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He Claims We Kicked Him Out

Hands Reaching Out

thislifesucks is concerned about her relationship with her Loved One, who has now been bouncing around for much of the summer. When the family sets boundaries, he claims they are “kicking him out.” He’s worn out his welcome at some friends’ house, though, and may be nearing a “dip.” How can she make the most of this opportunity?

I have reached out to this site before, and have found it helpful. There's been a new twist in my son's situation, and I'm seeking advice again.
My son will be 18 at the end of October, and is just starting his senior year of HS. He was adopted through DCF, after his bio-mom's rights were terminated. He's been abusing marijuana for about a year and a half or so. He blew up in our house last December, causing hundreds of dollars of damage to the property, and we were able to have him removed to a psych hospital (HighPoint, in Middleboro. I was not impressed). From there, he was moved to a STARR bed, (which turned into about 145 days), and was diagnosed with SUD, in addition to his PTSD/ADHD/attachment/trauma issues. Eventually, he agreed to go into treatment at MYR for substance abuse. He came out and immediately began smoking again, and refused to go back into treatment.
Read thislifesucks’ full comment here.

Hello again,
I posted the other day looking for advice, but things have shifted, and I wanted to provide some additional information.
After weeks of completely ignoring my texts (I would periodically send my son messages saying that I hoped he was safe; that I love him; that I wished our goals were better aligned, etc), he started responding. He lost his "job" through a mentor we were paying for, because of stealing. School has started, and I think he's worn out his welcome at his friend's house. I'm sure he's starting to feel anxious and overwhelmed, but is still hostile and angry.
Read thislifesucks’ full comment here.

Your son is struggling with many issues. He is close to 18, left home, and had been living with a friend though it sounds like he may have been asked to leave. You have tried hard to get his birth mother aligned with how you are parenting, but she continues to be unpredictable. She is smoking cannabis and encouraging both her sons to do the same.

Your son is “dipping.” School has started, he lost his mentored job, and he may be in between couches. If it weren’t for his destructive anger, you might be able to respond differently. To me, it sounds like your son is banging around his world, pulling from every corner he can think of, using mom, friends, and his family. Poor thing. Our hearts go out to him. And to you. Transitioning to adulthood is difficult enough without all the cards he has stacked against him.

You have created clear, firm boundaries. He can come home to eat before 8:30, and to sleep, when not high. After 11PM, he can sleep under the covered deck. You are limited in what you can do, since his birth mom is nearby, is a bad influence, and will let him in. You seem clear about maintaining this boundary despite your son’s increasing flailing. You also sound loving and supportive despite his responses. You still reach out and send him the occasional loving text, and your arms are open to having him home under the right conditions. Can you hold this position and maintain this same firm but calm and loving stance?

I am less worried about any damage you may have caused in your relationship with your son for now. He is angry and blameful. Unfortunately, it is common, especially with teens, to blow things out of proportion when parents set boundaries and stick to them. You just hold steady and continue to present things in a loving way, as you have been doing, to the best of your ability. Let him be in charge of his decisions. He’ll likely make a bunch of bad ones… He already has. These decisions will inevitably cause him pain. His life will stall. The more you can stay out of his way, the less sense it will make to him that this is all your fault.

So hold tight with the boundaries.

But in order to keep up with his needs for support, we need to come up with some ideas of where he can go next. In what shape is his schooling? Is he due to graduate with his class if he finishes out the year? If going to school is not in the cards, then you cut your losses and accept that he can get a GED in the future.

We are lucky the drug is cannabis and nothing more overtly dangerous. Clearly it’s still a problem. And with all that he’s carrying, his use certainly exists within the context of trauma and mental instability. He is suffering, and reaching for what he knows can numb the feelings. But this only works temporarily, and creates a cascade of other problems to deal with. With marijuana at least the immediate consequences tend to be less dramatic and destructive than many other substances out there. For this we can be thankful.

Your son spent a good deal of time in treatment. Did he do well in treatment? Is he able to stabilize in terms of his anger, learning disorder, anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms?

What if you could offer him a long-term living place that is therapeutic but not formally considered to be treatment. I dream of places like this for the many young people whose parents I work with.

They do exist but they’re expensive. Here is one in Vermont. We had one young person go there and do well.

If you could find something like this, you would present it to him, and wait – patiently – for a yes. You would let him continue with the existing set-up until the dip dipped further.

Here’s an alternate option: How about offering him some financial support to secure a place to live. You would pay the landlord directly. It could be a room in a group house. He would need your help finding this. You would be clear that he would need to be followed by a therapist for this to work. You would present it as a transitional plan to help him launch into adulthood with some stable support to lean on at the start. He would need to find a job to keep it going.

Your situation is a good example of what a family can and can’t do. Hold your limits as it relates to access to your home. Much as we counsel a parent to proceed when their Loved One has a bad-news boyfriend, we’d suggest that you ignore what he does with his birth mother. Don’t talk about it or rehash the disappointments about her role.… Let him realize what she is to him on his own. Again this lines up with how we advise family members to approach (or not approach) the questionable relationships their Loved Ones enter into. This is for them to figure out, and the more we try to exert our influence in this realm, the more it typically backfires. Laurie MacDougall recently wrote about this as she reflected on the relationships her son tended to form while in rehab.

Your son has a lot to process and his relationship with his biological mother is part of that. This will likely take him a long time to unwind. But her instability is something he will have to come to terms with himself one day. In the meantime, you’re better off keeping your focus on what kind of stability you can offer him – through the boundaries you maintain, the consistency of your responding to his use/ non-use in a CRAFTy manner, and your loving, compassionate ear that he will eventually learn to appreciate and seek out.

When we spoke some months back, you were then trying to bring the birth-mother around to the structure you were placing around your son, to no avail. So be it. As a young adult, he is beginning to leave the immediate sphere of influence of your household, and yet not able to stand on his own two feet yet. Even though he seemed to be flailing this summer, this is part of his learning about the transition towards independence.

As you consider your next moves, keep in mind that you can be an encouraging and supportive force in this transition even as you step aside and let him continue to learn more on his own. Communicating your belief in him as he feels the strain of facing things on his own can be very powerful. Make sure to emphasize and acknowledge the independence he is straining towards. He needs to know that he can see you as a partner in his journey – towards stability, towards adulthood, and towards sobriety when he’s ready for that. This transition requires us to shift our thinking. It requires us to stay on our toes in terms of how we define parenting and partnering with our Loved Ones.

If you’re able to stay loving and open, but continue to step back a bit more, you can focus on having various creative options up your sleeve – to help give him support for all that he is managing internally. When he opens up or shows a wish or dip, those options will be there. It sounds like the time may be ripe as he faces the next season.

It’s pot, thank goodness, and winter is coming. Your son sounds so lost. He needs to figure it out. You can provide what you are already able to provide at home, along with  further treatment help (disguised as a therapeutic farm or help with rent if he agrees and sees a therapist). This all would be a step in the right direction.

This is a quickly evolving story. You sound strong in the stance you have taken. Keep this up. We are glad you wrote in and shared these recent updates. Let us know how this sounds. Sending you our love and support, and a peaceful night to you and your family.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. We were back in court yesterday, for my son’s criminal charges. I debated whether or not to go, trying to balance my own self-care with supporting my son. Ultimately, my husband and I did go, but I remained focused on my phone, rather than engaging in any small talk with my son. At this point, his rejection is too still too raw, and I find it easier to emotionally close the door on our relationship, for now, because I assume it will be this way for many, many years.
    Birth mom is trying to get my son a job at the nursing home where she works; the lawyers made it clear to them both that my son will never pass the background check; that these are serious, adult charges, and there is no quick and easy resolution to them. His indecent assault charge looks to be headed to trial, at least for now, so that’s about a year away. He will take a plea deal on his B&E charge, because there’s no point in fighting something he’s so clearly guilty of. However, since he’s only been out on bail for 2 weeks, the state wants to see more evidence of him making better choices. In a month, he will have to show school attendance records, some grades, and proof of engagement in SUD counseling. Birth mom asked if NA or AA attendance would suffice, as “they both work”; this made me very angry, as she completely ignores the principals of both, as well as Al Anon, even while suggesting I might find Al Anon helpful. I admit I couldn’t hold my tongue, and commented loudly to my husband later that I wondered what the AA stance was on former cocaine addicts smoking weed on a regular basis.
    When we later went in front of the judge, my son asked that my husband and I not be allowed in the courtroom. The judge allowed us to stay, since we’re his parents, and birth mom’s rights have been terminated, but said it could be discussed going forward. As we left the courtroom, he commented that he was sorry to see such hostility between the parties. The lawyer for the indecent assault charge then pulled all of us aside to explain to my son that it’s in his best interest to have us in the courtroom; that his job will be much easier if the judge likes him; that it was a big deal for the judge to make that comment, and that we need to find some way to put a good face on this when we’re in court. He also impressed on my son, many, many times, that he is going to have to stop smoking, as he’s going to have to start passing drug tests. That if he doesn’t pass drug tests, he will be locked up, and the lawyer will have a very difficult time getting the best outcome for this situation.
    So later in the day, my son posted a video of him smoking (presumably weed) in the car. It’s now on he and birth mom to figure this out. But I can’t see the other 3 adults in the house not smoking, to support my son. And even if they did, I don’t think he’s willing to stop.
    I’m not sure what I’m looking for at this point, just wanted to provide an update.

    1. You are doing all you can for your son. His birth mother is like a “bad boyfriend/ girlfriend” in this scenario. Ignore her. Don’t make this about her in any way to your son. It’s almost a guaranteed backfire, as parents have experienced when trying to get involved with their Loved Ones’ choice of partner.

      You’ve got a lot of criminal justice involvement. Show up as you’ve done. Keep a low profile as you’re doing. Your son just turned 18 – wow – that’s some transition to adulthood for him.

      I don’t see your son stopping the cannabis for 30 days, the time it takes the drug to completely leave his system and urine test negative. So he will get further structure by the criminal justice system in the near future.

      Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full comment here:

  2. Well, my son turned 18 yesterday, so birth mom was able to bail him out of DYS, and he’s now living with her. Unfortunately, the court only strongly urged him to seek SUD and mental health treatment, but didn’t order it. We can hope that when his court cases get settled, and terms of probation are set, that the judge could potentially order him to get treatment. It seems that because he isn’t facing drug charges, there’s a good chance rehab or SUD treatment won’t even be part of probation; I’m really not sure. So for now, we wait for the next court date, and practice lots of self care.

    Thank you for all your help and support.

  3. Hi, another court date yesterday, another update. My son was charged with indecent assault, and bail was again set. We were hoping for there to have been movement with the B&E charge. If they’d proposed a plea deal, it most likely would have included therapy and SUD treatment. We were hoping to be able to push the judge to make that inpatient treatment, and had a note from my son’s PCP advocating for that, which we did manage to get added to his file. I’d reached out to the court clinician the day before, and explained what we were trying to accomplish. He was very understanding, and very helpful in explaining the whole legal process, and where we’d have the best opportunity to advocate for therapeutic treatment. Unfortunately, the opportunity just never arose. We go back to court in 2 weeks.
    My husband and I are considering bailing my son out. He has no interest in staying with us, and DCF would look for a foster home. None of us believe my son will follow any conditions of release, which would be more information for the court when considering next steps or a plea deal. Part of me hopes that having him back at home might reopen the now totally closed lines of communication; the other part feels stressed and anxious at just the thought of having him home. Unfortunately, the court didn’t stipulate any conditions of release, which means it’s up to DCF (just as with a CRA), with no real consequences if he doesn’t meet expectations. We’re hoping to have the court dictate the terms, so he could be picked up if he’s not going to school, or coming home on time. And in 4 weeks, he’ll be 18, living an hour away with birth mom, and we won’t be informed of any court dates, or be able to be involved in the process.
    I fear losing my son for good, and having him become a functional drug user, as his birth mom and brother are.

  4. Hi, I’m posting as a follow up to my previous posts, as our situation has continued to change. My son was arrested Thursday morning, for B & E a motor vehicle. This is his 3rd arrest, but the first time he’s officially been charged. Given that he’d skipped court for his CRA hearing on Tuesday, and that he hasn’t been home, or willing to tell us where he’s staying, the judge set bail for him, and he’s in DYS custody (Framingham) while DCF tries to find a STARR bed. We haven’t posted bail because right now we know he’s sober and safe. He of course sees this as further rejection, and only wants to speak with birth mother. To further complicate things, I got a call from transit police yesterday, and my son has been identified as a “person of interest” in an indecent assault that happened at the start of August. We’re hoping to try to use this as leverage for the court to order him into treatment. I’d like to use the time now, when he’s sober, as a way to reconnect, but he doesn’t seem to want anything to do with us. I can’t even bring him treats, because of the rules of DYS.
    Any thoughts or advice would be very welcome. I fear my son will slip through the cracks for now, and end up incarcerated once he’s an adult.

    1. Goodness. How hard to accept these circumstances and not bail out your son from DYS (Department of Youth Services) custody.

      Can you send your son notes?

      A STARR bed … is this a mandated treatment? STARR programs are solid and relatively comprehensive. Could this lead to a long-term residential bed? I believe STARR has a number of collaborating housing.

      I wish I could pluck your son up by helicopter and drop him in the middle of a western prairie, with nothing but a horse (which he would ride to a sober dude ranch where he would live for the next year in exchange for mending fences or some such thing).

      It feels like someone needs to reach in deep with your son. I’m sorry. This surely feels all consuming.

      I agree safe and sober is critical at this moment. The criminal justice system is now partially controlling next steps.

      Reach in as you can. He is safe. He has messed up. These are the consequences. Again, not what I would want for any young man struggling like your son is.

      There are emerging adult long-term programs out there, but they are expensive and succeeding in getting insurance to pay is a gamble some families can’t afford to take.

      Everything should be managed from here on out with a long-term program in mind. I have seen young people your son’s age make 180 degree shifts in their lives through solid programming. These are tremendous young people. Getting a safe place that helps your son through the confusion and teaches him skills for handling emotions and daily life. I’m glad to get on the phone with you if I can help.

      1. Consensus at this point is that he needs rehab, and ideally a longer term therapeutic placement. There are so many variables at this point that my head is spinning. He won’t be charged on the indecent assault charge until he’s at least questioned. It’s doubtful that will happen while he’s in Framingham, but the transit police may come to the courthouse on the 25th to do that. He could take a plea on his current charges, which would require SUD treatment and therapy (presumably outpatient). The judge may find out about these other possible charges, and revoke bail, keeping him in DYS. Any charges that he incurs as a minor, that have not been resolved before he’s 18, will stay in juvenile court until he’s 19.
        I’ve reached out to his PCP, in the hopes that if SUD treatment is required, we could try to place him somewhere longer term via his health insurance. But it still seems highly unlikely that he will agree to anything more than the bare minimum that the court is asking.
        As far as the STARR assessment, the reason his last one went 100 days past the norm is they felt he needed SUD treatment, but he wasn’t willing to go. He didn’t qualify for an IGH level of care, so they were looking at group homes. They won’t bother with that now, since he’s so close to 18.
        I’m really at a loss as to how to get him to 1) agree to a long term program (why bother when he can stay with birth mom and get high?) 2) find a program that would meet his needs that we can afford.

  5. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. To answer your questions, he is on schedule to graduate, despite barely attending school. School is planning to limit his class time, and trying to get him set up in an unpaid internship. The hope is that he’d then be more regularly present and sober for school, and more likely to stick things out until graduation.
    As far as his behavior in treatment, he nearly always presents as friendly, respectful, charming, and likeable, but rarely engages in any meaningful way in therapy. In fact, therapy is the time when he presents as most cranky, irritable, and rude. In the STARR assessment, he was able to continue with his substance use quite regularly, so I’d say he’s not been able to manage his anxiety, depression, etc, despite medications. In rehab, he behaved very well, but again was minimally engaged.
    When you mention paying for a room in a group house, are you speaking of some sort of structured group home/transitional housing? Or literally just finding him a room to rent, with the understanding that he see a therapist?
    We do still have the involvement of DCF and a therapeutic mentor, for now, and I’m enlisting their help in finding some housing options for going forward.
    And my son has now blocked me on his phone.

    1. Dear thislifesucks,

      Thanks so much for your updates. It must be heartbreaking to have your son block you on his phone after all of this turmoil. He’s closed the door on your communications, for the time being, and that is incredibly painful to process. Our hearts go out to you. Many other parents and family members on this site have endured rejection like this from their Loved Ones. I hope you will continue to reach out to us and to other members for support. Even if you aren’t able to communicate with your son right now, your voice is welcome here any time.

      It’s also an opportunity – an invitation, even – to refocus on the work that only you can do. Write in your journal, listen to a podcast, find an inspiring book or TED talk… You should not hesitate to dive in to giving yourself what you need right now. The benefits of taking this time for yourself will ripple out in unexpected ways. So keep reaching out for support, find an empathetic ear, practice with meditation, prayer or even simple mindful breathing practices so that you can be more centered and grounded when your communications do resume.

      As a teenaged boy, your son is likely not full of empathy and insight into the inner world of those around him just yet. His own inner world may still be something of an enigma to him, for that matter. He has made abrupt and rash decisions before, and he has the fiery temper that many teenagers struggle with, especially with the complexity of the trauma he holds inside. You can choose to find compassion for him even in the face of this harsh behavior. He is on his own journey, but you have been there for him for all of these years. He will come back around to you. When he does, it will help to use all of the communication and reflective listening skills we teach in the Learning Modules. This is something you can work on at any time – the more you practice, the better equipped you will be when you see him next…

      As far as your question about housing, yes Dominique was suggesting help with just a room in a regular house or some other simple housing arrangement, as a parent might do for any kid leaving home. So not a formal therapeutic setting in this case.

      And here’s a beautiful, profound post from Annie Highwater that I hope you find useful in the meantime:

      All my best,