How to help my parents and brother's estrangement?

sun2007August 24, 2011

I am looking for advice / inspiration because our family has hit rock bottom (at least I hope it doesn't get any worse than this), and I've had no one to turn to. I'm really glad I found this forum to write out my thoughts and share, and hopefully get feedback.

My brother is 28 and almost completely estranged from our parents and me. My mom cries everytime she talks about him, my dad doesn't speak about him at all, and I also cry whenever I think of what's going on.

I'm not sure where to start so I guess I'll start form the beginning....

Growing up was very difficult for him, there was a lot of expectation and pressure put upon him to be perfect. He did "very well" (ie got into a top 10 university), but by sophomore year of college, he became a different person, stopped calling home, flunking out of school, etc. Ultimately my parents told him if he didn't shape up, they'd stop paying for school. He didn't, so they actually stopped paying and he took out school loans to complete his education. My parents were fine with that, as they thought that if he had the financial load upon himself, he'd shape up and realize the error of his ways. That didn't happen and he partied his way through a $200K education (I personally believe he thought my parents would take care of him in the end, as they are very well off).

Since then, he has not been able to land a real job. This has been unacceptable for my parents. They are hardworking immigrants and did everything to see us succeed. Right or wrong, they have always stressed success over everything else. Several years ago, he finally confessed that he'd been playing online poker full time but he said he was over that, and would try to find a good job. That never happened. Then a few years ago, he came home to live with them and work for their company with the understanding that my parents would pay back his school loans. That ended in disaster as he was stealing from my parents so they kicked him out and things went from bad to worse.

After leaving my parent's house, he moved cross country to live with friends. He currently still lives across the country from me or my parents, so we have no idea what's going on with him. He doesn't call, and returns 1 out of every 20 phone calls from me or my parents (actually my parents don't even try calling any longer).

I don't know if he's still gambling, on drugs, in a cult, etc. I don't know who he is anymore and everything out of his mouth (since his college days) is a lie. It kills me because he is *so* smart, talented, charismatic - he could literally do anything he wanted! My parents hate him, say that he is lazy, that there's nothing they can do to help him, etc but it kills me and i feel like they've given up on him.

My friends tell me that he's still only 28 and could change, but I'm scared we'll still be saying the same things when he's 38 or 48.

I am trying to be supportive to him, and also to my parents and just feel so hopeless. Has anyone experienced something similar? Any advice? I know there has been wrong on all sides, but how do we move forward and mend this family?

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How many clues do you folks need? He's gone. Deal with the "hopelessness". Move on. You cannot live in your wishes. Reality is...........

    Bookmark   August 24, 2011 at 8:28PM
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I'm sorry, but you're describing a situation that is, I fear, irreparably broken.

It's EXTREMELY likely your brother is on drugs--there are many, many red flags in your post. He's toxic to your parents and you. If you allow (or encourage) him back into the family, you're only going to be hurt worse in the future.

The best thing you can do for yourself and your parents is this--get over him, help them move on.

Look, here's how I view family--if they're people you WOULD NOT befriend if you met them on the street, then why should you be saddled with them merely because of an accident of birth.

Honestly? I didn't always feel that way, but after spending years being taken advantage of by a family member who stole, lied, probably did drugs, probably prostituted herself---and in the end who stole a quarter of a million $$$ from her OWN very ill mother. I realized that toxic people, even if they're relatives, should be pushed far enough away from you so that they cannot ever hurt you again.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2011 at 9:23PM
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"I am trying to be supportive to him, and also to my parents and just feel so hopeless. Has anyone experienced something similar? Any advice?"

Do you have any other siblings? What do they say?

I would advise that you stay in touch but do not let him into your house where he can take money or items. Especially if you think/know he is gambling.

He is only 28. He may be able to turn his life around but not if he is being enabled financially.

I would keep an eye out as your parents get older so they aren't taken advantage of again. They should say as much in their will/trust.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 12:12PM
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A good many people deal with similar situations such as yours. I'm certain you do feel hopeless and that is why I'm providing a link to a website that deals with estrangement. I think you may find it beneficial.

The site has articles and is maintained by a therapist/counselor. I think you may find it helpful given your situation.

Best of luck to you with your situation.

Here is a link that might be useful: E-Stranged

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 10:33AM
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Sorry to hear about this broken family. I hope you don't mind what I'm about to say, as I too have an estranged son, he has not stolen from me, but he doesn't make the best decisions, and I have helped him over the years, and he doesn't appreciate anything. Your brother is an adult, God gave us this wonderful life and gave us the freedom of choice. To choose to do right or choose to do wrong. Your brother is salvageable, but he has to want to save himself. You did not mention spirituality, that in my opinion is missing from many of our lives. I hope you understand, I do not intend to preach, but I do intend to offer you hope. Pray for your brother, pray intently and seriously, everyday, ask your parents to place him in God's hands. God knows your pain, and he knows your son's heart. You can help him in this way. I believe in miracles,and I believe in God's holy name, and his great power. There is power in prayer, particularly when two or more are gathered in his name, he is present. God Bless you.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 7:52PM
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My heart goes out to you. I came to this forum to research about another parenting issue and happened to read your post.

Was your parents' style very heavy handed one? Did your parents make lots of choices for you including your friends or your career? For some kids' personalities it works but for kids who are rebellious it does not always work this way. I'm sorry to say, but that may have instilled a feeling in him that he is doing his parents a favor by walking on the right path. So, walking on a wrong path is his way to get back at his parents.

Here's my 2c on your situation: you mentioned that your brother partied through college assuming that your parents would bail him out of his debt. IMO, that might be happening even now. He might be making all these bad choices just assuming that he will be bailed out or will be able to live off inheritance etc. Especially if your parents were calling him till recently, when the call got returned 1 out of 20 times, obviously from his perspective, the power lies with him and not them.

Another issue could be that he has lost confidence in himself and his abilities, combined by an anger for being pushed through his teen years.

It's hard to shake off all that baggage. Counselling might help, but quite frankly, *he* needs to decide that he's going to shape up. He is so used to/sick of others telling him to shape up that it's not going to work any more. As and when he does realize that he's in a hole, he will try to get out of it.

So, as a sibling, you can try to talk to him to see if he's realized that he's ruining himself and not his parents really. To me, it seems like a part of him is not ready to become an adult. just my 2c and sorry for being blunt.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 2:43PM
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Thank you all for the responses.
I appreciate and *welcome* the bluntness, that is what I'm looking for.

You are absolutely right, it ultimately is on him to come to the realization. It is just so hard for me to sit by and watch....

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 10:58PM
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