Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gone Again

No sooner are we up than we're down. Just shy of the 60 day mark, T relapsed, and hasn't yet pulled out of it. He's not living with us anymore - he's staying somewhere, he won't tell us where. The relapse unfolded in melodrama, chaos, confusion, and conflict. In fact, our first whiff that things were taking a turn for the worse was a sudden bout of extreme belligerence and blame and bad behavior on everyone's part. What's happening? I asked myself. And then felt sheepish for not seeing it coming. When he took all his financial aid money, dropped out of school, and blew it in a weekend drug binge, we realized what we'd been sensing on the horizon. And that was only the beginning.

I admit, I didn't do a great job as a parent - not even a good job in those last couple weeks before he left. I'm worn out by the cycle, out of practice at parenting since he lived away from home for awhile, and unsure of my role, as he nears 21. Following him through treatment and participating in the family sessions at his program over the summer left me with some perspective. I know that my role is to live my own life, to let him know as best I can that I love and support him, and that I hope he returns to treatment--but not to throw myself off the deep end to try to retrieve him. Nevertheless, I feel badly that in my anger and confusion as he fell off the wagon I was less than the parent I strive to be. It is what it is.

A long time ago, my mom gave me this piece of advice: "Your home cannot be a revolving door," she said. "You are not a place of last resort, somewhere to crash when he has burned through all of his other options. If you let that happen, it will be very hard to regain your boundaries." That was good, harsh advice. I'm torn, feeling so keenly that if he could do better, he would, and that he is genuinely disoriented to find himself beyond childhood and yet unprepared. I would give anything to rewind time and let him linger a little longer. But that isn't possible. He is a young man now, with a desire to master his own destiny, and the obstinate, understandable feeling that he should live life on his own terms, coupled with a very formidable disease of addiction that keeps causing him to sabotage himself.

I'm not sure a kid like T could ever leave home in a smooth transition. I feel like this is a new era of being a foster/adoptive parent of a traumatized kid - navigating the messy, frightening process of disengaging from their daily lives, knowing they aren't ready but you have to let go anyway. Even kids whose developmental needs were mostly satisfied can be cast upon the rocks at this stage of life. For kids for whom prenatal drug exposure, trauma, abuse, and displacement produced formidable fault lines so early in life, it's a terrifying transition. If I'm this scared, I can only imagine how he must feel.

But if I want his life to be his, my life has to be mine. Ever day I ask myself, does he know we love him? Have we shone a bright light on a good option that is available to him right now (at the moment, it's residential treatment, and following up on a prescription for antidepressants)? Did I at least attempt to apologize for my own wrong doing? And if the answers are yes, I try to move on, and let myself be happy, and invest time in other people including his brother, and my friends, and Tim. It's a bittersweet moment, a mix of acknowledging the looming truth of the trouble he's in and not taking it on, because I can't, and it won't help either of us.
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