23 year old inability to launch - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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23 year old inability to launch

Jansybil profile image
11 Replies

Hi. I’m new to this and in need of help. I’m writing about my 23 year old son. He was diagnosed with ADD in the first grade and he took concerta for a short period of time. We stopped the meds because he wasn’t sleeping well. He went back on meds (adderall) in high school and took it on days that he had classes. He also was diagnosed with a learning difference in math. He is passionate about Kung fu, plays drums and computer games and that’s about it. In the past he has volunteered in feeding the homeless and was a volunteer at a school age camp one summer. His dream is to open a Kung fu studio in Japan however has no idea of how to do this. Launching him is not happening and I’m at a loss for what to do. Since you all have experienced ADD/ADHD, if anyone has any suggestions I’m intently listening!

11 Replies
Cmiceli profile image

Does he work? Or is he in the process of obtaining skills necessary for finding employment? (tech training, college, etc?) if not, why not? And for your part in this, how is he obtaining the spending money to eat and indulge in his hobbies?

Failure to launch is a two step process - requiring a launcher and a launchee. As the launcher, your part is this is to not enable him. He needs to work or be obtaining the skills necessary to set him up in life. He needs responsibilities within your home - yardwork, housework, laundry etc - so that he has the life skills necessary to take care of himself.

I am ADHD and I am a 48 year old woman, I have two teenage children and am a single mother with sole custody and responsibility for their care. I was not diagnosed until I was 47. Before that, I returned to school to obtain my BA and MSA while working full time and going through a terrible divorce. My ex was not in a position to nor available to assist me and so I did this alone but with the emotional support of my friends. I was working a job which was good but not making enough to adequately support my family and I found myself the sole financial support for them. I reached deep inside, found the resilience I needed, pulled myself up and did what needed to be done.

This medium of conversation is so flat and on screen it can sound so harsh - please don't think I am trying to be so. If you could only hear my voice. :) But what I am saying is that him having ADD is simply data. It is how he processes the world and information in it. Just like it is how I process the world and what is in it via my ADHD. It is not an excuse for not stepping up and doing what needs to be done. As a parent myself, I often take the longer and more difficult road because it teaches my kids something that they need to learn, vs just stepping in and doing it myself.

I think you need to take a deep breath, look at what you do for him... and quit doing some of it. I'm not advocating throwing him out the door, however as each stage of life moves forward, I require my children (18 and 15) to step up and assume bigger responsibilities. They request and receive greater and improved privileges each year - why not increase the responsibility as well. The only way he will learn is to do it. Sit him down and have a grown-up conversation letting him know that you recognize he has grown and that it is time for him to assume some of his own responsibilities. If he is not paying rent, he needs to pay rent. He needs to pay his own way - heck even my own children pay for their phones. Not the service but they want a new phone, then they pay for the fee for the phone. The Constitution did not grant them a right to new phones! LOL

And take another deep breath because here's the second and harder part. Let him fail a bit. I suspect he is in a classic underachiever (him) / Overachiever (you) scenario where he isn't stepping up because he knows you will always be following behind him with a pillow, and a safe place to land. Quit doing that. Scraped knees - and behinds - are a good thing and we tend to learn more from our failures than from our successes. Let hum fall on his butt a little bit - he needs it.

I think of it like this - he has drums, Kung Fu and computer games... and you didn't really mention anything else. Does he have responsibilities at home? A Job? Does he cook dinner any particular night of the week? Do his own laundry? Pay for any groceries? You've made a pretty comfortable life for him, and he has created a pretty comfortable existence for himself - why would he change that if he doesn't have to. I would stay at home and read, knit, garden and play with my dogs if I had someone taking care of all the bills and making sure there was food on the table, clean laundry, keep the house up and put gas in my tank - wouldn't we all?? But as I am not independently wealthy, I have to go to work, clean my own home, grocery shop etc.

He isn't succeeding as a "Launchee" because he isn't really inspired or required to do so. And you aren't succeeding as a "launcher" because you aren't requiring anything from him. Everyone needs to start somewhere and usually that's at the bottom. That's where he is going to need to being - how about working at a local martial arts facility? Or through the park district. Or pushing a broom because even if he was gifted his own dojo tomorrow in japan... the floors would still need to be swept. Get my meaning?

Martial arts take a focus in order to do well - this is good because now he can parlay those skills he has learned into focusing on obtaining the life skills necessary to live on his own.

Time to give him a little push.

Lovinit profile image
Lovinit in reply to Cmiceli

Hi I read the first half of what you wrote and I want to tell you well said👊 our views on upbringing seem like they are similar.

Lovinit profile image
Lovinit in reply to Cmiceli

When I turned 7 or 8 my job my parents gave me was to pick up the dog poop💩 I think once a week we had a big property and to keep my room clean. I couldn’t keep my room clean. She never taught me how, and for me I just didn’t have a spot for stuff so I was always loosing things. My mom would say, you not leaving this house to go out with your fr until your room is clean so I would spend 5 minutes stuff everything under my bed in my closet and in extreme cases in my bed then thow my comforter over it 😬

LdeVose profile image

My internal response is manifold. I am 57, was diagnosed at age 47, and I am still learning.

I want to be short, because as you know, we can be long-winded.

Basically, were I to have the chance with my deceased (suicide at age 21) son, I would become as educated as I possibly can about the condition. What I know now since I have been diagnosed makes me ashamed for my not-so-supportive responses to his excesses. My biggest lesson is that he is not his behavior and his behavior is not him. Does he have any other condition? It is rare that there is not another condition that arrived somewhere around puberty. Mine is Depression. My son's was bipolar disorder. It is like the "Sith Rule of Two", there are always (at least) two. Your son is not his failures. He is not lazy. His lack of focus is not chosen behavior. It is organic.

I would have a sit-down with him, and talk to him about what I have learned about his condition(s). I would especially focus on how it makes him feel looking out from the inside. Does he feel like a failure, and that failure is all he can do well? I did. I still do sometimes. Check my very first post for more context.

I would reiterate that I love him, without conditions. No matter what he does, I love him. I don't think I made that clear to my son. Everybody else will react to his characteristic behaviors and responses. I would learn to respond to him. Notice the difference in verbs and objects? Now love does not mean that I will not hold him accountable or, if necessary, assist the state with holding him accountable, but come what may, he must know that everything you do is out of love. Our pastor just completed a series on I Corinthians 13, the "love chapter". As long as I have been studying this passage, I never could encapsulate "agape" (uh - GAH - pay) love as succinctly as he did. His definition was "I will do what is best for you regardless of what it costs me." Your son needs to hear this, and know that even if it means getting out of the way of the consequences of his bad choices, you will love him this way.

Let him know that your concern for his employment is for his personal and intellectual welfare. The worse thing I could do is allow my son to think he is a failure. I must fight against the temptation to compare him to others his age. HE is MY son, not they, whoever "they" is. Take in his interests, his passions, the things he does well, the things he loves to do. Encourage him to develop them. I am 57, and now realize that all along I was made to be a musician. I did well at most of the other things I have done - even being rewarded for my above and beyond contributions. However, while others lauded and wanted more, I scorned my musical talents as sub par. Somewhere in the mix of the music, the martial arts practice, the martial arts instruction, the volunteering is a phenomenal contributor to the human experience. Tell him this, and join the adventure. I am surprised that my wife has since I finally decided to pursue music.

So much for a short response.

I hope this helps. I will be sure to pray for you and your boy.

lkrportland profile image
lkrportland in reply to LdeVose

I love what you're saying and the way you've said it.

LdeVose profile image

I forgot to mention that the Amends talk about at least seven different subspecies of ADHD. Another factor is that the differences between how male and females with ADHD function once they are diagnosed and following an effective treatment regimen can be vastly different as well.

Finally, the matter of medication. We have learned that if I have ADHD in school, I have it in church, I have it behind the wheel, I have it on the job, I have it when I am on stage, I have ADHD! I also have asthma. I do not take the medications for this only when I am going to do something strenuous. I take it every day. The idea of unplugging him from something that helps him function and steadily grow in confidence as he sees a progressive difference is like taking the gas tank off your car on the weekend, because you do not expect to need it until the work week. He needs it every day, and any doctor who says otherwise - OK, time to shut up.

I am very open about my conditions, especially with parents who describe the symptoms that I did. One thanked me because I could fill in her daughter's entire habit. She said I had likely saved her life. She was describing the symptoms of my co-diagnosis, Depression, which typically sets in during adolescence. I nearly pinpointed to the day when the symptoms began. Anyway, I love the folks who tell me they do not want to be dependent on a drug for the rest of their lives. Of course these same people use marijuana and other illegal drugs, abuse alcohol and/or suffer the consequences of their very treatable behavior. How many days a week would you take your son off insulin were he diabetic?

OK. I am done.

Jansybil profile image
Jansybil in reply to LdeVose

Excellent point. That’s something I’ve thought about and have struggled with. I appreciate everyone’s candor.

Lovinit profile image

Does he have a job? I’ve had a job since I was 16 to pay for my fun and car gas. At 18 parents warned me I will have to start paying for my horse upkeep, it’s about $400 a month and I did and still do. I was 27 when I finally was able to move out on my own and pay for my living. At 36 bought my first house. The last 10 years I did bartending now I want to be done with that industry and think Costco would be an excellent environment for myself also thinking i could go back to dental assisting. Here’s what I want to say. I had a lot of dreams of being someone doing something that meant something to me but like you said I had no clue how to make those dreams come true. At some point it’s time to grow up and get a job and take care of yourself because one day you won’t be around and it’s likely as you get older you may be unable to afford taking care of him. My thought is my parents didn’t everything they could for me and more than anything I hope if there comes a time they need help I can be there for them.

Thanks for listening/reading, hope it relates for you

Lovinit profile image
Lovinit in reply to Lovinit


Lovinit profile image

Let’s get an update if you don’t mind. I’d love to hear how things are going with your son. Have you tried anything new out with him to get him motivated?

Nerplederp profile image

I went through 43 years of life before I discovered ADHD as a possible issue for me. Things I did before then:

• Went through numerous iterations of possible careers, including as a martial arts instructor, none of which I could muster the passion/focus to forge into a real career.

• Quit school and got a GED in an afternoon, essentially because it was the easy/quick route out of high school.

• Wasted several years on partying and thinking I'd never figure out what to do with myself.

• Discovered meditation, which gave me some measure of discipline and a set of anchoring thoughts that I could (and still) use when stress ran high.

• Became a licensed bodywork therapist, licensed real estate appraiser, licensed Realtor, ebay seller, gas log part technician, grounds keeper at a commune, small office desk manager, HVAC installer, digital media consultant, and owner of a lawn care business, none of which lasted more than a few years, most of which lasted less than half a year.

• Kept a successful marriage running (still strong) for 17 years.

• Earned a BS in computer science with a high GPA.

• Landed a high-stress, high-paying, fast paced software consulting gig. I lasted about a year before total burnout consumed me, and I barely survived the transition to a friendlier gig.

At each important advancement/big decision, the root was a failure. I failed and recognized something had to change, and set about a course correction. That last item on the list was the failure that pushed me to discover my diagnosis.

ADHD gave me too many passions and not enough focus, which for me meant that I had to choose something to aim at and start running towards it. "Do what you love" never worked for me, because I only love doing things in short, intense bursts. My motto became "do what you can tolerate and the market will pay for, until you learn to love it" (and it worked). I shifted gears a couple times, wasted some time and money, but I'm living a version of success that keeps my wife and I warm at night and keeps the fridge full.

My current gig is my first run at a job while medicated, and it's a helluva lot easier than it would be without it. If I'd known at 23 what I know now, I'd have been on my meds from the get-go.

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