Progress or BS ?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by hope2hope, Feb 26, 2018.

  1. hope2hope

    hope2hope New Member

    I have been reading this forum for several months. I have found both comfort and terror as I realize the path we are on is so similar to many on this forum.

    My story: 20 year old, highly intelligent son (scored in top 2% on ACT) has been spiraling down since about spring of his senior year in high school when he started smoking pot. Went off to large state university and started out strong in an honors program then failed next 2 semesters.

    Has been home since Christmas because we wouldn't pay for more schooling. He smokes pot, has gotten into more severe drugs at college, depressed, and no ability to focus or concentrate or make long term plans to get life on track.

    He refuses to get help or more precisely claims he doesn't have time to get help. He is paying us rent to live at home and now working as waiter about 30 to 40 hours per week. The longer he is home I see baby steps of improvement but then he goes visits college friends and he is back to mental fog. Obviously party time while away.

    My husband ...and reluctantly I, agree that he will need to move out at end of summer or go back to school on his own dime. Otherwise he will continue to muddle through with no future. I had a sister who suffered with schizophrenia and lots of addictions in family members. So the genetic lottery is not favorable.

    What is the best course of action to help him help himself? He should be half through college but instead he has about 1 1/2 semester of good credits and $10k in college loans. Is pushing him out of the nest the only solution?
  2. Littleboylost

    Littleboylost On the road unwanted to travel

    Welcome H2H

    No one can tell you what to do. Many people will share their experience with you.

    I am not a fan of allowing any drug use in my home. Your son is now 20 and still falling into party mode. He has not seen the back slide he has done. That is the part that concerns me the most.

    Nothing changes if nothing changes. I do not believe he will improve enough under the stay at home circumstance.

    This is just my experience and my opinion.

    Have tou tried to speak to your son about his drug use and school failure. What does he have to say?

    Welcome and again you are definitely not alone.
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  3. Triedntrue

    Triedntrue Active Member

    Welcome i am sure others will be along as well. You could start by setting boundaries while he is home. If he wants to stay he has to attend outpatient. No drugs in your home etc. If he doesn't comply have consequences .these are suggestions. only you and your husband can decide what is right for you.
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  4. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet


    Yes I can see why you feel terror. This forum is the raw truth of what we have all been dealing with. I don't think many of us can even begin to find the words to explain what we have been/are going through but we all just know. The stories are all so similar but different.

    My thoughts with our son always were that we don't want a 30 year old on our couch asking "what's for dinner". Our son has been using for seven years on and off and even when off he accomplished NOTHING. So much time has been wasted.

    I was so happy when I found this forum and "met" others like me. I felt so isolated and depressed and HOPELESS. I judged myself very harshly. I blamed myself. I blamed my husband. How can you not?

    When I decided that something had to change because I no longer could live this way I found a therapist that specialized in addiction and she helped me to form boundaries for our son. This was for him as much as it was for us.

    He had been to inpatient and outpatient rehab, therapists, counselors, social workers, day programs, psychologists, psychiatrists, you name it. This last binge had to be the last one. We said rehab or out. Then we moved him to Florida to sober living and things were dicey there too but he was doing some adulting during his sober days. Right now he is in a long term faith based program - we FORCED it - and seems to finally be seeing the light. This has been OUR journey.

    I don't think your son will do good at work or school or anything is he is in the throws of addiction. Or maybe you feel he is just experimenting? No one knows your son better than you.

    Keep reading because there is so much written here (recommend the addiction forum) that I would never attempt to rewrite.

    Just make sure you take care of you and your marriage. This is usually a long road for parents. It's not a sprint but a marathon.
  5. hope2hope

    hope2hope New Member

    Thank you for your replies. It is a long road. It started with this is "a growing stage" to heading towards a major problem. Since I grew up with many addictive relatives I knew the warning signs in the beginning when he truly started to show cracks in his lifestyle (small cracks).

    Early on, we started family counseling more for my husband and I to have some guidance on how to deal with it and possibly turn it around early. The counselor initially focused on my childhood and said that I may be too sensitive to "normal college experience". I told him that I dealt with my childhood stuff--and there was a lot of it--earlier in my life and my mother's instinct knew this was more than just having a good time. This counselor worked in the addiction field for at least 10 years so I thought he would be more helpful.

    After my instincts panned out in the first failing semester (second semester at school) we REQUIRED one on one counseling over the summer. Since son wouldn't choose his own counselor we told him he would need to continue with family counselor on one-to-one basis if he wanted to go back to school. It turned out to be a waste of time because he spent most of the 5 or 6 sessions proving to the guy that my son was okay, and that this guy was an "idiot". My son had switched his major to psychology so now was an expert on all matters of counseling !

    Goes back to school and promises to get counseling. He is at a major university where a lot of resources are available! Seems more clear headed and focused. Sadly, this lasted a very short time and he flunked 2 of 5 classes (he ignored my suggestion to take a lighter load), and barely passed the other classes. Had a medical emergency around Thanksgiving which required overnight hospitalization (OD on Benadryl--couldn't fall asleep and liver was probably compromised from weekend partying). Cost us $1300 out of pocket just for that! We were surprised the toxicology screen only showed Benadryl and not other drugs.

    [by the way, my husband and I went back to the counselor after we decided to pull the plug on college to see if there was anything else we could do to turn the situation around. He was SHOCKED at how bad the situation had progressed, and said to me, "you were right all along!"...Gee thanks!]. End of 3rd semester (around Christmas) we tell him his college days are over for now and he is not returning unless he can pay for it himself. At this point, no fighting just expressing defeat and clearly depressed. Got through the holidays and cleaned out dorm. In mid-January we tell him it is time to get a job and start paying rent. He initially balks at the amount and says he can just live on his own to which we tell him that we will help him move....not sarcastically but for real. He is good at math and quickly realizes that won't fly!

    Now we are "biding our time". The good--he is working, paying rent, and seems to be more clear headed. The bad--still falls back to partying with "friends" and then takes about a week to recover, no major plans for the near future (we talked to him), and avoids family (always working when we are home). He doesn't think he has a drug problem and says he is not using (we don't believe anything anymore), still hasn't sought counseling because now he has "no time".

    Someone asked whether I thought he was "addicted"....not sure. He definitely walks the line and is at great risk of it getting worse. He seems to have some deep, dark thoughts that he doesn't want to share with anyone and feels he needs to see a psychologist....even though he won't make an appointment.

    This time now of him working, paying minimal rent, and living at home is temporary. We told him he is turning 21 this summer and he will need to have a DEFINITE plan to move out or go back to school. He says he knows but I don't see any actual planning or concern for the future. It hurts so much to see his life go off track and have little or no influence on the outcomes.

    He's the oldest of 3 kids. The only "blessing" is we are open with his younger siblings (17 and 13) and tell them this is what happens to a high achieving person with big dreams who thinks they can "experiment" with drugs. Booze-marijuana-ecstasy-percoset......the extremely fast progression to nowhere !
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  6. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Welcome H2H,

    The good news is that your son is 20 so he really does have a chance to turn things around. Of course at any age our difficult adult children can turn things around but it becomes less likely as the years move on.

    My first suggestion is to attend Al-Anon meetings. They can be a good source of feedback and support while you deal with your son's drug use.

    Ultimately we can only do what we are comfortable with. With that being said, you have to ask yourself some serious questions. Are you helping or are you enabling?
    Helping is when the person we are helping is truly putting forth the effort to make changes.
    Enabling is doing for the person that which they should be doing for themselves.
    There is such a fine line between the two and it's so easy to cross the line without even noticing.

    I'm glad your son is working and paying you rent. That is huge!! Of course the drug use is problematic. For me, I would not allow any drug use in the home regardless of him paying rent. Our difficult children are good at splitting hairs on this one. We tell them no drugs in the house and they will reply with, I don't have drugs in the house, I keep them at my friends house and that's where I use them.
    A more clear boundary would be; while you are living under our roof we will not tolerate you using drugs, this means you are not bring drugs into this house, nor are you to use drugs while living in this house. If you do not abide by these rules then you will need to find another place to live.
    You can also make random drug testing part of the condition for him to live in your home. Make it clear that if he does not follow the rules you set that equals an automatic move out.

    I don't like the term "kicking them out" I prefer the term "you are being liberated to live your life on your terms"

    The main thing is you need to have clear and defined boundaries while he's living under your roof.
    It's also a good idea to have a set date in mind for when he will need to move out.

    Hang in there!! You will get through this.
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  7. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    At 20 your son is a legal adult which presents you with both challenges and opportunities.

    The challenge is that he is not obligated to accept your parenting, your expectations, and your rules.

    The opportunity is that you and your husband are not obligated to accept behavior that you deem unacceptable.

    Of course there is a great deal of gray area between these two extremes.

    Is there a chance your son is grappling with mental illness? Sometimes this can strike (cruelly) at around age 18 which is when you say he began to go downhill. The marijuana use could be his attempt to self-medicate feelings of anxiety, for example. Does he see a therapist?

    You mention your sister has schizophrenia - this is an illness with a strong genetic component and it often strikes during this age. Not saying your son has this illness - just something to consider.

    You are perfectly within your rights to tell him he cannot live with you any longer, if he is not meeting the expectations you have for this arrangement. If you have not explicitly told your son that you expect him to meet certain expectations, such as re-enrolling in school, or being evaluated by a psychiatrist for example, you may wish to have that conversation and then set a hard deadline for him to achieve it.

    Best of luck, please keep us posted!
  8. startingfresh

    startingfresh Member

    Welcome hope2hope. My 18 year old son decided not to go to college and was living at home working a full time job. He was also smoking weed and who knows what else and refusing any help. I have younger children at home too that were affected by his choices. We set boundaries which he always seemed to find a way around. He was not getting anywhere fast. He paid us rent but that just gave him more nerve to push the limits.
    We finally asked him to move out.

    Things got very bad and very scary when he was on his own. I was terrified for him but there was nothing I could do short of continuing to make it easy for him to ruin his life. After about a week of feeling very alone, he began to call us and tell us that he didn't want to continue his life in the direction it was headed. That he was very sorry for all of his bs. I don't know what the exact motivation was but I feel it was as combination of realizing that he was very ALONE, didn't have any other options, and he hit rock bottom. I have some details of what that rock bottom was and many other details are a mystery. It highlights to me how bad things had gotten and living here was softening the impact of his really bad choices. He was so off that his boss took notice and stepped in. It was kind of like the mask of pretending all was well was ripped off. He has begun opening up to people about things and cut out all of the bad influences out. He asked to get back on medication for anxiety and depression. He found a room to rent and is doing very well. I am cautiously optimistic. I remember back when son was in treatment at 15, we were told to find him a mentor when he got home. Someone that he could look up to and keep him focused on good things. I had no idea where to find one but 3 years later, his boss became one. Perhaps there is someone he can talk with that is not a therapist but just someone who cares?

    There are no easy answers you do what you can live with. I have known he needed to "be liberated to live live on his terms" (thanks Tanya M love that) for over a year but he was a minor and needed to finish hs. Once he turned 18 , it still took me 10 more months. I know if we continued to enable our son, he would not have changed. He is one of those people who has to experience things for himself, no one can tell him a thing. And for us enabling meant living here. It was like a game of cat and mouse. We spent so much energy trying to be one step ahead of him, it was exhausting.

    Last night my youngest told me that she remembers how awful the past few years were with son and how when she would begin to hear him yelling she would feel like her body was collapsing. I knew the younger ones were suffering but I couldn't get out of my head that I needed to help him and that asking him to move out wasn't what a mom would do. Ugh just ugh.

    Good luck to you. This is so hard but so many here can help with their experiences.
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  9. Triedntrue

    Triedntrue Active Member

    I agree with all of the wonderful people before me. I would only add all therapists are not equal if that one is not good go to another. Even if he doesn't go with you it might help for you to have the support. The mentor might be good as long as it is someone who won't take bs. The first therapist we went to as a family told me my husband and my son were both just bullheaded. Years later he was given a diagnosis of bipolar complicated by drugs. As far as your other children i did the same letting my younger ones know i didn't approve of his actions. They still resent what i did for him and as a result we do not have the relationship i would like and they both moved out of state after college to be away from him. The lesson is don't let him destroy your relationship with your younger children. If that means him leaving let him leave.
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  10. Sam3

    Sam3 Active Member

    We seem to have all the same stats.

    My son still brings up his ACT score from time to time, and yet he’s not smart enough to recognize the irony of taking a gap year to finish his high school credits!!

    I also have a 16 and 13 year old. And having our oldest out has restored peace to our home. When I have pangs of guilt acknowledging that, I think back to all the madness the youngers overheard when we were pulling our hair out trying first to teach him and later just to keep him safe.

    Notwithstanding my sons deflection and denials about having a substance abuse problem, we are confident that he’s caused enough havoc when he’s using that he needs to be sober and emotionally reliable to live at home.

    While he’s mulling that over, he comes for Sunday dinner and video games with his brother and texts and calls (mostly logistics and hellos), but more substantively with his little sister.

    I just wanted to share that healing can happen even in a new weird (I can’t really call it a new normal).
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  11. startingfresh

    startingfresh Member

    New weird, good way to explain it. My son has been out since Feb 1 and although he is sober and doing very well, he has not moved back in. I love the peace and order in my life these days and am enjoying my last 2 teenagers and all that comes with normal healthy teens. He comes over a few times a week to see the dog and joins us for dinner.

    Having him in our lives in short spurts is healing for all of us.
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  12. Loosey

    Loosey New Member

    Hi. Your son actually sounds a lot like me when I first went to college. I was honor role and smart and an alcoholic. I got high grades two semesters than fell hard. My parents were paying and I didn't care. Being the 5th of 7 kids my parents didn't know I existed. So what I am trying to say is that is may be temporary and he may make something of himself. After 31 years I managed to get two different college degrees and now make good money. Don't get me wrong I am not saying you are doing anything wrong as parents. Just saying I hope it all works out for him like me. I am part of this group because I have a teenage son with just about every mental disease possible. He has almost ruined our marriage and I do not see any hope for him in the future. He just turned 18 and is supposed to be graduating from HS this June. We have given him until July to move out. I plan to buy him a one way bus ticket to anywhere. I hope your son is just going through a phase and at some point will realize its on him not you.
  13. hope2hope

    hope2hope New Member


    No updates just want you to know that I appreciate all responses! Thanks .
  14. LauraH

    LauraH Active Member

    The sober living program in Florida...can you tell me more about it? Where is it? How much does it cost? My son has been talking about maybe coming back to Florida and we said we would fly him down here when he's ready but if a sober living program is feasible we could add that to the conditions of our helping him move.