No changes, which is surprisingly hard all on its own!

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Echolette, Feb 10, 2015.

  1. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    You know, for years I pingponged around reacting to the latest event (not to say disaster). I met with teachers, aides, principals, educational specialists, speech therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, I drew up chore charts and contracts. Later I went to court, met with police officers and lawyers. We went to family day at various programs (some in different states). I dropped everything to take him to crisis centers, I cancelled meetings and trips.

    And then he got older, moved out (to the street) . And I started detaching. And I've come a long way from my first post here in 2013, when I was contemplating suicide (no plan) to ease the pain. But this process is like the layers of an just goes on and on. Because it turns out that I thought, if I just detached enough, that he would get better.

    so this update post is just to say...he turned 21 yestarday. I didn't see him. He asked to see me to celebrate...and I told him (after thinking for a week if there was any way that I would feel ok about seein him), gently, that I couldn't escape the idea that he had thrown away every gift I ever gave him...real gifts like drumsets, and CD players and gift cards and warm clothes, gifts of love, security, health, education, support. And that I didn't feel like celebrating.

    He accepted that.

    Later he called my SO and tried to get agreement that it was reasonable to go drinking on his 21st birthday...SO replied, no, sober is sober, you know that.

    My ex did see difficult child..said he looks 40, not 20, is overtly manic, has long tangled hair and beard, and smells. Ex excused himself to go cry in the bathroom. I'm sure this is true.

    difficult child and his twin sister had no contact on their birthday.

    He does call sometimes. He tells me he he is thinking of going to detox, thinking of checking in to a psychiatric hospital, looking for work, living with a friend who is clean and supportive (insert new name here). He found a new place to shower, has a new thereapist, lost or reinstated his SSI or foodstamps.. He says he loves me, asks about lunch, sometimes he tells me he is going to train hop to Florida, or somewhere else warm, and what do I think about that, how do I think he is doing, do I think he is doing well? It is the same conversation it has been since he turned 17 and left home.

    So the thing I am struggling with is...acceptance AND detachment. I'm not sure how to get there. I had a lot of trouble with depression this winter, an illness that affected me in my 20's, but evolved into SAD over time, and had been pretty quiet the last few years (once I discovered full spectrum lights). This winter it clocked me, so perhaps my feelings now are colored by the grey land of receding depression.

    Still, I find it a new level of difficult to deal with change.

    I wanted you all to get an update...I always find that following the trajectory of other people's difficult children can be helpful information to me...part of my overall understanding of what we are all going through.

    Hugs and affection to all of you who walk this path with me.

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  2. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I love the mother-truth in this.

    This is true for me too, Echo. (I am so happy to see you again!) For me, it happens that I see it first in something someone here will post.

    And then, I see myself and my story there, too.

    But I can only see it when I can see it.

    I am coming to understand that dark little fascination I feel with some posts means that I am reading my story in someone else's life. When that happens to me now, I keep after it until I can see it.


    It is very hard to see ourselves and our families in a real way.

    It is almost impossibly hard to see what happens to our children by their own choice without judging them for it. How dare they do what they have done to the lives of my children.

    Since we cannot turn them around (and since they are so freaking mean to us in the things they say and the way they blame and manipulate us to get money and sympathy to the point that we cannot trust a word that comes out of their mouths) we turn our hostility onto ourselves.

    I do that.

    It isn't working well.

    I literally cannot change a thing for them. I love them. I am vulnerable to them because I love them, and I always will be. That is why this business of turning away or pretending it doesn't matter that my children are suffering isn't working for me.

    They are suffering.

    I do love them, so much.

    It is impossible for me to reconcile what is.


    P.S. But it is very nice to see you, again!
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  3. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Echo, who ever would have thought this life could be as hard as it is?

    One thing I read in your post is this: What if this never changes? What if it is always like this? Every birthday, every Christmas, every day.

    It's exhausting and depressing and bone-wearying to even think about it.

    Because I wished at one point that he would die. And I wished that I would die. I didn't have a plan either. I just wanted to stop hurting so much. I just wanted it all to STOP.

    It seemed like it just got worse and worse and worse, no matter if I did something or didn't do something.

    I remember reading others on this forum who said: There's no guarantee that if you detach and accept, that they will change.

    I didn't like that at first. I thought, well, if that isn't going to happen, why am I going to even try to do this? I'll just keep trying to help him, and surely, something will click.

    But the more I read and studied and listened---the more I began to change-----here, in Al-Anon and in books by authors like Pema Chodron and Cloud and Townsend and Beattie, the more I came to believe that I have to stop, first for myself. I have to because I am also going to die if I keep on like this---the stress and heartache and depression are so bad. And in order to do that, I have to learn to love myself more.

    And then came the 51% rule for me. I am 51% and he is 49%. I am just that much more important than he is. I came to believe that as well, in time.

    And then, I came to believe---another layer of believing---that IF there was going to be even a chance for him to change, I had to stop in order to create some time and space and distance---a clearing if you will----for him to step into and even have a chance to do something for himself.

    Because if I am going to be there with a response every time, then he doesn't even have a chance to do for himself, and I am pounding home the message with my actions that "you can't do it for yourself, and that is why I am here, doing it for you."

    So now, today, things with my son are better. I have no idea if the other shoe will drop, if things will continue to improve or if things will go back to the bad.

    I don't know. I just don't know and you know what, you and I will NEVER KNOW. We will never know what is next for them.

    If they are doing badly, we won't know if it's going to get worse tomorrow or better tomorrow. If they are doing well, we won't know if it's going to stay like this or get even better or get worse.

    We have to learn to live with uncertainty. With unrelenting uncertainty. I think that's the charge here.

    I will say this, and here is where I see a difference: there is a break in the unrelenting disappointment and grief when things get a bit better. I don't feel as despondent about him like I did. I feel....very....cautiously...hopeful...and of course that scares me to death, to even begin to I slap that down hard and fast and try to go back to....neutral. Neutral acceptance, and distance and infrequent communications and infrequent visits.

    It's for me, and it's for him. It's the natural consequences of what we have all been through for these years. It is what it is.

    I don't know if any of this even made sense, but I know your difficult child's birthday and the long grey winter and just life has weighed on you, and I just want you to know that you are not alone here.

    We are all at different points on the continuum but we are here together. I'm glad you knew that you didn't want to see him and you honored that in yourself. There's only so much we need to put ourselves through. I still wish so much for him and for you that something good will happen and he will make some kind of change...that will lead to another change and then another.

    Warm hugs my dear East Coast friend.
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  4. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Echo, Birthdays are tough!! My son turned 33 last month. I too think over the years and all the gifts I have given him, nice gifts, that were never cherished by him and are who knows where now. All I do now is send him a Birthday wish via FB as that is the only contact we have. If it wasn't for free WIFI I would probably never hear from him unless he's jail.
    My son lives 1100 miles away from me and I'm grateful in that I don't have to worry about him popping up on my door step (ok, sometimes I do still think about it and wonder what would I do)
    I have forgiven my son for deep hurt he has caused me and I have re-forgiven him many times there after as he continued to lash out at me and the ugliness in the words he spoke to me. Forgiveness is the easy part however I will never forget the feelings of panic and fear I experienced as a result of his actions.
    It took a long time to get to where I am now - detached.

    I and my husband have taken our lives back. We get through our days without that feeling of "having to look over your shoulder" because you don't what's coming next.
    I still have "moments" but I do not dwell in them like I used to. I have learned to let go quicker. This forum has helped, it's so good to know others who KNOW this hell we have lived through.
    My son contacted me last week, something about stabbing himself and going to the ER. His message was pretty jumbled as I'm sure he was high on something. There would have been a time that I would have lost sleep dwelling on it but not any more. I love my son and will always be concerned about his health and safety but it's out of my hands. He has chosen his path. I suppose to some extent I have greived his death. I know I've greived for the son I used to have and the adult son I had hoped he would become but because of his lifestyle I have accepted the fact that he could die. I've also accepted the fact that if that were to happen I may never know. It is through this acceptance that I have been able to move on with my life.

    I will always have hope that someday my son will decide to turn his life around. Hope is a good thing to hold on to but not so tightly that we strangle ourselves in the process.

    As for SAD I had a bout with that a few years ago. Not a fun thing to go through. I'm glad you are using full spectrum lights. Vitamin D can also help. The good thing is spring is a few weeks away. Don't know if you're able to or not but maybe next winter you can go on a tropical vacation.:tongue:

    Wishing you warm sunny days.

    ((HUGS)) to you......
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  5. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    The warmth of the forum!

    Right. It doesn't work for me. I don't think pretending it doesn't matter is the end goal..I may have thought so before, and it was a good way station, but....I think I need to go further into acceptance. It is not that it doesn't matter. It is only that it is.

    I am even a step beyond this...I understand, I believe, I KNOW that it isn't going to change. Not anymore. Not with all the years of this. Not with his illness. Not in this lifetime.

    Right? But it didn't, did it. Or maybe it did for your son...something seems to be budging him a long, I think I will give you credit!!!! Not so much for mine. All that happened was that he slipped from sight. To continue his self destruction, his suffering, perhaps his joy, out of sight. Out of my life.

    Sometimes I drift into thinking I have only three children. That is so awful in my mommy heart that I feel sick when that happens. But also...relieved. Wouldn't that be nice? just three? With normal, threesome problems? One is struggling in school. One has a whacked out body image. One is approaching college graduation, with the stress and excitment that comes with Grown Up Life. What if they were all I had to deal with?

    Tanya, thank you for recognizing and sharing SAD. I forgot about Vitamin D, I'll try that.

    One thing about having my own mental illness, it does teach me a humbling lesson..that when I am in the grips of it I cannot see clearly, I cannot remember how to help myself, I cannot control my irritation, my snappiness, my despair, my tears, my hollow, seated, waiting. I can't remember how to go for a run, how to meditate, how to cook.

    It is good to feel these things myself. It helps me take a step closer to not judging.

  6. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    This made me weepy. I can hear the voice; hear my own son's voice; after everything, still wanting you to say he's doing okay...when he so isn't.

    :hugs: I'm sorry this is so hard for you and for all of us.
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  7. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    I think that we have to ask ourselves what we mean by this "get better" goal that we have for our sons. What do we mean by this? That they'll get a job? Live in a house? Wear clean clothes? Join the rat race? Get married, have 2.4 children? Pay into a pension fund? I think that part of the radical acceptance is that we no longer think in terms of them "getting better".

    My son, and maybe yours, doesn't think of his life choices as a negative failure or waste. He sees his life as an escape. My son thinks his life is far superior to mine or any of the other sad people living in consumerist hell.

    I don't think my son will "change". He is who he is. His views may become more extreme, but I don't think he'll be a traitor to his core values. His core values are very different from mine, but radical acceptance means that I accept that his values are as valid as mine.

    That doesn't mean that I don't cry for the state he is in, that I don't wish I could have a calm conversation with him, that I don't wish that his life was less physically tough than it is, that I don't wish I could hug him without the smell lingering on my clothes.

    But I do have doubts that my life, at its very roots, is better than his. I do have doubts about the pointlessness of working to maintain a 'civilised' lifestyle. If he had access to a computer and an electricity supply maybe he would be talking on a forum like this one, about how his mother is a lost cause and how she has sold out and doesn't want to leave it all and go and live in a forest and how he finds it hard to accept that and hopes that I'll 'get it' one day.

    How do you think he is doing Echo? Do you think he's happy? I asked my son this last time we spoke "Are you ok? Are you happy?"

    "Yeah" he said "I'm doing OK... Happy? I'm working on happy, same as a large portion of humanity and far better than most."

    Well mine's the same, as far as I know. Crazy beard. Lots of new tattoos. Filthy. But less happy than if he was living a 9-to-5 life? No. I definitely know that he is not less happy than if he had "got better", if 'getting better' means conforming to a life that he's incapable of valuing, understanding or struggling through.
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  8. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    My son also thinks along these lines. He has gone into rants about our culture and consumerism yet he fills his life with "stuff" that he more than likely has stolen.

    I used to have these kinds of thoughts, wondering, when is he going to start being responsible and get a job. I no longer have those thoughts. I do have hope that my son will turn his life around but what that looks like is that he will stop stealing and scamming people, that he will stop abusing drugs and alcohol. If that were to happen I think other positive changes might follow.

    I would also like to be able to have a conversation with my son, one where we could really talk. I have tried but have had to abandon those efforts as every time I would try he would go into a rant about how my beliefs are stupid, he would say the most ugly things to me. I do not have a problem that my son does not share my beliefs what I do have a problem with it there is no respect for my choice. I have told him that he is free to believe what he wants and that I will respect his choice, all I ask is for the same respect. He know how important my faith is to me and I think that's why he attacks it because he knows how much it hurts me.

    I hope that in the midst of the life he is living that he does have some happiness and joy.
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  9. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    You know, when I first read this, my thought was YES! But really,that's not true. All I want is for him to be a healthy, productive member of society. He doesn't have to be a lawyer or a banker or anything "mainstream". Be an artist. Be a dog walker. Be a body piercer. Be a food service worker. Be a janitor. Really, join the freaking circus! Just pay your own bills, don't steal, don't be useless. You don't have to be in the rat race...your job doesn't have to be who you are. It's what you do for money to do the things you want to do.
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  10. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    Echo, it is so very good to "see" you again. I have wondered often about how you are doing.

    I can so relate to this.

    I have not been posting much lately, I think largely for that reason, that I get overwhelmed by the...seeming endlessness of it all.

    I catch myself getting very emotionally wrapped up in someone else's situation, as if I don't have enough of my own to worry about!

    Sometimes I just want it to not be at the front of my mind for a bit, because I am realizing that it is always going to be there, in one way or another.

    But I am so glad you gave us an update. I have missed hearing from you.
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  11. Mom

    Mom New Member

  12. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    It's good to see you ECHO, I've missed you on the board. Thank you for the update, I've been wondering about you for awhile.

    I can understand the depression and all the feelings that swirl around us on's a lot to take in. No matter how you slice it, this path is probably the most difficult thing any of us will ever have to do. I'm so sorry you are having a difficult time. I hope some of the warm responses you've received offers you comfort and some solace.

    I recall feeling what you're feeling, not very long ago. As everyone has said, this is clearly a process, one which doesn't have a reasonable trajectory, it just doesn't go up and up and you feel better incrementally. It goes up and down and sideways, there isn't too much to hold onto along the way. It is as COM said, an opportunity to learn to live in dramatic uncertainty, which, lets face it, we humans aren't too good at that. Especially around our kids and our dreams and expectations for them.

    My journey through this shifted very dramatically in August when my daughter missed a probation appointment and a warrant was issued for her arrest. I was distraught. For 2 weeks I was angry, disappointed, sad, all the usual feelings I had become accustomed to. Then I saw her, we met in a parking lot, she drove up as a passenger in a truck. When I saw her, for whatever reason, all of those feelings dissipated and I just hugged her. She looked so bummed out and so thin. All my thoughts stopped, except for my love for her. I just listened to her. I said nothing. She left. I got in the car with my husband and I said, "I am not going to judge her anymore." And, here's the weird part, I didn't.

    That decision changed a lot for me. I stopped having any expectations of her to live a certain way. I stopped talking about her and thinking about her as doing things that I didn't like, but as someone deserving of acceptance exactly the way she was. I didn't agree with her choices and her lifestyle, but I realized it was hers to live the way she wanted and I did not have a right to expect her to live the way I thought she should. That expectation hurt me and hurt her. Then, she began changing. I can't say it is because of my not judging her, but she was so visibly calm and different that others began noticing too.

    She continues to live the same life. Her life. She continues to be calm and our relationship has shifted and changed. She is still out there in her world. She is okay. I think she very much needed my acceptance. I know I very much needed to accept. I am okay. I am more than okay, I am actually very good. I accepted her and stopped judging and expecting things to be different then they are. As Eckhart Tolle says, "argue with reality and you suffer." This is my reality. In October I began listening to a lot of CD's and watching a lot of videos by Tolle, whose major thrust is to live in the present and stay present enough to stop the relentless thinking we do about the past and the future. I can't even explain how much that helped me. I still listen to his CD's every time I'm in the car.

    I didn't want to suffer anymore. I've had many challenges, many hurts, but I made a conscious choice to change. Something Tolle said on one CD was, "We change when we decide we have suffered enough." Well, I suffered enough. It was a profound internal shift to decide to stop judging and to decide to stop suffering.

    It all goes together for me, the staying in the present moment, the choice to stop suffering, the letting go of judgement of my daughter and the letting go of expectations of all came together and catapulted me out of that painful place. Like you I just didn't think it was EVER going to go away. But, it did. I just don't feel it anymore. Oh on occasion I have pangs, but they are really few and far between. It is what it is. There is nothing more I can do. Whatever happens, I trust myself to be able to handle it THEN.

    My whole world opened up. No one was more surprised than me.

    That is my path, I am not advocating it or even suggesting I am right. This is merely my journey.

    Sending big hugs and very warm wishes for your serenity and peace ECHO........
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  13. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    That's what I was saying.
    Thanks for saying it better than me RE!

    But my son doesn't live like that. He thinks everyone should be able to live 'free'. He's built a treehouse, lives without running water or electricity or anything else, doesn't pay rent or bills. He lives totally without money much of the time. He's self-sufficient, subsists on 'stuff' that's been thrown away by supermarkets in our wasteful, consumerist society, makes use of random junk that he finds discarded. That's his philosophy.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2015
  14. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    H says, whatever else anyone can say about my son, that he's definitely not boring.
    When I hear about my friends' children and their accomplishments and minor irritations and my friends' pride in them all I sometimes get an 'it's just not fair, why can't my kids all be like this, normal' moment, but then it's all a bit boring really, listening to what cars they've bought and what colour flowers they're having at their weddings. zzzzzzz. My son's far more interesting, even though being his mother is a bit of a nightmare. We're different women from havng to deal with this grief. We're more battered, but stronger, less small-minded, less interested in what cars our friends' children have bought and what colour flowers they're having at their weddings. I've thought through many issues and questions that would never have crossed my mind probably if I hadn't had this to deal with...
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  15. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Lucy, I feel that too. I also now see it so differently, no longer as my cross to bear, or a horror, but as a gift, or even a blessing. This process with my daughter pushed me into acceptance, it pushed me into looking at my judgements, expectations, comparisons, relentless thinking and a better understanding of 'unconditional' love. It altered my entire life in positive ways I am still opening up to. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, it's very painful, but the pain lead somewhere, it had profound meaning, it opened my heart.
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  16. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Horribly enough, for me, it means "not worse."

    It means, "I can accept this level of loss and horror." I got that covered. I seem to be upright again, speaking reasonably good English. Nails are done, beds made.

    Combed my hair.

    Life is manageable and then, maybe, trustworthy.

    Little sunshine, this morning.

    Maybe, dinner with friends.

    But then, something worse happens.

    Whatever strength or illusion I was buying into or borrowing comes due and I have to face what is, naked and defenseless in some roaring, echoey reality I cannot face, at all.

    What is happening to my children is real.

    Echo, from my own process, I can tell you that you will make it through.

    There is nothing easy about any of it.

    You are brave enough and strong enough and you will do this as well as it can be done.

    As well as it can be done.

    In fact, you are doing very well. To be honest with ourselves about what is happening to our kids takes more than we have, more than we know or can learn or stand up to.

    Ours is an ugly story.

    That helped me.

    Ours is an ugly, ugly story. Though it was really sad to invite that one in, it strengthened me, made the senses of shame and guilt and anger correct, somehow.

    You are moving, Echo. There have been times when that was all I knew: I was moving. I did not know what the resolution would look or feel like, but I was so grateful just to be moving.

    You will make it through this time. That is where the strength will come from to make it through the next time.

    Brene Brown writes that we human beings are wired for challenge. This is true. Challenge on every level, from the moment of conception.

    You can do this.

    It's a balancing act.

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  17. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    Lucy, I completely agree with this. In some ways my son's life has caused me to shine a brighter light on my own choices, and the choices of those around me. I also see that he will not have the same opportunities that his dad and I did to find meaningful work that supports our quality of life. He is limited in that he is probably best off being a dishwasher for 25-30 hours a week, which puts him sort of in the rat race of drudgery work to pay the rent to live in a place that is dreary.

    So you question is a good one. What is it I think he SHOULD be doing instead? Where does the SHOULD come from? I have thought about that before...but sometimes I forget the things I used to think about (gah..those who forget history are doomed to repeat themselves repeat themselves repeatthemselvesrepeatthemselves)

    So thank you for reminding me to turn the prism again.

  18. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    I read somewhere that lack of stress is really unhealthy for us and can lead to mental health problems. I can't remember where I read that. It doesn't sound very believeable does it? I'd like the opportunity to test out the theory!
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  19. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    Yes, that is where I am, where I have been these last few months. The strength and illusion, the denial that looks like healthy detachment.

    I don't know how to face the echoey reality and be OK, let him be OK as he is. All I can do is avoid him.

    I can feel myself turning, though, and as you said, Cedar, I am moving. I'll try again to reach out, to let him know that I love him, to try to accept him as he is. Not yet, but soon. To be his mom, and to understand if he is happy...if he is, that will be enough for the next phase of my life, and his life, and our relationship.

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  20. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    This has also been my experience...dealing with my son (actually with all my kids, all of whom are so different from me) has opened my eyes and my heart, made me less judgmental, more interested , maybe more interesting. I didn't know there were so many paths in the world, and being introduced to that has been a great blessing. Thank you (and you, Lucy) for pointing that out.