Decisions, decisions... Now what??

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by LMack, Feb 8, 2016.

  1. LMack

    LMack New Member

    I found this site today and spent a few hours reading posts. It seems there are SO MANY parents out there with the same situation in which I find myself - 19 year old son smoking pot, getting in trouble with the university for alcohol and slipping grades. We are newly aware of our son's activities and still reeling a bit from it all. This is not the young man we thought we knew! However, we are discovering this has been almost a year in the making and are astonished at the lies we believed and HOWINTHEWORLDWEREWESOBLIND????

    I realize it is fruitless to ask "Where did we go so wrong?". So, now on to deciding what to do next. Ours is the same old story - great kid, intelligent, active in sports and music, stayed out of trouble in high school (or so we thought at the time). We now have a guy in freshman year of college. Pot smoking, written up for alcohol infractions 3 times at school (yes. 3 TIMES. and we got a letter with no information other than that he would be issued sanctions.) and grades low enough to lose his scholarship. He won't talk to us - no emails, texts, snapchat, Skype. Nothing. NOW WHAT?

    Unfortunately, my husband and I disagree on what to do and are looking for....something. Do we withdraw financial support and let him fend for himself? Do we continue to pay for college? There are so many differing opinions out there and the therapist we have talked to won't give an opinion. Its the "so what do you think you should do?" approach. I need real help, statistics, possibilities, ideas. You get the point.

    And to top it all off, my husband and I are living in Europe for a job assignment for the next 2 years and not geographically close to him. I feel I should move back home and take care of this and my husband says it will drive our son even further away. I'm so sad and disappointed and frustrated and hurt and MAD! Help!
  2. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    Welcome to our little corner of the world LMack,

    I'm so sorry you had to find us but glad you did. As you have already figured out there are many of us here who have difficult adult children.

    Ultimately you can only do what you and your husband are comfortable with. I will tell you this, being united in what you and your husband decide is so very important. Do not allow the actions of your son to come between you and your husband.

    If it were me I would withdraw financial support for school. Is there someone geographically close to him that could get a message to him? If not you might consider sending him a certified letter explaining why you are withdrawing financial support. I would be very clear and spell out the boundaries as to why you are doing it and what is expected of him for you to reconsider paying again. I will warn you that when you cut off money to your son there very well may some ugly backlash.

    Some things to consider for regaining trust:
    He must submit to random drug testing.
    He must attend a support group like AA.
    H must maintain passing grades.

    On the positive side, he is young, it's his first year at college. While I don't condone the behavior it could be his way of "testing" the waters. It is not uncommon for college freshman to go off the rails for a while and make a course correction and get things back on track.

    The biggest thing is to nip it in the bud by sending him a clear message of what you will and won't put up with. Whatever you and your husband decide to do stick to your guns. When we stop giving money to our Difficult Child they will resort to all kinds of manipulation to try and make us feel guilty, to wear us down so that we will give into them. Be on your guard.

    Stay in touch and let us know how things are going.

    ((HUGS)) to you..............
  3. DoneDad

    DoneDad Active Member

    Glad you're here, but sorry you have to be.

    There will be others along with lots of support and words of wisdom shortly.

    It must be really tough dealing with this being so far away.

    What I would say having been through something similar is slow down. Figure out your response with your husband and make sure you're on the same page.

    As far as rushing home - what would that accomplish?

    You might consider setting your expectations with son. Your grades have to be ___ at the end of this semester or we will _____. Don't tell him anything you're not prepared to follow through on.

    I know the feeling of panic when this first hits. We wasted a lot of money on a lawyer, put ourselves in dangerous situations, I quit a religious formation program, all to try to rescue our daughter from the consequences of her own choices. The result - she made more and even more foolish choices. I know it's a process you have to go through, just keep in mind you, your marriage, and your life matter too .
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  4. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    UGH. It seems to me there is a common thought out there that the freshman year is the year to party. It is almost an expectation. Even with the teachers I work with. When talking of their freshman year, "did you guys party?" Eyes roll skyward.
    It is rather alarming, and I certainly do not find it amusing, or would condone it. All of that money and time, if you pardon the pun, wasted. So what to do?
    No communication? ACK, I would be in a quandary myself.

    Hmmmmm, maybe. His choices, his mistakes, his consequences. If you share this with him, would he even respond? What would he say, do?

    Your sons choices will be his own, no matter where you live.
    Only you know your son, and what his reaction would be to this. Well, even then, maybe not because our kids change a lot when using drugs and alcohol.

    It seems like a high price to pay for you and husband, for you to move back to watch over your son. What I will tell you, is most of our kids get worse with us.
    They use it as a reason to go further off the rails.
    When we get to a point of overstepping in, over-helping, we are walking on thin ice.
    This is because we take on the responsibility for their choices, their consequences. It can have a crippling affect on them, a backwards slide.

    I suppose the therapist will listen to you and give you suggestions, but cannot tell you what to do. It is up to us. This is hard LMack and I am sorry for the pain of it.
    If it were me, I would probably send a short email saying that what has happened is unacceptable and that a response is expected immediately.
    If no response?
    No money.
    I am thinking now, what would my dad do? I think their generation was a lot less coddling, and a lot more demanding of responsibility at this age.
    I think we are stuck within a time zone where we are entangled up too long, with the success or failure of our kids.
    The end result is that we become enablers and our kids are at risk of becoming stunted and stuck by our enabling.
    Here is a good article I found that may help you make your decision.

    There is much for you to weigh here. You do have a bit of time, to make that decision.

    One of the best pieces of advice I got here is to slow.....way.....down.
    When we find out this outrageous stuff about our kids, our minds go into catastrophic thought overtime. Nothing good can come of making decisions in this mind frame.
    Take time for yourself and really, really think things through.

    Walking helps and it is good exercise.
    Make a commitment to take the best care of yourself so that whatever conclusion you come to, it is from a solid foundation.
    Keep communication going with your husband, because it makes no sense for your relationship to suffer wth this.
    One thing I have seen and felt myself, is that we begin to feel the consequences of our d cs actions more than they do.
    They are out there having a good old time, and we end up with sleepless nights, consumed with worry and on and on.

    I am sorry for the heartache of this. I cannot tell you what to do, but I will tell you what I would do. If my kid failed to respond to the email I suggested, I would cut off finances.
    I would reason that it is a waste of my money to fund a party lifestyle.
    I would step way back, and let the chips fall where they may.

    I have learned from many years of "helping" (enabling) that my kids were going to make the mistakes and choices they made, no matter what I did.
    I would have saved myself a whole lot of misery, if I had taken the hardline approach that my dad would have.
    It is cut and dry, tow the line.
    I think it is a good thing.
    Our kids have to see and feel the consequences of their choices.
    I feel now, by my stepping in to "help", to "rescue" it only prolonged the problem.
    I am left now, with regret and two d cs who are still off the rails.
    A lot of sacrifice on my part, no indication of change, appreciation, respect from them.

    I will tell you LMack, that when we step in too much to rescue, our kids begin to hate us for it.
    Oh, yes, they want us to help, but then resent it at the same time.
    We become as fools to them, and they just keep on pushing and pushing the envelope. We lose our self respect, they walk all over us and have no respect, whatsoever.
    It is an endless cycle.
    Don't go into the cycle, put your foot down and don't go there.
    It is misery.

    So I would say, build yourself up.
    Be firm and strong and keep your own self respect in check.
    That is what this is about, you maintaining your self respect, seeing yourself as a separate person with value, you matter.
    Your son is his own person, making some very big mistakes.
    If you were not there to help him, what would he have to do, or choose?
    He needs to learn this and odds are, he will not learn, if you take the responsibility on your own shoulders.

    This is key, I think to being able to step way back, understanding that we will not be here forever to clean up our kids mess, and that the sooner they learn, the better......

    Keep posting, it is really helpful. You are creating a chronology of your story, with responses from folks who have been there, done that. What we share is from kind and caring hearts, because we understand the hardship of it. Really and truly, only you can decide, because you are the one who has to look in the mirror every day.

    Others will come along and reply. Welcome to the forum, I hope you will find the answers you are seeking.

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  5. ksm

    ksm Well-Known Member

    Well, he is already signed up for this semester, so the costs are already incurred. I think he needs to know that you will not pay for expenses, in the future, if he isnt passing classes.

    Can you send him a pkg with some small item? And in the pkg, have a letter that you and he needs to discuss his future educational plans? Since he isn't responding to emails, etc, a letter would probably get ignored... But a pkg... Hmmm...curiosity would probably get the best of him!!

    We have been telling our kids, since middle school, that we will help with post high school education, but we will only reimburse them for classes they get credit for. KSM
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  6. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome, LM.

    You know--when your son realizes that the cash is not going to just magically appear in his account and his credit card that is connected to your account has been canceled, HE will get in touch with YOU.

    You have all the power here, not him, unless you give it to him.

    I would come down hard and reel him back in before things get further out of control.

    I think he may just be testing the boundaries to see what he can get away with. If he gets away with this, you can expect more of the same.

    I hope this is an aberration, and not a pattern.

    Stay with us, LM.

    Be strong.

  7. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    I wouldnt move back. How would at all?
    Send him a certified letter with your expectations and consequences for violating them. He doesnt have to answer you but one of your expectations can be respectful and true answers to your questions or instant monetary cut off.
    Sorry your son is wasting his college education and hugs to you. Not all college kids mess up. There is no reason for parents to pay for partying and poor grades.
  8. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Welcome Mack.
    Love and hope.
    This is what I think. If he is using college to self-destruct paying for college is paying to help him to hurt himself. At the very least, I would tell him after this semester, no more. Unless he verifies there has been no more misbehavior, and the burden of proof is on him, not you. And he achieves a certain grade point average in the required number of classes. And any other requirement you find necessary. That would be the most lenient of all responses I would consider.

    But there are other responses that could make sense. Only you can decide with your husband.

    Another option would be to tell him after this semester, no more support at all. Because he is already making decisions that are destructive and disrespectful, ie. not communicating, and what else you have cited.
    This is not anything that you can take care of.

    These are affirmative decisions and behavior that he is choosing--to hurt himself.

    I think, if it were me, I would say no more. Either he finds a way to continue school on his own steam or he takes a break from it to deal with and handle his issues: Pot and alcohol and slipping grades that you know about. And who knows what else...because this may be the tip of the iceberg.

    I think I might insist upon drug testing right now as a condition of any more support. I think I would consider cutting him off right now at school, as one option. Because you already know what he is doing. What you do know about is bad. He could hurt somebody or himself so impaired by alcohol.

    You could demand he seek alcohol and drug treatment as a condition of any support what so ever from you. And you could do that now.

    Some parents (I can think of one or two) that have come here look the other way about drug use at college because they think that completing college is so important, that they do not want to interfere with its successful completion. I shudder at this because of the risks involved to the child, and the message that these parents send to their kids that college is more important than the kid is.

    Many years ago I used drugs a bit at University. I drank, too. A great deal. I was self-supporting and paid for university myself. I did what I wanted. My mother knew nothing about it. Nor did she care. So many times I cringe to remember how close I came to dying or killing others, by my behavior. I wish I had had people around me that cared enough to insist that I rein myself in. I did not. Luckily or because I got some sense, I survived. This self-destructive period in my life was very short. Thank goodness. But perhaps that was because I had nobody to enable me. I had to learn to make good decisions because ultimately I was the only one responsible.

    I think it may be a blessing in disguise that you are far away. Because the decisions will be clear cut and because it will be essential that he help himself or not. It puts it all on him. That is a good thing. Like I was, he must be responsible or not.

    Finally, I hope I do not sound harsh. If you look at my sniveling threads you will see that frequently I feel lost and terribly weak when it comes to my own child.

    We learn by posting. By talking "strong" with other parents we learn to be stronger ourselves. So forgive me. I do know how hard this is. Really I do. I know the pain of it.

    I am so glad you are here. Keep posting. I hope you do. It really helps. If you are in a position to post everyday on as many threads as you can, do so. I welcome you to my current thread (how embarrassing) which is called something like "he's finally gone."

    Take care. You can do this. You are doing. I forget, are you in Europe? Lucky you. My son and I lived abroad for several years. We loved it. DO NOT COME BACK. You deserve to stay and be close to your husband. That is best for your child. That is what I think.

    Last edited: Feb 8, 2016
  9. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    Some basics...don't move back. Live your life. Put a boundary on the situation. One, at most two semesters and no mas! Passing grades and no more drug or other major infractions. Otherwise, college, for the time being is OUT! He is wasting your money and this is not acceptable. He will have to simply get a job. Perhaps pay for the first month or two of an apartment and get him some gift cards for groceries (through a friend or some other creative means) to get started. You'll figure it out if necessary. But greatly limit financial help...maybe only the first month, possibly two...that's about it. He has to learn how to do it on his own. Don't give it to this irresponsible behavior and abuse of your goodwill. Time for him to grow up. Time for him to understand cause and effect...natural consequences. It is probably a fairly good sign that he didn't do these things previously. Maybe this taste of freedom proved overwhelming for him and he will be quicker to regain his sanity. If you sense depression, check into the idea of him seeing a therapist...but you pay those bills directly. I only perused quickly...but if drugs are a major player in this, he definitely should get some sort of tx. Hang in there!
  10. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    You may feel that this response would give the message that you are giving up on him.

    The opposite is true, by my way of thinking.

    What you would say be withdrawing support is: I believe in you so much, I love you so much, I trust you so much (at the heart of me) that I will get myself out of the way. Because I trust that if you are responsible for yourself, you will learn and you will do the right thing.

    This response by you does not put aside you choosing at some future point to help him. But it puts your son squarely responsible for his life, right now. Without anybody else to blame, to make responsible, even one little bit.

    To me this would show tremendous respect to him as having the capacity and right to steer his own life.

  11. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Welcome to the forum, Lmack, and I'm so sorry for your shock and pain and fear about your son.

    I could have written this almost word for word. It stuck me how much your story sounds like my son's story at the very beginning. One thing I learned (over time) is that what I knew was just the tip of the iceberg. I am sure that today, I still don't know 1/10th of it, and you know what, I don't need to and don't want to. The details don't matter.

    The part about him not talking to you is very interesting. He likely doesn't want to hear it, and since you are so far away, is he possibly wondering what you can do about it?

    One thing I learned that really gets their attention is this: Stop the flow of money. That doesn't mean jerk him out of school, but how do you handle his spending money? Stopping that until he agrees to communicate with you might be something to consider. Communicating with you, his parents, while you are paying his college bills, needs to be non-negotiable. The fastest way to get some response from him, if reason doesn't work, is to stop the money.

    This is very true. I believe for many, this will be the case, and there will be some drama and issues, and then they will be resolved. I have two sons, and one pretty much did what we expected him to do and went on to grad school as well. Our younger son went off the rails very very quickly at age 19 and proceeded to continue to go down, down, down rapidly for the next five years. That doesn't mean your son will, at all. I believe my son has the brain disease of addiction, like his father does. Do you have a family history of addiction? Could this be a possibility? If it is, it's a much bigger issue than simply boys being boys. But that doesn't mean you have to handle it differently at this point. Setting boundaries is always the first step regardless of the seriousness of the origin of the problem.

    Absolutely great advice. I made this mistake many many times. I would blow up in my fear and despair and say all kinds of things I couldn't back up and even if I thought I could back them up, he would manipulate me and wear me down.

    That is why Go Slow is also excellent advice. All of this with your son didn't happen overnight and it won't get cleared up overnight. So take a little time, a few days and try to reach consensus with your husband first about next steps. You two can always change your minds as information requires. Go Slow. It's okay.

    I am sure you are very upset and scared, and I remember that very very well. It drives you to want to DO SOMETHING and do it NOW. Resist the impulse. Slowing down and taking stock and determining first small steps is the way to go. It's not an emergency right now and it's been going on for a while so give yourselves time to think and decide.

    We are here for you. We have been through the ups and downs and quagmire of this. Most of the themes are the same...only the details are different. Setting boundaries and living our own lives, and letting our adult children (I know they are immature but they are still considered to be adults) learn how to navigate life and live with the consequences of their own choices is what we have to learn how to do. It's very hard, and we all need lots of support and you'll find that here.
  12. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome.... It is a tough situation being out of fhe country.

    So good advice about slowing down. Before you do anything you and your husband need to be on the same page.... It makes a huge difference in dealing with this stuff to have the support and love of each other.

    I think my approach (given what I know now from experience with my son and also with discussions with my very together college daughter is this... I would focus on what is clearly consequences of his behavior at school. So his falling grades and the school infractions. If he keeps it up it may be out of your hands because he could get kicked out. Anyway I would focus on those issues rather than focusing on how much he is drinking etc. Clearly his alcohol use is a problem but he needs to see that.... It is not going to accomplish anything for you to point it out or to harp on it.

    I would tell him you will continue to help with school if he keeps his grades up, but you are not going to pay for college if he is not doing well. He will not manage to do well if he is drinking like it sounds like he is.

    Good luck with all of it... And I agree don't move back!
  13. LMack

    LMack New Member

    Thanks for all the support folks! It is helpful to know you are not alone. We have lived in a very conservative area where everything you did, wore, drove, ate, your entire life was somehow open for judgement and discussion by anyone who knew you. Not showing up at church on sunday was cause for phone calls and speculation. It is a fiercely competitive place that takes "keeping up with the Joneses" to a new level. The kids felt all this pressure as well as the pressure of school and peers. Basic America, I think, but so unhealthy. Now that we are away from it we can see the damage that type of pressure can cause. We felt that we did our best to not participate in all that and just "do our own thing" but... I am wondering if that upbringing is contributing to his actions. His older sister handled it better and is thriving in her university life. It is so hard to not compare them, and yes, I know the damage comparison can cause.

    We are definitely trying to stay calm and take things one at a time, s l o w l y. We found out about all this over the christmas break while he was home with us. I can say that it has been difficult to react calmly to it- I am known to be something of a drama queen (in a good way I hope) - and I think he was a little surprised that we didn't blow up over it. After sitting on this for a month and talking it over constantly, my husband and I are close to a game plan. I am an optimistic person with a twisted sense of humor so I know we will come through this. I am just praying that this is a freshman year thing and we come through it with our son intact and still liking us. I will deal with whatever comes, but I will do my best to keep myself and my husband with our heads above water and still thinking life is funny. Because it is!

    So I went for a long run this morning. That is my best time for thinking and clearing my head (and my sinuses, but that's gross. sorry). I am mostly calm, but I still get that tiny adrenaline tingle when I think about him. Just a little spike of fear. That's the hard part of being the adult - you can see all the potential outcomes and know that most of them are seriously unfortunate. Just breathe, right? That's why running is so good. All you do is breathe!

    Here's the game plan as it sits right now:
    He does not want to talk to us so we will respect that (for now) and I am composing a letter. In this letter we will state clearly up front that his welfare is our first priority and that we love him to the moon and back. However, we will not tolerate certain behaviors (which happen to be illegal anyway) and in order for our financial support to continue in the form of tuition and living expenses he will need to meet certain criteria. We will list our expectations clearly. Then we will detail the consequences of failure to meet these expectations. The choice will be his.

    I am terrified he will not choose wisely but will hope, pray, and plan to expect that he will. As many of you mentioned in your responses, tuition is paid for the current semester so we have a natural deadline already set for us. Many of you also mentioned that I should post on other people's threads. I now understand the value of support and understanding, but I do not feel that I am even remotely qualified to comment on the situations of others. I am so new to all this. But if I can spread some sunshine, I will. Thanks everyone!
  14. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    LMack, good for you for devising a plan and a way forward. That's all anybody can do. You can change the plan as circumstances dictate. That makes things confusing, but this type of situation is moving and changing all the time, so that's okay and necessary.

    One of the mantras I learned to live (as best as possible) is One Day At A Time. Just for Today. Just take today and deal with today. Tomorrow with all of its challenges will come soon enough.

    When we are upset about our adult children, we tend to "play the movie" and what Al-Anon calls "awfulizing." We see the most extreme scenarios. Many times those never come close to happening.

    Also, we learn as we go that some of the things we previously thought "unthinkable" and "intolerable" actually are thinkable and tolerable. We change. We have to.

    I pray that your son's acting out is a limited thing and he starts flying right soon!
  15. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    This is great LMack!! The hardest part of this is being prepared to follow through with whatever consequences you come up with. Nothing sends a clearer message to our difficult children that they can manipulate us the parents when we don't follow through with what we say.

    You are so funny!! The only qualification required here is being a parent of a difficult child.
    A simple "I'm following along and sending positive energy and thoughts" is fine :tongue:

    I'm really glad you are here with us.

    Thanks for sharing your update.
  16. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Oh LMack. Pretty much ALL of us here felt this way when we started.

    I found it easier to post on the watercooler, where somebody would have a practical problem that I actually knew something about, not related to our kids. After a bit, I would post cyber hugs and other non-verbal supports on threads. It takes a while to "comment" on active difficult child threads, but... it will come. You will be at home here. Just like the rest of us.
  17. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    I have sinus issues too. Yesssss running is good. Yay LMack, keep active it is the best thing.

    I can easily go into catastrophic thought mode, awfullizing.....I have to be careful because sometimes it can come through in my posts.....(SORRRRY!)

    Yes, breathe and keep your wits, think with head, not heart.
    Be very tender and kind with yourself.
    As always slow.....way....down. We moms are fixers, we want it all to be right....NOW! This is not real.

    This is good, LMack, good job. Now we wait and pray (if that is your way) and live.

    I have come to the conclusion that we do our d cs the best service by living well, showing them by example. Despite their bad choices, we won't allow it to send us into a nosedive. We do our kids no good by going down with their ship, or getting into a tizzy over their stuff. It is their stuff, on them, not us.
    We should not feel more ramifications then they do.

    Take good care and let us know how this all goes. Don't worry about posting to others, this is your process. But, do know this, when I respond to posts, it reaffirms my stand, so thank you for helping me by sharing your story. Some day, someone else will come along, faced with a similar situation. You have already helped!

    I am glad you are here. So sorry for the circumstances, but this is a good place to come for support.

    It will be alright, LMack. You will get through this. You are not alone.

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