Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saying No

Well, joke is on me, two posts ago, because of course, as astute and experienced parent readers of this blog may have guessed, T has no intention of transitioning to independent living, and instead spent a good part of our first visit at his treatment facility lobbying me to let him move home after his 30 day "blackout" period is up. The goal in his program, as in all 12-step programs, is to go from 30 day treatment to a sober living home (also known as a "halfway house" in common parlance), and gradually transition from there back to one's community. T, of course, would like to skip that second part, returning home asap.

And that's not happening.

I find it extremely difficult to say no to him. I mean, I have said no plenty of times - taking away his keys, his phone, his ride privileges. But when it comes to the big NO ("No, you may not live at home unless/until you get sober and make progress on your recovery") I am a textbook case, straight out of an Al Anon character study. The same deep compassion that guides me in most things as his parent makes me foolish when it comes to his addiction. What's more, I'm selfish. I WANT him home. I LOVE being his parent. Even when it sucks, I work harder and it and derive more satisfaction from it than most anything else. Except that it's not good for him, not good for me, and not good for Tim to indulge that sentimental wish to have him back under our roof. I am not nearly enough to meet his needs right now. To allow him home and expect a positive outcome would be vanity at best. And at his age, as I told him today, he is naturally eager to be independent, and to frustrate that ambition only leads to problems.

But it is HARD to say no. What parent wants to tell a beseeching child that he can't come home? He could be forty years old and I'd still feel this way. Although I ought to have expected it, I was also taken aback by his plea, mostly because he has been so unreachable for the past few months. When he's in the grip of his compulsive drug-seeking, he becomes so remote. I forgot what it's like when he badly wants something that he needs for me to provide. It's quite a siren song.

We may allow him home, but we'll do so only if he spends some time in transition in a sober living home, and only if he either gets a job or enrolls in school. Period. If he complies with those conditions, we'll put a timeframe on it, and after the adjustment period is up, we'll require him to pay rent. We'll put his "rent" into a savings account that we'll give back to him for a deposit on his own place when he's ready. We decided all that tonight, and it came easily, because it's really the only option.

Addiction is a tricky, tricky thing. I am humbled every day by how easily its manipulative logic can fool me...and also by the skill and patient wisdom of people who work with addicts in the day-to-day.

Speaking of which, T is doing well. I like this place. I feared that in an adult facility, he would be exposed to more dangerous habits than his own. But as we sort of expected, he appears to be doing better amongst adults. They baby him, and he understands them, with the aged wisdom he acquired during what was supposed to be his childhood.

His program is full of people about my age. Some have recently been homeless. Others are apart from their spouses and children while they try to conquer addiction. Nearly all of them have legal problems. In this setting, T sees the consequences of addiction more clearly. Also, he is with women (not in his living quarters, but in his 12 step meetings), of about the age that his birth mom was when he was born, drug-addicted. He is a very female-identified guy, and I've always said that he'd do best if he could live in a house full of a dozen middle-aged mothers. He's gotten kind of close in rehab.

Last summer, when he first entered treatment, he was in a teen facility, sex-segregated. He did well at first, then took to fighting and tantrums. I asked him today if there have been any fights in the facility since he's been there. He scoffed - no, no fights. Not even close. "There are no teenagers here," he said, by way of explanation. LOL.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Things I Missed

T called and wants me to come and visit him in residential treatment tomorrow. I'm thrilled, I'll go, I miss him like crazy, I'll try to be a good mom while I'm there.

At the same time, all that said, I've had a fantastic week. I wouldn't wish him gone for anything in the world - even when his behavior is hideous, I love the soul of him so much. That said, he's a pain in the ass, and when he is being cared for somewhere else, it's amazing what little nooks and crannies of our lives re-emerge.

Here's a quick list of things I've been able to do this week that I sorely missed!

- Taking a shower with the bathroom door open
- Walking around less than fully clothed
- Leaving my purse, my car keys, my cash, my iPod - things with street value sitting around
- Going out for dinner without worrying that at any minute, his needs might interrupt
- Working late without feeling guilty for missing dinner
- Sleeping late on Saturday (he has the oddest habit of waking us early on weekends by stumbling into our room in his boxer shorts and hanging out, as if to chat, though he rarely says much)
- Drinking at home. For a year, we haven't had any alcohol in the house, as we've been supporting his intermittent attempts at sobriety. But this week I enjoyed wine with dinner, and a weekend nightcap of that really good rye Tim's dad gave us for Christmas.
- Watching television. The definition of monopoly is the relationship between the teenager in your house and your television/game console/telephone.
- Have feelings! Living with a traumatized, substance-abusing, high-drama teenager leaves precious little room for reflection and self-awareness.

I look forward to the visit tomorrow, but's been a great week!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back In and Out

T is back in residential treatment. This is our second go, with an interim attempt at out patient treatment that failed. I'm generally very proud of his persistent effort to confront his demons. Of course, to be honest, that feeling is tempered by a bit of reasonable suspicion that, this time, residential treatment is perhaps a "get out of jail free" strategy - his probation officer strongly suggested it, as he has a looming court date and has repeatedly failed to comply with probation. His recent choices created a mounting mess of circumstances that compelled him to treatment. But given where he was when he decided to enter, I'm just glad he's there.

Residential treatment is rough, I imagine. I feel for him, being as young as he is, emotionally as well as chronologically, and sympathize with what I imagine must be a certain sense of isolation. In an adult treatment facility (he's 18 now, and doesn't qualify for the youth facilities in our area), he may be exposed to habits that are roughter than his own. We considered all of that carefully and I worry about him. He's undisciplined and he went into this on shaky ground, having really unraveled of late. Rather than spend the summer in treatment, he'd like to be able to party with his peers, celebrating his high school graduation and the start of summer, but that just isn't possible. He is complicated and unregulated such that "partying" quickly turns into intense and frightening chaos. A "normal" adolescence is really not an option - such a thing can only follow on a "normal" childhood.

In any event, he's in for 30 days, and then he's eligible for a transition to a sober-living house with ongoing coaching. He wants to try that, with a goal of being ready to take community college classes this fall. God bless him for his ability to hang on to a vision and a goal, even through his confusion. Thankfully, as we've been doing independent study at home, we were able to wrap up his schooling and secure his high school diploma literally moments before he entered treatment, with the help of a flexible and sympathetic school administrator. From here on, we'll follow him one step at a time.

I know in my heart that I can't help him as much as I used to. He is more independent of us, as is natural, and he's also fairly committed to his mistakes of late. I love him very much, but this time when he left home, it felt like something was different. He may well be back home, but I think it likely that it will be temporary now, because of his age and his need to explore. Like a lot of kids who spend a long time in foster care, he was brainwashed to believe that 18 is the age of liberation. More so even that other teenagers, he fixated and waited for this age, promising himself that he'd be "free". Since his 18th birthday, he's been eager to find out what that means.

Likely, he'll transition into a semi-independent living situation, and we'll start a new chapter of being his parents as he lives out his young adulthood. It's going to be bumpy, for sure. I always knew that it would be - with his history, it's inevitable that the transition to independence will be rough. What I didn't foresee before I was his parent is the depth of attachment one forms and the semi-excruciating feeling of having the object of that attachment go out into the world without you. (That is, of course, tempered by the relief of suddenly having quiet order at home, and tons more free time!)

I feel good that he left for treatment on a loving note. (It also felt good that the treatment house is near home, in a familiar neighborhood.) Once he made the decision to enter treatment, we had about a week together, during which he seemed to draw closer, preparing to say good-bye and relieved that he had a plan that we supported.

The first time he entered treatment, last year, he was so confident that he would beat his problems with drugs. This time, he's humbled by his extended relapse, and his confidence in himself is shaken. He is more uncertain. The day before he left, we visited his favorite Korean spa and then had a favorite meal together. The morning that he started his program we got up early and had breakfast in peaceful silence. Then he turned to me and said, "You can't come. Go to work. You'll cry when we say good-bye." He was right, and he needed to be in control of our parting, so I agreed and we had a good hug. He and Tim drove down to the treatment house and he checked in.

I wish him the greatest good luck this time around. I look forward to seeing him on the other side, but I accept that the process of getting there may take a very long time, and we both may change in the meantime.
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