New here. 23 yr old son, a familiar tale, I'm sure.


New Member
I am really happy to have found you. I have read SO much that resonates with me. It's been validating and I need that. I am in my fifties, have 2 adult children (my early 30s is very high functioning, married, independent, launched fully). It's my 23 year old son.

My story echoes many here. Here goes:

My 23 year old son is my addict: alcohol and Adderall that I know of. Anxiety, depression, low self esteem, isolating, he is stuck. Where did the kid who loved to earn money and save it go? Where did the kid who could not wait to be an adult go? He was doing so well at both through his sophomore year at college. Played a college sport, had a wonderful girlfriend, friends, internships, was a delight. But I can see he was always always drinking at some level. That's not great. But we did not see disaster ahead.

He just finished round 3 of treatment in 3 years. Is in sober living for the first time. He's there, that's good. He is not working, barely talks to any of us, In fact, has not communicated with his sibling (who he adores) since the night before he went to treatment. He's ashamed and he's stuck. He failure to launch and in recovery. I don't feel good about him in my gut.

Like so many of you, he was a wonderful, loving and funny kid until about 14. There was drinking in high school, probably abuse of his prescription Adderall, probably other things too. He became such an arrogant person. Just beyond. So mean to me. So wonderful to other moms. Lol but man, it was painful. Just so loved by all his friends moms. And so mean and cold to me. He had been my little buddy. I loved our time together when he was young and also never expected him to NOT grow away from me. Of course he would. But did it have to be so negative? Anyway, that is really not the main point by a long shot. He did graduate from high school on time, went to a good college 3 hours away by plane. There were issues in high school: caught drinking, speeding, etc..There were consequences, he was articulate about his role.

It was when he decided to get sober at 20, that the roller coaster of psychiatrist, medication, relapse, more rehab, then pandemic, anxiety and depression, relapse, lying, isolating, going "dark" on communication with us began and only has gotten worse. He was not one of the lucky few to get sober round #1. He was sober for almost a year, relapsed, went to treatment, I absolutely thought he had it after round #2. But the pandemic, plus his choices, plus god knows what. . He did not in fact it turns out graduate in 2020. he lied. He was paying for it himself and he pretended to go to class and graduate. That's upsetting but we have so many unanswered questions. None of them point to his being in a good place.

He arranged for this last round of inpatient treatment, and has barely communicated with any of us since he went in. He completed the program, is now in sober living for the first time, not working, not communicating. None of it feels very good minus the fact he sought treatment and sought sober living. As I type that those are huge. But he is not reaching out at all. He is not working. I doubt he has a true daily routine. It's sober living so they are not (at this one), giving a ton of structure. But it is clear the guy who runs it cares. HIs Dad (my ex but we are very in sync on communicating on this issue) called the sober living house just to say "We love him, he is not in communication, can you tell us if he's OK?" The guy was professional and said "He is here. Laying very low. The guys are trying to get him to go out more. It's early days. Don't take it personally. He has a lot of shame."

But all the bizarre stuff coming to light: the huge sums of money spent (not going to say how much but way more than could be spent on just drugs and alcohol). Couple that with almost no communication. Once he told me that he did not really graduate from college and I said "That is something that you can address when you are ready. We care about your sobriety right now." He claimed to be super relieved. But he's gone dark since then. Leading us to believe that there is so much more to the story that is: Shameful, shocking, embarrassing...Without information, we are left to wonder: gambling, lending or giving money, buying things, being conned, being blackmailed, sex addiction, lawyer fees, the list goes on.

We have been very supportive and still are. Not shaming him about dropping out, but he is going so dark that we feel until he gets the other stuff (that we belive is there off his chest, he is not going to move on.

For the very first time, I know that I must step back and let him solve this himself. I was frantically searching "Failure to Launch programs" and I know the madness has to stop. My mood has been dictated by how he is doing. I have to stop that. I'm a wreck and know that this has been going on for a long time. Things did not add up in the last year plus. They didn't. I truly believed the revelation of the not graduating would ease his mind.

Speaking of plane rides, this sober living is about 6 hours by plane away. My husband (his step dad) and I are going to that city for Christmas. I text short and loving things. The last time we talked, he did not say "Don't come" when I said we were coming for Christmas. He texts me once every two weeks to the 2-4 texts I send. His sibling and Dad are getting nothing in response to their kind and loving texts. It's cruel. He has to know that. He doesn't need more shame but he is doing real damage to our family.

I don't have any tough cards to play really because he is also paying for sober living himself. I have to set a boundary here, he has his some of own money and I don't have the bandwith for any discussion here about inheritance, etc...I would be revealing way too much to explain. He did not touch the money that was his for years. We were thrilled that he was so responsible. He was. It's not enough money for a lifetime and it would appear he is going to blow through it. Not working is a terrible idea for him. But I fear that he is going to hit rock bottom before he decides to get a routine and a job. Yes, I know that has to happen sometimes, but I never in a million years thought it would be him.

I have to disengage with love while also being worried sick about what the real truth is behind his story. I also feel like he's slipping away. I really do.


Well-Known Member
Glad you found us...sorry you needed to! I hate the unresponsiveness to us. I have tried to text my dtr (adopted grand dtr) off and on for 5 months...and I get completely ignored. I have tried to keep in touch as she has her 19mo with her and boyfriend in another state. If it wasn't for the baby I feel like I could completely detach.

It's so hard to be excluded while you worry about your child. There is a wonderful post about detachment on the Parent Emeritus forum. It is always one of the top four. Try reading it on a regular basis.

Keep coming back... most of us have had similar problems. KSM


Sending good vibes...
Sorry for the circumstances that have brought you here, however, I'm sure just putting your thoughts down was cathartic.

I just want to say that I was married to a severe alcoholic for many, many (too many) years. He went to many rehabs over the last several years of our marriage. I recall when he was in rehab and I'd visit him that he was not someone I even liked anymore. He was mean (not the alcoholic mean but the sober mean) to me, angry and and even a bit entitled. I thought that once we took the alcohol away, that everything would fall into place. But truth be told once the alcohol is removed, the hard work has begun. They have to figure out how to cope with reality instead of numbing it, they have to now deal with the guilt and shame that they have undoubtedly taken on due to all the people in their lives including themselves that they have failed, lied to, deceived, manipulated and lost.

That's a lot of "stuff" to process along with the fact that in my "unprofessional" yet life experience wisdom, most alcoholics have some type of mental issues. I say this lovingly and not in a mean way. There's usually some past hurt, traumatic experience, anxiety, depression etc. that was the culprit that put them on this path.

Try to step back and not expect too many answers right now or the loving embrace you hope he'd give you. Alcoholism is like an ice burg and you've only seen the tip of the destruction that lies beneath. I think he is very courageous to make the changes he needs to do for himself. Now it's time for you to make the changes for yourself. We learn in Al anon that "we too are sick from the disease of alcoholism". You have been affected to. Be kind to yourself and while your son is working on himself, take the time to "heal" yourself too.

Sending hugs.


New Member
Thank you Jay Pee. Your thoughts mean a lot. I totally agree that he is doing the hard and lonely work of sobriety. Side note: he really embraces the peer model and has always gone to meetings and had a sponsor. So we have had some false comfort along the way that maybe it "couldn't happen" that he would relapse. His 2nd round of treatment really seemed like he was a new person. He even sounded different/had a great routine. When the pandemic shut his university down and all the in person meetings stopped for more than a year, that is clearly when the backsliding began. Not excuses, just an observation.

I am so different than I was even 2 years ago. I feel some distance from his problems. I used to feel no distance. But I have a long long way to go. He has anxiety and depression and maybe more? I was not privy to any psychiatrist Info since he was over 18 when he started going. He liked that psychiatrist a lot and we were grateful that he enjoyed going to that person.

Intellectually, I know the hard work is just beginning and that there is sooooooo much more beneath the surface. But emotionally, that thought can scare and tire me. Then I try and pick myself back up. Also trying not to dwell too much in "I thought it would look like something different at this age." That makes me super sad. I am allowing myself sad days. I have to. But my good days are more frequent. I'm sure he thinks the same thing about where he is in life.
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100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

I see a lot of similarity in our stories. The best thing that I did when I was in the thick of it is find a therapist for ME that specialized in addiction. That was a tremendous helping me cope but it certainly is NOT a quick fix. There is no quick fix for us or them unfortunately and that is what I so wanted!!

My son was addicted to benzos for a long time and used other drugs as well. Also there was a lot of drinking. I wish I could say my son only went to rehab three times. He went many, many times. To sober living as well. He was not responsive to most of them. Along the way I met a lot of wonderful people that managed the programs (former addicts) that gave me hope. One of the guys that stands out got sober on his own. Never went to one day of rehab. Just decided he was done with that life and knew there was something better for him. He was running the program and in college and very happy, healthy and well adjusted. He said he thought my son would eventually "get it". I did not believe him.

Usually the programs do not want them to have much contact with anyone outside of the program. At the last one my son was at (the Christian program that turned his life (and our life) around) we couldn't talk to him for a month and then only a short call once per week. We didn't see him for a long time either.

Anytime I visited him at any program he was in it was VERY hard on me. Don't get your hopes up. He is not going to be himself yet. Recovery is a jagged line. A very jagged line. Even though I had SO many disappointments along the way, every single thing that my son did was a small seed in him that eventually bloomed and he was able to get that monkey off his back.

I was the closest to him in his life and he was the meanest to me also. That is how it works. I don't know why.

My silver lining is that now my son is 26 and lives with us. He's been back home for 3 years. He is in college and working. He will move back to Chicago in August alone. Our older two boys are there. We will follow a year later. We are all currently on the Alabama coast for my job. He and I are very close again. I got my son back!!!!! He still drinks, sometimes more than he should, but otherwise is very responsible and mentally healthy.

He is not perfect. I am not perfect either. But our life is good. My son does not want to disappoint us anymore and he does not want to disappoint himself either. He said he is done making bad choices. That is music to my ears. I am so happy we are here now but my heart goes out to you as I have been there.


New Member
RN: I love that your story has taken a happy turn. One of the things I am trying to do for myself is be honest with myself. Right now, I have little hope. Some hope. But not a ton. It's honestly the way I am feeling. But your story is wonderful. I know it can happen. Maybe we will be lucky too/he will be lucky. Time will tell. I am trying to not have expectations and as the stoics would say, take it as it appears with no judgement. Just observation. Like "This really bad and disappointing thing happened and that's the way it is." Or a good thing will happen. I will greet it the same way (I hope).

Thank you for telling your story.


Well-Known Member
He became such an arrogant person. Just beyond. So mean to me. So wonderful to other moms. Lol but man, it was painful. Just so loved by all his friends moms. And so mean and cold to me. He had been my little buddy.
There is a lot of overlap in our stories. My son and I were very close. It was so hard for me when he pulled away, and began to talk to neighboring women about me. I felt so betrayed. I not only had to deal with feeling the loss of our relationship. I felt as if he was deliberately hurting me by withdrawing to other mothers. It felt to me like he was rejecting me as a mother.

The thing is this. Many, many adult children have to do the same. Oftentimes the closest bonds between parents and children are the hardest for them to deal with. They have to push away that much harder in order to individuate. To feel that they are their own people.
I know the madness has to stop. My mood has been dictated by how he is doing. I have to stop that. I'm a wreck and know that this has been going on for a long time. Things did not add up in the last year plus. They didn't. I truly believed the revelation of the not graduating would ease his mind.
You see, what we are dealing with here is OURSELVES. We come to mirror what they are doing. If they are in distress, we come to be distressed. Our lives come to be a mirror of their functioning, their blocks. We cease to be independent, functional people---and instead become dependent upon their thriving, so that we may function. We come to live through them. And because we feel they've crashed and burned, so do we.

The minds that need to ease, are our minds. Our sons are in charge of their own minds, their own welfare, their own money, their own education, their own addictions. Etcetera.

And we are in charge of ours.

I believe that this is the single most important role of this site. To help us realize that our children's problems are theirs and our lives are ours. And to the extent that the boundaries have become blurred, to restore boundaries and to help us restore our lives.

I believe that we can once again have healthy relationships with our children, when we come to grips with how our own thinking and acting has become distorted and dysfunctional. The ways parents handle this are varied. Some go to Al Anon groups. Others go to psychotherapy. Others need to limit contact with their children and focus on what and where they feel healthy and whole in their lives.

But the fixing that is necessary is in US. Fixing us. By focusing on our own self-care and lives, and our own thinking.

It is terribly painful. I will be the first to say this because I have lived it. In my own case I have come to see how much my distress about my son was actually dysfunctional. The pain I experienced about HIM, was actually pain I felt about myself and my life. When I came to grips about this distortion, was when I began to be able to deal with my own suffering and let him deal with him. Only then did a mature relationship with him become possible, because I was no longer dependent upon his functioning well--in order to feel okay.

Welcome to the site.


New Member
Hi Copa:

Sorry for the very late response to your thoughtful words. I am totally in agreement that my main focus needs to me on me: how can I heal and make changes to myself, my caretaking/co-D ways/my pattern of letting how he is doing rule how I am doing etc...

It has been baby steps over the last probably 2 years for me on this front. But the events of this fall (back to rehab for him and other) that startled me into knowing I just have to keep working on me. I am going to be 60 next year. I've only got a certain amount of vital years left myself. Who can say how long-maybe 40! But I really don't want to drag my own dysfunction into those years.

Thanks again.


Roll With It
You have a lot going on. I am sorry that your son is dealing with substance abuse. Sadly, it isn't just a "him" thing. It is a family thing. His substance abuse has made your entire family sick (dysfunctional). All the love in the world can't fix this, and that is one of the hardest things for a parent to cope with. been there done that in so many different ways. My brother and at least one grandparent had problems with substance abuse. I believe that so far none of my kids have had sub abuse issues because of all of the therapy, meetings etc.... we went through.

When your son was in high school, if you had the opportunity to raise his grades by 30% overall simply by participating in a once a week meeting, would you have done it? I know I would have, and so would my parents. When family gets into AlAnon Family meetings or the NA equivalent, and they work the program for 6-12 months, it increases their addicted loved one's chances for being clean and sober by 30%. Is it worth it to you? (If, of course, you haven't already taken this step).

I also strongly suggest reading "The Laundry List: The ACoA Experience". It will show ways that your entire family isn't operating in a functional way - for me it was insight that I was amazed by. I have never had a sub abuse issue. I think because my brother started so early (he was drinking regularly by age 12) and he was so abusive to me. I was the only one who saw clearly what was going on. He fooled our folks until he was in his mid 30's.

I hope some of this is helpful to you.


New Member
As I mentioned, he has been to in patient treatment 3 times. So I am aware it is a family problem. THe family weekends were very very intensive with hours of info for families. I've been in AlAnon and a few other formal groups plus other support groups. I have read The Laundry List many times. Again, we are unfortunately not new to this. I come here to vent and am often given some wonderful info that I have not been exposed to. I won't weigh in on whether I feel our family would have been spared this if we had done more therapy: my son saw a wonderful counselor when he was a teen. I won't blame what I did or did not do for his addiction. I think this is the substance abuse forum. You say you have never dealt with this as a parent? That's wonderful. I'm not sure why you are weighing in on my situation. I am not trying to be cranky but I am pretty surprised that you weighed in without taking into account that you have never been the mom of someone with a substance abuse. I found your tone very arrogant. Look at my other posts. I am open to input. But of course I have done the things you suggested. This is his 3rd go round. Please think carefully before you weigh in on this forum again. I will likely not post again.


Well-Known Member
I will likely not post again.
I hope this isn't true. The strength of this forum is at the same time it's weakness. I know I came here so raw and vulnerable. I frequently felt attacked.

It is true that some of us have more direct voices and we can step over the line in terms of our competence and experience to speak on certain issues. Unlike a 12-step group there is crosstalk here. I don't know anywhere else where on a given thread a dozen or so parents, when taken together representing 100 years of experience with what we are dealing with, their adult kids mirroring ours in so many facets. And more than this--the caring, the depth of feeling--as or more important than direct knowledge and experience.

I understand if you don't post again. Maybe you have resources in your life as good or better. I didn't.


New Member
Copa: You are making my exact point-this person is not the parent of someone with substance abuse!! This person offers that their own children have never suffered from substance abuse and they are pretty sure it's because they talked about substance abuse. That is not helpful!! That is like me going to a parent of child with cancer forum and saying that my Dad and other family members had cancer but I fed my kids lots of fruits and vegetables, so we don't have that problem in our house. But maybe the parent on the forum should consider they didn't offer enough fruits and vegetables and that's why their child has cancer. It is simply not helpful and why anyone who is not the parent of someone with substance abuse is posting on this forum is beyond me.