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Thegary's avatar

How do I get rid of my adult pothead step-son who is a mooch?

Asked by Thegary (129 points ) February 10th, 2009

My step-son is a total momma’s boy. He quit high school 2 years ago and has not worked a day since. All he does is sit in his room all day smoking marijuana, playing video games, and drawing cartoons. My wife and his sister are both enablers and it is a constant battle. The only responsibilities my wife will put on him is to clean the kitchen. He restricts this to one load of dishes and claims he gets weekends off. I have constantly protested this lifestyle, but my wife just protects him from my wrath. HELP!

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40 Answers

cak's avatar

You won’t, not with his mom enabling him. My family went through this – my sister would run away – to get her to come home, my mom would bribe her. New TVs, new stereos. New clothes, money…you name it. My dad, he tried to get her to see the problem.

Now, I will say that later, she was diagnosed with a mental illness. However, to her doctor, therapist, dad, friends, me….that didn’t excuse the drug use and dropping out of school.

It took a long time for my mother to come around, but she finally understood she was basically helping her put the drugs into her mouth, arm or up her nose.

Until your wife is ready to help her son, that means some very tough decisions, it will never change.

I feel for you, it’s a very difficult situation.

Judi's avatar

Time for marriage counseling. This is the kind of thing that will destroy your marriage. Your wife is torn between her since of responsibility to her son and her relationship with you. She see’s it as her job to protect her son and you come across as the bad guy.
I’ve been in her shoes.(My son had different issues but same emotional family toll.) It’s a very thin needle to thread and I admit I missed the mark more than once.
Getting a trained third party to help you mediate what is bests for the child is the best alternative we found. They helped me face the truth in a safe environment and my husband didn’t have to be the bad guy.
I wish you much luck. Blended families are hard enough without drugs getting stuck in the middle. This could be a tragedy for the kid and your marriage if not dealt with correctly.

eponymoushipster's avatar

I agree with @cak, until your wife sees the problem, you’ll have a very difficult time enforcing any rules. Aside from that, i’d say put up or get out. Set some very firm rules and if he doesn’t abide by them, send him packing.

kevbo's avatar

I’ve not experienced anything similar to what you are describing, but I have had smaller scale successes with these kinds of dynamics by influencing mom to make changes in her relationship with her child (or children in this case).

Mom has a limited sense of what is “doing right by her kids” and needs to have her eyes opened to the fact that she can have higher aspirations for parenting and that by changing her behavior, she can positively influence her children. The struggle for her will likely be immediate feelings of guilt or betrayal for having to tell her children “no” or to deny them “happiness.” This guilt may be deep seated due to mistakes she has made in the past, such as putting them through a bad previous marriage or failings in her struggles to raise them on her own. You can be effective by coaching her through to the other side, so that she sees how discipline, while painful at first, has positive benefits that in the end make her kids feel better about themselves.

Start off training your wife with baby steps—counsel her when she complains about her kids’ behaviors (which indicates problems that she can see and respond to). Eventually, you’ll get her to see your agenda. In the meantime, let go of direct enforcement except in cases where you are simply backing up your wife (i.e. only go as far as she goes).

As much as possible, you need to regard this as a proxy war with you in the background and her fighting the battles.

cak's avatar

@eponymoushipster – tricky area. That was one way my dad tried to do things, that was not a fun 4 or 5 months. NO one talked to anyone! Too dangerous! Heads would roll. I swear, sometimes, I’m surprised our family stayed together.

It’s amazing how much things changed, once we all got the help we needed and my mother finally saw that she was only helping her with her habit. My mom was just scared, though. She feared for my sister, being on the streets. She was doing the only thing she thought was right. We turned out okay, once we got the help and all stood our ground when she would try to start using, again.

Twenty years later, we still love each other and are strong, together. I gotta say, when my father passed away in January, my sister, was indeed the strong one. She still is.

loser's avatar

Yeah, I think counseling might be a good idea here. You guys need to be on the same page about this. You’re not doing him any favors. He might need counseling as well. There is probably some underlying reason why he’s hanging around the house smoking pot all day. He could be self medicating for some more serious mental problem. Good luck!

amandala's avatar

I think that counseling would definitely be beneficial. Before that, though, have you spoken with your wife about the situation? If not, the two of you should sit down in private, maybe over a nice dinner at home, and have a serious conversation about it. Make it clear to her that you’re not suggesting that she has to choose between you or her son and that you, of course, love her. Explain to her that you’re concerned both for her son and for your relationship with her. If you feel the situation is escalating, it’s time to seek outside help, for the sake of your marriage.

Jayne's avatar

Put him on Fluther, we’ll whip him into shape. And if he’s at all human, he won’t even be able to leave! Not like that will really make him any more useful around the house…

cheebdragon's avatar

You can’t do anything, she has to be the one to put her foot down.

afghanmoose's avatar

Take him to the unemploymet agency and tell him to wait in line for $20,tell him to fill out the paper work anf apply for a job,this should show him how he taking things for granted,also he will see first hand what people without mommys have to deal with in the real world,if that doesnt work take him to a cancer wing of a hospital and show him that these people wouldnt waste there life doing what he’s doing if they had more time,then ask some of the sick kids what they would do and how much time they have.

adri027's avatar

Ok so what you do is give him a treasure map, and the final destination will be fields of pot I’m sure he’ll get lost on his way there and poof no more moocher.

Thegary's avatar

Thank you for all these great responses. I want to first say, that as a former pothead myself, I do not have a problem with responsible hard-working people smoking weed. All the power to them.
Counseling is, of course, the best course of action. At this time, though, the financial aspect of it is beyond my means. My wife just took a 50% pay cut and I have changed jobs to a 100% commisioned sales position. Does anyone know if there are any organizations that specifically deal with family problems at no or little cost?
I have sat with my wife on numerous occasions to deal with this issue, but they all end up with him making a show of attempting to get a job but not following through. He has a million excuses and she has a million more for him. I have tried calm and reasonable, angry, disappointed and outright screaming. All to no avail. I fear this will end our marriage, eventually.
The background is that his father was abusive to the children and to my wife while they were together. The kids have been a pawn to use against her ever since. The kids, on the other hand, have used them both as game pieces to get what they want.

I want everyone to also be clear that I do love these people. I always intended it to be for their best interests, but since times are what they are and finances are slim, it has evolved into a selfish thing. I no longer can support this lifestyle and I feel insulted that no attempts are made to resolve it. I mean, if you spend $20—$50 a day in weed, why can’t you pay some to us?

Thegary's avatar

hmmmm, I looked at my question again and realized I neglected to include that the boy is almost 19 now.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Thegary weed or $20–50? ;)

Thegary's avatar

I think my weed smoking days have come to an end so I will take the cash. hehe.

syz's avatar

Have him fill out a “renter’s contract” and start charging him rent.

Judi's avatar

If you can’t afford counseling then you really need to work out a plan with his mother. It is really easy for you to be the bad guy so she really has to have buy in. If she is not willing to “parent” even when it’s hard then there is not a whole lot you can do. You can either wait it out or start drinking (or doing drugs yourself.) just joking. I wish there were more options.

kevbo's avatar

This may sound weird to you, but 19 is still pretty young for some people. I wasn’t self-sufficient until I was 26 or so, and I had a normal childhood and went to an elite college. (I was also clinically depressed and kind of a momma’s boy.) Add to your step-son’s case that he was abused, etc. and all that sounds about right to me. He’s missing a lot of lessons and examples of manhood and adulthood. Naturally, being insulated from the the “real world” as he is now and whether it’s from school or work isn’t helping. I would guess that he’s not following through, because he doesn’t have a tangible sense of how the process works and because he is capable incapable of doing it without significant hand-holding. He probably would benefit from mentoring from you or someone else (but not his mom.)

In light of your having reached your breaking point, perhaps you would do well to have a family meeting of sorts and show them the facts and hard edges of your family’s budget, and who’s contributing what and then having a discussion about what is fair give and take for every member of the household, and even include some aspirations for the future (e.g. saving for a vacation). Here you would get to show your share of give and take and what your personal boundaries are. When they protest with excuses, etc. you can say that’s all well and good, but I feel I am deserving of x, y & z standards being met, and it’s not fair to me to have to put up with less (i.e. it’s insulting). So, yes, I love you guys, etc, but the bottom line is that I can’t martyr myself for your welfare if you’re not trying and not respecting my effort by putting out some of your own (because if I do that, there won’t be a me left). And then you have to back that up with consequences.

I’m telling you, though, you’re not going to get anywhere without your wife on board, so you might as well focus your attention on her. She needs to get past the guilt, and the trauma of being battered or whatever and realize that the best thing she can do for her kids is help them heal by acclimating the whole family to an emotionally healthier lifestyle. She needs to get out of the tug of war match with her ex and learn to react differently (i.e. as a better parent) to her kids’ manipulations.

I realize this is coming across as super touchy-feely, but I think it’s either a lot of up front and sustained patience, hand-holding, and encouraging of baby steps on your part or an inevitable walk out the door. Obviously, nothing you’ve done so far has worked, so if you believe any of the above, I would either strap on a helmet for the long haul or come to the realization that this isn’t how you want to spend the next couple of years of your life and move on. (Or just keep doing what you’re doing and delay your inevitable burn out and departure.) We are all broken people in different ways, but not all of us have the capacity to fix every problem. What you have is a big bundle of problem and three people to “fix” if life is going to be to your satisfaction.

I will say, though, that if you take the time to lay a good foundation, your efforts will probably start to pay off quicker down the line, because as each member of the family gains a little more momentum it will make future changes easier.

Thegary's avatar

wow kevbo, that is very insightful. I agree that the past has a strong influence in our present. I guess I have overlooked the emotional damage the abuse may have left lingering in his head. I have always downplayed it since I compare it to the abuses I endured as a child (I was the child of a single mother with multiple personality disorder, alcoholism, and addiction to prescrition drugs).
I have tried to be a mentor to him. Teach him good ways to conduct himself and high moral standards that he should aspire to. He has taken some things out of that, but the work hard and help yourself part has yet to hit home. I understand that it takes some people longer to come of age, but all I ask is that he get a job to help support his own expenses.
I made a deal with his mother that we would charge him $50/week room and board, but all the money would be put away for him for when he moved out. She seemed supportive of the idea, but when I brought it up to him, he had no idea what I was talking about. It was never presented to him.
I believe that a united front is what is required, but what can I do when we do that, but then she has another ‘side meeting’ with him and downplays the importance of what we all talked about? Sometimes, she actually says she didn’t mean ANY of it. So I just look like an A-hole that they just need to ‘tolerate’ until my ire blows over.
I am rambling now. I will discuss with my wife about what can be done to address the emotional factor caused by his father’s abuse and emotional abandonment.

Thank you.

cheebdragon's avatar

I don’t know how religious you are, but you can usually get free counseling from any church.

kevbo's avatar

At the risk of giving you too much advice, just a couple of comments:

Kids react differently to that kind of trauma. My cousins grew up with divorced parents and a bipolar mother. One became the caretaker (and self sufficient at an early age), the other still (in her 30s) works to get “assistance” from any source she can whether it’s her dad or the state.

Your wife is trying please everybody, which is probably a holdover from the abusive patterns of her past. (If I can make everybody happy, maybe the hurt/abuse will stop.) I’m guessing it’s a giant blind spot for her (and frankly, it’s weird). Again, she needs to get past that behavior and realize that other “normal parenting” behaviors will help and not hurt her kids.

Thegary's avatar

I am a recovering Catholic. I consider myself Atheist, but I still hold to the Christian morals (if not the doctrine). My step-son considers himself spiritual (probably because Bob Marley told him so), but rejects all structured religion. So I doubt any church groups would be beneficial. It is a great idea, however.

TaoSan's avatar

start smoking his dope (or pretend to), he’ll be running in no time :)

sorry, I had to

cheebdragon's avatar

Maybe he could accidently get arrested, most jails have career training or GED testing these days. Plus the probation would help keep him from smoking weed for a few months.

Thegary's avatar

@cheebdragon are you in my head? I have actually considered this. But he’s too pretty and wimpy for jail. I’d hate to be responsible for his lifetime of hemmerhoids. I did tell him a cop talked to me about him, however. Just to put a fright in him.

Poser's avatar

It sounds like drastic action is required. Your wife is putting her son in front of your marriage. It may be time for you to go. Sometimes people need those large demonstrations to motivate them to action.

Find an apartment that you can afford on your salary, or a friend with whom you can stay for a few weeks. Get all your stuff ready, to the point where you only have to walk out the door, then approach your wife. Tell her that she has undermined your marriage for too long. Insist that she tell your stepson that he either get a job and start paying rent, or move out. Give him a reasonable deadline. Tell her you’ll move back in when one of those two conditions are met.

The key here is action. Don’t just say it. Do it.

TaoSan's avatar

errm…

I hate to be a party-pooper, but are you guys actually debating putting a family member in jail for a behavioral deficiency?

Poser's avatar

Of course there’s always the military.

Thegary's avatar

@TaoSan certainly not. I would never do that. Ive been there and would not want to do that to someone I cared about. It was in jest.
@poser unfortunately, I think the military requires voluntary enlistment. He would never go for it as they test for marijuana.

TaoSan's avatar

@Thegary

phew…..

actually I was wondering, if he doesn’t have a job, how does he finance his jollies? Mom?

Poser's avatar

@Thegary.—True That was something that I had to get used to when I joined ten years ago too. But you also get to blow shit up. That’s a selling point if I’ve ever heard one.

Thegary's avatar

@TaoSan he hustles his friends (pays $10/gram tells them it is $20) His mother gives him money to help finance it (for ‘chores’ that she makes up for a reason to give him money) I told her this was unacceptable especially in our current financial situation. If he needs money it needs to come from outside the house. I caught him going through her purse one night. This is the only time I threatened him with violence. I cannot tolerate a thief.

Nimis's avatar

Even if you ultimately have good intentions, your approach is flawed.
Using phrases like the following, only puts you at odds with your wife.
• get rid of
• a mooch
• a momma’s boy

Even if you don’t use this kind of language in front of them,
The underlying sentiment may still be there.

You’re not going to get anything done without the support of your wife.
And the only way to get that support is to make her realize that
her child’s well-being is your priority first and foremost.

Otherwise, you just have a lioness protecting enabling her cub.

This is from first hand experience. My older brother lives with my parents.
He steals from them to support his drug habit. I don’t think I’ve seen him
wash a single dish in the last fifteen years.

Despite all of the emotional and financial hardships he has thrust upon them,
my parents will defend him if they think my sister and I are attacking him.
It goes no where.

You need to get her to understand that, in the long run,
her actions are actually hurting her own child.

Good luck.

TaoSan's avatar

@Thegary

Agreed. Entirely unacceptable. If his friends come to your house I’d blind-side him. Barge in, say something like you know “he’s only giving you half”.

Sounds like in your case a good idea would be sabotaging the “supply-lines” as much as possible.

Kevbo had some really good things to say earlier in this thread. Whatever you do, you have to make your wife your ally. Considering their past, it might be all to easy to fall into the “protecting the child” pattern again.

Sorry to hear about your troubles, I wish I had better advice :/

Callan's avatar

Tell him he has to leave and don’t let him come back.

kimmycanoon's avatar

You will never win this fight. I am a mother with 3 kids and while I think it’s wrong for him to do drugs and I think she should get him help. A mother should never throw her child out and NEVER EVER say don’t come back. I am curious @thegary, you haven’t mentioned you having kids, can I assume you don’t have any? If you do not have any, this might be one reason you do not understand a mother’s love. My friend’s a son got into drugs and she one day said I give up on you. They are both now dead, he from drugs, she from a suicide after her heart was broken. I am sorry that you find yourself in this situation, but maybe it’s time to just bail. 19 is not that old. He still has a lot of maturing to do. If she wa a single mother for a while maybe she feels she is all he has in life (you have not mentioned his father). But if you are waiting for her to chose you over her son, sadly I feel, she is going to pick her child. I am still married to the father of all of my children and he knows, I will pick my kids over him every time. I was taught children come first no matter what. Good luck!!

Poser's avatar

@kimmycanoon I have to-respectfully-disagree. Nineteen is old enough to begin making one’s own decisions. There is a time for a mother to push a baby bird out of the nest in order for him to learn to fly. Coddling him beyond that time won’t help him. Quite the opposite.

Time to cut those apron strings, moms.

abbachuck's avatar

I have a near 22 year old step son who is a complete idiot. He has walked out on 6 jobs in less than two years. I have arranged for him to have a good job at a lumber yard and He wouldn’t take the drug test because he couldn’t pass. He has a 2 year old son that he has contributed less than 100 dollars for in 2 years despite living under my roof for no charge. He has borrowed (without paying back of course) at least three times that amount from the childs mother who for inexplicable reasons wants him back. I cosigned a small loan so he could purchase a used car and establish credit ($500) then promptly had to make the last four payments. Then when I had enough and raised my voice about the situation I was called every name he could think of and basically informed what a joke I am. I have yet to meet anyone he knows that is not either a drop out, a pot head, or is not on probation or parole. I have kicked him out of my home. His mom is really upset but is saying nothing. I know she wants to leave behind this idiot. I am to the point where if she is not going to support me, she can leave. The childs father very respectively chastised me last Christmas correctly informing me that I was not helping this kid by letting him leach off of me. His DAD is right as Dad’s usually are. This situation will probably not end well but it will end with me knowing that I did the best I could to teach this kid and to save my family. It is just a lousy situation caused by a selfish idiot.

Judi's avatar

@abbachuck; Welcome to fluther. That is such a hard situation. Has the kid ever had any psychological counseling? I have a son who is bipolar and your story is very familiar. Sad thing is, that often the “tough love” approach, hen it comes to little to late, (22 might be to late) often results in prison for kids like this. I hope your situation works out better than that. I feel for your wife. The desire to rescue your son is so tempting. Of course, it only reinforces the bad behavior. Good luck.

Dhakaia_1995's avatar

I have my wife’s son 21 years old, doesn’t work as no job is good enough for him. He sits at home enjoying the Internet. He doesn’t do anything to help and can be disrespectful if pushed. He has got loving mother, my wife else he would be history. But now I am clueless how I can get rid of this monster in making from my lifel

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