Saturday, January 29, 2011

Such a helpless feeling

I'm feeling more helpless than usual the last couple of days. My son is really struggling. Not with addiction--although that's always part of the struggle--but with his depression and anxiety. He's in a negative rut, for sure, and I can feel the agony he's going through. It really hurts.

I've been thinking a lot lately about taking my son to the University of Michigan Depression Center for an evaluation. I've heard some really good things about the place, and they also host University of Michigan Addiction Treatment Services. I've been told that the two can work together to treat dual diagnosis (depression and addition) patients. My wife called U of M the other day but, of course, any appointment for an evaluation has to be made by our son because of his age. We met with his therapist last night and I asked him what he thought about the whole U of M idea. He thought it was an excellent idea. Now all we have to do is convince the patient.

Watching my child struggle never gets any easier. Sure, I can detach for short periods of time and try and forget about it. But when I constantly hear him say, "I hate my life" or wonder out loud why he should even bother to get up every day, it's like someone's sticking a knife in my gut and twisting it ever so slowly. I'm his father. I feel like I'm supposed to be able to make things better for my son. But in this instance I can't. And it's such a helpless feeling.

"It hurts so bad that I cannot save him, protect him, keep him out of harm's way, shield him from pain. What good are fathers if not for these things?"
--From "The Way We Are" in Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality by Thomas Lynch

More than anything in the world, I want my son to experience happiness. I want him to wake up in the morning and feel good about himself; to have friends; to have a job; to feel like he has a purpose in life. Right now he has none of that. But I pray every day that someday he will.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Friday Night Lies

Of all the human emotions I've experienced during my nearly 50 years on this planet, I think "lack of trust" is the one that has affected me the most. And not in a good way.

I worked from home this past Friday because it was bitterly cold outside and the roads were still snow-covered and slippery from the night before. The commute home from work on Thursday evening had taken me two hours, and I wasn't about to go through a similar experience Friday morning. Thankfully, I have the option of telecommuting when necessary.

I busted my butt all day Friday and decided we should go out to dinner to start the weekend off on a fun note. We found out my younger son already had plans--going to a friend's house for "Movie Night"--but my wife, older son, and I decided we'd still go out to eat. Near the end of dinner, my son asked if he could have some money to buy a Mountain Dew at the store in the same block so he'd have one for the morning. That request seemed harmless enough, so my wife gave our son a couple of dollars and he went to the store while we finished paying the bill. As my wife and I were leaving the restaurant, we ran into some friends of hers who had just arrived, and my wife decided to stay and hang out with them.

So I started walking to the car and met my son at the door of the store. His hands were empty, but it looked like he had just put something into his pocket. I asked him, "Did you get your pop?" He said, "Yeah, it's in my pocket." I was immediately suspicious, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Besides, I did see that he had put something in his pocket. So I decided to let it go.

On the way home, he asked if I could drive him to a meeting and I told him I would. The meeting was at 8, and it was almost 7:45. Thinking I'd conserve some time and gas, I asked my son, "Can I just take you to the meeting now?" But he said he wanted to stop home first to "get his hat."

When we got home, I told my son to let me know when he was ready to leave. Still, though, there was absolutely no sign of the Mountain Dew. I asked him, "Don't you want to put the pop in the fridge?" He said he would, but didn't go near the refrigerator in the kitchen. By this time, I was sure something wasn't right, but I didn't want to be accusatory. At least not yet. My son then went down the basement for a minute. When he came back upstairs, he said he was going to have a cigarette in the garage, then he'd be ready to go. I asked him again, "Where's your pop?" and he answered, "I put it in the fridge in the basement."

When he went outside to smoke, I went downstairs to check the refrigerator for the Mountain Dew. Not surprisingly, there was no pop in the fridge. I then went out to the garage and confronted my kid, telling him that I knew he was lying to me about the pop. At this point, he told me he ended up not buying a pop--he had bought a lighter instead. I told him flat out that I didn't believe him and suggested that if he had bought alcohol, he'd better come clean now. Still, he insisted he had only bought a lighter.

Having been through similar situations before, I proceeded to go downstairs and search the basement a bit. In my son's backpack, I found an empty 24-ounce Budweiser can, and that set me off. The rule my wife and I established was "If you want to live here, you can't use alcohol or drugs," and my son was well aware of this. I went outside, threw the empty beer can his way, and asked him again, "What did you buy at the store?" He insisted the empty Bud can was from "a month ago," and stuck to his "I bought a lighter" story. I still didn't believe him. I also told him I wasn't taking him to his meeting because he had lied to me.

When my wife got home, I explained what had happened. Of course, a big argument ensued between our son and us, because when he does something wrong, he goes a little crazy and tries to twist things around so it somehow appears to be our fault. Typical addict behavior. In this instance, according to our son, we were making way too big a deal out everything. The empty beer can was from a month ago. He had only bought a lighter at the store. And he lied about buying the pop because he knew we'd get mad if he said he'd bought a lighter. Etc. This whole situation was our fault because we were overreacting.

Because I was still incredibly suspicious, I took the two garage door openers--one from the house and one from the car--and put them in my pocket so the garage couldn't be accessed. About an hour later, my son went ballistic again. "Now I can't even go in the garage and smoke??!!" I told him I wasn't letting him in the garage because I was pretty sure that he had bought beer with the money we gave him for pop, and I wasn't going to let him have it. "I told you, I only bought a lighter!" he insisted.

(Already too) long story short: About an hour later, after telling us numerous times how much he hates us and his life, and how we always overreact, our son finally came clean. He took the money we gave him for pop and bought a beer at the store. And it was hidden in the garage.

This was pretty much what I had suspected right from the start, from the moment I saw my son coming out of the store with something in his pocket. But even so, I was absolutely devastated. After all these years, and after having been caught so many times, my son still continues to lie and deceive like it's no big deal. Again, typical addict behavior.

My wife and I really don't know what to do at this point. Our son knew the rules we put in place and just ignored them. He says he won't go to a three-quarter house or sober living facility. And we're tired of living our lives like this. Nothing but selfishness and lies and deceit. And our money fueling his habits.

I understand that he's in a difficult place. But the stress is overwhelming. And for some reason, these little incidents ALWAYS seem to happen on a Friday night, just when I feel like I'm starting to de-stress a bit from work.

As I've said before, I never in a million years thought I'd be in a position like this with one of my kids. My son is a 21-year-old man, and it's gotten to the point where I don't believe a single thing he tells me. How incredibly sad is that? I cry every time I think about it. That's how much it hurts me. Lord only knows when--or if--I'll ever be able to trust him again.