Magical Thinking


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difficult child has been living in our home for 2 months with the caveat that he not drink or use drugs and work full-time.

Found out he lost his job and didn't tell us, has been sneaking out at night to drink and timing it to clear a breathalyzer, writing bad checks, etc.

We tried to do the decent thing and give him a few days to make arrangements for lodging and apply for some jobs but told him he definitely needs to leave Tuesday (tomorrow).

Of course he hasn't done either.

Tonight I asked him where he was headed tomorrow and he said, "Biking to California. And I know you don't think I'll make it. And I'm sorry for what I did to you and Dad. And I don't care if I die doing it, but I'm doing it."

On the bike that's been rusting under the deck for 3 years, the one with no gears and tires with dry rot. And he has no $. And he has no racks to carry his stuff, just a large backpack. And he can't find half of his camping equipment, including his water filter and his cookstove. Oh, and he has no winter clothing.

Wouldn't it be great if he could just...not drink today and get a freakin' job?! But no! It has to be a big production. A life-changing experience. And a certain failure. He will get 2 miles down the road and find out it's REALLY HARD to pedal a rusty bike with no gears when you have 60 pounds of stuff on your back, and he'll show up at the door again with more excuses and promises, expecting us to change our minds because he REALLY TRIED.

And the end result is exactly what it would have been if I just kicked him out immediately.



Active Member
Alternately, the bike breaks down two miles away (if it can even get out the driveway) and he hitchhikes until he runs out of... whatever. I lived in Davis, CA for a few years, and a surprising number of that kind of person made it out there. All too often ending up in one of the homeless encampments. Well, there are worse places to be. Assuming he finds a way to crest the Sierras or the Grapevine. I know hardcore distance bikers, and they will affirm that it is NOT a piece of cake biking up a 7000 foot incline.


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So, he's turning himself into a martyr.

A common response to parents who won't put up with the c*** any more.

Hang in there Alb.


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Staff member
Boy, sounds like you know all the parts of the script now Albatross. So, you know what to expect. Might be handy to have your next bit of dialogue ready. Maybe handing him a list of the local shelters?

It's a familiar story for all of us. Hang in there. Stay strong. We're here.........


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Magical thinking...such a big problem with our grown kids. None of them ever address what their problems are or what could REALLY make life better.


one day at a time
Alb, you are such a Warrior Mom. You already know, and you already get it. You have come such a long, long way on your own journey.

I am glad you were able to give him another chance. Yet another chance. And he did what he will do.

It is what it is. It will be what it will be. You know it so well.

I applaud your courage in allowing him to come to your home for 2 months. It was so very generous of you. You can rest in the knowing that you tried yet again.

And he is still not ready. Especially at his age, still.

Maybe this is what it will always be. With your difficult child and with mine. Living in this vast gray area where there is a chance, a bit of change and progress, and then, something else, and it feels like starting all over again, after yet another bottom.

Maybe this is just the pattern of it all with certain people. We MUST learn to accept it, that is our only salvation. I believe you have accepted it, and open the door to it, and then this, again. I just hope you don't have too long until you are back to yourself again.

Warm and tight hugs for you wonderful Warrior Mom. You always teach me so much. I will pray that he is okay, whatever he decides to do. We are here with you, Alb.


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Magical thinking - I like it! :likeit: Also I like a term called crazy-making - when a person does or says something that they intend to make us crazy when reflecting on it. Like, sorta that you know the bike is in no shape to hit the road - difficult children crazy-making statement has already gotten you to thinking of all the rational reasons why this is to be a failed plan LOL He is trying to get you also to try and make sense out of nonsense= crazy-making
So next up: knowing the plan will fail, what is your next step? That helps take you up and away from the crazy-making!:D


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Albatross -- All I can say to all of the posts (including your initial post) is "Ditto".

Biking to CA? Uh hunh. I like the suggestion to hand him a list of local shelters. I'm no expert, but "magical thinking" may be contain several diagnoses. may contain none and he may just be honing his martyrdom spiel.

I, too, applaud your efforts to take him in for 2 months. We are currently in a semi-similar position (our difficult child is 47 days clean & sober as of today -- and, as far as we can tell, it's legit). We just had him stay here for 3 days and are well aware of what a stunning accomplishment that was (for all of us). 3 days. I cannot imagine 2 months. Not even when it's going well (and ours is going well right now). We've just discovered that, for us, S-P-A-C-E is a necessity to preserve our relationship with our difficult child (whom we love and want all good things for...........just as you do).

CoM is right......... You are a strong Warrior Mom! Also right that it is what it is. I find your strength and stamina mighty impressive. But I it necessary? Or is it healthy for either of you? Only you can answer that question.

Just know that we're all rooting for you (and your difficult child....whatever state he's in)! Take care!


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Thanks so much, guys. How lucky I am to have found this place.

Well, he left tonight after many clumsy attempts to let us know how hard and dangerous it was going to be with the hope that we would talk him out of going. Fat chance.

Nerfherder, he made it to the top of the driveway! Yay! Lucy, HA! That martyr role is it exactly. RE, that is a good idea. The cynic in me is betting on 2 days at the outside. MWM, it seems SO SIMPLE, doesn't it? I don't think I will ever understand how they just can't see it. COM, every cycle with difficult child means less (false) hope but more cynicism and anger. Neither of those are places I want to stay. That idea of acceptance as our only salvation really strengthens me. 2Much, I thought of crazy-making tonight, when I found myself actually heading down to the cellar to find an old bike rack I thought might help him carry his gear. Good grief, I KNOW this is just a game...yet I almost joined him in it. Headlights, 47 days is great! And I totally hear you on the space thing. And no, it is not healthy, and certainly hasn't been helpful.

I am not feeling like a warrior mom, more like a stupid mom. But I think one thing has been clarified. I thought his coming back for 2 months was for him, because he was pretty decompensated when he showed up on our doorstep. I thought helping him not worry about just surviving would allow him to get some of his ($(% together. The 2 months didn't go well, obviously. But husband and I can now honestly see and say that we really have tried our level best. It is just that the things that would in any other relationship be the RIGHT thing to do are not applicable to difficult child. We live and learn, and let go a little or a lot this time, and go from there.


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Albatross -- Your post was very insightful. And I love your sense of humor! Biked to the top of the driveway...LOL! Nah, you're still a Warrior Mom in my eyes. :)

You make a GREAT point about something, though. Something I'd forgotten about. How important it is for all of us to feel we did everything we could. We tried our best. We left no stone unturned. By this stage of the game, it's most likely we've tried most everything. You're right....that's so very important to know in ourselves.

From what I read, you have! So, I reiterate..... Warrior Mom in my eyes! :)


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Travel update: We heard from him today. (He took his other bike, the newer one with gears.) He called to let us know that his cell service ends on 10/27 but he could still reach us through WiFi. He says he got some spare tubes from a bike shop in exchange for a plug on Facebook. He says his food stamps are more than enough to feed himself and that he had a little money when he left. He says he has been stealth camping in the woods so he hasn't needed to spend much.

How much is true? No idea. husband and I discussed the possibility that this is all a hoax and he is camping in the woods behind our house (sadly, wouldn't surprise me).

I told difficult child to send me a picture of his bike under the next city limits sign he came to. He did; he's ridden about 300 miles and is headed toward CA. He sent a selfie too; he looks tired but his eyes are clear and he looks sober.

husband and I decided to pay for a month of cell service so he can at least call for help in an emergency.

He's always most comfortable living on the edge, but today he's sober and working toward a goal. So good for him.


one day at a time
Alb---I am glad you have heard from him and he is okay. The things difficult children come up with, yeesh! Okay so he is riding his bike to California. Maybe in some crazy kind of way, this is just the next thing for difficult child and something good will come from it. Please keep us posted Alb.

Warm hugs for you tonight.


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I told difficult child to send me a picture of his bike under the next city limits sign he came to. He did; he's ridden about 300 miles and is headed toward CA. He sent a selfie too; he looks tired but his eyes are clear and he looks sober.

Am I an only one, who secretly and just a bit is a little jealous of him? He is 21 and that is kind of awesome adventure.

I know it is not what any mother wants for their children, but I'm little envious that I wasn't doing that when I was 21 but was busting my butt at the uni.

I hope he stays safe and you are able to sleep your nights. And that after this adventure he slowly starts to make some longer term plans for his life. But at least he isn't coach surfing with his friends and doing nothing but trying to get next high. He is literally going somewhere.


Roll With It
This is the sort of thing my gfgbro used to do. If he had no child, or his child's mother was out of the picture, he would likely still do it. I still remember the first family meal that husband came to. Shortly after he arrived, gfgbro announced that he was going to walk to Washington. No clue which Washington, mostly he just made announcements like this to create drama and esp conflama (conflict plus drama) and to see if he could get my mother upset.

My mom's reaction was AMAZING! "Where are you going to put all of your stuff?" At the time he spent much of the year living in a tiny travel trailer in another state while he kept all his junk in his old room at my parent's house. The idea that he was expected to get his stuff out of my folks' house pretty much shocked him senseless and he didn't go into any more plans.

He very likely might have taken off on a bike to cross the country though.

One thing you need to remember: difficult children almost ALWAYS find someone to help them. There is always someone who sees them as a poor stray puppy who needs help and love and care and this person gives rides, food, shelter, etc... If they are traveling, when Rescuer A gets fed up/used up, they find Rescuer B, C, Q etc... because they never use up the available pool and because word doesn't spread that they are not the poor sweet stray puppy the rescuer first thought.

Your son will call with tales of woe and need. Be ready with phrases that tell him that you know he can find whatever he needs and practice saying no to requests for food, bike parts, etc... He left on the journey and a big part of his journey needs to be standing on his own feet and figuring out how to navigate the world without the safety net of mom and dad to rescue him. You might offer to google the area to find shelters if he doesn't have access to a computer. Or he can ask a local cop - they always know where the shelters are.

In the long run, rescuing him is only going to cripple him. Allowing him to go and fail or succeed on his own wits and hard work? This will help make him less dependent on you, and will give him a sense of accomplishment because he really did figure it out on his own - and he had an adventure all on his own. This isn't a bad thing even if it is scary to mom and dad. Cause it IS scary to mom and dad. I watched my folks go through this, and endured those calls home where gfgbro was sick, broke, truck broke down, etc... One year gfgbro was planting trees in a National Forest in Minnesota for the summer. He was camping out because they were WAY back in the forest.

My parents did NOT send him money, even when he needed truck parts and he hadn't budgeted for them. He had to figure out a way to pay for them because he turned down free room and board at their home and a summer job that would have paid his tuition for the following semester plus extra for spending. He chose the trip to work far away, and they LET him learn the lessons that came up that summer by not rescuing him. He could only call home every other week or so because there were no cell phones an that was how often he got into a town. The things he told us about seemed designed to panic my parents and get them to offer to send him things or money. They didn't because they felt he chose the adventure and that meant he needed to learn whatever lessons the adventure had to teach him.

When he got home I learned that LOTS of his 'hard times' were not true or were gross exaggerations. He earned more than he expected and his truck and $$ problems were the results of too much alcohol - drunk auto repair means you have to do the same thing over and over because you do it wrong or break the new part because you are drunk. He met some little old ladies around the nearest town and they fed him and did his laundry now and again in exchange for someone to talk to. He did help the little old ladies with yard work and repairs and stuff though.

Your son will be fine through this adventure. He is an adult and will learn a lot while doing this. It will likely help him grow up too. Especially if you do NOT send him $$ or rescue him.

Life will teach him that 'Do to Get' is how things work, and that everyone is expected to do work to support themselves. It isn't just Mom and Dad being mean by not giving him everything.

While this is scary to you, it is a way for him to be independent, and you NEED to encourage this by NOT NOT NOT fixing things for him or rescuing him or giving him things. He won't learn that he can do it on his own unless he actually does it on his own.

His phone will call 911 if he has a real emergency.


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Thanks, ladies! COM, yes, maybe some good will come of it, maybe not. Our boys somehow manage to find a few steps of purchase on the slipperiest of slopes, don't they? Suzir, I DO kind of envy him at the same time I am thinking how foolish it is. I know in my case I would plan and worry my way right out of a trip like that. He's at least doing it, even if it is with no preparation and little resources.

Pasajes and SusieStar, thank you. We did know that he could call 911 even without cell service. I did not realize this, but they can also make calls through anywhere with free WiFi even without cell service. husband and I debated long and hard about whether or not to buy him a month of service and even now wonder if it was the right thing to do. He is headed into a long stretch of rural roads and has FB friends monitoring his progress. We thought maybe having access to that encouragement might help keep him going. And yes, I am getting sucked in, and I realize that. SusieStar, thank you for sharing the story of your brother. I printed your post and am keeping it handy to help keep myself in the right spirit.


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Am I an only one, who secretly and just a bit is a little jealous of him? He is 21 and that is kind of awesome adventure.

Nope. In my youth, my favorite fantasy was to sell everything I owned, buy a pickup with a camper (I'm NOT an athletic person - no bikes for me) and just drive until I was out of money, get a job as a waitress or something until I had enough to move on and then drive some more. It seemed very romantic to me. Of course, instead I went from high school, to college, to law school, to work without any breaks and never had any adventures. So yeah...still sounds good sometimes. No responsibilities.

Albatross, my thoughts are with you and my prayers with your son that he actually succeed in his journey, and maybe grow up and learn some things along the way.


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difficult child texted me yesterday AM and said his food stamps were gone and asked me to help him out.

He gets kicked out of my house and now I am supposed to help fund his cross-country bike tour?! Gaslighting at its best. So that was a big NO.

Heard from him tonight. He left his bike chained to a tree in the woods 3 states back and has been hitching rides. He tried to get a job on a shrimp boat that didn't work out, got picked up by a trucker and now has some sort of job helping secure and unload for 18-wheelers, continuing to head west.

But he's feeding himself and having his adventure and sounds pretty happy.

So my son is hanging around truck stops hundreds of miles away with no money, hitchhiking and riding with strangers...and it is actually an improvement over his usual lifestyle. And just speaking for myself, I feel so much more relaxed than I have in a couple of months!

Another day in the rabbit hole.

Scent of Cedar *

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I told difficult child to send me a picture of his bike under the next city limits sign he came to. He did; he's ridden about 300 miles and is headed toward CA. He sent a selfie too; he looks tired but his eyes are clear and he looks sober.

The Hero's Journey, Albatross.

This time, these experiences, these challenges, may be exactly what difficult child needs.

I agree with the others who have posted. No funding. Let this be his journey, his time to learn who he is.


I am admiring him. 300 miles, huh?