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Estranged from adult son

(66 Posts)
brokendad Sat 31-Dec-22 17:40:44

My adult son and I have not spoken for about 9 months and prior to that it was about a six month period of time that we did not speak.

From the time that he entered his teens, he went on a steady downward spiral into substance abuse. This was accompanied by often aggressive and hostile treatment of myself and his mother (who I am no longer with).

I suspect that the breakdown of the marriage was a contributing factor in his downward spiral. This happened when my son was quite young - just about to enter school.

Although the marriage ended, my ex and I managed to maintain a good relationship with regard to the best interest of both of our kids. We were civil toward each other and did not, for the most part do anything to sabotage the character of the other parent.

As he grew older, my son's behaviour became increasingly problematic. I attempted to lay down the law with respect to drug use in my home and he responded with violence and threats. I responded by having him charged with assault. From that point on I did not want him in my home if he was going to be violent and abusive. I was hoping for change but it did not come.

Things steadily got worse from there. His substance abuse became more and more severe and his anger and resentment toward me continued to deepen.

We have attempted to repair our relationship, but it seems that his ongoing resentment toward me is still strong and he can't let go of it. I too am having trouble letting go of some of the lingering effects of all of our negative interactions. I do not trust him or feel safe in proximity to him. That's a hard thing to admit about your own child.

The last time we interacted he lashed out at me for no reason that I can identify and told me he was cutting ties with me. Since then I have not made any attempt to contact him and he has not made any attempt to contact me.

I still love him. I wake up in the morning and he is immediately on my mind. I am perpetually sad and regretful. My mental state is not great most days. I feel stuck and helpless.

Smileless2012 Sat 31-Dec-22 18:05:35

Welcome to the estrangement forum brokendad. The fact that there's a forum specifically for this sad issue, demonstrates how wide spread it's become.

I'm so sorry that you are having to go through this and have the added worry of knowing that your son is abusing substances. FWIW I think you did the right reporting him for assault. For some addicts that is the wake up call they need, but is isn't always the case and I'm sorry that it didn't work for your son.

It's very hard to let go of the effect their negative behaviour has had on us. Things that have been said cannot be unsaid, and things that have been done, cannot be undone.

If you think it would help you to do so you could contact him, perhaps saying you hope he had a good Christmas and wish him all the best for the New Year, signing off with a simple 'love dad'.

Is he in touch with his mother? Not that I'm suggesting if he is, that you should try and use her as an intermediary but if you're concerned about his welfare and she is in contact, she may be able to reassure you that he's as well as can be expected.

Of course you still love him, we all still love the child(ren) who've estranged us and it takes time for the rawness of the pain to gradually lessen, but it never goes away completely, just like the love we'll always have for them.

brokendad Sun 01-Jan-23 04:57:53

Thank you for that response. I am in contact with his mom and I know that he is doing ok. She lives fairly close to him and has him over periodically although she has been adamant that he cannot live with her again.

I’m reluctant to reach out because I have always done that after being on the receiving end of abuse from him, always thinking that it will be different this time. I feel like I have been perpetuating the problem. I’m also genuinely traumatized after dealing with so many horrible experiences with him. I just need a break and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to take much more of this. I’m hoping he will grow up, change, whatever. Something. I’m exhausted from worry and fear.

Whiff Sun 01-Jan-23 06:56:35

brokendad I am sorry you have joined the ranks of estranged parents. You have been through an awful ordeal with your son . Smiles has given good advice as always. You do whatever feels right for you. I haven't been through what you have but admire how you coped with it all.

As you get on well with your ex wife. Talk to her and see if she can help you decide whether to contact your son or not.

Sorry I can't be of help as I haven't been in your situation. But kept posting as you will find help,advice if you need it, understanding and friendship.

You have shown great courage reaching out to others. There will be those who have gone through what you are.

Smileless2012 Sun 01-Jan-23 08:38:39

Hello again brokendad and a Happy New Year. I understand you not wanting to reach out. We've been estranged from our youngest son for 10 years now and that's something I would never do either, for the same reasons.

It's good that you know he's doing OK and that may enable you to take that break that you need, and to start thinking about your life without him.

It isn't easy by any means and on this forum is a support for everyone whose life has been affected by estrangement, which has been running for 10 years.

It's somewhere to talk to those who totally understand what it's like to be estranged as we're all estranged too. We share the good times because they do come, as well as the bad. Whiff whose responded to you is a regular as am I, and everyone is caring and supportive.

You're not alone and just knowing that, does make things that little bit easier.

Madgran77 Sun 01-Jan-23 12:01:10

Good advice from Smileless and Whiff brokendad

I too would reccommend the Support for all those whhose lives have affected by Estrangement" thread to you. flowers

VioletSky Sun 01-Jan-23 15:04:03

As hard as it is, you can't fix his mental health or drug use, it has to come from him.

The only thing you can do is get support for yourself and advice on how to cope from professionals.

There might be some things you need to change or take responsibility for that are highlighted by counselling and support bit you can do that without your son coming back to you.

It just might mean that when he is ready to heal himself, you are ready to heal with him

Mattsmum2 Sun 01-Jan-23 18:46:10

I can’t offer any support other to say that it’s absolutely not your fault. My marriage broke up when my son was 5, we stayed civil for the children's sake. My two children I think turned out ok, it was a difficult journey. So it’s definitely not you. I hope you can find peace in your decisions. Take care x

Allsorts Sun 01-Jan-23 19:37:41

Brokendad, Welcome to the Forum, I am so sorry you are in this position with your son. Agree with the advise given, I would not contact him however, , he must sort himself out, however hard that is, otherwise it’s just keeping this cycle going. He needs to see you because he loves and respects you, otherwise there's no point.
Use this time to heal yourself, you have taken on your shoulders the responsibility for how he has turned out, you blame yourself for what you haven’t done without recognising your qualities. You deserve a life, to feel valued and enjoy yourself once more. Please whatever else you do or don’t do, heal yourself, start liking yourself again, stop the blame for things out of your control.

Herefornow Sun 01-Jan-23 20:05:40

I don't think anyone could blame this full downward spiral on your divorce alone.

I am intrigued when you say you are your former wife stayed away from badmouthing each other 'for the most part'.

Does your son think the divorce was in any way his fault? Even indirectly? He may feel, for example, that if you and your wife have said unkind things regarding each other, that you see those same bad traits in him, and that's why you left? Perhaps on some level he feels you left to have better children with a better partner?

Everything that comes after that, the assault charges, the flinching away from him (whether you meant this hypothetically or not) then underlines this narrative for him.

I think you need to leave him be for a while. It sounds like his hatred for you runs deep. You presenting yourself to him again and again is possibly just keeping him in a state of wanting to confront you with his anger (pain) over and over, and neither of you has the tools or resources to resolve things in this state. Leave him be.

He might find a way to heal his own pain. He might meet someone new who helps him. In a few years he may have become a different man. He may not want to know you then to be honest, but at that stage i would say your greatest chance for a future relationship would be to give him the credit for sorting himself out.

He might never come back to you. I think you need to look at therapy for yourself either way.

brokendad Mon 02-Jan-23 06:16:11

Thank you to all of those who have replied and offered their thoughts.

It is hard for me to stop feeling at least somewhat responsible for the way things have gone between my son and me. I haven’t been the best or the worst father. I just wish I could know if things would be different if I had been a more present dad.

I know that I have to accept the possibility that we may never have a good relationship or even any relationship. Right now I just don’t see that being possible, but I haven’t given up hope yet.

Madgran77 Mon 02-Jan-23 07:56:56

It is hard for me to stop feeling at least somewhat responsible for the way things have gone between my son and me. I haven’t been the best or the worst father. I just wish I could know if things would be different if I had been a more present dad.

It is good to accept some potential responsibility brokendad. But that does not mean blame and "what ifs" and "maybes" just cause pointless anguish really. Try to look forward, think about your welfare and also prepare how you might move forward if and when you have further contact with your son. I do think you might find it helpful to talk through with a counsellor to help you consider your feelings and concerns, and to gain different perspectives on all that has happened and ways forward. flowers

Smileless2012 Mon 02-Jan-23 09:12:44

The vast majority of parents haven't been the best or the worst brokendad but have done their best and Madgran is right. It is good to accept some potential responsibility but there;s nothing to be gained from causing yourself pointless anguish.

I hope that you'll think about counselling as this may well help you to put things into perspective.

You say you wish you'd been more present as a dad, but that's not easy when the relationship with your child's mother breaks down and you aren't living in the same house. Also, it's never good for children when their parents stay together but are unhappy in their relationship making the atmosphere tense and unpleasant.

Many children who've come from 'broken' homes don't become substance abusers, so try not to see this as the only reason for your son's bad choices. Even if it's a contributory factor, I doubt it's the only explanationflowers.

VioletSky Mon 02-Jan-23 11:43:26

I don't know if it quite fits here but I read a really good saying the other day.

Never trust an adult who can't apologise to a child.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent, what there is are parents who are accountable.

Children of divorce can sometimes present with attachment issues which make life difficult to navigate. Try to understand your son, even if you can't fix him as an adult

Nanatoone Mon 02-Jan-23 11:57:19

What a horrible situation broken dad, I really feel for you. Being a parent doesn't come with a manual, we all make mistakes, we are generally quite young when we embark on parenthood and of course we don't get it all right. I have been reflecting on my own lot in life today and am happy at the way things have turned out. It hasn't all been an easy ride, but I genuinely expect children over the age of 18 to understand that they have the main responsibility for how their lives turn out. I have a brother who always blames things on our parents, he's 55 years old and the vast majority of his failings were entirely his. I hope your son grows up and sees how his dad was trying his best. I hope it turns out well for you all in the end.

Smileless2012 Mon 02-Jan-23 12:49:34

It is a worry when adults don't take any responsibility and continue to blame their parents for the bad decisions and wrong choices they've made and continue to make Nanatoone. It must be very difficult for your parents.

fancythat Mon 02-Jan-23 13:10:03

Are you sure your son knows that you still love him?

fancythat Mon 02-Jan-23 13:10:46

Are you disappointed in him?
That would affect him too.

grandtanteJE65 Mon 02-Jan-23 13:22:46

You accept your share of the responsiblity for the fact that you and your son are estranged - well and good.

But please, do not go on beating yourself up about this.

Of course, you still love him and it hurts that things are as they are.

Have you tried counselling for yourself? I honestly do not think any one of us could get through, or be expected to get through this kind of trauma unaided.

And please do remember too, that your son is an adult and responsible for his own behaviour, whatever happened or did not happen during his childhood.

But what really hit me between the eyes in your post was you admission that you do not feel safe if or when your son visits and from what you say, you have good grounds for feeling unsafe.

Please DO NOT put yourself at risk. If you agree to see your son at any time in the future, whether he is still abusing drugs or maintains he is clean, do so in public and where there is at least one person who is in your confidence and whom you trust to either handle the situation if your son turns agressive again, or to call the police.

Herefornow Mon 02-Jan-23 13:46:57


Thank you to all of those who have replied and offered their thoughts.

It is hard for me to stop feeling at least somewhat responsible for the way things have gone between my son and me. I haven’t been the best or the worst father. I just wish I could know if things would be different if I had been a more present dad.

I know that I have to accept the possibility that we may never have a good relationship or even any relationship. Right now I just don’t see that being possible, but I haven’t given up hope yet.

Well, you ARE somewhat responsible, you are his father. The responsibility is inherent, so it's correct you feel somewhat responsible. There will always be regrets, things to hold up your hands and apologise for, because we're all human. Most adult children react negatively to 'I'm human, i made mistakes, stop dwelling on it' type statements because if you reread, there's not actually an apology there?

You talk about being more present. If you were at 9 football games out of 10 - your being hard on yourself. If you were at none - yeah, you mucked up there.

Regardless, i think you need to let go of trying to be the one to fix it for a while. Your son is an adult now, he needs to take responsibility for his own healing.

Norah Mon 02-Jan-23 13:54:47

VioletSky I don't know if it quite fits here but I read a really good saying the other day. Never trust an adult who can't apologise to a child.

Words to live by, fits anywhere!

DiamondLily Mon 02-Jan-23 14:09:15

I think you need to go easy on yourself - those with addictions, and those ACs who aren't happy with their lives (for whatever reason) often try to shift the blame onto their parents.

My youngest step-son (mid 40's) is addicted to alcohol and gambling. We had 18 years of him bouncing us in and out of estrangement, simply because we wouldn't meet his endless financial demands to subsidise his poor life choices.

He then resorted to endless threatening, demanding, abusive texts and messages.

Even when my DH was desperately ill in hospital, he sent endless texts demanding money and (to top it all) demanding to know what was in the Will if he died...😗

Luckily enough, I'd already bought the phone home as my DH was unconscious and I was concerned in case it got lost/stolen.

I took screen shots, and wiped the texts before I gave DH back the phone - it was weeks later before I showed him.

There was no childhood traumas of divorce etc., - he was married with a family of his own before DH split with his ex.

He once said to me (and I quote) that we both needed to remember that "a child is for life, not just for Christmas"....what can you say to that? 🙄

Finally, DH told him he no longer wanted to know him. We still get the odd abusive texts, but we just delete and ignore.

It has upset DH a great deal. He feels that you always love your children, regardless of how they believe, as blood is thicker than water.

But, we cannot and will not, subsidise alcohol or gambling abuse, so there's no compromise to be had.

If step-son ever sorts himself out, then that might be different, but I can't see it happening, and his dad isn't getting any younger.

It's sad all round when children turn out this way as adults, but we are all responsible for our own adult lives, and can't keep blaming others.

Just protect yourself, and live the best life you can. There is no point in anyone being in your life who makes you unhappy or feeling threatened.

Best wishes. 💐

Smileless2012 Mon 02-Jan-23 17:23:43

a child is for life,not just for Christmas quite trueDL but at some point that child needs to grow up and take some responsibility.

So awful that you, and in particular your DH have had to go through this and that your DH in the end had to tell him that enough was enough. It can be a fine line between being supportive or enabling.

brokendad Wed 04-Jan-23 00:57:52

I really appreciate all of the support I have received here. Sometimes I feel very isolated and alone.

It is really hard for me sometimes to be around happy families where the children are well adjusted, and have good relationships with their parents. It is difficult not to feel like something is wrong with YOU, even if you know it's not just you.

The holidays can be especially hard, of course.

One of the hardest things about the breakdown in my relationship with my son is that I really don't understand why he hates me so much. I established hard boundaries, but not before trying to change things with a loving approach. Nothing really seemed to work. He was going to do what he was going to do.

I take no pleasure in reading about the difficulties that others are having with their families, but I do appreciate the willingness to share those trials.

Thank you.

brokendad Wed 04-Jan-23 00:59:23

This is so true. Walking the fine line between enabling and helping is a tightrope act. It can be tremendously stressful.