Troubled in Pittsburgh

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Troubled in Pitttsburgh, Dec 25, 2015.

  1. Hi All,

    I'm very glad to find this site and all these threafds with tremendous feedback as it has provided a great level of comfort to my wife an I in our situation with my oldest son. Our story and plans are summarized below, please offer up any recommendations as it seems so many of you are unfortunately, all to well versed in these areas.

    Our son, now 25, has been difficult since age 17 where issues were first observed and have only gotten worse over the years. What I feel may be important observations:
    • Difficulty in a high school started in Sophomore year (hard academic program in a private Christian school) with poor study habits and lack of motivation to succeed.
    • Never seen someone 'hold a grudge' longer or deeper then my son, even from a young age.
    • Friends all made the Varsity team in Sophomore year, except my son who became the JV Captain. I feel this may have been the start of the issues.
    • Has had a group of friends since HS who care about him and try to get him out etc. but that group is dwindling as they are moving on with their lives (engagements, apts etc).
    • Has had a few girlfriends over the years, all very nice, pretty, hardworking girls that all drop him after 3 or 4 months. Some very hard break-UPS. Most recent was 15 months ago.
    • Dropped out of college after five F's in one semester, after difficult discussions with my wife and I, applied to on-line college and received his degree about 1 year ago,
    • Binges on alcohol (his friends do even more so) and did smoke pot (and probably harder drugs for a bit). To the best of our knowledge, just alcohol the last 12 months.
    • Held 1 good internship for 3 months that he hated (would not talk with boss about too many hours etc).
    • Held limited menial jobs over the years and seems to have hated every one.
    • Very quiet person, will talk sports with friends. Does not talk with Mom much, Dad even less.
    • Spends a lot of time alone in his room or watching endless hours of sports. Sometimes this get better (i.e. will go out with friends a few weekends in a row).
    • Two younger brother are 'successful' at school. One brother is very much an extravert and everyone's friend.
    • Depression runs in both my wife's and mine families, as does alcoholism.
    • We backed off the last 10 months in hope that him landing a job after college would help make things better. 1 month ago his only decent job offer was rescinded after an unknown issue during the 1st week of training (he refuses to elaborate).
    • We had very limited success in getting him to see a Therapist. After HS issues he saw one for 3-4 sessions. My wife and I had 10 sessions at that time and 3 in the last month as our patience is ending.
    • My wife and I are very successful, hard working type-A.
    • New Therapist, again who has not met my son, says he has very limited data, but suspects that he is either a slacker or depressed.
    • He refuses to see this new (or any) therapist.
    • New Therapist believes that dad (me) is too pushy, successful etc. and that son is ashamed of not living up to my expectations. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this but my wife thinks it may be a contributing factor. Therapist recommends we back off - don't mention 'job' at all.
    • We've tried to talk with him numerous times over the years, but he almost immediately shuts down, starts raising his voice and demanding that there is no issue. Now cursing is becoming an issue when such discussions occur.
    • I see a very angry young man who does not have the coping skills to address the issues that come at him and his coping mechanism is lying to take the easy way out, withdrawal, cursing, yelling. His lack of success is adding fuel to the depression fire.
    Our plan is to write a 'contract' that simply states we love him, want him to be happy and will continue to support him but only if he goes to 'family counseling' to see what we can do to repair our relationships etc - else he must leave our house (he could probably survive on friends couches for a few weeks or we could also arrange some assistance at supportive and knowledgeable Aunts/Uncles homes but don’t know if that helps or hurts in the long run).

    Please help. The emotions and stress on the family are now to the point my wife and I can no longer allow to continue without a plan or some sort of path to improvement.

    Thanks in advance,
    Troubled in Pittsburgh
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Is it possible that the binging is alcoholism since it runs in the family? One doesn't have to drink every day to be an alcoholic. But when an alcoholic drinks, he can't stop until he is wasted. I suspect you know this. As for never know if he's using or not or what he could be using. Depression on it's own, without substance abuse, is treatable. A psychiatrist is best, but at his age you can't make your son go. Is he helpful at home? Respectful? Any car accidents? DUIs? Do you still pay all his bills?

    I'm sorry you are having these thoughts on Christmas and hope you can learn, like so many of us have, that we can not control our grown children.We can only change our reactions to those kids, who are now grown men and women. You have two other boys who are watching your reaction to this son.

    Also...this is not your fault. Your son is choosing to do nothing and binge drink. You never taught him to not work hard or binge drink or try drugs. It's on him...he is 25. Don't let him make you feel guilty if you decide not to pay for his clothes, his car, his cell phone, etc. He is old enough that he should be finding a way to pay himself. Depression usually does not stop one from being able to work, in fact working can be helpful f or depression. I have suffered depression since age 13 and am doing very well for years now on good medication, therapy and hard work on myself. Alcoholism, however, can get in the way of work, especially if they drug test.

    Your son is failing to launch, a common problem with the kids here, especially those who indulge in substances too much. I don't personally feel that talking to him at his age will help. My own opinion, which could be wrong, is he needs to be pushed into working, even if it's at McDonalds.

    Sorry for your hurting heart. Try hard to take care of yourself. That's very important.
  3. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Hi Troubled And Welcome

    The path to improvement must come from your son, I think.

    There are elements your son's story shares with that of my own child. Except your son has achieved more.

    My son is 27. His problems surfaced around the same time as with your son.

    I had to push him to do everything. Get jobs which he held for a few months. Go to college, Job Corps, training in a helping medical field. Eventually, when he quit his job 4 years ago I insisted he leave here pretty much permanently.

    He never returned to college, although he is very bright. He speaks 3 languages perfectly and 3 more. He taught himself.

    Since I pushed him out his main accomplishment has been to qualify for SSI for Mental Illness. He is adopted. I believe it was easy for him to qualify because he applied in the city of his birth and early life and there was a record of trauma. In that, my son's history is different than your son.

    I am a professional. I have always been hardworking and success oriented. When I have had problems or barriers I have sought professional help. I have tried to change, to be better. I still do.

    I do not see my own son as doing that.

    I have come to see that we are different people, my son and I, that I cannot impose my own values on him. I have come to see that the best thing I can do for him and for myself is to respect him enough to allow him to live his life on his own terms, on his own steam, not mine.

    I believe that you have launched your son. I think your role in supporting him has ended. I do not mean you do not love him or support him with the truth, what I see as moral authority. But he is his own responsibility now. If not, where does this end? How does he begin to have responsibility for himself, the kind that we have? The sense that his life is his own. That it is he who did it.

    Now that my son is receiving public support my obligation to him has become more limited. In the way I describe. I love him. I tell him, in a very limited way, what I think--when he asks me. I also limit how much contact I have. If it is destructive to me. I tell him the truth, if I need to.

    I see my role now as telling myself the truth, too. That any expectations of him really are not that appropriate--unless I am directly involved, directly impacted.

    If he goes on and on like a broken record in a way that I hear as wallowing I will go so far as to say: How do you think it feels to hear that from you, of you that you suffer so? I love you. I do not want to hear that you suffer so, without end. Those are topics to address with a therapist. Or a spiritual adviser. I know that must sound harsh.

    I do not say it to be harsh. I do it to tell the truth. Our sons will help themselves or not. That is the truth.

    My own sadness and frustration have no role in any of this. My only business now is myself. How to be happy. To feel complete and at peace. He is his business. My own expectations are my own for me.

    I am glad you are here. Keep posting. I hope you do.

    I know this is a different way of looking at things. The reality as I see it now is this: Any meaningful and lasting change will come from our children. Not from us.

    It matters for us. And for them. That we see this. And act from it. That is what I think now.

    I have a contentment and a sense of peace that I cannot remember. Since I accepted what I see as reality. Our relationship, that with my son feels appropriate in a way it has not been for years and years. He seems happier. He calls me to ask my opinion. He calls me to check in, to sustain the relationship. He calls so that I do not worry. I am grateful for all of these things. I see them as highly meaningful. And hopeful.

    The rest of it is his business.

    Last edited: Dec 25, 2015
  4. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Hi Troubled,
    You have given very detailed background on your son, thank you for sharing information and for being here with us on the forum. Sorry for your need to be here, it is a heartache when our children grow up and have challenges.
    I find this interesting that the therapist would make this observation without even speaking with your son.
    Troubled, I went to a Therapist after dealing with my two adult kids, who drove me rather crazy coming and going through our "revolving" door. We thought we were helping them.
    After sharing my story, the Therapist took one look at me and sternly said "You are an enabler." The word ran round my head, like a scene from Twilight Zone. "But, but, but, my kids need help...." I sputtered. Her reply was that my kids were adults, and needed to learn how to fend for themselves, that as long as they were in my home, this was not going to happen. It took awhile for me to really understand and grasp this. It was true. My kids came to me for help, then sooner, more than later, started to take for granted what we were doing for them. They failed to launch. They were in our house, but acting out, disrespectful, like they despised their situation. Yet, they still expected us to "help" and put up with their shenanigans.......
    My two used the same tactic. How clever. They didn't want to address the issue, so if I brought it up, they would "release the Kraken". We were walking on eggshells around them. Writing about it now, I see how manipulative and smart they were. It is really an adult child tantrum. They knew that I wanted to address their laziness, drug use, partying, and that discussion would probably result in ultimatums. So, they fended off the discussion by acting disrespectful and irrational. It was insanity. I believed that it was due to depression also. I later found out, they were both doing heavy drugs. What I was observing, was the nasty side effects of withdrawal. My two were not only using drugs, they were using us.They were literally "running the show".
    Our adult children are not meant to live off of us, doing whatever they please.
    It gives no meaning to their lives.
    They have wings, and are meant to use them, but will not, under our roofs.
    Troubled, I am not trying to be harsh with you, just been there, done that. Tried everything under the sun.
    Raised my girls, they made bad choices from teens. In and out of trouble. Came back home to live and made us all miserable. Over and again. They made promises and broke them. We had agreements, broke them. I feel like all of that, the misery in our home, the attempts to repair relationship.....just prolonged things. We will not be around forever to pick up the pieces of our difficult children's lives. They need to learn to fend for themselves.
    My hubs cousins have been taking care of their son forever, he is in his 50's.
    They are in their late 70's.

    If you do as planned, write the contract, I do so hope that your son will follow through.
    If he does not, you may want to think of letting him go, to find his own way. Countless folks here on CD, will tell you that their kids did not fare well under their roofs. Our adult children need to reap the consequences of their actions, to grow.

    I do not mean to come harshly at you Troubled, this has been a long 8 years for you. I do understand, have been in this dilemma, just wanting the best for my girls. I finally realized, what I wanted, and they wanted, were completely different things.

    Wishing peace for you and yours
    Please do not blame yourself, your success, for your sons problems, I think that is completely unfair.

  5. Kalahou

    Kalahou Active Member

    Welcome to this site, but I''m sorry for the difficulties that bring you here. You are not alone. Many here (including me) could have written a close variation of the detailed description points you have laid out.
    My difficult child son is now 36. He was still exhibiting all the same tactics up until I came to the realization that my misguided intentions of helping him and supporting him were actually just enabling him to stay in the rut of his self-destructive behaviors. It was driving husband and I nuts. I realized that allowing him to stay in our home was not good for either him or for us. It took me a long time to see it. In our culture, many adult children stay living with the parents, and it is not usual that kids are so called "kicked out" as the family custom is to be close and take care of their own.

    And naturally as parents we all feel responsible and desire so much to set our kids up for success in the way we see it and the way we want it. But the usual strategies that may seem to work with easy children, just do not work with our difficult children.

    Finally, we asked our son to leave our home a few months ago. I had to detach from his situation and from my emotional fears. Son did not take any action on his own to leave, so I had to work hard myself to remove his belongings and clean out his room and change the lock. Since he has left, I have found a measure of peace. I think my son is far better off for it also, just if only to be away from us, away from the enabling. He rarely communicates, which is his way, but when he does, he has not been upset with us.

    I really wish I had seen the "light" about this many years ago. If I had stepped back sooner, stopped my enabling years ago, and given him the push to use his wings to fly, he would have many years earlier faced the challenges and responsibilities to grow and become confident in himself (maybe not? who knows? Only he can make the choices for change in his own life.) He now has a late start, but these actions on our part - to send our adult difficult children out on their own is necessary at some point. I think the longer we wait, the more they themselves sense a fear that they cannot make it on their own.
    Reading other threads and posts on this site will show you that detachment from enabling is imperative for our difficult adult children in order for either the children or us parents to have any peace.
    Keep posting here. It helps. Others will be along. Read the "Detachment article" thread posted at the top of this forum. It helps to keep being reminded of how and why to detach.
    Take care. Kalahou
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2015
  6. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Hi, and welcome.

    I don't disagree with the other posters. But I sometimes take a different track.

    You say he isn't like you and your wife and your other sons. So... who IS he like? An uncle, a grandparent, a cousin? Sometimes, that person will have a better chance at reaching out, because they understand.

    Pressure isn't going to solve this, because pressure is likely one of the factors that caused it. (been there done that with one of mine.) There really needs to be an alternative to "therapy or nothing", because therapy doesn't always work and it can be majorly difficult to find a good fit for some of our kids. (been there done that too.) He doesn't need to be "fixed". He needs to figure out who he is and where he is going and what he wants out of life and how to get there.