When the ‘good’ one falls off the rails

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Elsi, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Well, my friends, I’ve had to take a few days off here to deal with new developments and some resulting depression. I’m catching up on everyone now.

    It appears that after five years sober, N is drinking again. And apparently having an affair. I am heartbroken. And furious. He has been doing SO WELL. In the second year of a trade apprenticeship and eligible to join the union this month. He has a beautiful family. My daughter in law is, in my opinion, the best thing that has ever happened to him. They have a precious baby together and my daughter in law has a son from a previous marriage overseas that I have become very close to. They are my family. I love them. I can’t believe he’s hurting them this way, and hurting himself. After five years of working so hard!

    We went through so much when he was younger - partying, the accident and its aftermath, an 18 months recovery for a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the time in prison. But since then he’s been on a path to redemption, I thought. Committing to sobriety. Taking his recovery seriously. Trying to make amends for the pain he caused in the past. Speaking to youth groups and mentoring others in recovery. Taking care of his family. Learning a trade.

    I needed to believe in his redemption. Seeing him fall again has hit me hard.

    In the meantime, S has decided she’s not ready for recovery after all and is back with the coke dealer. And C hasn’t returned my calls since thanksgiving. I hope he’s still sober but have to assume his silence may mean he’s not and doesn’t want to tell me.

    I just...feel like a total failure as a parent. All three of them following this same destructive path is too much to bear. I have lived through so many years of pain and chaos and I just want it all to STOP already.

    Thank God E at least is doing well and is reliable and steady as a rock. She’s starting a new job and taking a couple pre reqs for grad school with plans to start a 2019 program.

    Right now I’m just heartbroken for my beautiful, kind daughter in law and the kids. She didn’t call me directly, because she didn’t want to bother me with her trouble with everything going on with S and C these days. She called my partner, R, because she needed to talk and cry and she doesn’t have many people in the U.S. she knows and can talk to. She actually didn’t want R to tell me, but of course R did. We don’t keep secrets like that from each other. But my daughter in law doesn’t want me to say anything to N right now. I’m not supposed to know. And of course I don’t want to make things worse between them.

    So I don’t know what to do. Call and confront him anyway? Stay out of it and hope for the best? Im furious with him! I told her if he will agree to go to counseling with her I will pay. And I told her she and BOTH kids are loved and part of my family no matter what happens and what she feels she has to do.

    It just all feels like more than I can bear right now. And I don’t understand how he can do this.
  2. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Hi Elsi. I am so sorry. I can't believe it either.

    Your daughter in law knew that R would tell you. She wanted you to know. I am assuming because it is unclear, that you called and spoke to N's wife. What did she tell you? What does she want to do? What does she want you to do? Is she completely economically dependent upon him? Does she want to stay in the marriage? Was she able to identify any triggers? What is her logic about your not speaking to N?
    There are good sliding scale places close to where I think they live. Jewish Family Services is one place. I went there. They have good people. They are well thought of.

    I feel sick at heart for her, and for you. And for N, too. I do not know how you sit with this, this train wreck, except to realize you have no real voice here.

    You are a wonderful mother. How does it help to bash yourself? You know what these kids had to deal with because you dealt with it along side of them. The helplessness of it all. Which is the bitter kernel of this. They will have to deal with it. Besides supporting her emotionally, offering support for counseling, I do not see a role for you. I am sick at heart about the grandchildren.

    Something is going on with N. I do not see him as morally corrupt. Whether depression or the alcoholism. I am not excusing him but there was a trigger.

    Is he still living in the home with his wife? Does she know what she will do about that? Is there a way for her to pay the rent without his help? Will he help her?

    I don't know why this is affecting me so. I guess it is because of the integrity of N, that he displayed, and the integrity of the family. Oh. I don't know. Five years sober. And this? Those beautiful children.
  3. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Elsi, many years went by before you came into the lives of these kids. You were not there to nurture them as infants and trust me those early years of no nurturing change the brain forever. The first three years are critical for a childs development...they need consistent love from theeir caregiver and bio. mom didnt give it. That causes dsmage, plus the drugs she took while pregnant. That was all bad but had nothing to do with you!!

    You are a success as a mother, not a failure. These kids would be doing much worse if you had never been there, but you cant make up for the years that you didnt know them. This is why E, who did not have drugs in utero and had you from the first, is doing so well. Its too bad they were not all yours from infancy but they were not. Bio. mom harmed them and still does, from wherever she is.

    Have some faith that maybe N will not like his relapse and will go back for help. Talk to him. He may listen to you. He has before.

    S may have fetal alcohol so you said. There is no known way to treat that. At least she knows you love her. That matters! She may yet come to you.

    C has many challenges that S has from her bio mom but there is hope for him. He has a heart. He does speak of change. That can take time. One day he may ask for rehab.

    I have said it before. You are an angel. These kids were damaged before you met them, in utero, but your love gives them hope and makes a difference. They know you are real Mom. It matters that they have you. You have done GREAT!

    Love and.light!
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
  4. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    The path to redemption can be a rocky road.

    In my gut I believe they will work it out. My gut is seldom wrong.

    N must have gotten scared. After five years he was about to join the union. Maybe it was all to much for him: The fear of success. I had this. Look it up.
  5. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Thanks Copa. Right now he’s still at home and they are putting up a front fo rthe kids. They did their usual ‘family fun day’ Sunday outing today. But she is devastated. She doesn’t know if she can get past this and save the marriage or not. She works, but just in a deli, so it’s not a lot of money to support two kids, even if she has child support. They are in an expensive part of the country, and are barely making it with the two of them. So it would be really hard - for both of them - if they split.

    She doesn’t want him to know I know. She’s afraid he’ll be angry with her for telling me.

    That’s what kills me. That he was doing so well, for so long. He has been my hope, and I suppose in a sense MY redemption as a mother. Seeing him go down this path ... it’s like losing all my hope. Losing my faith that redemption is actually possible, long term.
  6. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I just found this:

    As a psychologist specializing in trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I've had firsthand experience coaching clients whose past experience feeds their current fear of success. For them, the excitement of success feels uncomfortably close to the feeling of arousal they experienced when subjected to a traumatic event or multiple events. (This feeling of arousal can be linked to sexuality, in certain cases where trauma has been experienced in that realm, but that is not always the case.) People who have experienced trauma may associate the excitement of success with the same physiological reactions as trauma. They avoid subjecting themselves to excitement-inducing circumstances, which causes them to be almost phobic about success.

    There is another layer to the fear of success. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the road to success involves risks such as "getting one's hopes up" - which threatens to lead to disappointment. And many of us-especially if we've been subject to verbal abuse-have been told we were losers our whole lives, in one way or another. We have internalized that feedback and feel that we don't deserve success. Even those of us who were not abused or otherwise traumatized often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition and its evil twin, envy.

    In order to have a healthy relationship with success (and it's flip side, failure, or disappointment), the first step is to learn to differentiate between feelings of excitement and a "trauma reaction."

    I know I have had a lot of trouble because I felt I did not deserve good things in my life. I also felt sometimes I would lose what I had if I succeeded. In other words, that there was a price to be paid if I succeeded.

    N might be very afraid, and not know it. He might fear that he will fail, or not measure up. So he is sabotaging it before he even gets there. He may feel great anxiety. This is not uncommon. He may feel afraid of the responsibility. That if he takes on this success he is boxed in. Who knows?

    Maybe he needs the therapy, too.

    But the thing is, I do not see him really when the chips are down, wanting in a conscious way to give up his family. Maybe this is wishful thinking. But that is not the picture of him I have.
  7. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I would call her back and insist. (I mean not a power play, but push it a little bit.) Not one thing is gained by letting this unravel further.

    I think I would talk to him. He may even want you to come out. (Remember. You were thinking of going to see them for a quick holiday visit?) I believe if you talk to him there is a reasonable chance that he will be able to disclose to you what is going on. (I mean, not the details, but his feelings.)
  8. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    SWOT, you are so sweet. Thank you. I just...I don’t even know. I second guess myself all the time. I know there is no way to change the past, but it’s so hard to accept that there isn’t anything that I could have done differently for them. Because what kind of world is this if I believe some people are just born damaged beyond repair, with no hope of a better outcome? I can’t accept that world. It’s too unfair.
  9. Tired out

    Tired out Active Member

    Elsi, Please don't beat yourself up. We always tend to blame ourselves first. These adults have free will. We all did what we could to raise them. I didn't show mine to steal and lie and yet he did and maybe does. I just hope and pray he learned his lesson but he tends to blame others for his transgressions.
    Hope the it was just a slip up and N can have a real conversation with his wife, see his baby and realize he has so much to loose and it isn't worth it.
    Talk to him? I don't know. an you call him for a general chat and just let into the conversation... I am proud of you for staying sober. But I am sure it is very hard.Are you able to keep with it? Is there anything I can do to help you? Then broach the subject of a counselor?
  10. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Elsi. Is your position that all of us mothers on the board are failures, because we were not able to create better outcomes for our children?

    Because N has faltered does not equal "damaged beyond repair" and it does not equal "no hope of a better outcome." It means that he has relapsed. Relapses are a part of recovery. Lapses of one kind or another are part of marriage. There are no guarantees of anything in life. But there are many, many opportunities to turn things around.
  11. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    It's a good thing there are level heads around here. I am a sock it to ya kind of gal. I would have verbally punched him in the nose. (But I knew you wouldn't do it. I have every confidence in the world in you.)
  12. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    That’s really interesting Copa! And an angle I hadn’t thought of. There may be a lot of truth here, that he is self sabotaging because of a fear of failure, or a fear of success. I hadn’t heard about the fear of success being related to trauma reaction. But I can see it. And perhaps seeing it with this lens will help me understand, and get past simply being furious with him.

    Their dad certainly put all of us through a lot of trauma. And with the boys especially, there was also an element of ‘don’t get too big for your britches’ when they were doing something well. ‘Yeah well don’t get full of yourself I can still beat you in you best day’ kind of thing. I wonder if that’s part of it. Thzt constant getting knocked down just when you’re getting up. Perhaps without his father around to do it something in him feels he has to do it to himself.

    He does need counseling. Definitely
  13. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Oh Copa - of course not. I know you’re right.

    And I know you’re right about relapses being a common part of the process, too.

    But - FIVE YEARS! Really? Isn’t there ever a time we can assume they’ve moved beyond that? Isn’t recovery ever complete?
  14. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    That's what I mean.

    You are a kid and you cannot run away. You accept the definitions of you that your parent insists upon. They become your definition of self. This is internalized. You act from them, especially when you are afraid.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
  15. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    But its true, Elsi. People are born with Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, and damage from drugs in utero. Sonic has autism probably due to his birthmother's drug use while pregnant.

    Love cant fix everything. I wish it could! This forum would not exist if love cured!

    In my strong spirituality I beleive that every person is born to teach us something, be it tolerance or gratitude or compassion.

    Not everything can be fixed...not in this lifetime (I believe we keep coming back). I dont expect you to think like me, but I wanted to point out that life isnt fair. I believe there is a reason for every person born with challenges...a greater good...but challenges are not all fixable, just teachable.

    But even if you dont see it that way, you KNOW that not everyone is born with equal gifts. It is how it has always been. We are not created equal.

    You dont have to like it, I dont. But you know it is a fact so not accepting it is not an option. There IS Downs Syndrome, for example....

    This does not mean that everyone can not do his or her best according to our various abilities.

    Life isnt easy. I dont believe it is supposed to be. Easy doesnt teach us anything or help us evolve as caring people. I have come to see challenges as gifts, including my own challenges, even though its sometimes hard to remember this.

    Love and light!
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
  16. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Thanks, Tired. I think I am going to tell my daughter in law I can’t keep this secret forever, and I’m going to have to have a conversation with N eventually. This is killing me. I’m a terrible pretender.

    Copa, I do want to give him a verbal punch in the nose right now! But I’ll cool down before I talk to him.

    Sadly I don’t think a quick trip out is going to be in the budget this holiday. :( So I’ll have to figure out how to talk to him over the phone. I just want to understand why!
  17. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    He has never been at this point at the precipice of success. Actually quite a big success. Getting admission to a skilled trade union is a huge deal in my part of the country. It is life changing. And he has been achieving big successes all along. This is the cherry on the cake. A family. A child. A loving wife. I mean. I went my whole life without these things because I was afraid, and I thought of myself along the same lines as N must see himself deep inside, and I suffered trauma with the same kind of parent. And I could not do it. But he did it. And now, this is really, really scary for him.
  18. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    I know you’re right. I just want it to so badly.

    I just can’t bear that it’s all three of them right now. Love may not be able to fix everything, but can’t it fix SOMETHING?

    I know, intellectually, every word you wrote is true. I’m just angry at the universe right now for being so unfair.
  19. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    What about Zoom. I love Zoom. It's face to face and it is free.

    I believe that everybody is born with weak links, with sensitivities. Even children born perfect into perfect families have their cross to bear. We all have our challenges, our wounds. Our wounds are where the light gets in. Our wounds make us human. Where we are broken, is where our strength can lie.

    All of us. Nobody has a straight shot.
  20. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Bingo. You’re right. This is happening right at the brink of him having everything he’s ever wanted. The timing is not an accident. I should have seen this. Thank you.