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Old 08-30-2019, 07:57 AM   #1 (permalink)
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17 year old out of control


My 17 year old stepson has a history of drug related issues. Over the past 3 years he's been caught vaping, abusing cough syrup, marijuana and arranging deals for people, stealing pills to "try", etc. He straightens out, then has issues again. Hard to separate normal from really troubled. Stealing cough syrup on a trip to drug store WITH his father there was a huge sign to me. He's been in counseling and is medicated for depression.

In the past 2 weeks he left his father's house off schedule, suddenly and for no apparent reason refused to come home (with the full support of his mother), claiming his father is "too negative". He then totaled her car and got expelled from his private school.

He did the routine last year with refusing to come home. His mother despises his father so that's always OK with her, despite court order.

All of his major troubles coincide with separation from his father. Last summer he gave her fake urine for a month, and spent the entire time high. Every truly big issue has been when his dad was away for business or while she was allowing him to stay with her and her boyfriend off-schedule. She'd never acknowledge that though.

He's an honors student and we had been looking at schools. This summer it really seemed we had put these issues behind us then it all fell apart. He's tanked his chances at the schools he wanted to attend, and anyway we believe it would be disaster to send him away before these issues are addressed.

Through a small miracle, another similar but even better private school agreed to accept him (knowing the full story, the schools are actually connected), but he and his mother choose the massive local public school instead. (Despite joint custody both physical and legal, it's a fight we don't believe we can face legally.)

We don't know when we will see him again. His father has completely lost any ability to parent him if his mother won't cooperate. Fighting legally will take months and he is so determined to see his father as the bad guy, I don't think it will help either way, particularly due to his age.

I believe his set his path and praying that the months of drug counseling gave him the tools he needs to be ok. I'm so sad, I know this story so well from my own family and it just feels like a repeat only this time I see it coming and can't do a damn thing.

I guess I can help my husband with what I've learned so that is something. My heart is in my throat and I'm walking around with all the bad chemicals that your body produces when you are scared and living in the midst of crisis. God I hate that feeling.

Any advice, support, prayers, anything is appreciated.
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Old 08-30-2019, 11:59 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hanna, I know your heartache and fear and I am sorry you are going through all this.

My son is my foster son and his entire birth family was addicted to something. We thought if we gave him love and guided him to living a better life, that he would avoid the addiction that had been such a normal part of his early childhood. He spoke against drugs, swore he would never touch them...and then he did...and the rest is history.

My husband and I tried for years to save him, and yet after many rehabs and chances for a new life through employment and support from us...he still chose a bad path and today, many years later is is a middleage adult who still is in and out of the revolving door of addiction/recovery/relapse.

What I learned was that there is no way to help him when he won't take the actions to help himself. Trying to help only enabled him and probably prolonged his journey. Somewhere along the way, our home became a war zone and I lost sight of who I was or what I wanted from life. I didn't KNOW how to live any differently than I was living.

What helped us find a happy, healthy better way of living was to go to meetings. CoDA was my home group, Al-anon was there for me too on a regular basis and through these fellowships I learned to let go (and what that really meant) and to learn to live in a healthier way.

Today I find beauty in every day. Today I am led by a spiritual purpose and find peace in even the worst of times.

My suggestion for you and your husband, if he is willing, is to find meetings close to your home and attend regularly. Also, a book "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie has helped many of us learn about why we do what we do and how to find a better path for US, no matter how our addicted loved one is doing.

There is a lot of information in the "sticky" threads at the top of this forum, maybe take time to read a few and see if they don't help you too.

My prayers go our for you and your family.

Hugs from my heart to yours.
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Old 08-30-2019, 04:15 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks so much Ann. I will definitely be hitting a meeting asap and I think my husband will join me either now or soon. He has done some things today that seem very healthy. In fact, he changed the lock on the front door, saying "if he doesn't want to live here then he cannot just come and go." So we can control this as needed. He can get in through the garage but we can disable as needed.

I haven't read that particular Melodie Beattie book but am a huge fan. In fact, I did her "Make Miracles in 40 days" program during the crisis with my brother and it changed my life and perspective. I refer to it as 'reverse gratitude' - for anyone that hasn't seen it, it's basically writing "Today I am grateful for:" then listing all the things that you absolutely are not grateful for underneath.
Sounds crazy; works miracles.
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Old 08-30-2019, 05:21 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Changing the locks is wise. Setting strong boundaries are important and protecting yourself (and your belongings) is necessary to stay safe. I wish I had been wiser sooner. We lost a lot of money and stuff from our home before we too set security that would not let him in.

I like your reverse Gratitude list. I often refer to "strangely wrapped gifts" which are gifts that we find only after a time of difficulty or after overcoming an obstacle. We see it in hindsight, but it is often there and would not be there at all but for the obstacle that changed our path. Recovery and all the good spiritual changes that go with it, is one of those.
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Old 08-30-2019, 08:21 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I just realized how angry I am about all of my own sacrifice over the last 6.5 years. Iíve not celebrated a single holiday with my family since his dad and I met. Iíve limited myself in so many ways for him, my stepson. Iím so nice about it no one would think to even notice that itís hard to constantly put myself aside.

It feels like everything Iíve given is worthless right now.

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Old 08-31-2019, 05:01 AM   #6 (permalink)
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It feels like everything Iíve given is worthless right now.

Hanna, it's not worthless, it's not hopeless, you have done what you thought was right, you have tried just as we all have tried, and you have learned valuable lessons. When we know better, we do better and you are finding your way in a steady, enlightened way. It took me much longer to get to where you are today. Change doesn't come easy to me. Some days I wondered if it was worth it, as I struggled with what I needed while letting go of what my son wanted. In the end, I was right to focus on the only one of us that I could change...me. His change was up to him and not mine to control.

Don't mourn for the lost past, you can't change a day of it, but the future is all yours to make better and happier and focused on you and your family. Positive thoughts will lead to positive actions. Embrace the lessons you have learned and grow. I promise it will get better.
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Old 09-01-2019, 07:49 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Hanna: I'd joined this site (and have been grateful every day since!) when my son was a teen, still living at home, abusing substances, in trouble with the law, and failing high school. The support and practical advice, experience, strength and hope shared by others here has been immensely helpful and I am hoping you feel that way as well.

Quoting a paragraph you had written in this thread, "I believe his set his path and praying that the months of drug counseling gave him the tools he needs to be ok. I'm so sad, I know this story so well from my own family and it just feels like a repeat only this time I see it coming and can't do a damn thing." But you are doing something. You are reaching out and starting toward healing and I'm guessing looking to put the ball back in his, your stepson's, court.

When we (son, his dad and I) were quickly approaching the "finish line" in 2009, (when we felt we had done everything we could with offering counseling, with working with the school and son, with being supportive of son and "pushing" him into programs to try and help him, with me being patient --his dad, not so much --and with me offering son unconditional love -- his dad, not so much -- while at the same time, knowingly and unknowingly enabling him)-- when he was 17 (and were reminded by counselors and the law as well that the finish line was coming), and that once he turned 18 in September, it would ALL change/we knew we had to face it.

It can be very hard to detach and let them "face their consequences," but it is better to do so sooner than later. I know, hindsight is 2020; it was a very tough time. Anyway and fortunately, I had support when I finally decided it was time for me to step back and to let him find his way, to let him face consequences.

Hugs and best wishes. My heart goes out to you and your family, and am sending prayers that your stepson will make good choices and that he will choose to get on the path to recovery.
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Old 09-03-2019, 08:41 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Thank you Ann for that reminder. - It's not worthless or hopeless.
And thank you Anaya for sharing all of your wisdom, strength and experience. It's helped me so much to just be here at SA again.

I am so proud of my husband for suddenly becoming tough and for recognizing that he is not to blame here. I know how much he loves his son and was not sure he would have the strength to do the hard things he is doing. But he seems to be recognizing that letting him reap consequences is the best thing we can do.

Today SS and his mother arranged a meeting to enroll him in the school in his father's school district, after he and his mother rejected the option of a better but stricter school. After days of silence he texted his Dad last night at 10:30 PM and asked if he was coming to the meeting. No, he was not going. He had already been in tough with the school and provided his consent and proof of residency so there was no reason for him to. But he had also let them know the details behind this story including that his son has chosen not to return to his house. It says so much that his mother is having him handle what should be adult communication. I am certain that SS did not just decide last night on his own to send these messages. Waiting until such a late hour for something so important speaks volumes about her competence, too. I gathered from this they believed that he had to be there for SS to be enrolled.

He tried texting me, would I convince his dad to go. I said No, and there is no reason he needs to be there.

Today SS forwarded a message left by the school on his Mother's phone - that they are cancelling the meeting because he does not reside in the district. They told her to enroll him at the school in her district instead. He doesn't want that - it's smaller and very rural. Less people, no one he knows and probably less fun.

DH spoke with the school and the administrator he spoke to said "If he doesn't sleep here, he doesn't live here." He was very supportive actually and really saw the whole situation with clear eyes. That is such a blessing.

SS is throwing the kitchen sink at his father right now. His Dad told him "I will not discuss this with you, you are a minor. Your mother can call me." He also said, "I will not lie for you." So now he's blaming his Dad and saying horrible things. He wants to blame his bad behavior and the consequences on everyone but himself.
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Old 09-03-2019, 02:24 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I am so sorry for what you are going through! Yes definitely hit a meeting. When I went to Celebrate Recovery, we had many parents there and it got them through some very dark times.

You are right about his age. If he is 17 now, by the time this would even go to court he would likely be 18 or very close. My bet will be that it will go on for a while until Mom has had enough, then things may change. And of course, a change in environment can be a good one.

I have one kid in private and one went to public. There are issues with schools of all sorts. Here, the biggest private high school is a huge drug/sex den. There are some very spoiled and out of control kids, and some parents who are deep in denial, and other parents who participate themselves. It's disgusting.

Here you go to the school district where you live unless it's private. You are not even permitted to offer the pay the tuition to the public school, it's just not allowed and should not be.

Stand firm, that is the best thing you and his Dad can do at this point. Along with prayer and go to meetings! It's also not a bad idea to call the social worker/counselor at the school and explain the situation. They cannot give you any info, but you can sure give them some info to watch out for and to keep an extra eye on things.
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Old 09-04-2019, 04:42 AM   #10 (permalink)
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SS is throwing the kitchen sink at his father right now. His Dad told him "I will not discuss this with you, you are a minor. Your mother can call me." He also said, "I will not lie for you." So now he's blaming his Dad and saying horrible things. He wants to blame his bad behavior and the consequences on everyone but himself.
Ugh. Nothing worse than a teen throwing a toddler-type temper tantrum.

My son tried that many times as a teen; even now at 27 years old, occasionally he tries to upset the apple cart by digging up things from the past (i.e., choices he made and not liking the consequences that followed) and playing the blame game - we were "such bad parents!"

So great to hear how you and your husband are keeping boundaries in place.
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Old 09-10-2019, 07:39 AM   #11 (permalink)
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My husband and I are going to an al-anon meeting tonight at his request.

He has hardly heard from SS and not at all from SS's mother. I have not reached out to him but I know my Mom has been in touch. They have a really special connection.

Hi Mother enrolled him in the school in her district - it's academically the worst option but it's small and rural and I think that will be better for him than the large school in our district that refused him when she tried to enroll last week.

Husband hasn't even contacted the school - that's so far away from our normal that it's really bizarre, but at the moment seems like it may be the right decision.

Husband has let him know he's here but also that he's not taking any nonsense; he will be here when SS is ready to re-engage. It's so strange. Just a few weeks ago we were visiting colleges and excited about his future. It's like the whole world just changed in an instant.

I learned something that I never knew that seems significant to me. When she left my husband 9 years ago, she also left her son behind, but took the dog. She said she was going to get everything ready. That was a piece of the puzzle I didn't have.
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Old 09-11-2019, 06:12 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I think your husband is right not to fight her in court. He's 17 and the courts sometimes let 12 year olds choose which parent they'd like to live with. If I understand correctly, you've been in a stepmother role for over 6 years, so it makes sense that you are heavily invested in his future. However, hard as it may be for you, it's up to his mother and father to decide where he goes to school. And if his father chooses to leave it up to his mother entirely, I think you should respect his decision. I'm very sorry. Being a stepparent seems so difficult. I really don't know if I'd be able to handle it myself.
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Old 09-11-2019, 07:29 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I think your husband is right not to fight her in court. He's 17 and the courts sometimes let 12 year olds choose which parent they'd like to live with. If I understand correctly, you've been in a stepmother role for over 6 years, so it makes sense that you are heavily invested in his future. However, hard as it may be for you, it's up to his mother and father to decide where he goes to school. And if his father chooses to leave it up to his mother entirely, I think you should respect his decision. I'm very sorry. Being a stepparent seems so difficult. I really don't know if I'd be able to handle it myself.
Yes, you are right, 100% not my decisions. By my own choosing, I am a "trusted advisor" to my husband when it comes to parenting decisions.

I've just been a step parent for 2 months now, but involved for 6 years. This is probably the one area of my life that I keep healthy boundaries with zero struggle. It helps that I was a child of divorced parents actually.
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Old 09-11-2019, 08:07 AM   #14 (permalink)
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We attended an al-anon meeting last night. Perfect timing. It was a reading meeting and the readings were about boundaries and detachment.

My husband told me it wasn't for him and was awkward and wasn't helpful, etc. Then later he said how nice everyone was to us. They even gave us "How Al-Anon Works" books for free. Then he said "I guess we should go back because they are so nice."

That tickled me!
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Old 09-16-2019, 01:46 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Really feeling sad today. DH is staying in contact via text with SS, but we have not seen him in 2.5 weeks. It feels like forever and as much as I miss him I know it's so much harder on his Dad, so I am just trying to be supportive of him. It's hard on so many people - like he's just abandoning all of us. Meanwhile he's in a completely different school and we hardly know a thing about his life.

He's being a complete jerk to his father, but DH is staying in contact. I think at his age that is the right thing to do. (But who knows. I try to not give much advice but just to pray and suggest he ask for God's knowledge of his will for him and strength to carry it out. )

I have not reached out to SS at all. I can't tell if that is the right thing to do, or just a poor reaction based on my own bad experiences and fears. My birthday came and went without a word from him - and I was glad. I didn't know how I would reply if he tried to tell me to have a happy birthday.

Everything happening feels like a repeat of my childhood - watching my own brothers run off to my Dad's house and refuse to speak with or see my Mom, while my Dad supported them alienating her for his own selfish reasons. I know how that worked out for them.

We don't know what chemicals he may or may not be putting in his body. We just know he's shown the willingness to try pretty much anything he gets his hands on and that whether he's doing drugs or not, he's sure got the mentality of an addict.
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Old 09-18-2019, 10:37 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I am so glad you and your husband went to a meeting and will keep going at least for now...I have a feeling they will grow on you and soon you will look forward to every single one.

Prayers out for the boy, he's got lessons to learn but we both know that they are HIS lessons and nothing we can do would make them easier or smoother...which is exactly as it should be.

Hugs from my heart to yours.
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Old 10-10-2019, 02:47 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Our situations are so very similar on many levels. I am also dealing with an enabling ex. I am so sorry you are on the rollercoaster as well. Right now I am just hurt and angry....he has so many people believing that I am the issue and that he is not an addict and am making a mountain of a molehill. It is like my beautiful boy has been abducted.
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