Getting some emotional distance....


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Hi Everyone,

Well we did give in some and get him sweat pants and a radio... I am just too tired of it all to take a strong stand on this because it doesnt feel like it matters much. If it helps him manage jail then good.....I am sticking to my guns on not contacting the girlfriend and we actually had a good conversation about why the other night and I think he might have gotten my reasoning as I did not make it about judging her at all....

But he did want me to post a status on his FB page so friends could write him, so he obviously had to give me his password to do that. So I looked around.... and honestly he lies... not just to us but to his friends. I am sort of sickened by it....there was nothing really horrible on there, but he is asking friends for money and those are people in our town and it is just so darned embarrassing... because some of those kids who didnt answer probably mentioned it to their parents and I am just embarrassed. Not going to do anything about it except that if I run into people and they ask me how he is doing I am not putting on a good naive face about how he is doing well.... I will either tell them as it is or say he is struggling and leave it at that. And I know perfectly well this says a lot about him and not much about me but thought on his part about how this might affect us!!!

I have come to the conclusioin that he very likely has a personality disorder of some sort, not sure which one.... some have thought borderline.... I have to also wonder about narcissitic or antisocial.... doesnt really matter. Whatever it is it doesnt seem to me he has any moral compass.... and why that would be I dont know. I always believed moral values ( and I am not talking the kind talked about by the tea party but those old fashioned morals about telling the truth and treating people as you would like to be treated kind) came from the family.. However myself, husband and our daughter all have a good solid moral compass... and I have no idea why he does not. Again it seems it has to be wiring of some sort.

It feels kind of discouraging in a way.....I hope that he stops his substance abuse, and that his frontal lobe develops enough so he thinks before he acts, and that some day he may get a real job and support himself..... but will he ever have a moral compass? That seems much harder to me.

Anyway the reality of this is helping me feel some distance from him. This really is who he is and his own doing and I cant do anything about it. I just have to keep finding ways to enjoy my own life and I am doing that...... right now playing bridge, reading a good book and eating healthier are all things that are helping me do that. LOL knitting does too which is a new hobby of mine but seems to be causing me neck pain so I am having to stop that for a while.


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I thought so too; that our morals rubbed off on our children, until I had 36. I have always been a bleeding heart and tried to teach him compassion, love of others, love for animals, the good feeling of giving, the wisdom and rightness of living within the law...the whole nine yards. Well, that sure turned out well, didn't He was just a toddler when I first got to see that the kindness and compassion part was not going to be status quo for him. By sixth grade or so, maybe earlier, he told me that his friends really looked up to him because he could steal and steal and steal and never get caught. Way to use your intelligence!!!! He was quite popular as many kids who do wrong things are.

I am convinced both by my long years of observation and the newest scientific neuroscience studies that some people are born missing certain connections in their brains that give most of us compassion, the desire to please, the want to behave, and a conscience. I also believe, again by many studies, that some of this, if not most, is inherited. I certainly see lots of personality disorders in my family and personality disordered people care little for others so they are difficult to have relationships with, even when we love them to pieces. Maybe they are coming closer to a way to help those with narcissism and antisocial. Borderline already has some treatments, with the biggest problem being that so many borderlines think they are absolutely fine and it is everyone else who needs treatment, not them.

I am positive most of us brought our children up with a strong moral compass. It is easy to see why a child may turn into a morally-challenged adult if they saw us cheating or heard us lying constantly or breaking the law ourselves...but, if so, I wonder if the parent didn't also have a personality disorder. Most of us here want to help our adult children and did not do any of that.

In a philosophical light, 36 has taught me a lot about patience, dealing with the unexpected, setting boundaries for myself and how we have no control over anyone but ourselves. What you are doing to cope is healthy and good and what most of us eventually do when we love somebody who is in some way damaged psychologically. The ones that don't are taking care of fifty year old abusive "children" and never have a chance to live a life or enjoy their other, more balanced loved ones.

Keep taking care of yourself and hope a lightbulb goes off with your difficult child. I also have learned to expect the unexpected sometimes.

Where there is life, there is hope.


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Thanks MWM I agree with everything you said! Kind of depressing phone call with difficult child tonight. The good news I guess is he is being more honest with us.... but I tried to talk to him about figuring out why he has to break the rules.... and really we got some insight into his attitude about rules which is smart people break stupid rules. OK there are many great people (he gave the example of Martin Luther King) who break rules.... and certainly I do think there are rules that should be broken. But those great people were breaking rules for a principle they believed in and you can hardly say that about difficult child.

So his attitude is that he will do what he has to to fiinish with probation.... it is clear from the conversation he has no long term plan to stay sober or to really figure out his need to break rules. He is going to live life on his terms and by his rules..... and my guess is that means a future with a lot of jail time!

So I am not involved at this point with solving any of this or finding him treatment and I am just going to continue to try and build a relationship with him and stay out of solving his problems. I will probably continue to try and encourage him to do the right things.... but I am more and more getting less invested in the outcome because like you said I have no control over him, what he does or what decisions he makes.

It makes it really clear that we need to protect ourselves and our daughter.


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TL, what our difficult children don't get is that Martin LUther King broke unfair rules that oppressed an entire race. So did Rosa Parks. So did many great people throughout history to right a wrong.

Our difficult children break rules to help themselves to things for free and that harm society. And us. I've said before that if 36 could get away with robbing a bank or many banks, he would. He is very devious and clever and I don't know all that he's been involved in. And I'm sure I don't want to know. Our difficult children are all about themselves. They have no great social issues that they are trying to correct.

It's interesting how their brains are wired. Basically, I'd bet most of our kid's mottos are the same: "It's All About Me."


one day at a time
Well we did give in some and get him sweat pants and a radio...

TL, you sound weary in this post. And I understand. I think it is perfectly okay that you got him the sweat pants and radio and in 10 years it's not going to matter one way or the other that you did those two things. So not sure you "gave in"---perhaps you just decided to do it, and that is perfectly okay.

So I looked around.... and honestly he lies... not just to us but to his friends.

I think when we know more---we can't help but want to know more and if we have a chance to know more we are going to take it---only human---but when we know more about difficult children who are in active mental illness, it's never good. I used to think I HAD TO KNOW everything and of course that was in an attempt to control and manage and coerce and manipulate---all with the best intentions, but still---and I would not stop until I had every last shred of available information. And I was in a constant spinout and no amount of information collected was going to do anybody any good, anyway.

Bless you for having to look around on his FB page. in my humble opinion, I would not do that again if at all possible---that type of thing---it's not going to do anything to help YOU and that is the focus---YOU>

It feels kind of discouraging in a way.....

In every way. It's so discouraging. Feel your feelings, TL. Just feel them. And then on the other side of that, there will be a step forward and some peace. We have to row the boat to the other side of the river. We can't fly over it, tunnel under it or step across it. We have to just row the boat.

This really is who he is and his own doing and I cant do anything about it. I just have to keep finding ways to enjoy my own life and I am doing that.

What you are doing to cope is healthy and good and what most of us eventually do when we love somebody who is in some way damaged psychologically. The ones that don't are taking care of fifty year old abusive "children" and never have a chance to live a life or enjoy their other, more balanced loved ones.

I am NOT going to be an 80 year old woman with a 50-something loser son (I said it, so it's okay, (Smile)), on my living room couch. Ugh. Ugh for me. Ugh for him. We have to stop and create some space for them to enter that space and maybe, by the grace of God, take the reins of their own lives. Or maybe not.

and really we got some insight into his attitude about rules which is smart people break stupid rules.

That is immature and childish thinking and nothing but a big excuse for doing exactly what he wants to do. So stealing is a stupid rule. Taking illegal drugs is a stupid rule. Working to provide for yourself is a stupid rule. TL, don't even go there with him. It's a deflection technique---to deflect your attention from the real issues that he doesn't want to deal with and talk about. Martin Luther King---comparing himself to MLK---really? I mean really? That is what difficult child did the other day, wanted to rehash what he really did and didn't do at Walmart on April 2 when he got arrested. Parsing the details about where he was and what he was really doing when they said, uh, sir, you are under arrest for passing the two payment checkpoints. like difficult child said: Well, I was going to steal it, but I hadn't stolen it yet.

Unbelievable. I have no desire to engage in that type of back and forth. It is truly beneath me and beneath even him and really beneath anybody. It is pitiful, that's what it is. And it makes me mad to even think about how they try to engage us in circular talk---such manipulation. Don't do it, TL. It's a waste of energy. Just say: I'm not going to talk about that anymore. Just keep repeating that statement.

I am just going to continue to try and build a relationship with him and stay out of solving his problems.

Well, good luck with that TL. It is incredibly hard to build any kind of real relationship with an active addict. I would venture to say, it's near impossible. What do you talk about---the weather? The NFL? The World Cup? My, aren't the flowers pretty this summer? And how about those bulldogs?

It doesn't really work. There is way, way too much unspoken stuff there that creates all kinds of layers.

I love the "stay out of solving his problems" part that you wrote. Right---they are HIS Problems, not yours. You are doing just fine, on your own. He is the one with the problems, and his problems grow so big that they take over the room. And suck the very air out of the room. All of our difficult children do that.

TL, I feel such kinship with you---that is why I am talking so straight. I have found---just me, now---that the best way to have a "relationship" with difficult child is in VERY. SMALL. DOSES.

Very small. Like 10 minutes a week. Otherwise, we get off the rails, pretty quickly. I can't even ask a simple question, because why? First of all, I am NOT going to like the answer, and I don't need to be setting him up, asking questions like: Well, where did you sleep last night? What are your plans? What's going on with you tomorrow? When did you last eat?

The other alternatives are to talk about that weather, and those bulldogs---way to the other extreme. Both topics have no merit, right now.

There just isn't much to talk about. If I can lay eyes on him every now and then, and just know he is alive and breathing, right now, that is just enough for me.

Warm and big hugs for you tonight. I am sorry your difficult child has chosen to do what he is doing right now. Remember: His Choice. Not yours.

I am praying for you all and that difficult child gets some clarity in jail. May God have mercy on us all.


Well-Known Member
Thanks COM.....actually this time around looking around his FB page was good for me. I agree sometimes it just sets you up for more upset.... and if it had been really horrible that could have happened. I think though that it just put things into realistic perspective which is helping me distance myself a bit emotionally and I need to do that... that is a good thing for me.

I did bring up the issue about rules because I still want him to get that breaking the rules all the time is not working for him. You are right on the one hand that conversation is kind of pointless..... and yet it was also helpful to me in that I think I am seeing him more honestly and so I think it will help me keep my expectations very low. I dont think he has any real attention of working in recovery.... he is only going to do what he can to get through drug court and get off probation!!! Now I can hope his attitude will change, but at least now I know what his real attitude is!

And you are right it is hard to build a real relationship with an active addict.....and I will probably never have the kind of relationship with him I wish for, because honestly he is not the person I wish he was. Isnt that awful to say? But I dont like his values and we dont agree on values at all. Yet at the moment I think he is sober at least..... and I want to have some kind of relationship with him if possible as I believe that is his only chance in many ways.


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Stress Bunny

Active Member
Hey TL,

Don't beat yourself up about the radio and sweats. They're not significant in the scheme of things. I think it's a positive that you are distancing yourself emotionally, as you mentioned. Not only will this bring you an opportunity for peace in your own life, but it will also remove the enabling that could keep your difficult child stuck in his addiction and problems.

Our oldest is on a similar path as yours, and perhaps I am a bit further into the thick of it, but I'm with COM, I have found it extremely difficult to have any semblance of a normal relationship with JT. He is abusing drugs and living a life in complete conflict with any moral values we have embraced. For quite some time, I tried to maintain a relationship because I wanted that so much. JT, on the other hand, only wants a relationship with us in terms of the benefits it brings to him. It is all about him. I realized recently, that interactions with him must be very brief and very neutral and very infrequent. Otherwise, listening to him talk (think selfish, narcissistic, lying, cocky, boastful, blaming, egotistical, self-righteous, manipulative, rebellious, disrespectful, and oh so blind to his own role in his problems) sets me back emotionally for days or weeks. Conversations with him are like emotionally abusive slaps in the face, over, and over, and over.

You mentioned about a potential personality disorder. That's definitely a possibility. I wish we had realized this sooner with JT and had him evaluated professionally for this with a personality inventory of some sort. I'm positive there is something wrong, most likely anti-social personality disorder (Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)). Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often overlaps with narcissism as well as substance abuse. In JT's case, the narcissism in particular, is glaring. He actually recruited a couple of his college friends to tell us that he (JT) rarely ever makes a mistake doing anything. He regularly claims that he is the best (fill in the blank) anyone has ever seen. He claims he knows more than experts about certain things, though he clearly does not have such knowledge or experience. JT is over-confident and truly believes he is superior to others. This, despite the fact that he flunked out of college after two consecutive semesters of ridiculously awful grades, was fired from a job, and was charged with underage drinking! It's unbelievably frustrating trying to get him to see the light! He doesn't and he won't any time soon. His ego is just too large. I have to let go of the control and the wishful thinking for a normal relationship. It's really not possible unless and until JT abandons his alcohol/drug habit and seeks to repair the damage he's caused in his relationship with us.

That said, your son's drug addiction may be largely responsible for his attitudes and behaviors right now. Drugs and alcohol affect neurological functioning and cross the blood-brain barrier. If that's the case, you may find him to be a much more positive and honorable person in recovery. I hope that's the case. However, if you can look back over time and see traits such as lack of empathy and conscience, low remorse, manipulation, lies, and conduct problems, etc., your son may have a personality issue that is setting the stage for everything that has happened. I believe 100% that genetics and neurological issues are huge factors for personality/temperament, intelligence, self regulation, and more. I know it feels hopeless, if that's the case. However, I have found two silver linings in this: 1) It is easier to detach because I can so much more easily see that I have zero control over this, and 2) I can let go of the guilt questions, like, "What did I do or not do that caused this to happen?".

I dont think he has any real attention of working in recovery.... he is only going to do what he can to get through drug court and get off probation!!!

As long as this is the situation, please be vigilant and alert to your difficult child's efforts to suck you into his self pity and manipulation to get you to enable him in some way.

Now I can hope his attitude will change, but at least now I know what his real attitude is!

I understand this. JT's attitude is poor as well. However, I think if we're honest with ourselves, these issues run much deeper than attitude.

There is always some hope, even if small. JT is 20, and I still have hope that he will mature more over time. Also, if he does have anti-social personality disorder, there is evidence that it can improve in middle age. I definitely don't want to spend my life lamenting about the past or agonizing over the future. I want to have peace and joy right now, in the present, regardless of the potential outcomes in JT's life. So, I am learning to detach with love, to stop enabling and allowing myself to be consumed by this. It is a process that takes time and comes with ups and downs.


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SB - I agree that JT and my difficult child sound very similar in many ways....although my difficult child did not make it to college and barely managed to graduate high school. His substance abuse started early and so did his trouble with the law.

I also totally agree it is impossible to have any kind of real relationship with someone who is actively using drugs. When my difficult child is using then very little contact is best. When we saw him the last time I knew he was going to relapse (if he hadnt already) because of the way he was with us... he clearly did not want to be with us and was just there to get something. It was kind of awful and I was depressed afterwards and knew he was headed downhill.

However when he was in that program for 7 months and sober we were making progress. I think what is hard for me about my difficult child is he doesnt talk to us much, lol which is not my style! But we would visit, talk a little and play cards and at least we felt some companionship and that was good.....and seeing him once a week for an hour was about right.

Now he is in jail and sober and one thing that is good about him being in jail is it is the one time he calls us a lot.....and last night I think it was just to talk. And we have been talking more and actually running out of time even.

We are going to visit him on Friday and we will see how that goes.

I accept that I will probably never have with him the close relationship I have with my daughter. I would like it if I could have it, but I am not sure with his issues that I ever could. It is hard for me to imagine ever trusting him and that is a very sad but true statement.

It is hard for me to know which personality order he has..... behavior wise points to antisocial....but when he was young he had a lot of compassion and was very sensitive to others feelings. It is one of the qualities I really miss and yet may still be there somewhere. However he has lied forever.... and I dont know how much remorse he really feels or if he has any concience (cant spell that word for the life of me). At one point from what I read borderline personality sounded the closest, and apparently it is much more common in men than previously thought.... but that often in men it is diagnosed as anti-social. Who knows and in a way it doesnt matter really unless he can get a good psychiatrist who can really treat him for it.

I will say the only way my son has had any periods of sobriety were when it was forced on him in some way..... right now it is through the legal system. In the past it has been by us sending him to wilderness and then a therapeutic school.... and then being homeless and deciding to come in from the cold.

Unfortunately my son has had a lot of treatment and knows how to play the game.....but I keep hoping these periods of sobriety may save some brain cells while he matures and things will get better.

And yes the attitudes are the surface.... and that is what I realized this week, this underlying personality and belief system goes much deeper and probably wont change.


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one day at a time
TL hang on to the idea that if he ever gets into recovery, many/all of the behaviors you describe may disappear. I have heard that many times from others--addiction is defined by these very unlikeable qualities all by itself.

I don't believe difficult child really has more than anxiety and depression and those see one reason he self medicates but it is impossible to know until he gets clean.

People who don't understand addiction always focus solely on using. The thinking and the behavior are equally as sick and that is the focus of recovery---to teach them how to deal with life on life's term. That is why just stopping the using usually does not result in a well adjusted loving and giving person.

warm hugs for you today. Have a good day.

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I can feel your sadness TL. It is so hard to accept when we don't see the kind of relationship with our kids that we always hoped for. I'm not talking about some fairytale relationship, just the normal stuff so many others seem to have. It is a terrible sadness, there is no dispute there. I am glad you have such a special relationship with your daughter, hold onto that. From everything you've said about your trips together she sounds like a very lovely young lady. I feel bad still over how I neglected my easy child during the worst times with difficult child. I wish I had made that special time just for her, but difficult child consumed so much of me. You have always made that time for her even in the worse times. I applaud that.

We may have talked about this already but do you know anything of his birthparents and what issues they may have had? You said above you don't know why he turned out this way, it really has nothing to do with you and everything to do with his genetic makeup. It isn't fair and it breaks my heart but that is the sad reality. We do the best we can in giving our difficult children the foundation they need and sometimes it just doesn't matter.

One thing to remember TL, this has nothing to do with you. I use to think my difficult child hated me because if she loved me she wouldn't be hurting me so much. It wasn't about me at all, it was about her. I had to finally accept that I did not have the power to change her.

Do something fun with your easy child tonight if you can. I'm thinking of you.


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Staff member
TL, my daughter and your son are so much alike. Rules are stupid and don't apply to her either. She is always scheming to get away with something but in her case she seems to be able to stop short of going to jail. Well, so far anyway.

My therapist told me it will probably come to the point where husband and I will have to break off all contact. As others have said, you can't have a real relationship with an actively using addict.

Stress Bunny said this perfectly:
JT, on the other hand, only wants a relationship with us in terms of the benefits it brings to him. It is all about him.

An addict is out for him/herself. Period. A family is only important because we love them enough that they can manipulate us. Who else would put up with their lies, stealing, and abuse?

I have pulled way back and am at the point where I can let her go. I've told my difficult child that I will be happy to have a relationship with a sober, functioning adult daughter but short of that, I am going to protect myself with solid boundaries.



Well-Known Member
I dont know a whole lot about his birth mother but I know a little. I did meet her.....I think she did have a lot of issues herself and I know nothing about his birthfather. I do know, most of the time, that he is the way he is just because.... I think if anything we saved him from a worse fate because he did grow up in a loving home and that probably helped him, it is just hard Occupational Therapist (OT) measure how.

And yes it does feel a lot like he is in relationship to get what he can from us... and so I am distancing myself emotionally. I hope some day it is different but I am coming to some acceptance of the way it is. That is reality.

At y alanon meeting someone talked about how she found it harder when she had hope, that what really helped her was coming to acceptance of it is what it is..... and I think that is where I am getting to. When I hope for the future I am disappointed when he throws it all away.... he may always throw it away. He may not...... but it is what it is.


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If a person isn't an addict, but is as mean and underhanded and conniving as one you can't have a good relationship either. It's impossible. And, yes, some of our adult kids are like that without the addiction. And some are both.

It takes two to have a relationship of any kind and one can't do all the taking while the other does all the giving. It doesn't work (sigh).


Well-Known Member
The odd thing is we have been having some good conversations on the phone....not necessarily about deep personal things but just general conversation without it being me pulling teeth and hammerin him with questions. We plan to visit Friday ( if they have them) and we will see how that goes

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