21 year old son

my3sons08October 17, 2008

My 21 year old...Anyone have any input? Short version: he was a 4.0 Eagle Scout, organized, structured, highly motivated. Went to nice university on partial academic scholarship. Due to burn out from high school, decided to 'take a little break' from the structure and 'breathe a minute'. Well, that lack of structure ate him up and spit him out. We knew something was wrong and kept asking and he would say all was fine. Academy Award performance. Spring break of his soph year he ended up having to leave school. School psychologist and doctor diagnosed him with depression. Dean gave medical withdrawal and academic amnesty. Seriously sleep deprived. Huge guilt over what he's lost and done to himself and us. Came home, got a full time job, some counseling, started losing the 30 lbs he had gained. Started back to school at the local community college and so far every semester has been worse. He starts off great then shoots himself in the foot about mid semester and fails or withdraws. Current GPA 0.7. He wants so much to be on his own and has tried moving out but does not seem to have a money management/financial responsibility bone in his body. He got his hands on 2 credit cards last year and within 3 months maxxed them out at $8000. Has only made a couple of payments. Keeps blowing it off. Lies about anything and everything to us. Drinks a lot. Has a 'dip' addiction. Owes people money. Ruining friendships. Loves hanging with his 'frat bros.' :-( Can't keep a job due to being late and just too busy with social life to work. Serious entitlement issues. Never has money for his bills due to spending tons on girlfriend - (we say hand over money for 'x' bill and then says he can't because he's out of money and shows us his overdrawn bank acct.). He's back here at home for 2 months- seemed ready to make changes, save for an apt. Seemed to agree to 'rules of the house'. Got a DWI a couple of weeks ago, and a PI only a few days later (on the day we were meeting with a lawyer for DWI). We are at a loss. We had set up guidelines about living here and given him the 3 strike rule until the DWI. Now the rules have been added to to include him having to be in the house from 1-5AM and he has to attend a 6 week outpatient 'recovery' class in the evenings. He says he does not have a drinking problem - just makes bad decisions.(?) He cares more about being the 'yes' guy than about what's good for him. Will drop anything and go anywhere anytime someone says 'let's go.' He's been in self sabotage mode for 2 years.He has a diagnosed sleep disorder akin to sleepwalking and his sleep deprivation aggravates it. He sleeps an average of 3-4 hours in a 24 hour period and those are spaced out usually. He's started a new job with an old boss that works around his 3 classes. He's in school on a special permit from the Dean at the CC but if he doesn't make it this time, he has to wait out a year. And then $30,000 in loans have to start being paid back. (He's been paying for school on his own since he came home and lost the scholarship. We agreed to pay this time only to show him we believed in him. However, if we have to start paying back school loans, even though some are in his name, his pattern has been to blow off financial responsibility and as co-signors, we're screwed). We are at a loss of what to do because: he can be so normal and functioning and respectful and helpful and then when the 'rules' kick in he is obnoxious. Can't understand why at 21 he has rules! Living in our house! "I'm an adult - leave me alone. Stop controlling me." I'm scared to death if he doesn't make changes now, he will end up with another DWI and that will be mandatory jail and I know what happens to young men in jail. I can't risk that. I know I have to follow through on the consequences of his breaking the rules but if I actually dump his stuff on the porch, because of his serious bad history with money, I'm afraid he'll end up shoplifting and who knows what else, depressed and more self sabotage. Right now, his mental state is further messed up by his girlfriend of 1 year (first one) has him on a yo-yo of breaking up due to his DWI among other things. He actually has a genuine Christian based heart. Loved Young Life in high school. Tried to hook up with the college guy from our church when he came home, but the more messed up he's gotten, he won't have anything to do with him because he's embarrassed and thinks Christians can't drink or something weird like that. I really just don't know how to deal with his sense of entitlement and how to help him help himself. I feel a little conflicted about what 'rules' you can actually apply to 21 year olds. Maybe I am being too tight but I feel like if he needs our financial support (room and board) right now and we bailed him out of jail twice in one week, then there are things he should be doing for us! (Like being here sleeping in the middle of the night so I don't worry he's in jail again - reasonable??) Oh, he is going to be paying the lawyer $500 a month by himself. He has to pay me $150 a month for car insurance, 50 for phone and I got him to make arrangements with one credit card company for $100 a month. So the guy's got some serious bills and can't possibly move out until the lawyer is paid.

(by the way, I have 2 other sons at home seeing all this: 15 year old freshman - fine, no problems. 19 year old decided on a gap year after graduation, working full time since just after graduation and has saved almost every single dime so he can move out and travel before college. Neither can understand what's happening to their brother.) So anyone have any suggestions? How do you 'control' a 21 year old who's hell-bent on screwing up his life? He knows exactly what he needs to do to get back on track and doesn't to do it. The counselor he was seeing (that we could afford wont' see him anymore due to 2 missed meetings. Boss scheduled work, he forgot to let counselor know - he actually likes counseling.) He's like a deer in the headlights. It's just incredibly sad to see the transformation in him and to be helpless to do anything for him. It's obvious he's in a lot of internal pain.

yes, this was the short version... :-(

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So sorry My3!

question for you? What is a PI?

Am I correct in thinking that he owes $46,000.00? At the age of 21? That's a horrible way to start an adult life. I can't imagine!

I don't think you are being tight at all. My parents told me "if you want to live at home after high school, that's fine, but you have to live by our rules". Of course you can't enforce rules on a 21 year old, all you can do is tell him to move out.

Not sleeping? Alcohol? Inability to recognize his self-sabotage? Have you considered drugs may be an issue?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 3:53PM
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Hi silversword. Thanks for the response. A PI is Public Intoxication. He was actually walking along the sidewalk with one foot on the curb, one foot off, trying to catch a cab. We live in a college town and it was a football rally night and tons of students were out (along with lots of cops to keep things in line). Don't think he was drunk - just had had a drink but the point is: why the heck would you be drinking at all if you just got a DWI 4 days earlier?? I'd be freaked out. That's why we are pretty sure he has a drinking problem. As for drugs, he's said he tried pot but didn't like it at all. Don't think there's coke or anything else involved b/c I think he would be dropping those 30+ lbs he's gained. In fact, I overheard him talking to the Assessment Counselor for that 6 week recovery class we're 'making him' go to and he said only alcohol and 'dip'. But I agree - it does sound/look like drugs. Seriously, to meet my son, you would think he was just fine. Clean cut, manners, talks intelligently - but it's all just that 'performance' he does, I think, because 'if I look good on the outside, I must be okay'. Very sad. Oh- the student loans are $30,000-private university (which we co-signed on and agreed to pay half since he planned to get a business/accounting degree - math brain -and should be making a salary to take on those loans) plus the $8000+ in credit cards plus the DWI lawyer($2500) + fines related to that. Yes, it's huge. And stressful. And unfortunately, to cope, he blows it off. And apparently drinks. He does recognize he's self sabotaging but again, he knows what to do to change and can't make himself do it. I'm thinking more depression. But he refused medication the first time around and I had to agree mainly because he drinks and I was afraid of the combination. Heavy sigh...

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 6:46PM
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He's punishing you....he's proving he's not worthy of everyone's expectations of him. He "thinks" he's not what people think...
Sadly I know of 3 young men who have done very similar "stunts".
You say sense of entitlement....that's quite the opposite of what he's feeling.
Something has snapped and he feels like he can't be what he is expected to be...
I have no idea why....my best advice is get him into some serious counseling...surely there is something out there you can afford.
He needs to realize that he doesn't have to be perfect....pretty good is OK..and it's not necessary to go completely off the deep end to prove how "not perfect" he really is.
Of the 3 young men I know who have seemed to be on a self destruct path...the older 2 now have productive, good lives...good jobs..one is divorced the other in a good marriage both have kids and good relations with their kids....the 3rd is still too young to really say if he's come around.
2 had counseling one did not...but the all seem to just have to find their own way.
good luck...it's Hell seeing such a promising young man shoot himself in the foot over and over again. He knows this is not what he wants to be...but has a point to prove....when It's proven, I believe he will find the path.
Do you have a pastor or priest who could "talk" with him?
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 11:54PM
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I see red flags for bi-polar. I think he needs more psychological testing.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 10:36AM
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My nephew is same age and has put my sister through hell. Long story short, because of his "screw ups", it's costing him $19,000 a year for car insurance so he drives without insurance. What made him smarten up a bit was going to jail. He thought his mom or dad would be there again to bail him out of trouble (like they've done so many times), but his mom couldn't take it anymore and, actually, there was nothing she could do anyways. She didn't have the money to bail him out.

Your son needs to be accountable for his actions. You can't be there to "pick up the load" anymore cuz it's not helping him at all. You're only enabling him to continue doing what he's doing by doing what you're doing (paying his bills, etc.).

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 3:52PM
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You all have some valid points and have given me a lot to think about. I appreciate it.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 2:00PM
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I am going thru a similar situation with my son. Not this bad but it could develop to be just as bad. You may have to do what I think I am going to have to do. Let him fail. Sometimes people have to hit rock bottom before they realize that there are severe circumstances. I think the trick is to be there once they "Really" hit the bottom.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 1:27AM
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