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Overwhelmed by supporting stepfamily

Community Member

Long time reader, first time poster.

Basically overwhelmed by living in ground hog day. Stepson has mental health issues, past trauma, and substance abuse problems up to and including week long meth binges.

household rules and boundaries have gradually eroded as there is no way of enforcing them. Drug counselor has said to make sure he has a safe place to land, and just keep supporting him in good choices, can't provide consequences for bad choices as that feels like punishment and it'll push him away, blah blah.

He moved out at 16 then back in six months later "for two weeks" (three months ago) when people around him we're buying him alcohol. We live with instability, mood swings, the threat of violence to people and property, manipulation, petty theft etc etc etc

I just see the black tunnel if this situation stretching ahead until one of us dies.

Psych, counseling, lifeline etc all end in various flavours of "that sounds really hard to deal with" and "learn acceptance" but nothing practical that I can actually DO other than keep my mouth shut, don't rock the boat, and learn to suck it up.

I have constant suicidal ideation - serious, but not urgent... I know exactly where, when and how, if things don't get better.

It feels calming to run through the plan step by step in my head, and makes me feel like there is some "hope" for the situation changing.

Currently there's about 75-80% chance of it all being over in under 2 years.

12 Replies 12

Hi Blender,

Welcome to the forums, what a brave and honest first post. It sounds like an incredibly difficult time. We can hear you’re going through a lot, and have been feeling suicidal. We’re really glad you could share here, it's a really strong step to have taken and we hope you can see it as the first towards feeling better.

We’re reaching out to you privately, but of course you're also welcome to give us a call directly on the Beyond Blue Support Service. We are available 24/7 by phone on 1300 22 4636. We can hear you've taken steps like this before, and we know it's not a quick fix, but what we can help you with is giving yourself some time, and creating some space for you to talk through what you're feeling and figure out how to get the support needed to get you through this.

Another option would be ringing Lifeline (13 11 14) or the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) who can also help you to talk this through, and plan for your safety. The Beyond Blue safety planning app might be worth looking at, too. You can read about how it works and where to download it here. You can even call Lifeline and compete it with one of their counsellors over the phone if you'd like.

Thanks again for such an open post. We’re sure we’ll hear from some of our lovely community members here on your thread soon. They’re a really amazing community, as you may know from reading the forums, and you might find that many can relate to some aspects of what you're going through.

Kind regards,

Sophie M

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Dear Blender, this situation is very tough to go through. As a step parent it would be so very hard to parent a son that is not biologically yours to begin with. It takes a very special person to take on the responsibility of somone else's child. I know its really hard to help someone who does not want to be helped. The only way you can do something about it is involuntary admission. If he is a threat towards himself or others (being yourself or other kids in the home) you can call 000. They will send out a mental health crisis team along with the police. They will take him involuntary to a psychiactic facility for a mental state examination. Legally they can hold him against his will until it is decided he is sound of mind and safe to go home. This also can also apply to yourself in relation to your suicide idealation, if you feel like you can no longer cope too please call 000.

As a parent this is such a really hard and sad situation to be in. Your drug councillor is right as well. I think your only best option is to call the police and report his meth use and his mental state to have him admitted. Please take care of yourself too and reach out to the mental health crisis team in your state.

I hope this helps

Been there. Done that.

Hospital admissions for him have only ever been a circuit breaker - voluntary or involuntary - and it then requires him to engage with support afterwards which he does for a day or a week then changes his mind. For me, the crisis comes and goes but isn't urgent. As I said, I know the date. It's a fair way off.

We have made progress, for sure, but we're now slipping back into the mode where he does exactly what he wants, and largely negotiates his own consequences because at least he's not punching walls or drink driving or stealing things or cutting himself. Boundaries have been agreed and generally kept but they're slipping, and his mum is pretty forgiving because it could be worse. For me that feels like letting him set the bar and call the shots.

He's generally stable these days but it feels like we're waiting, waiting, waiting to see how he breaks down again. There's a lot of trauma on all sides - which means it's hard to look just at the positives and the progress. He's the only person who has ever threatened to stab me to death in my sleep, for instance. A few years ago, before he made a great deal of progress, but also need he discovered pills and meth. We're not currently concerned about immediate threats to safety, it's more the slow burn of this being as good as it gets, forever into the future for forty years or more.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hey Blender,

I am so sorry to hear this is happening to you, it's an extremely unfair and burdening situation. I truly believe, no matter the circumstance or how dark and long this tunnel in your life seems to go for- the truth is- it is a tunnel and all of them have an open, airy, bright other side. Although there seems like little hope now, things can really change in the near future. Redemption is real, and your stepson can very well recover. He can heal, grow into a fully functioning, capable and independent young man, but in time as he is also very young and is clearly battling inside. Hold onto this vision and believe for it, it may really change how you see it daily. I also believe you can provide a safe place for your stepson, but also are allowed to have standards to hold him up to as the head of the house. By letting him truly know he is loved and supported but he is not showing it back to his family by his actions may deeply resonate inside him and could plant seeds for his internal realisations to change. it won't be overnight, but i do believe he will heal. Your son truly cant go on living like this, and i also do believe even though you care and want to do whats best - sometimes in life people need to learn the hard way to truly realise the path they are on is not for their highest good. He is in a lot of darkness right now, but this darkness is not who he is and its bleeding onto you now. But please now, this darkness is not you either, and giving your life to it is not the solution.

Your life, and your inherent worth in who you are is FAR more valuable than any persons behaviour in your life, or what the current circumstances are. You are a very strong, loving and caring stepfather and i know you have had it to here by now, but if there is any hope i can breathe into your situation - is that the light is real, change is real and that is what you must hold onto. If there is any final advice i can offer, is if you really have exhausted all means - mental health experts, hospital visits, physical health etc. i do believe whatever your beliefs are - being open to spirituality and connecting with God, or asking him to give you the strength to endure this hard time can really change you. If you don't believe in him - you could take a step of faith, ask him to show himself to you, that he is real - you may be very surprised and even though this would be last resort - it could be life saving.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi blender,

My heart goes out to you, it really does. I can hear the exhaustion in your voice and I don’t blame you. Basically having to deal with someone who seems committed to making their life and everyone’s life around them miserable and you have to try and remain positive and not call out any bad behavior. I think so many people find it difficult to deal with addicts because it seems like an inherently selfish, self-indulgent and self-destructive thing to do and so tough love seems to be needed. But the reality is that it is so intrinsically tied with feelings of shame and worthlessness and so anything can trigger a relapse. How old is your stepson? It may sound harsh but at some point soon he will be forced to become an adult and fend for himself. He can continue down this road if he wants to but that doesn’t mean that you have to continue down it with him. if it was me, for my own sense of preservation, I would try and detach from the situation as much as possible. It may sound harsh but he is not your problem at the end of the day, he has been raised by his father and mother, but you are kind of left to deal with the mess. It can be very hard when someone is volatile and chaotic not to be sucked into that but I think you need to try your best not to. If that means going for walks, drives, removing yourself from the situation when this is happening then so be it. I would also consider relaxing your boundaries as the counsellor suggested. I imagine that must be tough when it feels as though yours are being crossed on a regular basis. but I would consider trying to take a “choose your battles” type attitude at the moment for a quiet life. I doubt he would listen to any attempts at discipline anyway so it’s probably futile right now. At the end of the day, everyone is in charge of their own life to do with it as they want. If this is the person that he wants to be then so be it, or one day he might wake up one day and realise that he has alienated everyone and his life is a dumpster fire and start the hard graft that is rebuilding your life. But the reality is that he needs to do that. If this situation disrupts your peace so much that you are contemplating suicide, you could always consider removing him from your life, that is also your choice. Have you spoken with your husband about the situation and the effect it is having on you?

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi Blender,

Wellcome to our forums!

Im really sorry you are going through this….. I understand…….

Your step son is on his own path and yes I understand it’s a destructive one and all you can really do is try to support him in any way that you can.

I understand it’s really horrible to see someone like this it really is but as chadicha has said he must be feeling a lot of pain within himself to be in this position…… BUT he really CAN come back from this he really can………. He can turn his life around in a positive way but he will need support.

I understand when we see people like this we think why? Why do you do this? We can only see the pain that they are causing the people close to them ……. When we look at the addict they are a person! He’s inside there! He wants to feel good! But he’s struggling and finds addiction as his only peace from what he feels inside……

Sometimes people who are addicts do end up going down a dark path…. Some end up in jail…which can sometimes help them to straighten up…

some have their family disown them…. ( which really doesn’t help at all)….. they need support and love.

I ask can you try to show this person love? I know we get caught up in our anger sometimes but how about trying to deflect from this?

Is this person seeking professional help? There is help available to them …

Please google Kyle Quilausing he was once a meth addict he has now gone through redemption and is on the other side of his addiction……. as chadicha has said redemption is possible.

Im also sorry you are struggling yourself have you seeked professional help….. you could start at you gp….

I understand this is a long road but we can only hope and pray that the addict can become conscious of these behaviour and choose to better themselves…

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Just another thing Blender I can sense the anger you have inside yourself and that’s ok! This situation does make people very angry….

But you can’t control the situation you can only control how you react to the situation…..

How have you reacted in the past to this?

Has your step son ever seeked help for his past trauma?

Your stepson is going through addiction….. this addiction is happening to him……..

YOU can’t control what is happening but you are still aloud to be happy and do things you want to do.

What does your self care look like?

If you are struggling with your own thoughts then PLEASE go and see your gp ASAP and let them know the type of thoughts you are having they will understand and want to help you.

Im here if you want to chat

Thanks Juliet - I've spoken to my wife about this a lot. It's the only thing we ever argue about.

We do pick our battles but because she is his mother, her approach is a lot more on the "as long as he's alive it's ok" add off the fence. The issue with boundaries is that I have relaxed my personal boundaries almost to breaking point, and then we collectively agree the boundaries with him, and he commits to them... For as long as it is convenient, then we redraw the boundaries and begin again.

So many times we've said "it could be worse, at least it's not XYZ" then it becomes XYZ.

I'm just worn out by the helplessness and lack of agency in the whole thing. The impact on everyone else while we cross our fingers and wait for him to develop and grow and finish his journey.

We do show him love and acceptance and support, and so far that has only served to normalise his behaviour. If he can disappear for a week on a meth binge, and has a safe environment to recover where he has healthy food, comfortable surroundings and someone to care for him while he recovers, why would he ever change that situation?

I've had repeated professional help, but other than ongoing meds, the solutions and strategies have been little more than learn to accept it, wait for it to pass, and look after yourself in the interim.

(And to those suggesting looking to God for help... It's a devout reliance on, and abdication of responsibility to Jesus that was a contributing factor to him being neglected by his biological father... 🤣)

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Blender,

I get where you are coming from so much - my partner is an alcoholic so there is also a lot of one step forward two steps back. We agree to a certain set of conditions around the drinking and then there’s the backsliding as soon as the desire for alcohol kicks in and I’m made out to be enemy number 1. The dynamic is so infuriating and the misery that the situation causes seems so needless/pointless. I can understand the lack of agency you feel must be incredibly hard, it’s hard enough when it’s someone close to you who’s going to do what they want regardless, but then for it to be your stepson on top of that complicates it even further. I’m sorry that you and your wife argue about this, but I’m not surprised as it puts such a strain on everything.
I know what you mean about the love and acceptance etc, it almost feels like enabling the behaviour. If he comes home to a warm bed, clean clothes etc then where is the incentive to change. I’ve wondered the same thing about my partner. Does preventing them from hitting rock bottom merely delay the disconfort and thus the point that they realise they need to turn this around? I don’t know unfortunately, addiction is an absolute nightmare and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone’s family. But I suppose the alternative is to withdraw the support and allow him to hit rock bottom. Which I don’t think your wife would agree to? I know I would probably withdraw from the situation out of self-preservation and find reasons to spend less time at home, take up a sport etc. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do but I’m also a bit annoyed at the professionals for basically saying that you need to put up with it and “oh and look after yourself” without giving you any practical tools on how to do that.