Is moving back home the worst thing I could do?
July 29, 2012 10:29 AM   Subscribe

I graduated college a year ago and moved to Baltimore. I’m now considering moving back home to be close to family, save money and travel. Am I possibly making a huge mistake? Special complications inside.

After living in the city for a year, I’m feeling burned out from my boring job, from being far from my family and support network, and from being unable to save any money after bills. I wonder why I’m struggling through my job every day just so I can fund a life that I’m ambivalent about. I still like the city, I enjoy living here, and I’ve got a group of kind and fun friends here. That being said, I am not sure why I am here and not somewhere else. I initially moved to Baltimore because it fit the following criteria: cheap, there are jobs, I have a friend to stay with while I look for a job/apt there. The move did work out well since I am employed at a very respectable (albeit soul sucking) job and have made friends, but Baltimore just doesn't feel right anymore.

I also enjoy living in my hometown and I have stronger ties there. I desperately miss my family and we are a very tight knit group. For example, my sister and her husband live down the street from my parents. My sister and my mom are my best friends and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have such supportive and interesting people as relatives. My mom and sister are ELATED at the prospect of me moving back home. Being away from them has been so hard. I was depressed for months about it and felt like I was abandoning them (maybe I was?).

Adding to the List of Reasons to Move Home: I’ve never gotten the chance to travel in a substantial way and it’s something I really, really want to do. If you can’t tell from the description of my life above, I am pretty directionless and feel like travelling will help me get my mind off the constant pressure to FIGURE MY LIFE AND CAREER OUT. Living rent free is the only way I can save enough money to do this.

Here is my big complication: living at home with my parents will not be easy. My dad is an occasional alcohol/pills abuser and I find being around him sad and frustrating. Most days he is NOT that bad, some days he IS that bad. I’d say he abuses in a dramatic way about once per week or less. The other days he still uses but doesn't get out of control. He is an emotional mess when he drinks heavily and sometimes will antagonize me for his problems. I have very successfully avoided this in the past by leaving the house when he is drinking. I still love him dearly and he used to be a very sensitive, quiet, and loving man. His addictions are only a few years old. I know that some part of moving to Baltimore was escaping him. That also meant leaving the other people I love which I still regret.

Clearly there are many facets lumped into one thing here and I am having a lot of trouble parsing out one thing from the other. I sometimes feel like I can't even honestly or logically think through decisions that concern my dad. I alternate between distraught and detached about his behavior. More often it is detached, which makes me feel like I can handle living with him for all the PROS. He really is the only CON I'm seeing in this situation.

MeFi, how can I live with my dad and stay detached from his behavior? What was your experience like moving back home? What are the other options in my situation that I am not seeing? Any and all advice is welcome.
posted by saltwater to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Untreated alcoholism and narcotic addiction (I assume he's taking some sort of synthetic opiate?) only gets worse and as you haven't mentioned him joining any sort of program, it sounds like his is untreated. When you say he "abuses in a dramatic way about once per week or less" that may seem like it's okay because you're, in a way, used to it, but it's a terrible thing. You may as well be asking whether it's cool if you move back home because hey, rent-free and you love your family but you need to drink a bucket of shit once a week (but usually just maybe drink a tall, frosty mug of shit instead because it's not always that bad.) You don't live with an addict and stay detached from their behavio because that detachment isn't up you. You have no control over his addictions and behavior and said behavior seems to include you when you're around. If you described that situation as you current home situation and asked "what should I do?" I can almost assure you the answers would be a chorus of "get the fuck out of that house."
posted by griphus at 10:36 AM on July 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Also, please remember that when your dad gets in trouble with the law -- and if he's using pills, he will get in trouble with the law eventually -- it will be you that gets that one phone call, you that needs to get the bail money together or take the bond out on your credit, you that will find yourself morally responsible to make sure he makes his court date, etc. etc.
posted by griphus at 10:38 AM on July 29, 2012

It doesn't sound like a good idea to move back to your old house and have to deal with that all of the time. Is it possible to move back to your home town and rent a cheap room from someone? I know you wouldn't be able to save as much, but the emotional toll living at home would be wayyyyy worse than having to pay rent.*

I have a difficult father as well and even though you try to detach and try to ignore things, it really, really is impossible to do so.
posted by littlesq at 10:38 AM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

The first year after college was a hard one for most of the people I know. Everything changes, you're away from your friends, and the transition to adult life basically sucks. You could always try giving Baltimore another year and seeing if things get better -- they probably will.
posted by baby beluga at 10:40 AM on July 29, 2012

I don't mean to spam the thread, but please don't think my vehemence against this idea is because I am judging your father as some sort of evil, horrible person who wants little more than to ruin others' lives. I know, just as well as you do, how complicated addiction gets and what it does to an otherwise good, caring, loving person.

He is, simply, an untreated addict, and with that problem comes the mess of issues that I outlined. And that mess of issues becomes your mess of issues when you share a house. He can get better. He's not doomed. He can kick the pills and kick the booze. But until he makes the decision to get sober, and stays sober, living with him shouldn't even be an option.
posted by griphus at 10:43 AM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you have an EAP program or coverage for therapy under your employer's health insurance? It seems to me your issues here go WAY past what internet strangers can help you sort out.

Also, hook up with Al-Anon to work through your dad/addiction stuff, especially if you do move back into that house (which I think would be unwise.)
posted by SMPA at 10:50 AM on July 29, 2012

The big red flag for me: You already feel like you abandoned your non-dad family members. Coming back and martyring yourself in an untenable, dependent and fear-riddled situation is putting yourself in their shoes, not making progress. This sounds like a horrible idea, and one that's entirely fear-based on your part. You already know the problems you're going to be taking back on if you move back into that does that help you get back on your feet, again? By doing this, you risk further neglecting your needs and muddying the waters as you try to find out what YOU actually want and need.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I come from a similar situation and have had to come to grips with the fact that nobody, not even my closest and dearest family members, can stand up on my behalf and make me healthy. That's something only I can do for myself. I adore my family, including the dysfunctional members thereof, but the only way I can move forward is by removing the possibility of being sucked down into the bottomless pit of drama that is fueled by addiction, guilt, and fear (even when "it's not so bad" or "there are good days").

This sounds really difficult for you. The good news is that it's okay to feel aimless and that the solutions are likely to be far more incremental and less dramatic than you fear.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:50 AM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Two of the reasons you're currently burnt out relate to your job/earnings. If you're happy in Baltimore otherwise, why not just work on getting a new job? Baltimore is not a terribly expensive place to live and so I am a little concerned that you say you have a very respectable job (presumably making good money) and yet you cannot save ANY money after paying the bills. I suggest you take another look at your finances and budget. If you have no savings, you will not be able to achieve your goal of travel.

I think if you don't have good job prospects if you move home, it might not be a good idea to do so. Is there a place not far from home, let's say within an hour, which would have good prospects for you? That is something to consider. If you find that in the end, you feel you must move specifically to your hometown, I strongly urge you not to live with your parents, considering your father's situation. Don't put yourself in a toxic situation. It sounds like you feel guilty over "abandoning" your mother and sister who have to deal with your father. Taking care of him is not your job, and subjecting yourself to emotional abuse and a stressful environment with someone who does not want to seek help for their problems is not an obligation - you need to take care of yourself first.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:53 AM on July 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Speak up. Say what you're saying here to your father, your mother, your sister.

What do you have to lose? Vis-a-vis your family, your old ways of operating--physical distancing, staying silent about the pills and drinking--is causing you pain. It's not going to make anything better by doing more of the same

You're an adult. Find your voice, then use it.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 11:31 AM on July 29, 2012

Move home w/ the goal of saving up to get your own place.
posted by discopolo at 11:32 AM on July 29, 2012

I have couple comments that I'll have to come back later to make, but as a thought, is there anyway that you could rent a room/live with your sister? It may or may not be possible depending on your situation but if it is possible it may be a way to be closer to your family without having to deal with your Dad's addictions in the same house. Iff that's not the case, would it also be possible for you to find a cheap room or apartment where your parents live? Is the cost of living there lower than in Baltimore?
posted by snowysoul at 11:36 AM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

(Assuming you can get an equivalent job in your hometown -- which you don't mention, and which is important) What about moving back to your hometown, but not back in with your parents? That way, you'd be close to family without having to live with your dad.

The downside is that you are supporting yourself -- probably no extra money for travel, at least until you've worked a few years and gotten some pay increases. But, the cost of rent at your dad's place (really bad behavior once/week) seems a little steep. Plus, when you are living on your own, you can more freely enjoy adult things like having a boy/girlfriend over for the night, eating what you want, keeping the hours and comings and goings that you want, and things like that.
posted by Houstonian at 11:36 AM on July 29, 2012

How much do you have in savings, where do you want to go, and how long do you want to travel for?
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:54 AM on July 29, 2012

Could you take a one-month leave of absence from work and go to the town and search for work there? I'm concerned that you might not be able to find a job and end up feeling dependent on your parents and stuck in a bad living situation.
posted by salvia at 11:59 AM on July 29, 2012

Are there any jobs in your hometown? Would they be better than the job you have now?
posted by jacalata at 12:43 PM on July 29, 2012

"Please make sure to secure your own mask before helping others"

You're in Baltimore, so I assume your expenses are as low as they can possibly be right now. (you live with roommates, right? If not, you might want to do that, to give yourself more of a financial cushion)

Also, you are just out of college. It is crucially important that you use this time to invest in your career and your future, and you can do that by performing well at work and getting promoting or finding a better-paying job, and that will allow you to save more and travel and figure things out.

It's always easier to go back to the big problems you know rather than face the unknown and unfamiliar, even if that would be objectively better.

Assume you want a career and savings and freedom from your father's terrible addiction problems, your best bet is to double down on Baltimore and focus on making more money and investing in your career. Just because things will be familiar in your hometown doesn't mean they're better.
posted by deanc at 12:46 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

His addictions may only be a few years old, but his behaviors go back further than that. Not being able to think clearly through decisions that concern him is a symptom of that -- of that behavior that was present in him while he parented you at a time when you were dependent on him. If you move back, depending on how strong you feel inside yourself, you are likely to be triggered by his behaviors and it could push you into a depressed, anxious, and feeling trapped kind of place.

Also, children are supposed to grow up and leave the nest. Finding your own way in life is not abandonment. It's a natural course of action. Plus you're only a year out of college. Cut yourself some slack for not having it all figured out yet. This year you learned more about what you don't like. That's not a signal of failure. That's just the normal course of career-related experience.

Why not talk to a career counsellor about identifying and finding a more fulfilling job? Or look into work opportunities overseas, like Woofers (workers for organic farms), depending on where you want to go.
posted by human ecologist at 1:03 PM on July 29, 2012

Sometimes I feel like the AskMe devil's advocate.

I can understand being with family. My kids are very close to us as parents and as friends, although we don't live together. (We might all live on the same property, if we had the $$, but there would have to be separate residences.) There's nothing wrong in living in the same town, although I would suggest to younger folks that you live elsewhere in your late teens and twenties. Saving to travel is a great reason to move back. I think moving might be predicated on your finding a job that would allow you to succeed with your goals. Check around for jobs and apply if you can, before you move, but if the job market looks promising, you might as well do it.

You need to write a loving, but truthful, letter to your dad with copies to the rest of the adults in your family detailing what you've said here. Make it a hand written LETTER, not an email, with the Dear Dad salutation and the Love, Your Sprog signature. Type it if you think better on a 'puter, then rewrite. This needs to be serious, from the heart, and handwritten makes things more personal. Tell him what you've said above. He is a great father, and before these problems, he was a sensitive loving man that you wanted to spend time with, but you can't deal with his addictions. Offer to help him by going into a therapy appointment with him, and tell him you'll attend a couple AAA meetings, if you can do those things without being stressed. will be you that gets that one phone call, you that needs to get the bail money together or take the bond out on your credit, you that will find yourself morally responsible to make sure he makes his court date, etc. etc.

No, it won't. In your letter tell your dad how much you love him, but this shit is against the law, and if he lands himself in jail because of it, he's an adult, and you won't be bailing him out. I'm assuming he taught you there are consequences, and his jail time will be his to ponder. His court date is his to attend. Maybe talk to your sister and mom about this separately, and see if you can all get on the same page. Tough love. It's the only way to help. Help him if you can, but don't enable him.

You can handle this if you draw a line in what you will tolerate with his behavior. Tell him nicely, if you're going to abuse, I need to leave. Then don't discuss or, just GO. If he begins to antagonize you or give you shit, WALK OUT. You can't answer something like this or reason with it. Speak to your mother alone before hand, and explain to her what your plan is. If you feel that he will abuse her emotionally or verbally, ask her if she is willing to go with you, or if she plans to stay. Remember, she's an adult, she makes her choices. You may not like it, but you need to respect it. Decide this before hand, you don't want to appear in league against him at the time by asking her then as it will just enrage him. If the two of you silently walk out, there's not as much provocation. Work out a silent signal or a code word that your mom can use to indicate she will be going with you, if she so decides.

Look for alternate living situations if you can--you have friends you can bunk with, and maybe one of them would like a roommate. Move in with your sister for a month or so if you need to, to enable you to get the first and last saved up. All you need is a room--you have family you can spend time with, and places to go and people to see and reconnect with.

Sometimes people have to go home again to realize that they're happier away. Sometimes you travel, and then you finally know your heart is where you grew up. Go for it.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:25 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ack! Should be don't discuss, explain, or be drawn into an argument, just GO
posted by BlueHorse at 2:27 PM on July 29, 2012

Tell him nicely, if you're going to abuse, I need to leave.

Dear Dad, if you don't stop drinking I won't let you financially aid or support me in my 20s -- one drink too many, and I'm outta here?
posted by Houstonian at 4:12 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Offer to help him by going into a therapy appointment with him, and tell him you'll attend a couple AAA meetings, if you can do those things without being stressed.

I would suggest that you not do this, or at least not offer it up right off the bat. His recovery is his business. Furthermore, I don't think you can move into someone's house and start dictating how they live their life.

Someone upthread suggested you move in with your sister, and that sounds like a MUCH better idea.
posted by lyssabee at 9:14 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

What was your experience like moving back home?
I never moved back home, but I visited a few times for several days at a time and it was, frankly, horrible. My parents are both substance abusers with mental disorders who have been in and out of rehab, in and out of therapy, and really don't want to quit or get better... and to preserve my own sanity I had to stop visiting. (This is the simple version.) Not suggesting this is how you should deal with your dad or that the situations are the same, just relating my story.

Don't discount that this is a BIG CON. And it is likely going to make you feel even worse to be directionless and living at home in that type of situation, even if you get a job and maintain a healthy social circle outside the house. For me, being at home felt like I was carrying a boulder on my back -- and I wasn't even staying with either parent, although I interacted with them a lot, I just couldn't seem to get away from all the awful.

So in a nutshell I think moving home is probably not a good idea.

Also, this wasn't your question, but traveling to get your mind off the pressure of, well, being an adult, sounds more escapist than moving to Baltimore in the first place.
posted by sm1tten at 10:22 AM on July 30, 2012

« Older How did you go from not liking reading books on...   |   How big does something have to be to block out the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.