opinions about no contact?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Acacia, Feb 26, 2019.

  1. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    I' wrote about 33 DS getting kicked out of sober house, not following rules, and despite jail, prison, rehab has not matured. Difficult personality - non-compliant and entitled. Said he would never go to a shelter, furious at me for suggesting it. I've spent too much money over the years helping him at the slightest glimmer or hope with no positive results.

    He was couch surfing and begging money. I told him not to contact me for 2 weeks - couldn't take it. He kept calling. I didn't answer. He showed up at house tonight when my husband was home and said he is staying at the shelter in town. He asked if I could drop some of his things by tomorrow (no car) and asked if I could bring him to the grocery store to get a few things. I said yes.

    Here's the problem. Both my therapist and husband say I should have no contact with him because the requests never stop. Part of me thinks they are right. I wonder if he might not have caved and gone to the shelter if I didn't cut contact for those two weeks. My husband doesn't like that I am giving him a ride to the grocery store - probably a 2 mile walk. I see one move in the right direction (going to the shelter), and I move towards the slippery slope. This has been going on for 15 years.

    Does it have to be all or none? Any thoughts, wisdom, past experience would be greatly appreciated.
  2. newstart

    newstart Active Member

    Acacia, You can only do what your heart allows you to do. I know how hard this is for you to do because I have done it. It took me about 5 years of total abuse to be able to go NO contact for 3 months. I went to therapy with my daughter, my daughter was acting very belligerent and therapist was getting nervous, therapist told me to not go NO contact, my heart told me to do it, after deep prayers I told my daughter that I will not be talking to her for a long time. I knew if I continued the madness will never end and I had to make the very hard decision to completely cut her off. I watched through my window as she left an Easter basket for me with my favorite candies, knocked on my door to drop it off and I had to ignore her. It tore my heart out but I knew I had to do this in order for her to change. I even took my voice off my answering machine so I wiped myself out of her life for a long time. This was equal hard to burying my son and in many ways even harder since she was still alive. All of the advice I got was to try and work with it, I just could not any longer I put in years and money and I felt as if I was dying a slow horrible death. I did what I did to save my life and to be able to function as a normal human being and mostly I did it to FORCE my daughter to hurt enough she would grow. I must admit that it did make a positive difference. My daughter is very grieving but not to the degree as she was before she knew I was strong enough to blow her off. On a bad level from 1-10 she was a 15, after I blew her off she was a 7. I know for sure that she would still be horrible had I not blown her off. I pray for you as you make this very hard decision but if nothing else works you have to try something different. I pray you have the strength it will take.
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  3. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    Hi Acacia,

    I don't have any wisdom or advice, but I will be reading others' replies. Hubs and I are in very different places in terms of interacting with our son. My therapist and I are exploring the possibility of going no contact for many reasons, including the ones you mention in your post.

    The constant, bantering gamesmanship is so exhausting. The initial request on its surface may not be all that unreasonable, but things quickly snowball into "helping" far more than what was agreed, and far beyond what is reasonable for one adult to ask of another. If my son asked for his end game initially, the answer would be no. He knows that. Hence the games. It is a constant erosion of boundaries, and it is infuriating.

    I see the same thing in your son. You told him not to contact you. His response was to call and call, then show up at your door. Perhaps it was even MORE trouble to get you to give him a ride to the grocery than it would have been to walk there himself...but he wanted to keep you in the game.

    Forgive me if I am reading things into this encounter that aren't there, but it sound exactly like the kind of eroding boundaries stuff my son pulls.

    I think it would be kinder and more respectful for all of us, including my son, if he knew not to expect anything other than moral support from us, period...sadly I think Hubs fears we would never hear from son again if "helping" him was off the table.
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  4. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    This is what my son does. His predilection is to just show up at the door. I have told him if he does this again I will call the cops (again.) I will not have more than phone/text context with him if it is 100 percent his needs, terms. And 0 mine. My health cannot handle it.

    My son has been sleeping in a truck for 7 months a few hours from me. He has not managed to meet me in several attempts I have made where I traveled by train. He will no longer have available the truck to sleep after Friday. I found that out yesterday. He wants to come back. So I am dealing with the same thing as you.
    No. In theory it does not have to be all or none. It can be negotiated.

    But the thing is this: some of our kids insist that it be 100 percent their needs, their terms and zero, ours. How do you endure this, if you are the person who is able to have zero input? In this case, who is the person who has decided upon the onerous terms? Us or them?

    I really do not see the parents here imposing impossible conditions. I see them trying to live with impossible terms. It's like our children have become loan sharks, and they are charging 100 percent interest a year, because they know they can. And then when we show any weakness at all, they foreclose. Which it seems Albatross' husband fears.

    What kind of relationship is it when we fear our kids are willing to throw us overboard if we seek to protect ourselves even 5 percent, let alone 50 percent?

    My son is angry at his friend because the friend grew tired of my son sleeping in his truck--for seven months. This sounds like a person (my son) without a clue about reciprocity or self-responsibility.

    And still, I am thinking of letting him back. Why? Because like you, and like Albatross' husband, I cannot bear the alternative. Although I know that this is the wrong thing to. I cannot bear not staying in the game. I am unsure if it is because my son is ill, or I cannot face what he has become. I fear if the music stops I will have to face it.
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    Last edited: Feb 28, 2019
  5. Kalahou

    Kalahou Active Member

    Hello Acacia,
    Just a few short thoughts. – I don’t have an answer to your big question : “ Does it have to be all or none?”

    Basically, for myself I have found that the less involvement I have with my son’s needs, the better it is for everyone !
    I don’t want to be so available and willing.

    When my son asks me for help, he can see that I hesitate and struggle to resist. I can see that my reactions hurt him in a way, and it hurts me also. While he understands my unease because of all the “ trials with him” that we've been through, he thinks he is doing better (and is to a small extent) and wants me to think I can trust him. ( But the truth is , I can not trust him, and he is still suspicious and irresponsible (and likely illegal) in many behaviors ) Like you …. I've spent too much money and effort over the years “helping him at the slightest glimmer or hope” and then it backfires!

    You have already committed to assisting your son tomorrow, but you might start to show him you are busy with your life and have other things to attend to. I don’t know your location and situation, but for example:
    • You can mention to him tomorrow that you are able to assist in this small way today to bring him a few things since you were going to be in the area anyway, but you are pressed for time.
    • Perhaps concoct a story that you can drop him off at the grocery store while you go to do an errand and will come back in 20 -30 mins, so you do not go into the store with him. ( That might not work if he expects you to pay for his things / or were you going to? ) ...
    • *** Or you could let him know the plans need to change as something has come up and you cannot bring his things and go to the store tomorrow. It will have to wait a few days. (Then maybe he will find another way to get his things and get to the store. If he really needs something, he will find a way. )
    I agree. Your detachment and unavailability likely played a big part in his action(s) to initiate a solution on his own.
    The reality is that it does not get better until we step out of the game, and don't carry the ball on the next play.

    I'm following your story. Hang in there. Like them, we keep learning the same lessons until we get it !!
    Take care.
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    Last edited: Feb 26, 2019
  6. RN0441

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


    I think the advice you have been given is excellent and it all comes from the heart. From being who have been there and done it.

    I think you should listen to your therapist and your husband. I am more inclined to say this because of your son's age. I really agree with Newstart and she only has the one child.

    My son is 23 and living with us again (mostly good experience) and I struggle with doing anything at all for him because to me that is enabling and the definition of enabling is doing something for someone that they can do for themselves which results in them being perpetually "stuck". I know you don't want to do anything that would have that effect on your son.

    In the end, it's trying something different than what you have been doing that just isn't working.

    Hugs. This is tough.
  7. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    Acacia...great advice here. I would seriously take into consideration your husband and therapist’s words.
    I suppose there is a middle ground. A final attempt with strict boundaries. We often say to our daughter “take it or leave it.” She won’t cross that. No great answers. This is extraordinarily hard.
  8. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Acacia, I'm sorry you find yourself struggling with your son's choices.

    Does it have to be all or none? I don't believe it has to be, however, at least in my case, my daughter does not have the foresight nor insight nor ability to navigate the future, she lives in the present moment, so for me, it got to a point where I felt forced to choose between spending my life figuring out my daughters future (which was a full time, horrific job) or removing myself from that equation. I chose the latter.

    It is not easy to set strong boundaries around our kids behaviors and stick to those boundaries, however, like your son, my daughter had no respect for any boundaries I put forth, her needs always overrode my boundaries, it's the way she thought, like your son.....his needs are paramount, your needs don't matter. I got to a point where that just didn't work anymore. I required major professional assistance to stop that program........I entered a two year long codependency course which offered weekly support groups and private therapy.......I went to weekly CoDa 12 step groups, I wrote on this forum every day and read books continually, it was the hardest thing I've ever done, but I was determined to have a life in spite of my daughters actions and choices.

    I've said this many times here, but I believe it becomes necessary to have professional help for many of us.....breaking the strong bond of mothering an adult child who doesn't launch for whatever reason is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things in life to do......for me it required a level of acceptance of what I cannot control that was not possible for me to reach without a lot of help. I had to reach the point where I knew in my heart that I could not save my daughter. At times that looked impossible to reach......and there are times I still struggle with it, but for the most part, I've accepted what I can't change. I'm glad you have a therapist.

    Step by step I stopped, it didn't happen overnight. I kept saying no and sticking to it. Each time I was very upset, but each time I received the (professional) support I needed to let go of my part in the drama, which was to give in to each request and override my own boundaries. Every time I overrode my own boundaries I felt crummy about myself because I had abandoned myself. Each time I said no and stuck to it, I began to feel better. My daughter pushed all the envelopes, it went on for awhile until I gathered the strength to hold my own boundaries. Eventually she stopped seeing me as the default position and stopped asking me to do for her what she can do for herself. I had to do ALL of the changing. I stopped waiting for my daughter to change. I assumed a different stance, that she was not going to change and that she was capable of taking care of herself. She doesn't ask me for anything now and she seems completely capable of caring for herself in the way she deems important. I am not in favor of the way she chooses to live, but I have accepted that it's her choice to live that way and she's accepted that I am not responsible for how she has chosen to live.

    Its been one very long road. I think the main proponent of letting go is to determine that your life is worth making the changes necessary so the quality of YOUR life improves. I believe the second proponent is to get as much help as you can to learn how to love yourself enough to set those boundaries and stick with them........for your sake of course, but also for your son's sake. When we treat our kids as if they are not capable of taking care of themselves, in my opinion, that strengthens the victim stance they can take and their own belief that they cannot survive without our help. My daughter grew up a lot when I stopped seeing her as not capable, she began seeing herself differently. She's still who she is, but there's a new strength and resolve behind it. She has taken the reins of her own life now.

    Kalahou said it best I think.........

    Hang in there Acacia, it doesn't sound like you want to continue this for another 15 years.......the requests will stop when you stop meeting them.
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  9. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    Recovering...I had to stop reading your post a moment here and there. It’s sincerity, wisdom, experience and strength are extremely powerful and impactful. Helpful for us all. Thank you.
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  10. Beta

    Beta Active Member

    I'm listening in as well. Lots of wisdom and experience here, and I need to hear it again and again.
  11. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    Thanks so much. The advice is spot on. No right or wrong, but do I want my life or will I let myself continue to be held emotionally and financially captive by my son?

    So much hard earned wisdom has been shared. I am very grateful. I keep trying to inch my way out when in reality I am recognizing that I may need to cut the cord. Notice the 'may'. As a survivor of abuse and neglect, to grow up and try my best to be a good parent, then to be accused by my two DS children of abandoning them as adults - gets me every time. There's no logic or truth in their claims, but it still makes me fall into the FOG. This is what I must overcome.

    I have therapy this afternoon. It will a big topic.
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  12. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Acacia, I am also a survivor of abuse so I know exactly what you are referring to with guilt and shame. One of the things I had to do was to take apart my definitions of mothering. Because of my background I had an overblown sense of responsibility in caring for others and an overblown sense of guilt and shame when I believed I could not live up to my own interpretation of mothering (which was impossible to reach). My daughter and probably everyone who knew me, knew I felt that way, so I was as one therapist said, "predictable." All anyone needed to do was to address my not meeting my own overblown sense of perfect mothering and I was triggered and hooked.

    I learned in therapy and with the help of other parents in my support group, that there were ALWAYS other ways of responding......I just didn't know what they were. I had to be taught. I had to heal from my own childhood abuse enough to set strong boundaries around behavior that was disrespectful, unkind, lacking in compassion for myself, or making unrealistic requests of me for another's gain. I had to put compassion and kindness for myself as the guiding principal in my entire life, not just with my daughter. Making that turn into self love and self acceptance was the key for me changing with my daughter......I put a little more weight on my side, on what I wanted and what I needed and as I did that, I saw that no one died, the world didn't end ........... it gave me strength to continue. For those of us who did not learn healthy boundaries as a child and did not learn that we matter and that our needs are important and we are valuable.... trying to shift out of over giving, enabling, rescuing others and abandoning ourselves is extremely difficult. It is extremely difficult when we are healthy and have terrific boundaries, but it's devastating, overwhelming and causes immense suffering if we cannot put the focus on ourselves as the priority.

    Mothering is fraught with unrealistic expectations.......often we can't live up to our own expectations. Look at your perceptions of motherhood and what your expectations of yourself are. Check in with your therapist to see if they are reasonable and fair to you. Dismantle your unhealthy and unrealistic beliefs around mothering and put the focus on YOUR needs and wants. Once that shift is made, the FOG lifts and you can see more clearly. Your options open up and you have more than one response. You can see the truth beyond the immediate needs of your son's choices and behaviors. You can make choices that are in alignment with YOUR best interests and YOUR well being........ and allow what happens to your son to be up to your son.

    Hang in there Acacia, you're seeing the truth now, just continue walking in that direction.....we're all here with you.......you're not alone.
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  13. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    RE, so beautifully and wisely said. A number of the posts have brought tears to my eyes. Not the tears I usually cry, out of fear, grief, and frustration, but tears of gratitude for the understanding and support.
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  14. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    You can only do what you can live with. It took me a long time to finally stop giving into my son and yes, go no contact. I put up with far to much abuse from him - always hoping that if I just help him this time............
    Something to consider: Helping isn't helping when it's enabling.
    Here are a couple of good quotes.

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  15. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Dear Acacia, All or nothing is a scenario my two put on me. Their terms. That’s what is so difficult about this “game.” I think we become numb after so many years of the rollercoaster ride, trying to seek solutions for our beloveds, when they don’t really want change, they just want what they can get out of us. It’s like Patty Hearst syndrome, we have been kidnapped by the chaos and the idea of unconditional love, we feel we have to continue a relationship when there is no reciprocity, no middle ground. It amounts to emotional abuse, control and manipulation. I think we do no favors when we cave to that, they don’t learn to be independent, we become exhausted in so many ways, and oft times, resentful.
    I love my two, but in their current state, using meth, living on the streets, I see myself as nothing more than a mark for them. That’s hard, but it is fact. They have gone no contact of their own accord, because I will not allow them to live in my home and do whatever they please.
    When Tornado was in jail, she called several times, wanting supervised release, quoting Bible verses, saying she was clean and needed to be with family. I got sucked into the rabbit hole emotionally, but held my ground. She said if they let her out back on the streets, she would go right back to her ways. Then it was that rehabs were full, which I found out was true. She lied to the judge and probation officer saying she was going to live with me. She missed her check in and court dates, has a bench warrant and if she gets caught, will spend more jail time. Sigh.
    It took awhile for me to shake off the sadness and yes, guilt and realize that she had placed her burden again, on me. It is not mine to bear.
    She was released and has slipped through the cracks again, haven’t heard from her.
    Reality check, what does a loving relationship with an adult child look and feel like?
    Not this, for sure.
    Not the torment, fog, precious time wasted feeling miserable over something we have absolutely no control over. That’s change, in them.
    But, we can change. We can recognize our Pavlovian response when they push buttons to get what they want out of us. We can examine our emotions and mental health and figure out what works for us, irrespective of what their current circumstances, consequences and oftentimes emergent ( to them)“needs” are, that send us into the swirly whirly of rescue mode, or guilt, if we put our foot down and say no.
    Put the oxygen mask on yourself, first. It is not selfish, it is self preservation.
    It is a sad fact that our wayward adult kids idea of unconditional love is so damned life sucking.
    I don’t know how Hubs 80 ish cousins do it, they continue to house a meth addicted son, who suffered a stroke recently due to meth, miraculously recovered, then went back to using again.
    No contact is hard, but I must say, it is easier than being a constant go to for someone who really doesn’t give a rip about themselves, let alone their mother. I don’t have a whole lot of time left on this earth. I really don’t want to spend the rest of my days contemplating what I should or should not do for grown children who are capable of fending for themselves, if they choose.
    Love says no. Self love recognizes when we are being taken advantage of and manipulated.
    Only we can decide. Given the chance, my two would twist love into an ugly game, rip out my heart and stomp on it. Not going there.
    Stay strong and figure out what your needs are. You owe that to yourself, and ultimately to your son. Allowing our capable adult children to “play” us, does not help them to grow, and it causes so many layers of grief for us.
    You matter. Your time matters.
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  16. Acacia

    Acacia Active Member

    Continued thanks. I often print out the responses to reread because they are so helpful.

    Tanya - love the two quotes.

    Leafy, everything you say resonates either with my own experience or what I believe to be true. This does feel like a fight for my own life. I am getting stronger, clearer, and less afraid. I have not totally detached, but I am working hard at therapy, twelve step, etc. I am determined. I feel ashamed when I do cave, but I am trying to forgive myself and to get back up and try again. Besides my DS I also have a difficult adult daughter who has gone dark and won't let me see my grandchildren. Twelve step says "hands off, heart on." I am a work in progress. I believe all of us on this site are loving parents.
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  17. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    I am so sorry Acacia, when there are grands in the mix, it is an infinitely harder pill to swallow. Tornado was the same with my three, all or nothing. To use children as pawns is just, evil.
    I don’t think any of us need feel ashamed when we cave. Shame does nothing but beat us up over and again for loving our adult kids. It is not easy to say no. Especially with extenuating circumstances. Illness, theirs or ours, extreme weather, loss of a loved one or pet, holidays. It seems in my case, when I am at a low point, that’s when I am faced with a phone call out of the blue, another challenge to my resolve. Their timing is impeccable. Gulp. The shame really belongs to our adult kids, who would abuse our love for them to continue their degraded lifestyle.
    Detachment is a strong word. I use disentanglement. I feel I will always be attached to my children. That’s nature. I envision my twos addiction and consequences as a web that can ensnare me if I allow it. When I get caught up emotionally, lose focus, start over thinking things, I know the web is creeping up on me, trying to draw me back into old habits and ways, I have to step back and untangle those twisted knots.
    We are human. We love our kids and want the best for them. Unfortunately, that love cannot convince them to make better choices, and they often use our love, at our expense, to ease their consequences.
    This is tough stuff Acacia, don’t be so hard yourself. Hang in their sister, you got this and we are all standing with you.
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  18. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

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    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  19. LauraH

    LauraH Active Member

    I am at the point of establishing no...and I mean no...contact with my son, not even phone or text. My biggest fear in doing so is that my "zero contact" would be for a week or two, then a month if nothing has changed, then six months if nothing has changed after that, but that his "zero contact" could be permanent, in which case I could easily not know whether he was alive or dead. That's what I'm struggling with. But I'm so tired of the endless roller coaster of rational moments, irrational bipolar moments, and then the dreaded "tweaking" (I think is what they call it) moments when he's using. I can't keep going like this, and my husband is just entering his busy season and the last thing he needs is the drama that surrounds and follow my son even in his better moments. He'll be working 10 - 12 hours a day, six days a week from now until after Labor Day and he certainly doesn't deserve any of this. Neither do I for that matter. Neither does my son, truth be told, but he creates it so he's the only one that really owns it. But my husband and I have to own the fact that we've allowed it to continue. The boundaries we've set work to an extent, but just like a little kid, he's always pushing and testing to see how far he can go. It's like his brain got stuck at 13 or something, which is sad, because he'll be 30 on Sunday.
  20. RN0441

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

    Many of us do what we need to do to protect ourselves.

    It doesn't mean that we don't love them.

    I still have PTSD and probably always will.
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