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Oppositional, ADHD, substance using 17yr son at MY breaking point

ConcernedCaliMom profile image

Hi All. I’m so sad here. Just reread my post from 2 years ago; can’t believe how hard this journey has been. Bottom line here, my son just doesn’t accept house rules. Pushes boundaries, is secretive, moody, angry, defiant. Last weekend, he crashed his car @3:30am w/2 Friend’s inside. Both illegal, past curfew. No injuries thank goodness, but now car is immobilized. We’re not paying to fix it, he doesn’t have enough $$. We grounded him but allowed exercise outside, where he pushed the limits & still went to visit friends (super manipulative of Dad & I). He’s taken off 2x at night, yelled expletives, comes home when he feels. HUSBAND (dad) and I ARE BURNED OUT. Serious. Don’t even know what to do. He’s not on meds, but has history of Chronic weed usage. Admitted to drinking “1 drink” 4 hours before accident. We’ve done a treatment program for substances & behaviors Nov-Feb, until he checked himself out. Prior to that he did Wilderness Behavioral Out of State last Fall for 72 days. Behaviors got much better, but last 4 months he’s slipped. He also just tested positive for THC. I can’t manage him, it’s severely impacting my mental health. He sleeps til 1:00/2:00, games late at night. We finally turned off internet @ 1:00am. HELP :/

10 Replies

I am so sorry for you and your husband... this is a very challenging situation.

If I were in your situation I would get a psychiatrist ASAP. They can help your son a lot. I would require he take medication and attend thearpy. If he chooses to not do this I would have to consider a residential program. In fact I might say you do x And y or you are placed somewhere else. Unfortunately he is close to being 18 years old even though he is not acting that way.

I want to give you big hugs for having to go through this. I hope you find some solution for the situation. I also hope when he has grown and gained some maturity he can apologize for his actions,

Please let us know what you guys do and how things go.

We are always here to support you.

Thank You OnTheMove😊 I love this space here, and I sorta felt better right after I posted. Just knowing that I’m asking others who have likely been there at some time, for support helps. I do feel like a failed parent, when he disrespects is. Sometimes he’s kind & loving, so I’m conflicted.

So sorry you’re going though all of this! On the move1971 gave the same advice that I would with extra emphasis on the short time you have left before he’s 18 when you may really become more worried about his well being and future since he’ll legally be in control of his actions. I would pull out all stops. Maybe the wilderness program again? Definitely a psychiatrist for therapy (who specializes in his needs, not just any psychiatrist) and meds. Some brains are just wired differently and meds help bring balance.

An 18 yr old ADHD brain often has the maturity and executive functioning skills of a 15 yr old brain. That’s like a 15 yr old impulsive kid having access to driving, drugs, and independent living if he should choose in less than a year from now. If you think of it this way, it seems more understandable that your 17 yr old (14 yr old) is having such a tough time in life. I know for my kids, that helps calm me down. As long as I can keep them living at home longer after high school and take things slowly, their brain will catch up to their age and they’ll be better able to find themselves in this world. Try to keep him under your roof, your influence as long as possible.

Please know that this group has many that understand what you’ve been going through or can easily imagine this happening with their younger kids in future years. Other people with neuro-typical kids just can’t really relate to the craziness we go through...and the burn out. It’s exhausting, we know. Please know that you’re not alone. Don’t give up on your son from your exhaustion, frustration and heart break. He’ll find his way eventually with help from you, meds and a psychiatrist. Deep breath!

Thank you bdhb96. It means a lot that you both took the time to pause & help me. He doesn’t think he has done anything wrong, and he doesn’t want help. He fights me on even going to the Doctor when he really has physical ailments. How do I convey that therapy or Psychiatrist can be helpful if he doesn’t want help???

The toughest of the tough to deal with. I work in Juvenile Detention so I see these kids all the time, and at 17 it's very late. Try to find common ground, emphasize the positive, tell him how wonderful he is when he is being that way. Never stop telling him that you love him, but you don't like those behaviors that upset you. Stay unemotional (easy to say, hard to do) at the worst times. Write love notes to him, write kudos notes (a Pax tool) every chance he gives you. Written notes are way more powerful than verbal attaboys or "good job!" and post them up for all to see. The Pax tools for parents are guidelines and you will have to adjust them for his age. Reward him in some way when he does what you want. the mystery rewards are more difficult at that age but they still work and have been used in substance abuse programs very effectively. Medication and doctors will be very tough to persuade him to use but find a trade off - maybe every time you go we will put $20(?) aside in our account to go towards fixing your car. (Not in his pocket).

Good luck. Forget the blame game. It's not your fault and not really his either. Most boys' brains aren't fully mature until the late 20s and ADHD complicates that too.

Pax Tools are part of the Pax Good Behavior Game used in elementary schools that has been shown in clinical research studies to reduce ADHD and many other behaviors. Their basis in basic behavioral science means they work at any age including adulthood but are more powerful the earlier they are used. Who doesn't like being given a compliment for doing good?

Pax Tools intro


Don't know if you will be able to get him to get help at this age. My daughter was on meds all through high school and first semester of college but then thought she did not need them anymore, got into a bad crowd, hooked on crack cocaine. When she realized she was pregnant with my second grandchild, first was already in my custody, she somehow pulled herself together and got clean. She has been clean ever since.

We had to do tough love for awhile and kick her out. Let her keep her cell phone so I would know she was still alive.

She now has a college degree, good job.

Don't give up. It is so hard.

Thank you Anirush. You do understand, and I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s struggles. May I ask if she started drinking & using weed, before other drug choices? How did she decide to get clean?

Once she was away from home at college she started drinking. Moved back to her own place and got in with a bad crowd and started experimenting with different drugs. She stayed clean when pregnant with her 1st child but the biological dad was a hard addict and got her back into it.

When she thought she was pregnant again she stopped using and never went back. That grandson has always had lots of stability problems and we wonder if it was because of her drug use when she was first pregnant.

Bio dad never quit and has never really been involved in the boys lives.

Thanks for your reply Anirush. I’m so happy she’s made the right choices moving forward! We can just hope for the best choices that they will make & have to live with. I’m glad everyone wrote back! Thanks

It is time to do a little research on who your boy really is. The dynamics at home seem to have become stagnant for both you and your son. You need to ask others how he is with them. What they see missing in his actions, work ethic and manners. You may find your son is doing something very natural for this time of life.....separating himself to launch out on his own. It is never fun, even the most well behaved children go through it. If so, your focus might need to be on how to make that happen, to what extent you are willing to help him achieve this goal. I would look into him working at the wilderness school. Help him check out the skills and expectations of any work that might interest him. Don't fix the car, have him earn the money to have it fixed or learn how to do it himself on YouTube, but do help him get to work where he will learn more responsibilities without the stress of a changing household relationship from child to adult. I'm a mom of 7 daughters and they are all doing really well, but it took a lot of letting go. Life happens, take time to laugh. Hugs

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