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My son feels responsible

Old 12-26-2015, 01:16 PM
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My son feels responsible

My son opened up to me today. Telling me about how miserable his dad is, how he hates listening to his dad rant and rave about the demise of humanity and how the world is falling apart. He told me that he has to take care of his dad and that he feels he needs to step in an be responsible for him since my XAH can't take care of himself well anymore.

I try to keep my son here at my house as much as possible. I've taken him to a few Al Anon meetings but it's not really something he wants to commit to. He was going to a therapist back in August but he stopped going because he felt that dad was getting 'better'. Well, no sweetie, he just hadn' t had another binge during that time.

He sometimes will get talked into spending another night or two at my x's house and I'll let him stay. He is very concerned for his dad and the fact that he can't fix him. I talk program talk to him all the time but I know he has to learn his own lessons. So, I told him I want him to go back to his therapist and possibly see about getting a meeting going where he talks to his dad with the therapist there about his issues and how he hates all the negativity and depressing talk and martyr crap that XAH throws at him. He often has told me, "Mom, I feel like I've taken your place and it sucks but dad keeps saying he wants to get better and then he seems OK for a few weeks and then he's down in the dumps and depressed and has another binge again."

God, how I wish I never married this man or that I had left 15 years ago. So much damage would have been avoided. I am beating myself up for things I didn't do and I hate that my son has to suffer being a child of, not only an alcoholic, but someone who suffers from depression, anxiety, etc. It pains me.

So, for as good as my own life is going, I wish I could fix my son's life for him but I know I can't.....and it sucks.
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Old 12-26-2015, 01:28 PM
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I think counseling for him sounds like the best plan. Kids internalize everything and do often blame themselves. My oldest does this to a point as well but therapy and validating her feelings has helped immensely. Peace to you and hugs to your son.
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Old 12-26-2015, 01:51 PM
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Liz, I'd suggest more intervention than trying to lower the number of days your son is with his father. It is very unbalanced and damaging for your son to feel that he has to pick up your former role as co-dependent and protector of his father.

Your son can never succeed in that role - as we know so well and so woefully, no one can succeed in that role. The trouble is that a younger teenager doesn't get that. They feel the burden has been handed to them, and that they are failing. They have to have boundaries shaped for them emotionally until they have enough maturity to internalize the boundaries and realize on their own that they are not condemning their parent to depression and neglect. If your former husband can't understand that he is not entitled to ask that level of support from your son, then there needs to be a major realignment of custody so that your son does not feel that burden.

This is the time of life when your SON is coming to age. That his father is failing in his own attempts to stabilize himself and come to some maturity about his own issues, is not your son's fault or your son's problem. He is just to young to bear this burden without some real intense help to free him from his feelings of accountability for his dad's mental health. I would suggest, gently, that you put your son's needs above all else in your life for a while and get him stabilized and free to explore what he wants to become as he starts to enter adulthood. It sounds as though he feels that the burden of his father has been shifted away from you and onto him, and there is truth in that, and it is not okay.

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Old 12-26-2015, 02:36 PM
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I don't have kids so please take what I say with a grain of salt. It must be excruciating to whatch a child deal with this type of situation.

Shootingstar I agree with what you say; however, I would think teenagers have to come to terms with alcoholism and how to relate to an addict themselves (with as much guidance as they can accept). For most of us adults, figuring this out was riddled with mistakes, angst, and took time.

Lizatola, congrats that your son shares as much as he does about his feelings in the situation. "Program talk" probably means explaining setting boundaries and self-care and that the addict has the right to live as he chooses. Your kid sounds smart. Thanks for providing him with a home free of addicts.
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Old 12-26-2015, 03:33 PM
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So sorry Liz. Our kids suffer more than anybody-- if I had a suggestion that would be new to you I'd share it, and if I was religious I'd pray for you and your son, but I will send all of my positive thoughts your way.

Sometimes I wish they'd just get it over with, but they usually hang on until the end so we can all suffer as much as possible.

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Old 12-26-2015, 03:43 PM
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If your son is "getting talked into" staying longer at his Dad's, this is where you can step in and say, "No." I don't know what your order says about parenting time for him, but when you "let him stay" longer at his Dad's house, you are basically rewarding your ex's manipulation of him. If he were happy at Dad's house, then I'd be saying sure, if you don't think he's in any danger there, let him stay there as much as he wants to.

Your son might find it a huge relief if it weren't on his shoulders to say no--whether he admits it or not.
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Old 12-26-2015, 03:56 PM
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Liz, it is only because YOU got out that you are now in a place to truly help your son. and only because you are working a program of self-healing and awareness that you even recognize the "problem." so before you got beating yourself up for what you SHOULD have done, or COULD have done, focus on what you HAVE done and where you are now

your son feels safe enough to SHARE with you. embrace that connection, and don't immediately make fast hard changes that could make him second guess whether telling you was a good idea. work on solutions WITH him.....
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Old 12-27-2015, 08:25 AM
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My ds has to stay at his dad's occasionally only because I need XAH to get him to the orthodontist, the dermatologist, and school (at least that was the case last week). My son will take Uber at times, like when he can't wake my X up or when he's still drunk in the AM and can't drive and my son knows how to make those decisions for himself.

My son is 17. I really feel that I can't force him to stay with me 24/7. He will be driving very soon and he'll be making these choices for himself when he turns 18. I'm not sure that me putting my foot down and forcing him to stay with me is a good idea. I have tried to talk to him about this and he insists that dad needs him and that he still needs a ride from dad for certain things (which is true).

As for counseling: I want my ds to go back to counseling. I'm still not sure who told him that he should stop going back in September. I didn't realize the appointments had stopped. Ds just told me that he felt good and was adjusting well and that they all(the 3 of them: dad, son, and counselor) decided he could take a break from counseling. And, honestly, I can't get him to therapy myself so I need my X's cooperation or else I'm paying 40$ for having Uber take him to counseling, which may end up happening at this point.

As for my XAH: son tried to contact him yesterday but hasn't heard back. He worries about his dad and I hate to see him worked up in fear and worry and sadness.
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Old 12-27-2015, 08:36 AM
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Well, you were specifically talking about your son being "talked into" staying longer at Dad's than was planned/scheduled. IOW, not times when you had collectively PLANNED for him to be there. I get that he's a responsible kid, but that cuts two ways--yes, he takes responsibility for getting himself where he needs to be, but he also takes responsibility for his Dad's feelings.

It sounds like he's spending a lot of time there anyway, I don't think you are depriving anyone of anything if you put the kibosh on Dad's wheedling extra time together (time that appears to be distressing your son). I don't think it's out of line for you to say, "We agreed you were going to stay x days at your Dad's, now it's time to come home."
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Old 12-27-2015, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by LexieCat View Post
Well, you were specifically talking about your son being "talked into" staying longer at Dad's than was planned/scheduled. IOW, not times when you had collectively PLANNED for him to be there. I get that he's a responsible kid, but that cuts two ways--yes, he takes responsibility for getting himself where he needs to be, but he also takes responsibility for his Dad's feelings.

It sounds like he's spending a lot of time there anyway, I don't think you are depriving anyone of anything if you put the kibosh on Dad's wheedling extra time together (time that appears to be distressing your son). I don't think it's out of line for you to say, "We agreed you were going to stay x days at your Dad's, now it's time to come home."
Yes, he was talked into it because we had to make an emergency orthodontist appointment and the only time they had was at 9 AM. My XAH doesn't like to get up early and I think he uses my ds as his alarm clock so he talked ds into staying on a Monday night when he should have been with me. Most of the times it's because my XAH doesn't want to come over to my house to pick ds up and he sells it to my son about what a pain it is to drive 3.5 miles to come get him, etc.

I'm hoping things will look differently once ds gets his license but I also found out that my XAH is changing his mind about giving ds his old car, which we all had been planning on. Just another way for him to push my buttons and try to cause difficulties where there needn't be any, you know? It could be very simple. You give him the car like you've talked about for the past 5 years, buy a new one since this one has close to 145K miles on it, and then you don't have to drive him anywhere!! Sounds like a win win to me and also gives my son a chance to stay at my place much more frequently.
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Old 12-27-2015, 09:36 AM
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OMG, 3.5 miles is a "pain"? What a freaking jerk he is!
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Old 12-27-2015, 09:38 AM
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Liz,
I am sorry that your axh is using your son now, they always have to have an enabler around to take care of them. (using your son as an alarm clock??, and good for him to take an uber instead of getting in the car with his drunk Dad)

My 2dd's went and spent 24 hours at axh house Christmas night. My one daughter can't stand him and is pretty stern with him. I guess he was an axx to one of his cousins on Christmas and my the daughter saw it. She called him out about it and he apologized to the cousin. Yes our children step into the spouses role once we are gone. Both my daughters told me that he didn't talk to his mother the hole day because she dropped off the kids presents at my work and didn't give them to him. So grateful that he didn't ruin my holiday like he did everyone elses.

This is out of our hands as we are not there. He could benefit from a therapist or alateen. That would be ideal if he could go to a meeting. I am sorry about manipulation that he is puting on the son, but once again there is nothing that can do but listen and give him sound advice.

Hugs my friend!!
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Old 12-27-2015, 09:58 AM
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I think my situation might relate a bit. My parents split up when me and my sister were very young. I'm now the brother to a 21 year hold alcoholic sister (I'm 23) and we live with my mother. We see our dad, but he doesn't know about her problems as we don't trust him much. My mum regularly leans on me and I've adopted the sort of 'father figure' or something similar in the house since I was a 16/17.

First you can't blame yourself at all. These things just have a way of happening. Supporting your son through it all like you have is amazing, and he will appreciate that. I know I appreciate it when my nan or uncle empathise with me and help me out. Keep encouraging him to get some form of counselling. If he has that, plus your support, overtime he should hopefully understand it is not his responsibility and can gain freedom.

Unfortunately it's easy for a troubled parent to lean on their child. I'm guessing your XAH relates to your son very well and your son is good at the emotional support he gives. As long as you support him, and keep ensuring him it's not his fault nor his responsibility and making sure he has professional support there's not much more you can do. If he's talking to you, and being honest, at least you know he's okay.

I hope that your son soon realises it's not his job to take care of his father. It's a large burden. If you help him see that he has to live his own life then you've done the best thing you can do in my opinion.

Keep strong, you sound like an amazing, loving mother and he is lucky to have you for support!
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Old 12-27-2015, 10:22 AM
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I think the truth of the matter is that, despite your son having a father, and despite whatever legal custody agreement the Court has imposed, your ex husband's alcoholism has progressed to the point where he can no longer function as a responsible parent. It isn't just that your son "feels" responsible; it is that your son IS responsible because his father is now so impaired that he can't be a parent.

Because your son is 17, and can cope with some of his dad's dysfunction, your ex husband's incapacity has been shielded from view. If your children were younger - toddlers or elementary school - his inability to properly and safely parent would be glaring, and I would guess you would have been back in Court to take away his rights as a parent.

So, it is a strange outcome, but you are now essentially a single parent without a partner. That is a different form of parenting, and a difficult one, but necessary. I raised two children alone, and at times them and three step-children while my husband travelled, and worked a stressful job an hour's commute away, so I understand and sympathize. It is complicated to provide child care, and in your son's case that seems to primarily mean transportation, but it is necessary.

So, Liz, I'd suggest rethinking this situation as if you had sole custody and no help whatsoever from his father. That's the truth of this situation, and I still think that letting your son bear the emotional brunt of his father's failures is too much for you son, and you should protect him from that.

There are lots of ways to solve this without requiring your son to stay at his father's home. Maybe this is an expense with Uber you will just have to swallow for a while. Can your son get his license any sooner? And as for the car, your XAH is using that as a bargaining card with your son, and that's a familiar and painful reminder of how he used to treat you. I'd say, just plan on getting your son a car yourself, and end his father's control.

It is hard to be a single parent, but there are many options. Sometimes people from the church will pitch in and drive. Or there may be an older teenager or college student you could pay to drive your son. Your son needs to be free of having to parent your XAH.

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Old 12-27-2015, 10:37 AM
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I agree with ShootingStar. The man is incapable, and really, the thought of counting on him to drive your son anywhere is pretty scary. Does your job provide sick time? My understanding is that that can generally be used for things like medical appointments for anyone in your family. Check with your HR department.
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Old 12-27-2015, 12:49 PM
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I talked to him again about it and suggested he just stay with me full time, but then he pointed out that last week he had a few nice days with his dad. They went hiking, dad didn't drink, they played tennis and took the dog out for walks in the desert, and he said he sees dad as 'trying' to get his life together and that he'd feel like he was abandoning him.

As for the license, he has to have his permit for 6 months until he can take the drivers test which will be in late February and yes, I've already figured out that I'll probably just buy him a car. And, as for Uber, yes, I've already told him to take Uber whenever he doesn't feel safe or if dad is too hung over, etc.

I'm going to push for the counseling and tell my son to take Uber there if his dad won't do it.

He seems to think that dad is on an upswing. Sigh....I know I need to advocate for him. I do not get sick time until I've been there for a year at work so that's kinda out and my office is nearly 40 miles from my house so it's not like I can run home for lunch or be gone and back real quick. I would have to take an entire morning or afternoon off for 1 appointment. I've done this before and I lose money each time.

Lots to think about. There are solutions but my son thinks for himself a lot now and I have to just encourage him to set boundaries and we talked about what boundaries look like today and things he could do to help himself.
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Old 12-27-2015, 01:14 PM
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Given the very close proximity here (your ex's protestations of the burdensome distance notwithstanding), I don't see why your son can't do what he wants to do with his dad (tennis, walks, just hang out, whatever) and still keep your house as "home base." Are there busy highways or something between your homes? Because it seems like 3.5 miles would be a very short distance for a 17 y/o to walk or bike.
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Old 12-28-2015, 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by LexieCat View Post
Given the very close proximity here (your ex's protestations of the burdensome distance notwithstanding), I don't see why your son can't do what he wants to do with his dad (tennis, walks, just hang out, whatever) and still keep your house as "home base." Are there busy highways or something between your homes? Because it seems like 3.5 miles would be a very short distance for a 17 y/o to walk or bike.
HAHA, yep, that's true. I've told my son that he could do that because it's not too dangerous for biking and he can cut through a gated community to avoid the major road by my X's house. My X has never asked him to ride his bike over there but it is a viable option. I think they're both lazy. XAH is lazy just because he's who he is and my son is lazy because he's a teenager and just getting out of bed in the morning takes effort, lol.

And, yes, this distance is so burdensome isn't it? The reason I rented a house so close to his is because it's the perfect distance as far as I can tell. No major highways, mostly quiet connecting roads and feeder roads for neighborhoods, etc. XAH makes it sound like I moved halfway across town.

Now, with that being said: XAH did let our son stay at my place last night even though son has a teeth cleaning scheduled at 9 AM today. I swore he was going to tell son that he had to sleep over at his place, but he didn't. XAH just said, "It's up to him." Son and I were at my boyfriend's house watching football and playing with the kids, etc so I was glad we were able to stay and have some fun and that I didn't have to run my kid back home for his dad.
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