Roller Coaster - 19 yo Son w/ADHD
I really need some experienced parents to help me gain perspective and direction with our 19 yo son, who has ADHD and is struggling to get a start in life.
First - some background - We adopted our now 19 yo son at the age of 4, after he had lived with us in foster care for 2 years. He was busy - extremely, crazy, over-the-top busy, impulsive, and stubborn! Eventually, he was diagnosed with ADHD. The evaluating physician said he was one of the worst cases she had ever seen. This disorder is now known to have more to do with self regulation than hyperactivity alone. Hyperactivity is an effect of the lack of self regulation. Also resulting from the lack of self regulation are problems with self control, i.e. spending money, delayed gratification, persistence with tasks, and lack of emotional control. Our son has taken medication for his ADHD, which has helped him cope with the condition to some degree, to the present time.
Being a very mechanically inclined person, our son has been drawn to the industrial arts, and in high school, with the encouragement of his tech ed teachers, he decided to pursue a teaching degree in the tech ed field. We fully supported this choice, however, we were concerned about his ability to succeed as a student away at college. In high school, he managed As and Bs without studying at all. He scored a 25 on his ACT test.
Well, fast forward - He was kicked out of college after two semesters due to failing grades. I feel so bad (much worse than he does) about it because he really wanted to do this career. He admitted to skipping classes and failing to study for tests and work hard on assignments etc. He was busy doing other things he enjoyed more (lack of ability to self regulate again).
So, he declared that he would rather pursue a degree at a different but nearby college for a fire medic career. He is presently a volunteer firefighter and really loves it. And, he has passed a couple of firefighting certification classes. We are supporting him in this new direction.
He was supposed to live in the dorms at college #1 over this summer until we could make arrangements to find an apartment. But, this fell through when his academic performance fell so low, and he was literally barred from staying for the summer at the first college.
So, he is now in an apartment with very few necessities, and he is working full-time for $10/hr as an apartment maintenance staff member. Right now, our son is taking an EMT course to prepare for his new fire medic program that starts in the spring of 2014. He reports that he is doing alright so far.
We presently pay about 2/3 of his total support.
He just signed a lease for the apartment a couple of weeks ago, and now, he drops the bomb that he wants to enlist in the National Guard. He spoke with a recruiter who sold him on the big bonus and tuition benefits, etc.
Here is the problem: The recruiter told our son not to list his ADHD and current medication on the recruitment forms. It's my understanding that this is a disqualifying condition because he has been taking medication all along. I became very upset when our son told me today that he would lie about his ADHD and medication. His plan was to go off of it for the few days prior to the medical exam and not list it on the form, which is another whole problem because it needs to be tapered. This sort of dishonesty is also a felony (fraudulent enlistment)! I am SO upset.
Not to mention that doing this National Guard thing will postpone his ability to continue with college until 2015 for the fire medic program. Also, he could be deployed. This is a serious commitment, and I know that our son should not be in the military with this ADHD problem. He is far too impulsive and could definitely be a risk to himself and others in a combat situation.
I shared my concerns, and he is willing to pursue a waiver for the ADHD vs lying about it, but he is dead set on going forward with the National Guard. Even if he gets the waiver, it's my understanding that he would need to function successfully off of his medication for at least a year. I'm not sure if he could enlist or start training in the meantime. Is anyone familiar with this? Without his medication, his performance could really suffer as well.
He has always been so very stubborn and seems to lack empathy for others, especially if their viewpoints differ from his. I question his conscience when he can so easily rationalize his behavior. We did not raise him that way. He is not thinking long term. He only thinks about right now. Though he is very bright and talented in many ways, he lacks the skills to manage his life.
We cannot afford to pay for so much of his expenses for this next year while he delays starting at the new college and then continue to pay for expenses over then next few years after that as well.
In my heart, I think this is a big mistake, and I realize I need to let him make his own choices, but this is SO hard, because the military is not something that you can just change your mind about after you have committed.
Maybe he will be denied anyway with all of the problems he has surrounding his ADHD, but I'm not sure. The recruiter has been unethical in so many ways (lots of lies), and I am very upset about that. This National Guard idea does not really help with anything in terms of getting his fire medic degree (We were paying the majority of his tuition anyway). I really believe the only reason our son wants to do the National Guard is for the money.
Plus, raising him has really been difficult (lots of ups and downs with his behavior at home, in school, and the community), and it seems like there is no end in sight. I don't know what to do or what to say any more. I don't like the way he talks to me. He is a know-it-all and has a HUGE ego (narcissistic?). It hurts me, the way he treats me.
Maybe he'll land on his own two feet somehow, but I can't seem to stop worrying. I constantly waffle between wanting to be supportive of him in a positive way and wanting to jump in and rescue him from himself.
Need support . . .