New here - need advice

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by brdl1, Aug 17, 2011.

  1. brdl1

    brdl1 New Member

    I'm in a bit of a strange situation and I honestly don't know what I should do. My nephew (18) is living with me and I am considering kicking him out - again. He has family issues - Dad disinterested and only paid him a passing interest up until when he was about 6 (hasn't seen or heard from him since) - Mom has since married and had another child a lot younger than him (and in my opinion he's got issues with that too and he and his Mom's relationship is strained, in part because of his actions and in part - I think - due to other issues). He has been in trouble with drugs and has exhibited behavioral problems (anger, easily frustrated, has generally not taken account for his own actions until he's in a real bind, etc) to the point that at 16 he was sent to a residential treatment program for a year in another state (and has nothing but good things to say about the place for the most part for anyone wondering about those places) where he graduated from high school and worked on his test scores/repeating classes to the point he was accepted into a 4-year state University in a program he was (is?) really excited about.

    He came back from school and moved in with his Mom in a new town (she had moved during the time he was out of state) to start school and things went okay, but not for long - he was back on drugs (MJ is all that I know of) and got himself in a big fight, was beaten up, and started staying with me after that because his Mom was away a lot and felt like he didn't have anyone to see what was going on with him. At that time he said he thought it was a "turning point" for him and that he was going to stop hanging around with the people he was, and was going to get working on school. (Tears in his eyes, the whole nine yards, and he really believed it at that moment). That lasted about 2 months before he was arrested for possession with intent to distribute (MJ again) and spent 2 days in jail. Again, he got out, and immediately texted everyone in his phone to leave him alone and that he wasn't into "that stuff" anymore, returned to attending NA meetings, and things went okay for awhile. His Mom took his car away, and within a few weeks he went from being really focused on school and wanted to try to salvage his semester to being irritated that I was telling him "no" to things he wanted and was telling him other things I wanted him to do. Fast forward a few weeks later and in an argument in the car where he basically told me he didn't have to listen to me I said "you're right - but you have to get out of my car" and I left him right there on the side of the road. (I HATED doing that but it was ridiculous - some other things happened that lead up to that moment).

    He was officially "homeless" for about 6 weeks, with only the clothes on his back that he was wearing when he left the car. He did stop by his Mom's house a few times and get some clothes and managed to get a job during that time but he approached her when a living situation he had went awry and wanted to return to her house and indicated he was regretting throwing his opportunity to go to college away. Things went pretty well for a few weeks, but his work is in the neighborhood of all his buddies he has been in trouble with and he is still inclined to hang out with them because they are the only people he knows in this town.

    Needless to say the two of them have some personal tensions between them and it wasn't long before he came to stay with me again. I told him when he came back here "tentatively" that the following had to occur in order for him to stay here: 1) I require honesty (bad or good, I'd require the truth), 2) he needed to stay off drugs, and 3) he needed to really want to go back to school. If any of those things weren't working for him he had the option of leaving and going out on his own - I wasn't going to try to stop him. So, this time around things have been better. Better in that he is definitely more responsible for his actions, he "checks in" with me just to let me know if he's not going to be home when I'm off work (that rarely happened before), he has continued to work and is doing very well there, and he asks permission to do things (even though I have told him I don't want to give permission for things - I want him to think about what he's doing and give himself permission to do what's right and deny himself the things that are wrong). However, he continues to associate with the same people, and I feel like it's only a matter of time before things head in the wrong direction. He "brags" to people about using drugs, and he still very much associates with that lifestyle, even if he isn't using (I'm not saying that he isn't , but as a former pretty big user myself, I'm pretty good at telling when he is or has been). He has stayed out late a few nights, increasingly closer together as of the last few weeks (he's been here for about 6 weeks now), and although he does not appear to have been using when he returns, he seems to expect that someone will pay for his next semester of college even though aside from meeting with his advisor one time, he hasn't done much of anything to prepare and just wants to go hang out with his troublesome friends (he has admitted that those friends are still using drugs and that one of them was selling as well).

    So, basically I see things slipping and I'd rather not go down the full-blown meltdown we had last time, but I don't want to cut him off from the chance to go to school because I do believe he is genuine about it - at least right now...I just don't know how long it will last. It's a tough balancing act - when you are giving someone a second chance (of which I was given several before I got it right myself) and when you are just enabling them. He and I have discussed this at length and he is very sincere about wanting to go to school again but ultimately I don't trust him.

    I'll stop - I'm rambling and I'm not even sure if I'm asking for advice, or just someone to listen. Thanks!
  2. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hi, welcome.

    Ehhh...18. Does he or has he, ever had any sort of psychological evaluation to show any mental health or behavioral disorders? I think this would make a great deal of difference in my answer to you. Or maybe not.

    He is still so much of a baby at 18 even though he is considered an adult. I know he thinks he knows it all right now but we both know thats so not true. Is he violent at all at your home? Or is he just a pain in the rear?

    I think if he is just a pain in the rear and you really want to keep attempting to nudge him forward, I think maybe I might be so inclined. Consider where this country would be if everyone who "Inhaled" in college was tossed out. I think we would be minus a few

    I dont know...just my thoughts this morning but of course, I dont have all the facts right now.
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I understand you wanting to give him another chance, but in my opinion he is not going to stay clean. I could be wrong, but if he really wanted to do so, in my opinion he would disconnect from these friends and find new ones. My daughter quit drugs, but she had to move out of state to do it and she still fears running into her old "friends" years later.

    Have you considered making him pay for one or two classes at a junior college? Does he have to go to a four year college (very expensive). Why not see if he is REALLY sincere about his studies, which may mean more to him if he pays at least a good portion of his classes himself. Also, going to school and working should keep him busy.

    I would also drug test him from time to time. What kind of drugs was he taking?
  4. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    The difference between enabling vs helping can, and often is, a tightwire. Sometimes you just either do what you can and still be able to live with yourself, even if you know in some way it is enabling, other times the options are so clear.

    At 18, while legally an adult, in many ways he's still very much a kid. That does not excuse him, it's just the way it is. It does, however, tie your hands in how much help you can actually give him.

    From your post it sounds as if, while he might be slipping, he's generally following the rules. If you sat him down and discussed it, bring his attention to it, do you think it would prompt him back on the right track again? As for the college deal, there is the difference in wanting to do something and wanting to do the work it takes to be able to do it. My kids had to take care of all their own college stuff, even Travis with his many disabilities. I figured if they want it bad enough, they'll do what it takes to make it happen, AND be less likely to just blow the opportunity. It took Travis a few years to make it happen, but he got there eventually all by himself.

    However, college might be an opportunity to meet kids outside of his normal social group. I'm not saying college kids don't do drugs......cuz please we all know better. But not all of them do, and it will introduce him to more people and broaden his horizons. Community college is much cheaper and offer many programs to choose from that don't take 4 yrs to complete, and usually they're not quite as intimidating as 4 yr colleges. He can always ask which credits transfer.

    If it were me, I'd try the sit down talk and see what effect that has. It might be he just needs his attention drawn to the fact he's slipping once again back into old patterns of behavior.

    Welcome to the board.

  5. brdl1

    brdl1 New Member

    Thanks for your responses. First in regards to the college program - it is one of those programs that you cannot do at a community college - its very specialized. In fact, it has such a set courseload that you can't even step away from the program and do a semester somewhere else (unless its one of the 15 other schools or so in the country that offers this program) - and it's expensive, and full-time only. But luckily the money is the "easy" part in that his family can afford to pay - but of course no one likes throwing money away.

    As to the violence question, aside from trying to grab his phone out of my hand and wrenching my arm in the process, he has never done anything violent to me. The walls of his old house on the other hand have been damaged several times, although that was awhile ago. As far as I know marijuana is his drug of choice - he doesn't seem to drink much and prefers to smoke. He has admitted he's doing that again - how frequently I don't know - and he also knows that I'm not okay with that.

    He and I have talked about things numerous times and like I said while things are better for the most part, the core underlying issues don't seem to have gone away. Like I said, he is now more "responsible" about calling/letting me know what he's doing and for the most part (75% of the time or so) everything is fine, but he very much lives in the moment. So, if he's out with whomever and they want to do something and he thinks I will want him to come home if he calls me, he just doesn't call, or he will send some cryptic text so I know he's alive and then shows up when he wants.

    I agree with those of you who said that if he wants school, he will likely do whatever it takes to get it (my Mom says this all the time) - but I also know that I was not that way (I was a very very troubled teen myself - drugs and everything that comes with them) and I just kind of flopped along through college and managed to graduate with not all that much effort (and my grades reflected that). With me I think I liked being able to say I was in college, for bragging rights or something moreso than really wanting to be there. I also think that I excused some of my really bad behavior by telling myself "hey, that's okay, at least you're still in college." It's not that way with him...I do believe that he wants to go or he quite frankly wouldn't be here at my house - he would be back with his friends. I've told him countless times that I'm not "keeping" him here, and he has nothing to gain by staying here aside from a place to sleep. He has even indicated that two of them really were trying to talk him into living with them but he wants to go do school and knows that living with them would be a bad idea. When I kicked him out he was apparently planing on moving out with his friends - he didn't want to be here and was plotting to leave. After 6 weeks of having to work for money for a place to stay, he claims to have realized how hard it is to make ends meet when you don't make much money, and he was insistent that he could go to school during that time but he then realized that he cannot qualify for student loans until he's 24 because his parents make too much money and the state considers you a "dependent" until you are 24 for fin purposes unless you meet a short list of exceptions. Once he figured that out, back he came. Basically, he knows right from wrong, and for the most part I think he's trying to do right...but there is this part of me that wonders if I'm not being masterfully BSed (although granted he really has never been that good at it - when things are really off track with him it's pretty easy to spot).

    I really do think that he is hoping that somehow he can be the college student on the one hand, and the "cool" drug guy on the other - which of course we all know won't work. I just struggle with the idea that if he's not ready to give up the drug side of his life than he's not ready to move forward with positive things, and if he's not ready to move forward with positive things than maybe I'm just making the problem worse by letting him live here. I'm just not sure what to do with him - sometimes things look good, and other times things look really really bad - so I'm second guessing myself all the time (and the pressure I'm under from the rest of my family is rather immense as well, but that's my burden to bear and not his).
  6. keista

    keista New Member

    Has he ever gone to therapy? Ever seen a psychiatrist or been on medications? If not, he may have some underlying issues, that just got balled together with "teenagerhood". in my opinion all drug use is self-medicating (including caffeine and nicotine)

    What I've observed with my own kids is that kids gravitate to "like minded" peers. Not necessarily similar behavior peers, but those that have similar emotional and cognitive drives. How this translates to your situation, is that he picked these friends not because of their drug behavior, but because maybe they have similar underlying driving issues. The friends self medicate with drugs, so he does as well, BUT he was raised 'differently'. His family has a decent amount of money. Do his friends' families share this trait? Or are they from lower income families? He wants to do what's right for HIM, but is struggling to understand 'issues' that have not been identified and therefore may not feel that he quite fits in with the family either.

    Why would a kid whose family is willing to pay for college want to get his own student loans? That's just madness! UNLESS for some strange reason he doesn't feel entitled to such money. Why should his college be paid for when his friends have ZERO such opportunities? Such self-esteem issues could also be part of the problem.

    I say see if he's open to the idea, he should try some therapy to figure out underlying issues and find his way. If he has real issues, they can be medicated instead of self-medicated, and that could give him the support he needs to stay focused on his goals.
  7. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful


    Is he by chance paying you rent for his room and board? If not, his staying with you IS a payoff, it gives him more funds to party. Just something to think about if you haven't already.

    Ohhh, my bff drug that one out until she was so far gone there was no coming back. That one and "I'm working so it can't be a problem" or "I'm a good mom, so I don't have real problem" or about a dozen others. Sometimes we can be very good at lying to ourselves.

    The school year is due to start soon. Does he have all his paperwork in order or enrolled in classes ect? I gave my kids guidance on what I could, but the work was up to them. If they had a question I couldn't answer, which actually was a lot of the time, it was up to them to call and ask, fill out the proper paperwork, the whole deal.

    And no. No one wants to throw good money away, yet how are you going to know if he really wants this education if he's not able to try?

    I dunno. I can't tell you what to do. But I know that if he were in my home and using, adult or not, he would not longer be in my home or he'd stop using. Because otherwise, in my opinion, it's condoning the behavior regardless of what your words say. And if, heaven forbid, he bring it into your home and get get into as much trouble as he does.

    That for me would be my bottom line. Stop using or live elsewhere.
  8. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    My first worry is that as a former user, him bringing it into your house and living with you while he is living may be putting YOUR sobriety at risk. It may be a "little" risk at first, but letting him live in your home and knowing he is using pot puts YOU at the edge of that slippery slope. YOU have to be your first priority. I hope you have meetings or whatever to help you keep you on the right road first of all. I know a LOT of people who were drug free for decades and then had a child or niece or nephew live iwth them and "just" use pot and it took a while but after not being able to make the young one stop the older person who had been clean so long got back into it and had an even harder time quitting the second time around. I used to work at a "hippie" restaurant hwere I was one of four employees at the time (out of over 70) who did not use drugs of any kind except ones the dr gave for real problems. It is a true family restaurant - mostly drug free now and my kids have automatic jobs if they want to work there, and I went to school with the owner's kids and know so many former employees and it is in the former employees I have seen this so often.

    PLEASE put your drug free living first. He needs to either be drug free and living iwth you (and paying at least some rent even if it is just a small amount) or he needs to be living elsewhere. He can meet new people at meetings or in many other places. Just because he doesn't know other people doesn't mean he can't meet other people - he is using that as a crutch. I wouldn't suggest a couple of classes at a junior college - it is MUCH easier to do drugs and party and do very well in jr college classes in most places. I am a professor's kid and have seen it all. The 4yr college classes are more expensive but harder to get good grades in if you are partying. So he needs the challenge and to keep working, maybe an on campus job would be better than working in an area around his drug buddies.

    But mostly he needs to make a choice. Have you talked with his mom, does she have any opinions as to what she wants to happen? Is she trying to teach him a lesson by not having him live iwth her as he goes to school and not putting him in a dorm (if they can afford one)? Is she wanting him to be out and on his own to pay his way to see how expensive it is and to hit bottom with his drugs so he is truly willing to get help and stop using? Or is she just busy with her new family and not that interested/worried? Or is something else going one? I wouldn't care about the rest of the family's opinions, but I would want to at least listen to his mom's because she raised him.

    I also think some testing and evaluation by a psychiatrist would be a good idea. If he is trying to self medicate a mental health issue, then proper medications would help him find no real need to use illegal drugs, even pot. I also think he needs to have the university evaluation him for learning disabilities if he has troubles getting good grades. They can be surprising - my sons who seem super smart (and ARE) are thought by many to have no Learning Disability (LD)'s but BOTH have dysgraphia and dyscalculia, as do I. Heck, I LOVE statistics and got very good grades in math classes even with NO treatment for the dyscalculia (dyslexia with math). I got through with brute force where my boys have had help and have had an easier time of it. But if it hadn't been for other problems we might NEVER have known about it. The dysgraphia was clear since first grade with me, and with my boys, even though I never was diagnosis'd. It is dyslexia with handwriting. Mine was so bad that by a couple of days later I had NO clue what my class notes said. It truly was THAT BAD. No amount of handwriting practice or whatever ever helped. My oldest had a super kid-proof laptop to use through middle and high school because writing was so painful and his was so bad. These are Learning Disability (LD)'s that NO ONE would ever have thought of based on their test scores or grades. But untreated they could drive them to find ways to medicate themselves. THIS is why we suggest evaluations and testing.

    I think you need to think about this, go to some alanon or narcanon meetings - those for family. The AA/NA meetings for your addiction issues are not a bad idea, esp with him using and living with you, but the family meetings would help with the enabling/helping tightwire act.

    Just my thoughts, and I am NOT an expert.
  9. brdl1

    brdl1 New Member

    Thanks for the responses. I wanted to give a quick update, and answer some of the questions that were asked.

    First, I appreciate the concern, but I haven't used drugs in over 20 years and I have zero desire to do so. I didn't ever qualify as an addict...I was just a dumb kid who really didn't believe that drugs could kill you (who does at 16??) so I'm not worried about being exposed to anything - there isn't enough money or anything else in the world to get my to try drugs again. I had some bad things happen to me and they scared me straight - permanently.

    He has been to therapy - lots of it. I personally think that his issues are related to his father abandoning him (or being in his life just enough to do some damage and then abandoning him when he was 6) and having his mom get married and start "another" family just when he really needed attention to himself. But that's just my opinion.

    In relation to the peers he hangs out with - they are almost always low low income kids, who he really doesn't have much in common with (socio-ecomomically speaking). In fact, I think he likes to make up stories about himself in order to "fit in" better with those kids to be honest. He also likes to over state the trouble he's been in. He's liked the reputation of being a "bad" kid (I have to admit I often did the same thing when I was younger because besides my parents getting divorced, nothing of any note really happened to me). He does, however, like to "show off" how he is in college (wearing his college sweatshirts almost daily, even in the middle of summer).

    To the poster who said who would want to pay for college when someone else would pay for it??? That person also would have been me. He and I have a lot in common (or would have if I were 19 and not 40) so I can relate to that kind of ignorance. It took me years longer than it should have to graduate because I turned down money for school myself at 19.

    At any rate, things have been really good with school approaching. He's been told that his next semester is going to be paid for but that there will be no hesitation for us to withdraw him if things are not going well. Basically if school isn't his first priority then he can stop going and move out and that's the bottom line. He's been giving me about 75% of his paychecks every week to pay off his fines and start trying to pay us for all the legal fees we took on etc, so it's going pretty well. He hasn't been hanging out with his buddies nearly as much as he was and he has indicated that he wants to make new friends at school this time we will see.
  10. brdl1

    brdl1 New Member

    Oh, and I can answer the question of why someone would want to not have someone pay and pay their own way - and at least for me it was a mix of being incredibly naive about how much school costs and wanting to "do it myself" so no one could tell me what to do. I regretted this for years every month when I made my student loan payments.

    He also has become a little disenchanted with his friends because he thinks they are making "stupid" decisions and are going to be stuck living in crappy apartments for the rest of their lives because they aren't concerned about advancing in their jobs, saving money, etc.

    I also wanted to clarify regarding the rent issue - I don't ask for any rent because he is already so indebted to his mother (who he has been paying) that he only has about $30-40 per week after he hands over his paychecks so he doesn't really have much money. He is clearly paying out a lot of his earnings already. I am of the mindset that leaving him with no money is not a realistic way to solve the issues he's having and if he's going to get in trouble with $30 then he is going to get in the same trouble with $0.
  11. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    It sounds as if you have the school issue thought out and a plan, which is good. At his age it's difficult to pay for school on your own, if not next to impossible unless his parents income is low enough he can get grands and loans........until like 22 he has to count their income as his even if he is not living at home. Dumbest mindset I've ever heard of, but that's the way it is.

    As far as rent, it wasn't to make sure he had little money to work with or play with or whatever. It's living up to adult responsibility. But if he is paying on his fines ect, he is doing that, so if you have no issues with him paying rent, then I don't see a big deal. The idea of rent ect is to shift them out of the child mindset and into an adult one. As a child an adult is expected to provide food and shelter ect. When one becomes an adult, those things shift to being privileges. (also helps the adult shift from parenting as a child and parenting as an adult)

    I see no issue with letting him stay as long as he can follow house rules and rules for school. He's lucky to have an aunt who can see his potential and who is willing and able to help. I hope he doesn't blow this opportunity.

  12. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    It sounds like he is trying to get on track. Your support could be the most important influence in his life and I admire your affectionate concern.

    It is my belief that hanging with the "wrong crowd" often is done by default. Peers from his socio economic level may have "labeled" him as a druggie and therefore he seeks acceptance and approval from those who are below the mainstream. From experience I know this can be true and I also know that it often leads to more serious problems. If you're labeled as a "pothead" and "you don't live with your birth Mother" and certainly if "you've been homeless for awhile"....the easy child kids and their families want to avoid contact. Then you are back to the same issue of needing peer companionship and approval with-o many good choices.

    In your post I honed in on two major positives that indicate he may have a chance with your help. His educational goals have stayed steady to the course...that's great! Secondly he has begun to verbalize his observations about "bad choices". That's HUGE!

    Usually I am on the bandwagon for requiring therapy or rehab or evaluations. In your case I'm not so sure. I tend to think (obviously I don't know you guys, lol) that I would carefully explore therapy choices to see if there is anyone really good available for that age group. Some therapists are dumb as stumps or inexperienced etc. Anyway with two of our boys this is what I did. I researched until I found someone that I thought would be compatable and then I sat down and had a discussion. The premise of the discussion was simply "I am concerned that you don't have anyone to talk with that can help you sort through your feelings. You are on the threshold of big life changes and it is really important that you have the chance to freely express yourself. As much as I am always ready to sit and listen I know that you can't always do that with face, lol, some of problem could be me! I would like you to consider spending an hour a week with XX. He is a professional with an excellent reputation. Any and everything you might share stays between the two of you. I don't get reports. Nobody will know if you are discussing the latest baseball game or working thru personal feelings.
    Would you please think about that possibility? You don't have to decide right now. How about we talk about it next week?"

    Teen #1 attended sessions for a month or so. He never connected or shared but said after that time I think you and Dad are wasting your money. Oh well, at least we tried. Somehow he has managed to become a self sufficient and caring adult....and only recently has talked about his issues with hs Mom and stepdad. Teen #2 formed a trusting bond with his therapist. It did not change his life course much but at least he had someone he could share with...and he still refers to her as the only person who helped him. I don't think either was wasted money because there was an avenue open to share secret concerns and feelings with-o family input. Maybe that would help in your case, too. DDD
  13. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    What HD says makes sense to me. He is conflicted and has one foot in one world and one foot in another. And of course, you don't want to be"played," or worse, contribute to him making poor choices.

    Might be wise not to sweat the small stuff, but to set FIRM boundaries with reference to major red flag no drug use, no violence, no crime and REGULAR class attendance.

    The idea of sporadic drug testing as part of the agreement to stay at your place makes sense to me.

    Might also be good to keep the lines of communication open. I'm a big advocate for counseling and if you can find a person that works for him, that might help to keep him on the right track.

    Good to hear that he is paying you back for fines, etc.

    It really sounds like there is a lot of hope here! :)
  14. Bean

    Bean Member

    Hello and welcome. It is nice to have a place to vent/brainstorm, eh? Sounds like you've got a decent plan and he is motivated and towing some of the line. Hope things can continue on that path for both of you.