Need Wisdom and Opinions

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by AKAnnie, Nov 24, 2018.

  1. AKAnnie

    AKAnnie New Member

    Hello, warriors --

    First - sending lots of gratitude and love out into this forum for all my fellow (heartbroken) parents whose strength and wisdom have so blessed me.

    Then - I have another question...

    I posted not so long ago that my youngest son had confided that my oldest had sexually abused him on at least one occasion about three years ago. We have reported this as soon as we found out, have taken my youngest to counseling (which is going really well), my husband and I have also seen our therapist, and I cut off all contact with my oldest who is living several thousand miles away in another state. This was (I think) at the end of October.

    It has now been about a month...and my husband and I have been told by several people (and my husband has also read online) that parents should always maintain a line of communication with their child, even if it's only to say, "hi, we're thinking of you and we're here." This is in contradiction to what our therapist maintains. This therapist has worked with oldest son and our entire family for about the past 6 years so he has really walked the walk with us. He advises us to "quarantine" ourselves from oldest because oldest, with ASPD, is beyond any help we can give and speaking with him only bring heartache.

    I guess my question we or do we not maintain a line of communication? On the one hand, our therapist can be really tough - but to be fair, his toughness has really empowered us to take care of ourselves and set what feels like solid and healthy boundaries. On the other side are folks that seem to have the best of intentions...but do they really even grasp what it's like to have a child with ASPD? We venture to guess that they have NO idea what it's like...but their opinions and suggestions tug on our guilt. It's hard not to feel like we've "abandoned" our son when he has mental health issues that are rather severe.

    Help? Neither my husband or I really want to deal with oldest...but then we feel selfish and guilty. So how to balance our need to heal with the fact we are indeed, and always will be, his parents? I know ultimately it is our call...but I am wondering how you guys have survived/thrived in similar situations. If I reached out, oldest would be amenable to talking and interestingly, he doesn't ask for anything from us despite the fact he is living homeless. He just talks about crazy things like being Jesus and wanting to start a new religion. What I struggle with is not his insanity and lack of remorse per's the fact he sexually abused my youngest and who the hell does he think he is?! That is disgustingly WRONG and I just don't know, we don't know, how to reconcile this mess.

    So grateful to you guys...
  2. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Its your choice but I would keep your other son and any other other children in the family away from him. If you see him, do it in a crowded place. To be safe. Like a busy restaurant . Don't be alone with hiim in your car. Keep him out of your home.

    Unless the parents you talked to have been through this they dont have a clue. Ignore them.

    ASPD is very serious, as you know, and of yet nobody knows what causes it or how to treat it. If he sexually abused his brother he could have done it to others too and without remorse. Remorse stops us from repeating an act so remorse is important.

    Some people have no empathy. They are a risk to anyone who is close to them.

    We adopted a boy who did this and made an easy decision to never see him again but he was 11 when he came into our lives. His two victims, my younger kids, did well too. I dont know that it would have gone well if he had been allowed to stay.

    I wish you all the best. Protect the rest of your family and you no matter what you decide. Im amazed he didnt go to jail. Good luck! We support your decision!
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    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
  3. Triedntrue

    Triedntrue Well-Known Member

    I think all of us have struggled with similar decisions with our adult children. I would agree about not allowing him near other kids. Maybe you could supply him with a phone so he could get help if needed and be allowed to call once a week at a given time when you could be alone.
  4. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Annie, one thing I have learned is that ‘feeling like I should’ isnt always a good enough reason to do something. And ‘other people feeling like I should’ is almost never a good enough reason, absent other compelling reasons.

    These other people are not in your shoes. They don’t know your whole story and what you’ve been through, and what he put your other children through.

    I do maintain contact with both of my wayward ones, even when they are way off the rails. But they have not hurt other siblings in the way your son has, and do not have psychological issues that make them a serious risk to others. They are mainly hurting themselves.

    I think in cases where an adult child has hurt others and presents an ongoing risk it can sometimes be necessary to cut off contact for your own safety and sanity. You should not beat yourself up over this if it is what you feel in your heart you need to do. And you should not let others make you feel bad or second guess yourself. The fact that your therapist, who knows the full story, supports this path speaks volumes.

    And remember you are allowed to change your mind. Perhaps this is a choice you make for now, that you can revisit at a later time.

    I don’t know if that time should be now though. I don’t think it could be for me. The revelations about your younger son are still fresh, even if the event was some time ago. Your younger son needs to know you have his back and are on his side. I agree with others that he should NEVER be put in a position of having to be in contact with his abuser again. And I would want to know how he would feel about you maintaining contact right now. Would he see it as a betrayal? Would it make him uncomfortable to know you are in contact, even if he does not have to see his brother directly? I am not saying he gets to make the final decision in your personal relationship with his brother, but his feelings about it would matter to me.

    So what is it YOU really want here, if you set aside what other people think and your own ingrained feelings about what makes a ‘good’ parent? Do you want contact? Would it make you feel better to have a lifeline of sorts where at least you would know if he’s ok? Do you think having that connection will make any difference in outcome for your son? Or would knowing what’s going on with him only bring you more pain?

    There isn’t a single right answer here. You will always let be your son. You are mourning your dream of who you wanted him to be and the kind of life you thought he would have. This is hard stuff. Don’t take on more pain and guilt than you have to.
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  5. Smithmom

    Smithmom Active Member

    No answers only thoughts. And I apologize in advance and multiple times below. I live one day at a time. I don't make definite decisions for what I will do in this terrible situation 6 mo or a year from now. I decide if I will stay the course I have chosen today.

    As I recall when you last posted there was too much pain for everyone. So you chose to cut off contact with him. The idea was to heal. To focus on the younger ones. That can't have happened so soon.

    Talking about being Jesus generally refers to psychosis. I wonder if he even knows what day it is or when he last spoke to you. You don't refer to him missing contact with you. Only to your guilt about abandoning him. Is this true? If so, I would say that you should deal with your feelings in therapy rather than trying to make them better by contact with him. Just my thought from what you say. Apologies for being blunt.

    Previously you referred to healing your relationship with the younger ones. Will that happen if you maintain contact behind their backs? Wouldn't that seem like some sort of tacit acceptance to them? Once there has been more healing perhaps they would understand but it still seems early days. But right now isn't it like meeting abusive Uncle Johnny for a drink, as long as they don't know it doesn't hurt them?

    Sorry but these are just my thoughts as an outsider.
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  6. AKAnnie

    AKAnnie New Member

    I read through your responses and I hear wisdom...and I feel despair and despondency, too. There is no win.

    Have we healed? Absolutely not. Are we (husband, 19 year old daughter, 13 year old son, myself) in the process of healing? I think so. But of all of us, I think I am the one that struggles the most. What do I want someone asked. I want what I can't have, which is a healthy son. Since I can't have what I want, at the very least and selfishly, I would want to have contact with him. Because I think I can help or save him? No...not that but more because I at least want to know he's alive and I want him to know I'm here even if he doesn't care. I hear what many of you have said about basically betraying my other children by talking to Oldest...and I certainly don't want to, in any way, bring more harm or hurt to them. But then Copabanana posted in another thread the following:

    "Where I am heading here is this: The only result I have control over is loving my son. Of trying to stay connected to him. Of being present to him, as he lives his life as he chooses to lead it. But at the same time I need to make sure that I am not impacted by his life and his choices. This is hard work.

    You are modeling this to me. You are supporting and loving your son, where he is. He knows with all of his heart that you are there for him. That you have stayed with him and that you will be with him no matter where he goes and what happens.This is the greatest of gifts of one human to another. And to me it is the essence of parenting an adult."

    Okay....but in my circumstances I cannot do that? I cannot behave in such a way as to demonstrate that no matter what his mental illness is, that I will walk the walk with him as his mother even if I'm angry and absolutely do not condone his behavior?

    I was feeling good when I initially posted my question and now I feel overwhelming grief and despair.

    This is the worst... Your answers and bluntness don't hurt or offend. The hopelessness of it all is crushing. I don't know how to turn off my heart...
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  7. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Annie. I threw my son out of a property I own and he squatted in the yard for a couple of weeks. Every time he came to my house I called the cops. His presence frightened me. I felt towards him as if he was a predator.

    I tell you this because the first month after he finally left our small city, I felt empowered. As did you when you began this thread. And after one month I began to wake up at 3 am terrified for him and for myself. Overcome with dread. The boundaries that I had exulted in were illusory. I could sustain them for a few weeks, but they were artificial. My son lives in my heart. There is no way to keep him out.
    By being his mother, you do not condone his behavior, nor do you walk the walk with him. When people choose a path that is away from the norms of their society, they walk away from the people they love. Your son walked far away from you. You did not leave him.

    To love your son is different than walking with him when he is harming himself and others. He needs to know (and so do you) that you will not go with him where he causes harm. That is the only way that there is a chance for him to change, if you maintain strong boundaries between bad and good, right and wrong. To have boundaries is not to reject him; it is not to disown him. At least for me, it isn't. Boundaries are not inconsistent with love. They are a necessary part of love. Without boundaries there really cannot be real love.

    I don't know what this will look like for you. But I believe you cannot rid yourself of your love for your son; and this is not wrong or bad. Many of us on this board live with grief and despair, and I am among them. I have to say that my grief and despair have lessened since I reached out to my son. But there is nobody here really that can speak to you about the right thing to do, for you and for your family. I am thinking of that book by Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. It sure is.
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  8. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Annie. I am sorry if my post on another thread is causing you confusion and pain. What is right for me is not necessarily right for you or any other mother. Many mothers here, maybe most, think very differently than do I. And I am among the mothers that suffers the most with distance. I have a very hard time with making a boundary. That's why I know about them. I study them. In other people.

    I think what you are going through had to happen. You will swim through these shark-infested currents a while and you will survive, and when you reach the shore you will know. You will know, then, your own inner needs which have not one thing to do with what other people say or what they would do, but only to do with your own heart.

    There is no quick way to get through these dangerous waters and we stay there as long as we need to, to figure out what we need. This is a spiritual journey you are on and there are no shortcuts. The need here is to be as kind and patient with yourself as you can summon. This is really a dark night of the soul, but you will get through it. I know.
  9. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I do not know how to explain what I want to say except to say that a few years ago somewhere on this board I wrote that hope was not my friend.

    I still feel that way. I think hope is a setup and a betrayer. I can't really explain why but I will try.

    Hope is about a future that does not exist and may never exist. We only have the present moment. If you think about it the future only arrives in a sequence of millions and millions of present moments. And each of these moments is a gift to us if we stay present to them. Because each present is really a freeze frame window to who we are and what we need.

    You are getting a powerfully real dose of who you are and what you need right now. You are longing for your child, who you love. Independent of what he did or even who and what he is, you love him. That love has forced itself into the freeze frame present and it will not be frozen out. This is beyond will and beyond intention. This is who you are and what your life has been.

    I heard somebody say on the radio last week that the future is really memory. Because we cannot look forward without looking back.

    All of us here on this board share a common bond. Something horrible happened to our stories. Where we could no longer write a simple story with beginning, middle and happy ending. Some crisis could not be overcome. We had to rewrite ourselves.

    Our stories of our lives got torpedoed and we did not know how to finish them and more than this, the people who we were in the happy stories no longer existed in the same way as before. And because they did not, we did not exist in the same way either. It feels like we lost hope. But really what happened is that the story broke down. And needed rewriting.

    That is where you are now. Your memory of a happy and united family who was progressing to an inevitably hopeful and beautiful end, no longer serves. Memory throws you into crisis because the old story is of 3 children, and one is missing. How can the future be constructed with this missing piece of the story? It is not only the story that has been broken, it is us.

    Which is what we are doing with the millions of freeze frames, as we stay open to them. We are doing reconstruction work.

    You are doing this. But it is not done with hope. It is done with work. Which you are doing. Oh. How I wish this was easier and less painful. But posting helps. I think it accelerates the process. For me, every post is like a needle and thread. It is not the counsel that changes things (although I have been so grateful for the counsel and support), in the main, it is the work. We reconstruct ourselves and our stories here. In posts to each other we write ourselves back together.
  10. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Annie, I think this is the essence of it. You will always love. But let go of guilt. You did not abandon your son. He has walked a path you can’t follow. This is a hard, hard thing, and it hurts, just like a death hurts. In some ways worse, because there is no closure, and the hope that there could someday be something different keeps us bound.

    I like what Smithmom says here about choosing just for today. You can choose to stay away today, and change your mind later. You can reach out to see if he is ok today if it brings you peace, and then go back to no contact. You can choose not to reach out but to be open to connection of some kind if he reaches out to you. You do not have to see your choice for today as irrevocable.

    The only thing I would say is absolute is that the healing and safety of your younger children needs to be the first priority. And your healing and safety matter, too. Figure out what you need for your own health and sanity. Permit yourself to make your own needs a priority, too.

    I am so sorry if working through this and reading our answers has brought you more pain and uncertainty. Know that you have people here who will support you without judgment no matter what you decide. This is a journey we are on. There is no one clear way forward. Each of us have to forge our own paths through the wilderness. We are here with you.
  11. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Copa that was beautiful and perfect.

    For me and many others, we can love and try to stay engaged when certain crimes are committed such as stealing, drug crimes and others. But when someody goes so far as to harm or kill, especially a child, OUR other beloved child, then they are choosing to make even beloved parents AFRAID, maybe even repelled.

    Your older son could have come to you in tears and beg for help because he felt like molesting his brother. From what I understand this is a compulsion but it is a choice to do it. Not feeling bad about it makes it more likely he will do it again.

    He may alrrady have. Few pepdahiles just do it once but many dont get caught.

    I think you can still have a distant relationship with him if you want to, but I would not ever try to integrate him into the rest of the family again and I would not talk about him to the others unless they ask and then give short answers. It is important that the younger kids feel they are safe from him and that you support them.

    Love and light.
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    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
  12. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Annie. I wanted to add one more thing. I worked in maximum security prisons for many years. I met thousands of men like your son. Many of these men wake up. They come to experience a before and after in their lives and they come to have great regret.

    There are so many factors that could be underlying your son's descent. Right now he is living within a nightmare, and everything he experiences is perceived through its veil. The veil could be drugs. It could be an acute mental illness. It could be character. It could be neurological. It could be developmental. It could be weakness that could be overcome. Or most likely, a combination of various factors.

    But for many,the entry of a little bit of insight, or faith, or intervention, maturity, a great shock like long-term incarceration, or the removal of one determinant, like recovery from drugs--can catalyze a shifting.

    We do not have to assume that your son has been operating from what is the whole him, either that he is operating using all of his cylinders right now, or what could be his future self.

    The thing is that your intervention is not the catalyst that will change him. That is the only thing to be accepted right now. You would only be more collateral damage. I think that is what the therapist is telling you.

    How to have a voice into his life, we cannot know right now. But I feel confident that in time you will find a voice, a way. As the beautiful text/letter you wrote to him from a window into your soul, there will be other windows, too.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
  13. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    Hi Annie,

    My situation has some similarities and some differences from yours. You dont say how old your oldest was when he abused your youngest son... I assume from your post since you called the authorities that he was older. And that he was diagosed with ASPD..... so that is very different from my situation. But my older son did do some stuff to my younger daughter when she was younger (and he was too) and she has not forgiven him for it and they do not have a relationship at this point.

    So here is my take on all of it. Other people really cannot understand both what you feel and what you are going through and your perspective. Only you can really determine what is best for you and your family. I do think your first priority has to be your younger children, especially if they are still minors. I think your next priority has to be yourselves, because you cant be there for your other children if you are not both physically and mentally healthy.

    In our situation we love our son.... and we are choosing to continue to have a relationship with him even though he has continued to do some not great things to us due to his drug addiction. However I have gotten very clear that my daughter, now an adult, has every right not to have a relationship with her brother and I respect that. And in fact I have come to a point where I realize that she should protect herself because I dont trust him to not take advantage of her if it would serve him in some way... basically I think he would steal from her if it would help him get drugs if he wanted them. So I no longer am hoping to see them together...... I hold out that someday he will really get clean and sober and maybe they can work something out but that is a far off distant hope and probably a total fantasy.

    I also could see that there could come a time where I could say I am better off having no contact with my son. We are not at that point.... although I am definitely at the point where I never want him to live with us again.

    I feel for you. Let go of the guilt if you can. In no way did you cause this situation. Sounds like you did all the right things in protecting your younger children and getting them the help they needed which is really all you could do.

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  14. AKAnnie

    AKAnnie New Member

    Last night, I cried...hard. I felt...weighty with grief. My youngest never saw or heard; he is my first priority and I would never willingly or knowingly add "badness" to his story (shame, guilt, mortification, etc). Husband just sat near me. He knows I need space in my grief and even so, I very much appreciate his presence. I thought I would read any responses before bed but I just couldn't. I went to bed with a heavy heart.

    This morning I woke and looked to see. I'm glad I waited as I think I'm more capable of processing with wisdom and a touch more clarity this morning.

    First - Copa... Wow... Everything you wrote, the time you spent thinking about, articulating, and writing exactly what I need to contemplate and work through - I am humbled and so very grateful. And really that's true of all of you. The time and care and wisdom and's treasure for me, for us, I think. Makes me wish we could have an annual gathering so we could hug each other, cry and laugh together, then have some much needed fun...even if just a dinner or manicure.

    You are all right, you know. All of you in your own way. I especially liked the analogy of shark infested waters. That resonates as true because you know the painful zingers are out there but you can never quite anticipate when or how they will strike.

    I have much to reflect on and journal today. I will write your collective wisdom in my notebook so I can see it and be reminded of this journey I'm on, this rewrite of my story.

    So, so profoundly grateful to you guys...
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  15. Tired out

    Tired out Active Member

    I read all of these posts and I agree there is so much thoughtfulness here it is truly amazing. I can feel the caring in the responses. I love that I always feel the input given here is always with the absolute best intentions and caring.
    AKAnnie, I hope your younger son can find peace and heal thoroughly from the harm his brother caused him. Since the younger one is 13 is he to young to ask how he feels about you being in mail or phone contact with his older brother?
    No you wouldn't want the older one physically around your family (at least not at this point, maybe never). I can understand you wanting to know where and how he is etc.
    I can't completely relate to your circumstances, my son "only" stole from us (as far as I know) and was completely disrespectful when he moved out. He was always kind to his brother. He had little interaction with his older sister, I am quite sure he was jealous of her.
    I can understand you wanting to know where he is etc.
    Prayers and good wishes sent your families way.
  16. AKAnnie

    AKAnnie New Member

    Hi, Tired Out! Thank you for your kind words and anytime a child goes sideways, even if it's something that seems small (like stealing) it's not. It's not small to your heart. It's not small for your I appreciate you reaching out because wisdom and kindness is wisdom and kindness, especially from one mom to another with a broken heart. :wink:

    As for my 13 year old, I'm not ready to broach that possibility with him. He is doing so well. His resilience is something to behold and for the most part, my family is working hard to find our way back to health, peace, contentment, and acceptance. I want to shield him from his parents' continued heartache, struggles, and work towards that end (of getting to a healthier place). It's not that we can't be's that...hmmm...I think for him to be able to move forward in a healthy way, he needs to see his parents setting boundaries, sticking to them, and moving forward. It almost feels like (in my spirit) that if he continues to see and hear about my continued contact with his older brother, and then also see my heartache as I work through issues...then he would likely feel resentment, anger, and possibly even hate towards his brother for his continued negative presence in our lives. This is where things get tricky... I am inherently a very open, transparent, and honest person. Hiding things, even for the benefit of someone else, is really hard for me. I want authenticity in my life and this compulsion is so strong, I even have a hard time not telling folks about gifts I got them as I get really excited and want to share and experience their happy face as soon as I can. That is likely a silly example but that desire to be open is what matters. I feel that if I were to hide my talking to oldest to shield my youngest, I could do it...but it would somehow hinder my own healing because now I'm expending energy doing something that I inherently struggle with. But if I am open and honest about talking to my oldest - then there could be potential negative fallout for my youngest. So as much as I want to know my oldest is what end and at what cost?

    This is by far the most difficult thing I have experienced...and I have been through a lot...and yet nothing compares. Meditating on what everyone shared on this thread earlier has been wonderful, affirming, and most helpful. It still hurts...but I gotta stay the course...
  17. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    You have nothing to feel guilty or selfish about.

    There is no easy answer as you well know. Choosing to keep a line of communication open with an adult child that has caused so much chaos and pain must be done with very strong boundaries. I learned the hard way with my son that offering too much information about what was going on in my life was not a wise thing to do. I have had periods where I did not communicate with him for many months and once, over a year.
    The times I cut him off for was for my own mental health. Even though he's my son and I love him, I will not allow him to wreak havoc in my life. I will not allow him to destroy the peace I have worked so hard for. I would not allow someone else in my life to treat me badly so it should be no different just because he's my son.
    Toxic people are just that and whether they are family or not, we need to be very cautious when dealing with them.
    It was not easy not "knowing" how my son was doing during the times I cut off communication but I had also worked through some serious acceptance. Once I really accepted that my son was going to continue living his life in a wreckless manner and that he could die was I able to let go and move on. I accepted that I did not need to know all of how he was living and what he was doing. It was better for me to not know.
    I have limited contact with my son. We may talk once every couple of months and when we do it's never a "deep" conversation. I'm glad to hear from him but I know better than to try and engage in a meaningful conversation. I never know what his mood will be or what little thing can set him off. I always tell him I'm glad to hear from him, that I love him and I wish him well. If he starts to ramble on to the point I can no longer bear to listen, I tell him something like "Someone's at the door, gotta go" or "I've got to get going now" - love you, bye - then I hang up.

    It's okay to keep communication open and it's okay to cut them off. The key to communication is to have strong boundaries in place.
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  18. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Asking your 13 year old if you can talk to his abuser in my opinion is a bad idea. He may feel he has to say yes. He will want to please you.
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    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
  19. AKAnnie

    AKAnnie New Member

    SWOT - yes! I completely agree and that's why I wrote what I wrote in my response to Tired Out. My youngest is a momma's boy, very protective of me...and I just can't add any more burdens to him where his older brother is concerned. What a fine line we dance on sometimes...but in this, I must put my youngest's well-being at the forefront of my efforts.
  20. Tired out

    Tired out Active Member

    AKAnnie, I think in the long run you have answered your own question. Although you want to know oldest is okay you really don't want contact. Go with the "No news is good news".
    Will he try to contact you? maybe you should just block his phone number on your phone? change your email? Decide how much of a barrier you want to erect. You may go back and forth on how you feel about that for a while.
    I completely agree with others, YOU nor hubby have a thing to feel guilty about.
    I asked about you 13 year olds thoughts because we all have different personalities and what may be taboo for 1 isn't for another. I have never been abused nor was in an abusive family so I don't have any idea what it feels like. I would never try to equate what went on with our son to what went on with yours. For us it is the baby that has created the issues and he is 21.