Ask Dr. Tim: My 50-year-old son is a mess…

Ask Dr. Tim: My 50-year-old son is a mess…


My 50-year-old son is a mess. He has been into drugs, alcohol, prison, and rehab three times. A few months ago he left his wife and went to the streets again. He keeps calling us for money…of course for drugs. When we decline, in order to press his point he constantly yells and swears at us and threatens to either kill us or to commit suicide. The last time he and I had a positive relationship was probably when he was about 12. His younger siblings have certainly had their fair share of problems growing up, but nothing in comparison to this their older brother. The others are all doing well. In fact, neither his sister nor brothers have ever shown hatred and disrespect towards my husband and me. We have spent thousands of hours and dollars in trying to help him. I continue to feel deep guilt over being such a failure. The thoughts of having him show up for Christmas fills me with anxiety and dread. Any ideas?

Deep Guilt



Dear Deep Guild:

As you state, you have spend hours and money to help your son. It is also important to note that your other children are doing well. While you have certainly made your fair share of mistakes, you appear to be a good parent…otherwise the other kids would be a “mess” also. It is apparent you are taking most of the responsibility of your son’s failure upon yourself. At what point does he take responsibility and accountability? You describe a pretty toxic relationship. Might you try teaching by example? If he were in a toxic relationship with a friend, would you suggest he continue in it? Likely not. So why model the same with him? Perhaps what he most needs is to experience your own boundary setting and willingness to hold him accountable for his behavior. This could be done by not exposing yourself to his toxicity. “Son, if you can be respectful and show positive behavior you are welcome to join us for Christmas, if not you need to stay away.” If he modifies his behavior and attitude then freely be open and welcoming…unless your trust level is so low that he simply must stay away at this time.

Dr. Tim

Leave a Reply

No comments yet. Be the first to leave a comment.