N. and I know each other pretty well. I can generally tell when he has been taking drugs and when he is lying. The drugs show up in his attitude and speech. The lying is more subtle. It begins with a vague tension. I find myself uneasy with his attitude, with some detail in his story, and I ask a few questions. He sticks to his story. He tries to change the subject or walks away to take a shower, to prepare food in the kitchen, to disappear in his room and demand privacy. He becomes aggressive and displays genuine anger. When cannot have what he wants, or thinks he needs, when he cannot win the game by getting what he wants from me, he gets angry. But more than that, my suspicion alone insults and angers him.
He has his own way of winning the game. He walks out, and huddles with his friends and medicates his stress and anger with drugs, games and music. He has been saying it out loud – my rules, my efforts to control his addiction are intolerable for him. When I challenge his story, he accuses me of being a lawyer and treating him like a client – he doesn’t quite have the nuances of courtroom etiquette. He accuses me of not letting him win an argument.
I don’t know if I did anything wrong, in an objective sense, in raising him. I am sure child-oriented psychologists can point to any number of mistakes. I gave in many times on many issues. I was not a consistent disciplinarian. My wife says I abandoned him, and there is some truth in that story, but he resisted engagement more and more, and came to prefer the company of the video console to human company. He learned the power of persistence, and power of cheat codes, and some interesting stories and values. All of that contributes to his present anger and addictions. I can’t change or fix anything now.
His communications with me are awkward. I know when he is lying. He knows how to push my buttons and he thinks he knows how to manipulate me. He knows that I know that I am cold, arrogant, judgmental. He knows that I feel bad about that, and he knows he can play on my guilt about leaving him out in the cold, unemployed, homeless.
I trust my judgments now. He is untrustworthy. I don’t think he wants my help in recovering from drugs. He just wants me to pay for his needs while he medicates his feelings. I am trapped. If I don’t enforce my rules, he will run roughshod over me as he did before. If I enforce my rules, he blames me for his addiction. I think, once again, that there is no good way to engage with him. He can’t have what he wants – and what I want – unless he can lose his asshole friends and turn down his drug use. I can’t trust him while he hangs out with them, and then tries to use me to support that life. He is desperately committed to that life. He is full of passionate, logical arguments which all start from the premise that drug use is good because it feels good. The power of his beliefs is awesome and terrible.
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