Hello. I am new to this discussion board, though a veteran of some others.

I am posting this from a simple desire to tell my story. I am a somewhat private person and don't discuss this situation much outside of the immediate family.

I'm a man in my late forties and have four kids: two stepchildren and two from my first marriage. All are grown. My wife and I are raising our beautiful and precocious 5yo granddaughter, who is the daughter of our oldest child, my stepdaughter, who is now 26, and is our "difficult child" (as I gather is the acronym used here).

I guess I'll just start at the beginning. The story is a long one; I don't really expect that anyone will read it, necessarily (but feel free, if you've got the time); I just mostly want to get it off my chest.

J, as I'll call her, and her mom and younger brother were abandoned by their dad/husband when J was 8. I met them six months later, and our two families joined up a year after that. I brought two children, a girl of 8 and a boy of 6, from my previous marriage, which had ended in divorce a couple of years before. If you haven't been keeping score, the children when we married were: J, my stepdaughter, age 10; her brother, age 8; my daughter, also age 8; and my son, age 6.

Well, things were pretty rocky the first few years. J refused to warm up to me or accept my role in the new blended family and I must admit that after a few rebuffs, I didn't try particularly hard to connect with her either. My daughter as well rejected my new wife and after a few years decided to go and live with her mother. The two boys, on the other hand, adjusted readily. They have since grown into responsible young men, one in the Navy, the other a firefighter and paramedic.

When we'd been together about 1 1/2 years, I was transferred by my employer about 300 miles away to a large city. This was another blow to J and her brother: after having had their father walk out, they were separating from their lifelong friends, and adjusting to an urban environment and gigantic schools (1000+ in the high school) after living in a rural town with just a few hundred kids in all 12 grades. My two (I tried hard not to think of them as hers and mine, but I refer to them that way here because of their differing experiences and to keep them straight for the reader) had it easier since they continued to have regular contact with their mother and had already moved once before and were younger, and therefore had less attachment.

When J was 14, she began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. We didn't know it at the time, but she took to climbing out of her bedroom window and meeting other young teens to smoke pot, drink beer, and soon to graduate to acid and Ecstasy. Of course there were many occasions when she stayed out too late or came home with alcohol on her breath, resulting in tearful scenes, groundings, and promises to straighten up. These promises were generally kept for several months, or so it seemed, although the sneaking out continued one or two nights a week.

When J was 16, I was transferred back to our home town. J's school performance, which had always been good, declined precipitously; she was cutting classes and behaving disrespectfully to teachers. At this time she also began developing bulimia. The drug and alcohol use continued to worsen, along with extreme hostility and threats of running away or committing suicide when we attempted to impose discipline. Because she had missed so much class time, J was unable to graduate and dropped out half way through her senior year. Around this time J cut her wrists (not a true suicide attempt, though) and was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric program. After her release she lived at home for a while, doing odd jobs which she couldn't manage to hold down for very long. Also at this time she got pregnant and had an abortion, in which I, to my everlasting regret, was complicit. I think that regret over the abortion damaged her psyche even more.

In '98 I switched to a new consulting job to which I commuted for two to three weeks "on site" at a time, returning home for 3 to 5 days in between. Over the succeeding year J left home to live with a boyfriend, then had the first of her recovery periods, during which she got clean and earned her high-school equivalency, then enrolled in a medical assistant certificate program which she successfully completed. Then she relapsed into drug abuse. This set up the pattern that has repeated ever since: periods of sobriety and responsibility, followed by ever-worse relapses.

In 2001, she got pregnant again. This time she decided to have the baby (although the father refused to have anything to do with her; he was subsequently convicted and sent to prison for robbery) and stayed perfectly clean throughout the pregnancy. Six weeks after the baby was born, though, J once again ran away to live with "friends" across town, leaving the baby with her mother and younger brothers, and me when I was at home. J did visit fairly frequently and loved (and loves) her daughter very much, even though she was unable to care for her.

Four years ago I was offered a permanent position at the company where I had been consulting. We decided to move to Chicago, since both the boys had by now graduated and moved out, and so that we could be together and I could be more of a surrogate father to my granddaughter, being with her every day. J could not bear being separated from her daughter, so we let her move in with us as well on the condition that she would remain sober and work. So she did, for the next year. But then the partying and staying out all night started again. After a while she checked into a rehab and got clean again, but she relapsed after just a few months. This time she was using crack and would disappear for days at a time. Several times we threatened to throw her out and go to court for guardianship of our granddaughter if she did not clean up.

Eventually we followed through on the threat, and were awarded the guardianship about two years ago. After a few weeks basically out on the street, J decided she had "hit bottom" and went back into rehab. This time she moved into a group home/halfway house after rehab and stayed clean for eight months, eventually getting a good job working with developmentally disabled adults. She was even able to save some money and make a down payment on a car, which proved to be her undoing. She thought that she had her problems licked and could safely indulge in a little partying. Soon she had lost the job and the car and was living with a drug dealer and prostituting for drug money.

Once again she decided she had hit bottom, and appealed to her grandparents back in our home state to take her in for a while to make a new start. They did, and then we let her come back here and move back in with us once more. She was only able to stay clean about three months before she left "to go to a meeting" (that is, a Narcotics Anonymous meeting). She went on a binge, and says she thinks she was raped and robbed while she was passed out, although she can't remember it. She came to lying naked in some bushes. We got her in rehab yet again; she got out and came back here for Christmas. On Christmas Day she disappeared again. Then a month ago she and two men she was with were arrested on suspicion of robbery. She was released on her own recognizance and stayed with several different men until last week when she had two seizures (she has a history of seizures) and was admitted to a hospital where they are keeping her until they can stabilize her and then dump her on the street again or into still another rehab if a spot can be found. Meanwhile she missed her scheduled return to court and had an arrest warrant issued.

She has been using heroin, methadone, crack, prescription pills, and pot and alcohol. She is HIV positive.

She thinks she might be admitted to a 90-day program next month. If so, she'll need a place to live until a spot opens up. If not, she'll need a place to stay, period.

Unless we take her in, I'm afraid that she will die of an overdose or at the hands of a john or a street predator. But if we do take her in it will disrupt our lives and especially our granddaughter's, who is already in counseling because of all this; and taking her in just enables her to repeat everything again.

Well, if you've read this far, thanks for listening, so to speak. It has helped to spill my guts.

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
You sure have been through a lot with J. I'm sorry you had to find us but glad you did-you will find much support here. My own difficult child is much younger so I haven't been there done that but others who have will be along. Saying a prayer J is able to get off and stay off the drugs this time. Hugs.


Well-Known Member
Herewegoagain, one never knows what awaits us in this life. It sounds as if you and your family have been through a lot. I'm so sorry it's been so difficult for everyone involved. You and your wife sound extremely support of J and some day she'll recognize the fact that you've helped as much as any parent can. Stick around here and someone will have some advice which may help you along the way. Glad you are here!


Well-Known Member
Welcome Herewegoagain, I'm so sorry you had to make your way here. J's story must be a lot to carry around without talking about it. I'm constantly amazed that parent's of grown difficult children (gift from God = the child that brought you here) can remain standing after what they've been through. We have a very active and supportive Parent Emeritus Forum of which the members can offer specific advice and support for the day to day issues you are facing. I'm sure others will be along shortly although it's occasionally quiet on weekends.


Well-Known Member

Glad you found a place where you can comfortably tell your story. It helps....

My difficult child is still a little guy so I can't offer you much - I would suggest you go over to our "Parent Emeritus" board. This board is dedicated to the parents of grown difficult children. You'll find support and folks who have been there, done that.

Take care,


Definately sounds as if you have a difficult child.

A child's perception of homelife and the family dynamics certainly can play a part in problems like these, but with a history of seizures and drug and alcohol abuse that might not be the primary problem.

A seizure disorder can cause all kinds of behavioral problems. I hope Sara and others that deal with-seizures pop into this thread and give you info.

Unfortunately, drug and alcohol abuse is not uncommon for our difficult children. It's a means of self-medication.

If your daughter was younger, I'd encourage you to have a multidisciplinary evaluation performed ASAP. But, dealing with adult children presents a whole new set of problems for parents. Frankly, there's not much we can do if the adult child will not cooperate. You might want to also visit the Parent Emeritus Forum at http://www.conductdisorders.com/community/forums/parent-emeritus.18/

It's a heartbreaking story and more familiar to us than you might think. Although you didn't write about it specifically, we all understand the tears that have been shed, the sleepless nights, the chaos situations like this create....

It helps to connect with others that understand. Glad you found us.


Active Member
Hi there - My son is 21 and has a child too but isn't involved in his life either. We too live in IL - though south of Peoria. Drug abuse is so rampant among our kids. I don't know if you are interested or not, but Families Anonymous is a good organization for parents. We went to a couple of meetings when our son was 16 and the parents there were parents of adult kids - in their 20's and 30's. We left there in tears because we just couldn't face the fact that we might be living with this for years to come. Now, years later, we are those parents!

I am so sorry for the turmoil your step-daughter has caused. Like you said, your grand-daughter is in counseling for the turmoil. I am glad you found us - you will never have judgement or be told it was something you did or didn't do here.

I'm a professional as is my husband and we tell no one of our story with our son. It does not mean that we don't love him dearly because we do so very much, it just means that our lives have to continue too. In the 6 years that I've been coming here, I have never received anything but love and caring.

I know you will too. Hope today is a better day...judi


Well-Known Member
Though I'm very sorry for the reasons that sent you seeking help, and support, I'm very glad that you found us. Your situation, and story, is heartbreaking. I understand the release that comes from simply writing it all down.

I also do not have any guidance to give since I have not been in your situation. My children are not yet grown.

I will share this one thing. Though as desperate of a situation J is in, the welfare of your grandaughter is what is of utmost importance. She is the innocent in this sad situation and what is best for her comes first. J comes in second. She is an adult. Though, I do understand your desire to help her, your grandaughter should not be hurt in the process. That is the perspective I would probably take if I were in your shoes.

Please check out the Parents Emeritus forum. There's a wealth of experience, such as yours, there.


New Member
You have been through a lot. I am glad you found you way here. It always helps to have support. I hopr you find a way to help J without bringing J back into your home. It will affect your granddaughter. I am learning firsthand about that, and the difficult child affecting my granddaughter is not the child's parent. It was her uncle. I didn't realize in time the damage it could do.
No one but you can make this decision, but I do have a suggestion. Try to connect with Nami or National Alliance of Mental Illness and see if they can help. I really feel for your position, I'm so sorry for your pain.


I'm glad you found a place you felt safe to unburden yourself. It helps to be heard and not judged...just unconditional support. It has to be incredibly difficult to watch a child you love self-destruct. You're left feeling like you're between a rock and a hard place. What to do?

As a child of a parent who was a drug-abuser (my father), I can give you my perspective in regards to your granddaughter. My mother divorced my father when I was 8 and my brother was 12. She stayed married to him too long. She kept hoping things would change, kept tyring to make change, etc. She didn't stay for financial reasons as she owned her own successful business.

By that age, I could smell pot from a mile away. I could identify it growing. I knew what the white powder on the table was. I knew what bad acid trips looked like. I could look at anyone and tell by their eyes if they were high. I knew each of my dad's friends and brothers drug of choice. I knew how to roll a joint. I was afraid. I never felt safe. My home wasn't safe. One's home should be their sanctuary. I still can't stand the smell of alcohol on someone's breath. Even just a glass of wine.

I no longer have any contact with my father. He lives 2 hours away. I don't talk to him. I don't send him cards. I don't care what he's doing. When I was 16 I finally confronted him with everything. He did have the decency to act somewhat contrite, but it didn't change anything. It did, however, give me a feeling of some control...over my life, over my emotions...took back the control I felt he had taken with the constant chaos. If that makes any sense. The drugs were more important to him than his family. Still are.

Children need stability. They need to know they are the most important person in your world. They need to know they are safe. As much as you want to help your stepdaughter, you have to be able to protect your granddaughter. It's an incredibly difficult situation to be in and my heart goes out to you.


Active Member
wyntersgrace - you are so right. THe entire reason we have no contact with our son is because he smokes pot, doesn't work and lives with questionable characters. He wanted his son to visit him there and the baby's mother told him no. So...he got mad at me (because he can't accept responsibility for his own actions - lol) and now we have no contact with him.

However, our over-riding concern was the safety of our grandchild. Kids must be safe and secure, knowing they have people in their lives that they can count on.


Well-Known Member
Welcome! I am glad you were able to spill your story. I hope it was helpful.
It really does sound as if your difficult child would love to clean up her act, but the addictions just keep bringing her down. She needs a serious rehab program, not one that will just send her back out there. I am not sure how to find one, but I would start calling local agencies with a list of what you think you need. Call the local United Way, the local churches, etc. Try the local Mental Health facility. I would be willing to bet your difficult child has some sort of mental health diagnosis just waiting to be diagnosis'd. No matter what it is called, there are probably medications that can help her cope with life in a more appropriate manner. She just may not be able to do it on her own. Seizures as someone mentioned above can be a cause of behavioral issues. Did she ever have a specialist for them?


timer lady

Queen of Hearts
Welcome - glad you were able to share what's going on here. We're a fairly non-judgmental & very supportive group.

I hope you find some help for your difficult child.
Thank you everyone. I was not expecting such a response! My wife and I appreciate the support.

Several folks mentioned that this really belongs in the "Parents Emeritus" forum. Perhaps a site administrator can move the thread into that forum for me?

Sheila -- Good point about the seizures. I didn't mention it, but the seizures began when J was 19 and had been bulimic and using for some time already, back then mainly Ecstasy and meth. Also she got a concussion in a car wreck (she has totaled three vehicles, thank the good Lord that no one else was injured or killed in any of these wrecks) before the onset. Her bio father and his family have a history of alcoholism and substance abuse; her mother (my wife) does not but was adopted and so her (wife's) family history is unknown. I suspect that the seizure disorder is either a result of these factors or a symptom, along with them, of some underlying neurological problem. She has been evaluated by at least a dozen psychiatrists and neurologists, none of whom has been able to pinpoint a particular source. These doctors have all looked at her case more or less independently of each other, each one starting from scratch, so probably a multi-disciplinary evaluation would be very helpful, and I think she would cooperate for it. But she only has Medicaid and we can't pay for a whole team of doctors. Sometimes with state aid the mentality is to move 'em on through the system and as a result there is not much communication between different case workers and medical professionals.

I went to see her today at the hospital. The withdrawal symptoms from heroin are pretty bad. She is very contrite, teary, maudlin. But we've been there done that before (I'm getting the hang of these acronyms). It's when she's feeling stronger that the biggest danger occurs.

I told her that if and when she has a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) lined up, she can wait here 3 or 4 days, max, for a bed to open up; otherwise, no deal. If we make her stay at a homeless shelter waiting for a bed I'm dead certain she'll bolt. But I worry about the effect on granddaughter - she comes first. Still I think it'll be OK if only a very short time. Previously J has not been a problem once she's committed to going in to rehab - no violence, screaming, etc.; and there is no danger of her taking gr.daughter and doing a runner. She does have her daughter's best interests at heart and has always readily agreed to do what's right for her, such as voluntarily agreeing to alow us to be made legal guardians.

Once again, thanks so much for the kind welcomes and ancouragement. I can tell this is a very caring and supportive community.


Active Member
Our family has medicaid and we couldn't afford treatment without it. I think it would be possible to get an evaluation with Medicaid. Find a hospital that takes it (most do) and start asking questions of the billing department. They would know if you need pre-authorization or what services Medicaid has billed for in the past. If they can't help call the case workers. Its wonderful that J is willing to go for testing.


Mom? What's a difficult child?
Welcome -
You should list your Grandaughter under your info as well!!! Since she is a part of your world as well.
I have to go with Wyntersgrace on this one... take you difficult child one day at a time and never let your guard down... My father is a drug addict living in Mexico... he has been in and out of prison since I was born and never thought twice abotu his actions on others. He lied and cheated, has so many dui's. But somehow has found a way to blame everyone else... He fed my brother and I alcohol and drugs without a second thought.
He is very lucky he didn't or hasn't yet damaged more people in his path!!!
I have had to let him go, I saw him with my husband when I was 4 months pregnant with my first child... he was drinking again, back to the same old attitude, but swore he was doing so good had it all together etc. He wanted to be a part of my life, I had barely seen him prior to that for since I was 17, he deserted us when we were born and I saw him a few times until I was 5 and then not again until 13...

I have not seen him since... almost 6 years this time. I hope we are really done this time. Coming from a child, it is tiring, I am honestly sick of it and don't want it for my children or myself.
I am looking out for my children this time, he will lie to them and fill them with stories.
I hope your difficult child really does get the help and stay helped this time... but I would put most of your energy into your grandaughter also. I hope you don't have to choose one over the other...
Good luck.


Does your daughter take medications for her bipolar? It's not uncommon at all for bipolar patients to self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol. I took a continuing education class on depression and bipolar and they said that something like 2/3 of bipolar patients self-medicate at one time or another. The hypomania that comes with bipolar can become very addicting and drugs and alcohol can recreate it, in a sense.

It sounds like she needs a rehab facility that is going to deal with a dual-diganosis...drugs and mental illness. I don't know anything about rehabs, so I don't know if they do that already.


Mom? What's a difficult child?
I should have mentioned that also, my Dad is undxd BiPolar (BP), and my mom who was BiPolar (BP) was a big drug user as well. She commited suicide at a very early age, she was 29 yo. I hope a rehab facility can help... or the mental health dept. I hope she is ready.