Son 22 years old with-no direction

Discussion in 'Failure to Thrive' started by ame1218, Feb 27, 2017.

  1. ame1218

    ame1218 New Member

    My step son is 22 & very smart, went to college for 2 years, great grades the following year decided that college was not for him and dropped out...had a breakdown during the summer & doesn't want to get help, doesn't want to speak to anyone...he feels everyone is full of crap. He stayed leaving in the college town, has a job...plays his music which he loves. He spoke to his father last night & myself and tells us that he is a piece of junk that he feels that his life is just a circle. His way of thinking is very weird to us though, he always says that he doesn't want a life like ours (the routine) going to work everyday and doing the same thing everyday...we tell him that this is life...sometimes His way of thinking is messed up. He tells us that he doesn't know what to do with his life...we give him the best advise we can by telling him to go back to school, get a career and that eventually everything will fall into place. But as we are talking to us he is like mocking us & like doesn't want to hear it...we don't want to lose our patients, but it's hard sometimes. We tell him that not everyone knows what they want to do, but to take it a day at a time. His father is worried sick all the time, concerned that he may do something crazy. I feel that he probably is smoking pot & drinking. He doesn't want to live with us in our city because he states everyone is to materialistic. We are truly at a loss with him.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi. So sorry you are hurting.

    If you think he is using substances then that is probably why he changed. If not, he does not feel a kinship with your values. Thats okay. Not everyone has a 9 to 5 job and they still pay their bills. He is working. He may be unconventional. Thats his decision. Dont take it personally and accept him as he is. You cant make him be like you. Now for his depression....

    It could be caused by drugs. And you cant make him stop. He will stop when/if he wants to stop and no sooner. I am one who does not find pot harmless. Pot made me paranoid and spaced out and, with time, certainly would have worsened my depression, which i struggled with. I just did not do it much. Some can smoke pot with no problem. Some cant. But some become aligned with their pot, like it is their best friend, and they cant/wont live without it. As it becomes legal you can not stop this.

    If your son wants to get mental health services, only he can do it. If not, you cant do anything.

    Your son is of age and living on his own. It is hard to hear them struggle. But there is nothing you can force him to do. Now think about yourselves. Maybe time to let his issues go and learn to take care of yourselves and enjoying your lives!! You can control one! Nobody can control another adult, even a beloved child. They do not always fulfill our dreams for them. That is because they are not us and think their own ways.

    Trust me, it is best he not live with you. He isnt going to change because he lives with you. It will only cause you angst and shoot down his budding independence. Youre lucky he does not depend on you to sustain himself.

    Wishing you love and luck!
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
  3. ame1218

    ame1218 New Member

    Thanks for your response and I know what you are saying about he doesn't see things the way we do and we tell him that it is fine, at the end of the day you need to do what makes you happy, we have even gotten past the fact that he no longer wants to go to college, which is extremely sad as he is super intelligent, maybe too much for his own good, even though he goes back and forth from saying he is going to go back and finish to changing his husband plans to drive up to see him, 8 hours away. Hoping that he eventually finds his way.
  4. RN0441

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

    Hi Ame and welcome.

    I think that he's on his own and playing his music and not ruining your life, stealing from you etc.

    If HE is depressed than HE needs to get help. He is an adult. You can help to guide him and let him know that you both love and support him but he is responsible for his own life.

    He is very young and some day he may go back to school. As many say here, don't write the end of the story!!

    Or college may not be for him. If he is very intelligent as you say, he will find his niche. We are also waiting for our son to find his niche. Some people never find their niche.

    For some reason, some young adults struggle more than others. No one knows why and we as parents certainly hope they find their way but his life is HIS journey. All you can do is give him your love and support and keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes we have to just get out of the way and let them figure it out!

    It's good that his father is maintaining a close relationship with him.
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  5. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Hi ame.

    We have similar issues. My son is now 28. We have been doing this for almost 8 years for sure, maybe more. I had to push my son to do anything productive and none of it worked long term. His longest job was about 15 months. He completed a year of college, but marginally. And he finished a Job Corps program, because I would not let him come home, if he did not.
    Ten years later I am still pushing. But I am doubting myself.

    My son is maturing some but he is not motivated to work or to do anything productive for himself. (Left to his own devices he will smoke marijuana, run out of his SSI money, go to movies every day, and read conspiracy theory websites.) He will however help us. But we have gotten to the point where we largely do not ask him to help us as he uses it as an excuse to not do for himself.

    He had a certification to be a nurse's aid which he let lapse; he is brilliant, multi-lingual, and articulate. He is also diagnosed as mentally ill and receiving SSI because of inability to work.
    This was a constant refrain, resistance to getting help. But maybe 8 months ago he did go to residential treatment and again a month ago for a short time but insurance would not cover it. He is resistant to getting therapy locally.

    On the one hand he believes he is changing and is proud of himself.
    On the other, like your step-son, he believes his problems are intractable and cannot be overcome. My son believes he is worthless and defective because he was born to drug addicted parents (not me). His self-disgust centers around his perfectly gorgeous appearance. He believes he is profoundly unattractive, even deformed and that no woman will ever love him, even though I am told by his best friend that women flock to him--but are turned off when he starts talking about his depression!
    I agree with this.

    The problem I have is that he will not get a place by himself to live, even though he can get subsidized housing. It is if he has a fear of striking out on his own, by his own volition. He will go homeless, I fear, if I push him entirely away. He was either homeless or drifting for the four years that he left our area. For him, marijuana became habitual. We hate it. He sees no problem.
    In this sense your son has several key important attributes that my son lacks so far: he works; he lives independently; he has interests that sustain him. These are hugely important.
    This is my perspective too. It has proven to be singularly ineffective with my son. Increasingly I am facing that his mental illness manifests in a lack of motivation and perhaps, in dependency and a lack of the volition to be a self-starter in the kinds of ways that building a career (or a life, as if I lived my own) necessitates.

    Still, I want him to be productive in the way that he can be. But what I want really does not factor into the equation.

    I do not want to enable his dependency, but I want to support him. It is hard to find a middle ground. I also worry about what will be when I die.

    In your situation because your step-son is independent, working, and has meaningful interests--there is no issue with enabling--and by my perspective...he is on track. Your son will I believe gradually take on activities and interests and responsibilities, in his own time.

    You do not mention the nature of his "break-down" but the effects cannot be minimized. I fell apart after my mother died 3 and a half years ago, almost. I am only now coming out of it. And I have been a fully functioning adult for many years. Imagine how hard it would be for a young male to feel as if the bottom dropped out of his life, and he lost control and confidence.
    I endorse this.

    I was very goal directed and goal oriented and it served me in some ways but not in all. From the vantage point of age, I can see that there are many ways to live a life, and most are credible, and nearly all can be meaningful.

    I am struggling with the same kinds of issues as you: how much am I imposing my own values on him? is it right to be pushing and guiding another adult? Am I the person who needs to change? Am I imposing my own life map on him which would be unfair and cruel?

    I posted all of this about US because I am dealing with it right now, and to share that you are not alone. Take care. I hope you keep posting.
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    Last edited: Mar 1, 2017
  6. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    If he is supporting himself completely, there is really nothing you can do. I would listen and let him figure this out for himself. He may never agree to the mental health treatment you think he needs, or he may get it tomorrow. He may tell you about it, or he may not.

    He sound so very much like my older brother that it isn't funny. My brother used to go on about how he could not imagine anything worse than life where you had to go in to a 9 to 5 job, or a job in a store where you had a boss telling you what to do for 8 hours a day. My brother worked construction or as a handyman for years. He did okay. He is genius level intelligent with a learning disability in math and adhd, and he has a serious case of wanderlust. I think my parents handled some of it really well. They did bully him through his bachelors, mostly because my brother graduated high school 2 months after he turned 16 and he was partying a LOT and they did NOT want to be responsible for that. So they insisted on some strict rules. Then they encouraged him to go and travel.

    He didn't want to be tied down to a regular job, so they told him to look for jobs that were not traditional. My brother worked in the national forests clearing trails. He was a guide for hikers in the national forest in Idaho. He worked with hunting outfitters in Idaho and Montana and a couple of other places. He worked in Antarctica and met Sir Edmund Hilary. He has been all over the world and had incredible, amazing adventures.

    He was not always safe. Our parents don't know even half the stuff he got up to. Heck, I probably don't know half and they don't know half of what I do. He is now a recovering alcoholic, but at least he is in recovery. Getting him there was not a fun chapter. Especially not the part where I told my mother what I knew about his drinking and drugging. Which was way more than I wanted (I was the staid, non-partying, boring sibling who got married and had kids and kept her husband and all that stuff).

    The good news? In his LATE 40s my brother settled down. He had a big crisis in his early-mid 40s and ended up divorced with a daughter. He now works for the local university, is completing his Masters, got on medication for his adhd and his psychiatrist talked him into counselling. He even went into anger management, realized that it helped so he stayed with the men's group just to be sure he wouldn't slide into bad habits. He really shocked the local DV center because when he joined they thought he was one of the more hardcore cases.

    So it may take a while, and your son may not have a traditional life. But he might have some incredible adventures. I hope and pray that the addiction is NOT in his life. It was something my brother had to deal with. But my brother has a very full life of amazing adventures to look back on. One thing that did help my brother greatly was that he blew off college at one point and my parents told him to go live on what he was making at his minimum wage job. He didn't want to, so he joined the Army. We were not at war then, thankfully. My brother grew up a LOT then, and got to see Germany. He was fluent in German, and truly enjoyed his time there. I don't know if your son would make that choice, but I do know having my parents tell him to go live on what he earned was a very good thing for him.
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  7. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Susie. I loved your post about your brother. I just loved it. You are a born writer. I felt I was reading a novel, or a memoir. Your brother sounds like just a fascinating person. And he, so blessed to have you, your capacity to understand; not to mention your parents, who seemed to do EVERYTHING right.

    So many questions came up for me, with relation to my son, and also regret because your brother had options, and made them, my son will not take. But most of all reading this gave me perspective. How we look at our kids through our own cloudy lens, which may have worked for us to some extent, but in all honesty was only one way to live a life, and had its downsides too.

    Your brother had some attributes, capacities that my son does not (self-starter, willing to take on responsibility, to take a job, many jobs, as long as his style is not cramped, for starters.)

    Seeing how your parents "bullied" him to finish college" validates me, because this is where my battle with my son is the most intense and bloody--my insistence that he do something for himself, anything, constructive and productive--in order to be living with us or in a space that we control. Black belt in martial arts. Acolyte in Zen Buddhist Center. Hit the road, and see the world. Service.

    So he says, college, and I say. Fine. That cannot be manifested as only an idea or a word. It requires sustained action. Where is it? And this is where we keep dancing and tripping up.

    I do not know how your parents won this battle with your brother. I mean, he could have easily dropped out.

    I too encourage my son to travel. We have traveled and lived abroad extensively. When he was 18 he decided he wanted to visit a girl in Brasil, got a Christmas job in the men's apparel department at Macy's, bought the ticket and went alone. Something happened there. He lost all his money and ended up sleeping on the beach, and bereft. Sometimes I think he may have been sexually preyed upon. We have tried to get it out of him.

    Your brother. How I loved reading of his adventures. To me, the way he lived his life was amazing. Honestly. Men who went to work on Madison Ave in gray flannel suits (the Gregory Peck movie) fall into alcoholism and perpetrate domestic violence. One might as well be meeting Sir Edmund Hillary, while you're at it (not to in any way trivialize domestic violence.)
    What happened? It sounds like something got his attention. What triggered this? Or do you think it was developmental, in the sense that the way he was living no longer met who he had become?

    I so wanted my son to go to the military, but it came out along the way that he had been born with Chronic Hepatitis. This was disqualifying. (And then, his dealing with his illness, and how he had gotten it from his birth mother, because a huge and defining issue for him--and that I think was the catalyst for so much of his existential despair).

    And I became so despairing along the way I WANTED my son to go to PRISON, because believe it or not, prisoners socialize new prisoners, and hold them to very strict behavioral limits, with very strict reprisal. I wanted my son to be schooled in this way. But my son (that I am aware of), fortunately or unfortunately depending upon one's outlook and goals, is not criminally inclined.
    I did this, when my son was not earning anything. He had blown off his job.

    Actually, I betray here, my continuing unwillingness to take in his mental illness. This component it seems, your brother does not have. And I am aware that my own denial is very much an issue in the struggle my son and I have. But then, how does this change things? Being mentally ill does not exempt somebody from doing what is required to deal with it: treatment, rehabilitation, self-care, habits and activities that reinforce socialization, address symptoms, encourage functioning. See. That is my point.

    Nobody is saying he has to work at a job: he just needs to do things that foster his "working" as a person, in the way that he can. That this is his responsibility. And that is what your brother did.

    Of course, part of the reason we see this, is because we have the whole story (to this point) to look back on. (Thank you again, Susie.)

    My son is very strong-willed. And he has the desire to be dominant. More and more he is manifesting this directly, not passive-aggressively (good.) He is not violent although he has destroyed property (which sounds contradictory, but I stick by it. More and more I see his not building a life as RESISTANCE.

    More and more he seems to be getting the concept that my way of thinking has merit, and makes sense (about doing something for himself.) But the process of implementing it, he drags his feet. (As I keep repeating like a broken record.)

    The thing about my son is he wants to be near us. He would prefer living with us. He wants to work with us. Which is a major miracle after all of the conflict we have had for such a long time, and is deeply gratifying to me.

    And all of this wanting to have our lives integrated, in itself, I would not see as so problematic, if I saw him doing some things that defined himself and his life through activities and involvements and commitments that were personally constructive, as did your brother.

    My son has had (and still does) deep interests: languages (he speaks fluently 3 and can communicate in another 3), brasilian martial arts, and he plays a percussive instrument in Samba, Buddhism, History...(but he sees history and politics through a very troublesome lens of cabals, and false flags, and an extremely disturbing point of view about Zionists and the Rothschilds (I am Jewish) among other things...)

    But all and all I see things as getting better, and try not to freak out about the weird stuff so much, trying to see how it functions for him, in developing and differentiating from me. But it is hard to keep my eyes on the ball.

    I am still bowled over at how your parents prevailed by their bullying in keeping your brother in college. We are wearing my son down, but I am being worn down at a faster rate, as my endurance and stamina are far less.

    Thank you Susie. This was as enjoyable and provocative post as I can remember reading.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2017