Foot in the Door

N. has been spending most of his nights here, showering, doing his laundry, taking a few meals, since Monday November 22. I have had several discussions with him. He has seemed to be more empathic, more considerate, more helpful, more willing to accommodate my feelings, more candid, but he is still not managing his life. He says that he can only address his problems if let him live at home, and I have been feeling a lot of pressure and manipulation to provide him with more things, and not to worry about his problems with drugs, anger and “teen spirit”. He has talked about his drug use more openly. He describes himself as having gotten over drug use and talks about addiction in the past tense. I think he is trying to fool me again.

N. turned up at my house on Saturday morning, November 20. He was cold, and looked terrible. He said he had spent the night in a stairwell. He had been paid by the TRY program on Friday. He said he had gone to movie with his girlfriend – The Spongebob Squarepants movie – at the theater at the St. Vital mall and had a good time. He said his girlfriend’s father had picked her up after the movie. N. had not expected this, and became upset. His presentation of the facts is that he flipped N. off, which had made him angrier. N. then went off with his friends and downed most of an 8 pack of Coldshots (small bottles of 6% beer).
I let him shower and clean up and spend a few hours at home. Claire was away, acting as an extra in movie being filmed at the Walker. He left during the afternoon and stayed at the emergency shelter. I didn’t hear from the shelter on Sunday night. He showed up on my doorstep on Monday morning, cold and hungry. He took a long shower to warm up and clean up, had some breakfast and went to school.
The weather got really ugly on Monday – clouds, rain, then wet snow. N. turned up at my office and asked if he could come home. I agreed, for today, to see how it went. I went shopping with him and got him some better shoes. His shoes were low-cut runners with steel shanks – not much good in snow and painful and dangerous in the cold. For the rest of the week, he visited me at my office after school, came home, and spent the night. He was diligent about cleaning up after himself and taking care of his clothes. He spent a lot of time on the phone to his friends. He went out and visited his friends. He was often frustrated that he could not see or talk to his girlfriend. He was annoying at times. He liked to play his music, and his idea of quiet is quite different than mine. He took long showers – draining the hot water tank – when I had laundry waiting. With those annoyances, it went well. He seemed friendly and candid and willing to listen to suggestions. He ignored Claire’s insults. Claire is putting herself under stress about school and life, and she is unhappy to have n. in our lives again, and she shows her frustration as anger and contempt. It is painful for her, a helpful, intelligent, sensitive young woman, to see so much attention and energy devoted to struggling with n’s problems.
Matters began to deteriorate on Friday. N. visited me at my office. He said he had only collected about $27 pay from the TRY program, didn’t have smokes and needed money to take his girlfriend to a movie. I said I understood his problems but I was not paying for smokes and dates. I had been covering shelter and food and buying clothes. I thought that he had used the story of going to movies to con me into giving him money in the past. I said that he would have to make some choices about his money. He left, but came home during the evening. He spent a long time on the phone, trying to reach his girlfriend. He wasn’t sure if her parents were restricting his calls, or if she was out with someone else. After a point, I insisted that he get off the phone and hand it over (cordless unit) and stay in bed.
I had a restless night. I awoke at one point with the insight that I was taking on the responsibility and stress of his rehabilitation. I want him to succeed but I cannot assume this much stress over something I can’t control. He is the one who needs, desperately, to get control of himself. In the past I had tried to be responsible for meeting all his needs and for securing his happiness. I resolved to maintain my distance and let him live with the choices of being responsible for his own happiness within my rules, or going back to CFS care or the street. I slept better.
On Saturday morning, he was moody but he agreed to join me when I visited my parents. He had found some cigarettes and had a couple. He insisted on having one as we left my house, before getting in the car, and another on the street outside my parents’ house. He became quite animated in conversation, but I realized that he was also a little out of control, talking without regard to the threads of conversation, talking over his grandparents and his aunt. He began calling his friends after we left my parents’ house. I began to get concerned and angry that he was being drawn into the drama of his friends’ lives, and planning to release some stress chemically. I was getting annoyed that he was using my house as a warm bed on his terms, upsetting my routine and Claire’s. I said that if he was going to go out and see his friends, he should get on with it, and come home at reasonable hour, in a reasonable state.
He turned up Sunday afternoon, gloomy and depressed. He complained that he was under stress and had run out of smokes. He complained that his Discman (which had been new 6 weeks before) was broken, and hinted strongly at borrowing mine so he could listen to some music and feel better. I said he was pushing at my limits and asking me to fix problems he had created. The argument continued, off and on, for the rest of the day and the next three days. He claimed he had opened up to me and been honest about his drug use, that I was not hearing him, and that I was focussed on money issues and past grievances. He said needed a key to the house to be able to let himself in after school, so he wouldn’t have to hang out on the street and get bored and accept offers of free tokes and hits. He complained that he did not have access to the television at home to play his playstation. He said he was stressed because he wasn’t sure if he was coming home. He told me that he was a recovering addict and that he was having a terrible time staying off drugs without my trust. He said I would not let him win an argument, and that I was cheap and anal. He said I did not respect him and was unjustly prejudiced against street kids.
I kept saying that if I did not care, I would not be taking his abuse and taking a terrible risk with my own sanity and his sister’s. I said I felt he was pressuring me to let him come home and run the house the way he had before he went away. I said he had not proved he was rehabilitated or recovering. It occurred to me that he must feel guilty about his drug use, and that he is clinging to the idea that he could avoid it if he could have the comforts of home and life as it was before he ran away. But he is also clinging to the friendship of confused, troubled and addicted teens, and trying to maintain his status with them. He keeps clearly saying that his failures are being caused by my refusal to take him back, give him a key, buy him smokes, relieve his stress.
He spent a lot of time on the phone to his friend Mark and his girlfriend on Sunday night. He spoke loudly and I could hear him easily in my room across the hall. It was clear that he was still using Crystal meth although we was struggling with it. His girlfriend was avoiding him. He didn’t even consider the possibility that she was dumping him. He saw the issue as that she was using crystal with other friends and lying to him about it. He told his friend Mark he didn’t want to do it but would do it with her. Listening to these conversations made me wonder if I had been too soft when I wrote The Frog Prince post. It has become much easier to see their romance as a teen drama, fueled by hormones, strong emotions and drugs.
On Monday morning he was angry and blaming me for not understanding him like a father. He phoned his mother. He ditched school for the morning and met his mother. He turned up with more tobacco and tubes and I know she felt sorry for him again. I know she blames me for his addiction and his attitude, that she does not want him to live with me (although she cannot abide his turbulent behaviour and refuses to take him in herself) and that she supports his belief that I am causing the stress that makes him turn to drugs.
He seems to have managed to stay in school for the next couple of days. He followed up on his psychiatic referral and made an appointment. At the same time, he is caught up in the intense dramatic emotions of the group of kids he associates with. he has been leaving in the evening and coming home angry. He couldn’t see Danielle on Monday but she met him downtown last night. He implied to me that he was going to try to prevent her from buying meth from a dealer downtown. I had trouble believing that story. I didn’t say anything. At times he was angry, and other times he was calm. Generally, I am finding that I can deal with him and stay focussed, and to avoid being drawn into the drama of his narrative.
We had another discussion tonight. I stayed calm and he kept his anger under control. I said I had very strong feelings about some of his words and actions over the last few days. I said he seemed to be finding out how little control he had over Danielle’s actions. I said I could not deal with these arguments about how much more I was supposed to do to keep him from being bored. I said I was keeping warm, dry, fed and clothed and that happiness was up to him. I suggested that he take some time and try to relax. I suggested he listen to music with headphones plugged into the stereo on the lving room, read a magazine, stay warm on a cold night. He had phoned friends and made other plans. He said he did not expect to come home tonight but was going to go to school and then keep his psychiatric appointment. He has started talking about his drug use as an addiction, and he seems to understand that it has been harmful to him and his family. He seems to be trying, but he is still maintaining that his drug problem is under control and he still seems to be ambivalent about therapy. I really don’t trust him.
He may still pull this off, by God’s grace, but not by my wisdom or skill. I don’t think I can deal with the stress of having him in the house when he is obviously still not managing.