Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Boy in the Balance

His name is not important, his life is. He just turned fifteen this month. He is a typical boy doing all the typical stuff that boys his age do, awhile back he started to have difficulties in school. He began to act out, being disruptive and talking back to his teachers. We were made aware of this through disciplinary reports from school.  His grades had been slipping and he was falling behind. I thought that he would get extra help and instruction. I thought the behavior problems would stop when he was keeping up again. It can be very traumatic for a child to admit they are having a problem when all the other kids seem to “get it” right away. Instead of coming out and saying “hey wait a minute, I don’t understand” they tend to “act out” instead because a thirteen year old does not have the coping skills of an adult.  Some kids will shut down and just stop trying. It’s the only way they know how to cope. I guess the logic is that if it looks like they just decided to stop doing the work then nobody can pick on them for being “slow or stupid”. Well he just seemed to upset the teachers way too much and started to make a name for himself as a “trouble maker”. He still never got the help he really needed. He started to hang out with other kids who also found themselves in the “trouble maker” category. His best friends were all having some sort of difficulty so, at this point most of the influences he felt were coming from other “troubled children”.
I got a call from the school one day, telling me to come and get my son because he was caught with a joint of marijuana. He was summarily expelled from school for the remainder of the year.  He is allowed to go to a “special” class (well away from any good kids) where they study very little and watch movies and play video games! The nearest I can figure out is that it is more or less a GED preparation class! It seems to me that they are encouraging him to drop out and get out of their school. My wife and I decided that we needed some help and took him to the county social services department to get him the help he needed. We went to drug and alcohol counseling as well, he tested positive for marijuana and nothing else. I was actually pleased that there were no dangerous drugs in his system. I remember doing my very best to overdose on marijuana as a teenager myself! I smoked a really big baggie with my best friend and laughed till my ribs hurt then ate everything in the fridge! I’ve never witness any reefer madness and I don’t know anyone who has. I’ve never seen or heard of anyone ever dying as a direct result of using pot in the fifty years I’ve been around. The same cannot be said for aspirin just to put things in perspective. ( "Conservative calculations estimate that approximately 107,000 patients are hospitalized annually for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-related gastrointestinal (GI) complications and at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone." (Singh Gurkirpal, MD, “Recent Considerations in Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Gastropathy”, The American Journal of Medicine, July 27, 1998, p. 31S))
My son has had about 8 hours of drug and alcohol treatments (sessions) and has had four clean urine tests. He failed the first two and then, he tested clean twice (one month) then, failed one (two weeks) then, two more clean (another month), he failed the last one.  We have restricted his life a lot and he doesn’t get to go anywhere but some days he gets an hour or two to himself because of our scheduling.  On his last visit to the drug councilor he tested positive for pot. Although his councilor has said that she does not think that he has a drug problem she is still going to recommend that he be removed from his home and sent to an inpatient drug rehab because “he was not being honest with her”. After eight hours of counseling they were unable to turn my child into the perfect young republican so, they have decided to throw in the towel and lock him away in a drug rehab.  I wonder if anyone other than I can see how ridiculous this seems! We have segregated him and labeled him embarrassed and humiliated him. We’ve shown him by example that he is not worthy of our school system or our time and effort. We have forced him into ever smaller groups of struggling kids who also need our help, love and understanding. It reminds me of a drying up puddle of gasping pollywogs. What happens to my child next? What happens when the drug rehab center can’t seem to get him goose stepping to their drum beat? What’s next prison? It’s very likely! Because we have cut him off from all the good influences and pigeon holed him in with other “troubled” teens and destroy any hope in his young mind of ever returning to school with his head held high. He now has no intention of ever going back thanks to the efforts of the school officials. That’s ok; at least they won’t have to deal with him!
My son is not a marijuana addict he is the victim of over reactive officials, teachers and councilors who think they know what’s best. It doesn’t even sound right! Say it to yourself “Marijuana Addict” I’m not sure there is even such a thing. If you are an adult that used to smoke a lot of pot and now you don’t, please tell me about your experience. Was it hard to quit? Were there any withdrawal symptoms? Did you need to seek help? I don’t recall having any difficulty whatsoever! Maybe that is why we never hear the words “marijuana addict”. This drug councilor told me that she didn’t think he had a drug problem yet she wants to send him to a drug rehab. No drug problem, then why rehab? Oh yeah! That’s right she did say “he wasn’t being honest” so yeah send his lying ass to rehab! He was forced to go and talk to somebody he does not know and has no reason for trusting and the PHD can’t figure out why she hasn’t been able to win his confidence, after all she did use her best doctor talk on the boy for grand total of 8 whole one hour sessions!
It just seems to me that if a child has a problem then it is up to the adults to find out what it is. Acting out, cussing, backtalk, drugs, sex and alcohol are all symptoms not the cause. That seems to be all we do in this country is treat symptoms. Why is my child doing these things in the first place? Who the hell cares?  Just get him away from the good kids and force him to behave! This is the answer I get from the teachers, school officials and councilors. This is the best they can come up with? A little common sense goes along way. If a child suddenly starts cutting himself at the age of fourteen we take him to the doctor to find out why but, if a child suddenly starts experimenting with drugs, we punish him and throw him out of school? What is wrong with this picture? I am truly at the end of my rope hanging by a thread. I love my son and wish I could make it all go away, but he is now at the mercy of a bunch of bureaucratic number crunchers that see my son as a statistic. They need to keep their jobs and justify their paychecks by showing the numbers of their successes but, their failures are little human beings who slipped through the cracks. There is no such thing as a bad kid, only bad parents, bad teachers, bad councilors, bad cops and bad judges.