Friday, April 06, 2007


Up until a year ago, my housemate and I lived here pretty comfortably. We're both pleasant and we also help each other out a lot with a variety of things. We're kind to each other. That's the unspoken contract. She owns the house and I rent the mother-in-law unit.

A year ago, her (*50-year-old ~ added for clarification) son moved here from Southern California. He hit a rough spot and came back here to get himself together, get sober and begin a new life. On the surface that sounds like a great idea. My housemate asked my opinion and I gave it. I think it's worth doing. I'm all about second chances.. and even third chances. Some of us are slower than others ~ and I'm no paragon of perfect life management. I've had my third and even fourth chances.

I go overboard on these things... family support.. the idea of families always "being there". After all, I come from a family where one half-sister was thrown out on the street because she had an addiction problem, was hooking for a living, developed AIDS and died. The reaction in the family? "It was her own choice." They didn't even give her a memorial service. No grief. Just judgement. My family of origin is a pretty sick bunch of people. No model there. Nothing to look back on and say "this is a good way to handle it."

It's been a year now since V showed up. During that year, he has done absolutely nothing to help himself. He's manipulative. He's stolen money from his mother. He lives off her credit cards. If he doesn't get his way, he gets drunk and causes problems. He honestly believes he is entitled to the best of everything. So far, he's never been violent but he's tearing his mother to shreds emotionally. I see it. He's charismatic and charming. It's easy for him to emotionally manipulate the people around him.

Except me. I see through him like a pane of glass.

He's drained D. financially. She's gone into debt to the tune of $20,000 in one year. It's V's impulsive spending that's doing it. She should be retiring and can't. He has no conscience about it. It doesn't bother him in the least. My opinion, as awful as this sounds, is that he is hanging around waiting for her to die.

It's unlikely that V has the internal resources to be kicked out on the street without any resources. I believe he might commit suicide. He's not a stable guy. I think doing that would likely push him to violence.

I've tried to provide as much emotional support as possible for D, although that's not something I am good at by nature. I'm more about fixing, less about head-patting or sympathizing. Also, after this much time without any substantial change, there's really nothing more I have to offer her.

V. was asked by his therapist (if you can call him that) to select three people to come in for a session. He chose D, his girlfriend and me. (If this sounds like same song, different verse... yes.. it is. We did something like this last summer as well.) Our job was to give the therapist our view of what's happening. He asked each one of us to state our opinions.

I summed it up in one phrase. "I think he's either the maddest person I've ever met or he has no concept of acceptable human behavior ~ the latter making him a sociopath."

Verbatim. That's what I said. And that's what I believe. If it walks like a duck.. etc. If most of us look at the people we've known in the past, there's probably a sociopath or two there. They're not all that difficult to recognize. They simply don't give a damn how their actions affect others. They have no impulse control. They are like hurricanes that whip through people's lives and leave Katrina-level damage.

My question for the parents out there (or anyone who has an opinion, for that matter) is this: At what point is enough, enough? D's a mom. I get that ... but does there come a point where it's time to throw in the towel, to accept that someone is a lost cause?




Cecilieaux said...

It's very, very hard to disown your own child -- harder for mothers than fathers. Call it tradition, biology, whatever: mothers are the nurturers, fathers are the ones who prepare the brood to leave the nest.

Where's the father here? Missing? That may be part of the problem. D. seems stuck being the father (badly) as well as the (overly doting) mother.

V. needs to get out of that house. Will commit suicide? I don't believe it. Sounds more like will drive everybody crazy pretending.

What about the girlfriend? What's her role in all this? Is she enjoying the spoils of his ripping off his mother?

The boy has to grow up and he's not doing it with his mother. The obvious solution is that he has to live somewhere else, where he can't abuse his mother.

You, too, might consider moving if things don't improve.

Anvilcloud said...

I don't know about the lost cause bit, but it sure seems as though alternative arrangements need to be made.

Caro said...

Yes. At one point someone has to say it's enough. It's not throwing in the towel; It's saying you have reached the point where I cannot help you anymore. You have reached my limit. Sometimes, in order for change to oocur, that limit has to be clearly be stated. D. has demonstrated her support and V. at this point is choosing not to take it. I believe in 3 rd and forth chances too. But D. has to be alive and well in order to help her son...

Pam said...

My mother is a sociopath and the damage left in her wake is devestating. We all want our parents or children to love, respect and cherish us but with sociopaths it is an impossible situation. I finally gave up and walked away, the pain of trying becoming too much to bear. After dealing with the feelings that come with such a decision, I started to heal.

It must be twice as difficult when the person is a child, I can't imagine. If this young man truly is a sociopath then he will ruin his mother, if she lets him, with no remorse, then will move on to someone else.

If he is not and it is all anger, tough love and help is the best solution. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

Thailand Gal said...

C, I agree with you overall. As for your questions, V's father has been dead for a good number of years now. To the best of my knowledge, V doesn't do quite so well with men. Men are harder to manipulate emotionally.

His girlfriend? Yes. She is reaping the rewards of V's ripping off of his mother. Example: He bought her a large screen TV. Keep in mind that V has no job, no source of income. He bought it on his mother's credit card.

In order to save her credit, she has to pay the bills.

(Not absolving her of all responsibility here, either. She does continue to let it go on. Perhaps she truly doesn't know what to do. Maybe she just needs to believe... It's a hard call.)


Anvil, I would think so. Truly, I don't think D. will ever just kick him out. I wish she would!


Caro, that's my greatest concern. I don't know how much longer D can ride this rollercoaster without having her own health fail. She is a truly decent human being and I hate seeing this.


Pam, I can only imagine the damage your mother caused. My mother, at least, was just a common, garden-variety bitch! LOL Still, I've been around more than my share of sociopaths and, oh yes, they're about as toxic as it comes.

V. will destroy everything D has built if she dies and he gets his hands on it. The houses and everything will go to him as the eldest son ~ and he'll cash it all out and blow it on crap.

And then... he'll find someone else to use.


Thanks :)


liv said...

I go through this with my own grandmothers who are still bailing out their children who are my parents' contemporaries. It's completely ridiculous. Maybe I haven't made the 'Mom' curve in terms of really knowing what I would do for my kids, but somehow I feel like they need to be pushed out of the nest--for good. I mean, I have no illusions that my parents will ever help me financially or otherwise. It is up to me each day to make my own life happen---no safety net between the ground and my kids. It just is. And if I'm just an everyday, ordinary sort of screwed up childhood surviving person doing it, then I suppose my bitchy ass hard line is that at some point people must do for themselves. Unless they don't. And then?

Thailand Gal said...

Liv, it's impossible for me to say what I'd do as a mom. In the overall sense, I'm not much of a "get out there and do it on your own" type. Communal living appeals to me. The idea of sharing resources appeals to me. The situation with V. really boils down to what we need to do when someone in a shared living situation is 1) using everyone and 2) sucking all the oxygen out of the place because of his behavior and, finally, 3) not willing to contribute anything.

Communal situations like ours requires give-and-take from everyone. That's what makes it work.

I admit that my claws have come out a few times when I see the torment D. puts up with, knowing that all of her financial resources are being drained, not to mention her emotional resources. She's not a young woman and needs to be able to concentrate on other things besides this one person. When I commented that I think he's waiting for her to die, I made it clear to him in one conversation that if *anything* suspicious happens, I'll be all over it. He can count on that.

No response from him. A normal person would have called me everything but a child of God!

When I called V a sociopath, I also did it right in front of him. I expected him to be angry with me. It didn't even hit his radar screen.

He simply doesn't give a flying fig what anyone thinks and refuses to do anything differently than exactly how he wants to do it.

That's what's really ticking me off.

In my opinion, that's when all bets are off... and he should simply leave.



Melissa said...

I think you're a saint for allowing him to live with you!

She needs to stop giving him her cards, full stop. She is going to end up in financial ruin to support her son's extravagant spending. If she can't stop doing that with him living with her, then he should move out. Frankly, at 50, he should not be living with her anyway, unless it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

I know, it's easy for me to say...but she is going to end up in such hot water in the long run for this horrible man (and yes, any man who takes advantage of his mom like that is horrible!).

What about the whole "enabling" thing?

Poor her, I'm glad you are able to be a support to her.

patches said...

It is so easy to misinterpret enabling as love and support, especially when you're the one doing the enabling.

It sounds as if V was never looking for help, but a total bail-out instead. The parent child relationship boundaries are beyond my experience. I choose to help people, who are also working to help themselves, or who cannot help themselves. Those who are too lazy to help themselves need not rely upon me for pity or assistance. That isn't to say, I don't believe in second chances, but for a third and fourth there is the issue of rebuilding trust, added to the equation.

meno said...

What a mess. I'm sorry.
Yes, there is a time to let go, but my guess is that this is a pattern that has existed his whole life. Why does he even have her credit cards?
I was raised KNOWING that anything i wanted or needed i had to get on my own.
But the bottom line is, neither of these people is going to change. So what are you going to do?

flutter said...

I believe the point of no return is when the person you are trying to help takes your kindness and uses it against you.

That is officially when I call it quits.

Ginnie said...

When I saw the title of your entry "sociopaths" I thought you were writing about our present administration ! I'm sure they "simply don't give a damn how their actions affect others.", as you say in your blog.
Having spent the last 18 years in a recovery mode and in AA I'd tell your friend to "detach with love" but, definitely detach !

Anonymous said...

He's fifty, the time passes awhile ago for him. I think we need to love and accept our children but it's not necessary to financially provide for adult children. If he's not willing to get help and get off his ass, I'd turf him.
It's tough to admit you don't like your kids, because sometimes they turn out to be unlikeable people.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I, too, have known sociopaths far too well. V sounds like a classic one.

As Meno stated, neither of them will change. Their dynamic has been in place all his life. She is a co-dependent enabler and blahdy blah pop psych lingo; he is a weak, selfish, manipulative, emotional child with no heart.

She will wear herself to the bone until her body cannot withstand the stress any longer. Then, he will inherit everything and blow it in a matter of months.

It's horrible that she can't bring herself to say no to him, to cancel his credit cards before she ends up on the street herself.

Therapy won't help him because one has to want to be helped. It's just another stalling device for him.

I'm sorry that you have to witness and be involved in this because it has to be bringing your own mood down on a regular basis.

If I were you, Chani, I would move, even though it's difficult, because you will be making a stand for your own peace of mind.

Bob said...

I was talking about this post with Laura this evening. We reached the conclusion that we don't know if we could kick him out, but we sure as hell wouldn't be giving him credit cards or access to bank accounts. If the child wants our help, it would be on mutually decided terms (that didn't include financial ruin). Laura made an offhand comment afterwards, "She should kick him out and let him sponge off of his girlfriend for awhile".

All this doesn't do anything for your situation, though. I'm afraid I pretty much agree with Meno - neither of them will probably change. Is this something you can continue to live with, especially since there doesn't seem to be anything you can do?

Laurie said...

I have to agree, I don't think the dynamics of their relationship will ever change. It's sad, but odds are that this situation will continue until mom is broke or gone. I am sorry, Chani. I know how helpless you must feel not being able to help your friend.

Hel said...

I used to be like that in my early twenties. Living of my parents stealing their money, overdosing in their back yard. Then they got tough and had me committed to a state rehab centre. I was extremely angry at them and vowed never to speak to them again. Within a week I was desperate to see anyone from home. They visited me every weekend for the four months I was there.

Sending me to rehab was the best thing anyone has ever done for me. I managed to take control of my life and turn it around. I think the combination of a tough and supportive approach is very important.

That said when a addict friend's mother tried the same approach my friend ended up committing suicide.

One can never tell how things will turn out but no-one has the right to disrespect and take for granted a parent. Especially one that loves their children enough to allow that disrespect.

My heart runneth over... said...

That is so sad. Some people have no shame in there lives they walk around like there entitled for what they are not... It's sad. I wish your friend strengh to set boundaries. She needs to stop enabling him let him live there.. but let him fend for himself. Sometimes... if not pushed... to pick up the pieces of one's life... the pieces are not picked up. Easier said than done I know.

All the best! ~M

jen said...

ah. i'd like to think i'll have excellent boundaries and i'll probably err on the side of codependence unwittingly.

i do know i see many parents who do end relationships w/ their kids, even when their kids are in the streets. i had to call one such man once and tell him that his son had died. he was in pure agony, realizing what he'd lost during the estrangement, never thinking it would end like that. and yet it did.

Lee said...

How sad. Seems to me that if V is indeed a sociopath, then he is a "lost cause" unless he gets real help. It's gotta be a different line for every family and situation, but I would hesitate counsel to ruin one's own life for another...even if he is your child.

Thailand Gal said...

Melissa, that's the main point, really, in my opinion. If it was mutually beneficial, I'm all for people living in groups. It makes life much, much easier than being alone so much ~ having to bear all the burdens and celebrate the good things without trusted others around to share it.

V. just has no concept of that. At all.


Patches, I agree in some senses. As soon as someone has shown through their actions that they have no interest in learning community values ~ or practicing community values, he or she has basically signed their own ticket out.

Today, he's sober and functioning. Tomorrow? Who knows?


Meno, this isn't really about me. I try to provide support for D. as I can. That's really all I can - all I'm willing to - do.


Flutter, very good point. V. is not consciously doing that.. to the best of my knowledge. It has become his lifestyle.


Ginnie, it could fit the current administration in the US. Couldn't agree more.

Detaching with love would be the ideal. Whether D can do that is another question. She seems to ride the roller coaster a lot herself. If he's sober and okay today, she forgets yesterday. When tomorrow comes and he's in a drunken heap, she reacts very emotionally.


Susan, I suspect that will be the outcome in the long term.

Funny you mention moving. I saw an ad for a little cottage in downtown Sacramento.. midtown.. where all the eccentrics and old hippies live. I was tempted to call the landlord. Truly. I was.


Bob, the dynamic between V and his girlfriend is a weird one. She has very strong boundaries about things and won't allow him to get away with much. On the other hand, she reaps the benefits materially from his use of the credit cards. I suspect she'd toss him out on his ass if he ever drank and acted up around her kids though.


Laurie, thankfully I know this is not mine to fix. I can provide support for D, can sympathize with her, research options and present them to her. That's all I can do. Frankly, it's all I am willing to do. I won't get sucked into their rather sick dynamic.


Hel, your parents did the right thing. I'm glad you can see that now.


Heart, thanks. Maybe some time in the desert would do him some good. Having been there, I know I can not ethically push him there.. but the universe has a way of providing the lessons we need. :)


Jen, it's probably the hardest call any parent would have to make. Doing it without professional guidance is, in my opinion, stupid and more about the person detaching than the one being "detached from".

I know my father and his wife got a call like that when Valerie died.

Their reaction was startling and so cold that there was a collective chill in the air.

It's not something to do lightly.


Lee, the difficult part is to accept that very few sociopaths are ever cured. They don't have the capacity for empathy and that's what makes them so dangerous. Probably the best D can do ultimately is to protect herself, her estate and her other kids from V's destructive behavior.


Thanks, everyone. :) I value this input... from each and every one of you.



QT said...

Chani - I don't have anything intelligent to add that hasn't already been said. I just wanted to let you know I agree with most of it!

Anonymous said...

Cici here. And for what it's worth, here's my two-cents on the subject. Remember in the Bible where it talks about "spoiling your children"? Well, this 50-something is that person. in rotten fruit. Rotten as in no good to society. He doesn't even take care of himself, so he can't do for others in any way. It's really sad when you think of it. The mother is a tremendously co-dependent person and...(you/she won't like hearing this)...she has ruined her son. Because she can't or won't say "no" to him, he is ruined. Very, very sad and all too common I'm afraid. You don't say how old she is, but my guess is she doesn't "hate" this situation like you do...if she hates it at all. Baby Boy is dependent on her! And obviously she likes it that way! So where does that leave YOU down the road? I'd be looking for other living arrangements if I were you....Peace.