friends,

    Our oldest difficult child (JT) is 19 (almost 20), and the past year since he graduated from high school has been so difficult with him. He graduated from HS with honors and a 3.4 GPA. He never studied and scored a 25 on the ACT. His heart was set on becoming a high school teacher, and he enrolled at a university several hours away. This was all his idea and goal. Of course, we worried how he would handle himself away from home given his difficulties with impulse control, ADHD, oppositional behavior, and general lack of self regulation. We've managed to help him stay accountable and responsible at home with us over the years. Unfortunately, things have not been working out. Here is a chronology of events:
    • Went to a party with his sports team days before the first semester started and drank for the first time (too much), got sick in the dorms, and then was reported for underage drinking. He received a fine and required class, along with points on his drivers license. He claimed he thought he was drinking Gator Ade, and that he didn't know the Gator Ade had been mixed with alcohol. I don't believe him.
    • JT wanted a moped for getting around campus and the area, although it wasn't really needed. We agreed, as long as he promised to wear a helmet. The first time we visited him, we found him speeding on the moped without a helmet. He gave us his "reasons" why he didn't need to wear a helmet, despite his earlier promises.
    • Semester 1 - He failed a class the first semester, and performed poorly to average in the other classes. He was put on academic probation, but didn't share that with us. He admitted he skipped classes and stayed up all night watching movies and promised to perform better the next semester. We were paying for the majority of his expenses. He was kicked off the sports team.
    • Semester 2 - He failed another class and performed poorly in the rest. He decided to get a job the week of final exams, though we advised him to wait until after the semester ended. He didn't improve off of academic probation and was kicked out of summer housing and the following possible semester (this fall). He blamed the teachers for being stupid and the classes for being irrelevant. He also got mono and stopped attending classes.
    • This summer, he decided to change his major to Fire Medic, which is fine with us, and he signed up for the pre-requisite EMT - Basic course. Because difficult child failed to submit his immunizations in time for the clinicals, he failed the EMT class. We paid for that too ($800). Of course, JT blamed the instructor and everybody and everything else but him.
    • Since he was kicked out of summer housing, he moved to an apartment of his own. We agreed to help, but required that he get a full-time job. He got a $10/hr apt maintenance job with no benefits. He started paying for some of his own expenses. Then, he injured himself on the job with a hammer and collected workers comp for the injury from his employer.
    • Suddenly, JT seemed obsessed with getting a different truck. He spent a great deal of time complaining about the truck we had given him a couple of years ago (cost $6,000 and was the model he wanted). Though this was hurtful to us because it was a strain to pay for and we hoped he would like it, he took every opportunity to complain about it.
    • To get instant cash to get a different truck, JT decided to sign up for the National Guard (sign-on bonus). The recruiter told him to lie about his ADHD diagnosis and current stimulant medication usage. We told JT that it is a crime to lie on entrance to the military, but he didn't care and said he would do whatever it took if he had to. We reported the situation to a superior, and the recruiter was disciplined.
    • With the military off the table, JT traded his truck for a 20+ year-old piece of junk truck, which he claims is SO much better than the one we had given him. In the past week, it has leaked transmission fluid and oil on our driveway, and it has broken down on a county road. Of course, JT needs us to pay the bill for the part. We're keeping track so he has to pay us back eventually.
    • He moved out of the first apartment into another one, and only lasted weeks there when he had another accident - tripping over a floor mat and crashing through the glass doors of the apartment building on his way to a fire call (he was on the volunteer fire dept.). He needed surgery on his hand, and again, he collected workers comp (to the tune of twice his usual hourly rate) from the fire department for over a month. He didn't work, but took a week-long trip to Montana with his friends during that time.
    • After recovering, his employer cut back his hours too much, so he asked if he could come home to get back on his feet and retake an EMT class locally. We agreed, with the condition that he live by our household expectations and that he either be successfully attending college or working toward independence by getting a full-time, decent, reliable job. We purchased him the textbook and helped get him signed up for class.
    • Well, difficult child was home less than one week and:
      • There has been no time spent studying for the EMT class, despite the fact that we worked hard to get him in at the last minute.
      • He went for a welding job test, and despite boasting about his skills to the high heavens, he failed it miserably. He has never been trained in tig welding, but he has some high school welding experience. But, he is grandiose about his grand abilities (not in touch with reality).
      • We require that he leave his lighters (supposedly used for mechanical purposes) and knives in his truck, locked because of our younger difficult child who has an autism disorder. JT refuses to do that, and there were numerous lighters in the laundry room, along with cigarettes. We don't allow smoking on our property either. Of course, JT claims the cigarettes we found in his truck and pants pockets were someone else's. We don't smoke, and he promised he never would either. Right!
      • I had loaned him my laptop to use for his classes, and I found porn on it. He was accessing porn and also Net Flix in the middle of the night - 3 - 4 a.m., again, after being told he needed to sleep on a normal schedule.
      • He called me ignorant and said that he and his friends and his friends' parents call me a Nazi.
      • He jammed up the washing machine after hastily throwing in 10 pairs of jeans in one load, after I called on my way home from work, and he realized I was coming home sooner than expected. He lied that the washer had broken down in the morning and had miraculously started working again right before I came home. Yeah right!
      • Confronted about this, he said he would do better the next day, but he repeated the same thing. I found him just getting up at 2 p.m., and then, after he mowed the lawn, he laid down on the couch to watch TV with his very dirty clothes on (another requirement I have is to stay clean in the house, especially on the furniture). He argued that he wasn't dirty, despite the fact that fresh black dirt covered the entire knee areas of both pant legs.
      • He continued his habit of staying up all night and sleeping most of the day, despite the fact that he had jobs to do and was told he needed to get up by 8 a.m., as if he were going to work.

    This brings us to the present time. We have listed our expectations for living with us in writing, and we shared with JT that he can either live by those expectations while we help him as he successfully works toward an education or achieves gainful employment or he can find a more independent living situation. We think it is best if he learns to respect the household rules and consistently pursues a goal with our support, because we just don't see any good outcomes of him living on his own. He has no job and no ability to take classes on his own.

    JT has chosen to leave and live with his friend and his friend's mother several hours away. He was very upset that we will no longer pay for his cell phone or allow him wi-fi access due to his porn use in our home. He also claims we didn't give him enough time to adjust to our expectations since coming home from his failed year at college and failed summer "working" on workers comp. No apologies, no remorse, no truth, and no conscience. Thousands and thousands of dollars for college that he wasted, poor lifestyle choices, lies, anger and verbal abuse toward us, no care for his younger brother, and the list goes on and on. He does not care about us at all. He uses us, and his biggest concern at the moment is his cell phone and money.

    I read an article lately about sociopaths, and JT has almost all of the traits. No wonder he can't comprehend the rights of other people or empathize with other people's feelings. I understand from what I've read that sociopaths do not change. I feel hopeless and completely drained physically, financially, and emotionally. We have spent so much time trying to help and rescue this person, and yet, it's as though he has been a train on a track all of this time, with no other possible path. I am depressed and yet, strangely relieved that finally, it's time for JT's problems to be JT's problems and not ours. I hope there is peace ahead for us in our home. I can't live like this any more.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there. Welcome to the board, but very sorry you have to join us.

    A few thoughts.

    This child WAS adopted at a slightly older age which can cause attachment problems and, in turn, the child can become a sociopath. Very unstable early years can last a lifetime and be hard to treat. That is not ADHD...that's an inability to connect emotionally to other people, parents included. It is often missed unless a specialist who sees a lot of older adopted children is the person diagnosing the child and it takes very specific help, far beyond the help a child with just ADHD would require.

    There is nothing that you wrote about him, unless much was left out, that would make me think he is even close to being a sociopath. Unless there is something you aren't telling us, his problems developed late and in college, which often happens and is usually due to sudden exposure to drug use and getting involved in it. This is not exactly "typical", but it's common. Not studying, not wearing a helmet when he said he would, and the deal with the truck does also not make him a psychopath. Kids lie all the time to get out of trouble too. So I think you're being a little hard on him unless this isn't even close to the real story.

    Why don't you give us a history on him, from when you got him, to before that, if you know his birthfamily history. Was he exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero? I'm thinking he wasn't because he did so well in school. Besides ADHD, was he ever diagnosed with anything else? Was he violent? Did he steal? Was he sexually inappropriate? ANy fascination with fire or playing with it? Starting fires? Inappropriate peeing and pooping all over the house? Cruelty to animals? How were his early milestones? Did he do well with his peers? Seems like it. He was on sports teams and that requires the ability to participate in teamwork.

    My best layman's guess is that he has become involved, more or less, in some sort of drug use, although I don't even know about that. Or he is in a power struggle with you and your husband and got huffy and moved out.

    One thing you are 100% right about. JT's problems are JT's problems now. He is over 18 and out of the house and responsible for his choices.

    Keep us updated :) Glad you're here.
  3. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    It's exasperating, frustrating, anger-provoking, exhausting and sad to go through all that you are. I agree with MWM, your son may not be a sociopath, I don't know, whatever it is though, detaching from his choices at his age and focusing on yourself and your younger son, is the appropriate way to go.

    I think you've already read the article on detachment at the bottom of my post here. If not please take a moment to do so, it's helpful. I also hope you and your husband are in some kind of counseling, detaching is very difficult and often professional help can be a God-send, giving us not only the tools and understanding, but the comfort of knowing someone understands who offers empathy right there in person. Another option to support you is NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental illness, they have chapters all over and can be accessed on line. They have excellent courses for parents and have social workers well versed in options for housing, education, medical insurance, jobs, etc, for your difficult child.

    I think the most important thing at this point is for you to take care of yourself. I completely understand your statement, "I can't live like this anymore." That is often the place we parents land after many years of dealing with our difficult child's. Now you must focus on yourself, build back your strength, nurture yourself, have some fun, make sure YOUR needs are met. This takes an enormous toll on us and the rest of the family. Sometimes we aren't even aware of how big a toll it really is until difficult child is no longer living with us. Then we can afford to acknowledge the depth of the depletion and all the feelings we've been holding at bay. It takes time to sort through all of that and rebuild ourselves, find our joy and begin the process of learning to accept what we cannot change.

    Take the focus now off of him and put it on YOU. Each day do something kind and nurturing for YOU. Once you start healing and feeling better, difficult child will still be there to deal with, but you will have a renewed sense of yourself.............you've made choices that are appropriate given his behavior. He is safe somewhere else, take advantage of this time to get YOUR needs met. I'm glad you're here and hope you continue posting. This is hard. Sending you understanding hugs and good wishes...........and hope for you to find your peace of mind..........
  4. stressbunny

    stressbunny Guest

    Didn't mean to imply our latest difficulties are the sociopath symptoms. JT has severe ADHD (not even able to complete the test, due to inattentiveness/hyperactivity, and the psychologist said he was one of the worst cases she's seen). I understand attachment disorder, as an adoptive mom of two who has read a ton and attended many workshops, and also a foster mom to over 20 kids. He likely has that too. Prior to age 2, JT was neglected physically and passed around to a variety of caregivers. His Bmom was not responsive to his needs, did not feed him well, and kept him strapped in a carseat to avoid having to watch him. She also left him home alone with his 4-yr-old half brother and at times with family for extended, open-ended periods of time, while she traveled with the carnival. She lost her parental rights due to neglect, failure to follow through with DHS requirements, such as keeping her home sanitary, and abandonment. We do not have information as to whether JT was exposed to drugs/alcohol in utero, but I am quite sure his Bmom smoked cigarettes. Interestingly, JT's personality is somewhat like his Bmom in that he doesn't seem to care about consequences. He doesn't modify his behavior. His Bmom refused to do the steps required by DHS, despite the ultimate consequences of losing both of her children. She was extremely stubborn, volatile, and had poor executive/cognitive/emotional functioning.

    The symptoms of sociopath I was talking about:

    Glibness and Superficial Charm - Yes, he is charming, but also very shallow, while extremely cruel to his dad and me.

    Manipulative and Conning - Yes, he admits to to, and is even proud of the fact that he can get people to do things for him, such as giving him money or in the case of girlfriends, doing his wash and cooking for him. Though, he doesn't seem to really care about these people, and when they no longer serve him, he moves on.

    Grandiose Sense of Self - Yes, he believes he has superior skills and abilities that the rest of us mortals cannot comprehend; thus, the reason he calls me "stupid" and "ignorant" and "uninformed". I simply could not possibly understand or comprehend the complexities of his interests, such as mechanical work or broken washing machines. Though he has not achieved any formal training, he lists on his resume that he is a "mechanic" with 8 years experience (never mind that he would have been 11 yrs old at the time). Or, recently, he big-talked his way into an interview and welding test for a skilled $24/hr job, even though he has never performed that type of welding. He boasted about his "experience" to get the opportunity. He thinks that he is the BEST construction worker in the state (I am not exaggerating.). He leads people to believe that he is a full-time firefighter, but he is a volunteer only. He also led people to believe his most recent injury from running through the glass doors on his way to his truck for a fire call, was a result of being injured on the scene. The reason JT refused to leave his knife locked in his truck is because he "needs" it on his person at all times; that it could be the difference between life and death for a fire victim on one of his calls. He can't spare the extra 30 seconds to get it out of the glove compartment in his truck, because he doesn't have the time in an emergency. He is the all-knowing hero in all situations. When he was a child, he told kids at school he had his own airplane. He told a farmer he already knew everything there was to know about tractors. Before he got his driver's license, he refused to allow me to help him learn the rules of the road, because he already knew them all. He claimed to know more than me. He failed his driving test. I was taking a master's level statistics class, and at the time, JT was in middle school, and he told me he knew all about statistics; that he could teach me. It wasn't true. A lot of what he believes about himself is not true, but he seems to believe it 100%.

    Pathological Lying - JT lies more than he tells the truth. When confronted about his lies, he lies even more, even in the face of complete evidence. Also, see above about his grandiose carrying on about his superior abilities. He believes he is smarter and better than everyone else.

    Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt - JT never really shows emotions of shame or guilt or remorse. He doesn't have to apologize, because he really isn't wrong. Other people are wrong. If he makes a mistake or deceives someone, it is somehow their fault that he did so. When he does apologize, it is only because he has learned the right words to say in order to get something he wants. I know this because his apologies are always followed with a request for something he wants. He does not react to the pain he causes others.

    Shallow Emotions - JT has a low range of emotions. He NEVER does anything to please anyone. For example, he never made me a card or picked up something around the house to help out without being told. Birthdays, mothers day, forget it. He doesn't care. He is nice when he wants something, and that is so obvious to me. JT makes a lot of promises and rarely keeps them. He will be outraged if someone violates his rights or some rule in his mind, yet he callously does much worse, with seemingly no conscience about it.

    Incapacity for Love - JT has not been able to maintain long-term relationships with friends. People seem to find him charming initially, but they don't last long. I don't feel that JT loves me, really. If I died today, he would be more concerned with his phone and money problems than the loss of me.

    Need for Stimulation - JT is a risk taker. He is accident-prone and loves drama. If there isn't enough drama, he'll create some. He is provocative. He is smart and knows people's buttons. He will push them just to watch the drama and pain that follows. A therapist told me that she believed he was doing this when he was in early elementary school, at the time. She said he enjoyed the power he felt in creating turmoil in our home. JT love fast cars that he wants to make go faster. He is on the volunteer fire department for the thrill of it, not to save people's lives. He wants to drink, smoke, carry knives and guns, watch porn, and make sure people respect him.

    Callousness/Lack of Empathy - JT is unphased by the pain or distress of others. He doesn't show emotion. He views the pain/emotion of others as weakness, and he hates perceived weakness. While he has never hurt a pet of ours, he has never liked them. He won't touch our cat, and didn't care for our dog. Our cat is afraid of him.

    Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature - JT has been in trouble for stealing repeatedly over the years, bullying others, getting into fights, charging up his lunch account, without the funds at school, throwing things, tipping over a desk and yelling at a teacher at school, leaving the school grounds in elementary school, etc. Every year in school, he has pretty much had at least one major problem. Even when caught, he has often repeated the behavior until the consequences became very severe. He continued stealing money and i-Pods from his teammates until the police finally became involved and he had to go through the juvenile court system. Incidentally, this is one of the few times he has cried. He cried because he was caught and in trouble, not because he was sorry. He also made up a huge lie about where the money came from, and he never did really live this down in school. The kids called him names and reminded him of it for the rest of his high school life. He had money of his own, and he could have bought an i-Pod. He said he stole for the thrill. He never even spent any of the money.

    Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency - See above. JT does not respect authority. He has always viewed himself on the same level as adults. And, if he has "reasons", he doesn't need to follow rules and expectations. He justifies and rationalizes his bad behavior all the time. In short, he has his own set of rules, and that is all that matters. He will not do what he is told or what is expected of him.

    Irresponsibility/Unreliability - JT has flunked three semesters in a row at college, despite his intellectual ability to pass classes. He hasn't been able to keep a job for any length of time. He makes promises he doesn't keep. He wants to be a teacher, but doesn't follow through; a fire medic, but doesn't follow through; a military person, but wants to lie to get in. I don't trust him.

    Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity - JT is into porn, and he is proud of having multiple girlfriends at the same time. A number of nice girls have become involved with him and been hurt. They never last long. JT loves to look at himself in the mirror and admire his body. I have found him many times and for extended times doing this.

    Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle - See current situation. He is leaving to live with a friend, and he has no job and no savings, and no real plans for what is next. He has bragged about his ability to get others to pay for things for him. He feels so powerful when he can manipulate others. When he's done, he just moves on to the next person.

    Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility - Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily. JT puts on the charming grandson (substitute nephew, cousin, friend, etc.) face in order to lead people to believe he is someone he is not. His morals shift easily, and again, this is about using others and getting what he wants without working for it.

  5. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Well, it does appear that your son has all the symptoms of a sociopath. My daughter fits all the characteristics of a narcissist. Regardless of the diagnosis or traits of our kids, we still have to negotiate the rocky road of detachment and acceptance...........not for them, but for us. I hope you find support to take care of you.
  6. Tiredof33

    Tiredof33 Active Member

    I feel the same way about my son. Although he was never actually diagnosed by a professional, he has too many of the traits. I did have about a year and a half with my son clean and sober, he was a completely different person. He has relapsed now and, in my opinion, worse than he was before. He started the lies, conns for money, everything they do all over again, this time he is in a relationship with another full fledge difficult child. He went no contact with me after I refuse to keep handing over money.

    My son started using at a very early age and I felt a lot of guilt due to my marriage and his father not being in his life. Regardless of the past situations they have to learn to be a productive member of society. I don't hold my breath for mine, but I do not give up hope.

    At his age there is nothing you can do for him that he doesn't want to do. Counseling does help, support groups, and this forum is a great place to vent and learn from.

    Detaching does not happen over night, but once you understand how powerless you are, it is really the only thing you can do. It is really sad with these kids, it's like they are programmed to self destruct. There are programs out there to help them. mine won't, maybe yours will.

    I never in a million years would have believed my gifted son would turn out like he is. I try very hard not to judge, accept him as he is, but I no longer enable him in any way. There are some great books on enabling, I suggest you read them, I thought I had stopped enabling and I was very surprised at how much I still was.
    (((hugs and blessings)))
  7. helpangel

    helpangel Active Member

    I got here late but I don't think JT is a sociopath, I don't think he has adHd either. I understand no one is qualified to diagnose anyone thru the internet but everything you listed sounds like bipolar disorder to me and if I'm right his medications for adHd might be making things worse. Please urge him to get a psychiatric evaluation done if he hasn't had one recently, copy what you posted here and send it with him in a sealed envelope for the psychiatrist.

    I sympathize with what you are going thru, I was reading this and kept flashing back to Angel before 2010.
  8. stressbunny

    stressbunny Guest

    It's complicated, for sure. JT has always been extremely hyper and inattentive. He is like this every day, and it never changes. He has grandiose fantasies about himself; that he is superior, gifted, and above most people. He really believes he is smarter than just about everybody, and therefore, he doesn't respect anyone but himself (read no empathy), and maybe certain other "special" people. Rules and expectations mean nothing to him because he is always justified in breaking them for his own reasons. He is special. This comes across as very narcissistic. Though, I see how this may seem manic, I do not think he has bipolar. I realize there are variations of bipolar and that it manifests differently in different people, but JT does not have mood shifts or depression (no episodes; only constant behaviors). There has been no change in his demeanor or attitudes since childhood. If anything, he is in a good-natured mood most of the time, as long as no one requires anything of him or holds him accountable. Without his medication, he is unable to focus, and he has tried going off of it numerous times. Each time, he said that he couldn't manage without and that he needed the Concerta and feels better while taking it.

    I read an article recently about the fact that infants and toddlers who are not properly nurtured fail to develop a normal pre-frontal cortex and amygdala. These areas are responsible for planning, impulse control, and cause-and-effect thinking, along with emotions, and morality. I do wonder if the neglect caused some sort of brain/neurological defects early on in his life. I also wonder about pre-natal drug/alcohol exposure. I doubt I'll ever have all of the answers. But I do know that it's complicated, and there seems to be layers to the problem; overlapping layers.
  9. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome,
    I was going to suggest you encourage him to seek professional help, but I'm pretty sure he will think he's smarter than the shrink, so I'm guessing you've been down that road to no avail.
    You seem like you're trying so hard to model proper behavior for your son to learn and implement, but he's very shallow, and I think the best you can hope for is a superficial relationship. That's pretty much what I have with my son. We talk, but he's so full of baloney most of the time, I just can't anymore. He is the most exasperating person I've ever encountered, and although he's incredibly talented, I'm not sure he will ever make a thing out of himself because he self sabotages constantly.
    My son is the same age as yours and was also adopted at about 17 mos. old. He's impulsive, has (possibly is) using drugs, and doesn't live with us any longer. I admit that I still occasionally get pulled into the whirlpool of chaos he creates, but that is an infrequent occasion lately, thank God.
    It seems to me you've done all you could, you can offer guidance when it's requested, but otherwise, don't let him con you anymore. You will never, ever win at this game, believe me. They're very cagey, and know how to push our buttons, (with mine it's guilt), so don't hand over any more money till he becomes a "producer" instead of a "consumer."
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Reactive attachment disorder. Could be other stuff too, but that's the curse of the adopted kid who had a very chaotic early life. If he was exposed to alcohol or drugs in utero, which is very common in adoptive children and ESPECIALLY if the child was adopted out of foster care, then that's just another factor and could cause alcohol effects, which look like ADHD. There is no simple answer as to what is wrong with this young adult. I still think he may be drinking a lot or using drugs, but whether he is or isn't, he is past eighteen.

    There is nothing anyone can do for him anymore and it is a good idea to work on getting on with your own life.Because of my experiences, I always warn prospective adoptive parents who expect their family to be similar to all other families (and are not looking for special needs) to try to adopt as young a child as they can, hopefully straight from the hospital. Those early chaotic years are life ruiners and it is very hard to offset them. They cause the child to not trust anyone or to care about anyone but himself...and it sticks.
  11. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    It will take time, but you will feel better about it over time. A therapist can help you ort yor feelings on this.