If you don't detach from your adult difficult children.......

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Scott_G, Nov 13, 2013.

  1. Scott_G

    Scott_G Member

    .....this is your future:

    They will NEVER grow up. There is this couple in our neighborhood who are in their 80's. The wife is not in good health. Their 60 YEAR OLD alcoholic loser of a son has lived with them since he was divorced, probably almost 20 years now. He also has his 28 year old drug addict daughter and her little girl living there too. The daughter has also had several live in boyfriends there as well over the years. From time to time I see this 80 something year old man driving his 60 year old son around. The son got a DWI last year and lost his license. The cops are at the house quite often, most recently while I was out walking the dog I saw the cops putting the 60 year old into the back of a car in handcuffs. A couple of years ago the 28 year old and her then live in boyfriend threw a huge 4th of July party. A few days later we saw the brother of the 60 year old and we stopped to talk to him. He said that the "kids" and all their friends trashed the house during the July 4th party. I remember being out working in the yard one time and hearing the 60 year old yelling at his elderly father. I would not be surprised one bit if there is abuse going on in that household. It is a very sad, sad situation, but ultimately one that parents of adult children choose to allow to happen.

    I have also seen it in my own family. My alcoholic and drug addicted uncle sponged off of/robbed blind my poor grandparents until the day they died. In fact, when he was in his 50's he was living with them in their assisted living community until they died. When my grandfather retired and my grandparents moved to Florida, they gave him their house free and clear. When my uncle got in an argument with someone and later got drunk and went back to that persons house with a shotgun, my grandparents paid his bail and paid for his lawyer. They also bailed him out for multiple DUIs. When he got divorced he wanted to move to Florida. My grandparents bought him a house! They bought him cars and gave him money. What they didn't give him, he stole, especially as they got old and senility and dementia kicked in. My grandparents died broke. Thier loser of a son literally bled them dry. When my grandfather died, all my uncle seemed to care about was if there was a will and how much money he would get. My mother is a smart woman, she told him where he could go. No one has heard from my uncle since, and this was nearly 20 years ago.

    Having seen this play out first hand I believe had a good deal with me having an easier time of detaching and being able to detach so completely from our son. I don't want to be that elderly man who has his 50 or 60 something drug addict kid beating him and stealing his money. I simply won't allow it to happen. At 31 years old, he can either choose to succeed or fail, but whatever he chooses, it's all on him.
  2. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    I have seen this happen too, Scot. At the time, I told myself that would never be me. Now that it is me, I'm finding it so much harder to turn away than I would ever have believed.

    You are right, though.

  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have seen this and written about it.

    We are not obligated to parent our adult children. If we want them to grow up, we shouldn't. I think our adult kids need to make their mistakes and learn from them. It is really sad, but the fault of the person doing it, when an 80 year old is still handing out money, rides, her house and car keys and putting up with abuse from a 60 year old "adult child."

    In the end, it doesn't help anyway.
  4. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have knowledge of this as well Scott and it could easily have been my future had I not gotten a lot of help to make different choices. I did not want to be that 80 year old you speak of............and yet, I do understand how very hard it is for us to let go too..........it's really the hardest thing I've ever had to do so I can empathize with those people you're speaking about.............I'm glad that you are not enabling your adult son, this is a very good thing!
  5. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Wow. Very sad and very enlightening.
    *Fortunately, or ? , I haven't seen much of this, but I have seen it. I only went to a few NAMI meetings, but I was shocked by one where a couple in their 70s were being traumatized and bullied by their 50 year old mentally ill son living in their home. Some offered advice, but they could barely hear it and they were getting little to no help from the local police. THANK YOU for this excellent post/wake up call.
  6. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    Scott, if you wouldn't mind sharing this with us...how do you, personally, justify detaching from your troubled adult child? I told my husband about your post, and about the differences in the way fathers look at their difficult child kids that I have seen in the posts of other males.

    That is what I need to hear, Scott. If you don't mind ~ Scott, or anyone reading this who can stick with detachment mode when the kids are suffering ~ how do you see your role, how is it possible to enjoy all there is to enjoy in the lives you've created if you have ~ even if it's for your own survival ~ turned away from your own suffering child?

    I am talking specifically about mentally unstable adult kids, here. Addiction, I can and have turned away from.

    I should clarify that husband caves when he does in large part because of me. He is right there where you are on what we should do. I think it is a hard place to get to though, even for a man. When I get miserable, he does too. His resolve wavers and there we are.

    I hope you don't read hostility or accusation into my response, Scott. I am intensely curious about how other parents find the strength to stop helping. husband and I can have all our ducks in a row and all it takes is a particular note of desperation, a particular expression, and we are right back in the thick of it. I don't just mean with money or help. I mean in the thick of suffering emotionally for the suffering we hear in her voice.

    It seems so impossibly hard to say no to the little things and yet, that is what leads, step by impossible step, to the big stuff.

  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Cedar I think you are right in that men do and see things differently. As I have been told countless times, men are fixers. They dont seek out therapists or group meetings. They look for duct tape, hammers, screwguns and all the rest. They should be able to fix something. There isnt anything that we can fix and it makes them feel inadequate. If you are in my family, I get the blame. I should have done something different. I should have known what was up. Blame blame blame because he cant deal with the fact that he cant fix things.

    Im hoping that we can work through this.

    In reality, we are parents who will most likely have one of our kids living with us for the long term but he isnt our problem child. He has a few issues but he works and tries to help. He wont be that much of a problem for us as we age and in fact, will probably be a help.
  8. helpangel

    helpangel Active Member

    yep I'm guilty but in my defense they all pay rent; guess part of me is having trouble with the reality that I need them to need me as much as they need me. If didn't have someone to care for don't know what I would do?

    Find peace and happiness where ever you can
  9. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Cedar, that part of it, the fact that our daughter has a MI diagnosis and a little bit because she also had brain surgery due to an aneurysm when she was very little, sometimes causes some conflict for me personally when it comes to detachment and concepts related to it. But, as time passes, it is less and less of a conflict. It is more a bit sad. But, I often feel at this age (mid twenties) my difficult child isn't fully utilizing her abilities. Hard to find a good comparison, but it might be like if you had a legally blind child or relative who refused to wear her thick glasses or refused to use the seeing eye dog given to her and consequently, broke all the good glassware in your home and cussed YOU out about it saying it was all YOUR fault and then got her friends to steal from you and on and on. It is sad that life has handed them this very difficult card, but they like everyone else, have to play the cards dealt to them and see the doctor, take their medications, try to work, do the best they can, be grateful for what is given to them, show kindness, respect and appreciation to caring family members, good friends and bosses...etc. they are not excempt.

    I took a Spanish class once with an elderly blind person. He worked until retirement and was now bored and trying to learn a little bit of Spanish. All sorts of hoops had to be jumped through....he got his friend enrolled free and she took notes for him and they studied together. He memorized all of us in class by our voices, etc. he never complained and none of us could fully understand how he could do it and be happy as well.

    So, with my difficult child, I'm more or less ok with giving her little bit of help, but that's it!!!!!!!!! If she did HER part, this would be sufficient with reference to having a mental illness.oh, and if she cops and attitude with me, I cut her off until she changes her tune.

    it doesn't do us or them any good to nurture their troubles. A little LITTLE bit of extra help for a person putting effort in their own care goes a long way. All else is futile. I don't do futile anymore. Detachment is vital. There is no other choice and Scott's post is so very eye opening.

    oh...in a way, we've also been dealt a shxxxx card, but we must be strong, hold our heads up high and enjoy life anyway. I have my moments, but I keep them brief. Life is too precious....:). Blessings my friend.
  10. Scott_G

    Scott_G Member

    I have always thought men are wired differently than women, and it is certainly apparent from reading many of the posts on this site, as it seems like the majority of posters here are women. You simply don't mess with a mamma bear and her cubs. I think that women have a very strong mothering/nurturing instinct that never goes away no matter how old they are or how old their children are. I am sure that I am still my mothers little boy. I think men simply have an easier time accepting that their kids grow up and I also think men can often have an easier time keeping emotion out of an issue. I am also employed in a scientific field, and in science, there is no place for emotion, it's all about facts.

    I will admit that up until this point, I have mostly caved in to whatever my wife wants, going all the way back to when our son was 15 and stole his mothers car and wrecked it. I wanted to call the cops and have him and his friends arrested, but my wife talked me into not pressing any charges. The two times as an adult that my son lived with us, I said no but eventually caved in. At this point I would say that there is no secret to my seeming to be able to detach so thoroughly, I simply have reached the point where I have had enough and just don't want to deal with any more of his garbage. The latest episode that my son is going through is something I have taken very personally. I am both insulted and offended by his behavior.

    For those of you who haven't been following my story, my son was basically a "difficult child in remission" for 8 years. He started doing drugs, getting in trouble, and being beligerent and abusive around the age of 14. He even did a stint in juvenile hall from age 17 to 18. As a young adult he drifted from job to job and couch to couch, even living with us twice. Then at age 22 he met a girl who seemed to do what we as his parents could never do, get him to grow up. Within a few months of their relationship he had landed a full time job, one which he held all the way up until this past summer when he got fired for drug use. They got married and bought a house together. From the outside, it seemed like he just went through a severe case of boys being boys from 14 to 22 and he grew out of it. He even apologized to his mother and I for all he put us through. Despite the past, we managed to build a good relationships as adults. Maybe not the type of relationship you ladies have with your adult kids, but I definitely thought of him like one of my good guy friends. We were all able to rebuild trust. He even had a key to our house. That all changed starting in 2011. I haven't mentioned this before, but back when he was 15 my son met a girl and they fell in love. She stuck with him through all of his problems. When he was 19 they had an apartment together for a while but eventually broke up. Fast forward to 2011. He reconnected with her on Facebook. She is now divorced with two kids and living in the next state over. One thing led to another and they ended up having an affair. A year later my son and his wife got a divorce. It was at that point that my son simply picked up where he left off, this time with heroin. Maybe it's a male pride thing, but this time the lying, disrespect, and manipualtion was a real slap in the face for me. I don't care if he's my son or not, I would not stand for this type of behavior from another adult. I expect teeneagers to think their parents are stupid old fogeys who can easily be conned, but when a 31 year old who is supposed to be a grown man starts playing those teenage head games, frankly I find it absolutely sickening.

    For now anger is keeping it easy to stay no contact. That and the fact that he hasn't gotten himself into any serious situations. Maybe with time I will be willing to try and have a relationship again, but not now. I don't even want to see him. Last time I saw him he was so obviously strung out on drugs that I really just wanted to smack some sense into him. I give up. He's a lost cause in my mind. At 31 years old I think a leopard isn't going to change its spots. Nothing we have ever done to help him has actually helped him, so why bother doing it any more? For whatever reason, he seems content to self destruct, and if I can't help him, I would rather not even know about it. Out of sight, out of mind is good enough for me. It's sad for sure, but it's reality. Trust is a big, big issue for me. He's lied to us so many times over the years, and just when we thought we were at a place where we could trust him again, he turns around and starts his old games again. Just because he is family, how many chances do I owe him? When he seemed to have turned his life around I vowed never to hold the past against him, but now that he has slid back, I can't help but hold the past against him. All the stealing, all the lies, all the disrespect. If he's still doing it at 31, I have no use for him. It's not an easy road. At first I was filled with a lot of guilt and self doubt. That is why I sought this message board in the first place. Even when I decided to fully detach, my thoughts were often consumed with this situation even as hard as I tried to get on with my life. Things were made easier when he decided to go no contact two months ago. I still think about this messed up situation from time to time, and it still makes me sad, but every day it gets a little bit easier to go on with my own life.

    As far as detachment goes, my wife and I are not at the same place. She (at least for now) agrees with me that he gets no financial support and will not be allowed to live with us, but she said that there is no way that she is willing to not have a relationship with him.

    I wish him the best of luck, I really do, but I have no use for a relationship with him. He burned that bridge this last time around as far as I am concerned. I guess people will only take so much before reaching their breaking point, and I have reached mine. Not sure if this answers your question, but it's what's going on in my head.
  11. Geehwiz

    Geehwiz New Member

    Hi, I'm new here today and have been trying to find somewhere where people actually know what it's like to have a kid that's out there. I've been reading all the posts and it is good to know I'm not alone.
    My only kid, my son is 25 and I saw on his FB page (his dad still pays for the phone-dad and I do not talk, he was an abuser) anyway, my son's fb page has a picture of his new campsite, where he lives. His step dad and I, as well as his dad, have poured money into his life, even gave him a used truck, which he sold not 2 months later. I have bought countless pizzas, paid for apt's and food and clothes and even said we'd pay for school. He doesn't want to do any of that. He stole form his job, he's pulled a knife on a guy at his last job, he can't find work. I miss him, I love him beyond everything but I have to stay out of his life, he is a big guy, old enough to take care of himself. I hope.
    With the holidays coming up, finding out my brother is homeless too (last week or so, have done all we can for him too) I am beside myself thinking I should feed them at least. But how do you say "Here's some grub, Happy Holidays now go back to your tent?" I feel for them both but they have made some really bad decisions and I can't give them enough to get them on their feet again.
    I'm 52, my mom died last year, dads been gone awhile and the holidays are just weird now, there is no homey-ness to it, no thrill, I dread the days. How do I celebrate when my heart, my mind, my loved ones are not around?
    *I'm sorry if this rant is in the wrong place, I appreciate just being heard.
  12. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Geehwiz, welcome. You have posted on another's thread. If you post this on your own thread, more people will find you. Stay in Parent Emeritus since your son is an adult. I am so sorry you are going through this with your son and your brother. It is very sad. I understand how weird it is to feed them on the holidays and then leave them to their homelessness. However, it is their choice,not yours.

    If you are not already, you may want to find support for yourself, therapy, NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental illness.........they can be accessed online and have wonderful courses for parents. There are 12 step groups if he is a substance abuser, al anon, if he is abusing drugs, narc anon, or codependents anonymous or family anonymous. Many here have found them all to be helpful and comforting.

    You may want to read the article on detachment at the bottom of my post here. You may want to read Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. There are many resources to help you learn how to detach, accept what is, and lead a relatively normal and peaceful life in spite of what your only child is doing. I have an only child who is similarly lost and I have had to make hard choices around that in order to find peace.

    You didn't cause this, you can't change it, you can't fix it........ all you can do is learn how to let go of what you can't control. Or it will ruin your life too. It is very difficult to detach from our kids, but there really is no alternative when they will not change. All other choices in that case are enabling and that is unhealthy for him and for you.

    I'm glad you found us. Keep posting it helps a lot. It helps a lot to be heard and to be among others who really understand. I wish you peace.
  13. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Under your circumstances, it is normal for you to feel the tug of sadness, Geewiz. Having a son who has made such bad choices is very very tough (plus the other losses in your life too). When you read our posts here, I'm sure you can see that we are all fighting sadness and in a way, relearning how to enjoy life. Once our children become adults, it is really up to them to figure out how to make do in life. If they are genuinely ill and genuinely want help and genuinely will use and appreciate that help we give them, sure...we can provide some limited help. But, very often, those criteria are not met. We can NOT PUT OUR LIVES ON HOLD, waiting for changes that may not ever happen. Set up boundaries as appropriate for the situation. If you haven't gone to a therapist, you might consider it. Especially if he is using drugs, you might go to a Families Anonymous meeting. Drugs are not the issue for my difficult child, but I went to a few and 99% of the parents in that group have near adult or adult kids who are using and these parents are helping one another in a major way. NAMI (mental illness), as mentioned, is another very good support group. Do your very best to only associate with kind, caring, true, loving friends and relatives. Consider reading helpful, spiritual and uplifting literature. Take extra good care of yourself...getting in some exercise and take your vitamins! (At the very least, a multi vitamin!!!!). It is very hard, but you can make it to happiness again and it is worth it.
    Lasted edited by : Nov 19, 2013
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi, Geewhiz. I'm so sorry your mommy heart is hurting.

    I agree with Recovering Enabler including all her suggestions on how to help yourself move on. I would add that this year you will probably struggle through the holidays, but it gets easier, no matter how small your family gathering is, when you start to enjoy the peace and serenity of the holiday season rather than chaos, dysfunction, fighting, drama, etc...that difficult children bring to the table. Literally. Time to concentrate on yourself and your loved ones, family and friend, who appreciate you and can love you without strings or drama. Time to start doing the things you love to do but maybe haven't for a long time. Time to take your life back, in spite of your child's poor choices. You can't change him, but you can make YOUR life fulfilling and, yes, even fun. In spite of our adult children and their struggles, we can learn to have really great lives. It is a process.

    Big hugs and sorry again for your pain. I have felt it more than a few times!
  15. SearchingForRainbows

    SearchingForRainbows Active Member


    Great thread! I totally agree with everything you have to say. Very briefly, I have a difficult child uncle who was babied his entire life by my grandmother. He lived in her house until the day she died. My grandmother was afraid of him and walked on eggshells in her own home. I remember as a child eavesdropping on a conversation and finding out that one time she had to hide in a closet because of how fearful she was that he was going to hurt her. He pulled a knife on my father once at a holiday gathering. I was young, in elementary school when this happened, and was with my father when my uncle tried to attack him.

    In those days mental illness/substance abuse wasn't discussed. My entire family tried to brush it under the rug, pretend nothing was wrong, my uncle was "normal." I was forced to go to weekly Sunday dinners at my grandmother's house, dreading each and every visit. There's lots more to the story but the bottom line is that after witnessing first hand an extremely dysfunctional situation, how easily it destroyed many lives because it was allowed to exist, taught me what not to do as an adult.

    I really think even though I still struggle with detachment and slip back into unhealthy patterns every now and then, that my childhood to some extent, prepared me for the future.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. SFR
  16. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Scott our stories are very similar. My son was a complete pain in the rear growing up. We tried everything possible. Everything came to a head when he turned 21 and decided that because I wasnt home to give him a birthday gift, he would simply steal my checks and forge them. I had had it and I pressed charges on him. He now has 3 felonies because of that. After the punishment he got (plus I almost died less than a month after he got out of a 30 day jail stint) he seemed to come around. Of course he was on intensive probation for several years and that kept him somewhat in line.

    We actually built the trust back up with him after a few years. I tested him from time to time by leaving money out when he came over and he never touched it. Then this past spring everything went to hell in a handbasket. But now he is 27 and I am not going down with his sinking ship. He stole from us again but this time I didnt even have the umpf in me to deal with the cops. I dont want to spend my time in courtrooms. We finally just kicked him out. He did manage to find a camper and live in our backyard for awhile but a month ago he and his girlfriend and two year old found an old house to rent. I doubt they will be there long. Whatever. The only reason we see him at all is because of his child. Well actually he has two little girls but the older one lives with her mother. I see the older girl weekly and she spends the weekends with us every other week. She loves her daddy but isnt depending on him and doesnt even ask if he isnt here. She knows she is coming to Papa and Grandma. If she happens to see her daddy thats okay with her but she doesnt ask us to take her to him.

    I also hope my son figures it out and turns around but I am not going to be the one who searches out help for him. He is old enough to do that himself. At his age his father and I were taking care of 3 kids by ourselves with no help from anyone.