How do I let go?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Julee, Aug 30, 2019.

  1. Julee

    Julee New Member

    How do I let go of helping my adult son (44 years old), who has needed constant help all his life. I was a young teen when I had him. Needless to say, there were many things I could not provide for him, nor was able to teach him, as I was a messed up teen and young adult. To make a long story short, he has struggled all his life with jobs, girlfriends, money, and even was homeless a few times. In his early adult years I tried to help in any way I could as I wanted him to succeed, and I felt guilty for not giving him the childhood he deserved. So, saying "no" when he asked for help was difficult for me. Oftentimes I rescued him financially. He has gotten a little more responsible over the years but not like he needs to be. I feel like a horrible mother as I have withdrawn myself from him over the past 10 years because I couldn't take it any longer - emotionally or financially. Anytime I attempt to draw near to him to have some type of relationship with him, inevitably he ends up asking to borrow money, or pay a bill of his, or do favors for him, etc. I'm drained! To be around him causes me sorrow. So I stay away - until the next cycle begins and I try again. How do I let go? Do I let go? I grieve over the 'loss' of the son I wish he was. I feel like I ruined him, and therefore should be helping him.
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  2. BusynMember

    BusynMember Active Member

    Hi. I think the same things, although my daughter had a perfect life with a similar outcome. Funny how that works.

    Most kids do not get raised by the old school idea of a family these days. Divorce is rampant. Kids have stepparents and blended families and two addresses. Women choose to be single parents these days. The 1950s model family is all but gone. Are all those kids who had more difficult beginnings struggling?

    Of course not.

    Now....our family was like the 1950s perfect family, although Kay is adopted and that is a factor. But Kay had a stereotypically good foundation. Guess what? It didn't matter. She is 33 and floundering. Badly. And she is not at all nice to us unless we are handing out money. We feel used and sad.

    Do not blame yourself.

    I am in Al Anon. I learned I cant tell someone else what to do, but I can share my experience.

    We no longer give Kay a dime. We once bought her a house, then a mobile home when the house went south, paid rent when the mobile home did not work out, bought cars, paid her bills, you name it.

    For Kay it just made her more helpless and dependent than ever and certainly not grateful or loving. She has burned her bridges with the entire family. We are done digging into our retirement and ready to move on. We gave her to God. Only He can make a difference. We tried. Kay blew every chance we gave her. Rescuing her did not help her. She is in a place of near homelessness now with a husband and child. Family on both sides will take in the child, but not her. I feel, with a heavy heart, that this is better than another rescue. She needs to learn to live without us. We can't live forever.

    We also have two nice adult kids who we pushed aside for Kay. This hurt them. No more. She is past 30. It is time for her to have to do it herself. She has the ability. She just would rather others do it. We are done. Yes, it is hard, but the stress was making us sick and we have other loved ones who want us to live and to enjoy life with them. We will.

    I do recommend Al Anon AND therapy that is focused on coping with your son as well as living a great life in spite of his struggles. Both resources were lifelines for us. If you believe in a God, lean on Him. Our church family has been amazing as well.

    God bless and please be well. Read Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Great book.
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  3. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Dear Julee

    This was a brilliant post! You distill ALL of what I have been dealing with for years, in a short post. There are several threads now that are grappling with the same things you are, that are going on now. I will try to explain what I mean.

    I think I will start with the concept "my side of the street." By that I mean a way to understand and to experience my son where I can be loving and feel loving without being engulfed by negative feelings and realities that are not my own to bear.
    When I began to detach from my son, I experienced detachment as a largely physical process. He needed to be out of my house. He needed to stay away. I needed space. I needed to be protected from behaviors x, y and z.

    I experienced detachment as: make them go away.

    Because my son's behaviors evoked emotional responses in me that made me feel bad and sad.
    I understood the concept of boundaries, to say no to behaviors and situations x, y and z, but I could not deal with the emotions that arose in me, when I did so.
    Like this:
    And this:
    This kind of detachment, which you write about, was the part I struggled to do. Coming to grips with my own psychology, my own hopes, wishes, dreams, history...and how all of that plays out with my child. I came to see all of this as a gift. With the acceptance that struggle is the only way we learn in life. It is the vehicle to redeem ourselves and our own lives.

    So now I see the essentially important part of detachment as the inner work I do in relationship with my son. I no longer (so much) see the necessity to be away from in order to feel good about myself or inside myself. I am seeing the emotions that come up in relationship to him, as potential, as food for thought, as messages in a bottle, about myself, and my life.

    These are the questions that came up for me, in response to your wonderful post:

    How to stay on our side of the street emotionally, and actually?

    How to deal with our own feelings that are evoked when we are in relationship with them?

    How to love them without being consumed by them?

    How to give some but not all, and be at peace with this?

    How to not be consumed by our own regret?

    How to not be consumed by our own guilt?

    How to understand and live with our own sense of responsibility, when our children are well beyond the years where we have any control?

    How to accept "half a loaf?" When dreams, wishes, yearnings come up against "reality?"

    How to live with our own regret about our lives that did not end up like we had wished or believe they should have?

    I have come to the belief that for me most of these questions are spiritual in nature and have spiritual answers rather than psychological ones. That switch in me, from concepts of dysfunction or problems, to something deeper, has given me the potential for peace.

    I welcome you to this forum and I am grateful to you for your deep and thoughtful post.
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  4. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Hi Julee,

    Welcome to the group.

    You did the best you could and that is good enough. There are many stories within these pages of people who had plenty of money, plenty of time, plenty of love, they gave their child everything and their child still does not function well.
    I have also read stories of people who came from complete dysfunction and have ended up extremely successful.
    Your son ending up the way he has, has more to do with HIM, not you.

    You are not a horrible mother. You have obviously been there for your son and have helped him many times over the years. He is a 44 year old man, he is not a child that needs to be taken care of.

    I would say this is more of a pattern of behavior for both of you. You have enabled him over the years and he has come to expect that.
    This is where you have control. You need to change your behavior. I think it's wonderful that you reach out to him and want to keep communication open. When he asks for money or help is your opportunity to change they dynamics of your relationship. It's your opportunity to start setting some clear and defined boundaries. It's okay to just simply tell him "I'm not able to help you". You do not owe him any type of explanation as to why.
    You do not owe your son anything!!!

    Honey, you are giving yourself more power than you have. You do not have the power to ruin another persons life.
    My bio father sexually abused me but I made a choice to not let that define who I am or how I will live my life.
    We each only have control over our own lives. Your son's life is no different. He gets to choose each day how he will live his life. The choices he makes our his alone. You did not ruin him and are not responsible for him.

    You are stuck in what we call the FOG - Fear, Obligation, Guilt. I used to be stuck in the FOG and did not think I would ever be able to find my way out of it. I and many others here are proof that you can detach with love and move on to live your own life.

    I'm so glad you found us here. You will find much need support on these pages.

    Keep posting and let us know how you are doing.
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  5. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    I have struggled with those same deep feelings of guilt, and the thibg with guilt is that it is not helpful in acting on our own behalf . The 12 steps in Al-Anon helped me A LOT in letting go of guilt over my parenting mistakes . When I drop that heavy rock, I can show up as my best self . Only then can I be of true service to others.

    "Helping" an adult child out of guilt is not actually helping. It's diminishing his growth and hurting his self esteem. Now I have done all those things and still struggle, so I understand these coping mechanisms.

    When we set boundaries with loved ones, we are helping in a true sense, because we model healthy behavior and how to take care of ourselves.

    I don't think that you need to avoid having your son in your life unless you want to have it that way . You can define the relationship on your terms a little more . When he asks to borrow money, you can just politely decline and say that you don't want him to ask you for money anymore .That you would like your relationship today to be defined by mutual respect and healthy boundaries, and love and acceptance. And you can support him by cheering him on, not allowing limitations to stand in your way : "I believe in you", "I know you can do it", " I am sure you will find a solution to this problem", " every problem is an opportunity to live in a solution" etc pp

    The pain and grief you are feeling has a lot to do with the guilt and blame you are heaping on yourself .It's important to work through those feelings for you . As adults we are responsible for our own lives and your son is responsible for making up any deficiencies he may have from childhood and raise up to his own life no matter what you did or didn't do.

    Let yourself off the hook and step into your life with confidence.
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  6. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    Welcome, Julee. There are a lot of wise parents on this board, and we are all, in one way or another, where you are now.
    I agree with Tanya. You and your son have learned a pattern of behavior, caused by necessity and rooted in feelings that aren't really applicable anymore (assuming they ever were).

    You (nor I, nor anyone else) don't have the power to ruin anybody. No matter how you look at it, life as a teen parent is tough.

    So you didn't do it perfectly. But you did it! You have nothing to feel guilty about. You did the best you could, and you and your son came out the other side intact, other than working through some old coping mechanisms.

    Not to be Miss Suzie Sunshine here, but how cool would it be to rebuild the relationship you desire with your son, this time without the financial aspect...just two adults and friends sharing their joys and struggles?
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  7. WhyDoWeFallBruce?

    WhyDoWeFallBruce? New Member

    Hi Julee,

    For many years, I was angry at my mother for providing a really bad chilhood. And later at my father for not being around and dying on me too early.
    I left home at 15.
    We never got along after that.
    One thing that left me damaged and gave me trouble for many years, was the constant need of feeling loved. It took many hours of therapy and experiences in life, before I learned how to deal with my childhood.
    One thing I learned:
    She did her best. Not too good, in all honesty, but nevertheless her best.
    And so, it was MY responsibility to change myself. I learned that the power to either ruin or create my life was mine and mine alone.
    Another lesson learned was that depending on other people’s feelings was not very sustainable.

    My substance abusing twin brother never took that responsability. He let the lack of love as a child lead his way into a very sad life, full of anger and hatred. And loss.

    You have done you best. He knows that you love him and that is good enough.
    He needs to learn to be an adult, and you cannot make him.
    Maybe you have co-created some patterns with your son, that need changing.
    You might need therapy to identfy those patterns, in order to change them.
    He has his own path to find, and all you can do is send him off with love.
    Still, you do need to send him off.

    Stay strong
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    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
  8. Julee

    Julee New Member

    Thank you to all who took the time to reply. Thank you for your kindness, and sharing a little of your stories. I can honestly say this group has been a welcomed eye-opener for me. I knew there must be other parents who had the same painful struggles as I but I've never come across them, or possibly they never wanted to open up either, which I can understand because it causes tremendous feelings of shame and sorrow in a parents heart, and who likes to share that? Over the years when others would ask about my son, I would say something lame like, "Oh, he's doing his best, or he's working hard", etc. It's like a stab in the heart when friends or acquaintances tell me of the wonderful things their adult children have done are are doing. I say all that to say this: I'm glad I found this place, so for first time I can talk to others who can relate. It may be painful to open up and share but it's better than leaving it in my heart to fester alone. Thank you for speaking truth to me. God bless you all! I will look for the book, "Codependent No More".
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  9. Chasejazz

    Chasejazz “No story is a straight line... ".

    Julee, I was a teenage mother also...18 when my son was born. I did everything I knew to be a good mother, but who knows?
    I think my son resents me because I wasn't "prefect". But then again, who is? My son is 40, and like yours has needed constant help all his life. His father was not in the picture, so I was both Mom and Dad to a certain extent. (Too much for anyone). But anyway, he is now been living out on the streets/in his car since May. There's no relationship there, good or bad, and like you I mourn the loss of my son, too.
    It's sad to have to withdraw, as you said. My son and I had quite a bond, me being such a young mother. I thought we would always be close.
    I am sorry that you're sad. I can feel your heart is broken. Also, I wish I had some wisdom to give you but unfortunately I am just making it day by day. Finding this forum helped to realize I am not alone.
    I do feel that I did the best I could at the time with what I had to work with. It was a struggle, that conclusion- but I actually believe it now.
    I hope you find some peace, just on this day. Leave tomorrow to itself. And as you move forward, always remember the love you shared with your son was very real. Very special.

    "We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing."
    - Mother Teresa
  10. Metrim

    Metrim New Member

    I'm new to this forum also. I think I have the same story. My son is 34. He moved out with a girl friend about 7 years ago and then when they broke up about 3 years ago, he has lived from house to house. He never pays rent to whomever lets him stay. I have paid for 3 different cars in the last 7 years for him. He was fired from 6 jobs just this past year. He now has a job he has had for a few months and the co workers seem to really like him. Or at least I hope. I stayed single until 4 years ago because I was raising my boys and wanted to make sure it was "safe" to have a relationship and was waiting until they were all older. I say "safe because I helped my boys a lot and I knew that no man would go for that. The one I am speaking of and need advice for is 34. We will call him JJ for confidentiality purposes. Finally 4 years ago I met the love of my life. He moved in with me because he was only renting. When he moved in my house was a mess, and was falling apart due to my sons not caring for the house and because I was always giving them money instead of fixing things. Now 4 years later the house is beautiful and JJ is trying to move back in because he has out done all of his resources. I told him that I would help him pay for his own place but he says he can not afford it. His car is not doing well. He is a post transplant patient so is on medications. We have a 1200 sq foot house. My 23 year old son lives with us because he is going to college and my young grand daughter from another son. We do not have much room. We have no privacy anymore and now we are spending twice as much on groceries. I want my 34 year old son to learn how to take care of himself and get his own place. I can not have him living with me but it hurts to say no. I need direction. I don't want to loose my husband who is wonderful to me. My son JJ smokes a lot of pot and always has money for pot. If not, then he is out finding it. I know he could take care of himself if he tried. I told him this morning that I am not going to continue to be walked on and he can not stay with us. He sends me a text this morning blaming my husband. I am so tired of this. I love my husband and he is very good to me. He is good to the boys too, but they are all grown. I need some advice please. I live in fear every day that JJ is going to call with something. My car is broke down, I need a new tire, Mom my breaks are out. I dont' have any place to stay. It goes on and on. What to do? I don't know what to do but I do know that I do not want my husband and I to have problems and that my adult son needs to learn how to take care of himself before I die. What scares me the most is that he would be homeless. He has no friends, no more family, no nothing. His brother helped him for about a year and got tired of it and moved away.
  11. WiseChoices

    WiseChoices Active Member

    You have done a lot to try and get your son set up on his own life. Since he is smoking pot, any financial help you lend is enabling him to smoke pot.

    You have no room on your home as you stated and so you can just be a broken record about him not being able to stay with you. You can say no kindly and then request that he not ask you anymore.

    When he calls with requests for things for the car, just politely decline. It will teach him how to make a budget and how to get better with money .

    I know it's hard. We want our children to do well and be happy and content. And they have to want it , too. They have to want to be well.
  12. JayPee

    JayPee Sending good vibes...

    Welcome Metrim and Julee,

    I have two sons that are homeless, one is 30 and the other 26. I have done what many on this forum have done in the past, buy cars, put them in hotels intermittently, buy food, pay for gas, pay for car repairs. You get the picture I'm sure. Each of my sons has been given opportunities by me and others, a spring board to success and they repeatedly fall flat on their faces.

    They blame me for the rotten childhood they had growing up with an alcoholic father. I have been in Al anon for 2 1/2 yrs. and have learned that I too am sick from the disease of alcoholism. Not that I'm the alcoholic but from the 30 yr. affect of living with one. It has taken me a lot of serious work on myself to get better. For me I had to get healthier minded myself before I could set and keep boundaries. The sons would wear me down by their persistently asking for money and my guilt over what I wished I would have done, ate at my very core morning noon and night. I constantly felt their feelings. I took on their misery, their sadness, hunger, coldness, sorrow, failures, irresponsibility and so on. It was exhausting.

    I have been in therapy also for two years, originally to get through the divorce but now it's really just to survive the two homeless sons. I have never let either of them into my apartment because I will no longer tolerate, verbal threats, verbal abuse, smoking pot, etc. I had to work through that and get stronger so I wouldn't feel guilty or selfish that I was living in comfort while they were freezing through a snow storm or 100 degree weather. I've also read every good book I could get my hands on and keep journals. When I'm feeling weak I pull out my emergency notes and read them like my life depended on it because it does. I don't want to slip back into my stinken' thinking.

    With all these tools and this forum which I joined just a few months ago I have finally turned the corner very recently. Unfortunately, for me, for now, I have to complete detach from the 30 yr. old who physically threatened me due to his anger issues over my stance on not helping him gas his car or provide any other assistance to him anymore. This is difficult but the alternative would be to open the doors, reconcile and in 30 seconds when he starts telling me he doesn't have clean cloths, he's starving, he needs gas, his car isn't running good etc. etc. I'd lose my mind and have to block him again because neither of them understand the word "NO". I have to know that in the short time we've not spoken that he has not miraculously gotten better and turned his life around.

    The less he and the younger son are in contact with me the stronger I get. I found that I could not detach, piece by piece. Meaning, I could just start with not providing food, or not providing really in my case, had to be all at once because they know how to manipulate and pull at my heart strings. I am taking this time to heal properly so that I am not so vulnerable to their tactics.

    Like all of mothers I hope someday it will be a healthy relationship but I'm not making any bets. Their patterns of laziness, entitlement and blaming everyone else for their poor situation has been pretty long standing. Even if they don't have a haircut for a job interview it becomes my problem.

    Once I relinquished all this it felt like a weight was off my shoulders. The minute I start to sink in the quicksand and circulate all those crummy thoughts, I try to push them away.

    I will say that for me turning this over to God was and is the only way I've gotten through this. That has been my strength. No willpower will take care of this problem.

    Keep posting, keep sharing, reading, praying, exercise and surround yourself with a good support system. Someone you can talk to that will listen and allow you to grow and heal and learn and not just crush you and tell you to "just stop doing what your doing". You need compassion and sometimes we have to just stop and give it to ourselves and stop beating ourselves up mentally.
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  13. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    I was thinking of creating a similar post today, Julee. I too grieve. It's better in recent years...but I think I understand what you say when you say you "grieve."

    Also...this is not your fault. I think it is VERY rare that this is the fault of anybody. It is what it is.

    Busnmember... You said: "She is 33 and floundering. Badly. And she is not at all nice to us unless we are handing out money. We feel used and sad." I can totally relate to this. I don't know if there is an adoption correlation, sometimes I suspect there is, but then again...unsure. And as you mentioned, this situation seems to happen in many types of families with a variety of backgrounds.

    We have been fortunate in a way, as our adult daughter lives in another city. This has allowed us a separation, that has been very helpful. We find her constant need for attention, drama, money...and her perpetual state of neediness and chaos...draining!!!!

    And I loathe the fact that she is usually only nice to us if we are giving her money. Horrid. I hate this. :(

    She is disabled as she has a mental health diagnosis. We help her a little with managing her money, as she is disabled and COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY unable to manage money to the point that it is scary.

    AFter a ton of work, she is in a tiny condo in a nice area, but that didn't last long as she is arguing with folks and unappreciative. She has some legit complaints, but you can count on her to make a difficult situation hideous.

    But...I can tell you it has been helpful to put boundaries all over the place. We have boundaries when she can call. She can text in an emergency situation. If it truly is an emergency (rarely) we will call back even if it isn't in the normal hours. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. If she abuses the phone and calls ten times (this is NOT an exaggeration) we tell her that we will not answer the phone until after 5 pm and if she calls before 5 pm, we will not answer the phone until 5 pm, the next day. This usually works...not always...but usually.

    She is CONSTANTLY asking for money. And at times, has created some pretty elaborate and crazy stories to get money. We have given her money electronically at 9 a.m. and she is begging for money by 11 a.m. Not forethought whatsoever. On the rare occasion, she has an legit need, we might help her. But, we have to give it a lot of thought and investigate where we can.

    Bottom line...we set up boundaries. She just called and I let the phone ring. She has called too much the last day or two. I'm just not going to engage her. I'm tired and don't wish to participate in the drama trauma. And it's always drama trauma. No guilt on my part. I have a life too. I chose to set a boundary here.

    As Wise Choices mentioned...I try to be polite when I speak to her. She described some hideous choice she made the other day that resulted in the HOA president getting upset. I was in shock. She felt she was in the right. OMG. NOOOOOO way was her behavior ok. I calmly (and as politely as possible) told her that her behavior, in my humble opinion, was not ok and I hope she would reconsider such behavior in the future. Then I told her I needed to get off the phone to take care of something. Often times, she gets "snippy" with me when I do that (excuse myself to get off the phone), but too bad so sad. If she is very snippy or rude or uses bad language, I will absolutely not speak with her for several days. My prerogative. There are consequences for inappropriate behaviors. I suppose I do give her a little leeway for having a mental illness. A LITTLE. I hope that is not confusing for her. BUT, if it is outrageous, noooooo way. I will not allow her to use the phone as some sort of weapon.

    A few things I incorporate: 1. Boundaries 2. Meet me half way. If she is not willing to do anything on her be it. No guilt on my part whatsoever when I decide not to help her out.

    Just food for thought.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  14. Chasejazz

    Chasejazz “No story is a straight line... ".

    My son is out in the world. I have no idea where he lives, how he lives, or how he's managing.
    I try not to think think think about it because it saddens me.
    I was depleted, financially, emotionally, you name it.
    All the issues with the kids nearly broke me, but there's hope. And most of that has to do with time I think.
    This is just a message of hope, because while I was in the middle of it, I was miserable. When I made my son leave, I was miserable.
    But, as time's passed I've found a lot of joy in the smallest things that I do now regularly, such as the ceramics class I joined. I am beginning to make friends there, and enjoy the art. It's therapeutic as far as I'm concerned.
    At this point, I am only able to take care of myself. I don't ever want to go back to having to make something work that's too broken. Seems sad, but I'm being honest.
    Some people here go to Al-Anon, similar support groups. Others go to churches and such.
    We each need to find what gives us strength as an individual, whatever works for us!
    I hope you can eventually find a small piece of time and space to rediscover You.
    Hopefully, your relationship with your husband will withstand the storm and as it comes to pass, when firm decisions about your son are made, you can make them together.
    The things you said about your son needing this, needing that, I have heard the exact thing from my son. Over and over and over again. I gave in because he raged, and I'd done it for so long it was like a reflex.
    Nowadays, I have a kind of peace for the first time in many, many years.
    There are some questions I still have, as to how I will live without husband (we're divorced) and children, but I truly believe, in my situation, that it has turned out the best it can.
    This is all a journey.
    You have a LOT on your plate. I hope that you feel free to nurture yourself, to become self-absorbed and self-caring because you deserve it. It's so easy to get lost in all of it! Keep posting and I wish the best for you, your son and your family.
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  15. Beta

    Beta Active Member

    Metrim, the answer to your post is within the post itself. As hard as it is, I hope you will not allow this 34YO son to move back in. It will not do him any good, will tax your relationship with your husband, and will bring you down emotionally. Just the physical limitations of your house (1,200 sf) and the people already living there seems to make it impossible. I know how hard it is; all of us here struggle to one degree or another with loving our kids but detaching. Still in the process.
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  16. Metrim

    Metrim New Member

    Thank you. I really needed some guidance. My husband told me the other night that he was afraid that I would get tired of him telling me no all the time when it comes to the adult kids. I love my husband. He is very good to me. I just did not know normal I guess. I was not sure if I am supposed to keep helping the kids or stop. I never want to loose my husband as he is my best friend. Thank you for your support.