He can't come home for Christmas...


I'm so sad...he WAS doing well at the house until we/program coordinator (on the advise of the prog coord) told him that he would have to work harder at his program/chores/school, etc. to raise his status and "earn" our visits. As I was afraid would happen, knowing how his mind works, he took that to mean he would never be able to "be good" for two whole weeks and would never see us again. So, being the kind of person he is, he shut down, gave up and wasted several days acting out his anger and frustration (and probably a degree of fear--he's always had separation anxiety issues). When he understood that we would still be visiting him regularly, just not every weekend, he straightened out, but, too late to earn his status to come home for Christmas.

To make matters worse, probably since he knows he's blown his chance to come home for Christmas, he and three other boys in the house snuck out one night (the house is on a huge lot with a lot of back yard) and were caught smoking (cigs) at 11:30 pm. Because of that, he's lost the chance to coming home or even leave the grounds with us for the next 30 days.

I'm not sure what to do to support him now. We REALLY want him to earn his way off the grounds on a day pass and/or to be able to come home every other weekend. Yet, he SAID that it was too stressful for him when he was home over Thanksgiving because of all the "temptation" and that he would rather wait a few more months before he comes home again. He's perfectly happy with our every-other-week visits which are limited to the grounds and only for two hours.

So, if we visit him every other weekend which is fine with the prog coord, and he really means it that he'd rather not come home because of the temptation, what's gong to be his motivation to stick to the rules? It obviously isn't coming from internal sources yet which, at 17, it seems like it should.

But, if we DON'T visit him to give him a kick in the b-typical teen, he freaks and sabotages himself. Yes, I DO understand that some of this is maniupulation, BUT, he's always had separation issues with us, and I believe at least some of his fear and anger relate to that.

My feeling is that we, as his parents, shouldn't be used as a reward/punishment and that he should be able to count on us being there at regular intervals--after all, even prisoners get visitors!

So, set me straight...


New Member
I would continue to make your visits as you have, but stress to him the importance of the program and that he has to follow the rules or he will probably get kicked out. Is that possible, can they kick him out? Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about if they can't do that, but I'm just trying to figure out what may work.
It is good that they have to earn priviledges and he has seen what will happen if he doesn't follow the rules. I also think it's a good sign that he knows being home right now and around temptations that he isn't sure if he's ready to face those yet. That to me tell me he's learning something.
I don't think I would use yourselves as punishment. I think I would leave that up to the program. I'm sure they have priviledges on the grounds that he could lose if he chooses to break the rules. Let them take care of that.
Give him all the love and support you can while he's there, while at the same time getting him to see the importance of why he is there and hopefully what he is gaining from it.


Karen, I believe that can kick kids out, but, from what I understand, it's usually for something more serious such as fighting or running away.

We had hoped, when our son realized he could relax about us visiting him, he would then move on to try to get his status back because, even if he doesn't want to come home again yet, he can still earn day passes away from the house. That would mean we could take him out for the day--to our hotel, shopping, out to lunch/dinner, a movie, etc. as opposed to us sitting in the house living room for two hours.

Also, as they advance status, they earn a later bedtime, access to their CD players, and video game systems on demand, etc. So, they do have a reward/consequence system in place that goes beyond parental visits.


(the future) MRS. GERE
If it's any consolation, your son's behavior seems to be similar to my Rob's behavior when he was at the Residential Treatment Center (RTC). There was the initial honeymoon, then a deep depression (where your son is now), then slowly but surely Rob dug his way out. I expect that your son will dig out on his own time. Hopefully sooner than later.

Through it all, we did visit every visiting day. There were occasions when we didn't stay the whole time---ie, if he was particularly disagreeable, nasty. Like Karen suggested, we let the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) worry about rules and levels and consequences and did not include us in those determinations.

Another good thing that came out of this is how specific your son was about being unable to handle the temptation when he was home. This is a HUGE flag to you to make sure that at his next home visit he is more closely supervised to reduce his stress.

My suggestion would be that when he is doing better, to not have any home visits for a long time. We had incremented visits with Rob. We had visits at the Residential Treatment Center (RTC). Then we had 2 hour visits off grounds. Then half day visits off grounds. Then all day...then home visits half a day, etc. I know you live too far away for shortened home visits. Maybe he could have a couple of time spending the night with you at the hotel. I remember well how disoriented Rob was when we even took him to a mall while he was at the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) because it was like it was a new environment again.....and, if the drug abuse was acute, perhaps it is.

I'm sorry for your pain. It really stinks to lose these days/weeks/months with our kids. I had to consider it an "investment in his future" when Rob was away. Sometimes that thought was the only thing that got me through the worst times.



New Member
I also wanted to add that even though it's sad he won't be home for Christmas, it probably would have ended up very stressful for all of you and not the happy holiday you would have envisioned. It will be different, but at least he is safe and you can enjoy your holiday without worrying about something huge and eventful happening. I remember last thanksgiving when my son was in rehab and I was so upset about him missing our first holiday with us, and it ended up being the most unstressful, relaxing Thanksgiving I had in many many years :smile:
If he's not comfortable being home around the temptations, you probably would have been on eggshells the entire time.


Active Member
I have nothing to add to what has already been said but I wanted to send you a hug for your hurting heart. :frown:


Oh, Suz, that's EXACTLY how I'm feeling--as though we've been cheated out of watching him experience so many wonderful events during his last year of high school, and basically, his last real year of childhood. It's all gone, and things will never be the same.

Of course, I do get a grip now and then and remind myself that, had he been home, he most likely would NOT have had the sort of senior year in high school that I remember having and hoped for and wanted for him, given his pot use and non-interest in school.

I still feel that where he is is the best place for him. We gave him all the loving and nurturing he needed and will alway be here for him, but he needed professional help from non-emotionally involved individuals, and he's getting that now.

You put it well about that honeymoon stage and then depression. I'm not sure he's really any more than mildly depressed, but he is certainly looking for wiggle room and testing the limits. This is SO his style.

I also agree about the home visits and keeping them short. It isn't possible for him to avoid his friends--he's surrounded by kids his own age on our street whom he's known his entire life. Even though he resisted the temptation to smoke pot last time, I have no doubt he had at least several opportunities. Actually, he seemed the happiest when he was hanging out by himself in his room, but he's never been able to turn himself off and just chill for long.


Karen, you're right. As much as we miss him, it IS a good feeling knowing he's safe and well taken care of where he is.

And, as happy as we were to have him home for Thanksgiving, it WAS stressful, wondering if he would be able to decline pot if it was offered to him, which it was certain to be, considering at least eight or nine of the kids on our street, his friends from childhood, are smoking pot at least occasionally.

It's probably better that he stay where he is and let us come to him...


Active Member
I bet in the long run, most kids who enter Residential Treatment Center (RTC) go through multiple phases. I betcha the phase your difficult child is in is quite normal, it just happens to be happening during the holidays. I would expect difficult child to test the limits. That's how he learns consequences. I would think that Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s are a little more "consistent" as far as rules and consequences than we parents our. It's a shame that it's happening now, and it sure does hurt our mommy heart.

There is a great deal of sadness and disappointment that we deal with. I personally don't like the month of June. It reminds me too much of what we didn't get from difficult child 2. December's not so hot for difficult child 1 but then he's difficult child 1 :grin:

While I don't think your visiting should be a carrot, I do think a home visit should be earned.

Great big (((sunny hugs))) for your hurting heart.


New Member
CAmom, I am sorry you are hurting. I understand your pain. My son won't be home for Christmas this year. He wasn't home last year either. It hurts, but it is. We have to try to have a nice holiday anyway. Our lives are not just about our difficult child. They are about our husbands, our friends, our extended family and ourselves also. Try to put a little extra into the other "importants" and maybe some of the sting from your son not being home will go away. -RM


New Member
You are correct that if he were home, his last year of highschool would probably not have ended the way you had envisioned. He was getting into too much trouble at this point and it probably would have been a disaster.

My difficult child was arrested for posession of heroin and went into detox 2 weeks before his highschool graduation. He went to an alternative ed highschool where he did extremeley well compared to how he would have done in a normal highschool, but he refused to attend his graduation ceremony because he knew everyone in the school knew about his addiction. At the time of his highschool graduation we were dealing with a full blown drug addiction while other parents were sitting in the stands watching their children walk in cap and gown and receive their diplomas. He went and picked his up a few days later. At the time it really really hurt because I felt I got jipped out of watching my difficult child, who I had worked so hard over the years to get through school!! walk and get his diploma. We have been through so much more important stuff since then, that has made me realise how unimportant that really is in the big scheme of life. Right now my difficult child is clean and living in a soberhouse and working full time. That is what is important now.


Well-Known Member
My daughter was in the hospital Christmas of her senior year. We drove up to visit her, but we had to go back and do Christmas with the other kids too. Although she cried, her own dangerous behavior was why the police had taken her to the hospital and there was nothing we could do to get her out for Christmas (they don't allow visits home from a psychiatric ward). It was not a banner year for our family, but she didn't get the kind of help your son is getting either, and things deteriorated for her after that. In a way, I think you're lucky, but I also know how hard it is to have Christmas without your kid. (((Hugs)))


Well, all, of course, in the scheme of things, this is only a blip. Just hard to remember sometimes, especially when I start adding him not coming home for Christmas to the pile of disappointments his choices have brought.

It's hard NOT to feel cheated--we've put SO much effort into trying to help our son be successful and hoped, perhaps wrongly, to get a "payoff" which would have been no more than watching him walk down that aisle to pick up his diploma and other simple pleasures. I guess that's why the experts say it's not reasonable to expect anyone else, children included, to make you feel happy, proud, etc.

I'd been doing fairly well with all this until, last night, after I had carefully lit every decorative Christmas and Hanukhah candle in the house, put on some Christmas music, preparing to try to rev my Christmas spirit back up, all the d-mn outside Christmas lights went out! My poor husband came in to find me sobbing hysterically.

I do reflect back sometimes when my son was a newborn, infant, toddler, and preschooler because he was just the easiest, happiest child anyone could imagine. Every day with him was pure joy. He only ever had one temper tantrum in his life, back then, and was so shocked at himself that he never did it again. We felt so fortunate and blessed to have the easy child of all easy child's. If we had only known then that God or some higher power with a questionable sense of humor was only giving us a break during those early years, knowing that they were going to get us with both barrels during his teen years!


Well-Known Member
Yeah, CAmom, we know. We had stealth-like factors attack
our perfect kid before we realized there was a problem. Our
bright kid couldn't find the right goal once he got off the
track. Last night before heading out to ??? with friends
his easy child self came to the surface and he called me into the
living room...nicely. He wanted to point out his favorite
Christmas ornament on the tree and ask if it was OK to ask
me if he could have it written in our will to go to him.
Sounds weird I'm sure to others but it really moved me that
he wanted to make sure that I knew that he remembered the
wonderful childhood that he has thrown away.

I'm hoping your boy will be able to pull it together and
rejoin his parents happily for the years before he goes to college etc. It CAN happen, CAmom. There are success stories.

Meanwhile I spent about an hour looking at each decoration
that he made from preschool on that hangs on our tree. We
were so lucky, too. Hugs. DDD


New Member
ditto from me. CA you sound like me last yr when my then 17 yr old was in a group home. He too pushed the rules and snuck out to smoke cigs. He also went through the same phases as you have heard in the post before.

He used visits to manipulate me. I didn't realize it at the time. I was too caught up in saving his future, too busy spending every minute wondering if I was doing the right thing and trying to figure out what it was I did wrong in his childhood.

My son was making his choices then, just as your son is. Your son knows what it takes to earn a visit, just like mine did. I don't want to sound harsh, please don't take it that way. I am only sharing what I have lived. What I am still living.

My son is out now, Christmas Eve is tomorrow~ I have NO idea where he is. When he was locked up at least I knew he was safe and warm and fed.

Use this time to take a break from the gfgness, you may need the strength in the future. :smile: I was given that advice from others here and I couldn't understand how they could relax without difficult child, now I know. wishing you peace and I am so sorry you are going through this.


Active Member
CA Mom,

Sorry to be coming in on this so late.

I'm glad you seem to have made peace with where your son is, and that yes, this is only a blip on the radar of the many things that you can look forward to in the future - with your son a healthier, drug free, son.

I've thought from the beginning, and I think I voiced it, that they seem to be allowing a lot of visits from you and husband and home visits. Many/most places do want to give the difficult child some time to work on positive change before doing any visits.

With our son, once he was allowed visits, they were definitely restricted. He was not allowed to just go out. He was required to attend an AA or NA meeting each day he was home, and had to be driven either by husband and I or his AA sponsor. Period. No deviation.

The fact that your son saw his old buddies and was exposed to the drugs and didn't feel comfortable or that he was ready to come home again and refuse the drugs again says a lot. It also says he's not ready to come home for a while.

As for you and husband visiting, considering the distance and the fact that he is 17 (not a younger child or early teen), I would think that every other weekend is more than enough. He's certainly not going to think you're abandoning him, especially since you said you are allowed phone calls so often, which is also unusual, in my humble opinion. I've never heard of a program that would allow daily phone calls, so your son should certainly know that you and husband are supportive of him.

Hang in there. You have to keep the goal in mind - that he work the program and change his ways.

Sending hugs,


New Member

I am also coming in late here. He has to have time to "work his own program". The fact that he was uncomfortable with his old friends....says alot!
I have hope that your difficult child will turn around his ways.
Stay strong.

Melissa *


Thank you all so much for all your positive thoughts and good wishes. I realize that we are very lucky that we're allowed so much access to our son.

Without question, our son was smoking a lot of pot and beginning to drink, but he wasn't YET an active addict or alcoholic. Nonetheless, he will, at some time during the period he is there, have to hook up with NA and AA. I think the only reason we're allowed to call/visit him so often is because we weren't determined to be "delinquent parents" such as some who sneak alcohol and/or drugs in the house. But I think, if the PO and/or the program coordinator knew we were doing so or even condoning his pot/alcohol use when he was still with us, our contact via phone and physical visits would be VERY much limited.

We've all settled down to an every-other-week visit to see him. As we hoped, once he knew he could count on us for those visits, he stopped stressing about it. Now, he's more focused on the quality of our visits, i.e., wanting to get out of the house for a day and/or weekend pass with us, and he's even beginning to talk about coming home. So, now it's up to him to work up to status to make that happen.

Ironically enough, over Christmas when the neighborhood boys assumed he'd be home, the phone started ringing. One particular friend forgot to hang up his phone when he heard our message, so I was treated to about five minutes of him and, apparently, a house full of boys, some of whose names I recognized, laughing and talking with each other. There were several references to "dope" and "rolling one," and I know very well that they were partying and hoping my son was here to party with them.

I believe he was very smart to figure out that he's not ready yet to come home. It's clear that pot is very readily available to these kids and that it's all over the place. When we were younger and smoking pot every so often on a Friday or Saturday night, you had to sneak to a nearby town and look up someone named "Peter Rabbit" who hung out on street corners!


Active Member
CA Mom,

Oh yes, don't think for a minute that they can't get pot, or other drugs, anywhere they want.

Our difficult child got into a lot of pot his freshman year of high school. I totally drew the line in the sand. No drugs. The pot smoking was making it difficult for him to wake up in the morning and go to school. We ended up signing him in against his will, to a locked, residential 5 month program the second half of his freshman year. Did he have an addiction problem then? Well, it depends on your definition, I guess. Pot was the only drug he was using, but yes, it was an addiction.

We decided to enroll him in a brand new school the following year and had him begin as a freshman all over again. We thought it would be a brand new start. It was an all boys private school in a pretty well to do area.

Before the end of his second year there, he ended up falling into the drugs again.

He told us, after the arrests and the Residential Treatment Center (RTC), that the drugs were even easier to get in the so-called college prep, all boys private school. He said the drugs were more prevalent, and better drugs and harder drugs.

So yes, drugs can be found anywhere these days, unfortunately. They know no bounds - inner city, poor areas, rich areas, public schools, private schools, it doesn't matter.

That's why working the program is so important. He needs to realize where his life was heading with the drug use - and yes, using pot to the extent he was using is drug use, and learn to say no. He needs to find other things to occupy his time so that he won't have time to be around the drugs and those using the drugs.

A woman I work with was a drug user in her 20s. She's now a triathelete in her 40s. She's the first one to say that she still gets a rush, but its an adreneline rush. She has substituted exercise and working out for drugs. That's just one example, but many do have to find other things to occupy their time.

Here's hoping that with the New Year, your son can continue to work the program and he'll be home as a happier, healthier drug-free teen.



Thanks, Deb. I so agree with the pot thing being everywhere, private schools maybe even more so. Two boys on our street are both into regular pot use and both go to the same private school. Yet, somehow both these boys manage to get straight A's and both have jobs, one an assistant managerial position where he is DRUG TESTED! I guess some can use it and still function. My son couldn't.

He SOUNDS like he has come to some fairly insightful conclusions about his pot use and how it negatively affected his relationships, school, etc. But, after only two months in this place where drug/alcohol use is only one part of what they address, I'm wondering if any of what he says represents REAL change going on at a deep level or just therapy-speak.

For instance, when we talk about the whys of all the drug use in just about every one of the ten or so teenagers on our street who all come from "decent" families, he says that life is "stressful," and drugs help them feel more relaxed. Well, yeah! Life IS stressful...not much you can do about that. A lot of his talk revolves around, THEN, when he was a "pothead" and LATER when he won't be throwing away his money on pot and will be able to buy a car, etc. Again, it all SOUNDS good, but...

He says that he didn't find it hard to refuse the pot when he was home with the neighborhood kids because he doesn't miss it specifically, but he did find it hard to find much common ground in terms of socializing with those lifelong friends since smoking pot is the equivilent of what I guess we adults would consider "cocktail hour."

Well, at this point, he's probably better off staying away until he has a few more months under his belt...