Helping my son, helping myself

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    To start I want to give just a brief explanation of the situation, I was recently divorced and moved into a townhouse, my 2 adult children remained with their stepdad because I didn’t have the room for them to be able to move in with me, but that’s not the only reason.
    My oldest son is 27 years old, I believe he is very depressed and an internet/gaming/electronics addict. Granted there is no such official diagnosis, but from years of watching him do nothing but either play games, when he gets bored with computer games he goes to console games when he’s bored with that he’ll sit and watch movies. He was suppose to be in school, but I believe he lied to me about his attendance and falsified his grades, he’s very clever and well versed in regard to computer science, IT stuff and how operating systems work since that’s actually his major “in school”
    I have tried many different ways to get him to clean up his act, he doesn’t drink nor does he do drugs, I have begged and pleated with him, threatened and hollered, offered him my help in many different ways, nice, not-so-nice.
    Regardless of what happened in the past and how we got to today, here’s what’s going on today and it’s become very hard for me to cope with losing my son on top of having to deal with my own issues. He IS 27, has no degree, doesn’t have a job, sit in his room all day and does nothing but play, watch videos and or movies on the computer, he’s very hostile toward me, the only person who has been a constant in his life, now resents me for having threatened him to remove him from my home, this was a few years ago, lashes out at me and says he can’t trust me because I “talk about him behind his back” to his stepfather.
    My son is playing the victim act, he chose not to celebrate Christmas with his sister, his little brother who is 13 and myself. He didn’t celebrate New Years with me and yesterday was his 27th birthday which he also chose not to celebrate with me. I can’t say anything to him without him throwing back at me how much of a failure as a mother that I am and in a sense he’s right, I have enabled him to become this, but at this point or any other point in the passed 7 some years, he’s also made decisions for himself to not get help, to not go to school, to not look for work.
    I keep making the excuse for him that he needs help, he needs to see a counselor, he is depressed, but I feel helpless.
    His step-dad, who he is living with, is just about fed up with him as well, we wanted to talk about an action plan for my son and then present it to my son, but my ex decided to let my son know that we were talking about him, trying to come up with a plan for him, which in turn sent my son over the edge, how dare we talk about him behind his back??? Again he is playing the victim.
    I don’t know how to help him, anything I say will agitate him even more, resent me even more and since he’s also very proud and stubborn and doesn’t take any responsibility for himself or his actions (lack thereof). His sister and I are so worried about him that we are afraid he may commit suicide, he desperately needs help, there are people there to help him including myself, but he won’t ask and I just don’t know what to do any more to get him moving in the right direction, I am afraid that any attempt of mine to get him to go to counseling, which I really! believe is where he needs to start will be dismissed. I am afraid that my ex will just end up kicking him out on the streets and my son will become homeless. I have thought about taking him in should this occur, but I don’t know if I can, I still have a 13 year old child to raise and this has affected him as well, overall I am on the fence about continuing to try and help my oldest son to get his life in order and protecting myself from more heartbreak.
    I know that if he were to make an earnest effort to repair or start repairing any of this I would be there to support and help him, but he has shown no willingness to do so and I am torn up about this whole situation.



    I’m sorry for your difficulties, and understand how complex working with our children can be, especially when they are grown. On one hand, you love him and wish to see his world blossom. On the other he is a man, and is responsible for figuring out his way, has autonomy, and is good at hiding. Add in the feelings of failing him as a parent and being part of what lead him to where he is…. whew, what a mess of needs and feelings! It makes sense why this would be a difficult situation to approach with wisdom. A few things came to heart as I read your words.

    Often times when we are trying to help someone overcome their tangles, it is important to start by sitting with them on their side. We settle, let go and release our side, and just look at what their situation is like for them. For instance, “video game addict” is on your side. On his side, some need is being met by video games, some desire or yearning is becoming satisfied as he engages in that kind of action. What is it? What is he getting from all of that fantasy that touches him in such and such a way?

    Consider that because it gives him nourishment, he will protect it with whatever tools he has. However, don’t let those distract you from what you know is right. For instance, when he was 4, perhaps he might want to have candy for dinner. You tell him no, that he needs a balanced meal. Then, he throws a temper tantrum to try to get the sweets. Perhaps he holds his breath, stomps his feet, tells you he doesn’t love you, or cries. “Yes, my son, tantrum all you wish… the candy will not be your dinner.” You know, and see, that his desire is not healthy for him, and so absorb his tantrum with love, and remain resolute in your wisdom.

    Now, the game has changed a little, but only a little. You see him eating candy for his food (gaming, movies, escapism) and know he needs more vegetables. He needs to be responsible, find balance, grow. So you aim your heart at him and try to reach out, and he throws a tantrum. With his expertise at playing games and manipulating systems, its no wonder that his tools these days are more effective. Stomping his feet has become “oh, I’m failing as a person, well what do you expect with you as a mother?” Holding his breath has become (perhaps) using photoediting or hacking to change the grades he shows to you. The “I don’t love you” perhaps hasn’t changed much, but that’s effective at any age. And so on. Tantrums, him defending his turf, his pattern, his ego… but no where is it about you.

    Seeing this, sitting with it, remembering it… helps to keep your attention focused on what those vegetables are, and how to get your kid to clean his darn plate. Said differently, you only want to see him happy and healthy, whatever that might look like for him, but have the challenge of skillfully helping him. Perhaps consider a two part strategy.

    First, consider a mantra or prayer when you are outside of the situation, well nurtured and stable. “May my dear son find his unique way toward fulfilment and joy. May the conditions blossom for me, where I might be of service to his growth, where my light may reach his heart and help him find courage and strength to break free from his unhealthy patterns. May we be well, happy, peaceful and feel loved.” Feel free to switch it up, or let whatever language and heartfelt hope you have shine through. The main focus is only that you see him with loving kindness, wish him growth along his unique path, and accept yourself as offering light to that end. As you think these thoughts with sincerity, they become interwoven with your intentions, such as planting seeds in an open field. This allows the emotions to stabilize, become strong. Much like giving water to a sapling helps its roots grow deep, putting compassionate energy behind a vision helps it to grow.

    The second piece is what to do when you’re with him, how to relate to him. Consider aiming for a balance of gentlness, forgiveness and stability. Accept the tantrum, but don’t be distracted by the hooks tossed at you. “Yes, son, I know you are afraid, angry, and confused. My compassion is stronger than your fears, and light dispells shadow”. Then, say whatever it is that comes to heart. Be gentle, accepting of who he is, try to sit with him on his side… but remain emotionally rooted in wishing to see him blossom. Be heartfelt, and say it. Where something came to heart before, and you became scared and clamped down… be courageous, and share it instead. Accept that his response will be full of information, either helping you understand his issues and joys more directly, or at least catharsis. Said differently, if you accept those stones or hooks or manipulations with compassion, they will be more likely to settle for him, be heard, and released. For instance, perhaps you might tell him his room smells. He responds “my room is a mess because you (never made me clean/always cleaned for me) and so its your fault. Leave me alone.” In your mind, thoughts spin “oh no! maybe it is, what do I do, what did I do, why am I a failure as a mother”. That’s the hook, that’s the painfulness of the stone. So, breathe, let those thoughts go and reconnect to the vision of him being unhappy, here and now. Perhaps the heart would pop up with “well, I hear you, it must be tough. Consider though that when your girlfriend comes over, if it smells nice she might be more excitable, which could be more fun for you than playing world of Warcraft. Just keep it in mind, good luck!”

    Then, let it go. Let it be. Trust that as you offer compassion and light, you do your best. We can’t force a bud to blossom, or a child to become an adult. It has to happen as the conditions are right. Responding from a compassionate view with gentle light helps those conditions, interweaves with them, and yet it still takes time. So be patient… it takes kids a long time to learn the alphabet, and even longer to figure out balance.

    Namaste, dee, I hope the other pieces in your garden are blossoming with light and peace.

    With warmth,


    The problem with depression (from my experience) is that it stops you from really feeling much of anything, that’s the real issue, you hide within the mental walls and the heart recedes deep inside.

    Video games for him are probably like a lifeline; the only place where some needs are being met, like the need for friends, teamwork, support, a challenging environment, feeling of achievement (even if it’s virtual), praise, keeps you mentally active and provides many rewards etc…

    Video games are great! If one was to just take all of that away, what would one replace it with?

    I doubt he just suddenly turned to games either, what was his life like before? Did he have trouble at school? Lack of friendship? Lack of support?

    The current situation is definitely not your fault; you can’t force somebody else’s problems to go away, you can’t provide him with friends and achievements, these things he has to do himself. Games just happen to currently be the easier route.

    On the bright side games do keep you active, keeps the brain active, in my opinion it’s a much better alternative to alcohol and / or drug abuse and the like. Games also teach and even help fix a broken heart, they have stories and adventure. Just as you could turn to a good book when you feel down.

    My point is that the games are not the issue, in fact they may be the only thing keeping your son sane and active. Those are not things you can force away, nor should you. My suggestion would be to introduce things beside the games, another interest that helps build self-esteem, returns compassion to the heart, perhaps a sense of achievement or helpfulness. It could be volunteering, helping people with computers perhaps, maybe even just a camping trip or somewhere where there is an easy opportunity to build connection with other people. I would think that the one thing life has over games is the connection with other people, virtual hasn’t quite gotten to the point where you can feel a hug or look into somebody’s eyes and talk, to feel a sense of belonging within a group and I think that in that you can rebuild the sense of “feeling” again and start coming back from the depressive state and not need games as much.

    It’s still a great hobby, to be honest, the problem is when the hobby becomes all that you feel you have.

    One last thought is that parents tend to be very authoritative, which is fine up until the point where your kids are grown up enough that they need a friend and compassion, the same as everybody else, not an authority figure. I would start with a hug rather than strong words. =]

    PS: Talk about his feelings, talk about finding friends, cry and laugh, don’t talk about work or a piece of paper from school, those things aren’t the issue, life is the issue, feelings, emotions, building self-esteem, building compassion, being human.


    Thank you for your responses Matt and memm, I really appreciate them! They make my heart softer because it is hurting and has somewhere lost a little compassion toward the situation (not my son) having dealt with depression myself I know how hard it is to climb out of that shell and move forward.

    I have to agree with memm about video games, they are great as a way to relax from work/school what not, but they are not great if that’s all you ever do with your life considering that he is 3 years away from turning 30, that his stepdad will not let him live under his roof for much longer and considering that my son has talked himself into being a victim of so many things.
    How do you help someone who doesn’t want the help from you on the outside? On the inside, his lashing out and temper tantrums, Matt said it perfectly, I just never looked at it that way because physically he IS a man just mentally probably not so much.
    His video gaming started in highschool, then it was much more controllable by removing the computer and/or restricting his access to it. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to live life without a computer especially with the interest my son has, which is computers.
    I don’t know how to go about getting him to soften up toward me, his tantrum is on-going and hurtful and honestly I can only take so much, I have tried different ways, stepped away completely, let him do the talking, but I keep getting empty promises and lies to cover up his gaming or the time he spends on the computer watching TV, watching videos.
    For the past 3 months I have not lived with him under the same roof, he’s told his sister that he feels like I have abandoned him even though I only live 5 minutes away. His life has not changed in almost 10 years, in the past 10 years he’s been in school off and on, worked for maybe 6 months and has spent the rest of those years barricaded in his room, by himself, to himself seeking electronic entertainment to escape reality and that’s where my disagreement with memm comes in. I have no problems with gaming or watching tv, but if it is imbalanced, if it interferes with you succeeding in your life, if it threatens to leave you homeless then it’s become a problem, I also believe that it adds to the depression, by escaping reality like that, by sitting doing nothing other than playing, yes it engages the mind but….. you are then not productive which in turn doesn’t make you feel good about what you have or haven’t accomplished.

    How do you help a person that a. doesn’t know how to ask for help (is too proud to) b. rejects any effort for help and lashes out and throws fits of rages (he uses every reason to be mad at me as a reason to stay mad at me and just another validation to proof he’s right) and last but not least how do you deal with that pain and suffering when you yourself have a full plate, a 13 year old to raise and are kind of lost in the grand scheme of things yourself?

    He has no real life friends, he NEVER goes any where, has gained a lot of weight over the last few years so he’s physically very unhealthy, he does not have a girlfriend and he has a very poor personal hygiene. His stepdad, his biological father and myself are very worried about him, but I do know that if his stepdad, whom he lives with for the time being, kicks him out on the streets then all hell breaks loose and then I have to decide whether or not I will be there to pick him back up and at what costs? My heart tells me yes of course I will always be there for him, my mind says otherwise, my mind tells me I need to protect myself and my 13 year old son no matter what.

    He has refused all help to seek counseling, said that he will do it himself, in a way he’s on drugs, he needs gaming and electronic entertainment to fill whatever needs he has escaping reality and in the meantime life goes on around him and will affect him no matter how much longer in denial he stays.

    So I am at a crossroads with him, I hurt for him, I want him to come out of this ok, I can’t fix him, he needs to do the work to get better and no one is wanting bad things for him, we are not rushing him (that might be a small part of the problem) but if he’s unwilling to talk to people and accept help and work on what needs to be worked on then I am at a loss. I can’t offer my help and keep getting rejected, I have done this for many years, but now thing have gotten progressively worse.
    I cry for my child, he is my child, that will never change, he hurts I know this, but I can’t get through to him and almost feel like I need to disappear from his life in order for him not to be agitated, but that isn’t reality either is it?!


    Desperate times call for desperate measures as they say. Is there any way you could force him into counseling? Or some kind of rehabilitation group? The “cold turkey” cutting the power or dumping into the street approach might also do him good as long as you have the ability to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.

    You may just have to treat this like a gambling / alcohol problem and act accordingly. As his mother you know he is still a good person inside, believe that it is good for him in the long term, even though it might be a painful lesson.


    Memm, I have no doubt that he’s a good person inside, I love him, that will never change. Unfortunately I have absolutely no control over his living conditions because he doesn’t live with me. I have begged and pleated with him and he keeps lashing out at me, I would be able to handle it if it meant for him to move forward, but he doesn’t want my help. He flat out told me that he doesn’t need counseling….. I can’t force him, he is 27 and doesn’t live with me, otherwise this wouldn’t be an issue. We have threatened in the past to remove him from the house, the ex and I were still together at the time, it just left my son raging and more withdrawn. My son lives with my ex now after we divorced, my ex is currently looking into eviction, it will take 1-3 months to have my son removed from the premises at which point he will end up either homeless or at my door step. And therein lies another problem, if he ends up on my door what do I do? I have a 13 year old to raise, my life itself is on slight hiatus, on one hand my heart says “dummy, he’s your kid, of course you’ll do whatever it takes to help him out and therefore you need to take him in” on the other hand, if I do take him in and his pattern continues? I can’t believe a word he says, I don’t buy his promises, he’s lied far too much for far too long. I just don’t know, I guess I should deal with it when the time comes, but it will come and I am afraid that he will continue his destructive behavior here….


    Are there no services you can reach out to in your area that deal with addictions? It’s hard to say what will happen but I think once he realises that he has nowhere to go, he will be more willing to make compromises (such as getting counseling), as harsh as that sounds. With such a caring mother like you I think everything will work out in the end, a lot of people have come back from worse.


    As a parent of an adult child who is making unhealthy choices and as a friend of others who have adult children in similar circumstances I can relate and I ache with you.

    From my experience and observations, whenever we focus on the problem child and their addictions, it affects the whole family. As you have observed with your 13 year old, the other children suffer from the lack of attention and the focus on their problem sibling. You may want to consider that.

    There is a saying “Let go, let God.” Your son is smart enough, resourceful enough to figure out what he needs to figure out even if he is out on the street. You may want to look at support for yourself and stop paying attention to your son’s situation. He is what he is (for now) and he is making choices with consequences he has to deal with. You may want to look at ToughLove groups online for support.

    There are addiction support groups for families (e.g. Al-Anon) which help those who feel helpless standing by watching a train wreck in progress. I suspect it does not matter whether the support group is for alcohol or not for my guess that the issues are the same. Your son needs to hit bottom in order to think of getting help for himself. Having a place to stay that enables his addiction will keep him from facing his issues.

    You and his step dad can let him know that you love him and can provide information to outside resources for help but it is time to step away from an intractable situation.

    I know it is extremely hard to do and hence the Al-Anon and/or ToughLove support groups may help you in this process.

    Best of luck,



    I’m greatful for Mark’s heartfelt words, and feel he captured beautifully a good plan. Consider one small addition. Turning away is not abandoning him, its actually quite the opposite. By cultivating serentiy for the situation as it rests now, and letting it go, your attentions can return to growing your newly budding garden. As you attend what you can affect (13 year old, photography, healing your heartbreak, etc.) and let your heartsong get pumping, when there is something you can do, you’ll be bright and ready. This gives you both the best chance of connecting. Said differently, let your heart grow where it can, and when the time is right, you’ll know what to do. Cradle him in your arms and help him remember how loved he is, or put your foot in his butt and shove him out of the nest (or anywhere in between). Your heart will know.

    Its one of our paradoxes… we can love and hope for the bud to bloom, but it doesn’t until the conditions are right. So we shine and pour and hope for the best.

    How is the photography coming? If you have anything you’d like to share, I’d love to see it! 🙂

    With warmth,


    Thank you to all of you!
    I have already resolved to step away from the situation, note I said situation, not son 😀 Being here and letting it out, receiving so much love, care, guidance and understanding has helped me come to grips with the decision I inadvertently had to make. I sent my son an email this morning, telling him I loved him and that I would be here to cheer for him when he’s ready to make a change for a better in his life, that he could still come and share his life with me, but that I will no longer support him in what he is doing (not doing) with his life.
    His step dad doesn’t want to kick him out, but we both realize that it might be the only option. I have carefully weighed whether or not I would take my son into my house/life and let him live with me and the answer is “no!” I do have my 13 year old to worry about, he deserves to have a peaceful and happy mother. He deserves to have my full attention and care and that has been distracted by the problems of his older brother.

    It is very frustrating, heartbreaking and ever so hopeless to stand by and watch your child destroy his life when you know he’s capable of so much more, he is so very intelligent but has been swallowed up by this addiction and his self-destruction, I know it sounds dramatic because no “indigestible” substance is involved however, there is an array of addictions people are suffering from and they are not all necessarily drug and/or alcohol related.
    I realize that he’s lashing out at me because I am saying “no” because I am saying “enough is enough” I am stopping his bantering and he realizes that his “tantrums” no longer have power over me.
    Again thank you from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate all the kind words, words of wisdom and caring.
    Matt, my photography is going real well, if only I could figure out how to post images I’d do it in a heartbeat because I have plenty to share 😀

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