Does Detachment = No Contact?

Stress Bunny

Active Member
Okay, so I am struggling here with the whole detachment concept. This situation with our difficult child, JT, is creating a lot of anxiety and depression for me, so I hope you can help me navigate with a clear direction.

Background: JT has flunked out of college, started smoking, and had a couple of underage drinking charges, one recent and including distribution to minors. He has lost numerous jobs, been caught using our computers to view porn, tried to lie to get into the military, charged up credit cards of his and had bills sent to collections, failed to follow house rules and been kicked out of our home, run through a glass door when he was in a hurry, been to the E.R. many times, getting strong painkillers each time, lied over and over, and generally created a ton of drama while treating husband and me very poorly over the past two years.

To top it all off, he is extremely narcissistic and selfish. He really believes he can do anything and that he is smarter than everybody else. Bragging and boasting are the norm. Talking to him never works because he only argues, denies, minimizes, and blames. In his world, he is a superstar. He is completely out of touch with reality.

JT has been living in his own apartment for the past two months. While he lives in filth (cannot discipline himself to pick up or clean anything), he has a good job and just made it off of probation at work, but we worry whether he will be able to keep it, given his past history of losing jobs. Because he traded a decent truck we bought him a number of years ago, that he wanted, for a piece of junk 1989 GMC that broke down last month, he now has no transportation. He also was recently arrested for underage drinking and distributing alcohol to minors. We paid his bond but immediately required him to provide us with his tax refund to cover it, which he has, and the checks have not yet bounced, anyway. So now, he is once again in dire financial straits.

Anyway, the most recent drinking charges ten days ago are pretty much the last straw for us. Over the past two years since graduating high school, JT has done everything we never would have wanted him to do. Nothing seems to motivate him to change his behavior. In fact, in response to the recent jail situation, he boasts that he "could have fought that rap".

And, get this, since the jail thing, instead of apologizing to us, he immediately sent me a text message with an autism prayer for parents because our younger boy has an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). JT texted that he thought of us when he read that. Really? Younger son is the least of our worries right now! This, coming from the psychopathic difficult child who delights in tormenting his parents??? He also sent husband a text message stating that people at his workplace think he is so exceptional; that he doesn't make mistakes; that he (JT) feels good getting some positive attention. What? Really? Gosh, I am glad everything is just peachy at work since he wouldn't even have that job any more if husband hadn't bailed him out of jail! Not to mention that if he fails a drug test at work he will lose that job. Zero acknowledgement of the pain he is causing those around him. husband thinks these messages are ways JT is trying to smooth things over; apologize without apologizing. I find them disturbing in that JT failed to acknowledge, much less apologize, for anything.

Also, right before the underage drinking charge as of late, JT was again in the ER, for a supposed pinched nerve. And he got Oxycontin. Last summer when he got Oxycontin for running through the glass door, I begged him not to use too much of it or to mix it with alcohol, etc., and after I said that, I noticed he would tell me every time he spoke with me that he was taking a lot of it, as if to torment me and let me know he is making his own decisions and that I can't control him.

I don't know the extent to which JT may be abusing drugs besides alcohol, but I wouldn't be surprised if he has a problem. He surrounds himself with people who have issues.

I don't understand why he is doing this. Why? Is it the thrill? Is it because he cannot control himself because he lacks the ability to self regulate? All of these years, husband and I have been managing him; being his external brain, in a way. Now that he is on his own, he is just out of control.

husband is fed up and wants zero contact. I have read a lot about detachment, and both husband and I agree that we can no longer financially support JT or enable him in any way. So, we are doing well in that department. But, I struggle with no contact. On the one hand, I don't really want to see JT because it always upsets me. He is always dirty, unshaven, and keeps his hair in a harsh way (mohawk), and generally shows no respect for us, our wishes, or our property. He has no concern for the fact that we are hurting and stressed worrying about him. We don't want him to negatively influence our younger boy. On the other hand, I long for the way I would like things to be, and I would like to have a good relationship with him. I feel guilty wondering if I caused this in some way; if there is more I could or should have done. I wake up in the morning and quickly remember everything happening with JT, and then I feel SO bad. I am depressed, I know.

So far, no contact has just sort of happened. We didn't tell JT that he cannot come over or call or anything. But JT has not initiated contact, other than the two texts I mentioned above, in the past ten days since his jailing. JT's grandparents, at our urging, contacted JT to let him know they do not want him hunting in their wooded property. This was after his jail situation, and husband and I told my parents that JT is not trustworthy and that he might be drinking or drugging out there. So I am sure JT is unhappy about that.

For those of you who have been there done that, can you share with me the best way to move forward? Is no contact best or just limited contact or what? How do you handle keeping in touch, if at all? Do you ever invite your difficult children to your home? Should we urge JT to seek alcohol/drug treatment even though we're not sure of the extent to which he is using? Or should we not, knowing that he will delight in doing the opposite anyway? Just dont' know where to go from here.


one day at a time
Oh Stress Bunny, I am so sorry you are in this place today with your son. I have definitely been there done that. So much of the specific instances you write about sound like my difficult child over the past four years plus the same attitudes.

A few thoughts.

Everything you are feeling is so normal. Confusion, pain, depression, stress, fear, resentment, anger, despair. Feel them all because they are real and they are your feelings.

Then, the best and most promising thing you wrote is that you and husband are both ready to stop. At the same time. What a great thing that is, Stress Bunny. Often, one parent is ready and the other isn't. It is a blessing that you both are ready now.

The next step is what does stopping look like? It will likely look different for you, different for husband and different for each one of us. We have been writing about that on another thread.

To my ex-husband, detachment right now means very little to no contact, except for specific requests.

To my easy child, detachment from difficult child means no contact.

To me, it means limited contact.

I am respecting my own self and listening to myself about what that contact needs to be. I am also giving that same respect to my easy child son and to my ex-husband. They are doing what they need to do and decide to do. That is none of my business.

My difficult child has been out of jail and homeless since Feb. 14. At first, he was knocking on my door in the middle of the night and calling and texting and wanting me to do it all for him. I had to be very very clear and limit our contact drastically to one hour a week by phone---Saturdays between 10 and 11 a.m. he could call me and we would talk for 10 minutes.

Little by little that has loosened up. It then went to FB messages. I could respond if and when I wanted to, or not. Now he has a phone (via food stamps) and he texts me and calls me periodically. I can again respond or not. Sometimes I answer the call and sometimes I let it go to vm. Sometimes I wait to answer a text.

I hear from him a couple of times a week and I am seeing him for about 10 minutes a week. Last week I didn't see him at all. The week before I saw him twice.

I am going very very slowly and staying out of his business and out of his way as much as I humanly can. I am being very careful with what I say and what I do.

Right now, I need to limit my time with him because the longer he is homeless, the more I am not getting that. It is hard for me to fathom. While I am learning to accept his choices, I am still judging them. I am working on that, Stress Bunny.

Turn the energy and the focus and the time and the money and the emotion from him onto yourself. Start a plan and a program every day for yourself that includes good healthy habits, whatever you determine those to be. Start doing good and kind things for yourself---little things and big things.

We must learn to be kind to ourselves, to value ourselves as much as we value other people, before we can develop kindness and compassion for them.

Let your difficult child go. Let him go, Stress Bunny. He is 20 years old. He is an adult. He is making his own choices, whatever they are.

There is no rulebook that says other people---even our children whom we love more than our own lives---have to do things our way or even society's way. They will have to face and live with the consequences if they do not.

My son has been in jail multiple times. He has felonies. This is his fourth time to be homeless.

He is also a good person. Today, when we are together, he is more thoughtful. He is more quiet. There is no victim behavior. There is no anger. I do my very best not to ask questions and just to sit, be with him, listen to him, accept whatever he says, and then hug him and say I love him. He says and does the same. I don't give him any money. I have bought him socks.

I hope this helps, Stress Bunny. Start your own daily habits like these: writing here, reading here, reading books like Boundaries by Cloud/Townsend, CoDependent No More by Melody Beattie, write a gratitude list, exercise, meditate, cook something healthy, take a walk, buy some flowers, take a nap.

There is peace on the other side.

Stress Bunny

Active Member
Childofmine, thank you for your most helpful response. I am sorry you are also going through this. It is SO hard. Like you, I do not understand these choices, which are so clearly not in difficult child's best interest. I do hope that detachment and stopping the financial support will make JT's problems more his own problems. We will not bail him out of jail again or loan him money for any reason. We won't help him with transportation or his past due bills. And, we won't allow him to treat us poorly any more. It just needs to stop. JT has only been on his own for a couple of months now, but we know his financial problems and life management issues will hit him hard over this next year.

I'm glad your family members have each made their own decisions as to contact with your difficult child. I am not sure of how much contact I really want. I wonder whether things will ever be okay in the future. Right now, I don't think it is likely that we'll ever have a normal relationship with JT. I believe he will struggle the rest of his life, and I am grieving that, I guess. It is really hard watching him self destruct.

I do want peace, though, now more than anything. After all of these years of turmoil, we're tired. And we deserve to enjoy our life somehow. I need to accept that there may not be a happy ending.


Well-Known Member
Hi Bunny. Welcome to the site and I hope you find it provides some relief from your stress. I don't have any expertise, I'm just sharing my thoughts as asked. I found that reading other people's experiences was extremely helpful. For me, detachment is how I deal with the situation in my own head. I've said this before. Others have different interpretations depending on their circumstances. My son is homeless through choice and lives in squalor with zero money, no sanitation, no job, filthy clothes (rags), massively overgrown beard and hair, scavenging food from dumpsters. He is currently squatting in a derelict farmhouse with no running water and no electricity. He's 27. He has a good degree from a good university. He has opted out of society. I no longer provide any money or any practical help. I pay for his cell phone and have sporadic phone contact with him and see him every few months. I haven't stopped loving him or being here for him but, financially, he's on his own. I certainly haven't detached from him in any physical way or in any way that seems like disowning him. I would never cut off contact with him. That's not what detachment means for me. I am sure that many mothers here will share their stories with you and those who have children dealing with similar issues to yours, will have loads of advice and support to offer you. I don't have experience of dealing with drug and alcohol problems, but I will follow this thread with interest and wish you well. The advice and support on this site has helped me to just accept my son as he is and accept that he's a grown man and has made his own choices that I have no control over. If you can reach that state of mind you will probably feel a lot less stressed and a lot more pragmatic about this sadness in your life. Hugs.


Well-Known Member
Hi Stress Bunny.... I have also been there done that a lot.

I dont believe detachment means no contact at least not for me! The best advice I ever got was from a therapist when we first kicked our son out of the house at 18. My gut then told me to just wait until he woke up and contacted us. My therapist said you kicked him out and his pride will not let him do that.... so keep the door open. Stay clear that he cant come home but text him now and then (not everyday) and keep the door open. So that is what I did... he didnt contact us for a couple of weeks but called us when he was arrested.

That was over 4 years ago. Since then my difficult child has been all over the place and in and out of treatment. Thankfully at the moment he is in a court ordered long term residential program, has been there for 5 months and doing well... and we are slowly rebuilding our relationship.

During that 4 years he was also homeless for a time which was awful for me. But we stayed in limited contact. He would call when he needed something but it became clear to him what I would and would not do. So I did get him a sleeping bag, but I did not rescue him from homlessness.

Over time that entitlement became less and less.

And during the really tough times he would eventually want help and we would always help him get help.... and I think those various times he learned something although he would usually get kicked out or leave.

Which is why his being where he is now for almost 6 months feels like a miracle to me.

I think it has been really important for him to continue to know we love him and that we are not turning our backs on him....and that has meant he could come to us when he was ready for help.

From your post it sounds like your heart does not want to cut off all contact so I say dont... stay in touch with him and at the same time stay clear about your boundaries. Staying in touch does not mean you have to invite him to your house or to live at home. If he is being nice and respectful to you I would invite him out for a meal.... if he is not being respectful then cut off that particular conversation. You dont need to take abuse from him, if that starts cut off the conversation until he can be respectful.

But to me detachment does not mean no contact, it means detaching from the outcome... love him but also be true to yourself and set boundaries.


Sent using ConductDisorders mobile app


Well-Known Member
Stress Bunny, so sorry to hear you are going through all of this. For what it's worth, I think it is great that you have cut off the financial strings, and like COM said, that you and husband are getting to the same point at the same time. That makes things so much easier, when you are both on the same page.

In my experience, detachment is a very organic thing and may or may not involve no contact.

For a long time, no contact was because my son didn't contact us unless he needed something and he had other ways to meet his needs. I was certainly NOT very detached then and obsessed about how he could abandon his family that way. I checked his cell phone records and always found ways to "run into" people who might know where he was and what he was up to. It was never good news, but I tortured myself anyway. It was the only connection I had to him.

When things got worse in difficult child's life, no contact was at my and husband's request because it was too painful to take a "front row seat" for the mayhem. With some counseling, we clarified what we would need from him in order to rebuild a relationship; otherwise we just didn't want to see him for awhile.

I sent him a text to that effect and just didn't respond to the "you're my mother, how can you do this to me" etc. responses. That was hard, obviously. But the alternative was guilt, anger, resentment, worry, confusion, etc., to the point where thinking clearly was impossible. I guess we were to the point where if that was the only connection we were going to have, it was better not to have one at all. It sounds like you might be struggling at that point as well.

Getting that distance was something we desperately needed to do. It was the only way to decompress and let a little light in, to see that the relationship I wanted to have with him so badly was just a mirage.

During that last no contact period, I dropped off some clothes at the halfway house where my son would be staying and met the man who runs it. He told me the best thing we could do for difficult child is to love him from a distance, and that concept made sense to me. We weren't abandoning him or setting conditions on loving him, just letting him live the consequences of his choices. To me that's what detachment looks like, whether it's with contact or not. Just letting the natural consequences of his choices play themselves out.

Contact since then has always been initiated by difficult child, and husband and I keep the visits short, tread lightly and are EXTREMELY careful not to offer anything that could be construed as advice or "help."

Now my struggle with detachment is to not get all swept up in things going well for difficult child lately. First of all, I know things turn on a dime in difficult child's life and I don't want to get invested in it. Second, it's not fair to keep him at arm's length during the bad times but get all "high five" when things are going well. He reaps the rewards as well as the punishments. And third, I have to let our relationship rebuild naturally, in the way that it really IS, not the way I WANT it to be. Whatever that turns out to be, it will at least be honest and we all will have been willing parties, not me trying to "force" it on him. Cuz you're right, we can't be their external brain, or heart, or anything else. They are grown men and will go where their own hearts and minds lead them.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
For me, detachment is about detaching from, about putting space around, my emotional responses to my kids. The situations they find themselves in are so horrifying that I want to do anything to take the pain away, to give them another chance, to give them back their lives.

That did not work.

I am so flummoxed by the pain of what happened to all of us. For the past twenty years, I have run around behind my kids, loving them, propping them up, putting things back together. When they were not strong enough, I believed that they could do it for them; believed they could beat this thing, believed they were better than what they were doing, believed that they were special, believed they had a unique contribution to make to the world.

That did not work.

Given the time, money, and energy expended, both my kids should have completed graduate and doctorates and had the world to explore, with money and time and education.

We were so sure that was how it was meant to be that we never saw this other reality as real, even when it was barreling right at us.

Even when it was barreling us over.

And when we did finally see it? We didn't believe it. We could not conceive of what it meant to be an addict. Surely our children, so bright and funny and well-spoken, could reason their ways out?

That is not what happened.

While I was busy wasting time trying to figure out how to be a better parent, or trying to find the wound, the weakness I had unknowingly created in my child...the addiction bit in, put out roots.

Every civilized, time-wasting thing we tried turned eventually into what the kids really wanted, what they really needed, once the addiction was seated: and once you take the psychobabble away, what they wanted was somewhere, and some way, to practice their addictions.

And so, while I was whistling in the dark and looking the other way, while I was listening to the finer, gentler way to "help" the kids...I pretty much lost them both.

I wish I had come at them like a fury.

Looking back, I wish I had recognized addiction for the terrifyingly destructive force it is. I wish I had never wasted all those years blaming myself, trying to be a better parent, trying to be gentle and civilized and kind and all those things that mattered to ME.

Addiction is a terminal disease.

You do not have forever to change things for your child. While we might feel we are accomplishing something by gunning our motors and trying to get some ground under the kids...the addiction is getting its hooks in deeper.

Their identities as addicts become more real to them with every treatment, with every slip back. Eventually, the addict identity takes on a concrete reality beside which the dreams you hold for them, the dreams they held for themselves, pale into nothing and are gone.

There was a time when it looked like everything might be going to turn out all right for my children. When we saw the telltale signs again, the signs that the addiction was back, was growing?


Denial set in.

We didn't believe it, we believed it had to be something else, something that involved us, our parenting, our something, anything, anything but drugs. That is what the experts are telling us, right? Get to the bottom of it. Find and dispel the dysfunction.

The dysfunction is drug use.

Addiction kills.

It will kill your child.

At the least, it will change his or her life into something ugly and unrecognizable and so, so sad.

My children, your children ~ all had such potential. All had parents committed to seeing them succeed, had parents determined to see them flourish. We would not be here on this site, still trying to find the magic solution, if we had not been incredibly attentive, aware, loving parents. Whatever the dysfunctions in our families ~ and all families have some dysfunction ~ we were great parents, extraordinary parents...or we would not be here, today.

I did not see that for the longest time. I felt so responsible. That is the thing addiction does, too. Responsible parents never give up.

We never give up.

A responsible parent can no more wink and turn a blind eye to the addict's self-destructive tendencies in her child than she would were the child suffering from any other terminal illness.

And addiction is a terminal illness.

As I've posted before, I chose detachment when I read about another mom or two who had tried it and found their children turning their lives around, found their children thinking again about who and how they were meant to be. I began to see how twisted, how truly ill, interactions in my family had become over the years, as I turned a blind eye to the reality of addiction, to what it was doing to my children, so I could "help" them recover their lives.

Addiction comes back and comes back. When you see the signs, it is too late to wonder. No matter what they say, no matter how vehemently they deny it, no matter how venomously they blame you...addiction comes back.

I am losing one of my children right now, right this minute. It is going to be a protracted thing. The addict's lifestyle is taking her, eating her alive, piece by battered piece.

Know what goes first?


Another child is not speaking to me, is judging me so harshly because I will not pretend with him that a little addiction is okay.

A little addiction will kill him as surely as a big addiction will. It just takes longer.

That's how I know all this.

I DID all the things parents with younger children are trying to do to help their children. Addiction is a killer. A diagnosis of bipolar once a child has used drugs or alcohol to extreme is a different kind of bipolar than outright mental illness in my opinion.

And it is no excuse.

Addiction will kill your child, bipolar or not.

There is a chance that you can change that. If coddling, money, treatment, support, pretending everything was fine just fine worked?

My family would be whole and healthy, today.

It isn't a question of love or attention, it isn't a question of whether a childhood was perfect or whether a parent was divorced. Like Brene Brown says, we humans are born hard-wired for conflict. We are incredible survivors, well fitted to the task by an evolutionary process that burnt out the weaknesses.

Addiction, readily available drugs, centralized school systems where parents do not have ready access ~ all these things are part of what happened to our families. Our kids are not bad.

They are addicted.

Each of us will make her own decision about how best to help her child. That is as it should be.

I am telling you what I have lived through, and what I have learned. As our children age, as their addictions take true hold, their behaviors toward us are horrifyingly, eerily similar.

That is not your child you are dealing with. That, what you see and hear, the hatred, the desperate greed, that is the face of the addiction.

Your child is trapped in there somewhere.

From my perspective near the end of this twisted, evil trail, what a parent needs to do if she hopes to save her child is to fight that addiction with every weapon at her disposal. If you destroy your child's self esteem in the process, if your child has to taste life on the streets, spend time in prison ~ whatever it least you will still have a child.

A whole, healthy child, strong enough to rebuild, to reclaim his or her life.

Think about it like this: Celebrities have money, fame, treatment after treatment, excellent support systems and aftercare, have everything to live for, everything to come back to.

But their addictions kill them, too.


Stress Bunny

Active Member
Lucy, it sounds like you have found the right balance in your relationship with your son. That's what I would like to have, because at least with balance, there is some peace in knowing that you're doing what is working for you. I am a perfectionist and can so relate to the control you mention needing to let go. I am working on that. Bless you, and may your son find his way out of his situation.

Toughlovin, I am encouraged to hear that your son is doing well over the past five months. I hope it continues. Maybe the court situation was a silver lining. I have learned a lot about boundaries and while i am doing alright with the financial boundaries, I think I am struggling with the emotional boundaries. I am constantly worried and depressed. When the phone rings, I have an adrenaline reaction because I wonder if it is bad news of some sort. husband is fed up, and his emotions show as anger and frustration, but I know he is deeply hurt. He broke down in tears at a furniture store out of the blue this past weekend. Then, he suddenly looked up at me and said that if JT could see him, he would just laugh at him, at his weakness.

Albatross, I am so interested to know how and what you communicated that you needed from your son in order to have a relationship with him. At this point, if I were to state something like that to JT, I would probably say that while I care about him deeply and want things to work out for him in his life, I cannot help him continue to harm himself by financially, physically, or emotionally contributing to the situation. I would say I deserve to have some peace and happiness in my life, free from his negative drama, and that our younger boy deserves the same. I would ask that he seek out counseling and substance abuse treatment and make amends with the family he has devastated. Unfortunately, JT is very stubborn and egotistical, so he will vehemently deny that he has any issues and likely avoid said treatment all the more if I encourage him to get it. I don't know if it is better to stay quiet for a while and wait for him to make contact again or if I should try to communicate with him.

Cedar, Your words are so heartfelt. I am sorry for the situation your children are in and that you tried so very hard to save them without it working. I have no illusions about the disease of substance abuse or where it leads. husband already said that he is prepared to get "the call" that our son's life has been lost. I am not prepared, but aware that this destructive path can end that way. It does terrify me, and the sense of helplessness is overwhelming. JT is the overconfident type; the type that thinks he is invincible; that he is in control and that there aren't any problems. By the time he realizes anything, it will probably already be too late, as you mentioned. I can't believe we're here in this situation. husband and I do not smoke or drink, and we have always educated our kids about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. So has our entire family. We tried SO hard to be good parents, and I am devastated watching this unfold now. Letting go, accepting, and setting boundaries are very hard indeed.


Well-Known Member
Detachment isn't no contact to me. It's about not getting tangled up in 36s constant drama and setting boundaries. He can (and does) talk to me anytime he wants, but he he crosses a boundary, I will hang up. He knows the rules so it is his decision whether or not to follow them. I don't think they are that hard to do...don't scream at me so that the whole house can hear what you're saying through my phone, don't call me a nasty name with a special asterik toward any female body parts (I think that is the most disrespectful, vile thing a male can say about or to a female, especially his own mother, and I don't want to hear it) and he can't start a rant of blame on me. It has somewhat worked. We have more conversations where neither of us hang up on one another.

One thing I won't do is go into too much depth with him about his life and choices. I mostly listen and say "uh huh" or "ok" or "I see." Very little feedback from me. He is 36 and does not need my two cents and I don't desire to add fuel to the fire.

He also knows that if he's interested in a money train, he has to talk to my ex about it. Ex has more money and often hands him money of ghastly proportions and that is ex's decision and choice and he can do what he wants with his money. The fact that 36 makes a good living, has his own house, and would not need extra money if he didn't spent it on all his toys does not seem to bother ex enough to stop doing it, and it is not my business to talk to my ex about it. I feel I gave up that right when I filed for divorce and when we parted. At least I don't have to hear about the money he'd like me to send that I don't have and wouldn't send even if I did have it.

Detachment is mostly about my own emotions, my boundaries, and how not to ruin my own mental health by getting tired into knots over 36's endless drama. He can blow drama out of something that nobody else would even think twice about. Well, I have a husband, three other sweet children, a granddaughter-to-be who I am already over the moon about, and many interests and hobbies and now a job...I can not focus my entire life on 36. I try only to think about him when we are talking and I let him talk to me whenever he likes, as long as he is respectful.

To me, that is detachment. I never cut off communication with my daughter either, not even when she used drugs. I just cut off the money train and made her leave the house because she was breaking a strict rule that to live at home you can not break the law.

I have silence from Scott, but th at has gone on now for five/six years...I lost count and it was his decision, not mine.

Detachment is what you want it to mean.

Stress Bunny

Active Member
MWM, thanks for explaining how detachment is working in your family, and it sounds like it is working alright. Protecting your mental health is so very important, and I realize that I am rather consumed by all of this drama with JT. It is really hard to get a call from the police department. So many things go through a mother's mind as to why they might be calling. Of course, JT has no concern for this whatsoever. I can relate to the hang-up phone conversations. I have had to tell JT more than once to stop swearing or I would hang up, and that I have done plenty of times. He is very provocative in that he knows how to anger people, and it takes a great deal of self control to respond properly to the things he says.

We have house rules too, and having violated those very simple rules of respect for self, property, and others, JT didn't last two weeks with us on the most recent occasion he came. If he is to visit us in our home now, I do not want him to bring in cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, guns, or knives. We have a young child at home yet with an autism spectrum disorder, so we especially choose not to have these things in the house. But I guess that is too much to ask. JT told me he HAD to have this enormous knife (read machete) on him at all times in order to respond to a potential fire call (he was on the volunteer fire dept., but pretends he's full-time to anyone who doesn't know better), and that if I didn't let him have the knife, I would be potentially responsible for someone's death. Now, that is ridiculous, but in JT's fantasy world, he speaks the truth, and no one can tell him otherwise. These are the dumb power struggles I am sick and tired of going through.

I am glad he is an adult now in many ways, because now if he refuses to respect our wishes in our own home, he will be asked to leave. The trouble is that when we see him, it only takes a matter of minutes for something to come up that is challenging. It is constant because of JT's personality. These traits have been present his entire life, and they seem quite hopelessly ingrained in his attitudes and behaviors.

So, for now, visits or phone conversations or even text messages would have to be very short and very superficial and completely advice-free. Yet, I still feel like I need a break from him for awhile, since this recent jail episode. Maybe I will feel like talking to him at some point, but for my own wellbeing, I need some distance right now.


Well-Known Member
If this were me, and I realize I'm not you, the knife would be history regardless of the volunteer fire dept. thing. And I'm not so sure our difficult children would make good volunteer fire people, to be honest. A gun? If I thought 36 owned a gun I'd never let him within walking distance of me, even in a crowd. He is way too impulsive. I'm so glad none of my kids have never even held a gun, most especially 36.

I'm pretty strict about the house rules. You break them, you leave until you are complying. Even smoking is not allowed in our house. I don't like it, it's a dirty habit, and nobody smokes in my house. Period. I don't care who you are. I'm fortunate that my one kid who did smoke (Julie) quit a long time ago. I don't even like people smoking near the house. They'd have to stand on the

I was once a real doormat, but I've learned that my house is my castle. Just like my kid's homes are their castles and they can make whatever rules they like in their own homes and I will comply or, if I can not tolerate the rules, will not go there. I have also learned, after a long haul of being shoved around a lot, to respect ME. You don't like my simple rules about how I expect you to talk to swearing at me, no female parts brought up in mockery, no screaming, no blaming me for your own mistakes...then you don't get the privilege of talking to me. I respect you and you respect me. It sounds so simple. With a difficult child it isn't. They seem to sometimes glory in testing us, even when they get to be middle age (36). I no longer let them pass the test.

But it took time, work on my part, and the wisdom of growing older.

One thing you may try with JT which has been very successful for me with 36 is to completely not respond to anything provocative he says. Nod your head absently or give no answer at all. In other words, don't throw any flames on the fire. No purpose in it. If he repeats it louder, like you are deaf, smile and say, "Yes, I heard you and I don't wish to talk about that." Then don't. Let him rant and rave until he gets it out of his system. He will learn that he can't provoke you so easily.


Well-Known Member
Stress Bunny,

My son is 20 also.

And we have a relationship of detachment now.

I am much much better. My first post here was that if he died on the street I would kill myself (I have 3 other kids, I persuaded myself they would be OK).

He is also better. Cause all that helping I was doing, all those doorways I kept open....they didn't make him better. Now he does his own helping...or not. And I think he has a little self respect now, that he is a little proud of his own resourcefulness.

Don't get me wrong, these last two years, since he voluntarily left home at 17, have been a long series of having my heart torn fear, hurt, anger, fear, despair, fear, disbelief, and fear.
But like you, I got exhausted. And like you, I realized that what I was doing wasn't helping anything get better..not him, and not our relationship.

And in the end, the only thing I can control is me.

So I stopped doing what I was doing that wasn't helping.

And that gave me some time and some space to think about that I wasn't as consumerd with worry and with helping or trying to help.

And I read a lot of books. And I meditated. A lot. And I posted. A lot. And I made friends with Child, who was going through similar things at the same time. And Cedar, and Recovering, who have been here a while and are wise. And Albatross and Lucy, who are new and have new thoughts and open hearts. A lot of posts. A lot of reflection. A lot of practice and process.

Start your own daily habits like these: writing here, reading here, reading books like Boundaries by Cloud/Townsend, CoDependent No More by Melody Beattie, write a gratitude list, exercise, meditate, cook something healthy, take a walk, buy some flowers, take a nap.
There is peace on the other side.

This is good advice from Child. Take it if you are ready.

I would probably say that while I care about him deeply and want things to work out for him in his life, I cannot help him continue to harm himself by financially, physically, or emotionally contributing to the situation. I would say I deserve to have some peace and happiness in my life, free from his negative drama, and that our younger boy deserves the same. I would ask that he seek out counseling and substance abuse treatment and make amends with the family he has devastated.

This is good advice...from YOU!!! You know what you need. What you have written here is perfect! I stopped the quote right here, because then you go on to say how he will reply....and that is the part you cannot control. You can control what you say. and then you say..."that is all I have to say today, honey. These conversations are hard for me. Lets talk tomorrow (or next week). I love you. Good bye."

Or you let him talk and say "uh huh" and "I see" and finish with "I guess we see things differently. I'm glad I was able to say how I feel"

Detachment isn't no contact to me. It's about not getting tangled up in 36s constant drama and setting boundaries.

MWM hits it in a nutshell. I went no contact for 2 months because I simply had to. I had to get the strength to stick to my guns. I couldn't risk being dragged into my old responses, or into despair. But I never intended lifelong no contact. I had to learn to separate and set boundaries.

One thing I won't do is go into too much depth with him about his life and choices. I mostly listen and say "uh huh" or "ok" or "I see."

And this speaks to part of your initial post. You don't need to hear details...end those conversations quickly. You sound like they are kind of repellent to you...don't expose yourself to that. You will find ways of extricating yourself from those conversations, and as you have to hear less of it you will feel less toxic, less contaminated by his choices.

You are in a good place. You have found us, and your husband and you are in this together. And your difficult child is a good age to start all this. Good luck, and welcome



Well-Known Member
At this point, if I were to state something like that to JT, I would probably say that while I care about him deeply and want things to work out for him in his life, I cannot help him continue to harm himself by financially, physically, or emotionally contributing to the situation. I would say I deserve to have some peace and happiness in my life, free from his negative drama, and that our younger boy deserves the same. I would ask that he seek out counseling and substance abuse treatment and make amends with the family he has devastated.
It sounds like you have a very clear idea of what you want to say, what you would like to see in your relationship going forward. Like Echo says, you can't control how he reacts. And if you need distance right now, you should definitely take it, without guilt or worry. You are NOT the one who created the stress that requires you to step back and regroup!

My son can find a missed stitch and unravel the whole sweater in a matter of seconds, if you know what I mean. So when we sent the text you asked about, we knew to make it short with less chance of him arguing a "loophole."

His biggest problem was alcohol at that point, and until he got that under control nothing else mattered. And we knew he needed to have a way to support himself. He had used up the largesse of people who were willing to let him stay, and we were getting a lot of phone calls about damaged property he had caused, etc. We wouldn't let him stay with us again for the same reason.

So I texted him and told him we loved him and hoped he got help, and that until he was sober, in treatment and working we didn't want any contact. Either way his car insurance and cell phone were being cut off effective _____. Short and not very sweet. We had pretty much had it when I sent that text.

His reaction was to send me some "how can you do this" texts, then maximize his cell and car use for getting drugs and alcohol until the cutoff day, then intentionally use up all of the data on my cell phone plan the night before his phone was cut off. Then he disappeared from everyone's radar for over a month, at which point he asked the one person he hadn't alienated to call me and tell me he was checking himself into detox.

And honestly? That text didn't make any difference directly. He fell in with some pretty rough characters that scared him pretty badly and he wanted to get out of that situation and had nowhere to go. I think that's why he's doing the things we asked, not because he feels particularly bad about the pain and worry he's caused. That's just the way he is. Their hearts are their own, for good or bad. He's sober, he's working...the rest is just gravy, to be honest.

But the thing is, he's really lucky. This could have gone the other way. His falling in with those characters could very well have led to a different outcome, and I sure wouldn't be posting about that text the way I am right now.

We just don't know. We torture ourselves with thinking there is a *right* choice to make here, but either choice can lead to either outcome. We don't control that part.

That's why I so agree with Echo, Cedar, MWM, etc., that detachment is at least as much about US as it is about THEM. We do what WE can live with, what's reasonable by OUR standards.


Active Member
Stress Bunny, I have a 20-year-old as well. Although our situations are somewhat different, you and I nonetheless both have difficult child's that break our hearts and make us feel crazy at times.

Detachment, to me, means stepping away and taking care of MY needs when it becomes apparent that she's going to do exactly what she wants, no matter how bad her choices might be. She is bipolar and completely rejected me two years ago after I had helped her through some really horrific circumstances. She lied to me, hit me, chased me with a knife, bit me, and made my life a living hell. It was then that I chose to detach. I read the article on detachment at the beginning of Parent Emeritus, and it was one of the most profound things I've ever read. I have re-read it many times, and I recommend that you do the same. It helped me to stand back and really detach while she was making such poor choices.

However, I did not totally vanish. I knew that she was very sick and I could not stand the thought of her killing herself, no matter how badly she treated me. I kept the door open in case she needed to contact me, but I did not go out of my way to contact her. Each of us knows what our limits are in that area, and we must be true to our own boundaries that we have set and what we will or will not tolerate. Therefore, it is a fluid thing, this definition of detachment; it is different for every parent and does have the capacity to change.Yes, remember that detachment can change its face as needed. The detachment you practice today might be very different from the detachment that you practice in three months, because our difficult child's situations change as well.
Thinking of you and feeling your pain.