Tough Love is killing me


I'm new here and have been reading your posts and I think I may have found some parents like me. Here's my story and hopefully some of you will have some thoughts to share:

My daughter is our only child and has had behavioral problems her whole life. Defiant and always in trouble in school, truancy, smoking cigarettes and somehow she actually graduated in 2014.
She has been inpatient for psychological problems but not a really defined diagnosis but we have been told defiant disorder and maybe a personality disorder. We have been in therapy both her alone and family And she has been on various medications that have helped with anxiety and depression. Her defiance and streak of poor choices has never stopped though. She was in drug rehab for meth addiction but was arrested from there after only 3 weeks which was after a possession of Marijuana charge she received last april. Now she has open court cases for both assault and possession that seem to be dragging on forever.
She came home from jail and we set ground rules for our home:
1. No drugs or alcohol and you must remain clean and sober
2. You will take a drug test at our discretion
3. You will get a job and pay for any social activities and gas in your car to and from work.
4. You will participate with the family and help out around the house willingly.
5. Show respect for our home, our possessions and those we provide to you and us.

She was good for about 3 weeks and even enrolled at the lcoal community college and was attending classes for nursing and we were so proud. we felt like she was going to turn it around.
on Feb 20th she came home after school and then packed a bag and took off on foot telling my husband her friend was picking up her up. Seemed strange since she just came home in her car and was leaving on foot. Well low and behold as soon as she is out of sight, the police show up at my house looking for her for an aggravated robbery and hit and run she was involved in!!!! Two felony charges!!!
She wouldn't answer our calls and texts trying to get her home to talk to the police. She has been gone ever since. She was told that if she failed to comply with our rules she would have to leave So in guess she took it upon herself to leave. We searched her room and found weed, rolling papers and other evidence of drug use.
we have done everything we know to do to get her help, family therapy, medication, counseling, nurturing, encouragement and multiple chances and she just continues to run her life off in the ditch and have no regard for my husband and I. I just don't understand why she would continue to choose a life of struggle and trouble when she could follow our very reasonable rules, live at home, have a vehicle and get an education!!! I want to understand why!

I'm worn out and don't k ow what to do anymore.

in a daze

Well-Known Member
Hi there. We all get it.The frustration and the disappointment...

There is one common theme that runs through the stories on this message board, and that is when we stopped helping them, when we made it clear that they were not welcome to live with us anymore, when we stopped giving them money, when we stopped trying to fix all their problems for them, when we started putting OURSELVES first, it was only then, that many all though not all of our wayward adult children started to slowly improve.

A therapist to help you both deal with your daughter and take care of yourselves is helpful as are support groups such as Famlies Anonymous or Alanon.

And of course the forum members will all help you through this. Posting really helps.

Welcome, and I hope u can find some comfort and useful information from all of us.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
The previous poster said exactly what I was going to say. Going to meetings at Families Anonymous will surely strengthen you. Counseling for you and your spouse ...likewise. Consider reading literature on detachment. There is very little, if ANYTHING, you can do for her until she makes a personal decision to do the work necessary to make a positive change in her life. You can't do it for her. And you will likely never know the answer to the "whys." It can be very painful, but counseling and the support of other parents who have been through the experience often helps.


Thank you Nomad and In a Daze, just to have people that get it is such a relief. I have been an enabler and a mom that has tried to save my child from her own bad decisions so I know now that detachment is something I will have to learn for my own health and for my daughter.
I guess because this is so new for me, tough love, I still feel guilty that I have put my child out with no permanent place to stay. I know that she chose this path with her actions but it's still very hard to live with right now. I hope that counseling will help me learn to change my thinking from an enabler for my daughter's destructive ways to someone that can 'enable' myself to let go of the guilt and live my own life with happiness.

My daughter is still begging for money, sometimes harassing me for hours with texts and calls during the workday. I know too that I have to suffer through that because I gave her money for so long because I didn't want her to be without.

Such a hard road although I know it's the right one for all of us. I just still can't believe that my own child is reading such havoc in our lives.

Thanks again for your words.


Well-Known Member
Welcome, Weary Mom.
So sorry you had to join us, but so glad that you have.
I hear you.
I see myself in your shoes some day.
It's just so strange, all the things that we teach our kids, and the dr appts, the school staff mtngs, the discipline, the rewards, and it seems that nothing matters.
Every now and then, I read a report from a long-gone parent whose child is now in their 30s, and things have come around. Those notes and lives give me hope. And sometimes, all I have to hold onto are those notes.
What is so frustration and mind-boggling is that we know that inside there somewhere are loving, capable, productive kids. You've seen it with your own--she got started in nursing school and was home, obeying your rules.
... And then.
We keep working toward those good kids, somewhere deep inside there. And most of the time, we have to just let go and let the pieces fall.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
I just don't understand why she would continue to choose a life of struggle and trouble when she could follow our very reasonable rules, live at home, have a vehicle and get an education!!! I want to understand why!

The "whys" will drive you crazy... and you'll never really fully understand them, I think. None of us here would make the choices our kids make, but we're not them. In your daughter's case, it sounds like the "why" comes down to one pretty big reason: addiction. Addicts will always choose their addiction over anything else, it's just how it works, unfortunately. Someone once said to me, "never ask the addict to choose between you and their addiction, you will always come in second."

I definitely think you should look into Al-Anon or Families Anonymous in your area and get to some meetings. This struggle is not one to do alone, the more support you have around you, the better.


one day at a time
Weary Mom 18, Welcome to the forum. We are glad you found us. We do understand. We really do.

First, your story about your daughter sounds a lot like my son's story.

He had troubles in school---nothing major really---wouldn't do his work, or if he did it, didn't turn it in, etc. That started in middle school. He also got in trouble for "holding" a girl's Ipod for her, and was actually paddled. At the time I thought that was a great injustice. Now, when I think back, I see it all differently. In high school he wanted to play soccer so he kept it between the lines, so to speak, just enough. He was deemed gifted, but "hated being smart" so he basically sat in place and did nothing. Finally I gave up that fight, and let him be in the "regular" classes. His high school was the "sports high school" in our city, so he passed everything with very little effort.

Of course, the plan was for him to go to college. That was always my plan for both of my boys, and it was talked about in our home consistently. They both had chores, and responsibilities, and part-time jobs, curfews, went to church every Sunday, went on church mission trips, were acolytes. We were going to have a great family! Or die trying.

When my son (difficult child) was a junior in high school, my husband and I separated. My ex-husband is an alcoholic, not drinking now. But years and years of living with that took a toll on me, even though he was a very high functioning alcoholic, had a professional executive position, etc. He was an infrequent binge drinker, so I had no idea he was progressing in his disease, as it happens. Finally, the "chickens came home to roost" as they say, and he ended up in the ER one Easter Sunday morning with a blood alcohol level of four times legally drunk. I had realized about a year before that that he had a serious problem with alcohol---after a while people can't hide their addictions as he had for so many years. Addiction is a progressive disease. It gets worse and worse if untreated. There is a saying that untreated alcoholics and addicts end up in one of three places: jail, an institution or dead.

His disease and my focus on enabling him and then, after it all came to light, my obsession with stopping his drinking, drove us all crazy. He was nuts and I was nuts. I started going to Al-Anon at that time and went for that period for 18 months. It saved my life, even though there were many of the tools and practices I didn't embrace. I thought I was different and he was different and quite frankly, I just wanted someone to tell me how to make him stop. I heard the teachings, but I was a "part-time" believer in them.

So we divorced---it was a bitter divorce---my younger son (difficult child) flunked out of the four year university after the first year (he actually flunked out the first semester but they allowed him to finish the second semester). then he enrolled in community college---again, my kids were going to have college degrees, by Goodness!. Nothing would do except that.

He either dropped, withdrew or flunked those classes. Slowly, slowly, we started changing our own behavior, instead of giving him another and another and another chance. We kept buying his "story" for years before we started stopping. And then even when we started stopping, we were very inconsistent in our stopping.

During this time, he was living here and moving out and coming back. I had him sign contracts. We had talks. We had screaming and yelling matches. I had lists of rules posted on the refrigerator. I was a nervous wreck. He made promises. He defied everything I said. It was a back and forth up and down roller coaster, and nothing really changed. He just kept getting worse.

I drug him to doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists. By Gosh I was going to get to the bottom of this. Surely something was really wrong with him, something fundamental. I knew he acted depressed and is an introvert and didn't communicate well. He was defiant. He did the opposite thing of what made sense, all the time.

One Christmas we went to my family's two states away. His girlfriend went with us. My older son went too. There were four people in the car driving. When my younger son drove---took his turn driving---he went very fast and reckless. I asked him to stop over and over again, until finally I was screaming. He kept on. Needless to say, he didn't drive again.

While there, he and his girlfriend stayed at my sister's house. I was at my parents' house. The second night we were there, they got totally drunk, wanted my niece to go buy them even more beer, went through the medicine cabinets and got my brother-in-law's pain medications from his open heart surgery, and were completely out of control. The girlfriend was a distant second fiddle to it all (today she is doing great, has well moved on with her life after my son). My son was the ringleader. Of course I still thought it had to be the girlfriend, mainly. Not my son.

We left early to come home after I found out all that happened. We left immediately. I called my ex-husband and had a long talk. I told him something was very seriously wrong. It was way more than an immature boy acting out. We have to do something drastic here. We have to get him help. He was 20 at the time. That was the first time I realized something big and bad was going on and it was going to be a long, long time until things got better.

For the last five years, until last June, it has been a fast decline. My son has been in jail some 8 or 9 times. He has multiple misdemeanors and two felonies for selling drugs. He has been homeless multiple times, some of those periods for several months at a time. He has not lived in my home for even one night since we got back from that Christmas trip and a week later I asked him to sign a contract with more new rules and stipulations. He tore it up in my face and walked out the door.

I have read every book and article I can find about mental illness. I have been convinced at times that he surely must have all kinds of diagnosis. I have talked with many mental health professionals. See, I thought if I could just understand it, I could do something about it.

The past five years have been a mixture of the worst time in my life and the best time in my life. I have been filled with grief and despair and hopelessness and fear many, many times. Early on, I could not function very well. I have my own business and I sometimes I couldn't work at all. But I had to support myself, since I was divorced and on my own, so I would drag myself back and somehow keep going. But not very well.

My son continued, despite my best efforts. Early on, I hired lawyers, forced him into rehab---a $6K tab that I put on a credit card, forced him into counseling, visited in jail, put money on his jail account, mailed books and cards and letters to the jail. No matter what he did, I kept on trying to maintain contact and to get him to change. I did and said everything under the shining sun. No stone was left unturned.

As I began to see that my best efforts were producing nothing, and in fact, he was only getting worse and worse, I began to turn my efforts on figuring out how I was going to live if this continued. I began to see that I had to go on with my own life.

It took a long time, and many fits and starts, for me to change. As I would change a little bit, I would start to feel better, and function better, and that would encourage me to continue to work on myself. There were some periods that I went to an Al-Anon meeting every single day. For weeks and weeks. I would talk to my Al-Anon sponsor every day or every other day. I would write in a journal, read Al-Anon and other recovery books and articles and literature. I continued to exercise, and work, and talk to friends, and go to church. I developed new daily habits that were positive for me. I worked it. I worked it hard.

All the while, there was drama and chaos and bad things happening with him. As I got better, he continued to get worse. He would get out of jail at midnight (that is when they let them out here---barbaric) and walk to my house, getting here about 2 a.m. and pound on the door. This happened over and over again. The last time, I talked to him through the door and said to meet me at the garage. I said get in the car. I said I am taking you to an allnight restaurant and I will pay for a breakfast for you, and that is it. Never come to my house again in the middle of the night for any reason. If you do, I will call the police immediately. I will take out a restraining order against you. He said, I'm not going to a restaurant, take me to an all night laundromat, so I did. His parting words to me were: F___ you. I went home, went back to bed and went to sleep.

I could go on and on and on.

The point is, I, and many on this board, have been where you are. Going through something like this, with a beloved child, is soul-shattering. It calls into question everything you ever knew, or believed or wanted or hoped for.

I call addiction the 40-foot-tall monster that mows down everything and everybody in its path. It is unflinching. It is invincible.

UNTIL. Until the person who is in its grip wants to change. On that day---and that is a wonderful day---when the person truly hits bottom---that is when there is a chance---just a chance, mind you---for something new to happen.

The thing is this: We have to get out of the way. We have to get out of the path where our adult children are, and where they are walking. It is their journey not ours. We are not on their path, and we can't change their path. It is what it is. They will do what they will do. Until they don't.

And I truly believe that them stopping has very little to do with us. We are bit players in this drama. We are on the sidelines and that is where we need to go, and where we need to stay.

All of our "help" only prolongs their day of reckoning. Will they die in the meantime? Will they go to prison? Will they go crazy? Will they be badly hurt, maybe for life?

Well, that may happen. I have wrestled with all of this in the middle of the night, many many times. When we love someone so much, like we do our children, we cannot fathom "allowing" this. We will do anything. We will spend anything. We will risk everything.

I so understand that. I did that. Until I stopped. And my stopping wasn't pretty. It happened over a long long period of time, over months and years.

Today, my son is working full time. He is paying his own bills. This has been going on since late October 2014. Is he cured? Is he fixed? Will he start using drugs again? Is he using them now? Is he drinking? What are his thought processes?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions. I only know what I see. I talk with him or text him weekly. He lives in the same town I do. The last time I saw him was three weeks ago when he ran by here on his way to work.

He is 25 years old. He is a grown man. He is going to have to be responsible for his own life, whatever that means. I love him very much.

The key to this is you changing. It's hard and it's lonely and it's isolating, but it is worth it. I am a much better person today than I was five years ago. Through this, I have been able to improve myself greatly, and today, I have much compassion for him and for all of us and our adult children who we learn about on this board. Change is very hard, for us and for addicts and alcoholics. It is filled with relapse, for us and for them. We have to accept reality. Life isn't perfect. People aren't perfect, and this life isn't a pretty story where everything comes out all right. I wish it was, but it isn't.

Warm hugs. Keep posting. We are here for you.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
My daughter is still begging for money

No money.

This is your ace in the hole. Don't waste it. What do you need this child to do to prove to you she has turned herself around? Until she has done those things, pay for nothing. Fund only the positives.

She could be home.

She could have all her needs met in abundance and she could be preparing for a wonderful future.

sometimes harassing me for hours with texts and calls during the workday.

Block her number. Unblock it once a day, or once every three days, or whenever you need to know she is okay.

This child has forfeited her right to the responses a loving parent would normally make.

She is browbeating you in an attempt to get you to fund her lifestyle. If you do, she will self-destruct faster and dig all of you in deeper.

There is nothing easy or the least bit pleasant about a child who is self-destructing. I am sorry this is happening to her, and to you. You are here with us, now.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

There is time. Take a deep breath and a mental step back. Your child will be okay for the next twenty minutes. Once you know how to let go of your worry for her for twenty minutes, try not to worry or think of her for an hour. Just say, "I will think those scary, worrisome thoughts in ten minutes." And then, in three hours. I found that I was bargaining for my child's life. If I worry enough, she will be protected, somehow. If I sacrifice what matters to me, she will not be harmed. If I were a better mom, this would not have happened.

But none of those things were true.

I had to learn to survive very bad, terrible things and cherish my life, anyway.

I am so sorry this is happening.

Your daughter is in a dangerous situation ~ but it is by her own choice and you cannot change that for her.

That is why this is so hard.

The kids do terrible, hurtful things, and we love them so much it drives us a little bit crazy.

For today, she is fine.

And we have been where you are and we know how this feels and we are right here.

Together, we will all get ourselves and each other through the worst of it.



Well-Known Member
I just don't understand why she would continue to choose a life of struggle and trouble when she could follow our very reasonable rules, live at home, have a vehicle and get an education!!! I want to understand why!

Oh my dear WearyMom - I so completely understand. I've said "Why" over and over. We didn't ask for much. We felt we were reasonable, even lenient. Why couldn't he live by simple rules (basically, work, don't do drugs and don't steal)? Why would he hurt us? What is going on with his head? How could this be happening? And the biggie - What did I do wrong?

I still want to understand why, even though it won't change anything. The not knowing, not understanding, may be the hardest part of this.

My daughter is still begging for money, sometimes harassing me for hours with texts and calls during the workday. I know too that I have to suffer through that because I gave her money for so long because I didn't want her to be without.

This too. My son always calls me...never my husband...because I was always the soft touch. But we quit saying yes and slowly it is better. He still calls sometimes and my stomach still drops when the phone rings. He never really asks for money anymore. Sometimes what he asks for, I'll say yes to. Sometimes I'll say no. I've learned that if I ignore him for a while, he finds some other way to get what he wants usually.

Don't answer. Text instead of talking, that helps. No money. She will spend it on drugs. It's hard to not answer. It's very hard to not give money. I still struggle with it.

You didn't say, has she been arrested? Does she have warrants? If she's arrested, I hate to say it, but it may be better for her if you don't bail her out, even if you can afford to do it. Keep the financial implications of bailing her out in mind if she runs off.

I'm so very sorry you have to be here and I'm glad you've found us. :group-hug:


Well-Known Member
WearyMom, there really is no answer to "why." We'll never know. Probably to wear us down so we'll do what they want. Our difficult darlings are nothing if not control freaks. Often the controlling behavior is effective too. Nobody likes being harassed. It is common to give in just to shut somebody up, and we love our children and they know it so there is an additional factor there.

My advice? Don't watch those thousands of texts coming through. Block her while she's on a rant, if you can, and if not, put your phone in a drawer and walk away. She'll eventually give up when there is no response.

With our difficult darlings, less is more. The less we talk to them when they are being irrational, which is a lot of the time, the less they get fueled up to spew more nonsense and abuse at us. Here's an example of how I calm down my difficult darling when he is on an abusive rant and it has been extremely effective to use the "less is more" method combined with the "I don't allow myself to be abused" add on. Now to me texting is as bad or worse than talking to them because I don't like to be able to scroll back and read the hate so I just go low contact when my son gets a bit "off-his-rocker." Here is an example how I have learned to interact with him when he is losing it:

Him: So that's your answer? That's your stupid answer? You think I should do this myself? You're a terrible mother %@&#.

Me: Hmmmmm.

Him: When my kids is 50, I'll still do things for him.

Me: (silence)

Him: Are you *@%& still there, b******?

Me: Bart, you need to calm down plus I don't listen to abuse. You know that. I'm going to give us a time out from one another. (hang up/phone goes in drawer/go back to what I was doing before/seething inside, but with time I have learned how to work through it quickly).

Now, let's look at the alternative of trying to talk sense into them.

Difficult Child: I need money or I'm going to starve.

You: Look, I gave you a list of the various places you can get food. There really are a lot of resources out there.


You: (trying to knock sense into a brick wall) Look, you can't drive. You have that DUI. Even if you could, you know that Dad is insisting you pay your own insurance and gas, and that's going to help you grow up to be the man we both know you can be.


(an hour later)

You: (near tears) Ok, ok. So I'll be by in an hour and we can shop for a few items.

Difficult Child: You stupid (choose your word)! I'll take the damn money and shop myself. I don't need you to take care of me!!! (can we all LOL?)

Ok, the moral of the story is, the more we talk to them while they are being insane, the more insane WE get and the weaker we get and the more fodder we give them to shoot us down and make us feel bad. It's abusive and we are giving them a platform for it. Then often we become a doormat and even after all the abuse we do what they want anyway and STILL it's not appreciated.

I have learned to walk away, even from my own son when he is being crazy. For me, the result is that he is still crazy, but far less often than he used to be. I feel kinda silly that I put up with the abuse for so long. It doesn't help our difficult children when we allow them to abuse us or if we try to talk sense into them when they aren't hearing it.

I am so sorry you are going through this. I get headaches just reading posts like these.

Try to keep your chin up and have a good rest of the day and go low contact and "less is more" with Difficult Child.
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Thanks Child of mine, she has not been arrested for the Feb 20th aggravated robbery and hit and run but the detective tells me that if she continues to refuse to give a statement, the DA will file the two felony charges and then a warrant will be issued. She could face prison time. I honestly think she would be better off in jail or prison and there is no way I would bail her out.

I'm so exhausted by her insanely foolish choices and am at a point that I need to get some distance between us so I can recover a bit and maybe have some joy in my life again.


Well-Known Member
It's sooo hard when they're so young...and 18 is still so young. It may be harder when they are the only least I think so, although since I have an only too, I truly can't say. I wish I had words of wisdom, but you can't make an adult (young...but still adult) do anything. You can't make them talk to the police. You can't make them go to therapy. You can't make them stop self-destructing.

All you can control is what YOU do. Try to stay strong. Try to limit your contact and assistance. Try to stay sane and hold on. Posting here can help. Stay with us.


Well-Known Member
My 18 year old is sitting in juvenile prison at this moment. He has no one to blame but him. He had gotten out of treatment and was on his way to getting into a top notch vocational program. He decided to violate his probation in the last 2 months of his probation. He did not believe anyone when they told him what the consequences would be. A hard head makes for a soft bottom.


Well-Known Member

I am reading along and sending you hugs.

Your daughter is young and there is hope with that.

As a "seasoned" enabler, I will tell you this. husband and I have been through all of what you post. It never got better for us, though it may for you and your daughter.

husband and I both wish we had stopped enabling a decade ago. difficult child pulled everything your daughter is doing. If it were funny, I would laugh. But, or course, it is far from funny and it hurts, a lot. I am so very sorry.

My advice: Remove yourself from the crazy. Take care of yourself and those that treat you right. I learned this from Conduct Disorders and it was some of the most valuable advice ever.

When my son was 32, and husband and I were so very, very tired, I found this forum. This was after I had called my brother, a sensible attorney straight kind of guy and asked him, Is it okay to quit helping difficult child? (Because I knew him to be one of the most sensible humans i knew and i knew he loved his nephew). And, he said YES, what you and husband have been doing IS NOT WORKING. It sounds a bit crazy now, but I just did not get that it was okay to stop, even though husband and I knew it was not helping. It just seemed unfathomable to stop trying. He was our (firstborn) son whom we love so much and we owed it to him to keep trying/pushing/giving/accepting.

It can be a slow step-by-step process, but there is freedom when you move past the enabling & guilt. If husband's and my enabling had helped difficult child make progress; well, we'd be all for it forever. But, nothing was improving. More demands, more hatefulness from our son. NO progress.

Again, with everybody else, I am here and keeping you in my thoughts. YOU: Be good/kind to yourself. Plan fun things for YOU....again, advice I got from this board. Once husband and I changed our perception of what was happening (based on experience from this board), life got much, much better for us.

Change what you can, but accept what you cannot and move forward...for YOU. If you see you are helping your daughter, that is different.



Thank you, your kind understanding words make my heart ache less. The pain of your child throwing her life in the ditch is so intense and there is so much that I just can't understand about why she is doing all of this. She is beautiful and smart and is so capable of doing wonderful things. It just kills me. Thank you so much for your words, they are a real comfort.


I've been wracking my brains trying to figure out why is my son ruining his life with drugs and criminal behaviors, too.
I don't know if I'll ever figure it out. His lifestyle and choices are so far beyond my experience. But they're still our children, and while we must let boundaries for them (as you've wisely done) we need to try and understand to the best of our ability. The only way to do that is through counseling - counseling in which they are actiely involved and in which they are honest. It takes time to get there and it hurts so much.
I wish you all the best. Take care.