letting each other go

Archive for February, 2007


Posted by Leo G on February 28, 2007


My father-in-law died tonight. This is a photo of him in Korea in 1952. Rest in peace, friend.


Posted in Downs | 19 Comments »

First Therapy

Posted by Leo G on February 28, 2007

Well, the therapist is down-to-earth, caring, and very blunt. I think all that’s a good thing. My son seemed pretty open to the whole thing. Coming on the heels of being suspended for fighting may have been an advantage. I know he knows why we’re worried. I know he knows we love him. I know he knows we are trying to get him quality help.

At the same time, the therapist is clearly not going to just be a tool for us parents. He told us all that he really doesn’t like adults, he much prefers teens and children. He was clear about what he would have to share with us and what he would not. One part of that was to trust him to let us know if he begins to think the drug abuse is enough of a problem to warrant treatment. From my perspective, that is a relief. We have help. We have someone we can check in with about our fears. But most of all, our son can be totally honest about his use, because he can trust that this guy isn’t going to overreact.

So, all in all, I think it was good. I feel a little hope. At least my son–who I suppose I should give some kind of name here–can be sure that we are not trying to punish him, but work with him. I feel like maybe we could get to a point where we are all, at some very basic level, on the same team. I don’t need him to be perfect, I need him to be safe enough and healthy enough to survive his adolescence.

UPDATE: I talked with my son and he says he wants to continue with counseling. I think this is a very good thing.

Posted in Ups | 9 Comments »

Part of the Problem

Posted by Leo G on February 28, 2007

This is NOT news to me. From CNN:

CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) — A majority of U.S. high school students say they get bored in class every day, and more than one out of five has considered dropping out, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The survey of 81,000 students in 26 states found two-thirds of high school students complain of boredom, usually because the subject matter was irrelevant or their teachers didn’t seem to care about them.

“They’re not having those interactions, which we know are critical for student engagement with learning,” said Ethan Yazzie-Mintz, who led the annual survey by Indiana University researchers.

Posted in Contributors | 2 Comments »

Maybe/Maybe Not

Posted by Leo G on February 28, 2007

I awoke to nine messages on my cell phone. Clearly, something had happened. It turns out my son got into a fistfight at school on Friday. He was skipping math class and somehow his best friend (@$%%&*!) got into a fight and my son went to his defense, punching someone in the face. I’m not sure how or when the school found out (the four of them had made a pact not to tell.) but we got the call this morning. Did I mention that this friend is not on Santa’s “good” list? He is a major part of the problem. And did I mention that my son is extremely loyal? A crappy combination at the moment.

Then, I learned that my father-in-law, who has been in a care facility for the last few months is probably actively dying. Or maybe not. They won’t know because his Living Will and other instructions mandate that he not be hospitalized, so no tests to know what happened. All we know is that he had some back pain, and then they found him pale and non-responsive. It could have been a kidney stone, a heart attack, or another stroke. But we won’t know. All we can do is wait and provide pain relief.

The only redeeming thing about the day is that we have an initial appointment with a counselor for my son this afternoon. It was already set up, so the timing ends up being good. We’ll spend some time talking together, including letting him know that while he’s suspended from school, he is also grounded. And then he’ll have some time alone with the counselor. How he responds to this may well determine what happens next. We’ve researched the local treatment facility and will put in an application soon. However, there is a waiting list. And we’re not sure it’s the best next step. Maybe having someone to talk to will help enough. Maybe we can still salvage something without having to “hand him over” to the treatment facility. Maybe he will suddenly start to care again and will cooperate with us saving his life. Maybe not.

Posted in Coping | 1 Comment »

A Better Day

Posted by Leo G on February 27, 2007

I think his “stash” is gone. His behavior has improved, along with his attitude. He got to go to a professional basketball game last night and had a great time. We’re also looking at options. We have a meeting with a counselor (for him) tomorrow. We are educating ourselves about treatment options. It helps to feel like there might be some good resources to help us with this.

The overwhelming thing is when I see lists like this:

Physical Signs

* Change in sleeping patterns–check.
* Bloodshot eyes–check.
* Slurred or agitated speech–check.
* Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain–nope.
* Skin abrasions/bruises–nope.
* Neglected appearance/poor hygiene–nope.
* Sick more frequently–check.
* Accidents or injuries–nope.

Behavioral Signs

* Hiding use; lying and covering up–check.
* Sense that the person will “do anything” to use again regardless of consequences–check.
* Loss of control or choice of use (drug-seeking behavior)–possibly
* Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities–check.
* Emotional instability–check.
* Hyperactive or hyper-aggressive–check.
* Depression–check.
* Missing school or work–check.
* Failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work–check.
* Complaints from teachers or co-workers–check.
* Reports of intoxication at school or work–nope.
* Furtive or secretive behavior–check.
* Avoiding eye contact–check.
* Locked doors–check.
* Going out every night–check.
* Change in friends or peer group–nope. (I wish they *would* change.)
* Change in clothing or appearance–nope.
* Unusual smells on clothing or breath–check.
* Heavy use of over-the-counter preparations to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation, or bad breath–check.
* Hidden stashes of alcohol–nope.
* Alcohol missing from your supply–check (but only once, cuz he got caught.)
* Prescription medicine missing–nope.
* Money missing–nope.
* Valuables missing–nope.
* Disappearances for long periods of time–nope.
* Running away–nope.
* Secretive phone calls–nope.
* Unusual containers or wrappers–do soda can “pipes” count?–check.

He’s definitely using. It’s impossible not to see that. He’s tested positive for marijuana and benzos. (ativan or valium, most likely.) Is he addicted? Possibly. Is he using enough to have serious consequences? Definitely. And the million billion dollar question: How can we help?

We’re trying to figure that out, but it’s not as “cut and dried” as it may seem. We could force him into treatment, but that’s not really the most effective way to help. (When kids feel forced they resist all the more.) We’re going to try to get him to think of this counselor as a resource to deal with what we know is not an easy life. We’ll get his professional opinion on what to do next.

And, I’ll write here. Because I know I need to process my own anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, and pain in order to be a better dad.

Posted in Ups | 2 Comments »

Preparing for the Worst?

Posted by Leo G on February 26, 2007

I’ve been watching “Juvies” on MTV. I guess it’s a morbid kind of curiosity, watching those kids in lockup. Or maybe it’s systematic desensitization. I feel like I’m preparing for the worst.

When I was nine, my brother started using and running away. He ended up in every juvenile facility possible, eventually breaking out of them all. He was a mess: drugged up, violent, and completely egocentric. It broke my parents’ hearts and ended their marriage. It broke my heart too, because I always felt I was the only one who still loved him, even though he was doing stupid and hurtful things. He was a stepkid to my dad, who disowned him pretty quickly. It took longer for my mom, but she eventually gave up too. That left me, just a kid, but a kid determined to not give up on him.

It took around ten years, but he got his life straightened out. He’s been clean and sober for twenty years or so. He’s got a great wife and a daughter who is severely disabled, but still her parents’ heart. He finally found a job he loves just last year. So I know that it’s possible to survive, but I just don’t want to watch it all again. I don’t want to see my son suffer (and make others suffer) like my brother did. I don’t want his heart or mine to break like that.

But even though I don’t want any of this to happen, I feel increasingly fatalistic about the whole thing. Every time he says, “I don’t care,” I hear the sound of the big doors locking behind him. If he doesn’t care, then we seem destined to go down that terrible, terrible road.

Posted in Coping | 4 Comments »

Before and After

Posted by Leo G on February 25, 2007

A Perfect Post – February 2007
I’m starting this blog because I am hurting. That may be as self-centered a reason as there is, but I don’t know what else to do. My son is almost sixteen and about six months ago he seemed to wake up angry as hell that the world has rules and determined not to follow them. It was like he’d undergone a transformation from Jekyll to Hyde. People say this is normal, but when it’s your kid, there’s nothing normal about it. It’s just confusing and maddening and painful.

My son has always been such an amazing person. He’s intelligent, loyal, dedicated, and extremely charismatic. He’s never had any trouble making friends. Babies love him. Kids love him. His peers love him. Adults love him. Or they once did. I don’t know if that’s still true, because every day he looks more like a drug user. His eyes are bloodshot. He’s got that glazed look in his eyes. And he’s unpredictable.

That’s the hardest thing so far. When I see my son, I see him through a kind of kaleidescope of time. I see the baby I held just moments after his birth. I see the child that scared the hell out of me by riding his “Big Wheel” down the steps. I see the kindergartener who made friends the very first day of school to whom he is still loyal. I see the child who was so nervous at his first school concert he spun around and around and around in his bright gold kente cloth shirt, looking for all the world like a lighthouse. I see the child who took on fifth graders to protect the tadpoles in the school pond. I see the kid who told amazing stories and the kid who surprised me one day when I picked him up from school and found him wearing a knight’s helmet–that even opened and closed–entirely fashioned out of paper. I see the kid who was so determined to become a professional basketball player that he practiced for hours every night. The kid who never had trouble saying, “I love you.”

Then came the phone call from camp last summer. My son had gotten caught with marijuana at camp. They sent him home. When he got home he explained that yes, they’d smoked some pot, but that he “took the fall” for a bunch of kids who convinced him that they’d be beaten or killed if they got sent home. He knew he’d be in trouble, but safe, so he confessed. He cooperated with every consequence we gave him, including working with a good attitude to pay me back almost $1000 toward the cost of camp. I thought it was a stupid one-time thing and he’d learned his lesson.

Then he got picked up for shoplifting. Again, I thought it was a one-time thing. He’d had no money for a really long time (paying me back) and it was his best friend’s birthday. It made a certain, stupid, adolescent sense. But then we started noticing the red eyes. And he started skipping school–and eventually pretty much stopped going at all. He failed many of his classes. He didn’t make the basketball team because of his grades. Same for the band trip he was so excited about. Then he learned that he might not get to go to his school next year because he’s a transfer student. For a short while he straightened up…

Then, he got some cash. Suddenly, his eyes weren’t only bloodshot, he was a different person. Angry. His constant refrain, “I don’t care.” He started leaving homemade pot pipes in the basement. He started burning candles and spraying cologne all over, but his room still smells of pot. He stuck with school for a little while, then started skipping again. He’s angry and defensive all the time. Things are spiraling out of control.

And all I can really say is…it’s breaking my heart. I have no solutions yet. I have no strategies yet. I have only this sadness.

P.S. and right as I wrote that, I get a text message from him. It says: “I think you’re worrying too much about stuff.”

Posted in Before and After | 27 Comments »