Monday, March 19, 2012

Talking myself down

After more than a decade of foster care and time in therapy and (most of all) work in Alanon, I know this to be true:

As long as I am trying to figure out how to make Gary do what I think is best for Gary to do, I will succeed only in making myself crazy.

So, what I need to do are establish the boundaries I feel are necessary to protect myself and the rest of the family and the action plan I will take if those boundaries are not respected. Action plans are not threats coerce behavior, they are actions I am genuinely willing to take to protect the rest of us. This, of course, include protecting us from being treated unfairly.

The only real action I can take is evicting him. Evicting is both difficult and easy. On the easy side, he doesn't own very many things and the foster agency would store them in his basement. So evicting him would be as easy as boxing up his things. We might consider changing the locks, but I don't think that would be necessary.

That is extreme action and one I would be willing to take only under extreme situations. That means that I need to accept that I am in fact willing to continue to support him in a very basic way even if he doesn't behave in the ways that I want him to, as long as he behavior stays basically civil. In other words,the boundaries are in fact things like not stealing from family members. There is a point at which I would say enough, but for the sake of everyone's sanity, I am going to avoid going down that path where I only become willing to do evict after a long period of anger and attempted manipulation. Right now I don't have any particular deadline, but eventually I will. I will commit to not fighting with him, but at some point in the future I may give him notice. Start paying rent (or whatever) or you will be evicted.

I know that I am more anxious now because I really hoped and expected that Gary would move out (as he wanted to) before Andrew and my mother moved in. Once Gary does not have a private bedroom he will have no place to isolate himself. That means that we will all have to deal with him, and he with us. I spin possible scenarios in my head. Recently he has been spending most of the weekends with his friends and is only home on the days when he has the house to himself for much of the day. When people are here every day and he has no private room, will he start doing that all the time? Maybe. Though I think that "hanging out" and probably drinking is bad for him, storing his belongings while he essentially lives with friends is not bad for me.

I want help him succeed. I cannot however direct that path.


I have written up a "rental agreement." It specifies what behavior Gary must agree to in order to continue to get free room and board. The agreement includes doing 5 hours a week of chores and not creating more work for others by doing things like leaving messes in the kitchen and dirty dishes in the basement. This agreement has no "teeth." There are no consequences I am willing to impose upon him for immediate failure to comply. Part of the agreement includes that we are not available for small loans or to pay for personal expenses, so I cannot threaten to withhold those if he doesn't comply. So all I will really be doing is documenting non-compliance in case I need to make it clear to him why he is being evicted.

In the meantime, I commit to trying not to create new anxieties for myself. I will not worry about how stressful it will be for me or others to live with Gary when he no longer has a private room. He avoids stress and it is just as likely that he will end up rarely being home as being here fighting with people.

How long am I willing to do this? I don't know. However long it is though I will remind myself that I decided to let him stay. I am providing him with a safety net, housing and food, for the indefinite future. This is a choice I am making, and in making it freely, I am not going to be resentful of him for accepting it.

I do have the power and authority to evict him if I ever feel that I need to. In the meantime, I will try to avoid that insane choice in which I don't take action but instead put emotional energy into trying to "help" (i.e. manipulate him into doing what I think is best for him).


  1. This is hard stuff. I have my two 20-something children living with me, and short of throwing them out (which they and I both know I am not willing to do)there is no real way to enforce any requirements. Luckily for me, they are responsible in the ways that matter most, but the little things get to me: I am ready to live only with other adults, but their paradigm hasn't shifted yet...

    1. I am beginning to suspect that it only shifts after they have lived independently.

  2. That sounds really tough. I really hope Gary can get his act together. Does he have any plans for the future?

  3. Yes, lots and lots of plans, none of which seem to have much to do with reality.

    --sorry. I'm feeling very snarky. I'm grading student papers which I unwisely made due at the end of midterm week when all the students care about it packing up and leaving. I want to hit something.


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