Can't vs Won't

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by LauraH, Mar 21, 2019.

  1. LauraH

    LauraH Active Member

    I had an epiphany of sorts today while I was texting with my son's godsend of a friend. My son's MO when he's using and immediately after is to bounce around between blaming himself for his problems to blaming me to blaming the ex in Chicago. The friend said that Tuesday my son was blaming himself totally. But I had this aha! moment that blaming yourself for your problems isn't enough unless you also take responsibility for your own solutions.

    But what if it's not a matter of that won't but that they are simply not capable? I don't think that's the case with my son but a tiny part of my brain thinks it might be. I used to have a neighbor, an older woman, whose 40 something daughter was so severely disabled mentally that she required the constant care of an toddler. My son is nowhere near that, but could there be some brain damage or mental illness that stunted his mental and emotional growth at somewhere around 10 or 12?

    I know I can't have him in my home under current circumstances, but most 10 year olds don't have the maturity and experience to survive on their own. Where do you draw the line between thinking that your adult child is merely choosing not to be proactive and thinking that he/she has the mentality of a semi-dependent young adolescent? I'm asking this in general, not just about my son specifically.

    Sometimes I think he should be in a group home, because he has proven time and again that he can't hold a job for more than 6 months and usually not even that. I used to think it was his age and immaturity, but at 30 I can't write it off to that any longer. Unfortunately he doesn't meet the criteria for a state committment and I certainly don't have the money to have him committed to a private institution. And then, again, if he's just playing the system, that could be the worst thing for him in that it would make him more helpless than he already is.

    So how do we know where the line is between what these kids are capable of achieving and simply choose not to and what is forever out of their reach no matter how hard they try?
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
  2. elizabrary

    elizabrary Active Member

    My daughter has suffered from severe depression and anxiety (as have I) for much of her life. I think she has something else going on as well that has never been diagnosed- either bipolar or Borderline (BPD). She has been on and off medications. Whatever all is going on with her it has never been enough for her to be diagnosed as "disabled." And in her case, she has the wits to use a wide variety of manipulations with everyone. She struggled for years to maintain employment, succeed at college and maintain housing, health insurance, etc. I'm sure it was overwhelming for her, but that didn't mean she wasn't capable of doing those things. I think she matured late too, but in my opinion adults without a verified disability won't do the things they need to do rather than can't. My mental health issues make some days REALLY difficult. I don't want to get out of bed, let alone interact with a multitude of people, but I do it. In spite of the strikes against me I have managed to become very successful in my career and it's been a lot of hard work and sheer willpower. With the extent of my mental health issues I could have likely gone on disability at various times but I know that for me doing the things I don't want to do ultimately helps me. I would also say it's scary to put yourself out there when have those issues, but again it's not that you can't.
  3. LauraH

    LauraH Active Member

    I feel that's the case with my son. I also remember his dad's mother telling me when we were dating that when he was in high school a therapist told her that he probably wouldn't start really maturing until age 35 or 40, so I'm thinking he might have inherited that "delayed maturity" gene from his father. Sadly, he died when he was 45 because even though I think he had gotten clean and sober by then he had done a great deal of damage to his body over the years. He had holes and perforations in I don't remember which organ, and they thought they had repaired them all but there was one tiny pin prick hole that they missed, and that was what ultimately killed him...either something getting into the organ or something escaping out, I can't remember now.

    It also makes me think that if my son does finally grow up I may no be around to see it. But I believe in the afterlife so God willing, if and when he does reach that point, I'll know.
  4. RN0441

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

    More will respond Laura but as many say here, but many have adults that you describe that are doing well.

    If he is drinking that is the problem that needs to be corrected first before anyone can even begin to know what else is going on.

    My son used a lot of drugs and I honestly was so worried about his brain after 7 years of drug use and amazingly his brain is fine. He has anxiety also but who the hell doesn't.

    Thank God. Seriously.
  5. LauraH

    LauraH Active Member

    He doesn't drink, or if he does it's in small amounts. But he does meth heavily and heroin occasionally. When he's coming down off the drugs he's paranoid and delusional and some have assured me it's probably meth-induced but I'm also afraid it could lead to a permanent psychosis. This is all uncharted territory for me so all I can do is pray that if he finally does get clean then the psychotic episodes will go away.
  6. overcome mom

    overcome mom Member

    I have asked this question many times of my son. How much is he really capable of doing. He has struggled a lot since he was about 10 years old. He was diagnosed with ADD ,bi polar and has taken drugs. I have seen him try to do many things and just can't seem to pull them all off at one time. He has never held a job for more than 6 weeks and has had many jobs . I really do think that he tries a lot of the time to do with right thing but his way of thinking seems so messed up. He continually makes the wrong decision over and over again. This is where my guilt comes into play, how much do/should I really help him? I do think that mental health issues can play into making the wrong decisions . I know that there are many people with a variety of mental health issues that live and don't continually screw up but I don't think that you can then say that should be true of all people with mental health issues. Just like other health issue there are a big variety of MH problems that effect each person differently. One of the hardest things for me has been to admit that my son has some problems that probably will never go away. I have definitely changed my expectations of what I want/expect of him. I would like for my son to get disability but he doesn't want to " he doesn't have anything wrong with him". I do admire that he keeps trying. He lives in the moment this has been a positive for him with regards to not letting his messed up life get him to down. On the other hand it causes his life to be messed up because he doesn't look and plan for the long run. If he has $20 and the steak looks good he'll buy it even if that is all he had for food for the next two days. Your right it is so very hard to tell that line. I now just try to look at improvements in the small things and try to reinforce the positive behavior and hope he finally learns from his negative behavior. That's all I can do.
  7. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Somehow they do manage. My son is 37 but has the emotional maturity of a teenager. My son has managed to survive many years living a homeless wondering life. I don't like the way he chooses to live and that's okay. It's his life, not mine. I am merely a spectator in his story.
    While my son does not have a good level of emotional maturity he always manages to find a way to get his favorite drug (pot). That takes thinking and effort.
  8. RN0441

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

    I honestly thought something was seriously wrong with our son too. I really did. But he was a normal and wonderful child until the teen years but they say some mental illnesses come out around that time so who knew?

    That is the hardest part of all of this. He had many jobs and would come home all excited and then he'd go back down the rabbit hole.

    I guess until he was away from his family and had to tow the line on his own, he really had no desire to change one iota. It was not sustainable.

    I am just glad that I didn't throw in the towel and not push him to change as hard as I could from my vantage point. It was if you do not, then your momma won't be around. You will not have a family.

    Sounds awful doesn't it? Somehow for us it all worked out and he now has had a chance to mature and deal with things drug free - when he was in his program - so I know we are very fortunate but there are other good stories on this forum too.

    Certainly no perfect solution or one size fits all advice.
  9. Crayola13

    Crayola13 Active Member

    He needs to look at what drugs are doing for him now. Drugs and alcohol make life easier in the beginning, but then it gets out of control. Does he know why he started using drugs and drinking heavily in the first place? Until he figures out how to handle the emotions he's trying to block out with drugs, he may not be able to stop. Once the brain is addicted, it thinks it cannot stop.

    From what I have seen, sometimes a therapist and detox are better than just going to inpatient rehab. Twelve step programs seem to have a high failure rate, but I don't know what the statistics are. Based on what I have seen, people go to rehab an average of four times before they finally stop once and for all. In between the rehabs, stressors come up or boredom sets in, which causes people to relapse. For example, I have a cousin who stays drug free years at a time. Whenever he loses a job, he starts using drugs again. He gets himself straightened out, stays sober for about five years, then comes another lay off or the death of someone close to him, so he turns back to dope. People want the instant relief that drugs offer because they haven't learned how to cope with the storms of life. The thing is, life is going to throw many tragedies at some people. Some people truly have horrible lives, not even of their own making. Life won't change for some people. If they drink every time something horrible happens, they'll always be drinking.
  10. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Much of what you write pertains to my own 30 year old son. I have wondered and I have been told, too, that he is incapable.
    But the thing is this: he is capable of finding weed. He is capable of living on the street and so far, staying alive and out of jail or prison, and independent of a gang. He is capable of maintaining long-term friendships. He is capable of securing long-term help (for example, 2 plus years in a near luxury beachfront motel, without payment.) Some of this, I am incapable of securing and maintaining.
    My son has both brain damage and mental illness.
    I have the same problem.
    My son qualifies for help. And yet I believe he is playing the system. And I believe the system is enabling him.

    The thing is this: Your son is responsible for himself. From what you have written he would not qualify for guardianship. Are you really ready to tether yourself to him as guardian? Do you really believe another person could do this in such a way that would work and satisfy your son? Your son has civil rights. He has a right to not live in the way you choose, or in a way that would diminish your concern or anxiety. After all he is an adult.

    Your son has a significant and long-term drug habit, from what you post. Is this not the most likely explanation for his stunted behavior and inability to thrive or to mature? Sometimes the simple and obvious answer fits the best. Or maybe he is mentally ill, too. Like my son.

    But what are you going to do? These men have to learn to handle their own lives. Yes. They may never choose to stop using drugs. They may never choose to live within the system in a way that is conventional or even safe. They may never mature to resemble what we hoped they would and they may never want to or be able to live as we do.

    The thing is, unless they are dangerous or disabled to the extent that they are hazardous to others or unable to maintain activities of daily living sufficient to feed and clothe themselves, keep themselves minimally clean, it is really none of our business or anybody else's.

    This is very, very hard for a mother to accept. But what choice do we have?
  11. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    I was my sons guardian and he was amicable to it. When he felt ready not to have one, his case manager and I went to court and I was removed. It is complicated and the clients desire to have a guardian are taken i to account. A court must decide he needs one and has tje descretion to choose a stranger over yourself if they feel it is best that the parent not be the guardian. Such as if you dont get along.

    My son had autism, which is a developmental delay so the court snd my son felt he needed to start adult life out with a guardian and my son picked me. He outgrew this need as he matured.

    I truly do not know if becoming a guardian is easy or if anything happens to the adult if he wont abide by his guardian's wishes. I never tried to make rash decisions for my son. And he did not rebel.

    My son is currently working with a case manager if he needs help. But my sons attitude is positive and respectful and is making good progress in every aspect of his life. I dont worry about him.

    in my opinion guardianship will fail if the adult wont cooperate.

    I am lucky perhaps and grateful that my son, who is my hero, is going to accept the help when he needs it so that he can mostly take care of himself. He has s lovely, safe subsidisized apartment that he never has to leave snd there is no caregiver there....the people who live there are not extremely disabled and are law abiding so it is a peaceful place to live, geared for people with developmental disabilities. He always works. He is a hard worker who does not feel badly getting help the 10 percent of the time he needs it.

    You know if your adult child will gain from adult services or rebel against them. Many disabled adults have full, law abiding, fairly normal lives with a little community help.

    Like all else, tje adult must be willing to help himself and cooperate. in my opinion a defiant adult wont accept help, which is very sad to me. With cooperation, nobody needs to forever live in the streets.

    Of course drug use skews things. Where my son lives no drugs or smoking are allowed. My son is very happy about this. Those who are drug addicts may or may not have s harder time getting. services. But if your child is willing to try, sincerely try, I have seen the benefits of assistance.

    You do need to get the adult on SSDI. If he is truly disabled, his life will be much better. But again he has to accept the help.

    Some adults prefer the streets to any rules. in my opinion my heart goes out to those parents. I feel the parents often hurt more than the deliberately homeless adult.

    Remember, people do change. Some will finally get tired of a crazy life and decide to cooperate. But it doesnt have much to do with us.

    Never blame yourselves.its not your faults.