Lost- I want to help my parents, but I don't know what to do....

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by plumpainter, Mar 29, 2011.

  1. plumpainter

    plumpainter New Member

    Hello everyone,

    This may be unusual, as I am not the parent of a troubled person- I am the stepsister to one. I am here to look for answers so that I can help my parents (father and step-mother) make healthy and constructive decisions when it comes to my stepbrother "SB" from here on in.. I hope someone here can give me some insight. This is long, so bear with me.

    Some bg- I am 33, married and have a sister- 30, married. Stepbrother is 24, living at home with my father and stepmom, in and out of jail, addicted to god knows what.

    When he was little, SB was diagnosed ADHD. Was on and off medications, but they never really did anything. He was adopted, and I don't think they know anything about his biological mother - but considering many factors, it would not be outlandish to think that his real mother may have been a drug addict when she was pregnant.

    He failed out of HS, went to a special school, kicked out of that. Got his GED last year. He has never been able to hold down a job without getting fired. He never expresses emotion- EVER. Only anger. He steals... a LOT.... from anyone and everyone. Stole thousands of dollars that my father was saving for my wedding. Stole from him multiple times since then- the most recent being a few months ago when he broke a window, went into the house and stole thousands more that he found in a locked hiding place. He has stolen cars, money from very good friends of my parents. He does drugs, but I don't know which ones exactly.

    When he was younger, he was in danger of going to Juvenile Hall for a bunch of offenses, but my parents convinced the judge to send him to a rehab/bootcamp program for troubled teens. Did absolutely nothing for him, cost my parents thousands and he throws that in my father's face to this day, saying he would have been successful in life but that "someone" made him go to a rehab program. My parents had him seen by a very respected and well known psychoanalyst who told my parents they would be wasting their money- the kid wont talk and he can't be helped until he will talk with someone.

    My father has never reported any of the times he has broken into the house and stolen money. Someone recently caught him on tape stealing and DID press charges, but the courts gave him PTI, so all he has to do is pay back the money in installments and check in with probation, and he is record-free. Before he got arrested for that offense (never showed up to court dates, so they issued a warrant), he told my parents he had warrants out and it would cost him $600 to pay his bail. Of course my parents gave it to him, and he took the money and used it on a hotel for himself and his girlfriend. He was arrested shortly after that for speeding and driving without a license (I don't think he has ever even had a license, but has been pulled over so many times for speeding and driving without one, that I don't think he will ever be able to get one). SB sat in jail for a week, and then of course my parents went and paid ANOTHER $600 to bail him out. When my father asked SB how county jail was, he seemed to think it was not so bad, and even pretty cool.

    I think that SB has antisocial personality disorder. My father firmly believes that SB has mental issues, but won't bring it up to my stepmother, because she gets upset and shuts down completely when confronted with something she does not like.

    A few weeks ago, SB threatened to stab his adopted father. He has been in and out of my father's house, but now that he has nowhere to go and has run out of the money he stole, he is living at home again. I have a sister with a toddler- she and her husband want nothing to do with SB. My husband and I want nothing to do with SB. I want my parents to let him go- tell him to make his own life now, but they refuse. My father told me that he would rather live with the torment of having him home than live with the guilt of kicking him out and then SB possibly killing himself (which he has apparently mentioned a few times).

    I don't know what to do! My parents are ready to retire, but they won't. Stepmother says it's because she doesn't want to stop working, but I honestly feel that SB is the bigger reason. Neither of my parents are in excellent health (diabetes and heart issues), and I worry about them constantly. I worry about this kid coming into their room one night and shooting them. I worry about my father having a heart attack. SB has no regard for anyone, no remorse and I think that he has the potential to be violent.

    We have all spoken to my father about this, but he is adamant that it is his job to "give him the best shot at a life that he can get". What I want to know is- when is enough enough? I don't know if my parents need some kind of intervention to help them out of this mess they are tangled up in. SB has manipulated them to the point that he knows he has them wrapped around his finger. I have never known my dad to be so clouded in his judgment- it's like he has been brainwashed. I think he does it more to keep my stepmother from freaking out than anything else. She is very sensitive, and a wonderful person- but she has enabled him his whole life.

    I feel so terrified, depressed about it and I don't know what to do. I don't have children yet, so maybe it's harder for me to understand..... I don't know. We all tiptoe around the topic so as to not make stepmom cry, but it has gotten to the point where we are all going nuts. We have a family vacation planned, and my husband along with sister's husband have already said they do not want us all going on the vacation if SB comes along. I don't have the heart to tell my father, as he really looks forward to these vacations, and so do we.

    Can I have your thoughts on the situation? Am I being unreasonable? Should I just keep my nose out of it and let my father do what he feels he has to?

  2. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful


    And welcome to the board.

    It's a shame for all the effort your dad and step mom are putting in to your SB, that it's all for nothing at this point. That doctor was right. If SB refuses to talk and has no desire to change, he's not going to change. No one or nothing will make him. It has to come from him.

    It's sadder still that all the "help" that your parents are giving him is only making it worse. As long as he has no real consequences to face for his actions, there is absolutely no reason for him to change. Why should he? If all he cares about is himself......and that certainly seems to be the case....then he's doing just fine and dandy the way things are because there is someone there to make it better for him.

    It can be really difficult to get parents to understand that parenting their adult child is not the same as parenting when they're young. Once they're grown you no longer have any control over their behavior.......from the day they turn 18 it's all up to them.

    I guess if I were in your shoes I'd try the "obviously what you've been doing is not working" approach, so maybe its time to try something new. Or ask them would they tolerate the same behaviors from a stranger or friend of the family? Sometimes as parents you get so caught up in the groove of behaviors you lose perspective on the whole situation and someone pointing things out like that can shake you up enough to make you step back and look at it differently.

    As parents of grown kids, most of us have learned that our kids having to face the natural consequences for their behaviors teaches far better lessons than we can. Of course your parents love him and want to help him ect.

    Is there a chance fear may be playing a part in their behaviors? Could he be intimidating them to some degree to where they are afraid to rock the boat and draw a line in the sand?

    When there is a difficult child in the family it's not just hard on the parents, but the whole family. I'm glad you found us.

  3. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Welcome. You'll find a lot of supoort here. I wish I could help you help yourparents, but the sad truth is you can support them but youcan't help them until they want help.
    In the meantime, read through the threads and through the archives. you'll find you're not alone .. a fact that helped me tremendously.
    In time, you might want to direct your parents here but, until then, use this resource to gain strength for yourself.
    Hound is right. Having a difficult child is hard on everyone.
  4. PatriotsGirl

    PatriotsGirl Guest

    You're parents need to understand how to help him and give him the nest shot. They need to attend an Al Anon meeting - well, actually, several. They will learn the best way to help him is to let him feel natural consequences and to stop rescuing him. Please, at least get them to go to a meeting where they can learn what to do to help him!
  5. HereWeGoAgain

    HereWeGoAgain Grandpa

    Hi plum. What a situation. I really feel for you and your sister and your husbands. Unfortunately there is not much you can do to help your dad and stepmom - they have to come to the decision themselves that enough is enough. Maybe if you and your sister and your husbands tell them that until something is done about SB, there will be NO contact with any of you?

    PatriotsGirl has a good point. Even if your parents won't do AlAnon, it might be good for you.
  6. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry you are in this lose/lose situation. I wish I had an answer for you but I don't. The ball is in their court and they have chosen to live this life. If SB truly won't seek any avenues of help I don't see any hope the situaton will improve. It's hard to admit defeat (especially when you absolutely know you are correct) but at this juncture I think you have to keep your distance and focus on your own mental and physical health. That way when "it hits the fan" you will be strong enough to provide the support they are going to need.

    Sadly, our children (with our encouragement) have accepted that husband and I have chosen to focus on our adult grandsons. We do not deal with stealing or emotional shutdowns but we, too, are still working as our savings have been depleated to the point we can't reture. The circumstances are a bit different but our easy child kids are not happy that we can't be normal seniors.
    Actually...we're not happy about it either but it has been our choice. Hugs. DDD
  7. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    I am sorry you find yourself in this position. It will be hard for you to accept that you have no power here to make your parents do what you want. And clearly they do not see things the way you do and are not going to do anything differently any time soon. I hear you fears for them and realize they may be very realistic. But you are powerless to "make" them do anything.

    There have been a couple threads lately about detachment that might be helpful to you. Detachment from our kids is not that different than detachment from our parents when you come right down to it. Except that you are downstream a generation and that means that your first loyalty must be to your own nuclear family - even if that's only your husband - not your parents.

    As others have said, they are not going to change until they decide to do so. And you cannot make them.

    There is one caveat here. If you have evidence that your parents are in danger from your step-brother (that means direct personal knowledge because they told you or you witnessed it), that he is verbally threatening or physically intimidating them or hurting them you can contact the local police and ask them if there is anything you can do about it. You could also/instead contact the local Adult Protective Services and tell them you want to report it to them as abuse. In both cases they may refuse to take your report and investigate but at least you will have brought the situation to their attention.

    As far as your parents, what you can do is tell them how you feel. I would put it in writing, not just tell them verbally. If it's in writing they can keep the letter and re-read it if they will.

    Avoid telling them what to do or not do. Avoid criticism of their decisions. Just tell them how you feel and what decisions you have made to take care of yourself and husband. You could say that you feel sad/afraid for yourself and them/worried that your step-brother may go from stealing from them to physically hurting them and that scares you. Give voice to whatever you fear in a calm concerned way. They are adults and have the right and responsibility to make their own decisions. Even when you don't agree with those decisions, in my opinion as adult children we have to detach from our parents and respect that boundary.

    You could tell them you have decided to attend meetings for people who are co-dependent or have a family member who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. You can invite them to come with you.

    And that's about it. And I would definitely look for and go to those meetings yourself and periodically invite them to go with you.

    In time there will be a such a big crisis that these decisions may be taken out of their hands by the courts or, when they get elderly, by adult protective services. Those agencies have the power to punish your step-brother and to reduce his ability to prey on your parents. But right now your parents are capable of defending themselves from him if they choose to do so - and that is not the choice they are making.

    Hugs and keep us posted. You are welcome here.

  8. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Patricia's post was excellent and it also gave me a "light bulb" moment. If you truly believe that your parents are being abused mentally or physically you can make an anonymous call to the Abuse Dept for your State. They are mandated to do an investigation although if your parents deny any issues it will probably be labeled "unfounded". Because I've never lived with volatility I honestly forgot about that method of taking action. Abuse is defined differently by various authoritites. Most of the time elder abuse is action that puts them in fear of their safety or places them in financial danger. You'd be surprised how many families steal all the money and food from the elderly.

    Of course even though calls are made anonymously it is often very apparent who made the call and the older residents frequently harbor really negative feelings against the reporter. DDD
  9. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Sadly, your father has already given him the best shot at life that he could get.....and he blew it. SB must live with those consequences in order to grow.

    Your dad sounds lovely. I want to give him a big hug - LOL!
  10. plumpainter

    plumpainter New Member

    Thank you everyone for these loving and supportive posts!! I feel much better just having gotten it out there and of course having read your insightful responses.

    My dad is my hero. He is the most intelligent, loving and wonderful person I have ever known, so this is killing me. I want him to be healthy and happy so that he can enjoy his grandson and any other babies we have in the future. My stepmother is also such a beautiful person- she is so loving and wonderful. It is hard to believe that with these amazing people raising him, he has still turned out to be like this. Every time he runs out of money and needs help, he tells my parents he wants to straighten out his life, and it starts all over again. Heck, I've even fallen for it a few times.

    We have tried to talk to my father about the fact that we are worried that SB will hurt them. He usually responds with things like "No one can hurt me", or "I can take care of myself". And it pretty much ends there.

    It's definitely not at a point where I would report SB abusing them. He is a very small (in stature) kid, and I think they are more afraid of SB hurting himself than they are of him hurting them. They don't tell me everything, but I don't think that he has ever directly threatened them. He only told them that he was going to stab his adopted father.

    I will try and talk to them about going to meetings. I will tell him that if anything, they might meet people who can relate to them, and maybe hear what other people may be doing to cope. Can't hurt to try...

    I guess you have all said what I have known in my gut- which is you can't make anyone do something they don't want to do. My parents can't do it to SB, and I can't do it to my parents. This is all so sad. I will do what you suggested and look for some meetings so that I can be strong for them when the next bad thing happens.

    Hopefully he will reach a day when he really does make a positive change. In the meantime I will be as supportive as I can of my parents and hope that he doesn't try to hurt them any more than he has...

    I am so glad I found this forum- thank you so much!

    Quick question- Can someone break down the abbreviations for me? (easy child, difficult child, etc..) I'm new and need a little help ;)
  11. plumpainter

    plumpainter New Member

    Ah! never mind about the abbreviations- I just hovered over them and figured it all out. Whomp whommmmmmp! hahaha
  12. HereWeGoAgain

    HereWeGoAgain Grandpa

    Very true. It is something we all struggle with.

    There is a thread in the Site Resources forum that explains the abbreviations. difficult child is "Gift from God", that is, the person or people that led you to seek help; easy child is "Perfect Child", another family member, generally a sibling of a difficult child; wife, husband, DEX = Dear Wife/Husband/Ex.
  13. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    I think the fact that a stepfather loves his s son that he will put himself out over and over to help this troubled adult child speaks volumes of what a wonderful man he is. Usually most of us with our own children have started to detach. Having the support of other parents through this site helps us feel stronger and to lose the shame of such a troubled child. At what point will the parents realize they are going to go down with the ship? No one knows. They may never realize what they are doing to themselves, their other children, grandchildren. They are robbing them of a full life to continue to enable difficult child. The saying "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" fits here.
    Your parents need information and support to make the best decisions for the family unit.
    Write a letter to your parents about how you feel, how you feel afraid and cheated. Once you go over the letter and fine tune, then read it to them. Leave the letter for them to re read and then move on.
    You can not dictate what your parents choose to do but giving them a loving view of how you feel is the best way to get them to understand. Their kindness is misguided. The most loving thing they can do is hold s son accountable and get him to the right treatment. Then they have to distance themselves. Doesn't mean they don't love him and don't give productive healthy support but they don't tie themselves to the ship that is determined to go down. He will seek treatment, end up in jail,or live a marginal life. Not all children grow up to be productive, law abiding, tax paying, independent citizens. Unfortunately.
  14. mrsammler

    mrsammler Guest

    It's also important to note that these difficult children *always* use the threat of suicide as leverage to make parents take them back in. I think it might be helpful for your father to understand that this is a very common ploy on the part of difficult children and usually an entirely hollow threat (and even if it weren't, do you really want to be ceaselessly manipulated by this never-ending gambit?).