An adult child’s behavior may become more than you can handle. If so, you might want to consider a professional intervention.
My son will be turning 26 this month. When he was younger, I honestly thought things would get easier as he got older. I thought things would be easier now. However, I know bipolar can cause emotional immaturity and regression, so I guess I will have to wait a few more years.
My son is a spring cycler. His illness gets worse at the beginning of the year, and by March or April he often needed hospitalization for medication readjustment. For the most part my son has always been medication compliant and is a kindhearted, jovial person with a quick witted sense of humor. He never smoked, drank or did drugs. I honestly thought we had mostly beaten the odds.
As difficult as this illness is, it was at least always fairly manageable and predictable. Emphasis on was. When my son turned 21, things really took a turn for the worse.
Something went terribly wrong. My loving son became an angry, self-centered, compulsive, lying person. At first, I thought his meds just stopped working. I took him to the doctor for med change and started him back in therapy right away. Still, everything became a battle.
He would stay up all night and sleep all day. There were new friends in his life. He would lie about where he met them and how he knew them. People would show up at my house unannounced when he wasn’t home. Things started turning up missing: liquor, cigarettes, medications, money and items he once valued. The more I questioned him, the more he lied. I knew I was dealing with more than this illness.
My son started self-medicating by drinking. He also started smoking cigarettes and marijuana. I was beyond devastated. I always told people if smoking cannabis helped him, I would move to a state where it was legal so he could access it. Sadly, this was not the case. I am no expert in addiction, but it seemed to me that within months he was on his way to becoming full- blown addict, with marijuana being his drug of choice.
I describe those years as feeling like a hostage in my own home. Our relationship had become tumultuous. He was constantly berating me and threatening me. The more I questioned his behavior, the worse it became. I constantly worried. I avoided going home and worked endless overtime as an excuse. Taking trips to Walgreens became a way for me to “run away.” I’d end up sitting in the parking lot just to cry. I don’t think I slept for a year.
Worse, I didn’t know if it would ever end. I loved my son but hated what was happening with him. I said things in anger and frustration that I now regret. It put a strain on me emotionally physically and mentally. I had him hospitalized by the police several times in hopes he could take time to clear his head. Nothing seemed to work.
After his last hospitalization, I told him he was no longer allowed to live with me. It was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. He hated me! I was beyond heartbroken and mourning the loss of my once-loving son.
He was homeless for months. Not taking medications and refusing treatment. I still continued to pay for his phone so I could keep some kind of contact with him and I sent him food, but overall I had no idea day-to-day where he was or what he was doing. No parent should have to live like that.
In order to make one last-ditch effort to save his life, I hired an interventionist. I prayed they could get through to him and get him into treatment. I am not a religious person but I prayed more that week than I ever have in my whole life. Call it a miracle, call it divine intervention, whatever. Within 24 hours of my son meeting with them, he was on a plane to a treatment center!!
That was almost three years ago. I am elated to tell you that he has been in treatment since that day and even though there have been minor setbacks overall he has been safe, sober, stable and happy!! I know we have a lot of struggles ahead and he still struggles everyday with bipolar, but I am hopeful for the future. Even though there is a bit of a physical distance between us, we have managed to regain a very healthy relationship. It feels like I have won the lotto.
I want others to understand that even in the darkest hours there is always hope. Never give up on those you love. Always leave the door open for forgiveness and welcome them back with open arms. There is no manual for loving our kids, but we can’t live in the past—we can only keep moving forward.
Julie Joyce is a Chicago Police Officer and the mother of an adult son who suffers from bipolar disorder and ADHD. Over the years Julie has been a strong advocate and volunteer with National Alliance for Mental Illness, The Balanced Mind Foundation, and has assisted with the creation and implementation of the Advanced Juvenile Crisis Intervention training (CIT) for Chicago Police officers. She is certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Hostage Negotiation Team as a Crisis Negotiator, has conducted presentations on mental illness for Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Office and has had the opportunity to speak to legislatures on the need for special education funding. Julie has also conducted educational presentations for DCFS on interventions for kids with mental illness. Along with her son, she was interviewed on NPR, WBEZ, for the “Out of the Shadows” series which focused on juveniles and mental illness. Currently, Julie spends her time raising awareness and advocating for people living with mental illness.
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