Son is back. Now what?


The private investigator we've hired found our son, and the police picked him up and brought him home. I just got back from the detox center. My husband stayed there with him. We will be taking shifts to be with him there and make sure he doesn't take off again.

I found out a lot during the past few days. I found out son started using drugs at an age much younger than I initialy thought, and that the only reason he didn't go into withdrawal the first time we sent him to rehab was that he saw his friend overdosing a week earlier, which got him to taper down and stay clean for a few days. We found out that his girlfriend's also on drugs, as we've suspected. We found out that he was invovled in all kinds of illegal activities.

I'm beginning to wonder if I've ever really known this boy. Just an hour ago, he told me very calmly that since I am not his "real" mother, he doesn't mind it if he'll never see me again, and I shouldn't care what he does with his life or whether he's alive or dead, and that I should just let him leave with his friends so he can get high (which according to him is the only thing he enjoys). I don't think he told me this to make me angry or hurt me like he did before. I'm getting the feeling he really believes it.

I've been replaying a lot of bits and pieces of our relationship ever since we adopted him 11 years ago. I always believed things worked out well despite the difficulties, until the current crisis started. I had a terrible thought... what if we weren't the right family for him? What if I can't give this boy what he needs to live a normal life? I don't know if he's ever felt like he's a part of our family, now. I don't know what I could have done differently, but I think it's clear that everything went wrong despite our intentions. And our intentions were and are good. We've always thought of R as our own, it wouldn't have hurt this badly if we hadn't. But if I couldn't give him what he needed then, how can I give him what he needs now to live a normal, satisfying life?


Staff member
Oh @Rina, you are being way too hard on yourself. Your son's self destructive behavior is not at all your fault.

You are doing the best you can to keep him safe and get him the help he needs. He isn't able to recognize that right now, but that doesn't mean that your good intentions and efforts are wasted. You are dealing with a boy that isn't functioning well for whatever reason. He may be self medicating because he's depressed or has some other mental health issues which are fueling his drug use. His choice to use drugs is his alone and has nothing to do with you or anything that you did or did not do.

As far as his comments about you not being his "real" mother I can't imagine how much that must have hurt you. You opened your heart to this boy. He spun out and went on a bender and you had him tracked him down so you could get him into detox. Don't let his druggy words make you doubt yourself. Your love for him and your good intentions are very clear.


Well-Known Member
Rina, I've been there. I adopted a six year old from another country. He used to, on and off, try to express that while he feels close to his school peers and friends, he does not feel like we are his parents. He is a brilliant man and was a brilliant kid and pondered these things and they bothered him and I believe he tried, especially in his 20's, to bond with us. Then he met his wife and from our point of view, which is the only one we have, he changed as soon as he met her. She would fall all over him, keep him from us, was jealous of his sister (to her they were not related and he was very close to her) and little spats that had never happened started happening. He joined a very, very, very strict church that doesn't believe any church but his type of church is a Christian church. This eliminates Lutherans, Catholics or any church with a denomination. He joined the...was it called Brotherhood for men? Things are blurry at the time, but he turned on his sister, Princess, and that was a mess and it ended up that he walked off. He has spoken to nobody for eight years, except my ex husband who goes to a non-denominational church and he didn't speak to him for three years either. The gist of it is attachment. We love them as if we've given birth to them, but they have not known us for 3-4-6-10 years of life and they are developing children. I was convinced by enough very on-top-of-attachment psychiatrists to not take it personally at all and I decided to let him go after one last unsatisfactory meeting. He is fortunately not into drugs and is doing very well. I don't worry about him, but I don't see him either. I would never adopt an older child again. Well, I'm too old now, but I advise younger would-be adoptees to get infants and not infants that were in orphanges and probably never knew what it felt like to be fed in somebody's arms. It caues changes in the brain when a child is not loved by one special caregiver in the early years. I am not quite sure why son still talks to ex, but I do know it is rare and that it is under very strict circumstances. They belong to the same church so maybe he feels he has to make it look good, but they don't see each other every week at church so...

You did the best you could. If this were my child, and I had the knowledge about attachment that I now have, I would search for a psychologist (not just a therapist) who has a special interest and knowledge of attchment in adopted children. Regular therapists mostly do not even know about it. Obviously this boy, your son of your heart, has not attached to you, but there are certain therapies that can heal unattached kids and he is still under eighteen. Beeware of any loony schemes such as "rebirth." But do seek out help for him. At the same time, know that you were not in his life for his first seven years. How could this be your fault?

We take these children into our homes and hearts because we love children, feel we are good parents, and just know that loving them will heal their pain. It doesn't. Many are more afraid of love than craving it or they just don't know how to accept love and push you away the more you love them. Some act out more the more you try to love them. Many do use drugs, get into criminal trouble and seem to have no conscience because they have learned, in infancy and beyond, that nobody is going to take care of them except them and they are 100% me-centric. It helped them cope. It becomes hardwired. You still have two years.

Just please don't blame yourself. I went for therapy not just because I necessarily blamed myself, although part of me did, but because I was grieving the loss. Therapy for us is a good thing. It helps us cope. It helps us grieve. My son was far to old to help by then. I had believed that because he did not misbehave he could not have attachment disorder. It was untrue. He still has disordered attachment, if the stories my ex tells me are true (I kind of have to take them with a grain of salt, and since it is a hurtful topic I don't talk to him about it very often).

At any rate, we meant to do good. We did do good. WE had good hearts and we gave them a chance to do well in life. The rest of it is really up to them.

My young adoptees never had any problems attaching.

Hugs for the heart of yours that I know is hurting. And, Rina, I feel I never knew my boy either. I felt like that even when he was little. I felt I did not know who he was and he did not share much. My ex also does not know how to show love or emotion. He feels it, but he can't show it so there are no demands for affection placed on anyone in his orbit. May be why maybe son feels safer with him.
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Well-Known Member
Rina, this is in no way your fault! Please don't blame yourself. Our addicted children consciously make a choice to use. There is nothing any of us can do no matter how perfect we try to be. In your sons current frame of mind, he won't stay clean. Not until he WANTS to. If he just wants to leave the detox and get high, then you're in for a rough road. I would recommend getting good support & reading books to help you through this awful time. I'm sorry you're going through this. There's just nothing we can do if they don't wanna change. But there is hope, if they have a change of heart and truly want to stop the addiction. Hopefully when he gets clean he will see the light.


It's hard not to feel as if this is at least partially my fault. And it's hard to figure out what to do next. It's like there is no end to this mess and I am exhausted and can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

@SomewhereOutThere: I had my husband read your post as well. A lot of what you wrote fits the feeling of our situation, even if not the exact details. I agree with you about older children.... I have another adopted child, a daughter, also adopted internationally (not from the same country as our son). She was adopted at 1 year old, and even before this crisis started, I remember wondering about the huge difference between them. She is very close to us, he isn't, at all. I think we went into this the wrong way. I remember, back when the agency people asked if we would be willing to consider adopting an older child, I imagined all these older children at the orphanage, crying themselves to sleep and wondering why they weren't "chosen" while all the younger ones were adopted... I was so stupid. These kids were not sitting around waiting for us. They were living their lives to the best of their ability.
I can definitely see my son leaving us the way yours has. He doesn't seem to mind being away from us. It's as if he doesn't have anything in his mind or heart other than himself and the drugs.

At least he's still at the detox center. It could have been worse.


Well-Known Member
Rina I know your heart is hurting so badly right now. Your son may not have the same ability to attach that you obviously have for him. It is not your fault. For many years I felt my daugher would not care if I lived or died and then I realized that all I wanted was for her to be safe and happy and if that meant she didn't want me in it I would have to accept that. Your son is still very young and going through some very difficult times. I suspect a lot of what he says has to do with the fact that you are trying to stop him from what he wants most, drugs. It is our job as parents to get our kids to adulthood and then if they want to have a relationship with us that's wonderful but not at all a sure thing.

Right now you have to make sure he is safe and getting help. How he feels about you or at least what he is saying, cannot be taken seriously at this point. His mind is clouded with drugs. Your son has a lot of stuff he needs to work out in the next few years. I wish I could convince you that nothing that you did or didn't do caused this. I use to second guess myself a lot also.

It is sounding more and more like he has attachments issues, those can be very difficult to work through. I remember one of my daughter's therapists who worked with adopted kids exclusively, telling her that she never accepted us like we accepted her and that if we haven't left her in 13 years we weren't going to. I think she was always waiting for us to do that and so she never wanted to get close.


Well-Known Member
And it's more the rule than the exception when you adopt a child who spent most of his formative years not even knowing us. I have been in touch with a large adoptive parent group for twenty years. I am still in touch with a few parents from Illinoiw, where we used to live, and in Wisconsin w here we live now. It is VERY unusual for an older child (and older can mean one and two so you are lucky and I am too because I adopted a two year old). Babies need to be loved and nurtured from birth or they learn to only depend on themselves and their developing brains hardwire them against caring or empathy to varying degrees. My son learned to bond only with his peers as they lived together and took care of one another...kind of sad that no one special adult ever did. Your son may not have even had caring peers. My son decided to show the world he was NOT just a stupid orphan (his words) by overachieving. He has. He had the smarts to do it. Yours decided not to follow the rules of society and to give the so called finger to his situation. But my son has lots of anger in him too. Lots. He just does not show it. And we, like you, thought about the children who cried for parents and I think they do. It's just that once they get them, they find they don't really connect with them or like them or want to be hugged or fussed over and that they don't trust them. I can't tell you how many stories are like ours. Many were also sexually abused, although some of the kdis don't even remember that happening until their 40's or later.

I don't see how you were responsible for the first seven years of your son's life. What could you have done? You didn't know him. When he cried in his crib and was ignored, were you there to pick him up and wipe his tears? Could you feed him when he was hungry? Could you give him special attention and hug him? He was seven years old before he ever heard of you and maybe he never saw anyone who looked like you before. What if you, as a child, lived in a big place with a lot of kids and rules and nobody ever held you or fussed over you and one day you were sent to live with strangers who spoke another language in Sweden? Do you think you would fall in love with them or be puzzled, confused, and maybe even feel like the orphanage had rejected you after your parents have rejected you? As you grew up, even if you were treated nicely from then on, would you nhot look in the mirror and wonder who you looked like? My close friend was adopted and this was a huge issue with her until she found her birth family (and it has been no was a mixed bag...and she did not reject her adoptive parents...but it did get overwhelming). She is at peace now, and had to learn that she has her own identity and that it is not connected to any one family or person. She was the one who told me about adopted children before I adopted them, but she did not know about older adoptees as she'd been an adopted baby. It is different. If the child comes to you as a baby, you can do all the caring things for them that an infant needs in order to develop normally.

Now...what could you have done to make your son better, since you were strangers until he was seven years old? What could I have done better because I'd like to know myself, even if it hurts? I gave him everything the other kids had and tried hard to hug him and do the mommy things we all do for our kids, but he did not want me to. He stiffened if anyone tried to hug him. He turned his cheek for kisses.

What could you and I have done????

Hugs from me with special understanding.


I think our son may be feeling the same as Nancy's daughter - waiting for us to reject him. He told me yesterday that he would have been better off staying at the orphanage, because then he would have had a national identity, even if he had no family, while now he has "neither". He would never say such things before, ever (on the contrary - it looked like he wanted nothing to do with his birth country - he alwats rejected our offers to go there on vacation or find him a tutor so he could learn the language). It could be just him being angry at me for preventing him from getting high, or it could be the way he really feels. I don't know if it matters anymore.
SomewhereOutThere, our son, too, pulled away when people tried to hug him (when he was younger, he would forcefully push people away; later he would just pull away from them). He was so angry at us when we first got him. I remember we got an electronic dictionary with a sound function, to make it easier on him, and when we tried using it, he snatched it out of my husband's hands and smashed it... we got another one, which ended up the same way.

We stayed up all night talking, my husband and I. We weren't there for him when he was young, and I can't go back in time and change that; I also can't change my lack of knowledge or whatever mistakes I may have made after adopting him. The only thing I can do now is help him stay off drugs for the next two years.
After that... I don't know. we'll get there eventually.
Again, thank you both.


Well-Known Member
My daughter Jumper, who I feel is the easiest person to get along with ever and the nicest young adult on earth, once told me, "Adoption should be considered a special need. It's hard." She worked through it, but I do hope she meets her awesome birthmother one day.

I think all adopted children wonder why they were relinquished and need to hear the story from their birthparents, not us. That does not mean they don't love us. Both of my girls, when I asked due to insecurity :) if I'd still be the one they thought of as Mom, they both made fun of me and laughed. "Of course. YOU raised us!" That made me feel a whole lot better about them loving their birthmothers too. After all, ALL of our adopted children actually DO have two mothers and it's ok to love us both. Some search and find it's not so great on the other side. Some search and are happy. The vast majority do not suddenly dump us for them and it helps if we all get along.

It is usually the older adoptees, who remember their birthparents as awful as they were, who leave. My son did not have that, but he never felt like he belonged in the U.S. and is very happy now with a Chinese wife and living that culture. Adoption is complicated and we, as parents, must acknowledge it makes our beloved children think of things biological children don't think about. And it's ok for them to wonder and want to know. It is NOT a rejection. I am extremely close to my girls and Sonic, all adopted. I am not afraid of losing their love to anybody else, but am happy to share it. Jumper, in particular, always talks about what a great life she's had and how much she loves us (we love her FB messages), but she still said adoption is tough.

We are all born with different constitutions. Some of us are more vulnerable and sensitive and some of us are tougher. How we react to situations is largely due to our hardwiring. Jumper and Sonic seem to be very tough and actually so does Princess. But Goneboy came so may and probably would have been the same wit him if he had only come as an infant, but that didn't happen. It is what it is. It's NOT your fault at all Rina. He was already stiffening when you got him...he already did not feel comfortable with the loving expression of a hug. That is NOT on you. You did your very best for him and will continue to try to help him. I know you will.

Let us not forget how many hurting mothers are here who have given birth to children who are rejecting them. There are various reasons our grown children do this. It is certainly not just older adopted children. It's becoming common.


WHY is it so common? Why is it becoming so widespread?
I sometimes feel guilty (I know, too much of that) that my son has this background, that can explain his difficulties. The vast majority of the mothers in this forum DON'T have that, they have given birth to their children and loved them since the day they were born, and still it ended up like this. It hurts to read their posts.

I never expected my son to feel like he belongs in the US, despite his citizenship - I am not an American (husband is), and we raised our children overseas after all. But recently I'm getting the feeling that he thinks we expected that of him. He yelled at me that we never gave him the chance to learn about his country (we did...). He doesn't feel like he belongs, and that drives him crazy, literally...


Well-Known Member
Personally i think it has a lot to do with entitlement. Kids feel entitled to everything. If you raised him in America he would say you didn't let him know about something else.

Here's the deal. Parents used to be parents. They used to be able to do what was best for their child regardless of anyone else's opinion. Sometimes that was good and sometimes it was bad. We do need accountability so that people can't abuse their children but we also need to be able to raise a child without fear of reprisal. Nowadays parents can't do that. Everyone thinks they know best and wants to put their two cents in.

I gave my oldest everything but also had limits. My parents didn't. Anything she wanted she got. Now she looks down on people and that makes me sad. I wish I had been able to parent without so much interference.


Well-Known Member
Rina, we adopted my son as an infant so he may not have the issues a child who was older, came from another country and spent time in an orphanage...but even so I think he has a lot of feelings about being adopted....I have talked a bit about it with my daughter who was also adopted ( but has always been an easy kid and very close to us) and she has expressed that she also had feelings about being adopted, but she accepted them more easily....and really I think the big difference between her and my son is innate personality! He has always had a tougher time dealing with his feelings than she is. She is much more easy going than he is.

I too have gone through periods where I wondered what I did wrong and feeling like I failed him....and he too went through a period where he was pretty rejecting of us.

What a therapist pointed out to us once is that we have no idea what would have happened to him if we had not adopted him. Chances are really good that he would have been much much worse off...that in fact we were a protective factor for him...and that he would have probably ended up in prison or dead years ago!

I have come to believe that in fact that is true. In fact the last time he was in jail when we were visiting him I came to the realization that it is the love of his mother (and father) that will keep him from becoming a hardened criminal.

And at the moment he is working and doing ok. What has really changed is that now he can tell me he loves me.....for years he could not and would not do that.

So continue to love your son.,,,but find ways if you can to let go of the expectation that he will love you back. I am sure you are a big positive influence on his life even if he can't see that now.


Well-Known Member
Dear Rina
I am a new member but wanted to write to offer my support. Your son is lashing out in any way he can from his own pain, because he has lost his moorings, not because of any lacking on your part as a parent, and not because he does not love you. I too adopted my son, when he was 22 months, and blame myself in so many ways. I, too, at times of late have feared I made a mistake-- believing that love could remedy the hurts my son had already suffered as an infant--or that I had failed him as a parent. Either way, my fault. But, we are not the only parents in this situation. And life happens, even to kids that are well loved. But we are it, for them. Maybe there are better Mothers. Many worse. But we are good enough Mothers, and parents. It is not about perfection. We keep hanging in. Keep trying to learn. We stay in the game. Give yourself a break. Your son is lashing out the best thing he has He knows he is safe with you. That you will always be there for him. How great is that? I would not believe for 5 seconds, what he is saying. If it were true, he would never say it. Why bother? Take care.
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Well-Known Member
I do believe it. My son said it and did it. Not all older adopted kids attach. It is much more complicated than infant adoption. Infant adoptees think about it too. It's only natural. But older adoptees have spent too many years, usually their formative ones, without us. And by the time they meet us, we are strangers to them. We try to be nice to them and some of them can't handle that. Also, some have expressed in our adoption group that it feels strange to call their parents "mom" and "dad" when they feel like their real mom is not there...that they wonder why their "real" mom (their words) gave them up.

Put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn't you be curious too? If you had been mistreated and then dumped on somebody's doorstep at age six or so would you also not think, "Why did you wait so long to get me?
Other adoptees in our group mention the subsidies some people get for them and others take the other take and say, "Yeah, you had money so you bought me." One kid recently brought up Brad and Angelina and mocked, "It's very cool and a status symbol to have one of us. F**** that." He has been here about two years with his sister from Ethiopia.

While they say their feelings, facilitated by a social worker, the parents cry.

Some kids just shrug or pop bubble gum or won't talk at all or say "I don't know."

Many say they will find their "real" family when they are older.

The facti is, just because we love them the same as if we had given birth to them, and we waited with their picture in our hands and cried during delays and unforseen stalls, they saw it from a different point of view. Whether it is international adoption or local adoption, an older child has already had a tramatic past. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is actually like PTSD. At least, I read one book that said it is.

Not every child does not bound. But it sure is a large percentage of older adoptees who have extra steroid-type problems. I mean, I am 100% sure that, even with being adopted, Princess, Sonic and Jumper love me with all their hearts. They may have questions that bio. kids don't, but that doesn't take away from the love. Goneboy could not love us. He told us that. I doubt he loves Ex either. Ex is under a lot of strict, rigid rules and time limits when they see one another. It is not like he can just drop by like a normal grandpa and see his son and kids. He can do that with Princess, who lives near him too, but he can't do that with Goneboy. Princess had a loving foster mom who carried her on her back and slept with her until she came to us. Big difference. As soon as Princess saw me, she gave me a big grin and cuddled into me as she was used to being loved. Goneboy was always very stiff and looked down a lot. He did not want us to help him tie his shoes or get him cereal or pick out his clothes. It was as if he were already a little man. None of my younger adopted kids resisted parenting, but he was always so old for his age.

Attachment disorder is a spectrum. There is extreme and mild. What they went through before us matters.

We lucked out with Sonic big time. He was two when we got him, but he had never lived with birthmother and was in only one very loving foster home before us so he was always attached.

It's what they are used to. And genetics.


Well-Known Member
I have a different view. First, I have to state outright that I am a new member, and am really struggling with my own circumstances but let me put it out there anyway. Your situation in two ways resonates with me personally. First I adopted a 22 month old son from an orphanage who had been removed from his birth parents at 2 weeks due to risk. He was beginning to manifest autistic type behaviors at the point I met him. I believed love would heal all. It didn't. But we bonded strongly and immediately. The problems between us only manifested when he was a teen. While my son did not lose his national identity, he has very much struggled with anger, shame and confusion about his identity, with racial confusion, and with the sense of our difference, he and I.

OK. I had extreme alienation from my birth family. My father hated me, I did not see my Mother for over a decade in my thirties. My sister hates my guts. Attachment problems happen despite the biological differences and cultural displacement. But love happens, too. You folks know far better than do I how love becomes distorted in teens and the parents that love them. Is it indeed a different animal in our adopted kids?

I reiterate. Just because kids or adult kids say the do not love us...and believe they do not...does not make it so. I did not know how much I loved my Mother until she was dying.

Of course I am having to face the reality of genetic influences in my son, and you all know the self doubt and fear with which I face the future. I do ask myself if I made a mistake adopting a special needs child, and if I was a fool to have had such hope.

What I am saying is that my Mother had to deal with the same rejection as do we adoptive parents. I, who was genetically related to my family, dealt with the same sense of rejection and a sense of abandonment. Love is tough. The level of commitment and parenting I see from the people on this site is a sight to behold, and all of you challenge me in the best possible sense to be a better mother and a better person. Nothing is easy, for anybody. Not for us. Not for our kids. But you folks are teaching me the beauty in commitment.

I don't know. I hope I am not just in denial. The level of pain that people write in these entries is sometimes too much for me to bear. I hope that I am doing justice to the beauty of spirit and wisdom I encounter, as I learn. I so respect all of you.
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one day at a time
Friends, I don't have an adopted child so I can't know what you are feeling.

But, my family of origin had four children and one was disabled from birth. She died when she was 23. My family went through all kinds of emotions, fears, regrets, insecurities and dysfunctions because we were a family with a disabled child and we reacted accordingly.

I don't believe there is a "normal" family. It just doesn't exist. Media wants to tell us it does, and that is the yardstick by which we measure ourselves.'s just that we all have our own "stuff" and while it's a little bit different---the details---the outcome is the same.

We are all only human.
We love the best we know how to love at the time.
People react in different ways.
There is a lot of hurt and pain.
There is also a lot of joy.

I can't believe the people on this site are any more or any less bad or good people than others out there.

We all did the best we could, and there was never a level playing field for any of us...that so-called normal.

We can spin in circles all day asking Why and I understand that step is necessary for moving on. I spent a lot of time on Why too.

Finally, I let go of why. It is what it is.

We all need to use every resource at our disposal to live the healthiest lives we can live. We can wish that others we love would, too, but that is their decision.

In the end, we have to learn to let so very much go, or we torture ourselves needlessly.

We are only human. We did and will make lots of mistakes. We are sorry for the pain we cause others, and we try to do better as we know better.

What else can we possibly do?

Hang in there, you good people...hang in there with yourselves. There is much joy and peace and hope to be found as you move through this.

We are here with you.


Well-Known Member
He is saying things to you that he may or may not really feel. Because right now, it isn't HIM talking... it's the addict. High or not, he is an addict. It affects their thinking and personality. Unless and until he can conquer the addiction... take anything he says as coming from the addict and not from him.

Whatever he says about how HE feels about YOU, doesn't stop YOU from loving him, caring about him, etc. That is your choice, not his.


(Very) dear friends - I'm relieved to say that son is now at a treatment center. They've dealt with plenty of kids with serious addictions, and they have a therapist who deals mainly with adopted kids. It feels like that right place. I don't know if son will actually cooperate with the program (during the intake session, our on the counselors explained their academic program and said that son will be able to graduate from high school there; son started laughing and said he will never graduate... :\).

We have 1.5 years.... after that, it's on him. The counselors there said it would be for the best if he stays there for at least a year. Considering what he's been up to so far (we keep finding out new infomration about what he did to get money for drugs, and I am absolutely appalled), it's for the best.
Those of you who pray, please include our son in your prayers.


Well-Known Member
That's very good news, sounds like you found a great program. Just to confirm what you said about finding out new information of his drug use, when my daughter was in rehab we attended Sunday all day parent sessions and every parent said the same thing, that they found out the extent of their loved ones use while they were in rehab and were mortified at what they found out.

Anxious to hear how he does in the program.