letting each other go

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


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