Saturday, April 20, 2013

Where things stand

The question about whether or not my son will move out of his sober living house has not yet been resolved. But I'm 99.99 percent sure that the question about whether or not he will move back home has been resolved. My wife and I think that it's just not the best idea.

It turns out that it's just not the money situation that has my son wanting to move out. He is also having some conflicts with "Jack" (not his real name), the man who owns and runs the sober living house. Evidently a couple of the guys from the house have "gone out" again (i.e., used again) and now Jack is in drill sergeant mode, getting in people's faces, yelling, and saying some pretty hurtful things to at least some of the residents; my son included. Not a good situation, especially when I know my son doesn't react well to that kind of treatment.

On Thursday night, my wife and I sat down with our son and his sponsor to talk about things. Earlier that day, I found out that our son is interested in moving back home for only a month or so (until he and a couple of buddies can find a place to move into together). We all spoke our piece at our little meeting. My final opinion was that I don't think it's a good idea for our son to move back home, especially if it's only for "a month or so." I told him if he's only talking about a month, then I think his best option would be to stick it out at Jack's house until he and his friends find a place of their own. I don't want to risk straining our relationship or having him fall back into bad habits because he wants to be somewhere else for 30 days. And, to be honest, I also worry that 30 days may turn into 40 days, 50 days, two months, etc.

Of course that's not the answer my son wanted to hear. But his sponsor and my wife and I told him to take some time to think about it. In the end, my son got pretty angry and left in a huff.

Yesterday I spoke to Jack on the phone for about an hour. We talked about the issues at hand and I do feel that he genuinely cares about my son. He's concerned that things have gotten too lax in his house and he's starting to enforce things more. I think that sudden change has confused my son a bit.

Jack wants to have a talk with my son and said that he's willing to give in a little if my son is willing to give in a little: get up a little earlier, go to more meetings, not sit around the house all day on the days he doesn't work, etc.

My wife and I let our son know about this and strongly suggested that he take the opportunity to sit down and talk with Jack. We told him to have his sponsor sit in on the conversation so there would be a "mediator" there to prevent any arguments or shouting (FYI: Jack and my son both are pretty good yellers). Whether or not my son will go forward with our suggestion remains to be seen. I can lead a horse to water, but I can't make him drink. And my horse is pretty damn stubborn.

This morning my wife got a text message from our son--he rarely actually calls; it's all about texting with him--saying that he wants to come by before he goes to work this afternoon and talk about what's next. He's now saying that he can move into his girlfriend's house--which is her parents' house--for the time being. But that we have to say that it's okay.

I'm not sure that that would be the right move for him. And I feel sort of guilty for it even being an option. I know my son thinks we're against him. The other day he told us, "other families want to help me more than you do." That's not really true. It's just that another family is willing to let him move in with them while we are not. My wife and I don't want to jeopardize the serenity we've found over the last 10 months or so. Selfish? Maybe. But we have lives, too. Our recovery is important, too. We're both 51 years old (gack!) and have endured some pretty rough times over the last several years. I think we deserve to move on with our lives.

Getting back to our son possibly moving into his girlfriend's house...

While we don't think it's the best move for him right now, we think it's better than him moving back home. (I know. That sounds selfish, too.) If he's dead set on leaving Jack's house, then I guess his girlfriend's house is the best option on the table right now. Our son is 23 and can make that decision for himself. We can offer our opinions, but he certainly doesn't have to agree with them or do what we suggest.

I guess we'll see what happens later today.

I also wanted to share something very personal here. (I'm all about transparency!) Very late last night I was thinking about the whole situation (it's very hard not to). That prompted me to send the following message to my son via Facebook. I'm not sure if it will have any impact, but here it is:

I would hope that you would call Jack and set up a time to talk to him. He told me today he would like to come to a truce with you. Contrary to what you might think, he *does* care about you. You just don't see it. You know how you had so many issues with me and mom over the years because of stuff we did? Stuff you thought meant we didn't like you? Well, think of the stuff Jack's doing as being similar to that. I know it's hard. I know you're pissed off at him. I know you want to leave that house. But right now, until you can get a place of your own with some buddies, it's someplace for you to stay. I honestly believe that you coming back here for a month would be risky for all of us. I just think it could possibly strain our relationships...and I'm not sure I want to take that chance.

My advice: Talk to Jack...calmly. If it would help--and it probably would--ask your sponsor to sit in on the talk. See if you can come to an agreement. Jack said he's willing to give in a little if you're willing to give in a little. Maybe it means going to a couple more meetings. Maybe it means biting your lip when you feel like snapping back at Jack. Maybe it means working the program harder. Maybe it means getting up a little earlier and getting out and doing something on days when you're not working (like looking for a job with more hours). You're always going to have to do things you don't want to do in life. Trust me. I do it every day. Every. Single. Day.

I think sucking it up a bit and having a place to stay until you're ready to move out is better than leaving in a huff and not knowing where to go. Why not challenge yourself? Try to be the "model citizen" at Jack's house. Follow all the rules, even if they're not being enforced. Set an example for the other guys. Show him--and yourself--that you can do it. Because I *know* you can do it.

I love you, [name withheld]. I know you don't like certain decisions I make. And I know that sometimes you think I'm against you. But I'm really not. Every single decision I make and action I take is always with your best interests in mind. Maybe someday, if you're a parent, you'll realize that mom and I have only been trying to help you. Because we love you and care about you. And we want you to live up to the unlimited potential you have.




  1. It sounds to me like your son has decided to take back his own will. (There goes surrender!) We all know where that leads. He doesn't like rules, so he wants to go where there are no rules. You are against him if you tell him no. It all adds up to a really bad feeling in this POA. My son did the exact same thing. I swear to you. It was almost identical. He didn't have a girlfriend (thank God), but he had friends who offered him a room. It was just a recipe for relapse.

    I hate to even type this, but I know that as much as I wouldn't want to hear/read this myself, I would be grateful for the idea that I should at the very least give pause.

    1. notmyboy... Exactly what my wife and I are thinking. But we can't make decisions for him. All we can do is pray.

    2. Dean-although I know it is VERY hard, I think that you are making the right decision! It will be much easier for the girlfriends parents to tell him that he has to leave in a month or two than you. I was learning these things way late in the game, but he's 23 and you have another child and a wife to also worry about. It's easier to stand strong when you have the upper hand and by him not living at your house, you have the upper hand on that issue!

    3. Dean-I know how hard it is but I think that you are making the right decision for you, your wife and for your other son AND for this son! It will be much easier for the parents of the girlfriend to ask him to move out in a month or two, than it will be for you! Also, if he thinks that he'll have moving home as his "fall back plan" than it may be easier for him to stay on track. Prayers for you all!

  2. I think you're making a really good decision for you and your wife. That's not selfish, it's self preservation. Good for you!! But your also making a really good decision for your son. One day he will see that, God willing.

    Such a great letter to your son. There is so much love there and wisdom, too! Your a good dad, he's lucky to have you.

    1. Summer... Thank you for your kind words.