Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A call from Evan's mom

Evan's mom called.

I accepted the call. I just could not refuse her call one more time.

I tried to tell her only that Evan was safe and not in trouble, but that it was his job to tell her what was going on...but I couldn't.

All I could hear was a mother who was scared.

I told her that the truth...that Evan was in rehab for codeine. That he told us it was a problem and that he asked for help.

Her response was loving. She was glad that he was able to do that. She was not angry with him.

She wanted to know where he was. I told her only that it was in [location deleted] and that it was a really good place -- a small place that only took about 8 people at a time.

I told her that if she wants to mail a letter here I can forward it to him.

At first she said that she wanted to tell him in the letter that she was proud of him for doing this, but then she took it back and said that of course she shouldn't because I wasn't supposed to tell her.

I told her that I thought it would be good for Evan to know that she was proud of him and that it was okay to be honest about our conversation. She said, "I will tell him that I MADE you tell me. That I would NOT let you off the phone until you did." She asked if she could call back in a week or so to get an update about Evan. I said yes.

When I talked to her it was just one mother talking to another. She was scared; she was a worried mother who needed to know what was happening with her son, and I knew.

So I told her.

I don't know if I should tell Evan that I told her. I am thinking not. It will raise his expectations of a letter or something and I don't know if she will follow through on that. Also Evan should still have to face his responsibility of telling her.

Letter from Brian to Evan

Note: UC2 is a video game.

Hi Evan.
Guess what! I unlocked all the charecters on UC2. Raiden is so awsome, His enforcers are made of lightning. And I know how to taunt the enemy now. You just press the white button and selected with the Dpad. Oh yeah, when you're in the pause menu, press L+R+White and the cheat menu comes up. There's this realy sick cheat, you can get a piont with out making a kill. I love the infenent adrenaline cheat. With Raiden , that cheat is awsome. Raiden has an adrenaline move teleport, the bad part about that move is you can't choose where you teleport to. But anways I've got to go, Bye!


Monday, February 27, 2006

Do you have to be co-dependent to be a foster parent?

Somebody (not my sponser, just a friend) emailed me and asked me the following question:

[I]t gives me great satisfaction to give a hot sandwich to a homeless person outside a 7-11 but I don’t look for homeless people and cruise by 7-11 with money in hand for that purpose. Why the desire to do what you're doing? … I wonder what it is that makes a FP [foster parent] "tick" so to speak. What is it that is missing inside to do what you do? Does that make sense? I'm NOT putting you down; quite the opposite. I'm just wondering WHY you do such a thing. (And God bless you for doing it!) I guess what my mind is asking is has any psychological testing been done on foster parents to see what it is that, to ME, seems "unusual."

I really do think about this a lot. It surprises me that there is not more research on it. I have asked a lot of foster parents how they got started, because that is an easier question to answer. The answers seem to be:

1. It was the easiest way to adopt.
2. I knew this kid and...
3. I knew a foster family/my parents were foster parents and...

In the category of #2 here are some of the stories I know:
1. We knew the kid (student in my class, my kids' babysitter [that's me], he lived next door) and when the foster parents "got out of the business" we took him/her.
2. She came to spend the weekend with my daughter and her mother was arrested.
3. "We knew the father/mother was abusing/neglecting the child and called social services over and over and they didn't do anything. We finally said that if they removed the kid we would take him/her. Maybe they would have acted anyway, but..."
4. The first one was my neice/nephew/second-cousin and when social services called I felt I had to at least try.

When I asked them why they did it again, they don’t give me the sorts of answer that you are looking for. They say something like: we were able and we couldn’t say no. They stopped when they found they could say no.

I do think about this a lot. In my case is my foster parenting a manifestation of my co-dependency issues? Maybe. I think that being a good foster parent can be therapeutic for a co-dependent. As foster parents we are taught not to enable; we take kids we can help (hopefully); and at least some of them get a little better/stronger/more capable because of what we did for them.


So I know there are a couple of foster parents who read this blog. Why did you get into care? Why do you continue to give care? Do you think that foster parents share some sort of psychological characteristic?

I would love to know. If you are willing, put your answers in the comment box…or better yet: write about it on your own blog and let me know. I’ll put a link to it from here.

BTW: this means you too Granny! You don’t have to be a licensed foster parent…if you opened your home to children already born, you are invited to play!

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Andrew does not like Evan.

Have I ever mentioned that?

They both always have to right. Andrew, having grown up with me, makes arguments. He will point out inconsistencies in your position, ask you questions and then pounce. (Socrates would be proud). Unfortunately, he is not always nice about it (Socrates would be proud).

Evan just has to be right. He is not used to making an argument and he is not pleased when others are not intimidated with his size, volume and bluster.

Every now and then either one of them will come to me complaining, "He just always has to have his own way." I now I just nod.

For a while I tried to help them work things out, get along better. I eventually admitted I was powerless over their relationship (1st step) and let them work it out. They did...Like a couple of tom cats (not the sort that want me dead, fortunately) the divided up the house. Without ever actually agreeing on a time schedule they have worked out a way of hardly ever being in the same room at the same time. Even though their usual job is to clean up the kitchen after dinner, they have figure out a way to divide the work so that one can do his part and the second can finish later. The thing is, once they felt perfectly free avoiding each other, they interacted a little more. I mean, there were times when they would both be watching the same show on television for a whole hour. Eventually of course one will criticize some aspect of the show, they will argue and one will leave.

I asked Andrew what he thought about Evan coming back. He was pretty clear. He does NOT want it to be like it was those two horrible weeks. However, if things settle down he would be fine with Evan staying.

Andrew knows that if Evan does not come back, there will be another kid. We will take our time, but they will call again and we will eventually say yes. If there is going to be a foster kid in the house it might as well be the one with whom he has already worked out the territorial disputes.

Andrew is a "child who fosters." He is part of a fostering family, but that does not mean that he is expected to be a good roll model. He is not expected to always be nice. What he and Evan are doing may not be what I think of as ideal domestic bliss, but it is healthy. They are both developing skills for negotiating and coping with people they do not especially like. It is good for both of them.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Child rearing philosophy

I owe a lot to Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish . They wrote How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk, among others. I got my first copy when Andrew (my first born) was tiny. I read their books over and over.

I learned (among other things):

  1. To give out praise in believable, small packages.
  2. To express limits, rules, and even anger in constructive ways.
  3. To allow children opportunities to grow, to let them solve their own problems. (Also known as "just standing there" .)

So did not tell my sons that they were good boys, or smart, or any other "big" thing. I told them that I really appreciated it when they: helped keep the grocery cart organized; found my lost keys; helped their brother; whatever. I did not tell them that their picture was beautiful; I told them that it made me smile.

I learned that saying, "It makes me very angry when you leave your coat on the floor" got much better results than saying, "Why can't you ever hang up your coat?" I learned to say, "The rule is no hitting!" and not "If you hit your brother one more time I will..."

When they were little and spilled milk I would say, "Oh no! You did not mean for that to happen. What should we do?" "Wipe it up?" "Great idea! Here's a towel!" I learned that expressing to children that I had confidence that they could solve their own problems was helpful; solving them for them was not.

My birth children have been raised this way. I often forget to follow these principles, but I do a fairly good job.

The praise principle works just as well, if not better, with the foster kids. They really don't believe that they are strong, smart or good. If you tell them that you think they are, they will think you are stupid and then they set out to demonstrate that they are not strong, smart or good. But if you tell them that the change they made in this recipe worked out really well; that their response to the other child helped de-escalate the situation and you really appreciate it; or that the point they made in the essay really made you think, they respond. It is praise they can believe.

The expressing of limits in a constructive way, works less well. It can help, but only so much.

I have been thinking a lot recently about the third one. Some of the kids who come into my house have developed self-destructive behaviors. I find that I have trouble expressing confidence in their abilities and getting out of the way because sometimes I do not have that confidence to express. But I am wondering...maybe I should anyway?

When Evan told his social worker and me that he was addicted we flew into action. We decided what appointments he needed, we scheduled them, we drove him, we (and the other professionals) decided where he would go to rehab, when he would go, and who would go with him. I think we asked him a few times what he thought about the plans we made, but we never considered letting him actually make any of these decisions. We expressed no confidence in him at all.

I am wondering what would have happened if when he first told us we had said, "Oh no! You did not mean for that to happen! What do you think we should do?"

What would have happened if, even for just a few minutes, we expressed confidence in his ability to solve his own problem?

Telling Evan's family

I've written about Evan's mom before. This morning I was reading what Lionmom has to say about the bio moms of her daughers -- very compassionate and thoughtful.

It made me think about Evan's bio family. I am in something of a bind.

First, I am not supposed to tell his family that he is in rehab. It is not that they are not allowed to know, it is that he is supposed to tell them (one of the "steps") and if I tell them I am "enabling" them.

If his grandmother or aunt call I don't think that I can not tell them. The genuinely love him. If I am evasive they will worry. I did give Evan envelopes already addressed and stamped to them so that it would be as easy as possible for him to write to them when he is ready. Hopefully he will get to them before they call me.

Oh...but his mother. He will not want to talk to his mother. He accepts her calls, but has never made an attempt to communicate with her.

We were out last night and there was a message from the prison on the answering machine. The same recorded message I have heard so often.

"If you wish to accept this call and the charges, press 1. If you wish to have more information about how much this call with cost, press 3. If you wish to refuse this call, press 5. If you do not want to receive any more calls from this institution again, press 7."

Press 7....Press 7...Press 7....

I guess it was a good thing that I was not home last night.

I think I will call the social worker and ask her to tell Evan's mother something...anything...I don't want to talk to her.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The cat who wanted me dead

In an effort to think about things other than Evan, today I am going to tell you the story of the cat who wanted me dead.

***Warning – this is a story of dark comedy. It is not recommended for the faint of heart.**

It was about 18 years ago. Hubby and I were in graduate school and living in a large, old house…well, in one eighth of a large house. We had two cats and then were adopted by a third: a big tom cat that we creatively named “Tom.” He was filthy and matted and would come sit next to me when I worked in my tiny flower garden. He learned to navigate the cat door and we took him to a vet to have him neutered. They also pulled out all of his matted hair, leaving him with big bald spots. For about a week he seemed to be the same cat – spending most of the time outside and coming in periodically to terrorize the other cats and say hello.

After one week all the testosterone apparently disappeared out of his system. He spent all his time following me around the apartment. He climbed into my lap to purr and drool every time I sat down. The other cats spent almost all their time outside, running in quickly for a bite of food every now and then. Tom was slowly claiming the apartment as his own domain.

One hot, hot summer night Hubby, Tom and I were all trying to sleep. Hubby startled in his sleep throwing out an arm and startling me. I threw out my arm and accidentally hit Tom.

Tom attacked. He lunged at me scratching and biting as I shook him off my right arm. I turned on the light so that he could see it was me, and he lunged again – this time at my left shoulder. I shook him off one more time. He prepared to jump at me again but Hubby, my knight in shining armor, leaped in front of me taking the attack. I ran into the bathroom. I had deep scratches and bite wounds on my chest and both arms. My nightgown was torn and you could see where the bruises soon would be showing. I sobbed and washed the wounds.

Hubby said the cat became calm as soon as I disappeared and that I should try to come out. I opened the door. Tom saw me, went down like a stalking lion, and started towards me. I shut the door. Hubby called again a few minutes later saying he had the cat in the kitchen. I should come out again.

I quietly opened the door, tiptoed to the living room, and carried the cordless phone into the hallway. There I sat curled in a ball and dialed 911. The operator answered and between sobs I said, “The cat…the cat…it won’t stop attacking us!” The operator said she would send out animal control.

I went to the front porch where the neighbor, who no doubt heard all the screaming, came out to see if I was okay. I did not occur to me until later what he must have thought about a young woman with bruises and scratches sitting on the front porch crying and holding her torn nightgown shut. Whatever he thought, it probably wasn’t, “Bet she was attacked by a 15 pound cat.”

The police drove up. I went to ask if they were here for the cat. They said no, they just heard the a call go out saying that people were being attacked by a cat and they had to check it out. We walked around the house to the back porch. Hubby came out leaving Tom in the kitchen. We stood there on the porch, Hubby, me, our two cats and the two police officers, waiting for the animal control officer while Tom sat in the kitchen – surveying his new domain.

I like to end the story there, but of people always want to know what happened next. Let’s just say that it involved antibiotics, one rabies and tetanus shot for each of us, euthanasia, anxious waiting, and a phone call telling us we would need no more rabies shots.

The two inch scar on my right arm has faded, unfortunately not as much as the three parallel scars on my right breast.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A fragile peace (edit)

Two days ago I joined an on-line Nar-Anon group (support group for people involved with addicts -- it is a 12-step program). They have been good about helping me to calm down and relax. I also realized that I really have to deal with my co-dependency issues. My father is a recovering alcoholic and so I better go to Al-Anon (there is no Nar-Anon group locally) and get my #@*! together.

Yesterday the social worker called. She was processing and so was I. She asked how I was holding up, how was Hubby, Andrew and Brian. She shared difficulties ahead -- serious as well as practical. They have Evan in a great rehab center; he may be there 60 days instead of 30 (maybe). There is a family therapy portion, but they have no idea how we are going to participate, seeing as it is 1000 miles away and all. They are working on it though...this center and the local rehab counselor have worked together before. Maybe we can see her and maybe we could have some speaker phone meetings with Evan...they don't know. She said the rehab counselor told her that it was not going to be easy living with him. Living with a recovering addict is hard and we would need to go to Al-Anon (no Nar-Anon around here), make a commitment to therapy too. It is a lot to ask a foster family. And maybe Evan would benefit from a more independent living situation, anyway. But nothing is decided. Nothing can be decided until Evan is further along in rehab.

It was a good conversation and about an hour later the impact of it hit me. She's telling me that they might not send him back. I am not the real mother, or even the real aunt, who happens to have a whole lot of professionals helping her get help for her kid. I am the foster mom. The professionals are the ones who are in charge. I will get him back if they decide it is best.

I spent some time crying.

This morning I woke up feeling peaceful. I had a new found acceptance of the will of the universe. This was not about me, about whether I could prove to the social workers that I was good enough, or strong enough. Evan is being taken care of by a lot of people whom I really trust. If he is supposed to come back to me, he will. If he isn't, then he will still always be part of my life. I will always still love him, he just won't live here. An if he isn't supposed to be here, then he will be where he is supposed to be. And that is a good thing. Evan's journey has to be taken by Evan. I have to take my own, work on my own issues, and trust the social workers, the universe, the goddess...whatever...to take care of Evan.

Such a good, calm feeling. I am trying to remember the first couple of steps in the 12-step program...isn't this at least two of them? This 12-step thing is right on track and I haven't even gone to a meeting. I don't have a sponser yet, but won't he or she be so proud that I have already mastered 2 steps?

I drove Andrew to school and came back and talked to Hubby. I started trying to tell him about my peace of mind..but he was confused. So I backed up and re-told him about the phone call. He interrupted -- he remembered that. I took a very deep breath and moved forward in my story. He's confused...what does this have with the phone call yesterday?

I take another deep breath..."Is it okay if I just tell the damn story in my own way?" Of course he says. Okay...so now I rush through the highlights of conversation; I tell him how worried and anxious I was last night about whether I was going to get Evan back. I was just about to get to the calm, happy, accepting, new-found peace part of the story.

He interrupted again and said, "Well, maybe you are not the right person."

Okay…he’s the love of my life and all: husband of 20 years; the man who once threw his body between me and a tom cat determined to kill me (another story); the man who calmly agreed to kill every anesthesiologist in town when I was delivering a 9 ½ pound baby and was told the that they were all “busy" (yet another story). But why can’t he just listen to how peaceful and happy I am without pissing me off?

Oh yeah...this 12-step stuff is going to be a breeze.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Yesterday's rollercoaster

Nobody really believed I was only going to do one post a day, right? Maybe I meant only one serious, analyzing-my-life post.

I may have said goodbye to Evan with dry eyes, but it did not last.

I came home, took a two-hour nap and then had a two-hour cry.

I realized that Evan has been using the entire time I have known him. I began to worry that much of what I know and love about him was made possible by the drug. Who will the rehab center send home to me? Will it be the kid I sent them?

I did find out that I may send Evan letters even during the first 14 days.

I also asked the social worker if the would send ME to see the rehab counselor a few times while he is gone. They said yes.

Thinking clearly (I hope) about goals.

Well...Evan is gone and I have 30 days to figure out what my strategy will be when he returns. Will I require drug screening? Attendance at counseling? I am very capable of tough love and will throw him out if he doesn't do what I want him to do...So I have to be very careful. I would prefer NOT to toss him out, so I need to establish conditions that are reasonable and necessary.


  1. Take care of myself. (If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy).
  2. Take care of my relationship with Hubby.
  3. Protect Andrew and Brian -- not from everything, but certainly in the sense that I cannot allow Evan to live here if he engages in behavior which is damaging to them.
  4. Communicate with words and actions to Evan that he is LOVED unconditionally -- but that does not mean he can LIVE here unconditionally. (NB: This is a goal for what I will say and do. It is not a goal for what I can expect Evan to understand).
  5. Provide an environment (to the extent that it is within my power) in which he can complete high school -- be it with a diplomma or GED.
  6. Provide an environment (to the extent that it is within my power) in which he can stay clean.

Those goals are in order of priority.

It is more important to me that he leave here with a HS diploma, GED, or equivalence than it is that he leave here clean. That means, that IF I decide that telling Evan that attending NA meetings, going to counseling, having UA's are a condition of living here, it will only be because I become convinced that doing so is necessary to achieve one of the higher goals.

Will Andrew and Brian be harmed if Evan is using? Will Evan's chances of completing high school be lessened if he is using?

The answers to those questions are not simple. Evan was using all last semester. Andrew and Brian did not know. Evan has an independent source of income, so there was no theft. He uses and abuses to cope, not get high. Sadly, it may be that at this point in his addiction, he is easier to live with when he IS using. However, I also promise not to enable his use because it is easier for me or others.

Evan also did well (for him) with school while using.

Right now Evan believes that his use makes it possible for him to do the things that he is required to do. I clearly half believe it too. What I know to be the case is that if Evan is going to cope WITHOUT his drug, then he must learn some skills that he currently does not have. In the long run, he will do better if he is not using -- BUT THAT IS NOT MY GOAL. It is NOT my job. It is NOT in my control.

I have been reaching back to all my Alateen education (Alanon for teenagers), trying to remember that Evan's sobriety is Evan's job. I canNOT control that. So what can I control? What is the cost to me to try to control it? What are my goals and will that activity serve those goals?

I have decided to use this space to work these things out. I cannot obsess about this all the time, so I am going to only allow myself one post a day (let's see if I can keep that commitment). Today is all about goals.

Over the next few days I am going to try to clearly state what I understand the needs of each of the family's needs are. One person at a time.

I know...I know...I must not go all co-dependent on everyone else. Andrew and Hubby should be making their own lists of needs and goals. Even Brian (11 years old) should be doing his with some help. I should NOT be defining them for them. I get that...but...well...I'm going to do it anyway...so there!

Future posts:

  1. My understanding of the needs of each family member and what I can and should do (and NOT do) with respect to those goals.
  2. The difference between what the kids want and need. (Especially Andrew, who by the way, does not and never has liked Evan. I decided long ago that living with a sibling you don't like is an opportunity for growth, not a danger to your pyche).
  3. Consideration of various possible house rules. This one will require assistance of drug rehab counselor.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

No blubbering here

**It is important for the following to make sense to know that when in detox the pupils tend to dilate. When an addict takes a higher than usual does of opiate the pupils constrict, even to little pin points. In detox blood pressure and pulse also rise.**

This morning I took Evan to meet his social worker who is traveling with him to the rehab center. He wanted to leave early and get a breakfast sandwhich from McDonalds. While we were in the car waiting lane in the pale light of dawn he turned on the little car light and looked at himself in the mirror. "Wow. My pupils look really small. Do they look small to you?"


"I'm feeling sort of dizzy. Probably because I took my medications on an empty stomach."


I took his pulse (not an accurate count...just a general feel). I would describe it as "slow and steady."

Later we were waiting for the social worker and a somebody rough, tough and angry looking walked by. I said something about him being a scarey dude. Evan said, "Don't worry. I could take him for you. I'm not feeling any pain." I told him that I didn't think his coordination was up to defending me from attackers, but I appreciated the offer.

When the social worker showed up I told her, out of Evan's hearing, that his pupils were small, his pulse was slow and she would not have to deal with ANY detox symptoms AT ALL. As Evan came up I started to tell her that technically his next dose time for his tranquilizer was 10:00am, but... Evan interrupted me, "But I only have to take that if I want to." I nodded and said, "That's right. I don't think he is going to need it."

I gave him a hug and with dry eyes and sent him on his way.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Taking his blankie

I make all the kids a quilt and an afgan. The quilt I have made before they get here. I tell them when they move in that it belongs to them. If they move out tomorrow they take it with them. After a while I suggest that they might want to pick out an afgan pattern and some yard and I will knit them an afgan. Evan's is grey with a basket weave pattern. To some of the kids they may just be blankets, but they mean a lot more to me than that.

When my bio kids were tiny I told them that their quilts were magic, that if they were wrapped up in them bad dreams and other scarey things could not get them. It worked...well...like magic. They would say they thought there was a monster in the closet and I would tell them to wrap up in their magic quilts and they would be safe.

He came out with his suitcase and asked me to help him pack it so that he could take the afgan too. It was another "I am NOT going to cry" moment. There is nothing that he could want to take along that would mean more to me than that.

I hope I can get through saying goodbye tomorrow without blubbering.

He's really going

Evan just cooked us a wonderful dinner. Fortunately it was spicey and so he might, just might, think that my eyes were watering because it was hot.

Of course that was not why. He's really leaving tomorrow. Tomorrow morning I will hand him over to his social worker and she will take him away. It is the culmination of everything I have been focused on for two weeks, and now it is making me cry.

I want him to go, I really, really do. But I don't. I want to call the center and tell them to take good care of my little boy, my 6 foot 266 pound little boy.

I am a big, whimpy, co-dependent bowl of rice pudding.

Evan's plan finalized

I talked to Evan's social worker. She will pick him up tomorrow (Tuesday) and escort him to the rehab center.

He said, "okay."

Last night I took him to the store to buy a few necessities. He was so agitated he nearly cried over having to choose a brand of shampoo. Today though he is better. I told him that I was proud of how well he was doing. He said that he was not done detoxing. I assume that that means that he has been using. It is okay...tomorrow, really, he goes to rehab.

I bought him stationery, envelopes, stamps, and gave him pre-printed address labels (to me). I told him that I would prefer to get a note that says, "I feel crappy" rather than nothing at all, but I do understand the likelihood of an 18year old boy writing a letter in the best of circumstances.

I think he will be okay. He offered Brian $5 to get his hair cut. Brian is apparently determined. The child loves money and he turned in down.

BTW: the tamales did not come out all that well. This girl has come before and will come again. She will get the recipe from her grandma and we will try again, probably in the summer. We probably did not use enough lard. (Yes, I said lard. If you want someone to help you make tamales just like her Mexican American Grandma makes them, you will use lard.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Girls & Tamales

We are doing respite care this weekend for Miss E and Georgia. Miss E can be difficult, but while she is here she is friendly and chats, although she never makes eye contact. Georgia's story I don't know...except that she graduated from three rehabs (alcohol, meth, then both together) before her 17th birthday. For the entire time I have known her she has clean & sober, thoughtful and helpful. Her presence has actually been helpful to Evan this weekend. She also has a real-life Mexican American grandmother with whom she has made tamales. Today she is going to help me make them.

We put the corn husks in water to soak last night. I have my first tip for the uninitiated -- those bags of dried husks hold ALOT more than they look. Each little dried up piece will expand to 4 or 5 good size pieces of husks. Currently we have enough husks for a couple hundred tamales. We are planning on making about 2 dozen. Maybe I should go by more pork, make some and freeze them.

A plan and resulting calm

After a series of phone calls yesterday a "high ranking official" at the CFP assured us that she would make getting Evan to the rehab center a top priority on Monday. If it could be done, he would be on a plane that very day.

Evan's symptoms settled down somewhat. His anxiety lowered; his appetite came back; his blood pressure and pulse came down a little.

It is possible that this was just the effect of KNOWING when he was going. It is also that once he knew when he was going he could create a plan for rationing his remaining stash. Either way is okay with me. After seeing him at the worst moments I have no doubts that this is a genuine addiction needing real rehab. I understand that he would perfer to be shaking and crying and even yelling and swearing in front of trained professions. He does not want me to see him the way he was yesterday.

Partly this is about caring about me. Mostly though this is a very understandable foster care child (well...human) response. I realize now that Evan has never moved past the "honeymoon" stage. He has been using the codeine to help keep himself "nice." One of the things that he will have to learn in recovery, if he is to recover, is that he will be loved even if all those rough edges and general ugly parts show every now and then.

Yesterday I called the local detox unit to find out if they could do anything for him that I was not. I described how I was monitoring his blood pressure and pulse and what medications the physicians had given me to give him. They said they hated to chase away business, but I was doing everything they could do. I told Evan that and he said, "And they probably don't have video games there, right?" "Right." Apparently killing virtual monsters helps distract him. That's fine. We have temporarily relaxed our strict rules about "electronic" time. Evan can watch TV and play video games all day if it helps.

At one point while I was talking to the center the man said, "I don't know what a 'foster friend' is." Huh? Foster friend? Who said THAT! I realized that I must have. My word issues are getting worse, or it is just that I am tense and tired. I often use the wrong word, or fail to remember the word I need. I often joke that the only word I don't loose is "aphasia." In fact I once named a pet "Aphasia" so I wouldn't forget her name. (Look it up...you'll get it.)

The kids have a sense of humor about it. I will be trying to get Evan's attention and I will say, "An..Br...Evan!" "Did you just call me Anbrevan?"

But "foster friend." I had no idea I had said that. I think maybe I like it.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

And, once again, he is

Poor kid. He practically begged me to ask a doctor to prescribe him some codeine. He called his social worker and asked her to "help." He told her that he just didn't want to put me through this, (translation: "Please give me opiates, not for my sake, but for my aunt's.")

He does not want to hear that this is not difficult for me. From MY perspective it is not worse than having a kid with chicken pox or the flu. He's miserable and there is little to nothing that I can do about it.

I don't know if he is finally, really, out of drugs or if he is hoarding the last little bit and trying not to run out. I guess I'll know if he suddenly feels better again.

It's a weird position for me to be in. We agreed that he would detox at the center. Translation: we all agreed that he would be using until then. So why doesn't he score? He has money. Why hasn't he asked if I would please drop him off at the coffee shop so that he can chat with a friend for half an hour?

This is Saturday and he cannot possibly get to the center any earlier than Tuesday. If he cotinues to detox here, he will show up clean and go straight into the rehab portion of the program. That might mean that I would get him back a few days sooner.

Friday, February 17, 2006

And then he isn't, I think

Officially, Evan claims to have been out of codeine since Wednesday. His outward behavior tells a different story. Thursday all day he was in a good mood and had a good appetite. Today he wanted no lunch. At 1:00pm he was agitated. At 4:00pm he was trembling and could not stop crying. At 6:00pm he was relaxed, hungry and joking.

I am very, very proud of him for trying.

The original plan was that he would detox under medical supervision at the residential treatment center. I am not unhappy that he appears to have returned to that plan.

He is

Evan is now showing definite signs of going into detox mode.

It is Friday afternoon and we are doing respite for two teenage girls. There will be 7 of us in the house for the weekend.

Let the rollercoaster ride begin!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

He isn't

If Evan is going through detox today I am a flying piglet.

Right now he is cooking our dinner. He is trying a new recipe, mixing up cilantro, lime, garlic and olive oil to rub on salmon. He asked me to pick up some couscous to go with it. He is talking and laughing with everyone.

His eyes are not the least bit dilated. He has shown no sign of diarrhea, nausea, anxiety, exhaustion, restlessness. He is feeling no pain. And why shouldn't he be -- he now is taking codeine AND tranq's.

I spoke with a couple of my advisors and everyone agrees. We are getting him to a rehab center sometime next week. I will continue to dispense the tranquilizers the doctor gave him. He will take codeine and pretend he isn't. It should only be for 5 days.

Then we will put him on the plane to the rehab center in the city with all the pretty, bright lights and hope he comes back.

Is he, or isn't he?

The blow by blow:


Noon: -- time Evan reports taking last dose of codeine.

4:00 -- Evan visits with medical doctor (see previous post)

8:00 -- Evan gets first dosage of new tranquilizer intended to help with detox symptoms.

9:00pm -- have conversation with Evan about taking dangers of taking (high-dose) codeine and tranquilizers together. He agrees not to use both drugs, assures me that he really, really is out. I tell myself that all the professionals seem to believe him, so maybe I should too.

11:00pm -- complains of stomach cramps, general feeling of awfulness.

1:30am -- Evan emails new confidant complaining of stomach cramps, inability to sleep. Get reply that this is normal and that IF he is detoxing his should stay home from school.

7:00am -- gave Evan all med's and looked at pupils. It was very dark in his room and the hall light was off (dim light) his pupils appear normal to me. (Dilated means full detox. Pin point means lots of codeine.)

7:20 -- read email Evan forwarded from new confidant (see above). I try to remember how many times Evan assured me that he ONLY takes the meds in the mornings and NOT at night.

9:30 -- realize Evan has not come out of room since at least 6:00 (when I woke up). Wondering how bad diarrhea (typical detox symptom) should be.

10:20 -- Evan out of bed to use bathroom. Says he feels bad but is coping. Does not need diarrhea meds at this time. Pupils appear to be in normal range. Says Oxazepam makes him loopy, but he likes it "It's a good substitute. That's terrible, isn't it?" I get him to stop and chat about approval process at the agency. He expresses impatience with them but maintains sense of humor as he talks about it. Does not appear agitated, nervous, irritable...etc.

11:15. -- Evan comes out of room to say he remembers tonight is his night to cook. If he makes list will I go to store to purchase "Salmon and stuff"? Tells me how cool recipe web site is as it will adjust recipe according to number of servings. He appears to be in a good mood, well-rested.

11:30 -- Evan & I have lunch. He eats two frozen burritoes w/salsa & blue cheese salad dressing since we have no sour cream. We are sitting in a sunny kitchen; his pupils are small. Evan laughingly tells me that Oxazepam seems to affect his motor skills. I tell him I will give him mid-day dosage only if he tells me he really needs it as it looks like he is doing pretty well. Evan agrees. We cheerfully discuss relative merits of diet sodas. I notice that there are two beers in fridge that I must get rid of before respite girls come for weekend. Evan offers to help me hide them as he is really, really good at that.

12:30 -- After a shower Evan asks if he may please have the two Oxazepam. It really makes him feel better and his prescription is for 6 a day. His pupils are small.

Updates to follow

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Recommendation for treatment

Well...it was an emotional day.

We met with the rehab counselor and really like her. She also recommended that Evan go to a residential treatment center. She recommends a different one though a gay-friendly one in a gay-friendly city. Evan is beginning to think of rehab treatment as a fun, month-long vacation.

Evan said he was out of codeine, about which I expressed my doubts. She however sent us to a medical doctor so that he could get a prescription. I don't know what she intended, but the medical doctor says that he does not prescribe codeine to codeine addicts. He did prescribe some sort of tranquilizer that will help him. (I am to keep it locked up and dispense it according to the directions as it is also addictive).

Evan was livid -- silent, pouting, nearly purple. The doctor asked him if he was serious about wanting to quit. Evan said he was, that was why he was going to the center. They had a confusing conversation in which they both pointed out that Evan was able to get codeine on his own. For Evan this meant that the doctor should give him a prescription. The doctor said that he could give Evan meds to help him get off codeine but that was it.

Evan sulked in the car and then tried to get me to agree that the doctor was an ass. I would not and he put stomped off to his room. He is now on the phone laughing and talking.

I am not convinced that Evan was ever out of his drug. My understanding is that addicts don't tend to let their supply run out before they get more. In any case, I am not asking.

Tomorrow we should find out for certain which center he will go to and when he leaves.

Evan's new advisor

I managed to hook Evan up with a someone who used to be addicted to pain pills and who also works in the medical profession.

They emailed back and forth last evening. Evan kept coming out and giving me new and interesting facts about Tylenol and liver failure. Just when we were going to bed he said, "He asked if I have any pain in my abdomen. I told him I have had this little ache, but it is not all that bad. He said that is what it feels like! Should we go to the hospital right now? He says that if I have liver failure I will die."

I assured him that he had had a liver test one week ago and that I thought he would probably live through the night.

The confidant has also been able to push Evan into a more realistic report of how much he is taking -- not 3 pills, more like 3 pills 3x a day. Maybe more.

Still I am very, very happy. This man has credibility with Evan where I don't. When he says, "This habit could kill you" he doesn't respond with "They're just pain pills. It's not like I'm taking meth or anything."

I wrote Evan's new confidant a thank you note.

Today we see the drug rehab specialist. I will post again in the evening about what happens there.

He went to school this morning! Of course I have to pick him up at 12:30 to take him to the appointment.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The latest in the saga

Today Evan refused to go to school. I told him I would not excuse the absence and he said, "great" and went back to bed. He is 265 pounds of teenage flesh. I did not fight with him. I did call the school to tell them that this was a cut. His choice. His detention.

On the up side, I now have all his prescription drugs and am giving them to him on schedule. He appears to be taking them. (I mean I don't THINK he is hiding them under his tongue, but I don't inspect his mouth).

Yesterday at the social worker's direction I searched his room for pills. It was upsetting, although I did find 3 towels that belong in the kitchen, several CD's that belong to me, and the CD player we gave him for Christmas that he said he had lost, and also of course the ugly glasses.

He has an appointment on Wednesday with the drug rehab specialist. If she says he must go to Walker then he goes (this is what he says he wants). If she says to do out treatment then I will get all tough-lovey and tell him that following her recommendation is a condition of living here.

I can deal with him trying and failing. I cannot deal with him being unwilling to try.

As of today he has 9 or 10 absences in every period. This means that he will have to petition for credit and that petition will be passed (even if the absences are excused) only if he has a "C" in the class. He has never managed to get C's in everything. The semester is not even at midterm yet.

So...it is too soon to be talking about it, but alternative high school or GED program is right around the corner. The other option would be do take everything on-line at his own expense ($105/course). This is probably NOT a good idea.

But that decision need not be made yet. First we must deal with the codeine addiction.

Oh...we did get the urinalysis results back. He's addicted. Really.

Every kid has done something like this. I should not be surprised. No matter how smooth thing are we get to the last semester of high school and they burst into flames. I keep hearing that toy store jingle, "I don't wanna grow up..."

Monday, February 13, 2006

The ugly glasses

It's such a little thing: a pair of ugly black plastic glasses.

They are sitting on the top of Evan's dresser.

He told me they were lost...That they disappeared last summer when he was still living at the teen shelter.

I helped him to get new ones. I advocated with the social worker. They said they would pay for half if he would pay half. Now he has shiny new, stylish glasses.

I would have done it anyway. I am very frugal with many things. I often tell my kids that they don't have to have the expensive shoes or jacket that they want. I always let them have any pair of glasses though. It will be part of their face for a year. They need to feel good in them. They have to like them.

I would not have told Evan that he had to wear the ugly Medicaid glasses. I would have made certain that he had glasses he liked. He did not need to lie.

It is such a little thing. But recently so much deception has been exposed. He has been hiding great big things from us. I know he is lying to me right now about what drugs he is and is not taking.

But it was the pair of ugly, black plastic glasses sitting on top of his dresser that made me cry.

He did not have to lie.

Bad jobs

When we had our company over on Saturday evening Evan spent some time chatting with them. He told them that though the foster care agency had a tuition program for college they just "had too many hoops." The "hoops" that he is talking about it just one thing: GET A JOB.

They want him to get a job for one reason: he needs to demonstrate that he can mangage to work and go to school at the same time.

He thinks he should not have to because he gets plenty of money every month in the form of his social security survivor's benefit. He is good at saving and has plenty tucked away. Besides, they HAVE the money. It is not like they don't have enough money to go around and are asking the kids to compete for it. They could give it to him but they are saying that first he has to fulfill some requirements.

Further...he does not want to work in our small town because there is nothing available except fast food. He spent the summer in a culinary arts program and he has skills. He should not have to do that.

So of course all the adults at the table responded with the terrible jobs we held for which we were over-qualified. Here is a sample:

Me (currently a college professor): waited tables at Mister Omelet after college.
Hubby (currently special education teacher): washed spiraled cords at phone cord factory.
Cousin (currently MD/PhD working in genetics lab): started out washing dishes in the lab.
Guest (currenly MD working for the CDC): worked at Burger King while in medical school (she is a life-long vegetarian).

So today I am asking my visitors: what was your worst job ever? If you care to include you eventual career that would be interesting too.

So today I am asking visitors: what was your worst job?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Searching room...think again

So once again someone has recommended that I search Evan's room. I should do it with him there. So I stop and try to imagine doing it...

Evan is an 18-year-old openly gay young man. I am a cool, affirming PFLAG mom. Evan knows that I am cool and feels safe and comfortable being himself. We have a open relationship and talk about all sorts of things. We can do this...

I open drawers, go through shelves...

Condoms and lube...check.
Pamphlet on "Safer Blow Jobs" from youth group...good to know he is informed.
Notes from perspective boyfriend describing perfect date...no need to read that.
More condoms...check.
Gay porn magazine...okay...just let me go through the pages to make certain no pills are hidden between the pages.

Okay...there's cool and affirming and then there's just plain creepy.

I'm calling the social worker. Maybe his room should be searched. Maybe she should do it. Maybe there's a nice gay man that works at the agency that would like to come over and help Evan make certain his room is "clean." I'll feed him a great pizza dinner.

How to make pizza for 9, 10, 12, 13!

Saturday Hubby's cousins from out of town will be coming for dinner. Two women who are wonderful people. They are visiting a friend who lives nearby and will be coming with friend and one husband for pizza after skiing. That makes four.

Add us...that makes nine.

Brian asks, "Can H come over?"

Sure...now we have 10.

Brian says, "A & J's parents called and want to know if A&J can spend the evening here while they go out." I tell Hubby that I have been meaning to ask said parents if they will take Brian for our required training next month so we say yes.

And then there were twelve.

Okay...Pull out big mixer. Pour in about 9 cups flour, 1 1/2 Tablespoons super fast yeast. 1 teaspoon or more of salt. Heat water to 130 degrees. Pour in slowly along with 1/2 cup of olive oil while mixer runs until it is a soft dough. Think: I really should measure the amount of water this takes and write it down someday. (It is something like two or three cups).

Tell Evan to get up and chop veggies while I go to pick up Andrew.

Come home with Andrew and tell Evan to get up come into the kitchen and start chopping veggies. Tell Andrew to chop also.

Get pizza sauce, ranch dressing, pesto, feta cheese, grated mozarella, pepperone, and ham from refergerator and onto table. Add veggies (mushrooms, onions, green and red peppers) chopped by boys and canned pineapple and artichoke hearts. Put all on kitchen table.

Divide dough into twelve balls, roll and put on parchment paper spinkled with cornmeal.

Put pizza stone in oven. Heat oven to 475.

Wait. Look at flour disaster on counter. Make more dough to save for future.

Wait for cousins.

Feed children.

Wait for cousins.

Re-knead and roll waiting pizza doughs as they are rising and getting too high and bready.

Cousins arrive, with one husband and two friends. They are five! Greet all, quietly go get dough from "extra" and roll out thirteenth pizza.

Let everyone build own pizza. Explain that there is no salad, some of the children actually put ranch dressing on pizza instead of sauce. Eat. Have lovely time.

Go to bed with kitchen a total disaster.

Wake up to find Hubby cleaning. Kiss soundly.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


The foster care agency has decided that they want a second opinion before they send Evan off to a $8,000+ residential treatment center.

I think it is wise.

At this point I think two things are equally possible:

1.Evan has a drug addiction that is worse than he has revealed and desperately needs help.

2. Though Evan has taken codeine periodically to deal with anxiety he has only recently started taking it daily. As an addicition it is not severe and at least part of what is going on here is a dramatic demonstration of his inability to do everything we are demanding of him. See how weak he is? He needs to be taken care of, not made to deal with school, and get a job, and be a grown up.

I am not certain which I hope it is.

Maybe there is a third option.

Searching rooms?

I have had several different people recommend searching Evan's room. I joined an addicition recovery discussion group and several people there recommend it. Someone left a comment here recommending it too.

The reasons for it so far have been:

  1. Protect yourself in terms of legality/liability. If he has illegally purchased drugs in his room then that is clearly a problem. If he over-doses on drugs legally or illegally purchased that too is a liabilty.
  2. Addicts are sneaky and typically have drugs hidden. No matter what he says, he probably has drugs hidden away. Addicts don't tend to "run out" (which he recently claimed).

So I am pondering. The liability issue is a real concern. I will have to talk to the social worker about it.

The other issue...I'm still on the fence about. On one hand searching his room, making him take drug tests all make sense, and I may decide to do it. On the other hand I don't know that it really helps him. Hubby and I keep coming back to the same place. In six months he will be living on his own. If we provide the control for him now, then he will not develop it on his own.

Of course there is another issue -- already Andrew knows what is going on. Brian will know if Evan goes into a residential program. They can't be given the message that drug abuse is tolerated.

Our plan has been to wait until we get appointments with the drug rehab assessment center. We were hoping that by that time we could get a commitment from Evan to get clean (so far he has only made a commitment to try a treatment and see if it works). Once we have that then I was hoping that he would understand why we needed to ensure that his room was clean of drugs. I was hoping that he would agree that regular drug screenings were an important motivator for staying clean himself.

But I was fully prepared at that point to say that screening and searches were a condition of living here.

I have just wanted to give Evan a chance to make the journey himself, with support, not control, from us.

On the other hand I don't want to expose myself to liability.

I think I will leave a voice mail on the social worker's cell phone. I can tell her frankly that I am covering my ass and that I will search his room if she wants me to.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Evan off to treatment

We just came back from the pyschiatrist.

During the conversation I said that it was hard to believe that he could have been taking the drug for this long and still be getting the effect that he was reporting with three pills a day. The doctor nodded and said that people usually under-report. "Evan" said that yeah, he was not really sure how much he took, but he did only take it three times a day.

The doctor recommended putting him in a 21-28 day residential program. The social worker will find out today how soon he can get in and how long it will take for them to set up a contract for payment. She is not worried about the agency paying for it. Neither of us can remember a time when a doctor recommended something that they did not pay for.

I assured him that we would keep his room for him. He can leave his stuff here and it will still be here when he gets back.

I asked him afterwards why he told us. He said that he started "blowing" and it scared him.
I should find out late this afternoon how long it will take before he can get in. I would like to be driving there today, but I don't think that will happen.

Of course once he is admitted I will have no legal relationship to him at all. He is an adult though and so if he is allowed visitors he will be able to request that I be one of them.

Theories about Evan's situation

In two hours I will be taking Evan to his appointment with his psychiatrist. We may have the results of his urinalysis. I have some questions that are running around in my head, which may or may not be answered. I decided, like a character in a detective novel, that I would write down my theories before I have all the evidence. I will have to be honest about whether I actually "knew it all along."

What I know:
-Evan has been a "low-level" liar. He has said that he has things finished which are not finished, but he has never told a "whopper."
-I have had a kid in the past who for the first year I regarded as being absolutely dedicated to the truth who turned out to be the most deceptive and manipulative of them all.
-Evan has not been honest. He deserves credit for telling us about his problem, but clearly he has been hiding major stuff from us.
-I have been doing some research into codeine addiction and his story is not entirely credible. If he has been taking codeine products daily for two years, three pills a day should not be giving him the effect that he claims it does.

So...Here are the possibilities:
1. Evan's story though very unusual is true.
2. Evan is significantly under-reporting his drug use.

or...And this is actually the interesting one.
3. Evan's use in the past was sporadic and only recently has become daily. He has a problem, but addiction to codeine is not really it. (Of course if something is not done it could be the problem).

Why is this the interesting option? It started to grow when I talked to the social worker "Brenda" the other day. She said, "His not getting a job just pales in comparison, doesn't it?"

Yeah...It does.

Evan is terrified of independence. He says he will get a job, apply to post-high school programs, and complete all his classes. This is the foster child that I have cared for as he approaches emancipation and one thing I have learned is that it is TERRIFYING. Young people will tend to do anything to avoid it.

Would they start taking codeine to deal with the stress? Would they tell us that it was a great big huge problem that they could not kick? Would doing so allow them and everyone else to stop thinking about the stress?

You bet it would.

Like a psychological defense mechanisms it would not be entirely conscious.

So...off to the doctor and we will see...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A crisis of philosophy

As I have mentioned before, multiple times, my philosophy with Evan has been something like, "I'm not your mom, I am your mentor. I am not here to control you, but to help you when you ask for it."

Every now and then a voice in the back of my head starts screaming, "Are you crazy? What sort of naive idiot tells a foster kid he can go make his own decisions? You are just setting yourself up."

The other voice says, "No...give it a chance. If you jump in and try to control him you will loose him. He will be on his own at the end of summer. At that point he will not have anyone to control him. What he needs right now is a supportive environment in which is can struggle, fail, and hopefully learn to control himself. Breathe deep. Just stand there."

Not surprisingly, both those voices are pretty loud right now.

Evan has been abusing pain medication since before he moved in. He has been living here for 6 months and I had no idea. Now he volunteered the information. Now he is asking for help.

The quiet voice says, "See. It worked. You built up enough trust that he told you something he never told anyone before. He asked for help. So help. Get him in touch with the resources he needs and express confidence in him. Listen to the advice of the counselors and then let him make the decisions. If he is going to beat this he will have to do it himself. Let him struggle, even if he fails. If you do too much he will not develop the strength he needs to take care of himself when he emancipates."

The other voice screams, "IDIOT! You have not been monitoring and see what he has been doing?! This is serious. Sit him down. Tell him: if you want to live here you will submit to room searches, random drug tests and go to whatever counseling the assessment place recommends."

Hubby agrees with the quiet voice. I don't know if it is so much that he agrees with the philosophy or if he is just being pragmatic. When I am the buddha-like mom I am calm and his life is calm. Things don't tend to go well when I turn into the fascist parent -- not for anyone.

I am still in the middle...I have one foot in the calm green world of the buddha. I just can't quite make the fascist shut up.

Next: Theories

Hubby to the rescue

I am a strong, independent woman. I take care of myself and do not need a man to rescue me.

Sometimes though it is wonderful to have a partner who will step in a fix something you cannot fix.

Years ago, I may post the whole story sometime, I was being attacked by a tom cat we had tried to adopt. 15lbs of pure muscle. It had landed on me twice -- tearing my nightgown, bruising, scratching, and biting both arms (yes, I had to have a rabies shot, and tetanus, and antibiotics). The third time it sprung Hubby threw himself between me and the cat. Whenever I tell the story I always says call him "the love of my life, my protector, my knight in shining armor."

Well, yesterday he came through again.

When he came home yesterday he asked me how I was doing. I kept telling him that I was quietly freaking out. I had so many question and we did not have any answers and I did not know what to do. He kept trying to solve the problem, telling me how he thought we should handle it. I explained that I thought I could come up with a strategy once we had had all the appointments. I was just so frustrated because we could not get into the psychiatrist office for three weeks.

A problem he can solve.

Hubby called the psychiatrist office. He used that special education school teacher authority voice, the oh-so-reasonable-and-I-know-you-will-be-reasonable-too attitude and convinced them to double-book Evan for Friday morning.

My knight in shining armor. My protector. The love of my life. I thank him again for picking up a problem when I am a wreck and fixing it just enough that I can cope again.

crisis of philosophy

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I'm not superstitious but...

Sometimes you have to wonder. Here is a summary of my recent life.

At the end of January I wrote:

  • I am worried about life with Evan though. Either this is the longest "observation and assessment" (aka ""honeymoon"") period ever, or he is just not playing the game. I am actually beginning to think that he isn't interested in making me crazy -- but thinking that makes me nervous. ("Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.")

Since then:

  • Evan has attended the funeral of his cousin
  • Told me he was committing fraud as an on-line psychic at an "Ask an Expert" site
  • Dealt with a major manipulative episode with his birth mother
  • Confessed that he is addicted to codeine

I pointed this out to the social worker. She emailed back:

  • "Maybe you have “psychic powers”. This may qualify you as an “expert”….looking for part time work?"

Thank goodness for humor, and social workers who appreciate it.

Next: Hubby to the rescue

Evan's addition continued

Yesterday I picked Evan up early and took him to the medical doctor. The doctor was actually must gentler with him than I thought. He immediately fell into the same attitude that we have been using: trying to support Evan as he makes this change.

Of course Evan has not really committed to making this change. He believes that (1) he really needs the codeine to help him make it through the day; (2) he is in control; (3) it is not really all that bad, especially given all the drugs he could be doing; and (4) it has health risks so he will investigate alternatives.

Of course all the adults see a tension between 1 & 2. He however is a teenager and is able to face a tension right in the eye. Hell, he can leap over contradictions with a single bound.

I really don't know how he will react when he gets down to the reality. His psychiatrist will prescribe an anti-depressant, or something, which will help him to cope better, but that drug will not erase the "too-bright colors and sharp edges" that Evan talks about.

But I am trying not to "borrow trouble." Sufficient unto each day...or whatever.

So yesterday Evan saw the medical doctor who ordered a blood test to make certain that the Tylenol has not done any liver damage. This, of course, took Evan by surprise. Everyone thinks that Tylenol is a safe drug. It is, within the limits. Take too much and you can do real and permanent damage to your liver.

I also took him to the drug testing place. It took a while for the woman to understand that we were not there for the rapid screening test. We KNEW he had codeine in his system. We needed the full test to see how much there was.

And that is not entirly clear. He went from telling us that he started taking one pill a day sometime last autumn. Then it was two pills a day, but none on the weekends. Now it is two pills in the morning, one at noon, and he is not certain how many on the weekends (though it is less), and he has been doing it for 2 years.

Last evening he said that he was feeling snappy because he had not taken any. I congratulated him. Today he says he cannot go to school. Is that because he has not taken the pills, or because he has?

The social worker is still working on the drug addiction assessment appointment. It looks like we cannot get him into the psychiatrist until the 24th, although I have him on the canellation list.

So I am stressed. My sabbatical is winding down and I really, really have to crank on the project. I am making real progress and I am pleased with how it is turning out. On the other hand, worrying about Evan and taking him to appointments is eating into my time. This much I can handle.

However, I got an email yesterday. Yesterday that house passed the anti-gay marriage ammendment bill (as expected) and the Senate hearing is expected on Friday. All the people watching say that it will pass the committee and die on the floor. I had committed to testifying at the hearing. It's important to me and I said I would do it. I don't know if I can.

The past 40 hours I have been just doing everything that needed to be done -- the model of efficiency. I have been the calm, organized, supportive person that Evan needs me to be. Now though...it's slipping.

Oh I will get it back. I will be calm and strong again soon, but not just now.

He has been addicted to codeine for longer than I have known him. I have images of his future that terrify me. I have no ability to imagine what the immediate future will be like. How hard will it be for him to get clean? How difficult will it be for the family? I'm stressed because I don't know what to expect and I don't know how to prepare myself of the boys for it.

How long ago was it that I was worrying that this placement was too easy?

Next: I'm not superstitious but...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Evan's codeine problem

"Brenda", Evan's social worker, came over today (Monday) for the regular goal review appointment. We agreed ahead of time that we should talk to Evan about stress & anxiety. Maybe if we focused on the external stressors in his life we could get him to agree that even big strong men who don't need anyone's help can benefit from a little short term counseling.

In the first part of the discussion we covered his goals and learned that he wasn't really doing the on-line psychic thing anymore. (Not that it was wrong, of course. He just wasn't doing it.) And then we openeded the discussion about anxiety and depression over his cousin's death.


Over about half an hour Evan made the following claims. By the way, it may appear that some of the later statements contradict the earlier ones, but he would insist that they were all true:

He has no trouble with stress or anxiety. Over the course of his life he has learned to cope with everything. There is nothing any counselor can teach him. He is really good at pushing away all the emotions. Of course the codeine helps. It dulls the edges. It's like there are really bright colors and the codeine calms it down. It isn't a big thing -- kids at school are "tweaking" and "rolling" all the time. He is not getting high. He is just taking the codeine to help him cope. It is just the first two periods that are tough. Once he gets through them he is fine. Yes, his prescription from his wisdom tooth extraction is long gone, but he can get them at school. Sometimes people give them to him and sometimes he buys them. He gets one every morning and another at lunch. He isn't addicted though. Well, the last time he tried not to take them for school he felt really nauseous and just awful. Yes it would probably be a good idea to see the psychiatrist again and talk about other ways to deal with stress and anxiety. We should not get freaked out though. This is not big deal -- other kids are doing all kinds of things.

Brenda and I managed to play this very low-key. We assured him that we would make him an appointment just as soon as possible, but that we were not freaked out. We agreed that his resistance of all the tempting other drugs demonstrated his strength and that it was really good that he was telling us about this -- but that it was not a big deal.

I managed to maintain a surreal level of calm while talking to the receptionist at the psychiatrist's office.

"How soon can I get him in?"

"We don't have an appointment here at the this office until the 24th."

"Can you give me the number so that I can make an appointment at the Other office?"

"I can put you on the cancellation list -- there could be one this Friday."

"Can you give me the number so that I can make an appointment at his Other office?"

"He could see the nurse practitioner here tomorrow, but she doesn't have the flexibility to work with him like the doctor would. The doctor might be able to try to wean him off the codeine, but the nurse can't prescribe anything unless he promises to stay clean. Have you considered taking him to drug rehab?"

"Can I please have the number of the Other office?"

"Well...he only takes Medicaid patients here. At the Other office he only sees patients with a private payer."

"Hang on...Brenda, the doctor only sees private patients at the other office. Will the agency pay for it?" "Sure." "Can I please have the Other number?"

I have maintained less calm while trying to order a damn pizza.

So we left a message at the Metropolis office. Evan wants to get in as soon as he can, as long as we understand that this is not big deal and don't freak out.

Actually I am THRILLED that he told us all of this. I am also pleased that Brenda and I seemed on the same page with how to handle it -- very low key.

Of course he tried to tell me more than once. A couple of months ago he told me that he was taking his left over occasionally for his back pain, but that he REALLY liked the way it made him feel. I cautioned him about codeine and told him to make an appointment with the doctor about his back pain. He said he would (and then didn't). Then last week he told me he took the codeine for stress. I talked to him each time -- but I did not do the gentle prodding that the social worker did yesterday.

I wonder if he was trying to tell me the whole thing before or if he was testing to see if I would remain calm if he decided to tell me.

Just before posting I got a call from the "Other Office." They don't have any spaces any time soon either. Okay...searching out the alternatives.

I have to call the social worker to see what she wants to do.

Anyone out there had to deal with codeine addiction?

UPDATE: Brenda talked to her supervisor. Appointments are being made with the drug testing place, the addiction assessment place, and the medical doctor. The addiction assessment place will make treatment recommendations. I had no idea these resources existed. Golly I like having a social worker to help with all these problems!

Next: Addiction Continues

Monday, February 06, 2006

Evan's mom

Evan's mother called him yesterday.

Whenever I pick up the phone and get that automated message asking us if we will accept a call from the prison I am tempted simply to hang up. I don't. I ask Evan if he wants to speak to his mother. He says yes. I push "1," hand over the phone and smile. A while later he will be finding me to talk.

There are re-occurring themes in these conversations. Mom's basic message has been that Evan owes her. After all, it is his fault that she is in prison and his sisters are separated from their mother. Given his enormous debt to her and her extreme need he should visit, send books, and even send money.

When he talks about it he says he knows he is being manipulated, but he doesn't know what he wants to do. Should he visit her? Maybe he could send her a book. It was troubling, but he had some emotional distance and perspective. He would think about sending her things, but he never did.

Yesterday though...she has a whole new angle. She was upset over the death of Evan's cousin. She told Evan how horrible it would be if anything happened to him or his sisters. She said she was going to be on her best behavior so she could get out quickly and be with them all again. Then she told him that if she didn't get money soon she would loose her storage locker where she had all the precious photographs of her children.

He went right out and got the money order.

It hurts so to watch him go through this. He wants his mother to say that she loves him. He wants her to say that she knows it was her responsibility to protect him from his abuser, not his to hide the abuse. He wants her to be sorry for choosing his abuser over him. He told me that his cousin's death really shook her up.

He wants to believe that the death of his cousin has produced a life-changing epiphany. Her priorities will suddenly turn around and she will be the mother that he knows she can be.

Last night he had a nightmare.

Next: Codeine Problem

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tips for Parenting Teens

I was just off reading Dan's latest post. I almost left him a comment with my favorite tips for supporting teens, but then I thought -- why waste a decent idea on a comment? I could make it a post and he can read it here.

First: rescue code. Our kids know that if they want to be rescued from a situtation they should call and say, "I don't want to come now. Can I stay? I really want to stay." The cool thing about this is that it works even when we are stupid, which is not seldom. Trusting our kids we are likely to say, "Sure...You can stay a while." The kids are instructed to reply, "Oh come on! Don't make me go. I want to stay." They are to repeat on this theme until we wake up and say, "Oh! Where are you? I will be right there." They can then hang up, tell their friends how horrible their parents are and wait for the ride home.

No one has ever used this, except as a bit of a joke or experiment. All the kids though have been pleased to have it.

Second: making your house the hang out spot. Kids are likely to try to convince you that you need expensive equipment. They will tell you that if they had a large-screen TV, state-of-the-art stereo, pool table, and kitchenette their friends would hang out there. Balderdash. Unless someone else is offering these things, kids can be bribed for much, much less. Generally all you need is a semi-private room (basement space is great), old furniture (it has to be okay to spill soda, scratch and maybe even break everything), and food. If you have the money add the entertainment equipment, but don't let them talk you into things they don't need. A boom box and small TV will be more than enough for most kids. My sons purchased used gaming consoles (Xbox, Gamecube, and Playstation) over the years. Even if you can afford it, I strongly recommend that you don't go and fully equip it all at once. Adding something every six months is much more effective.

Everyone comes over Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I buy cases of cheap Shasta cola and chips. Except when it is very hot in the summer, I do a head count mid-afternoon and then start making cheesy bread and pizza. (When it is hot I will offer to microwave popcorn). It is not unusual for there to be my three plus ten. I make pizza from scratch because it's cheap, but I know that teenagers have very indiscriminating palates. You can feed them anything.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Carl called

Carl called yesterday. I don't think he had a particular reason, which is nice.

Carl is now 22. He has come so far.

On the phone we reminisced about the good times: Remember Mom, when you thought I wasn't going to graduate?

Oh yes. I remember. Someone from the high school called to say that Carl had missed one too many classes of US Government. In fact that he had cut that very day. He would not be getting credit for the class and it was too late to petition. He would not be graduating next week. I was especially furious because it was an extra short day: the classes were something like 15 minutes long. I fumed around the office muttering, "Fifteen #*%# minutes. All he had to do was go and say 'here." Would it be #%*& hard to say 'HERE!'"

After lunch my students were supposed to give presentations and fortunately the first one up was an advisee of mine who knew me fairly well. After a few minutes he stopped and asked me what he was doing wrong. "What?" "It's just that you look so angry. Am I doing something wrong?" I cancelled class.

About an hour later the school called back to tell me how sorry they were. The teacher had corrected the roll report. Everything was fine. Carl was going to graduate.

Yeah...Good times.

At the time I had no trouble at all believing that he had done it. He had been making no plans for emancipation. I think he wanted to crawl into a hole and hope that adulthood would not find him. He lived with us for five months after graduation -- two months longer than the agency's policy policy permits. We took him to Job Corps not because it was an especially good idea, but because, frankly, I had no idea how else to get him out of the house.

After Job Corps he came to tell me about a trip he wanted to take. He said that he had just enough money for it and then when he came back he could live with me for a bit. I told him he could not. He could not set out on a plan guaranteed to result in him being unemployed, broke and homeless and expect me to take him in. I did send him money to get home when the inevitable happened. He found friends who took him in for a while. And then he was homeless. For a full week he lived in a friend's car waiting for a room in the transitional housing facility to open up. He called. We picked him up, bought him lunch, a hair cut, vitamins, and put him back on the street.

Yep. Good times.

Just like now with David I would tell Hubby, "I want to go get him and bring him home." Of course Hubby would just give me that look and I would say, "I know. I know. It won't help to help him." ("Don't do something. Just stand there.")

But now...He's turned into an adult. He is making untraditional choices, but they are good, healthy ones. He is taking care of himself.

He's calling me to say hello -- not to be rescued.

These are good times.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Don't do something! Just stand there!"

My husband is very, very good at just standing there. It's probably because he is a special education teacher. He can do nothing effortlessly.

He can notice and care about problems large and small and just stand there. He can just stand there while a child takes five minutes to button up a sweater, struggles with a math problem, or falls down. He makes it look easy.

I can do it too, but I have to work at it.

I have to walk around muttering to myself, "I will not remind Evan (again) about the deadline for the application. I will not come up with three different plans for emancipation complete with deadlines and phone numbers. I will not overwhelm him with my nervous energy. I will not subtly suggest that he is unable to plan for himself. I will let him stumble, pick himself back up and succeed on his own."

I will just stand here.

Maybe it would be easier if I sat down.

Thinking about lying

I have said several times that Evan is truthful. On one hand this is accurate. He tells me things, even things I would rather not know. Of course, he does lie. We all do some, but I have been pondering why it is that Evan's lies don't bother me.

This is going to sound odd -- it is because Evan's lies are not deceptive.

Evan lies when I say things like, "Do you have any homework?" or "Did you finish the paper you said you had to do this weekend?" He lies because he believes that 1) he will have the homework or whatever done by the time that it needs to be done and 2) it isn't really any of my business exactly how far along he is.

I confess I have told similar lies myself. A friendly person at church asks, "How is your sabbatical project going?" And I say, "It's moving right along." I don't say, "I am so sick and tired of this stupid critical thinking handbook. I keep thinking I am either talking down to the students or else going over their heads. I can't come up with any decent examples. Frankly I have spent more time writing and reading blogs than I have working on it." It seems inappropriate to confess all my aggravations to someone who was just asking a polite question -- besides, my frustrations and fears of failures are not their business.

I don't feel deceived by Evan because as soon as the question is out of my mouth I remember my initial agreement with him: he would tell me when he needed help (and he does) and I would not pry.

The other two boys were different.

One was a chronic, non-malicious liar. At times it seemed that nearly everything he said was not quite true. I knew where it came from. He had lived most of his life with a sick mother. When she asked him how things were going she really did not want the truth. She was too ill to help him and what she wanted was for him to spin tales about how wonderful his life was. His lies were frustrating because they were often so unnecessary. I often thought that where I had to decide to lie, he had to decide to tell the truth. His automatic response to a question was to say what he thought the person listening to him wanted to hear. Given that different people in his life (who talked to each other) wanted to hear different things, his lies were typically easy to catch.

The most deceptive one is the one who absolutely refuses to tell lies.

He was difficult because he thought so carefully about how to deceive me. He would give me a piece of truth that was related to the question that I asked but which would lead to a completely different conclusion.

Some I could see through at the time. I would tell him that I had called him on his cell phone several times when he was AWOL and it made me very angry that he had not replied. "Sorry. The phone was on silent and I did not hear it ring." Translation: I had it on vibrate and did not answer it when I saw it was you calling. I got better at understanding his code and found myself coaching the social worker. She would report that they had a really good meeting and had talked about his goals. She said that committed himself to good and reasonable goals.. "What exactly did he say?" "Let's see...I suggested that ____ was something he could accomplish and he said that that was a very good idea." "Did he say that he would do it or that it was a good idea to do it?" "No...Wait...Do you mean...No!" "Yep. He played you."

Of course there were many times when he played me and I did not notice.

So the point...Well mostly I am just rambling (i.e. avoiding working on the critical thinking handbook), but I am also comforting myself. Hubby insists that I not talk to Evan about the on-line psychic thing for at least a week. I have made my case and now I need to back off and let him go through the process. Hubby is right...So I am stewing.

Next: Evan's Mom

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Off to lobby (and back)

I got another PFLAG'er to go to the House Hearing on the evil amendment tomorrow. Hubby and I will be lobbying today. So I need to prepare...Find a nice conservative outfit, put on my cross. Maybe I will go nuts and shave my legs.

There is some small chance that we will defeat it in the House this year. It is an election year and the issue has not been playing well in the state. When polled people say that they are opposed to giving all our citizens equality under the law (okay...The question asked is ususally, "Should we allow same-sex marriage?"), BUT they also say that they don't think we need a constitutional amendment to save us from the terrifying possibility of equality.

I really, really hope it does not go to the senate. Evan got me to promise that if it does I will do Lobby Day and the Hearing (as long as they are not on consecutive days). Of course he promised to cook dinner both days.

Wish me luck.


Typically, when you do something that you think you should do, but don't want to do, you get a nice warm virtuous feeling afterwards. Unless of course the thing you are doing is lobbying legislators.

Everyone was polite -- mostly. I got to thank the one guy from my district who is opposed to it. He said that it will definitely pass the house and go down in the senate.

I wish I could use that as an excuse not to lobby or go to the hearing. I can't though. My presence all by itself makes very little difference, but if everyone uses that as an excuse...well, you know. Anyway, I went.