Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And We're Back

A few days after my last post, my husband and I decided to take a family road trip. We told the kids they were going, like it or not. I have found that we have lost a lot of our parental authority over the past few years, and always seem to be compromising with, or simply giving in to our kids, forgetting that they are the kids and we are the parents. Our daughter, of course was happy to go. Our son, was not too happy about being taken away from his access to weed, and there were a number of, shall I say, disagreements about the trip. I remained adamant in my decision that he would join the family, reminding him that at least for the next few months, he is a minor.

I've been reading a book that a friend gave me called "Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy! Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind," and it has been tremendously helpful in my responses to Justin and his outbursts. I've succumbed to the understanding that I cannot control his actions, but I can control how I react to them. The book also helped me to understand that it is not my fault that Justin is making the choices he is. One of the main themes of the book is that teens are temporarily 'insane' for a lack of a better word. In the past, this insanity usually passed without too much difficulty, because the world was a different place. Today's world is saturated with sex, drugs, and violence, and we put our kids in the middle of it and expect them to be okay. We mistakenly believe that our teens can handle the exposure to this crazy world we bring them into, often with drastic results.

Another insight that I gained from the book was that parents have to let go of the past, and stop reliving our child's youth. If you have read a bit into my archives, you will see that this has been an issue with me. I just can't seem to reconcile what he was with what he has become. The author believes that parents need to stop mourning the well behaved child of the past, and deal with the present and work towards the future. He lays out what he calls the ten commandments of parenting. The first commandment is to behave and think dispassionately. I used this commandment in my reaction to Justin's refusal to go on the trip, and you know what, it worked. Typically, I would react to his outbursts and anger with my own outbursts and anger. This time, I remained calm and respectful, no matter what he threw my way. I repeated again and again that he was a minor and he would be joining the family. The angrier he became, the calmer my reaction. Many times, I just walked away. Incredibly, as the day of our departure came, he had his bags packed and was ready to go. I had no idea how he was going to behave on the trip, but away we went.

I'm happy to report, that although there were a few bumps along the way, a good time was had by all. We spent a week with my sister in Toronto, which included a trip to Canada's Wonderland. It was incredible to see my son smile and act like a kid again. We spent a couple of days shopping in downtown Toronto, allowing both of our kids to buy whatever clothes they wanted (I'm still afraid to look at the credit card bill). We listened to Johnny Cash on the 401, all singing along to our favourite Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue." We made memories - good memories, something our family has been lacking for a long time.

In a small cafe on the way home, somewhere between Montreal and Ottawa, my son leaned over to me and said, you know what mom, I think I might stop smoking weed. I've felt pretty good this past week, better than I have felt in a long time. I have been waiting to hear those words for four long years. At this point, I'm cautiously hopeful. We have only been back a few days, and although it does appear that he has remained sober, he also has not really left the house, sticking to watching movies. I have a feeling that he is afraid to go out with his friends, because he is worried that he will fall back into his old habits. He starts school on Tuesday, and that will be the true test as to whether or not he can stay clean. He has another appointment with his drug counselor tomorrow, and I think I will give the counselor a call ahead of time to ask him if he can talk to Justin about peer pressure and give him advice on how not to be so easily influenced by others. It's been so nice to not be fighting for the past couple of weeks. The peace I have been craving for so long has finally arrived. I'm praying that it will not be taken away, plunging us back into darkness.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"You can't have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time.”

My sister gave birth to a baby boy last week. Holding the perfect little bundle, with his resemblance to my own son, was definitely a bittersweet experience. Memories rushed back to me, taking me back to such a happy time in our lives. Remembering what it was like when he was so innocent, and when I held such hope for his future. Seventeen years ago, holding my own newborn son in my arms, I would never had expected to be experiencing what I am today. I know that I can't torment myself with memories of the past, but instead, must accept our circumstances and continue to try to get my son back. I need to believe that the future will be better.

I am disappointed in myself; Last week, I was going to attend an al-anon meeting, and I did not go. Following Justin's incident with the cops, I had noticed some improvements in his behaviour. I was hopeful that perhaps we were at a turning point, and that he was beginning to see the problems his drug use were causing in his life. There has been a part of me that has been hoping that Justin's drug use is not as bad as I think it is, that maybe it really is just some teen experiementation that he will grow out of, and that he is not really an addict, just a teen gone wild. I was in one of my hopeful moods on the night of the meeting, and foolishly decided that I would feel out of place among the people who are involved with real addicts. And then, the truth hits me hard, like it did a few days after I thought he was improving. He wasn't improving, he was just getting better at hiding his use.

Justin attended his assessment with a counselor yesterday. I'm so relieved that he agreed to go. We have another meeting on Tuesday where we will all be present to discuss where we need to go from here.

I just keep taking it one day at a time, trying not to focus on the past, and instead continuing my search for our better tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

I was driving into town the other day, thinking about my situation and feeling very sorry for myself. I kept wondering, why me, why us, why is this happening to my family. I was feeling a lot of anger and bitterness because I felt like we had done everything right as parents and made so many sacrifices for our kids, and therefore we did not deserve what was happening. Lately, everywhere I look, there seems to be happy people. I search faces wherever I go, and wonder, are they as happy as they appear to be on the outside? My answer came to me the other day as I was driving into town. I had stopped the car at a red light and looked over at the car next to me. At first glance, it appeared to be a perfectly content family. Nice car, handsome father, car seat with a cherubic toddler safely buckled in. And then I looked at the woman in the passenger seat and realized that she was crying. Fat tears slid down her face as she gazed off into the distance. Pain was etched deeply in her face. I will never know what was causing her such sorrow, but it made me realize that appearances can be very deceiving. We all have sadness, regret, and situations that test us and sometimes break us. I am no more fortunate, nor unfortunate than anybody else. We may have periods where we sail blissfully through life, oblivious to the pain of others, not realizing that our turn will come eventually. No one gets through life unscathed. Bad things happen to good people, and we have to learn to accept our circumstances, one day, one moment at a time.

It's been a difficult few days around these parts. Three nights ago, Justin came home from a party. He drove my father's car home, and when he walked through the front door, I could immediately tell that he was stoned. I took the keys from him and called the cops. He knew that I had called and left home, yelling that he hated me and that he would never be back. I immediately regretted my actions, feeling that I may have driven him away, before he had the opportunity to receive treatment. The cops arrived and took his description. They found him about an hour later at a local teen hangout. He went with them willingly and they had a long chat and then they brought him home. During their conversation, Justin had mentioned that he wanted to become a firefighter. They took pity on him and decided not to press any charges. They carefully explained that a drug charge or a DUI would completely derail any hopes of being hired by the fire department. Part of me was relieved that he was not charged, and then there was the other part of me that realizes that my son always seems to get himself out of trouble without any serious consequences. I know, though, that his luck is running out. In a few short months, he will be considered an adult. If he continues to abuse drugs, he will eventually face charges. I would rather that he faced charges at seventeen then at eighteen, where it will remain on his record. The only good that came out of this was my father promised to never let him use his car again. I could not take the guilt, if my son killed somebody with his recklessness, and my father now understands how foolish he was to trust him. Since that night, the tension in our home has been thick. Justin is angry at me for calling the cops. I know that someday, he will understand and forgive me.