Latent difficult child, Drug addict, or Failure to Launch?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by possumholler, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. possumholler

    possumholler New Member

    I'm new here and I am having issues with my 21-year old son. Is he just spreading his wings, has become a drug addict, or has he always been a difficult child and sports was a good outlet for him to keep on the straight and narrow?

    My story: My son could always be defined as 'normal' he did all the minor things/scraped that every other kid did at his age at the developmental stage that it happened for most other kids. In fact he was kind of a good kid. In middle school he discovered a sport that he LOVED to play—he played year round and actually became quite good at it (I'm name the sport to protect his anonymity). His senior year of high school about mid-year there were no other options for him to play his sport, so he was no longer able to play. He graduated and went off to college. He flunks out of that college—after lying to me about his grades, etc. I even had one of the orientation advisors do an 'academic intervention' on him, where he promised to do better. Ha! That worked really well.

    He was driving home from school and got pulled over and he had a bag of pot in his car. Thankfully he had not been smoking it, but was ticketed and we had to hire a lawyer and go to court. I keep telling him 'they might drug test you'—does he listen—NO! They drug test him and put him on probation. Which by the way is a JOKE. He is supposed to attend NA meetings, go to all these classes and pass 2 drug tests. Sure enough he fails the 2 random drug tests. They give him one more chance—he finally passes. No more probation.

    He came home and went to a community college to take some remedial courses so he could return to college in a year. He meets a girl and does not want to go back to college. We try to fit him into a community college education (what he wants to major in requires a 4 year degree) so he doesn't have to leave his girlfriend. He does well his second semester and then has to move on to a different community college than his girlfriend. He flunks out there.
    His girlfriend dumps him because he has become an unmotivated slug. He becomes suicidal--we seek counseling. He goes for about 2 months and decides he doesn't need counseling anymore.

    Now he's off the deep end, he steals things and trades them for money or drugs. He never comes in until after 2 am. He works, but I'm going to assume that all his money goes to buy gas and drugs. I am about ready to kick him out of the house, but the counselor says that is about the same thing as putting a puppy out on the interstate.
    Do I have a difficult child here and just didn't notice it because he was so wrapped up in sports? I'm thinking I have a drug addict on my hands, but don't know what to do for him since he is 21. Does anyone have any suggestions? He is ruining my life—I thought by now he would be on the back end of college and I would be rid of him. How do I get rid of this man-child that is in my home?
  2. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    If he's stealing things to trade for money or drugs, I'd say yes, you do have a drug addict on your hands. I believe your counselor is wrong.. puppy on an interstate? Seriously?! He's a grown man who is making his own choices. I suggest that you find some local Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings and start attending regularly, to get support from folks who've been down this road before, and perhaps switch counselors to one that's more experienced with addictions. Your son isn't going to change until he wants to change, and until life is uncomfortable enough for him to be motivated to change. If he is stealing from you, I'd press charges. If he is stealing from others, let natural consequences take over. Charge him rent. Make counseling and/or NA meetings a condition of living in your home. You get the idea.

    The best thing you can do for your son is to force him to take responsibility for his actions, and part of that may indeed mean kicking him out if he can't follow your rules.
  3. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Hugs - welcome - I am glad you found us, though extremely sorry for the situation that pointed you this way.

    I agree with Crazy - if he's stealing, he's using. He's 21, and it's time for him to figure things out.

    You didn't mention (or I missed it, which is entirely possible) - does he have a job at all? If he does - RENT - random drug tests, you CAN do that - and the counseling or N/A meetings Crazy mentioned. Basic respect. Or - kick him out and DO NOT FEEL BAD about it!

  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Anf where were YOU at age 21? I was married with a child on the way. The counselor is nto just wrong, she is stupid to boot. By supporting your son you are GIVING him money to spend on drugs. All of his $$ can go to drugs because YOU pay for his shelter, food, clothes, etc....

    Until you toss him out and he hits bottom (bottom is different for each person) he is NOT going to stop using drugs. in my opinion there is a whole lot more than just marijuana going on with him. A LOT more. He just admits to weed because it doesn't seem as "big" as the other drugs so parents often are not as upset.

    YOU need to head to alanon. Addiction is a family disease - it changes ALL of you. The meetings will give you a lot of support. But YOU are not to blame for his actions and choices. HE is. At age 21 he is MORE than able to go out into the world. LOTS of people do. And every penny you spend on him frees up a penny of HIS money to use on drugs. Doesn't matter if the $$ is in the form of shelter, food, clothes, gas, car, etc.... If you have a car for him that is not in his name, take it away. Not jsut the keys. take a part of two off so he cannot drive it. Or sell it. (assuming it is in your name, of course). Some choose to keep the cell phones on so that they have some way to contact the adult child, but others don't. ANY bills you pay for him, don't pay any more.

    HE chose to live the life of someone who won't work, commits crimes and does drugs all the time. He is choosing this every day. So he should live with the consequences of those actions - which do NOt include living in a nice house, eating food they really like, having the clothes they like, etc.....
  5. possumholler

    possumholler New Member

    The counselor said that in a 2 parent family that boys learn competition, drive and the things that teach him to not quit when the going gets tough are learned from the father, the nurturing elements are learned from the mother. My husband has a long history of doing absolutely nothing as did his father, and still basically works at his parent's house. Against all odds they had a successful family business, but now that husband's father retired and then died, the company is going down the tubes and I have long been supporting my family. It is the same way with husband's brothers--they all rely on their successful wives to support their families. The sport my son played was the only thing that gave him drive and ambition, and now that that is no longer in his life, he has reverted back to his old sluggish ways. That is the only thing that gives me hope--the fact that I have seen my son, once engaged in something he loves, he is driven and tries to succeed.

    The counselor says he needs to be taught how to succeed and manage money better, he has a job. For now, I have control over his bank accounts, and every paycheck he gets, I put 15% into savings (yep, I want him out!). I think I may be the queen of codependency. I care for my invalid mother and she has envelope of cash that she stashes away and I have noticed that it has been depleted somewhat--hence the stealing. Here is the problem I have with that--he is her favorite grandchild and can do absolutely no wrong in her eyes. He is unbelievably great with her. I want to tell her what a scumbag she has for a grandson, but she is plagued by depression and I think that would push her over the edge.

    I know it sounds like I have made up a bunch of excuses of why he does what he does, but we have been working on a parenting plan with the counselor to get him the heck out of my house.

    The NA meetings sound like a great idea, I think the root of his issues are drugs. While my son is technically an adult at 21, my husband at age 50 is still a child, and my son has learned by example--my husband has never lived on his own--EVER. Yes, I know, why did I put up it all these years? I would have to answer that with I am just too tired to fight all the time or with my husband not fight all the time and deal with his passive-aggressiveness (husband does have some aggression in there somewhere). I have to figure out a way to break this cycle of my son relying on someone else to support him.

    I will be filing for divorce soon--I just can't do this anymore. So husband will have to figure out a way to live on his own also.
    Sorry this has turned into a big vent, but I do feel better for getting it off my chest. I work all the time and I have very few friends.
  6. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Puppy on an interstate????

    Ugh! Clearly this counselor has never had to actually LIVE with anyone who had a drug or alcohol problem. If the aforementioned puppy was stealing your wallet, staying out all day and all night, dragging himself home drunk and/or high, and then barking and growling whenever you gave him simple commands? - then yes, this is JUST like leaving a puppy on a highway...

    You wouldn't live with a dog who acted like that - you don't need to live with a grown MAN who acts like that.

    No matter HOW sad those big, brown, puppy-dog eyes look!
  7. possumholler

    possumholler New Member

    Is NA for drug ab/users only or is there a different group for the families of users? Like al-anon. I looked in my area for Al-anon and almost all of them say they are for the families of alcoholics/recovering alcoholics.
  8. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Nar-anon is the equivalent of Alanon for addicts, but you will find many people in Alanon that are dealing with drug addicts as well as alcoholics. The concepts are the same. If there is no Naranon in your area I would definitely suggest Alanon. They typically have more meetings available.
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hate to say this, but many therapists are just too darn lenient and liberal. I had one tell my druggie daughter, who could look me in the eyes and lie, that I had to trust her more. ???? I told her I didn't agree with the therapist and that trust is earned.

    My daughter quit the drugs, but we had to make her leave first. My suggestion is to go to Al-Anon 0r Narc-Anon and get real time help from those who are also going through it. You don't want your 21 year old son to be that 50 year old man you married who never grew up. Since he has tendencies of being lazy and has seen laziness, I would not help or enable him in any way. He's a big boy and has to sink or swim.

    Puppy on a freeway? PLEASE! A puppy can't communicate or feed itself and doesn't even know about traffic. I have to question the competency of your therapist. I'd trust your own gut more!

    Keep us posted and hugs :)
  10. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Definitely agree with others... Remember the counselor is thinking about things from HIS point of view. She does not have the whole picture. I really think sometimes it means being on their own to figure out what they need to do. Alanon is the group for families of addicts. If you can find a group especially for parents that really helps...we have found a parents group and it has helped me a huge amount. Just knowing other parents who really understand is a huge help.My son is definitely struggling but he is starting to do some things to help himself... and we are willing to help him help himself....but not willing to do anything that will enable drug use and we absolutely can not have him live at home.
  11. mrsammler

    mrsammler Guest

    At risk of sounding harsh or simplistic--crimes I committed early on in my time on this forum--you need to show him the door. Seriously. It's the only thing that has a chance of waking him up, via real misery, and prodding him toward ending his misbehavior (if for no other reason than that he won't be able to afford it any more) and beginning to deal with his troubles and thus earn some self-esteem. If that means he has to live in a homeless shelter, so be it--he'll HATE it and HATE you and all of that--big deal, frankly, as they all say (and probably really do) they HATE you when you force them into accountability--but you have to just ignore that and let him sort things out on his own. Stealing from you and other family members? That alone calls the game. The rest of it simply runs up the score. If you're worried that he'll just malfunction even more and maybe get into legal trouble--well, yes, he might. But letting him live at home is even worse. I've said it before here: most people, and all difficult children, don't change unless they're so miserable that they have no choice. Put him out and let the misery unfold. And ignore all of the "I HATE you" ****--it really is just noise, and predictable noise at that. If you want to save him, or do all you can to save him, you've gotta let him go. It's counter-intuitive, defies all of your instincts, etc, but it's your best shot at helping him.

    Regarding the sport, I can identify with that. I was a huge tennis jock in high school and college--I was obsessed, and a very serious and competitive player at high levels--and it really kept me on the rails through high school and early college. When I finally quit the college team (due to decadence, immaturity, partying all the time, etc), I went straight down the tubes (down which I was already descending) as I lacked the one thing that had been organizing and structuring my life, via a sequence of goals (making the varsity high school team, then being the top player, then climbing the men's rankings in my city, then getting a state ranking, then making the college team) that drove me in healthy and productive ways. After that, I was rudderless. So I can understand what you're describing about your son's experience as an athlete, and the effect of losing that self-defining avocation. Still and all, many top athletes have to surrender or leave their sport as they grow into adulthood (you can't play varsity forever), and most become fully functional and productive adults (and most can continue their involvement in the sport via adult leagues and tournaments and the like). So it's not an excuse he can cling to. At 21, it's time for him to "man up" and accept being an adult--and staying at home and malfunctioning and stealing and all of that is simply retarding the process.

    (Have you read John Updike's novel "Rabbit Run"? It's about what we're discussing: a former top high school athlete, now contending with the adult world where the sport is over and can't "carry" him any more, runs completely aground because he can't make the transition, and the loss/natural end of the sport in his life leaves a gaping hole that he doesn't know how to fill--so he malfunctions, looking for that old magic and self-esteem in all the wrong ways. Recommended reading, although it sounds like your hands are full.)
  12. PatriotsGirl

    PatriotsGirl Guest

    I agree with every one else! That doctor is a dumb butt. What motivation does he have to change a thing?? Why should he? He is being perfectly cared for. Has this doctor ever heard of enabling?? (((HUGS)))
  13. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    ...While you are at it... Drop that bank account. Let HIM figure it out. Unless he owes you money, in which case take it before you hand over the responsibility.

    "SEP field" Someone Else's Problem. HIS. Not yours.
  14. possumholler

    possumholler New Member

    I think this weekend will be moving day. His druggie friends have a place that he is considering moving into. I will not cut him off totally, I will pay the $12.99 for his phone and his car insurance until December when contracts/policies expire. His car insurance alone is $165 a month, I will be glad to not have to pay that. Hopefully he will learn about the importance of having insurance, as he is being sued for bodily injury from a fender bender he had last year--I hope it goes to trial and he has to sit there through it all. Thanks for inspiring me to do what I already knew I needed to do. I think the thing that helped me the most (not that you all didn't do that) was the post "A letter from a drug addict-your child." I will drop the counselor as well--because I am the one who needs the counselor to deal with my feelings of failure and to move on with all the parts of my life that need "moving on." I would not have chosen this guy because we knew him on a personal level, but I knew I would be wasting my money on a person that my son did not know. It would have taken him a month to talk to a stranger. Thanks. Will keep you updated.
  15. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree with the others but I will also tell you that from personal experience that my son actually thrives greatly when he is out on his own. He blossoms and becomes a much better person when he isnt living under our roof. We have a really decent and loving relationship when he isnt living with us and he comes by the house, calls us almost daily and we enjoy each other.

    This is the kid who stole from me and I charged him with 3 felonies.
  16. possumholler

    possumholler New Member

    Once he goes, I will probably not see him for a while. I don't really see him now--he stays half the night. For the most part, we have a good relationship (especially when he is broke:sigh:), I think he just stays away from us because--a. he is having too much fun, we cramp his style and b. we remind him of his failures. He does his chores, he does extra things around the house when I ask him to, yesterday when I came home, the pool had been cleaned and the dishes washed, he did things that he normally wouldn't do. He does have money and I have given him the debit card on his "real" bank account--we have been operating on the VISA Buxx card for too long (where you put money on it--from his account, and if there is no money, he cannot charge). He will incur some overdraft charges and car repairs (he loves mudding, which damages his car), hopefully he will learn. If he decides to go back to school, he still has half of his college fund that my mother set up for him. I will cash some of that out and pay myself back for the $12,000 I have paid for his education, he has been in school 3 years and if he decides to return to school he will be a sophomore (at least it wasn't ALL a waste). I will also drop my ATT Family Map where I can track him via his phone (that is the best phone feature EVER while he was in high school). He gets paid tomorrow, so he will have money for a week (I hope). I will buy him some groceries, make him some cookies and send him on his way. Is he scared--you betcha, but so am I, but I think we went through all this stuff, so it would be easier to let him go. I have 2 kids, this one is the one most like me--you don't have a "favorite" kid, you just have one that is more like you, you are in tune with them better. Maybe I can save my other son from a life of being like his father--there is now going to be a room at grandma's inn.
  17. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Proud of you for moving him out. It really is the very best you can do for him. in my opinion dropping the cost of his insurance in his lap (IF the vehicle is in his name and not yours) would be a very good idea. But you cannot change everything at once, and you may not be ready to do that. The reason it would be such a good idea to make him pay for it is that he doesn't seem to care about driving drunk. If he had to pay that insurance each month it might at least make him THINK, and it would reduce the amt of $$ he has to spend on drugs and booze.

    If he has $$ in the bank in savings, you NEED to take out enough to cover his insurance each month from now until the time you plan to stop paying it. Get it all at once and tell him it is because he drives drunk and you won't support that. Then you own't be out the $$ for his insurance.

    Please be aware that he is going to spend every single penny he can get his hands on ASAP. Probably far faster than you have any clue it could be spent in. My gfgbro was hit by a drunk driver years ago and got a large settlement. His lifestyle was very spartan - lived in a small trailer like you would pull behind a pickup, his water came from a hose from the people that owned the property, his toilet was a separate shack with only 3 walls, most of his time was spent out in a national forest. HE STILL ran through it in an amazing amt of time. And was shocked that it was gone - tried to say it was stolen, tried to blame the bank, but every single withdrawal was tracked back to him. If your son can get his mitts on any of the money set aside for his education, he WILL and he will blow it.

    His counselor is not just an idiot, he is also dead WRONG. That garbage about what you learn from your parents is supremely stupid. NO WAY should you let ANY of that influence your decisions. He is NOT helpless, he is do-less. Do-less is a choice, as is the party lifestyle. I am sure that he will come begging for $$ and rescue soon after he leaves, and that this counselor will tell you that he NEEDS it.

    Your son NEEDS to fall on his face and have to pick himself up and face the consequences. he NEEDS to figure out how to depend on himself. The lessons you are trying to teach him about money mgmt, etc.... are NOT going to take effect unless he MUST use those tools. This will mean that you cannot rescue him if you want him to learn those things. in my opinion this counselor is trying to perpetuate your son's dependence, NOT try to get him to face his problems and learn to fix them and deal with the consequences.

    Finding your own therapist, one YOU can open up to, is IMPORTANT. I am glad that you are planning to do this. You have made HUGE strides just by planning to move him out and cut off most of his support. I know it is HARD to do. Be proud of yourself.

    Stick to your guns, get a GOOD therapist, go to alanon or nar anon (most alanon groups have a substantial number of people with loved ones hwo are on drugs and not booze or not just booze). There are also some Christian based 12 step groups that are for families of addicts. You might call various churches if you feel a strong religious focus would work better for YOU.

    Above all, put yourself first for a change. Focus on your other son if he is a minor, and on yourself. Pamper yourself - you have EARNED it!
  18. possumholler

    possumholler New Member

    He texted me last night to tell me he was spending the night at his friends house--the ones who say he can move in with them. I responded with "Why don't y'all talk over the logistics of moving in with them"--since it is a long weekend it would be a perfect time to move in. Plus he got paid today. I'm so ready for this. I think I freaked him out becasue I got no response. Am heading to Big Lots to get him some snacks to start his new life away from me. I'm going to be as nice and supportive as I can--or as I would be if he had finished college and were going out on is own. I think he believes that I want him with me that I enjoy his contributions to the household (minimal) and I never see him. When I do see him, we have good conversations, but it is like having someone stay there and take up space--he is gone every night either working or hanging out with his friends after work. I just realized that how can I miss someone I never see. Of course I have to get some ducks in a row--take his keys away and get a bicycle lock for the Mac that I bought him to go away to college, my younger son is using it and I'm going to chain it to the table.

    Can you think of anything else I might have forgotten?
  19. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Possum - don't bother with the snacks... And they make laptop locks, about the same cost as a GOOD bike lock, and they work really, really well.
  20. possumholler

    possumholler New Member

    The only reason I am providing snacks is to look good when I try to get custody of my other son, when I file for divorce to be rid of these slugs. It makes me look not as cold---as if I would turn my "child" out of the house without any preparation. No, I'm going to make this look as good as possible. His school money is in a trust that he can't get to, but I can. He can have the futon that I told him to keep clean because "You never know when you might need it"--which is now covered with dog hair because he let his dog sleep on it--should be in for some hairy nights with that one. I may even throw down and bake some cookies (from a tub), but cookies all the same. This is going to be such a pleasant experience that he wont know what hit him until it is too late. I have to protect my reputation as a mother so that I can save my other son. These friends already got the furniture I had stored in a storage unit in preparation for HIS moving day. Am so glad I no longer have to pay for the unit. A good time will be had by all.