My three days with Georgia were interesting and good. She is, by the way, is the same person who tried to help me make tamales a while back.
She is also a recovering addict.
I made a lot of tasteless jokes with my sponsor and counselor about it. You see, I had worried about whether the strides I have been making in the 12-step program was really going to "stick." I mean, it is easy to pretend to have a "let go" and only worry about my own problems when no one around me has a lot of problems. How could I know if I was ready. I told my sponsor that I wished there was a way to practice.
I wanted practice and so the universe sent me Georgia for three days. The universe sent her at that particular point because she was going to get one piece of terrible news after another. She needed to be in a quiet house while she dealt with it, and I after all, had actually said that I wanted to practice staying calm while a recovering addict was stressing out in my house.
I am pleased to report that we both seemed to have come through it fine. I got my practice and I really do feel more confident of my ability to breathe deep and remain calm.
Georgia has it tougher though. I think it was good for her to have several days of quiet.
I hope so.
Friday, March 31, 2006
My three days with Georgia were interesting and good. She is, by the way, is the same person who tried to help me make tamales a while back.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Note: I published three posts at once. It would be best to read them in order...so scroll down because this one is third.
So...careful what you wish for and all that.
Actually Georgia is fine. She is going to be 18 in a couple of months, and kids all melt down shortly before emancipation. Though Mandy sometimes works out exceptions, she normally does not allow kids to stay past their 18th birthday. It is not that she wants them to go (well, it is not always that she wants them to go), but there are great big kinks in the system that do this.
Anyway, Georgia is a candidate for staying at least through the summer even though she will be 18. The problem is that she does not have a job and is not looking for one. She is not in school anymore either (finished her GED program). Georgia does not understand that Mandy cannot allow her to stay if she is not working and saving money. (I have to write a whole post about emancipation problems in the system, at least here.) So Mandy says they are beginning to fight and Georgia is undermining her with the other girls.
Georgia says that Mandy wants her to be independent, but then tells her what to do. Then Georgia asks me if she can spend today hanging with her friend. Georgia clearly is hearing "indepenent" (meaning do what I want) when Mandy is saying "responsible".
Georgia also says that the case worker recommended that they take a break from each other. Georgia said she was relieved when Mandy said she was coming here. I agreed. If she wanted to punish her she could have sent her many other places. Instead she sent her to a place where she knew she was loved and comfortable. I could not resist pointing that out to Georgia. "Even when Mandy is pissed at you she was still thinking about what was best for you." Georgia agreed and after a couple of hours called Mandy. They agreed she would go home on Thursday.
All evening Georgia had watering eyes. She wasn't crying though...must have been dust in the air.
The boys called. They are visiting college campuses. The first scheduled visit is today. Yesterday they stopped at a wonderful liberal arts college just because it was on the way. They hadn't planned on it because that school is also on Spring break, but they changed their minds and just looked around. They happen to fall in with an official tour, so they got to see a dorm room and computer labs. Andrew was very, very impressed.
Monday, March 27, 2006
I wrote this last evening (Monday) but was interrupted by a phone call and did not get back to it.
I was looking forward to 4 days of time alone. I did have things planned: a dinner with a friend; a long phone call with my sponser; finally catching up on my grading; possibly an emotional breakdown; whatever I wanted. I was really looking forward to the emotional breakdown.
I just got a call from a friend who is a foster parent. I'll call her Mandy. She takes teenage girls in the Challenge program. These are girls who have need a high level of care for some sort of behavioral reason. They are chronic runaways or recovering addicts or...you name it. It is a level of care I could not provide. Every door inside the house has a keyed lock. Everything in the house that could possibly be dangerous (razors, kitchen knives, cleaning products) are kept locked in one room. Mandy is really good at running a very structured house. There is a clear system of earned privileges. She doesn't hold grudges. The girls act out, they loose privileges until they earn them back. Most of the girls are pretty motivated. Technically kids are only supposed to be there for 6 months, but some do better there than they have anywhere else and so they stay for a year or two.
They can't go anywhere as a family. There is always at least one girl who will use any public outing as an opportunity to act out. So the only way they can cope with this life is to take regular breaks. I do respite care for them about four times a year. She usually sets things up months in advance.
She also only gives me the easiest of her girls, who are typically also the long-term kids. I end up building a relationship with one or two over the course of a couple of years. I am just about always "auntie" to someone. Right now I am auntie to two girls: Miss E and Georgia. Miss E and I have failed to bond. I get along with her okay. She is not difficult while here, but we just don't connect. Georgia though I have always got along with very well.
Mandy just called. There was an edge in her voice...the sort of sound that is there when you are just barely holding on to sanity.
"Can you take Georgia for a couple of days?"
"You mean starting now."
So much communicated a couple of words. We talked for a little bit. I told her my schedule and asked how much I could leave Georgia alone. We worked it out.
So much for my scheduled emotional breakdown.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
I wrote this on Sunday and it seemed a bit dry. I thought I would work on it more and publish it later, but now I view it was part of history, so up it goes.
Tomorrow morning Hubby is getting into the van with Andrew and Brian and they are going on a road trip.
Andrew is only a sophmore, but he is interested in visiting some colleges. I took him to the big college fair in the fall. So now he is going off to a liberal town to wander around on a couple of campuses. Nothing very formal, just looking around. They are all very excited.
I'm not going. I said it first. "I probably shouldn't be there. Andrew would probably get a better sense of what he likes without me pointing out everything that I think is good or bad about the school." Everyone nodded.
So the boys are going on a trip.
And I am staying home alone.
Part of me is excited. The house to myself for four days and three nights. The peace and quiet! No one will turn on stupid TV shows. No one will leave messes in the kitchen or bathroom. Of course I will have to feed crickets to the toad, food cubes to the rats, feed and walk the dog, and feed the "downstairs cat" in addition to my usual chores of feeding the upstairs cat and cleaning her litter box.
I am missing them already.
Hubby and I have each left the other with the kids while we go to some conference or wedding or something. The kids and I have gone on a couple of trips and left Hubby here, but the last time I was "home alone" was in the summer of 1992.
Very, very strange.
It should go by quickly. I work during the day and have plans with friends on Tuesday and Wednesday. They will be back sometime late Thursday.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
So here I am in foster parent limbo...one month without Evan, one more to go.
I have been reading blogs of my fellow foster parents and I have been reading posts on the discussion forum for people who are involved with addicts. My observation is not going to surprise anyone:
They are really similar.
The kids in our care can behave a lot like "typical" active addicts sometimes. They may lie, manipulate, and steal. They certainly are masters of getting us to do what they should be doing for themselves. They are needy and self-destructive.
And we love them.
As I have been thinking about the lessons I am learning, and re-learning, about loving addicts, I am coming to some realizations about all the self-destructive behaviors of our troubled teens.
First the bad news:
Our love cannot save them. We cannot heal their hearts. We cannot change basic self-destructive impulses.
Sometimes we can set up good incentive plans with appropriate logical consequences through which we modify particular behaviors. We can often succeed in getting them to stop using language we find objectionable, take their turn washing the dishes, and maybe even do their homework. All this is good and important and necessary, but it is not healing.
All those dreams of the new foster parent are an illusion. "I will take this damaged child into my loving home. I will make them feel safe and teach them a better way to live. I will love them until all the hurt goes away."
And now the good news:
They do have the power to heal themselves. They won't all succeed. For all we can tell, some of them will not even try. But some of them will.
So what do we do?
Well, we love them, but we don't expect that love to make anything in particular happen except keep us going when we want to quit.
We do the things for them which, being children and youth, they cannot do for themselves. We provide food, shelter, clothing, and safety. We help them learn to do what they need to do for themselves, at least as much as they will let us.
We learn not to enable them. We do not do for them what they can do for themselves. We let them fail, pick themselves back up and try again. We trust that they are traveling their own journey in their own time. We express confidence in them by not protecting them. We let them slowly heal their own hearts.
We remind ourselves that even the children who do not seem to be healing at all must travel their own journey too. We cannot choose their path for them. We cannot make them heal at our pace; we cannot make them heal at all.
We take care of ourselves so that we are calm and sane.
Now...as Granny points out...if I can just remember all this when Evan comes home....
Friday, March 24, 2006
I'm a sick woman.
Evan broke up with J!!!! Yipeee!!! Evan has decided not to go on stupid trip to Indiana!!! Yipeee!!!
J is a newbie. Evan is the first boy he ever kissed. It was a doomed relationship. Oh, I should have more confidence in young love, but well, I don't. J was (is?) in love with being in love. I mean really...what would you think if you were J's mother? Your 18-year-old kid has his first big crush: on a recovering addict who lives 1000 miles away. Yeah. That's going to work.
Evan was overheard saying, "I will not let anything come between me and my sobriety."
But can I enjoy the moment? Of course not. What do I think in the midst of being happy?
"That line about sobriety...it could be sincere, but it is also a great break up line. It takes 'Sorry, it's not you; it's me" to an entirely new level."
"I'm feeling happy...feeling hopeful. Oh no! Am I forming expectations? Expectations are bad...expectations are 'premeditated resentments.' Bad auntie! Feeling happy because he seems to be recovering is as bad as feeling bad because he is not. Danger! Emotions too connected to Evan! STOP FEELING HAPPY!"
I'm a sick, sick woman.
But a happy one.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Got another call from Evan yesterday, actually two calls.
The first was just life here is good. He talked to his sister and aunt on the phone. He has trouble with the Higher Power stuff, but things are good, ect.
The second was very different. I will try to keep this from being too long, but I cannot resist giving you some of the flavor of Evan-energy.
"Hi Beth...I know we talked just one hour ago, but I actually called to say something specific. My counselor here wants me to talk to you about something, and I was going to in the last phone call but then I started telling you about everything else, and then we both had to go. So I guess it slipped my mind, well, no it did not really slip my mind, it is just that we didn't get to it, but my counselor really thinks that I should get your feedback on this and so I am calling again. I mean I know I should have..
"EVAN! Spit it out."
"Yeah...okay...I'm leaving in another 30 days. You know I have been here for 29 days now. I have been clean for 34, but here for 29, and I am definitely leaving after just 60. That should be a good time for me to leave. Everyone agrees and my counselor is really helping me to [rambling edited]. But that is not really why I am calling back.
"Okay..okay...there are lots of things that I want to do when I get out. I mean I really want to get a job. I have never wanted to get a job as much as I do now and I really want to go to school. You don't need to worry about me. I mean I really am dealing with things better and learning that it is better for feel my emotions and..."
"EVAN! Did you want to ask me something?"
FINALLY he gets to the plan: he wants to go visit J in Indiana when he gets out of rehab. This is something that he wants to do; that he needs to do; is an important part of dealing with his emotional well-being; dealing honestly with feelings that he has not been feeling; that the people at the rehab center want him to ask me what I think.
"I mean, will you freak out? I don't want to upset you and I don't want you to think that I don't like you and don't appreciate everything or that I don't want to live you with you. I really do. I want to come back and get a job and finish high school. Is that okay?"
"Will you freak out if I go visit J in Indiana?"
"No. I am in a very Al-Anon space. You can tell your counselor, and he will understand, that I can maintain my serenity even if you go see J."
"Okay. Because it is really important that to me that you understand and can support me in this. What you think matters and I don't want to make any important decision without involving you and respecting your opinion." [Is he reading from a cue card?]
"That is not the same thing. My opinion is that going on a trip immediately after rehab is unwise. I think it would be better for you to spend at least a month at home doing the out-patient therapy you have been talking about."
"And that is a very valid concern." [He has GOT to be reading from a cue card.]
Anyway, we kept going around in circles. I kept saying that no I could not say that I "supported that decision" and no I would not freak out. He kept trying to figure out a way to phrase the question so that I would answer "yes" and he could report that "it was all right" with me if he went on the trip.
The backdrop to this is that the foster care agency previously told him that they would not buy him a ticket unless he completed the rehab center's recommendations. It was made clear that if the center recommended ("signed off on") 60 day stay with out-patient follow-up then that would be okay with everyone else. Evan is clearly trying to get the follow up plan to include visiting J as early as possible.
I am feeling like everyone knows it would be a bad idea for Evan to go visit J right away, but that no one wants to be the mean one who says no. Everyone wants to back up someone else. I am the best patsy for this. I am the non-professional. It would be easier (for them) if I could play the roll of anxious auntie and they could tell him that he needed to stay home "for me."
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
When I first started reading blogs I realized that I liked the ones that had a focus. I wanted to listen to other people who were fostering or adopting older kids. I also found that I was thinking a lot about doing foster care: they why's; the how's. My family and friends could only listen to so much and so I thought...I'll write a blog. I'll write down all these thoughts and it will be interesting for me and maybe someone else will want to read some of it.
So I did.
My tone was different in the beginning. I was reflective, philosophical.
Then the s*** hit the fan. Real stuff started happening. Evan confessed to an addiction. For two weeks the blog was all about getting him help. Not all of it, but some, is a pretty decent picture of a co-dependent in action.
Then he went to rehab and I started to do recovery work. The blog is still sometimes reflective and philosophical, but it is often more about the daily anxiety and trauma.
Recently I have had less to write about. I haven't heard from Evan for almost two weeks (which is okay), and I am learning not to worry and stress over him. My mind is occupied with my job, my family, my own recovery.
I write a lot of long emails to my sponsor, and I have thought about posting some of those thought here. Some of it I don't want to share (too private) and some I have been holding back on for a different reason. I was not really clear about it, and then it hit me this morning.
I am not writing a recovery blog.
Such a thing would be interesting for me and maybe for others, and I could even imagine writing such a beast, but that is not what this space is for. This is about doing foster care. Of course I could change that. I could decide that it was about whatever was important to me today, but I don't want to. I want it to stay a blog about doing care.
But how do you write about doing foster care when you are not doing it?
I have been asking myself, how much do I really have to say about foster care right now. The answer is, some, but maybe not a lot. So I suspect that I will be writing a little less for a while. I am going to try to keep this space focused. I am not going to dig for something to write just so that I can post.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
The counselor I have been seeing says that it is common for adults, somewhere between 35 and 50, to have to deal with the stuff they pushed away as children. I am, apparently, right on schedule. I spent my adolescent and early adult years whining. I spent the next two decades being "over it" and moving on with my life. Now, the counselor says, some part of my psyche has decided that I am ready to face my demons and so here we are.
Then the counselor asked me to list the ways and times in which I had to behave in age-inappropriate ways as a child. When did have to take on responsibility that I should not have had to? Then a couple of days later someone on the recovery board asked people to describe in what ways was addiction a famiy disease. I started out pretty matter-of-factly sharing my experience...starting when I was four.
A whole lot of feelings came pouring in. I pushed them away on Friday and Saturday because I had to be a teacher and a mother. Today though I went to my office and just had a long cry.
My pre-school experiences with my father, though certainly emotional and physically abusive, are nothing compared to the experiences of the children in the system. I am realizing though that at some level that just does not matter.
If I were in an accident now I could say, "Wow...that could have been so much worse." I would feel relief along with all the other stuff. A pre-schooler though could not. If it was the most horrible, frightening thing that ever happened to her, then it was horrible and frightening. When she grew up that little-girl fear of car crashes might always be there.
So I was afraid in my home, whenever my mother was gone and my father was not, for as far back as I can remember. I learned to retreat into myself, to hold perfectly still, in order to be safe. I learned that at the same time that I learned to walk.
Now this is not a pity party...I don't want anyone to say "poor thing." What I am going to say next may surprise you.
I am today deeply, deeply grateful that the universe sent me Evan, a child with an addiction. Because of my responses to him and his addiction, I had to face my own demons. I have had to deal with the little-girl fear.
My counselor is right. Now I am ready to do it.
Evan's sister called the other day. I was gone and Brian told her that Evan was on vacation.
She called again and I told her the truth. I really wanted to talk to the grandmother or aunt first, but it did not happen that way. She did not ask a lot of questions. She was not surprised either. She saw him taking pills in the days after the funeral and wondered what they were for.
I called his grandmother. Technically I had committed to only telling them if they called, but it felt wrong not to let the grandmother know once the sister did.
She was genuinely surprised. After seeing his mother's struggles with addiction and hearing him say the things he has about it, she assumed that he would stay far away from drugs. I told her that in his mind he was only taking them to cope and not to get high, so it was different, and that I believed that the reason that he told us was that it was beginning to spin out of control.
She asked if it was possible to contact him and I told her that I would forward a letter from her and that I was pretty sure he would call or write once he heard from her. I could hear the disappointment in her voice, but I think she understood why I felt I could not give her the address or phone number. I told her that though I had confidentiality requirements as a foster parent, she did not. She could talk to whoever she felt she needed to. I told her that I had told Evan and the social worker that I would not lie if any of them called and that I was sorry that sister was the first to call.
She said that it was probably good for the sister to know first. I don't know exactly what that is about, but I don't have to.
She also said she would get a letter in tomorrow's mail. I believe her. It will be good for Evan to hear from his family and know that they are proud of him for doing this.
Friday, March 17, 2006
I've been tired.
Not getting stressed about Evan has been fun, but it has taken some energy.
I made some genuine mistakes in my classes and the students were justifiably angry. I am in the process of cleaning that up -- successfully I think.
I have piles and piles of grading to do and I don't think I will do much this weekend other than grade.
But I just got a wonderful phone call.
Currently the PFLAG cell is with me (it is most of the time). A mother called. She said her eight year old told her she was gay. Mom wanted to know if an eight year old could know that.
I told her that I could not tell her whether her daughter was gay, but that lots of gay and lesbian people report that they knew when they were that age. Personally, I had my first crush on a boy when I was five.
What was her response? Did she say, "I don't know how to handle this?" Did she say, "I have friends who are gay, and I am okay with that -- why do I want to cry when I find out my daughter is gay?"
No. Those used to be the most common responses. We still get them sometimes, and I understand. People are where they are and we are here to help them.
This mother said, "Cool! I mean, I am SO happy my daughter feels comfortable telling me that! I am so proud of her. I could never have told my mother something so important when I was eight!"
We talked for a while. She wanted materials to take to the schools, because some other kids are teasing her daughter. She wanted recommendations for books for all three of her kids. She wanted everything I could give her.
Golly I feel hopeful.
You know what? No matter how many stupid, anti-gay laws the fundamentalists get on the ballot, no matter how many laws they got on the book, they will loose this one. Society is changing, becoming more accepting, and they cannot turn back the clock. We will undo all the stupid laws. Justice will prevail.
How do I know?
Because a mother in a small conservative town in the reddest of all the red states heard her young daughter say that she is gay and responded, "Cool!"
Thursday, March 16, 2006
So, I had a couple conversations with the social worker today. The bottom line is this -- everyone agreed that we would tell Evan that the agency would buy him a plane ticket and we would let him move back in when Studio 12 said he was ready.
From what she said it sounds like the conversation went something like,
SW: We really care about you and want what is best for you. We want you to follow the recommendations of the rehab center. They are saying 90 days and so we want you to stay for the whole 90 days.
Evan: I can't do 90 days. I might be able to do 60. What if they say that 60 is enough?
SW: Right now they are telling us 90 days is what they recommend, but if they recommend something else then that will be okay with us. You have to work with them, you have to take advantage of this opportunity.
Evan to counselor: She says I can go home as soon as you say I can leave.
Fortunately the counselor talked to the social worker so everyone is on the same page. Well, everyone but Evan.
In any case he has agreed to do 60 total days, he is angry about it, but he agreed to it.
Personally I think that is very reasonable -- just for today he can imagine staying 60 days. In another 30 days we can re-assess and discuss whether he needs to be there longer and whether he can make a commitment for more. Getting an 18-year-old to make a commitment 30 days at a shot is fine.
I wrote a brief version of this is a comment in Lionmom's blog, but the whole story is running through my head and so I think I will write it down.
I was a young mother who read parenting books. I was well educated, and sensitive, and opposed to spanking. I knew it all. I had a gentle sweet baby who slept like a rock and was cautious and loved being read to. He was an angel and I was a wonderful mother.
My friend's little boy, just a couple months older than mine, bit his sister and I thought, "How can she [my friend] let her child do that?" I congratulated myself on my non-violent, superior child-rearing techniques.
Two months later my son started biting other children: hard and often.
I struggled with how to respond. I remember making a big fuss over a little girl he had bitten and ignoring him, but I don't really know if that made a difference or not -- it was a long time ago.
He moved out of that stage and straight into baby-tipping. Several of my friends had babies around 6 months of age. They sat, as 6-month-olds do, like little frogs, sometimes picking up one or both hands to hold something. Andrew would walk over to them and very gently push on their chests. They would fall onto their back with a very satisfying "thunk" and then let out an even more satisfying wail. He would stand over them and cackle with glee. The babies were giant defective weebles and he was the devil.
For about two months I was isolated. We would try to go to the mother's group, but I spent so much time keeping him away from the weebles that I was stressed (not to mention the anxiety felt by the weebles' mothers).
And then it went away. I am not certain what happen.
Maybe the babies just grew out of the weeble-stage.
Maybe he developed a sensitivity to the feelings of others.
Maybe one of them bit him.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Just talked to the social worker. The big exciting meeting did not happen yesterday because the big exciting people from HQ cancelled due to illness.
But she also says that Evan has not talked to them about coming home, so they are still just operating on the assumption that he will be there 90 days.
We shall see what happens...
Someone new on the support chatboard asked about all the abbreviations and I got cute and wrote the following. As I have nothing new in my life to report, I thought I would share it.
A is for Addict who
BTW By The Way our
BF Boyfriend or
D Daughter or
Dd Dad may be
DOC is Drug Of Choice which we were told
F2F Face to Face that our
FD Foster Daughter or
FS Foster Son or
GF Girlfriend or
H Husband might use
HP is our Higher Power who
IMO In My Opinion gives us always and not
JFT Just For Today the gift of
LOL Laughing Out Loud
M is for Mother who leaves us
NM No Message except
OMG Oh My G-d! or something
OT Off Topic about the
PO Parole Officer
S is for Son who told the
SW Social Worker
TFS “Thanks for Sharing” or was it
TFLMS “Thanks For Letting Me Share”
UA the Urinalysis results
W is Wife who exclaims
WTF “What The ****” or
WTG “Way to Go!” depending upon, well, you know.
YW is Your Welcome for this little list
And now I must go, but first I will say:
TTFN which is Tigger for “Ta Ta For Now.”
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Tamara asks about our "rule" that the strictest rule wins.
It is more of a general principle. It is particularly important when the issue is our different perceptions of what is safe. The other principle, that can conflict with the that one, is that it is not fair to expect the other parent to enforce rules that are not particularly important to him or her.
So what happens in reality is this: the "thou shalt nots" tend to get enforced equally well by both parents. On the other hand the "thou shalts" not so much. Hubby thinks that the kids should keep their rooms clean, which I don't really care about, so he stands makes them do it every Saturday. I am the one who thinks they should cook once a week, so I supervise that. If I go away for the week, Hubby does not make them cook and if he is gone I don't worry about their rooms.
On the other hand, they didn't cross the street alone until we both thought it was safe. We did not leave them home alone for even short periods until...you guessed it... we both thought it was safe.
This way of working things out has become pretty second nature to us both.
It has been a long time since either of us bothered to say these things out loud.
Monday, March 13, 2006
So...There is a really interesting family dynamic going on here.
Hubby has never had to worry about a large number of things because I always worried about them. Some boundaries he has set he has justified as being necessary for me. The kids, especially the foster kids, could not engage in some behavior because it was too stressful for me.
Now I am getting into a really relaxed place. It is beginning to dawn on him that I might really mean what I say. Certainly he's convinced that I think I do.
I told him that I talked to the social worker and told her that if Evan made it back here under their good graces then we would give him a chance. They could put whatever requirements on him they wanted, but they did not have to put any on him for me.
It took Hubby a while to realize what that meant, but it was clearly upsetting to him. The idea that Evan would leave this wonderful rehab center that they sent him to even though it was 1000 miles away was outrageous. Hubby does not think that Evan should be allowed to come home unless Evan finishes the program.
I reminded him that whoever has the strictest rule wins (a long-standing principle for us), and so that is what it would be. [This may not be clear: he wins. In this case we are comfortable in different places and since we both have to be comfortabel we told the social worker she could tell Evan that he had to do what the rehab center recommends before coming home.]
Still, it is the family dynamic here that I am wondering about. If this letting go strategy sticks with me, how much will that affect him?
I had such a good conversation with the social worker! I have gone through so many different possible position, and where I am now is so basic.
I once thought that I would have to know if Evan was using if he were going to be in the house.
Then I thought knowing and/or trying to know would only raise tensions in the house and make me crazy. So I thought I wanted someone else to know, but only to tell me if he was clearly addicted again (as opposed to having had a "slip").
Not too long ago I thought I needed for Evan to have a plan for continued treatment that he would stick to.
Not too long ago I thought that I only wanted him back from the rehab center if I knew he was clean and committed to staying that way.
All of these things I have expressed to the social worker at one time or another.
Now I am in a very Al-Anon space.
I know that I could not let one of the other boys back into the hosue unless I was certain he was clean and committed to staying that way, because it would be too difficult to get rid of him later if he wasn't. It would hurt horribly to kick Andrew, Brian, Carl or even David out after letting them back in. (It would be a bit easier with David because I have had practice). But, and this may seem terrible to some people, I am not Evan's mom. Emotionally I am Evan's aunt. I am the woman who loves him, wants him to succeed but does not feel a strong obligation to help him do it.
This is probably partly because he came to me at nearly 18. It is also because he has biofamily around. He never needed me to be his emotional mother -- his own mother stuggles to do that and his aunt and his grandmother try to make up the difference. He has only needed me to be the nice, supportive adult who is letting him live there.
I also feel safe about letting him come back in because I feel confident that if he behaves in a manner that is unsafe to the family, the people at the foster care agency will help get him out of my house.
In other words, I know that emotionally and practically, I can make him leave if I need to.
SO...this means there is a clear bottom line: if he comes back we will give him a chance. In order to stay in the home he must follow the basic four rules that dictate all rules in our household:
- Everyone knows where everyone is.
- Everyone behaves in ways that are respectful and safe for everyone else.
- Everyone contributes to the household (e.g. cooking dinner once a week).
- Everyone does his or her job (for kids this means school).
I don't think that Evan can successfullly follow the rules and use at the same time (especially since being obviously high, crashing, or having illegal substances in the house constitute unsafe behavior), but if he can I want him to stay.So I told the social worker that I am not longer asking for all the things that I previously said I might want...and I have no objection to supporting anything else someone else wants.
If the social worker, or the agency, or the high school, or a teacher, or his employer (assuming he gets one) insist on random drug tests before they will work with him, then I support that. Evan will have to deal with it.
The other perk to this is that if he is not going to school I don't have to say that he has to leave because I think he is using. It won't matter why he is not going to school. If he is behaving in a manner makes the boys feel unsafe, it will not matter if it is because he is high or crashing or anything.
Anyway, it is really good that I talked to the social worker today, because tomorrow someone from HQ is coming by to help them make decisions about a couple of kids, including Evan. It is good for them to know that my position is that I will fully support whatever conditions they put on him and have no "extra" ones of my own to add.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Evan called again last night. He talked a bit more about what he wants to do. The short version is this: he wants to leave the rehab center on the 30th day, which will be right before the local high school's spring break, go on the spring break trip he originally planned, and then come home.
Now the details of the spring break trip are not all that important. Let's just say that it is the sort of thing that would sound like fun to an 18 year old and make his auntie very, very nervous before she knew anything about his drug addiction.
My first response to this was, I am pleased to report, merely, "I don't feel safe with this plan." I still think that that is what I will tell him if/when he calls again this weekend. How to respond to that is Evan's call. He can try to come up with a plan that I feel safe with, or he can do what he wants anyway. My feelings are my business and though I want to communicate them to him, they belong to me.
But I just spent an hour on the phone with my sponser and then I talked with Hubby again.
This is where we both are right now. Going on the spring break trip seems to us likely to undo all the good work he has accomplished at the rehab center. Our rules are still that when he gets back here he may live here as long has his behavior is safe for the family and living here is promoting his eventual independence. The spring break trip greatly endangers his chances of success.
In short -- it is stupid beyond the ability of words to express.
And we are surprisingly okay with that.
I have accepted that I have no control over his stupidity. I have admitted than any attempt to make him behave in a non-stupid way will only result in my insanity and make my life unmanageable.
I would like to believe that there is something that I could do that would help him make better decisions, but I don't think there is.
Friday, March 10, 2006
So Evan called. He is cheerful. He enjoys the city he is in, but it is just a great place to visit -- you should not try to live there unless you have lots of money. He did, by the way, get around to coming out. He had not realized that coming out was something that he would have to do over and over all his life. And one more thing. He knows the people there want him to stay for 60 days, but he signed up for a 30 day stay and that is all he plans on doing.
He had to hang up quickly because they were all about to go somewhere. That was good because it gave me some time for forumlate a response.
I called the social worker and we started going to town on options. He might leave in about 10 days! What can he do for high school completion? He cannot enroll in the local high school, but maybe he could enroll in the alternative high. The social worker though says she has heard that they have a waiting list. But maybe he could take on-line courses. He could probably even go to the regular high school to work on the on-line courses. They have a classroom in which students who are studying for the GED, but are not enrolled in classes, may work. The teacher for that room knows and likes him. She would let him stay there. Yes, but would he go to the high school?
Suddenly the light in my brain went on. I told her, "This is his job. He is 18. It is perfectly fair for us to say that we are happy to help and support him as soon as he makes a plan. If he needs information that he can't get he can ask us for it and we can mail it to him."
The more I thought about it the more I like it. I only want to help him if I am helping him towards independence. I don't want to enable. HE needs to make a plan for what he will do after rehab. HE has to figure out how he will go from being a dependent child to being an independent adult. If that plan includes me, then I want to hear more.
He can of course walk out of rehab and into the world. That is one of his choices.
He can stay there angry that we won't let him come home until he makes a plan, or not angry and working on a plan. Either way he his life is in his lap.
He can even make a plan and come home and not follow it -- and here is the really, really cool part -- I don't feel like I have to come up with a contingency plan for that! I can let that go and worry about it if it happens.
This Al-Anon stuff is not half bad.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
I am the faculty advisor for the GSCA (Gay/Straight College Alliance). I have not been attending meetings because I have been on sabbatical. So tonight I went.
They always meet in B* Hall. So I went there. Young women in long black dresses said the GSCA had gone to the student union to watch a movie. So I walked across campus (it is not a huge campus) down to the basement and there was no one in the theatre. Someone who was in the union knew the cell number of someone in the club and she called told me that they were in A* Residence Hall.
So I went back outside, walked across campus, past B* Hall, to the residence hall. The thing is, the residence halls have a decent security system. You cannot get in without a key. I walked around the *#%#)! building trying every *#%&^#@! door.
Just when I was about to go home and write them all a very angry email, I heard the vice-president of the club calling me.
They had a good meeting and watched A Home at the End of the World.
This combined with the Al-Anon thing is really making me feel that I should not leave the house. It really does not seem to work out well for me.
I have tried three times in the past two weeks to go to an Al-Anon meeting. First I went on Thursday to the All Twelve Steps Club. They didn't know anything about Al-Anon but they would call the woman who knew all about it. She told me that the meeting was on Tuesday. I then learned that there was one on Mondays at the parish house behind the church I used to go to. I did that this Monday -- they were not there. On Tuesday I went back to the All Twelve Steps Club, but they have never heard of Al-Anon. A young co-dependent in the making (about 12) kept trying to imagine where it might be. I finally escaped.
I emailed a friend to ask if he knew where one might be. He said he would ask. He emailed me later to say that there was one on Mondays in the parish house behind this church...I told him thankyou.
Anyway, yesterday I went into the city to see the rehab counselor and stayed in to try a meeting there. I got there early and sat in the car waiting to see if people actually showed up.
The meeting was pretty good. There were about 18 people there. Four people decided to talk about how stressed they were at work and how the Al-Anon skills helped them. Two of them were fine about it. They kept it brief. Two went on and on. It was annoying. However one of the annoying ones cornered me after to express concern for me for 30 seconds and then talk to me for 10 minutes about her horrible boss and her anxiety about her review on Friday. She did me the favor of telling me that she was going to every single Al-Anon meeting she could this week and it was the only thing that was keeping me calm.
I say it was a favor because it meant that both she was not a regular fixture at this meeting and that I need to remember that there may be an annoying personality at all of them (maybe even her).
But generally it was good. There were several people whose "qualifier" was a son or daughter. It really bought back memories of Alateen -- things I had not remembered in years. I went to two different regional conferences. I was a speaker at one! I told them that I had done the first three steps as a teenager, looked at the fourth one and said, "Umm...No." They laughed.
They also laughed when I told them that I had had found a genuine peace about my father being an alcoholic when I was 24 and that right after that he joined AA,which really pissed me off. They laughed when I told them that I married a great guy who wasn't an addict and had two cool kids. There was no chaos in my life at all and so I became a foster parent to get some.
Then I told them that I had realized that I had always pushed every person that I even suspsected was an addict, but that Evan had already got in and I really did not want to push him away too. "So -- I'm back." I got choked up with that and they said, "Welcome back."
It was basically a good meeting, but I am going to keep trying to find one closer to home.
[Just for reference: I live in a town with fewer than 30,000 people. The "big city" 25 miles away has a population of about 185,000.]
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
This morning I put a post on a support forum for people involved with addicts (an Al-Anon kind of thing). I did not give the details that I put here, but I did say that I got a letter from my nephew in rehab and I was happy.
When he first went I was nervous that I did not know him at all. He had been using since before I met him and what if the kid that I had come to know and love didn't really exist? The letter was reassuring. It made me feel happy.
So I got responses on the board. Everyone said something like, "thanks for sharing a happy story" but almost everyone also said something to the effect of:
"Careful! Don't get your expectations up...expectations are just resentments-in-waiting."
Fortunately I was happy enough and confident enough that my happiness was not based on expectations that I was able to laugh.
Their responses reminded me of my friend. She took medication for her under-active thyroid, was 6 months pregnant, and had a toddler at home. She told her ob/gyn that she was feeling good.
"Good? Not tired?"
"No. I feel fine."
The physician immediately ordered a test on for her thyroid levels, lowered her medication doses and said that now she would feel like she should: exhausted.
I really did appreciate that everyone there was responding with loving concern. They were afraid I was stepping back on the rollercoaster in which my happiness rises and falls depending upon how Evan was doing.
Today though I am just feeling happy.
And I like it.
Monday, March 06, 2006
He actually wrote a second letter.
He told me about his roommate who did not last long by the way. Too bad, since he was so hot.
He seems to have got himself into a bind. See, he never actually told the guys there that he is gay. Evan does have to tell people, if they are going to know. He played football for a while in high school and he looks, sounds, and moves like a football player. He comes home laughing to tell me how once again someone asked him if the rumor was true -- was HE gay?
He is out, but in a very relaxed way. If you ask, he will tell you. If he is interested in dating you, he will offer the information. He went there and was going through de-tox. He was not interested in talking about sex or sexuality or anything.
So here the poor kid, hanging out with straight men in an all-male environment. They go on outings to where all the pretty people are (and there are LOTS of pretty people where he is) and everyone asks him if he has noticed some woman's breasts (only not in those words). So far he has not said, "No...but check out that guy's ass!" He's close though...very, very close.
He asked me to send him back issues of Out, Advocate, ANYTHING. I don't know if he wants them just because he wants them or so that he can leave them out where they can be seen. Maybe I should send him a hot-guy post card.
It's ironic because we sent him 1000 miles away so that he could be in a gay-friendly place, and he is more closeted than he was here!
The staff knows, I think. I mean, I think they know that that is why we sent him there.
On the other hand one of the AA meetings they go to every week is in a gay neighborhood and he really, really enjoys that one.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
I just watched the first couple of episodes of Wonderfalls on DVD. I have ordered the whole set.
For those of you (like me) who did not catch any of the four (4!) episodes that were aired before the series was cancelled (there were 13 made, all available on DVD), it is about a 20-something, detached young woman, Jaye, who starts being told by animal figurines to do things. She worries that she's crazy, but the figurines keep her up all night singing until she does whatever she is being ordered to do. Sometimes the orders are pretty bizarre like "Break the tail light." In the end though her actions set off chains of events that make things better.
In the first episode she has a conversation with someone about surrendering to destiny. He tells her that if it is destiny, perhaps we should surrender to it. Life is a whole lot simpler once you stop fighting and just go with it.
"It's a lot like drowning that way." Jaye replies.
It is interesting because I am, metaphorically speaking, sitting on Step Three's porch. Step Three is (re-written to be consistent with my understanding of a higher power): Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the divine stillness.
Now I am not too bad at turning over other people and things. I began to find that peace
with respect to Evan a little while ago. I will love him wherever he is and hope that he comes back here. I will not obsess over what I cannot control.
Turning over my will and my life though...well...that's something else.
I like my will. I like feeling in control of my own life.
Officially my sponser and I have agreed that I am going to take a little break before "working" this step. That's fine...still...I think about it, and I feel like Jaye. Her descriptions of herself keep floating through my head:
"The universe's butt puppet"
Jaye keeps trying to resist. When the rooster tells her to "destroy Gretchen" she decides that she really can't. A friend tells her to defy the chicken. She tries. She comes back.
"I defied the chicken."
"How'd it go?"
"I may have killed a man."
"So...not as well as we hoped."
Right now...I feel like Jaye. I look at Step Three and think: I will defy the chicken.
Hope no one dies.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
So Hubby told his version of his part of the conversation with the guy at the rehab center on Thursday. Hubby was told, "I cannot give you any information about a client of that name" or something like that.
That is a standard HIPPA-type statement. (Gone to a medical office lately? You know that privacy statement you have to sign?) HIPPA regulations prevent medical facilities from revealing who is a patient. It creates some really strange consequences, for instance I can pick up my husband's prescriptions and pay for them, but I cannot get a print out of everything on one page for taxes. We each have to get our own. Also if you hear that your friend has been in an accident and is "the hospital" the hospital can't confirm that. If you want to send a card and there is more than one in the area, you will have to send one to each.
So I think that Evan signed a release saying that we could be informed of his well-being. Or maybe it was just that the people who had answered before knew who we were and were willing to be relaxed about things. Probably whoever answered on Thursday just did not know who we were.
Still, I feel odd about the whole thing. I don't really have any connection with any staff members there. I just get different treatment depending on who answers the phone. I don't know who to ask for to get my position with respect to them figured out.
The social worker said she would try to help figure things out, but of course she has more people than just me and Evan to worry about.
Hopefully on Tuesday I will be able to talk to Evan himself. That should help.
Well, I got a sponser so that I can do the whole Al-Anon/Nar-Anon 12-step thing. He was not especially impressed with my announcement that I had already done at least the first two steps. He asked me to write about them anyway. It has been interesting, and sometimes a bit draining. He has a tendency to ask if I "really believe" something or think I have "really done" something even though I have just said that I do or have. I told him that I feel like he's Regis asking, "Is that your final answer?"
I have written pages and pages on my experience of powerlessness and lack of managability. I don't think I will be sharing any of that here.
Then I wrote pages about my conception of a higher power. Sigh. Some of that I may weed through and post here.
We agreed that I would "sit on the front porch of Step Three" (my imagery) for a while.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Two different people have said things to me that I am hearing as, "Even though you are doing all that you are doing. Even though for the past month you have done nothing but take care of Evan; make certain that you are not neglecting your family; and do self-therapy trying to make yourself less compulsive and easier to be around -- it is not enough."
Now I have a feeling that what they have said should not be taken that way. I have a feeling that I am just hitting a point of emotional exhaustion and am a bit over-sensitive to anything that might be the least little bit critical...and I am hoping that after I take a break and get some rest I will have emotional responses more in line with the situation.
At the moment though...I want to scream, and then cry, and then sleep.
First though I have to go be the grown-up rational college professor for a couple of hours.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Well...it was a crazy afternoon.
I called the rehab center to make certain that my email letters were getting through. I had a very strange conversation with the staff member there. In the past he had always been very friendly, told me how Evan was doing and then said I could call back anytime. This time he did not seem to want to talk to me at all. He did finally tell me that Evan had been talking about wanting to graduate but that they and his social worker had been making it pretty clear that he needed to concentrate on recovery. (Update: earlier I was sure that the person I talked to on Thursday was the same person as before. I am no longer certain that is the case).
I got pretty upset (though not until after I hung up the phone). I was angry that I was being shut out. It probably was just that Evan is 18 and the staff remembers that there are confidentiality rules when things are not going so well. But it triggered all my foster-parent anxiety about not being considered a real part of Evan's life.
I was so angry. I was angry at the guy at the center for not wanting to talk to me; angry at Evan for (apparently) wanting to walk away without going through the program; angry because he was still in the "black out" period and I could not yell at him; angry because I had this whole plan in mind about using the time he was gone to get my self together and he was threatening to take that away. JUST PLAIN FURIOUS.
I wrote an email to the center telling them that Evan had been dis-enrolled from high school – it was not possible for him to complete the semester that he started. I told them that I would not let him come home unless he “graduated” from the program.
I also wrote an encouraging letter to Evan; telling him that I was not going to give away his room, that he could stay here as long as he needed to finish, and that I had faith in his ability to do the program.
It’s funny…I was SO mad. I called my sponsor and talked. In the end I realized that all that had happened was that Evan expressed concern about not graduating on time. He most likely believes that graduating on time is still possible, if he were to get back now. None of us have told him, in so many words, that he has already passed the point of no return.
So he said he wanted to graduate and I turned that into giving up, walking away, destroying all our plans, messing up my life.
Sometimes the level of my own insanity amazes me…won’t Cubbie Girl be glad to hear that?
Since the staff at the rehab center said that I could email my letters to Evan have been writing him every day.
I spoke to another foster parent who had a kid in rehab said he did the same thing. The staff called one day to say that the teenager was agitated. Even though he never seemed to read the letters, he had not got one that day and was worried.
I am glad he told me that, because I don't really know what to tell Evan.
I don't want to write about when he comes home, because it is not in my power to guarantee that will happen.
I think about telling him that I got a sponser and am doing the 12-step thing like I know he is being encouraged to do, but I am afraid that will be taken as a challenge to compete.
So I write little notes about something that happened -- about how all the classes during one period were over-crowded and all the professors sent students out to steal chairs from the other rooms at the same time. About how we solved the problem but it required all three of us changing rooms so for about 10 minutes there were about 80 students walking back and forth trying to figure where their class went. I try to think, what would I say if Evan were to ask, "So how was your day?"
Other than the one letter and brief phone call, I don't get any feedback. I just send out these notes and hope they mean something to him. Perhaps the words themselves are pointless, but surely just that they exist must mean something.
Perhaps I will call the center today, ask how he is doing, and if he is getting my letters.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
I got a letter from Evan.
A real letter written with a pen on a piece of stationery.
He says (among other things), "...I mean [location deleted] is sooo Huge to me. I'm the youngest guy here by almost 10 years and I at moments want to leave so bad, not because of the porgram so much but becasue I miss small town people and also how liberal you all are here on the other hand Im the only one who hates fox news..." [I make a lot of typos, but in this case, this is an accurate quote.]
It is funny...he left a small red town in a rural red state, and he is now in one of the largest, bluest metropolitan areas in the country...and he misses our liberalism.
He included in the letter a business card from the center which had phone number and email address. I called to ask if I could email letters to the center. I know he cannot get onto the internet, but would they print my letters. They said yes.
Then the man on the phone said he was a great kid who wanted to be "out in front" of everything...always said he already knew whatever they told him. I said, "Yep. That's Evan." They said he was homesick and they would break the rules and let him talk to me for just a bit. They called him over to the phone and told him that he had 3 minutes.
He thought of course that I was his social worker, who else would be allowed to talke to him on the phone? It was touching how glad he was to talk to me.
He says he has to go to AA meetings twice a day (these are in town and he has seen a couple of famous people there, but of course he can't tell me who) and have group sessions daily at the center. It is tiring...but he does have cable TV in his room.
This might not make sense to some of you, but I felt happpy because it was still him. He did not sound like a stranger...just a homesick boy who had been sent away to a camp or something.
In case you were wondering, the letter and conversation was before the phone call from his mom. Did not have to debate whether to tell him about that.
He's going to be okay.