letting each other go

Archive for the ‘addiction’ Category

What Happened

Posted by Leo G on March 15, 2009

Bup's childhood best friend.

Bup's childhood best friend.

I’ve been putting off writing this post, but I finally realized that it just might help exorcise the dull ache in my chest to tell the story and write out the feelings that go along with it. A lot of people have been wondering if I am okay. I am, if by “okay” you mean functioning. I can work, walk the dog, eat, sleep, and do my job. I can even pour myself into my job in a way that seems to be working. The people I work for have been appreciating the extra effort and my openness, which feels good.

I don’t really know where to begin. Bup and I have been living alone in an apartment since he returned from “Observation and Assessment” last summer. At first things were much, much better. He was motivated and cooperative and even grateful. But little by little, as always happens, that wore off. There were new underage drinking charges. There was a party held in our home on a weekend when I was out of town for a very important interview that almost ended in eviction and cost me the job. (I had to deal with my son’s arrest and was understandably distracted. I did the best I could, and I think I did well–but it wasn’t my best and I understood when they said, “You have a lot to offer, but we went in another direction.”

Oh, and the other thing that really hurt was that I explained to my son exactly how much the job possibility meant to me. I extracted a promise from him that he would be on his best behavior. His response, “Look, I know it’s important to you. I would never do anything to mess that up.” That was less than 24 hours before he had the party. A party with alcohol, pot, loud music, screaming, kids passed out, kids getting sick, and something that ended with at least two holes in the walls.

Then the disappearances started again. “I’ll be home at 9 pm” became out all night without even a call to let me know he was okay. “Going down to the workout room to lift weights” became going missing for 36 hours. And so on. Everything was a lie. I knew if I let him out of my sight I probably wouldn’t see him for hours or even days. My anxiety was through the roof and I was spending tons of energy trying to manage him.

The only really good thing about the party weekend was that I picked up the book Beautiful Boy by David Sheff in the airport and read it on the way home. It is an amazing book. Painfully and beautifully honest in a way that broke through the isolation and the shame that kept me from reaching out for help or even writing here. As I read, I realized that compassion came easy when it was someone else’s son. And I realized that I needed to extend some of that compassion to myself. The book also explained a little about Alanon and introduced me to the “3 C’s”:

You didn’t cause it.
You can’t control it.
You can’t cure it.

Believe me, I’ve me clinging to that. Because the most painful thing about this disease is the terror that it’s my fault. That if only I’d loved him more, raised him better, been more of a disciplinarian, built up his self-esteem more, seen the signs earlier, sent him to private school, not paid for a lawyer, paid for a better lawyer, gotten divorced sooner, not gotten divorced, never moved away from California, not been the kind of person I am, talked more about drugs, talked less about drugs, been more open, never told him about my own experimentation…

sigh. You get the picture.

I carry all that and more around in my head and heart, along with the voice that screams at me, “How can you possibly have kicked him out? He’s barely eighteen! He hasn’t finished high school! He’s never held a job! He doesn’t have any money! He’s going to die and it’s all your fault…”

But I know too that I can’t live any longer with the lies and the insanity. Another few months and I wouldn’t have been able to do my job. I was getting lost–used up–eaten alive by the constant crisis. The band of pain in my chest was getting scarier by the moment. My heart seemed to be actually, physically breaking.

Not that the heartbreak has stopped. But the constant need to try to control this disease and prevent it from taking my son from me–that battle is over. I can’t control it. I was fighting and fighting and fighting a battle in which I could make no progress whatsoever. If my son is going to survive, he is going to have to fight for his own life. Even though I would gladly give my life to save his, I can’t. The only one who can save his life is him.

Have I given up on him? No, not in any way. I’ve given up on me and my attempts to control his behavior, his cravings, the consequences. I’ve given up on reasoning with an irrational disease. I’ve given up trying to get him to see the pain he is causing or the self-destructive spiral he’s riding. I’ve given up trying to be his “Higher Power” and am instead, trying to truly let him go–giving him to his own Higher Power, hoping that there is someone who can keep him safe, guide him, break through his denial, bring him healing.

It is not easy. I don’t have an easy faith in a personal God who involves himself in our lives. My faith is complicated and my sense of God as the “Spirit of Love” or “Beautiful Mystery” does not inspire the same confidence as I see in my friends with more traditional beliefs. But I realized that I don’t know how to let him go if I think I’m just letting him fall into the abyss and be lost in the void. I need to believe there is something or someone who will keep trying–who will compassionately draw him toward health. I need to believe in a Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

When I named this blog “letting each other go” I never imagined it would mean kicking him out of my home. I never imagined that I’d be worried that he was sleeping in the cold. I never imagined that I would know that my actions make it impossible for him to graduate from his high school. I never imagined that I would refuse to give him money when he complains of having no food. (I gave him more than sixty dollars the day he moved out. It was gone in less than 48 hours.) I never imagined I would be the kind of dad who kicks his son out the day before he turned eighteen.

I didn’t want to be this dad. But my son has taught me that this is the only way. I don’t get a gradual, incremental letting go. I don’t get a slowly emptying nest. I don’t get the bittersweet joy of leaving him at his first day of college. Instead, it is my responsibility to do what I have come to know is best for my son. And that means getting out of his way, allowing him to face the consequences of his choices. And if I’m lucky, watching him eventually take credit for his successes.

And in the meantime, I wait. And continue to practice letting go.

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Posted in addiction, Consequences, Coping, Downs, parenting | 2 Comments »

So, about that last post…

Posted by Leo G on May 5, 2007

Clearly, it’s not an “either/or.” But it still matters. Up until the past couple of weeks, I’ve only thought of Bup’s drug use as a problem. I hadn’t considered at all that it might be a symptom of other things. I think it’s important to keep both in mind. It keeps us from seeing him only as a “bad guy,” which isn’t helpful at all. He’s sixteen. He’s trying to cope with a lot. He’s coping in a way that is very troubling and painful for all of us. But it helps to remember that this is not him trying to hurt us. This is not him just being a jerk. This is a teenager trying to make sense of the world, its rules, its temptations, and its pain.

Interestingly, the person in our family who is most angry at Bup is the one who has also used (and still uses, to a lesser degree) substances to cope with emotions. You’d think that this person would be able to empathize–or at least to imagine that Bup is in pain. But that’s not happening. It’s puzzling to me. It seems like they think Bup is doing this on purpose, to make our lives miserable. Or maybe it’s that they only see the effects and never think to look for reasons behind Bup’s behavior.

I guess I was doing some of that too. Which is why the “cause/effect” or “cause or symptom” question became so important to me. My son is not a monster, using drugs simply for his own pleasure or to cause us grief. He’s someone who is struggling and who will benefit more from our love and support than our blame. (I know he needs firm boundaries…I’m talking about love that is strong and principled and real.)

So that’s what I meant. And for all of you that suggested family therapy–we’re already there. Have been for a while. And we’re a family of therapists and social workers. We’re doing the right things. But it’s still a process. No quick fix. No magic bullet. No simply enforcing better boundaries, etc. I hope, the next time you see a drug addict, a homeless youth, a gang member, or even the “shooter” in some brutal and horrific crime, you’ll remember with me that there are no easy answers. Somebody (maybe even lots of somebodies) may have been trying everything they knew to help. And it still may not be enough.

Mia: Living Life Trying
photo by David Hogsholt, winner “Best of Photo Journalism” Enterprise Story, 3rd place. He says of the picture:

Mia is 26 years old. She is a drug addict and a prostitute. In a world of crack, heroin, short term relationships, and too many dark days, she is trying to lead a halfway decent life. Trying to be there for her family and for her friends when they need her. Trying to keep her addiction from killing her. Trying to live a life other people wouldn’t deem worthy.

Mia behind Copenhagen’s Grand Central Station. This is the area which holds the city’s red light district. It has been a tough year for Mia. She lost her boyfriend to an overdose, her own addiction got worse and she hardly ever saw her six year old daughter who is in foster care.

Posted in addiction, Coping | 5 Comments »