Letting go: I seem to be unable to do this.

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Copabanana, Aug 27, 2018.

  1. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I have been out of contact with my son for about 6 weeks, with only very sporadic contact by text. In the weeks prior it was an ugly break up. The police came multiple times. He squatted on a property. A couple of weeks later he left our area and went to a large metro a few hours away. I presume he is on the street.

    The first couple of weeks were horrible for me. I was in a deeply sad mood. My sleep was disrupted. I woke at 2 each morning with a sense of dread and despair. Eventually I was able to regain equilibrium, and began to feel a sense of pride that I was standing in my own life, not in him.

    Today he called to ask if I had gotten mail. I think it was a pretext. I said I would text him back. You see. I do not want to hear his voice.

    Anyhow, when I checked the mail I texted back, I had not.

    He sent a message back that kind of jarred me. He texted:

    Remember. I made this decision to find myself. My higher self...

    I wrote back: Those are powerful words, J.

    And then I began to worry. You see there is NO CONTACT with him that is safe for me.

    I worried that, what is he thinking, that he can find his higher self by looking real hard on the street, or by taking a drug? So, I began to panic.

    And so unable to help myself I texted back this:

    Usually ones higher self is achieved in the course of living life, looking at reality, evaluating what is needed and taking responsibility. A higher self is achieved through sustained practice and decisions and rededication. It is not found like you would find a dollar on the street. A self and life is created, not found, from living well which comes from thousands of choices.

    And then I added:

    Unless you mean g-d. G-d is always there. And does not require finding, either. Just opening. I believe g-d is all of our higher selves.

    And I offered to give him names of books if he was interested, and mentioned I was enrolled in an online Hebrew class.

    You see. I keep falling in it. Any communication with him, is too much for me. I cannot bear to have it revealed how he is living and thinking. I cannot bear his reality, and that it become mine.

    I can see why I kept him close. However horrible it was I had the illusion that there was safety. With him away, there are no illusions at all. Just the most horrible sensation of falling. My own falling, as much or more, than his.
  2. OTE

    OTE Guest

    So sorry you feel yourself falling. Sounds like you"re right that you're having trouble with boundaries. And he's intentionally drawing you in. Co-dependency at its worst. Not getting caught up in the traps of any relationship is hard. Whether its your adult child, ex, parents. Obviously you need to re-think the boundaries. Not replying is probably impossible for all of us. I may be the queen of tough love but I find it hard not to at least acknowledge the contact. Sometimes my reply is something like glad to hear you're well. Or sorry to hear you"re having a tough time. My pain level is bad today so I know how tough life can be. They then usually drop it cause they know they're not going to get whatever it is they're contacting me for. Plus with mine I feel that I need to remind them that we're adults, that they need to consider me too.

    You want the contact to know that he's well enough to contact you. But maybe that's all you need to know. So rather than getting drawn into his content focus on his being well. Don't ask questions or reply to content. Just comment on the fact that you're glad to hear from him. Tough I know. But focus on your boundaries and try to ignore the emotions he's trying to get.

    Remember that he's an adult and making choices. You have a right to a happy, peaceful life. Don't let him take that from you. Take care of yourself first. You can't make him happy but you can set yourself up to be happy.
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    Lasted edited by : Aug 27, 2018
  3. bluebell

    bluebell Active Member

    As I've said before we are in the same timeline as far as our latest out-falling. I just returned from lunch with my son. If you will remember the last time I met him about 3 weeks ago he was blaming his father and I in conjunction for not leaving his father for his problems. This time it is his friends, his ex-friends that have not helped him. I tried to depart some wisdom on the subject, ie being his choice of friends and expecting too much of dysfunctional people, but the hurt, anger is still there. It just keeps floating around to other targets as the need arises.

    He expressed a desire to leave town, to start anew. Asked me about living with his uncle. I tried to elucidate the process: driving for 10 hours alone, sleeping on an air mattress, finding a job, paying rent and following rules. How he would probably only get a restaurant job and would find his old friends right there waiting for him - with different names. Unless there is a sea change, this experiment would - at best - result in him driving 11 hours back to no home at all. Or living on streets somewhere between - truly lost in a sea of uncaring people.

    And the realization Copa - that this discourse would have given me hope a couple of years ago, but now only feels me with fear and dread. That there is no real change. That this 'higher self' that our sons wish to attain is not actually a 'higher self' at all. Just wishful thoughts and a road to hell paved with them.

    Sorry no advice but I'm here with you sitting in the same spot.
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  4. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I know you are right. On a number of levels.

    He is beckoning me to become involved. It is like a lock and a key. But you know what? I really have nothing more to say, that I need to say to him. In a sense that text was my own, a note to self. I have struggled because I have put my son at the center of myself, of my life. And now I know better. And my job is to fill that space with my own, in terms of a spiritual life and a real life.

    Whether or not he reads and understands the text is not the issue. I need to read what I wrote. And take it to heart.

    In terms of the boundaries, I think I agree about rethinking them, but not the boundaries between him and me. The boundaries that are in question here are the boundaries in myself. My own rededication to myself, and staying on purpose which is my own life over which I have control.

    This is good advice, to me:
    And this, too:
    Once I see myself kind of melting over, into him, I can pick myself up, and put myself back into myself and into my own life.

    The idea here, I am seeing, is to see my relationship with my son as a practice. A lifelong practice, to heal. Not him, but myself. Thank you, OTE.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2018
  5. OTE

    OTE Guest

    You got it! One day at a time!
  6. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Hi Bluebell.

    You know how sorry I am for the pain you feel, which I know all too well.

    If I am honest, I was not so different at that age. The only difference was huge. I had a professional job. I had had completed college. I had my own apartment. I was in intensive therapy. So, I ask myself? What do I mean I was the same?

    I believed that the solutions to my life, and my attainment of "happiness" was outside of myself. I believed somebody or some career, or being married, or whatever would be the solution to my deep yearning. Even in mid-life when I adopted my son, I was operating from the same playbook.

    I am thinking here of Albatrosses nuggets. One of them, as I remember, was seeing dysfunction as a blessing, and functioning as a curse. In the program, the participants learned to have gratitude that because they could not function, it brought them to recovery.

    I have not much power at all over my son, but I can choose to see my son in this same light. That his stumbling, and bumbling and bumping, and falling, can bring him to recovery, and yes, to his higher self. And that functioning is not all that it is hyped to be. Except, I wish he functioned.

    Thank you very much.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2018
  7. Snow White

    Snow White Temporarily in the Magic Kingdom

    Oh, Copa - I am so sorry that this is happening to you. Your son appears to know exactly what words will bring you back into his inner circle. Your heart must be breaking...again.

    Our instincts are to nuture and protect. We do not want to see/hear that they are struggling. When our children were very small, we would have traded our souls for their pain when sick or injured. The problem is that if we traded in our soul now, they would still need more - it would never be enough.

    OTE has a great point and I actually used it on the weekend when our daughter texted that she was fighting with the fiancé yet again. I acknowledged the message and replied that I was sorry things weren't going well but that I was confident she would get through this. As the evening went on, she became more despondent and then texted her "goodbye, I love you" message. These often "cryptic" messages stab me right through the heart. I started to go into panic mode wondering how I could get emergency assistance to her but I couldn't because I had absolutely no idea where she was (she relies on free WiFi, as she has no SIM card in her phone). I was forced to sit back and wait. The next morning, she texted - all fine.

    I think it is so difficult to maintain zero contact but I know that some people here have to - it's the only way that they are able to function. I don't think it makes anyone better or worse - it is what they have to do in order to keep their boundaries intact. Based on your post, I feel you are going to suffer more with increased communication with your son.

    Is it possible to use someone else as a "go-between"? Someone else that you trust that your son could periodically send messages to? In a way, I do that with my husband. Most of the time he is not able to process all of the high-end drama that daughter brings to the house. I become the go-between and filter what I think he wants to hear (or is capable of processing at the time).

    I don't really know what else to offer. My heart breaks for you - sending huge hugs your way.
  8. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    This is true. And profound. The souls in question are their own. To transplant my own, only affects me (quite negatively, I may add) and does not help him.

    Very much I see that the issue is all my own. Yes. They know how to trigger it. The goodbye, I love you comment by your daughter. Gee. I would think of suicide. Like how far have I fallen, that goodbye, I love you makes me think of the end.

    That panic you talk about. That is exactly the feeling I had, reading his text. Oh my g-d. I have to do something. I have to try to save him. This is my problem. This is the stimulus-response I have to break. To develop the interior restraint to wait. To pray. To return to myself. This is the practice.

    Thank you, ladies. I am very much grateful.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2018
  9. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet


    You have come SO FAR from where you were even a month or so back. It's like reading posts from someone else.

    That is great for you. You may not see it, but I certainly do.

    It's the hardest thing in the world to push away someone we love so deeply because we have to protect ourselves, and not knowing the outcome of this act.

    That is something I wouldn't wish on anyone.
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  10. OTE

    OTE Guest

    You got it! Forgive yourself if you falter. But with practice you'll get to where you can reply the way we suggest. Takes time and practice. Ours have been out of our homes longer than yours has.
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  11. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Copa, I am so sorry you are going through this right now. This sounds like exactly the kind of thinking g both of my difficult children have - the search for higher meaning somewhere ‘out there’, the rejection of what we think of as normal everyday life and responsibilities as somehow false and meaningless, the fetishizing of dysfunction and drama and pain as some how more authentic or more meaningful than building a life in our world.

    I am in that same process right now. Getting sucked back in, feeling like I should go into rescue mode. Worrying about every cryptic text. Wondering if I should send emergency services in when he sounds suicidal - not that I know where to send them. Feeling like me sending another $20 on Venmo is the only thing keeping him in this world.

    I like OTE’s approach of acknowledging without getting sucked in. It’s what I’m trying to do as well. Not always successfully. I’m right there with you, starting over each day resolving to reestablish my boundaries. Stay strong.
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  12. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member


    I am so impressed with your insight into yourself.... that is the important piece here. Your son will always try to suck you in and you now know that... and you know your own vulnerability to being sucked in. I think that is part of being a mother!! We hurt for our kids, we want what is best for them, it is easy to get sucked in and to have whatever is going on with them disturb whatever sense of peace we have managed to achieve. So it is totally understandable that this interaction with your son rocked you a bit. What is impressive is that you are recognizing it, and recognizing that this part of it is about you and how you react.

    I know for me one thing I try to do when I get sucked in is not necessarily let my son know how much I got sucked in. So he doesnt necessarily see my reaction..... (I cant always do this if he really gets me going but I try).

    Also keeping any contact to texts rather than phone conversations helps.... keeps the distance a bit.

    And if you dont want contact at all you dont have to have contact.

    Do some things that you enjoy today!!’

  13. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Thank you very much, Ladies.
    Reading this is a sucker punch. Because this is exactly what hits me. The absurdity and futility of it. Thank you, Elsi.
    OK, tl. This is really getting personal here. Because I cannot let go of the idea that I IMPART TRUTH. Oh. I wish I was feeling more shame here. I mean, I feel some embarrassment, but not enough.

    This is part of the problem. I really really believe that I know how to live. Oh. I should be burying my head with the hubris of this. But I really believe that my son would be better off hearing my words.

    The problems with this are myriad. First. He could care less. Second. That it comes from me, makes the words even more drivel. Third. Who asked? Did he ask for my counsel? Did he say one thing to give me the right to opine?

    Why oh why do I not get that this is his life, not mine. His life to suffer. His life to learn.

    That he triggers me, is true. What is he seeking? Just the connection? Is he reassured by this, that I am still on the line?

    I do not know how to learn to accept the reality that he could care less what I think.

    Or is that I believe this is my job. To spout drivel?
    You see, RN. Once again, I seem to be the last to know here. It is like being shot. I have never been shot, thank goodness. But I have heard that you do not know until you see the blood, or because you can't move or because some body part does not move. I knew I felt horrible, but really, I do not start thinking about it until there is a bloody gash and the blood is spurting out, and I need a transfusion. OK. Maybe this time I did not need the transfusion.

    I need to have some rules in place for myself. I was weakened by hearing his voice. Maybe I need to block him. And to tell him to communicate through M. But that seems so radical and cruel. After all, he is my son and I love him. He has nobody else. It seems wrong to punish him, for my own limits.

    But the reality of things, if I face it, is that in my heart I believe that I help him. I believe that the connection serves him. And I have been willing to sacrifice myself.

    What I am only now facing, is that maybe this is a self-deception. Maybe my presence in his life since he is an adult, does not help at all.

    Oh. Here I am feeling bad again. I think I will go to the dollar store.

    Thank you all, very much.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2018
  14. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Yes! This is me also. 100%.

    I am going through the same thought process right now. Who else does he have? Maybe my words will make a difference. Maybe it will be the lifeline he needs to keep going and finally make a change. How cruel would it be to cut him off?

    But maintaining that connection is a sacrifice of my own peace and sanity. I think you’re right, we need to let go of the idea that our wise counsel is going to make a difference.

    Right now, I am fighting the urge to text mine and ask are you Ok? Where are you? What’s going on? But when I do that - I am just inviting him to latch on to me as the answer to his problems. I just need some money. Can you look this up for me. Can you call this person for me. Can you help me figure this out.

    No. I can’t. I didn’t make this mess. And I’ve made the life choices I have made precisely because I don’t want to deal with these kinds of messes, and I don’t know how anyway.

    Sigh. It’s so hard. I hope you find something good at the dollar store.
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  15. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member


    I think it is a balancing act between supporting and loving your son and taking care of yourself and not sacrificing yourself. I dont think it has to supporting him and sacrifcing himself or not supporting him at all.... but it is finding the balance. I think that is what you are trying to do right now.

    I do believe a connection with you serves him and that he wants and needs that. I think your words are less important than the connection. I get the impulse and drive to give your son the information (or wisdom) he needs. I have to work really hard to keep my mouth shut and many times I dont succeed and I say way too much. I have learned over time that my son often doesnt learn from what I say... he tends to learn from his own experience.
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  16. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    That was suppose to be I dont think it has to be supporting him and sacrificing yourself....
  17. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    I think this is very normal considering the situation. I feel the same way with my son. I don't want to hear the sadness, desperation or anger in his voice. For myself, I would much rather communicate via the written word - PM on Facebook or text.

    This is wonderful Copa! So well said and written. As long as you feel the need to share these kinds of things with your son, then do so. I used to share these types of things with my son. I stopped when he started complaining that he did not want to hear what I had to say.
    I still have the urge to tell him how he could be making better choices and things he could be doing to help himself but I don't.
    We each have to find our own balancing point with our adult children. For some, they are able to detach and move on quickly and for others it's a longer process. There is not right or wrong, it is what it is. This is a journey, not a destination and it's filled with many hills and valleys.

    The main thing is to keep taking good care of yourself.

    One thing I do know is you have made great progress in your detaching from when you first came to this site.

    ((HUGS)) to you sweet lady.
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  18. OTE

    OTE Guest

    One of the many reasons I have no contact with my 94 year old mother is that all my life she has been giving unsolicited advice in the guise of being helpful. Well I'm over 60. When my sons were young her so called helpful advice about how to deal with my son's behavior was based on my implied deficiencies as a parent. If I just paid more attention to him, if I was just more x, y, z. He didn't need help, it was because I didn't .... My saying you don't understand, you don't know .... Was all wasted breath. Now my kids tell me I don't know what it's like .... Well no, I'm not a 20's young man in 2018. The job market is tough, nobody wants me because x y z... My saying that you need to dress better for an interview, fill out more applications, do volunteer work to get contacts, etc falls on deaf ears. What I'm saying is that if he wants your advice or perspective let him ask. My advice is don't share unless he asks.
  19. Littleboylost

    Littleboylost On the road unwanted to travel

    Hi Copa;
    I have not been on here much so I’m just catching up on this post. I think we need to try and find someway somehow to Invent a word. Word that specifically defines how mothers and parents grieve for that which is not gone from our life but out of our reach and out of our realm of possibility to help. If anybody ever comes up with an idea of what that word looks feels her sounds like that would be truly remarkable it would save us all an off a lot of writing.

    To truly come to that password we must let go with love and know what is healthy for us needs to be what we have to do to continue on with our life is impossible but necessary. It is a divine decision that is always a disaster to our heart and it feels like a death because it is one it’s the death of what we had hoped and expected for the entirety of our children’s lives and his parents we invest no more time in anything then we do our children.

    Day by day we go on we move forward we survive we do find joy but that undefined word that identifies that space in each of us that is gone missing intangibility but ever present in our hearts will always be there.

    Until we can define such a word will all be her posting sometimes brief sometimes that link but we will always be here for you as well COPA stay strong we well know we are all here for you.
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