letting each other go

Archive for the ‘Coping’ Category

Always Letting Go

Posted by Leo G on May 8, 2014

It’s been years since I last updated this blog. For all I know, no one will see this. But it’s possible there is someone out there wondering “What ever happened to Leo and Buppie?” Well, much has happened in five years. Buppie is now 23 years old. He is much healthier and happier than he was five years ago. Things are not perfect. He struggles at the edge of poverty, having decided to forego college for the school of life.  He no longer uses street drugs, but still drinks and smokes marijuana.  I’d be happier if he was completely sober, but it’s a “harm reduction” success.  He is no longer constantly in trouble. He works hard at a thankless job (collections!) and then works even harder at his rap/music career.  He is part of a wonderful project bringing art to the streets of his city.  And, he and his girlfriend have given me two amazing gifts:

tone.w.Kate.JVB.NYC-2 IMG_0101

That’s right, you can call me “Poppy” now. As always, love wins.


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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.

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

Letting go for real

Posted by Leo G on March 12, 2009

Well, he’s moved out. At my request. I came home to the strong smell of marijuana in my house, his window open and a candle burning. But he had left an hour or so earlier. That was it. He broke every single boundary I laid out two weeks ago. I told him he had made his choice and I would not support him living his life this way. My heart is breaking. And I truly believe I am doing the right thing.

At midnight, it will be his eighteenth birthday.

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Moving Forward and Learning to Let Go

Posted by Leo G on March 8, 2009

So it’s been months since I updated here. Mostly things have been hard. Bup isn’t using street drugs, but he is drinking and there have been several major negative consequences–more arrests, fines, a near-eviction, and the loss of a job opportunity–all directly connected to Bup and his behavior.

After the job interview disaster–a long story I’ll tell another time–I picked up the book Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. It was an amazingly honest and well-written book. And most importantly, it convinced me to find Alanon resources.

I first found stepchat.com which got me started. Online meetings and chat helped me understand that I am not alone and that there are resources out there that can help.

Then I started face-to-face meetings here in town. It was awkward at first, but I kept at it. Now I’m learning about detachment with love, boundaries, and most importantly, connecting and trusting a higher power.

And that’s good. Because on Friday Bup turns 18. That’s a relief and a source of anxiety. A relief because I won’t be financially responsible for him. In the past 3 years his behavior has cost at least ten thousand dollars in fines, legal fees, restitution, medical costs and miscellany. That’s a lot of money and until he turns 18, I am ultimately responsible to see that it gets paid. So after Friday, I’m free of that.

Of course, it also means that if he screws up again he doesn’t go to juvenile court or detention. He goes to county jail or state prison. And it means that I am contemplating my options, including asking him to leave my home if he is going to continue to drink.

I never thought I would be the kind of parent who kicks my kid to the curb at 18. But he needs to know there are consequences for his repeated breaking of trust, lying, and acting out. He needs to know that if he wants the freedom of adulthood he should also be ready for the responsibility.

And then I look at him. He’s not even 18. He’s smart but completely unrealistic and unprepared for adult life. He thinks he can get by on charisma and charm.

I blame myself a lot, but am trying to let that go too. I have been the best parent I knew how to be. I have tried to balance compassion and discipline. I did not force him to use drugs…he could have made other choices.

So I am letting go. Letting go of Bup. Letting go of control. Letting go of guilt. I named this blog well.

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Quiet Summer Coming to an End

Posted by Leo G on August 7, 2008

This is the last weekend before things change again. Bup’s hearing is the 14th. We’ll learn on Monday what the Observation and Assessment program’s recommendations will be. He’s done really well there, but I can’t tell whether it was real or just a 54 day exercises in extreme self-control. And I don’t know what they will think or say. I know they see the anger under the surface, but they also see that his behavior was entirely appropriate. We’ll see…

Sometimes when I visit, our conversations are easy and it seems like he’s made good progress. But as the time gets close and he gets more scared, he’s more defensive and argumentative. He goes around and around about how unfair it is that he’s lost his whole summer. Some days it feels like he’s convinced he is the victim in all this. But other times he has good insight. I know what he really wants is a completely clean slate.

He’s not going to get it. Not from the state, not from me. He has forgiveness, but there is a difference between forgiveness and pretending nothing ever happened. Plenty happened and to be a good parent–and to be safe–I have to remember and learn. And the consequences of his behaviors will remain: probation, possibly other interventions. He’s still fighting that, which is what really worries me.

Posted in Consequences, Coping | 1 Comment »

He’s Okay

Posted by Leo G on July 7, 2008

After two days of IV antibiotics, he was much better. Now a ten day course of oral antibiotics. He’s okay enough to be arguing with me again. (sigh.)

He just wants to be free.

But he’s not. And he won’t ever be as free as he imagines he should be.

We all have responsibilities. There are consequences for our actions. We are beholden to those who came before and must look out for those yet to be.

“Freedom’s just another word for ‘nothing left to lose’.” ~Me and Bobby McGee

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Second Visit, a Letter, and Inadequate Care

Posted by Leo G on July 1, 2008

It’s been quite a week. I went back to visit him again on Sunday. He was calm, able to listen and accept some responsibility, and generally the Bup I know and love. He’s still 17 and we still disagree on some things, but he wasn’t just rage incarnate. And he apologized more genuinely for a number of things.

He has also charmed the staff, as he always does. He’s made a point of learning their names and being nice to them. In return, he’s begun to get a few favors. They let him finish his online driver’s education class. They let him choose the movies they watch. And they clearly like him.

He’s been reading the Bible during all the free time. Which leads to the next topic: I got the ten page letter he’s been working on ever since he walked out on me during the first visit. He quotes a lot of scripture, which is kind of funny to me. I guess he thinks it has a kind of authority. He quotes it both to admonish me and to praise me, which is interesting. And he offers a pretty sophisticated analysis of the whole situation. Of course, in some ways, that analysis amounts to “I’m a free spirit and you’re just going to make me mad by trying to control me.” True, but not quite a full reckoning of the situation. For instance, it doesn’t take into account that self-control is necessary for even the free-spirited. But it’s a starting point.

Then I got a phone call. It seems they moved him from detention to Observation and Assessment yesterday. Today’s call was from the nurse. Bup’s hand is severely infected and they were calling to get insurance information. After lots of calls to figure out what to do, (all of his insurance coverage changed today) he ended up back at the Emergency Room that treated him ten days ago.

It turns out that when he left that night, they gave him instructions to return to the ER in two days for follow-up wound care. That’s why they gave him a prescription for only two days of antibiotics. But the State of Utah Juvenile Justice system didn’t follow up. He got zero follow up care. When I saw him on Sunday, I saw his hand was swollen and told him to ask for medical care. He did, but got no response. Last night–his first night in O & A–he developed a high fever and could not sleep because he was shivering so badly. His hand is swollen to twice its normal size and red to the wrist. As soon as she saw him, the nurse knew he needed care.

She was right. At the hospital, they gave him immediate intravenous antibiotics and will repeat them for at least two more days. He’s in a lot of pain. I know because he kept saying how much it hurt. This is the kid I couldn’t get to stop playing basketball on his broken foot. He told me he thought he was going to die last night.

I’m tempted to sue the hell out of the State of Utah. Had he not been transferred to O & A, where there is a caring nurse who is appropriately angry at the whole situation, he may not have gotten care even now. What if the infection got into his bloodstream? What if it killed him? How can they just ignore these kids? He had been given specific instructions and I know they saw them, because they called me to tell me that he’d gotten stitches and needed a prescription for antibiotics filled. But they did nothing to make sure he got the care he needed. They didn’t call me and ask me to follow up. They didn’t follow up themselves. They didn’t contact his probation officer. Nothing. They just let him get very very sick.

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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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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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