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Live-in son's underage drinking. What to do?


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So, long story short, our 18 year old son is still living at home while attending college. We want to be able to provide room and board for him so he doesn't have to go get a job and concentrate on his studies, and are happy to do so. Problem is, he has taken up going out on benders on the weekends with his friends, like STARTING at midnight and coming home 4-5 in the morning, reeking of alcohol on his breath, and it's very difficult going to sleep knowing what's going on. This is no secret. Everybody knows how it is. He doesn't drive, but I'm pretty sure none of his (also underage) friends are acting as a designated driver and are probably just as wasted as he is.

 

Now, I know, kids will be kids. I did not drink underage, ever (I actually did not drink at all until I was 28, and even now only drink on special occasions). So I guess you could say I'm a bit biased against drinking. But I don't expect him to be just like me, or be perfect.

 

However, I find this behavior quite concerning. I don't think he's gonna become an alcoholic or anything (he doesn't have the money to drink during the week, his friends provide it on the weekends, and we don't keep alcohol in the house), but I don't think what he's doing is safe either, not to mention legal.

 

So, I'm in a quandry. I don't want to do anything that is going to make him feel smothered to the point of moving out, which I am 99% CERTAIN will cause him to drop out of school. I know him well enough that he isn't going to be able to handle it working and going to school full time (we are not paying for his college, we are only paying the interest on his unsubsidized loans until he graduates). In fact, he failed his FIRST math class (barely) in his FIRST semester. His study habits frankly suck, and that is not sustainable.

 

But I DO want him to stop this behavior. I'm worried he could binge drink himself to death, get in trouble with the law while his friend gets in a DUI, or worse, an accident. I feel like I'm walking a fine line. Any advice?

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He is getting free room and board, doesn't have to work, and get to break the law and conduct a unhealthy life style.

 

Bluntly put, you are enabling him. I had a job in college. A part time job and full time class schedule were expected of me. I didn't have time to get into trouble (not very much anyway).

 

You have to set boundaries or this will only get worse.

 

EDIT: You are not setting the bar high enough for him. I suspect you may have done this his whole life. Now the real world is hitting all of you. Why can't he work on the weekend (two 8 hour shifts leave plenty of time for school work and a night out with friend) and go to school during the week?

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Illegal and dangerous... Take away his privileges and "rights" and do not worry about him feeling "smothered". Freedom comes with responsibility, and he's not being responsible so should loose those freedom that you can control. He has to work to get those freedoms/privileges back. He knows he can push boundaries, and that's not helping him. The MOST important education you can offer him is how to be responsible for himself throughout life. It's on him (not you) if he quits school, but you might be surprised, he might not.

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You are not setting the bar high enough for him. I suspect you may have done this his whole life.
Absolutely true, I cannot deny that. Part of the reason for this his he's on the high-functioning autism spectrum, and has been in therapy since he was 5 for depression. So I've cut him quite a bit of slack.

 

It's not so much that I expect him to work. He's not putting us out so much financially that this part is bothersome at all. It's mainly that, if I'm going to do this for him, I want him to be a damn good student at least. But yeah, I can see how demanding he work on weekends would probably wear him out enough that he curb his behavior himself, maybe. Something to think about, thanks!

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Absolutely true, I cannot deny that. Part of the reason for this his he's on the high-functioning autism spectrum, and has been in therapy since he was 5 for depression. So I've cut him quite a bit of slack.

 

It's not so much that I expect him to work. He's not putting us out so much financially that this part is bothersome at all. It's mainly that, if I'm going to do this for him, I want him to be a damn good student at least. But yeah, I can see how demanding he work on weekends would probably wear him out enough that he curb his behavior himself, maybe. Something to think about, thanks!

 

Your doing this for yourself, not for him. The BEST thing for him would be to set the bar higher, have him work a few house a week, and set reasonable consequences for bad/unhealthy/illegal behavior. But you have anxiety about him, you don't think he is competent. So, instead of pushing your emotional needs aside, you make them the most important thing, at his expense.

 

And YES! Demand he work on weekends. Also, doors lock at 1:00am. If he not in by then or has called to say he is running 10 mins late he can stay somewhere else.

 

EDIT: Re-reading this I realize it sounds very negative! I just mean that you should really think about why your not setting the bar higher for him why you accept less from him than he is capable of. In this case, your anxiety about him is getting in the way of him becoming a fully functioning adult.

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It's time to stop cutting him slack. He's not 13.

 

The issue isn't what his not working isn't doing to your finances. The issue is he's old enough to start being accountable and responsible for his behavior. Do you honestly think the cops are going to care that he is on the high-functioning autism spectrum when he's in a car that's been pulled over for DWI/DUI? Will that matter if he's in a car accident due to drinking?

 

You not laying down some law with him because of some issue he has is misguided parenting. If he drops out, then that's going to impact him and his future--and he will still need to learn his lesson that all actions have consequences. It is against the law for people under the age of 21 to drink in most areas of this country. He is a grown man in the eyes of the law, now. He will not go to juvenile detention if he's in a car that gets pulled over--he'll be going to jail. To post bond and get bailed out. To go to court to have the misdemeanor adjudicated and for it to be on his record. That is where he is headed if you don't start applying some stern consequences to his actions. And that means, if he's grown enough to act like this despite what you've asked of him, then he's grown enough to support himself and live as he chooses, and if that means he drops out of college, then those are the consequences he must face.

 

Telling him that if he insists upon drinking with his buddies, then it means he's going to start working on the weekends and start paying room and board or else find someplace else to live may be the wake up call he needs to open up a can of "act right". He has absolutely no incentive to make any changes if you're willing to just wring your hands and complain about his actions. Sometimes as parents, we have to throw down the gauntlet with our children when they decide that they're going to act any way they wish in our home. When they get that grown, it's time for them to move out and be the adult they think they are. They very soon discover they aren't as grown as they think they are.

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I remember when I was a teenager I was talking with my Dad and this is the conversation we had:

 

"Dad, your lucky now of us (four kids in the family) have gotten into any real trouble."

 

"Yup, I have some good children."

 

"If any of us got arrested though you would bail us out right?"

 

"Nope."

 

"What?"

 

Shrug "You get arrested that on you."

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Stop the "kids will be kids." You have to set the rules. You have two choices. Let him get killed or get arrested and let him suffer his own consequences. Do NOT bail him out. Let him figure it out himself. Or you set rules. if he wants to live with you, then he must be in by one am out of respect and no questions asked

 

People who are high functioning autistic need rules too. If he had depression, he could be self medicating with alcohol even though that makes you feel worse. He needs some guidance here which may mean some continued counseling and also firm structure. People with milder autism need structure and clearly he has not learned to create that on his own. (I fall into that category and when I do have structure and a schedule, I operate a LOT better in life). Could it be also that you babied him a little bit because he has some "issues?"

 

It is not too much to ask that he get a part time job, that he has certain chores around the house. He will learn quickly if he has to pay for certain luxuries. Not "we won't pay for your phone anymore," but "on January 30th, we are switching your phone into your name. At that time, you will have to figure out how to pay for it on your own. ", etc.

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Now, I know, kids will be kids.

 

False. There are plenty of "kids" who do the right thing.

 

I don't think he's gonna become an alcoholic or anything

 

Don't be so sure.

 

 

Follow the advice of others and begin to put your foot down, set rules and stick to them. If I came home at 18 years old, clearly drunk, my mom would have slapped me silly and taken away any and all privileges. Aside from being illegal, there were certain rules we had to follow in order to live in her house. And I knew she meant business.. I have an addict brother who she had no qualms about throwing out onto the street at 18-19 years old. It was probably the hardest thing she had to do, but she was not going to sit around and enable his behavior.

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I think you are being incredibly naive at best, guilty of criminal behavior yourself at worst. If your son hurts or kills someone during his illegal drinking he can still be held legally responsible for it. And you can too just like this parent: link removed

 

It won't matter that it didn't happen on your property. You know he's doing it and you still let it happen. Sorry, time to bundle junior off to a rehab clinic or ground him entirely until he's 21. Something, anything but an "I know it's happening but don't want to rock the boat" attitude. Personally as a mom each of my sons have been given the talk and shown the news stories about minors held legally responsible for killing people while they were intoxicated. And how it will F up their lives and mine permanently.

 

I do not mess around with illegal activities that can get others killed. And neither should you. I've lost friends and a family member to alcohol-related crimes, it's not something you should just shrug off with an oh well attitude. Go attend a few Moms Against Drunk Driving meetings and you might well come away with a whole other attitude about this. I don't mean to be harsh, but I have seen firsthand the consequences and the time to act to make sure people aren't killed or hurt by your son, or him being in the vehicle driven by a drunk friend, is yesterday.

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So much good sense here. Think of the following situation:

 

Your son drive while drunk and kill or seriously injures someone. I just read a news story about a 17 year old drunk driving, he hit a car with a family. The parents were fine but their child a three year old lost his ability to walk and in now developmentally disable.

 

How would you respond to a family like this? "Sorry, I didn't do anything because I didn't want to upset my son."

 

Maybe he is the one to get seriously hurt. Lost his ability to walk all because you were to scared to step in and put your foot down?

 

Here is what I would do:

 

Tell him starting Feb. 1st he will take over:

1) Paying for his cell phone

2) Take over 2-3 chores around the house. If he does not complete them or does not want to do them charge him $100 in rent each month.

3) He must attain at LEAST an over all GPA of 2.5 if he want to continue living at your home.

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I'm worried he could binge drink himself to death, get in trouble with the law while his friend gets in a DUI, or worse, an accident.

Yes, never mind the fact they could also kill an innocent person by choosing to drink and drive. And that stays with you for life as it should.

 

Here's a whole thread I posted a little over a year about losing a friend to a drunk driver. I suggest you read it from the perspective of the victims friend:

 

A month ago another person in my community was also killed by a drunk driver.

 

You should not allow your son to be hanging out with these kind of people. And since he has autism, you should know better as a parent that he cannot fully understand social situations, especially when underage drinking is involved. I say this as a person who works with kids who have autism btw.

 

So it is up to you to lay out your expeditions if he is to live under your roof rent free: He studies and does go out frequent partying or he ends up in jail/has a permanent DUI that will affect him from future employment/winds up dead.

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You really need to set up a curfew or something. This behaviour is illegal, dangerous, and unacceptable. Just because he's 18 doesn't mean you can't enforce some rules. He's living on your dime. Tell him if he wants to stay at home, then he needs to abide by some rules.

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"Kids will be kids"...

 

Please don't think like this. Kids don't all behave badly. Just a select few...and sometimes bad things happen them as a result.

 

I think everyone here has provided a pretty strong message and I concur. It's not that long ago that I was 21...I respected my parents...I would never had disrespected them like your son is to you. He is nearly an adult, he obviously does not appreciate the stress this is causing for you, not to mention the potential negative outcomes this could have on himself and others.

 

It's time to SERIOUSLY talk to him about this and I would recommend involving professional help since it seems you may not have the kind of relationship where your son respects your authority...

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Thanks for the replies. I needed somebody to chew me out I think. His graduating/not graduating is not as important as this other stuff. You're right.

 

Sometimes, we are just to close to a person/situation to see it clearly. That's why we have ENA!

 

I just remembered, there was a news story about a teenager in Texas who killed some people drunk driving. His defense was he suffered from "Affluenza". He did not win.

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just remembered, there was a news story about a teenager in Texas who killed some people drunk driving. His defense was he suffered from "Affluenza". He did not win.

Yeah. My kid doesn't drive, own a car, or even have a driver's license. It's his idiot friends I'm worried about in that department.

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Yeah. My kid doesn't drive, own a car, or even have a driver's license. It's his idiot friends I'm worried about in that department.

 

Yup, you kid doesn't even have to be driving to face negative consequence from this. Sit down with his father and work out what boundaries and expectations you are going to set with him.

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He absolutely can and might become an alcoholic because of this kind of behavior. It is starting RIGHT now, and you are enabling it by not doing anything. I say this from personal experience - my sister became an alcholic in University and my brother is also an alcoholic.

 

For my sister, it was because of improperly diagnosed social anxiety disorder coupled with the pressure she was feeling in University. She eventually managed to sort her life out and is now married with two kids.

 

My brother on the other hand, is still drinking his life away and not taking care of his two children. He is 27 years old. He does not have a high school degree because he got his wife pregnant at 18 years old. In an attempt to "help" the two of them raise their son, my parents allowed him and his wife to live in the house. They did not ask him to pay rent, but the deal was that he would finish school and move out.

 

He never did. Instead, they had another child, racked up a load of debt and he started drinking. At first it was only on the weekends. Then, slowly it became almost every night. They have had child services called on them several times now. His wife is 30 years old and cannot hold a job because she is too busy taking care of him after he goes on his benders every night. Oh and did I mention they are on welfare?

 

My Mom is afraid to kick them out because of their two kids, but in reality, she is only ensuring that he never feels the need to do ANYTHING but sit in that basement and drink.

 

You are well within your parental rights to say to your son that while he lives under your roof, he abides by your rules and if that includes not allowing him to drink underage, then that is reasonable.

 

If you suspect he might be getting in the car with others that have been drinking that is all the more reason to put your foot down. I am sure you would be devestated if anything happened to him. At 18, kids think they are immortal. A couple friend of mine lost their 17 year old son 4 years ago because he tried to answer his cell phone while driving.

 

What he is doing is not about whether he finishes school, or feels smothered - it is about allowing him to continue to engage in an activitiy that could potentially cost him (or someone else) their life.

 

Be a parent and set limits. If he chooses not to abide by them, then tell him he has to leave. It sounds harsh, but it will be far more beneficial than simply allowing him to self destruct and do nothing.

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1) Start being his mother and stop trying to be his friend. If my Mom knew I was doing this I would've been kicked into last Sunday.

2) He's living in YOUR home, it's YOUR rules, don't let him play the "I'm 18 I can do what I want" if he thinks that way then he can go live on his own and pay his own bills. You're giving him a free ride in life and enabling this behavior.

3) Start setting rules and if he chooses not to follow them then it's time for him to get his own place. He needs to start acting like an adult and this behavior (minus that its ILLEGAL) is very immature and childish. It needs to stop yesterday.

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Thanks for the replies. I needed somebody to chew me out I think. His graduating/not graduating is not as important as this other stuff. You're right.

 

Good. Hang in there. It's not an easy job, being a parent of a young adult. Let him know you love him and are on his side in the long run, and boundaries and responsibilities are part of that. Yes, my kids thought I was a "mean mother" and I was happy for them to use that as an excuse with their friends for not going along with risky or dangerous behavior. Anyway, your son should not get in the car with a driver who has been drinking. He can take their keys, and call you for a ride.

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FYI: I'm his dad, not mom. That doesn't really matter tho.

 

Update: He tried to pull this again saying he was gonna leave at 11pm-ish. I said no, and he walked away in a huff.

 

He later tried to go behind my back with "cool mom" and sweet talk her into it but she said what I said goes. He told her I'm "dead to him."

 

I haven't talked to him since but I was seething at first. It put me in a bad mood for more than a day.

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Just because he doesn't drive or have access to a car doesn't mean that he couldn't drive someone else's car while intoxicated.

 

You are his parent first, friend last. He needs structure, rules and discipline. If he can't follow the rules then he suffers the consequences plain and simple. I'll tell you right now, if he's out drinking and breaking curfew then graduating high school isn't exactly on his list of things to do. He has the whole "I don't give a crap attitude about anything and I will do what I want" attitude. When he sees that there is no cell phone to call his friends and no laptop to email or IM his friends, he'll get the hint and if he doesn't then put him out. At 18 he should be working anyway, even if he is only pumping gas somewhere or flipping burgers. He has to start preparing for life and he can't do that if he's out binge drinking.

 

Also don't think for a minute that he won't become an alcoholic. My boyfriend started drinking at 14, he is very much an alcoholic.

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People with Asperger's often cast one parent as the oppressor an maybe he has chosen you as that parent. Don't take the "dead to me" comment personal. Just learn to shrug it off or say "okay, if that is so and I don't exist I guess that means that i am not around to let you use the car." Find a structured way for him to learn an earn also.

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