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32 Year Old Son Is Out Of Control

by Debbie Jorge
(Santa Maria, CA)

My 32 year old son is currently living with his grandmother, uncle, and aunt in grandma's house. He works in construction, but he's unemployed and currently on unemployment. He is terrorizing everyone with anger outbursts at all hours.

I am divorced from his father and remarried and he has a 14 year old half brother who he is very jealous of. He has 2 DUI's and is threatening his aunt's boyfriend because they get drunk and he can't drink and it sets him off.

His anger outbursts are escalating to the point where family members are concerned he will hurt someone. He will not admit to any problem but blames his anger on everyone else around him. How do you get help for someone that is in denial?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hi Debbie, and thanks for telling your story here. Your situation with your son is obviously very upsetting, and potentially dangerous to you and your extended family that he lives with. It is good that you are trying to do something to help, and I will see what I can offer.

First of all, you simply cannot help someone who does not want help or even think they need it. So, as far as actually helping your son, that is entirely up to him.

However, the very best thing you and your family can do is to create a healthy environment around him--that is the most likely way to encourage him to get help.

You and your family need to sit down with him (or put it in a letter--whichever works best for you) and get this message across to him.

1) We will not tolerate your continued anger outbursts. This is not good for us, and it is not good for you.

2) The next time you have an outburst, we are calling the police and reporting domestic disturbance (or domestic violence, if he's violent or threatening violence). We (this would be coming from those who live with him) will not allow you to intimidate us in our own home.

3) If you manage your anger and treat us with respect, you can stay in our home. If you continue to have anger outbursts, you have to move out. (Give him a timeline--2 weeks or so).

Also, Debbie, I highly recommend that you let go of your son emotionally. His problems are his own, and he's not your responsibility any more. You may already know that, but just in is very important that you not counsel, console, confide or cajole him in any way. The primary message (that I recommended above) needs to come from the people he's living with, not you. You are no longer an authority in his life. He's an adult, and the authorities for him are public law enforcement officials. I don't know how often you and he talk or see each other, but I suggest you keep it to an absolute minimum, until he begins treating others with respect on a consistent basis.

This is a "tough love" kind of approach, and it is the best I can think of with what you've told me here. As uncomfortable as these approaches may be, they are a lot better than visits to the hospital, jail or the morgue.

You are a smart and good person, Debbie. Get clear with your inner wisdom and strength before taking any action that I or anyone else recommends.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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