How do I get out of this?
February 5, 2012 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Escaping a bad life?

I am reaching the end of my rope here. My parents have become increasingly psychotic and desperate over the years. Not violent, but always with a fair risk of it. Gambling and drugs are involved, but I don't have these problems myself. I want to get out, but I see no options for escape or at least one with a future.

Some indepth background. I'm male. My family has always had relative poverty. I dropped out of middle school after experiencing severe depression. Technically, that wasn't legal. But I guess after I became 18 the statute of limitations had passed for any chance for child protections. For quite a while, I had no faith in myself at being able to accomplish anything. Most of my time was spent gaming.. eventually competitively. But, I made no real social connections at all. The social aspect kept me going at it, but in the end for all the gamers I grouped up with, Noone knew a thing about me or my life. I haven't even had an online chat of more than a few words long.

I gave up my attempts at competitive gaming at about the age of 20. I made roughly 300$ on a briefly lived service. The service then died after I put that money into a new computer, and I abandoned the idea of making money off competitive gaming. Aside from the poor return, I gave up on the idea because it was not my real dream in life. Among other things, I've wanted to make games, at least independently. Aside from games, I've wanted to learn more about the world and further science. I dabbled a bit in programming here and there since I was a child, but lacked the confidence to make anything. And I've lacked the confidence to work in a team and gain some sort of experience.

After the age of 20, I had a fairly ambitious idea for a game.. Which, well.. Ideas come cheap, especially ambitious ones.. And I've had my share. But in some ways, the nature of this one seemed to have much better core concepts than others I drew up. For me, it was a single spark of hope in life. I set to planning many of the things I thought would be problems. I learned a fair bit of programming. I set to making it and.. Kept losing motivation at points. There are various reasons.. The biggest, I think.. is that my parents at times literally felt like a threat to my own life. I'd freeze up and find some media to escape into. Eventually things calmed down, but these things are cyclical.

Would that I want to make money off my game project.. it would take a few years to complete. I've discounted it as a source of sustainable income in the interm. Finally, at 26.. I've had no job experience. No education.. aside from the internet. And little contact with the outside world.. even virtually.

It's a cold winter month here in Wisconsin. Reading about the economy is no cure for hopelessness. I barely have clothes to walk outside in. One decent pair of pants. Boxers are all ripped. My eyes have started to go bloodshot and I could be developing health problems. On the flipside, I'm at a healthy weight.

Welp. More yelling. More insanity. More silence.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
1. Find a free counseling clinic if you can
2. Find a job that provides uniforms and meals (even a fast food place would be a step up from nothing).
3. Enroll in whatever adult education class you can to work towards a GED.
4. Move out as soon as you can afford it. I suspect even some sort of shelter might be a step up and provide some services for you.

Best of luck, acknowledging the need for change is the first step.
posted by HuronBob at 11:22 AM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Military an option for you? Not immediately, but in a few months or so?
posted by oceanjesse at 11:25 AM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

From the tone of your question I can hear optimism and hope. There is hope and you can create something better for yourself. The best is yet to come.

My advice:

1. First step above all else: work toward getting your GED. Go to your local community college on Monday, sign up for adult GED program.

2. If you enroll in GED class you will meet people. Be open. Be receptive as possible. The thing with growing up in dysfunction is that we are closed off people. We isolate and we don't think we're good enough to make friends. Once a relationship becomes too close we tend to get scared and run, or do things to weaken or jeopardize the relationship. If I can give you any advice at age 39 -- work hard at maintaining relationships. Cherish life, enjoy life, and have the courage to not run away. You deserve a fulfilling life. You deserve a GED.

3. Actively look for any job you can get. You will meet people at your new job.

4.. Once you have GED, enroll in community college courses. I would talk with a career counselor at the college. Think about hire-ability seriously.

5. Take good care. Get enough sleep, eat more fruit and veggies, and get outside -- book stores, malls, etc. Hang out with positive people you meet.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 11:28 AM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am so terribly sorry that your parents didn't provide you with the basics of life, and indeed threatened your health and safety. Seriously, that sucks beyond words.

So. How to get yourself together? Is joining the military out of the question? A lot of people have found that a useful first step in escaping poverty. I understand it isn't for everyone, for lots of reasons including pacifism and hatred of regimentation and just plain not liking to get shot at. (The Coast Guard might be an option where you're less likely to get shot at.)

Can you connect with a work-for-food-and-lodging opportunity for a bit? connects volunteer workers with small organic farms, and there are several host farms in your state.

As for food and clothing, maybe some of the local churches offer clothing and food banks?

Since you have internet access and time, how about making some cash with things like Mechanical Turk? Yes, the pay is horrible for most tasks, but if you can qualify for more advanced tasks it can be comparable to a fast-food job or even a bit better.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:36 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another thing to think about once you have your GED is getting training as a home health care assistant. Most home health care services are desperate for male assistants, as many male patients prefer them. The pay is generally above minimum wage, though not tremendously so. Some positions include lodging and food in addition to wages, too.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:38 AM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

My first thought was free counseling and health care that's available in many states. Maybe check out this link:

I agree that your motivation behind asking this questions shows a great degree of strength and hope. I have hope for you. Stay strong.
posted by tacoma1 at 11:39 AM on February 5, 2012

Besides your local community college, there may be programs in your town/city/county for low or no cost to help train you get your GED.

Here's a link to the Wisconsin GED department, and you can find GED testing centers near you at this link.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:12 PM on February 5, 2012

So sorry about your situation, but good for you for trying to make things better. I'm not sure if this will help but my nephew (who is now well into his 30s) is pretty good with computers, but suffers from depression and severe dyslexia. He ended up dropping out of high school. He lived in a major Northeast corridor city and worked as a bike messenger for years. Currently he is working at Best Buy (and has been for the last year or so) and hopes to make his way from sales to tech support. So maybe you can look into something like that to tide you over until you have your GED? Good luck.
posted by kaybdc at 12:13 PM on February 5, 2012

GED, absolutely. Call your high school, see if they can refer you to a GED or HS diploma program. They failed you, which really sucks. Your state probably has a Dept. of Vocational Rehabilitation. Depression can be disabling; maybe they can help you get the GED and job training, amybe even some skills at dealing with depression.

You can't escape your life, appealing as that may be. You can change it, but it takes time and effort. You deserve respect for trying to change, come back with more questions as you go. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 12:21 PM on February 5, 2012

If you decide to go the military route I know that you can literally go to basic training with the clothes on your back. On your first day they issue you clothes and on the third day they give you a $200-400 advance on your paycheck and a list of things to buy and drive you to the base store to purchase it.

The plus sides of joining the military are that you get 3 squares a day, a steady paycheck (1st and 15th), clothes/shoes issued to you, and assigned housing. After you get out you can use the GI Bill to go to college and if you stay in 10 years you get benefits for life (insurance etc.) And if you stay in for a full 20 you get retirement pay and insurance for life, which is a major plus.

Some down sides include (depending on how you look at it) a very regimented lifestyle, trying to get off base housing (this moreso applies to families than single people), and deployment. However, since we're going from a combat mission to a support mission in Afghanistan, chances of you ever seeing combat are very small.

This advice is Army specific as that's what I know (my husband is in the Army), if you have any questions feel free to memail me. Sorry if any of this came out disjointed, I'm posting from my phone on a road trip. I'm sorry you've been dealt such a crappy hand, I hope things get better for you.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 12:38 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Air Force ("only civilian branch of the military" [not my term]) or the Coast Guard would be good moves after the GED is taken care of.
posted by jgirl at 12:48 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get your GED and get a job and go to a community college part time. Get a roommate and don't tell your parents where you live.
posted by anniecat at 12:51 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry about your situation, I did not drop out, but my parents were pretty mentally if not physically absent from my life. Before my sister had her GED, she was still able to find a few jobs here and there doing stocking and even training for assisted living. If you're into school and think you'd do well there, go for it. I just hate pushing school on people because it isn't as easy as "just go and do it, and then go and do this."

Same with the military; I've seen too many friends (including two kids on my Facebook feed right now) that have lost a couple of their comrades to combat or suicide (one girl has lost three friends in the past year), and they've regretted signing themselves up instead of going for another alternative. Obviously I am only speaking from what I've seen, and I can only tell you what I've heard is that if you don't have the mindset for it, even just training and being in that setting can mess you up.

If games are truly your passion, don't get your hopes up. There are a lot of resources out there if you really want to get into game development, and there's no better time than now to teach yourself Objective-C (more resources) and start putting out some iOS games. Even Stanford University has free courses on iTunes U. There are forums and websites where designers and other developers can find each other and figure out if their ideas mesh. Obviously there's the additional cost of the hardware and the $99/year iOS dev enrollment fee, which may make or break the feasibility for you while you're unemployed, but would give you something to tinker with during your time off to keep your head out of the drama. (I only suggest iOS development over Android because I've heard a lot of people banging their head over the latter, and while both have their fair share of success stories, iOS devs generally have a better ROI).

Your anti-socialness will do just fine in development settings, and actually act in your favor as you'll get more done. You'll also be happy to know that any good studio won't judge you based on your former education, so while you might want to get a GED for yourself, any good studio would rather have talent. Again, there are lot of high school drop-outs in this industry.

And as one more bonus aside, the economy is on its way back up again. Jobs are up, and we're expected to see fiscal boosts around May. Best of luck, you'll get through it.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:59 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry, but the military will not take someone with neither a GED or a HS diploma, and I think even with a GED it's problematic.

I think HuronBob has the answer: check into free counseling, perhaps move out to a shelter, find a job with uniforms and meals and work on getting your GED. Good luck!
posted by easily confused at 1:05 PM on February 5, 2012

If you're a member of a church, synagogue, mosque, or other faith community, consider talking to a pastor/priest/rabbi/imam/etc. about your situation (unless you don't trust them to keep your conversation confidential--which could be a problem if your parents are in the same community). It's part of their job and they might have some good advice. You might also consider volunteering to help those who are even less fortunate than you. If you have the time to offer an hour or two each week or month to a survival center, homeless shelter, soup kitchen, Meals on Wheels, or whatever in your town, you'll not only make a difference to those whom you help but also meet people outside your current social circle, in a setting where what brings you together is not your own needs but those of others. That can be a pretty big pick-me-up.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:05 PM on February 5, 2012

While we're throwing out suggestions, can you describe your situation in more concrete detail?
  • What is your housing situation? Can you rely on your parents to provide a roof over your head?
  • Do you get regular meals?
  • What are your transportation options? Do you drive? Does your area have a robust public transportation network?
  • Are you housebound or otherwise isolated?
I mean, these things make the difference between "enroll in GED classes" and "find the nearest shelter and apply for emergency social services."
posted by Nomyte at 1:19 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry to see all that. Please, get a job first. Any job. Fast food or pizza shop is fine. You will feel the achievement of doing something and getting paid for it - paid for YOU. You have value.

There's more to do than that, but that first job you can get tomorrow. Maybe even today, possibly even right now. On this day I imagine many restaurants and pizza places would welcome a cash paid helper right this minute, and do paperwork about it later.
posted by caclwmr4 at 1:21 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

However, since we're going from a combat mission to a support mission in Afghanistan, chances of you ever seeing combat are very small

I just wanted to comment that please please PLEASE do not join the military assuming this is the case. We are currently engaged in multiple armed conflicts around the globe and agitating against Iran. Even in the days of saner US foreign policy things like the first Gulf war cropped up.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:42 PM on February 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yes, don't join any of the armed services if you're not willing to accept the risks of being shot at. In any case, as easily confused points out, that's not going to be an option until you have your GED. But it doesn't sound like that's the right answer for you in any case.

Unfortunately, you're too old for Job Corps (though I have heard mixed things about that program anyway).

Another website with a roundup of places offering jobs on farms is
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:02 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another thing to think about for the summer is looking for a support job at a summer camp or resort. Camp counselors generally have to have some college or be college graduates, but every summer camp needs laborers, dishwashers, etc., and your (I presume) willingness to relocate and live on site makes you a very competitive candidate for those gigs despite your lack of experience.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:07 PM on February 5, 2012

Another job site to check: CoolWorks
posted by magstheaxe at 2:49 PM on February 5, 2012

1.) Go to your local Medicaid/food stamp office. I'll bet you qualify for some assistance. Go to counseling if you're approved for medicaid, buy some good food if you get food stamps. Ask if there are any programs at your local Salvation Army, Goodwill, church charity shop etc. where you can exchange work for some decent clothes and shoes.

2.) Contact your local community college and begin studying for your GED.

3.) While studying for your GED, talk to your fellow students. Ask where they work, and if those places are hiring. Find a job, any job.

4.) Save money, apply for Pell grants etc.

5.) Move out and go to community college.
posted by devymetal at 2:56 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry, but the military will not take someone with neither a GED or a HS diploma, and I think even with a GED it's problematic.

From the recent experience of someone I know who wanted to join the military with a GED, they were told that the military only accepts GEDs "sometimes", and now is not one of those times (actually as of about a year ago.)

If the OP were interested in the military it wouldn't hurt to try, but I'd beware of setting your heart on it as a solution to escaping a bad life situation. My friend wound up feeling very dejected when the "enter basic training with the clothes on your back" solution didn't work out.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:10 PM on February 5, 2012

If there are any churches or religious organizations in your area that you feel comfortable with (Unitarian Universalists are notoriously welcoming to all and liberal but there are many different denominations that are fine). I suggest calling one that looks good to you and asking to speak with the pastor/minister about your situation, or the social worker or lay counselor if they have them.

There are usually kind and generous types associated with churches who will be willing to donate clothes, coats, things like that to help at least in the short term.

If someone can give you a ride to church once a week or so, that will really help you socialize a little bit.

I am an atheist--I am not trying to convert you here--but I think that churches can be extremely helpful when a person completely lacks community.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:29 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

You can try contacting the Wisconsin Department of Child and Family Services. You might also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. (800-799-7233)

I understand you're an adult, but as you are still living at home with your parents in an abusive situation, there may be many resources available to you. These resources can include: therapy, housing, financial assistance, educational assistance, job training and/or job placement. The people at the links above, starting with the Domestic Violence Hotline, can point you to those resources. There may even be a safe house in your area where you can stay until you get on your feet.

Living in an environment where you feel your life is at risk is not okay. You do not have to stay where you are. You do not have to stay with abusive family. There are alternatives. Make those calls, and you'll be a step closer to finding out what those alternatives may be in your area.

If you need to reach out to a person just to chat, feel free to MeFiMail me.
posted by brina at 3:37 PM on February 5, 2012

I think you'd benefit from some type of caseworker. In the past, you've started to work towards goals and stopped due to various factors in your living situation, right? I think it would be good if you had someone who could step in and help you sort your options, make plans, and start achieving goals. You shouldn't have to do all of that on your own.

I suggest that tomorrow, you call around to the relevant state agencies. The Department of Health Services would be a good place to start. Programs for mental health would be a good place to start. The Department of Workforce Development would also be a potential source of support. I think you should be explicit about what has happened to you--that you were permitted to leave school as a child and did not receive proper treatment for mental illness. You are truly in need of resources beyond a referral to a GED program.

Alternatively, Brina's suggestion of seeking out domestic violence resources is also good: don't hesitate to call local or national nonprofit organizations that address issues of domestic violence and promote healthy families. You could also get in touch with something like the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wisconsin chapter.

One thing that your situation made me think of was the challenges young people face when they "age out" of foster care. There might be relevant programs geared toward that population that could help you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:49 PM on February 5, 2012

People here have been full of good ideas. I have a smidge to add.

What's the subsidized housing situation like where you live? There are programs that really help out people in shelters here in MA. I'm not sure if this stuff is available in WI.

Do you have any way to save up a few bucks so you can move out and pay your own rent? I was paying $333 for a while to live in a nice but seriously flawed apartment in Boston. I didn't have to look very hard to find it.

There are also rooming houses out here that give you a room for as little as $390 x month all utilities included. You pay weekly and need only $180 to move in. You can find stuff that's even cheaper. It's not the Ritz, but you get your own place, often with cable.

Some shelters really aren't that bad. If you do decide to go down that route, just keep to yourself. Don't make friends with anybody. Not to say anything bad about the shelter population, but many people who have successfully passed through shelters have taken this advice. The threat in the shelters I've been around hasn't been towards one's personal safety, towards one's nerves.
posted by shushufindi at 5:56 PM on February 5, 2012

There is a federal program called the Job Corps, I'm not sure if they take people your age, but it's worth checking out. They're residential programs, you earn your GED and other job skills.

I'm a pacifist so I am not going to recommend the military.

You are obviously very bright and you write well. You shouldn't have any problem studying for and passing the GED. Community college is a good way to start college, but if there is a state college near you consider going there instead. Don't worry about being older than other students because there will be plenty of students much older than you. ( I work at a state college, we have lots of students in their 30s, 40s, 50s, even 60s.)

Is there a Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other such store near you? If so, go ask for a few items of clothing. Or maybe you could post approximate sizes here and mefites with extra clothes could send you a message. Between my grown sons and my various male friends I'm sure I could scrounge up some clothes for you.

Do you have any relatives who can help you? Reach out.

Another way to meet some potentially supportive people would be to go to Al-Anon meetings, they're for family members of people with substance abuse problems.
posted by mareli at 6:10 PM on February 5, 2012

The Job Corps age cutoff is 24. That actually isn't simple to ascertain on the site itself, which is annoying.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:47 PM on February 5, 2012

I know it sounds like we're all ignoring your ideas about creating games and working in that field. I think those are great things to pursue, and I bet everyone else does too! Right now we're focusing on ways you can get out of this situation and into a basic level of adult functionality and having key needs met.

Once you're self-sufficient and not dealing with the conflict of your family of origin, you'll have more energy and creativity to work on your longer-term goals, like finishing the game you've started and designing new games. A good solid day job and a safe place to live will give you the foundation you need to build on.

You will be in my thoughts.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:51 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Definitely get the GED. Then start looking into community colleges.

You may also want to look into the skilled trades or vocational college. Learning how to be an electrician or mechanic or plumber is hard work, but it's good work and frequently in demand. Since a lot of factory machines are computer-driven, having a computer background will actually work very much in your favor. And working with your hands is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. And you'll make enough to get your own place.

As for the game, work on it in your spare time, but realize that it's like the novel I have half-written on my computer--a beautiful, wonderful thing that I'll be proud to put into the world when it's ready but which I have no expectation of making serious money off of. It's great to have a passion, especially when you're not able to integrate it into your day job. But, if you're lucky, your day job may be able to inform your creative projects.

Good luck!
posted by elizeh at 8:35 PM on February 5, 2012

In regard to programming, I think you're making the same mistake I made many years ago. I liked games and I thought the best way to learn programming would be to do something cool and exciting and then I would not get bored or discouraged while learning. In fact, making a good, interesting game of the type I liked to play (RPG, roguelike, RTS) is an immense amount of work and when you're working out the details, it's a matter of meticulous, long, exhausting effort for months at the very least.

If you want to get into programming in your trying circumstances, I would focus on the exactly opposite approach - small, quick tasks that will build up your confidence. Yes, this may be less exciting than making a game but they will teach you the kind of techniques and algorithms that you can later on use for any of the more interesting projects you might want to do.

I'm not sure how much programming you've been able to do so far, but it might be worth it to check out pay-for-programming sites like, specifically for smaller projects that take a couple of days to a week. Rates there are often quite low, but it'll be useful for you in terms of getting the experience, getting some projects under your belt that you can put on your resume, and most importantly, get an idea of what kind of programs are in demand and how much you can make with your skills and knowledge. If you complete a few small projects, even if your bid is not accepted, just for practice, I think it will give you a good deal of confidence and self-assurance and improve your outlook. Keep yourself busy and don't despair!
posted by rainy at 9:40 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Definitely listen to the poster above.
posted by bookman117 at 12:17 AM on February 6, 2012

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