As a refresher, my son graduated from a year-long sober living program this summer. It was so wonderful to have him back again! Family members who had long ago given up hope were at his ceremony, cheering him on and celebrating. For the first time in years, he was excited about his future. After doing so well at his job and in the program, his probation was terminated early and his felony charges were dropped. A few days after the early termination, he took me on a sunset hike. We had a long, honest (or so I thought) conversation about sobriety and the importance of staying plugged into his support system. I congratulated him once again on his success and told him how very proud and grateful we were. The morning after our hike, a police officer showed up at the door to do a well-being check. Son’s car was found 2 counties over, submerged in a canal, with no sign of the driver. After getting the landlord to let us into his apartment, we realized that long before his relapse, son had been planning to “disappear” in the mountains and was apparently just biding his time until his charges were dropped. He was so drunk that night he never made it. Two days later, we finally found out through a third party that son was OK, just partying. A few days after that, the money ran out and he returned to Sober Living. That is where my last update left off. Since that time, son was kicked out of Sober Living. He checked into a motel and started using again. One day he called Hubs in a hallucinatory panic. Hubs raced to the hotel and pulled him out of a room full of users and drugs and took him back to Sober Living. The next week, son did the very same thing. Once again, Hubs rescued him. Sober Living would not take him back. Hubs convinced son to check into detox. When son was released, he did not like any of the facilities offering him a bed. He spent the last of his money on a bus ticket to join a fellow rehab dropout in a business venture. Not surprisingly, his drug use quickly escalated. The “dream job” became unbearable and the “nice guy” turned out to be a jerk…BUT he had a “sober friend” and a “great opportunity” waiting for him – if we would just buy him a bus ticket! We’ve seen that movie before and refused to help. I stopped taking his calls, but Hubs was harassed mercilessly. There were nightly screaming matches between a heartbroken father and his very drunk son, willing to say whatever it took to get a $100 bus ticket to be with his next drugging buddy. Yet Hubs continued to take his calls... One night, as I listened to Hubs’ end of another screaming match, I was sitting at my computer and could see that son was posting jokes on FB at the very moment he was calling his father the vilest names imaginable. Hubs hung up the phone and went to bed teary-eyed. As soon as he was asleep, I called son and let him have it (even though I know better than to argue with a drunk). I crossed some lines I never imagined crossing as a mother. I didn’t sleep at all that night, and the next morning I sent son a letter apologizing for the horrible things I said and letting him know I needed a break. A couple of weeks later son found his own way to detox and another year-long sober living program. This one is very isolated; they are not allowed TV, internet, or phones and live and work on-site. Their only communication is via letters and personal visits, and it is too far for Hubs to visit. Fortunately, this has given us a chance to regroup. I decided to return to counseling to explore whether I want to estrange from son and hopefully come to a place of acceptance of Hubs’ and my differences in dealing with our child. The first thing I have come to realize in counseling is that I have even less of a chance of changing Hubs than I do of changing son. As much as it pains me to see him hurting over son’s actions, it is not my place to tell Hubs how he ought to act or feel toward his child. Though it is difficult, I must learn to let Hubs be Hubs, and he must learn to let me be me, even if he thinks I ought to act or feel differently. We can each only do what we feel is right. The second thing I realized is that labels don’t matter; feelings do. For some time now I’ve feared that my son has a cluster B personality disorder. Every time I’ve voiced my concerns to a counselor, they’ve basically blown me off, saying son’s only problem is that he is an alcoholic. This time, after reviewing the past 10-12 years, counselor asked ME if I had ever considered the possibility of a personality disorder, and while the pieces would certainly fit, son has never been formally diagnosed. Whether he has a PD or is just being an above-average jerk, the outcome is still the same: When he is around, we feel on edge and unhappy, and that has been the case for over a decade. I must accept that what I’ve been doing all these years isn’t working. It is an endless cycle of manipulation and chaos, followed by fury, followed by no contact, followed by a period of peace and calm, followed by my anger subsiding, followed by my “mommy genes” kicking back in and the cycle starting again. So for me, no contact is not sustainable in the long term. Sadly, I’ve also come to realize that while I may care very much what kind of mother I am to my children, son doesn’t care AT ALL (except as it relates to how much I’m willing to do for him). My goal has shifted from what HE wants and how HE feels to what I want and how I feel. I have come to accept that no choice will EVER “feel right” when dealing with a difficult child – the best scenario is the path that is the least undesirable. I must choose, then walk it with faith and determination. I still love son, and (though it may not matter to him) I need to know that he has someone encouraging him. I’ve settled on what I call “generic mom-type noises” when interacting with son. There will be no financial or material support, I’m done offering advice, and I am not interested in soul-searching conversations. If he finds me bland, vapid, or useless, that’s OK! Maybe it will keep me off his radar. I’m not expecting anything from him at this point. Even if son decides to make some changes, he has a long way to go…but I also believe son can do whatever he decides to do. People decide to change every day; maybe one day son will decide to change too. Unless and until that happens, I just try to keep our interactions light-hearted and generalized and keep my boundaries firm. Finally, I’ve started to contemplate how much I contribute to my own misery. My new motto is, “No hurt lasts for long without my help.” I am trying to take more responsibility for my own happiness and less responsibility for the happiness of others.