letting each other go

Archive for June, 2008

Visitation didn’t go so well…

Posted by Leo G on June 27, 2008

June 27, 2008

Dear Bup,

I’m sorry you cut the visit short today because I had a few messages to deliver that I didn’t get a chance to share:

1. L would like to know if you want him to visit.
2. I loves you and is praying—as are many others. K asked me to say, “There are many people who love you and want the best for you and it’s not too late, it’s never too late.”
3. M asked if she could write you a letter and asked me to tell you she misses you.
4. T loves you.
5. B loves you and hopes you will use this time wisely.

Now what I have to say. It’s clear you feel like the victim in all this. You are completely focused on what you’ve lost, how terrible it is that you are in detention, and that I haven’t fought hard enough to get you out. I can understand that. You are in a rotten situation and you’ve lost a lot. And it sucks that many of the consequences for your earlier actions didn’t really happen until you’d stopped using. So right when you were doing the right thing, the consequences kicked in. I know it doesn’t seem fair.

But there is a reason that people say that it’s a sign of maturity when you stop screaming, “It’s not fair.” No one’s life is fair. No one gets only the consequences that make sense to them or that they are willing to accept. No one’s life is only full of things they think are fair. We all just live in this world and deal with it. A lot of times both the expectations and the consequences are confusing and overwhelming. We all stumble through life and do the best we can. Because of that, I want to be as clear as I can with you.

Part of what I need is to see that you have some understanding of the pain you have caused and some willingness to take responsibility for it. Not just words that you say, but a real willingness to change the way you treat other people, especially me. A willingness to get help controlling your temper so that you never hurt another person you love. I want to see you reach out to people who might be able to give you insight into your behavior and strategies to change it. The longer you keep insisting you were right to behave the way you did, the longer it will be before I can trust you.

You were angry and frustrated. I understand that and I am not saying you should not have been. Being on probation is frustrating, especially when your behavior has changed for the better. I can totally respect your feelings. But I cannot respect your actions. You will never convince me that it’s okay to threaten, insult, and hit people when you are frustrated. You will never convince me that it’s okay to break things, stab things, or carve insults into the furniture. Your feelings are normal. Your behavior is out of control.

I am also asking you to respect my feelings. I do feel afraid of you. Why wouldn’t I? You yell at me, threaten me, insult me and now you have punched me. I consider that beating me because only one person was throwing punches. That’s a beating. When you threaten and hit me, you convince me that you actually want me to be afraid of you. Because you believe that you should be able to decide when you abide by the rules of probation and when you don’t. And if I disagree, you want me to be afraid of what you will do. That is the power you get from your threats and now from following through on your threats and hitting me. You’ve threatened to beat me, stab me and kill me. But you are angry that I am afraid of you. Can you see how that doesn’t make sense? You say things that you know are threatening and frightening. But you want me to ignore them when it benefits you. You are asking me to be scared of you when that helps you get what you want, but not be afraid of you when that will help get you out of detention.

One of the key results of addiction is that it makes a person extremely self-centered. Drugs make it extremely hard to care about other people. They teach a person to put their own needs, their own feelings first all the time. That’s what makes addiction different than use. The addict’s whole life begins to revolve around themselves and their addiction.

Right now, you are wrapped up in how you’ve been wronged and how everyone else is screwing you. You are unable to see the way your own actions have led to the circumstances you find yourself in. If I could trust that you would never hurt me I wouldn’t be afraid to bring you home. Can you admit that my feelings make sense? That the feelings of the people you have hurt matter? You—by your very clear actions—have taught me to fear. I have tried everything that I know to find a way for you to succeed at rebuilding your life. But every time I remind you of the limits of your freedom or the responsibilities you have that are larger than having fun for the summer, you respond with rage.

You are absolutely right that you made extraordinary progress in some ways. You quit crack cocaine, which took great strength. But somehow, you think that because of that all the consequences from the past should just disappear. And when they don’t you are enraged. And your inability to control that rage brings down even more consequences—including that you scared me to the point where I don’t know if I am safe with you at home.

Quitting drugs was a great accomplishment. But it is only the beginning. Your job now is to prove that you can be a responsible, well-adjusted, law-abiding adult. You can’t prove that by only following the rules you want to follow and ignoring the rest. You can’t do that by staying out past curfew, proudly talking to people you’ve been court ordered not to, or by drinking. You can’t do that by constantly arguing with me about every limit. And you surely can’t do that by trying to force me to let you behave in these ways.

You say that what I want is for you to give up your whole summer and to be in jail. You say it again and again and I know you believe it. But it is not true. What I want is for you to learn the kind of self-control you need to succeed in this world. That means going to school even though you don’t want to. It means obeying the law even though you don’t want to. It means coming home earlier than you want to. It means being respectful and taking advantage of the resources that are offered to you. It means learning that people have things to teach you, could help you gain insight into why you do these things, could offer you strategies that would make it easier to stay away from the behaviors that are ruining your summer and could easily ruin your life.

Right now, you just scream and scream that it’s everyone else who is ruining your life. I’ve learned that it’s a lot easier in the end to admit that you control your own life—for good or for bad. In the end, you decide what your life will be each time you decide how you will behave. Is being “boring” or “normal” or having to be home on time really worse than being where you are now? Are you better off fighting us all the time? Has it worked so far?

It seems to me that the harder you fight, the more you lose. What would it mean to just stop fighting? To be a kind, sensitive, smart, creative, law-abiding young man? Maybe you would be uncool to some people. Maybe you wouldn’t even be the person you’re convinced you have to be—this tough, gangster badass that you say is the real Bup.

When I talked to S, he said something that was very powerful to me. He said, “I can’t believe that it’s Bup who did that. Bup was the one who would never fight. You could come up to him and call him a n—er and he would just laugh. I don’t know what happened. This is not Bup.”

So, which Bup do you want to be? The one who wouldn’t fight and earned people’s respect because he was so calm and friendly to everyone? Or the person who is so enraged at everything that he explodes and beats up his father? How you answer that question will, in great part, determine the direction of your future. K’s right. It’s never too late. You can be whoever you want to be. I hope you find a way to be the Bup who cares about others, who uses his creativity to make the world a better place, who only fights as a last resort—to protect the helpless tadpoles.

I have always and will always love you. But I won’t let you hit or abuse me to get what you want. If I did, I would be failing you. Right now is the time to learn the skills that will help you control yourself and your future. Right now is the time to stop fighting your counselor, stop fighting your probation officer, stop fighting the judge, stop fighting me, and stop fighting yourself. It will take a lot of strength, but I know you can do it if you want to. I’m still on your side. I want you to succeed.

Your dad


Posted in Coping, Trying to communicate | Leave a Comment »

As the Court Turns…

Posted by Leo G on June 26, 2008

Okay, this blog is feeling a little bit like a serial novel about the trials and tribulations of a juvenile delinquent. But somehow, it helps to write about it.

Today was the hearing for the incidents of last weekend. There were a lot of charges, but he plead down to three: one count of assault, one count of interfering with an emergency communication, and one count of possession of alcohol as a minor. The rest were dropped. All are class “B” misdemeanors, resulting in community service hours. He now owes the state about 190 hours.

But, the more important thing is that they held him until he can be placed in Observation and Assessment. There is approximately a two-week wait, which he’ll spend in detention. Then a forty-five day program in O & A. As is customary for youth remanded to this program, they placed him in Juvenile Justice Services custody. For the next sixty days or so, I do not have custody of my son. And during the time he is in O & A, I have to pay the state child support! Yes, even though I was his victim.

Losing custody of one’s child feels like the ultimate failure. Even though I think it’s true that he should not be at home right now. His apology in court was okay–until he strayed into justifying himself. He was clearly very angry at the outcome–I assume because he understands that he just lost at least his entire summer. I did hear his lawyer tell him to “Don’t just say the right things–DO the right things.”

I don’t imagine he’s quite ready to stop fighting and cooperate with the chances he is being given. Frankly, I think he got a huge break when the DA didn’t charge any of the counts as felonies. And the only Class A misdemeanor was the one they dropped. They keep giving him chances, but he just sees them as punishment.

He kept saying that he is frustrated because no one recognizes the changes he has made. That he did stop using and no one is giving him credit for that. The judge was smart. She said, “I don’t think that just because we keep enforcing the rules it means we are not happy with the progress you have made. But we can’t say to you, ‘Oh, okay, since you’re not using drugs, go ahead and drink.'” I hope he can hear that.

I guess all I know for sure is that he is relatively safe for the next 60 days.

Posted in Consequences, Coping, legal issues | 1 Comment »


Posted by Leo G on June 26, 2008

cartoon of two chickens talking

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Good News? Bad News?

Posted by Leo G on June 24, 2008

So, as of yesterday, Bup still tests clean for drugs. He was fully cooperative with the test, telling his Probation Officer, “I am going to test clean. I don’t know why you all don’t believe me.” I talked to his friends and they also say he was not using.

It’s possible that he was–cocaine clears the system in 2 to 3 days. But it is equally likely that he was not using more than alcohol that night. Yet he was still so enraged that he was completely out of control.

It scares me more if he was not using. Because then the question is “What is wrong with him?” His counselor said that because of brain development, adolescent behavior can often seem psychotic. They simply do not have mature enough brains to control their impulses. So this could be the extreme end of normal.

Or he could have underlying mental health issues. They could have been caused by the prior drug use or they could be organic. What is clear is that he is still completely unwilling and unable to hold himself accountable for his behavior. He told the P.O. that it was the system’s fault because even though he had quit using, they would not quit punishing him. Sigh.

He did ask the P.O. to relay a message to me. That he was sorry for hitting me and he knew he should not have done it. That is very little comfort.

The other news is that all the lock-down and residential programs in our city have waiting lists of about six weeks. They can only hold Bup in detention for thirty days. So I have no idea what will happen at the end of the thirty days. He can’t come home. They are asking me to look for private residential treatment that our insurance will cover. They usually have even longer waiting lists.

It’s a mess. At this point, I just have to breathe and take it one step at a time. The future will unfold over the next three weeks or so. All I can do is keep trying to do my best for us all.

Posted in Coping | 2 Comments »

Made it through the arraignment

Posted by Leo G on June 23, 2008

Bup was there only by video. Handcuffed. He didn’t sound sorry. He asked a couple of questions–one contesting the facts, one about what happens with summer school. In a sad way, it shows how naive he is. No, son, they are not going to let you out to finish your classes…

The judge had already decided to keep him in custody until the hearing on Thursday when she asked me, “Do you have anything to say about that?” I simply said, “It seems appropriate.” They set the court date for Thursday and assigned him a public defender.

The probation officer seems like a good one. He agrees that Bup needs serious treatment. Lock down. He suspects he was using either crack or meth. If not, then there is the possibility of mental health issues, probably caused by earlier use. He affirmed that “Healthy people do not attack their dad for turning off the cell phone.”

The good news is that he won’t be coming home for a while. Of course, that’s also the bad news. Five new charges for this. Some of them will be felonies. I lost the battle to do this in a more humane way. He has chosen the hard way. What he may not understand is that he just made it impossible for the court to let him come home. Because if he were to hurt me again, they would face liability issues.

The next question for me to face is do I visit him? I know I’m not ready yet. Maybe after the hearing on Thursday. Right now, I’m too angry, too tender, too hurt and confused. I don’t even know what to say to him. And I sure don’t want to hear anything from him except a sincere apology. And from the tone of this morning, I won’t be getting that soon.

In the meantime, this is an extremely busy week at work. That may be a good thing. After today, it will serve to keep my mind occupied.

Posted in Consequences, Coping, Downs, legal issues | 5 Comments »

Thoughts from “way down…”

Posted by Leo G on June 22, 2008

So, I’m now alone in my big house. My partner and daughter moved out yesterday. That’s been a long time coming and was only tangentially related to Bup and his issues. My partner and I have been trying to heal our relationship for three years. I finally had to say “enough.” I know that the tensions between us were unhealthy for us and for both kids. So, here I am–waiting for the house to sell in a market where that could be a long, long wait.

I am feeling pretty good physically. A bit sore here and there, but nothing too serious. I’m amazed at the human body and its ability to heal. So quickly. I wish hearts, spirits, and emotions had the same healing properties.

Tomorrow I’ll see Bup in the courtroom. I am not looking forward to it. I imagine the judge will ask me to say something–she has every other time. So many things have crossed my mind to say. Some are healthy and helpful. Others, not so much. Here is a sample:

“I’ve clearly failed at the most important job ever entrusted to me.”
“I will not live with someone who beats me or threatens to beat me.”
“Under it all, there is a very good person in him. I just don’t know why there is also this monster. Maybe he sold his soul to the devil.”
“He needs help. Reasonable consequences for his actions are a part of that. But he needs help more than punishment.”
“He needs to be controlled.”
“I’m done. I’ve given all I can, tried everything I know and have learned.”
“If you put him back in my home, you run the risk that he will kill me. God knows, he’s threatened it enough.”
“I can forgive him, but I cannot forget. I would like to request that he be temporarily placed in the state’s custody.”

There are other, less coherent thoughts too. Like when the dog starts barking and I’m sure that he’s escaped from detention and come back. Or when I make mental plans to send him to his uncle in Istanbul. Or when my mind sticks in a loop about how I’ve failed and was wrong about tough love and clearly wasn’t a good enough parent, or strong enough…

The one thing that helps me is to write this and realize these are the effects of addiction. Addiction is not really about blame. It’s an illness. It’s a compulsion that makes rational thought very difficult and traps the addict in pure ego and drug-centrism. So it’s not entirely my fault. And it’s not entirely Bup’s fault. Blame isn’t helpful. So I come back to the question that is guiding my life right now:

“What can I do that improves the odds of health for us all?”

Posted in Coping, Downs | 3 Comments »

Up, Down, Way Down

Posted by Leo G on June 21, 2008

So, things were getting better. Bup was complying with treatment, in summer school and staying pretty connected. But only on the weekdays.

Weekends became hell. All he wanted was to be “free.” His major argument was “I stopped using. I succeeded at treatment. Why do the consequences have to keep going?” He’s on probation, which comes with a curfew. (A very fair 11 pm curfew, if you ask me.)

Here’s the rub. The only way the curfew gets enforced is if I enforce it. So every weekend was a battle. He can’t understand why it matters to me if he’s “not doing anything.” I can’t get him to understand that to regain trust and show maturity he needs to comply with probation. “But nothing bad will happen unless you call and tell them I stayed out.” And whenever I said I was going to call, the threats and insults started. He threatened to kill me, to kill my dog. He told me I deserved terrible (and very specific) violations. He got in my face and tried to intimidate me. He told me I was stupid, I didn’t love him, etc.

Writing it out, it seems so clear. This is abuse. Verbal and emotional abuse. Escalating. And last night, he assaulted me. When he didn’t come home and wouldn’t answer my phone calls, I disabled his cell phone. Before that, I tracked the last few people he’d called. It was a familiar pattern of many very short calls. When this was happening before, it was because he was setting up drug deals. So disabling his phone made sense.

At 3 a.m., when he finally told me where he was and let me come pick him up, he was verbally abusive and threatening. He was enraged that I had turned off the phone and that I was clear with him that I was going to call his probation officer and report his behavior. (I’d actually already left a message on the probation officer’s voice mail.) He cooled off some and when we got home he went down to his room. Then, a few minutes later, he was suddenly in my room, demanding I turn the phone on. He got more and more enraged the more I refused. He pushed me and jabbed me in the chest. I told him to back off and not to touch me. He jabbed me again. I yelled to wake up my partner and asked him to call the police.

That was it. He threw me down on the bed and began punching my head. He must have landed six or eight punches before he realized that my partner was in the process of calling the cops. He left me and went after him, grabbing his wrist and the phone. My partner went on to the next phone in the house, and then the cell phone. My son overpowered him and got all the phones. My partner took off to a neighbor’s house. My son followed, taking the phones out on the front step and smashing them on the sidewalk.

I grabbed the chance, slammed the front door and locked it. Unfortunately, we had an oval faux stained glass panel on the door. My son punched it in and unlocked the door. He was crazy–like in a slasher flick–He yelled, “Yeah! *Bup’s* in the house!” He gleefully dripped the blood running from his hand all over the house. I went out the back door and ran down the street. Miraculously, the police arrived just then. (The neighbor who called was still on the phone when they arrived. It was less than five minutes.)

Seeing the police calmed Bup considerably. Or maybe that was the taser they had leveled at his belly. He did not resist arrest. He had to be taken to the hospital to have the glass removed from his hand and get stitched up. Today, he is in detention. I am swollen and bruised and sore, but after being thoroughly checked out, I’m okay. They even proved I do have a brain in there. They saw it on the CT scan. The ironic thing is that because I’m his parent, they called me to come and get his prescription for antibiotics filled. I had to drive all the way to detention, pick up the prescription, get it filled, and return it to them, so his hand wouldn’t get infected. The hand he beat me with.

When the detention center called, I declined to speak with my son. I did not visit him today. He has a hearing on Monday morning. I am sad beyond words that he is now essentially in jail. Seeing the “cages” where the youth get their one hour a day outside was gut-wrenching. But I’m also scared to death they will release him back into my custody. Because if he was mad before…

So that’s real life with an addict. He was probably using. But even if he wasn’t, the addictions have stunted and warped his thinking. He is the center of his universe and all that matters is him. He is willing to do anything–including assault his father–to get his way. He is addiction.

Even though I am a professional trained to provide counsel to others, I observe myself going through all the thinking processes of a victim. I blame myself. I excuse his behavior. I get angry. I get scared. Today, when a young man who looked like my son came into the clinic, I flinched. That’s what we’ve come to. I’m afraid of my own son, the boy who toddled around saying, “Bup. bup. bup.” The boy whose diapers I changed, whose wounds I dressed, whose hurt feelings I soothed. The boy who has brought me such joy. And such sorrow.

Posted in Downs | 3 Comments »