I hate drugs. I despise them with every fiber of my being. And, as many people know, this is a sensitive issue for me because I have witnessed first-hand a life of destruction as my brother has struggled with drug abuse for over thirty years. And because of this, I have always been paranoid that something similar would happen to my own children - it is my one great fear in life. And so due to my paranoia, I've been very diligent in parenting my teens - I go overboard when it comes to keeping track of who they are with and what they are doing. They hate it... but I do it anyway. But now we've reached the point where John is almost 17 years old and I can no longer watch over him 24/7. Thus, there is no way know what he is doing at all times. I wish I could continue to shelter him and keep him out of harms way... but I can't. Which leads me to this entry.
Many people have wondered why I have been so quiet lately. I've shrugged it off by telling people that I just don't feel well, blaming my current health issues. But there is more to it than that. What people don't know is that I have remained silent about what is really going - the behind the scenes stuff that is happening in my home... the things I have not shared... not until today. However, because I feel very strongly about this subject, I have decided to be forthcoming with my family and friends because 1) I don't like secret keeping, 2) sometimes good kids make bad choices and there is no shame in that, and 3) as parents we do the best we can with the tools we have and often, even that is not enough. My prayer is that this wrong will be made right and that those who read this entry will not pass judgment - because the truth of the matter is: every situation is unique, and although John is a normal teenager with normal problems, he is also a teenager with a disease which dictates much of how I approach problems with this child. With some problems, my approach is full force with guns blazing. But with other problems, I tread lightly because I am dealing with a teenager who is fragile both physically and emotionally. It's a very fine line I walk each day, and even though I make mistakes along the way, I try to correct them the best I know how.
John is my kid who is easy to love. He isn't shy about hugging me or telling me thank you. And every single day he says, "I love you, Mom," as he kisses me on the cheek and goes about his merry way. Seriously, it is difficult not to love a boy who shows such open love for his mother. And it is also difficult to get mad at a person who is so gentle and caring.
But John is also my child who does everything he can to test my patience as he pushes all limits trying to define his personal self. Currently, he is flunking his classes - and he doesn't even care because he claims that he is making a statement about what a waste of time homework is. His thought process is that if he passes the tests, then that should be proof enough that he is learning something in the class. And his latest declaration is that he is not going to compromise his integrity by bowing to authority. What the heck? Where does he come up with this stuff? Does he not realize that he is possibly throwing away future opportunities because he refuses to "compromise his integrity?" Good grief. Where did I go wrong?
Sadly, we think there is more to this latest rebellion streak. Last week, his therapist called me into her office for an emergency meeting. After discussing John's attitude and his current lack of desire, we put our heads together and concluded that drugs may possibly be involved. In the meantime, I also received calls from his teachers informing me that he is failing his classes and that he seems to have "checked out" when it comes to putting forth effort in the classroom. They told me that he has a bad attitude and that he is unwilling to discuss his grades with them.
I won't deny that this did not come as a surprise, although I thought we had put it behind us after John was caught with possession of marijuana last January (caught by the police... not by me). At that time, John made a big production about throwing away his drug paraphernalia and he promised to shape up. His punishment for breaking the house rules AND BREAKING THE LAW was removal of freedom privileges, as well as no testing for his driver's license. And he seemed clean for a while... he was clear headed, he was putting forth great effort in his school work, and his attitude was positive.
Until now. And now is where I'm at. The time has come for the tough love approach. So after much consideration and contemplation, I decided to call his doctor to discuss this problem. First of all, John takes numerous prescription medications, and drug abuse could seriously compromise the usefulness of those meds. Additionally, adding street drugs to the mix could potentially be lethal. Therefore, I'm dealing with a situation that is [potentially] more than casual drug abuse. I had no choice. I had to tell his doctor. Not a fun conversation. In fact, I felt like a failure as I explained the situation. But right now, it's not about me. It's about saving this child, which means I have swallow my pride and admit that something went wrong. That's not to say that *I* did something wrong... because I don't know that I have. But SOMETHING went wrong. Therefore, I must take the blame for letting this happen regardless of where the fault lies (and I truly believe the fault lies in the availability of street drugs and the secrecy that surrounds this problem - if more people would talk about it, and if as a society we would work together to fight this battle, I think parents would be better prepared when the problem lands smack-dab in their lap. But because there is so much shame associated with drug abuse, we don't talk about it - we don't want to eat the humble pie that says, "my child is not perfect." Instead, we hang our heads in shame and suffer silently, hoping to quietly solve the problem, without knowing exactly how to do so. But if we, as parents, would put our heads together to discuss why our good kids have made bad choices, I sincerely believe we would be better prepared to fight this battle).
After speaking with John's doctor, it was decided that a drug test was absolutely necessary and that said test had to be administered without John's knowledge. Therefore, my job was to "trick" John into taking what is commonly known to teenagers as a piss test. Note that tricking my kids goes against everything I believe in when it comes to parenting. But, like I said, the time for tough love is now, and tough love is not for wimps. I CANNOT BE A WIMP - not now. I have to be strong, and tough, and even mean. SIGH. I can do this. And I did. I took John to the lab and told him to pee in a cup. He pretty much figured out what was going on... he turned to me and said, "it's a good thing I'm clean." Great, big, giant sigh. Maybe he is clean. Maybe we are all being paranoid. And maybe John is just a rebellious soul who is trying to fit in by being troublesome. Maybe... maybe not.
Either way, today I'm on pins and needles as I await the results of this drug test. And if the test is positive - I don't know what I will do. Is my next step house arrest? Do I dare put a child who has been home-bound from high school for five months back in a situation where he is not allowed to be with his peers? Because, really... what will that teach him? He will suffer in solitude and he also won't be allowed to clean up his act by making good choices because I will have removed the option of choices altogether. I don't necessarily know if that will help, other than to make him feel more isolated and become even more rebellious (my fear is that he will run away!).
John will turn seventeen on Sunday. He absolutely must take responsibility for his actions, but I'm not certain that house arrest is the answer. He's already pretty removed from society, which is probably why he turned to drugs in the first place. I don't know. I don't have answers. The only thing I am sure of is that I love this child with every fiber of my being and I will continue to do the best I can with the tools I have, and right now, my tool is mandatory drug testing. From there... I just don't know.
And so there it is: "the rest of the story." My life is currently consumed with raising this child. It requires every ounce of energy I have. I'm emotionally worn out, which is why I've been absent from the world. Next week I will have surgery to correct the health problems my body has foisted upon me. I've opted for a day surgery rather than a full hysterectomy because, as I told the doctor, "I need 18 more months to finish what I have started with raising this child. I cannot afford a six week recovery period." Therefore, we are buying time with the removal of the growths only, praying that they don't test positive for cancer. Hopefully, this surgery will accomplish what it is supposed to do (cease the hemorrhaging), and I will then be able to focus 100% on the task at hand, which is to love this child through thick and thin, as I continue to instill the lessons of making wise choices and the consequences that occur when mistakes are made. Because the truth of the matter is: sometimes, good kids make bad choices. But when all is said and done, it is not the bad choice that matters, but the lesson that is learned from the experience.
Tough love... it is not for wimps.