Sunday, August 16, 2015

Torn--And Torn Up

First of all, I needed to sleep in today like I've needed to on few occasions in my life. I slept almost ten hours, which I haven't done since very early recovery and I had about a year's worth of sleep to catch up on. I'm feeling somewhat refreshed, and almost--almost--like I'm actually on vacation, which I officially am. But there are a few loose ends that have to be tended to, and some other things that are cropping up that I cannot afford to ignore.
One of the loose ends has to do with our event yesterday. The skateboard contest went off without a hitch, and was a huge hit. Our community awareness bit also went more or less smoothly; we ended giving away at least a hundred T-shirts, and most of the rest of our stockpiled promotional material. I am glad to report, and former supervisees Danielle and Laura will be shocked and gratified to learn, that the last of the infamous water bottles have finally been dispensed with. About eight years ago, we ordered a large number of water bottles with the program name on them, and the order--about eight cases of them-- came in with the program name misspelled. The company sent a replacement order with the correct spelling, and I and those that have worked for me have lugged cases and cases of water bottles around to three offices and countless outreach events over eight years, trying every way imaginable to give them away/use them/otherwise dispense with. Yesterday, an entire case was given away within two hours, and all that I have left are the ones we put labels on and use as fundraisers at holiday times. Our storage room will never be the same...The music portion of the day was a fiasco. One of the things I am torn about is what to say and do about it. There is a part of me that wants to blow up the individual largely responsible, and there is a part of me that says that's not a solution or anything that is going accomplish anything positive. I will say this much; never again will I say to myself, when doubts and reservations creep in, "Well, this is what these people do for a living, and I guess I should trust them." And like a friend of mine says, "I need to stop saying 'yes' when I want and need to say 'no.'" I knew a week ago that things were going south in this area, and I chose to not follow my instincts and instead continued to hope that somehow it would work out; and that sense of impending-doom knowledge became doubly certain three days ago. I should have pulled the plug, didn't, and as a result, we had what we had yesterday... Lessons ignored turn into lessons repeated. I should have paid more attention to the fact that the guy's company is named after a mythological figure that, due to hubris and recklessness, came to a bad end after achieving something that human beings normally can't do.
And on another hand, it has been a difficult summer--difficult 2015, truth be known--at home with the other resident of this home. I think I have been a very good parent in trying circumstances for many years, but this year, I have really felt wobbly, as I am finding myself increasingly at odds with her on subjects I either am truly powerless to effect any solace--her mother, the way she was treated on varsity softball, her reaching some limits of her academic prowess in school--or that we are getting locked into increasingly fierce combat about. I understand that it is difficult for any kid when a parent gets into a relationship that evolves into a commitment. I realize that there are many surface aspects of this one that would cause questions in a kid about whether the commitment is worthwhile. But I think that my record over the years has largely been good in this area, at least in the sense that it has not affected her life negatively in any way, that I do not make commitments that disrupt our life in any significant way. And I also would hope that a kid would take into account that 1) a parent's happiness is something that should at least somewhat matter to the kid, 2) that a parent's choices in their own relationships should not be aimed at finding a replacement mother for the kid, and 3) that parental decisions regarding adolescents are not directly tied to the adolescent's views on the parent's decisions. Or put more bluntly, because there is a significant difference in age between the parent and the person they are in a relationship with does not justify the adolescent making unacceptable choices in her own personal situations. Period. And while I am sympathetic to her turmoil, while I have tried to remain open to input,, while I have tried to alleviate her distress over some aspects of our reality now and her projected fears of the future--there are some things I simply am not going to bend on. And I, with a lot of dismay, am being reminded daily that, as much as I have tried to raise her differently, that she is the child of two addicts, even if one has been recovering for the length of her life, and I am seeing addict behavior from her that I really never even dreamed she was capable of--severe manipulation, a huge helping of self-absorption and self-centereness, and the foresight of an earthworm in some areas about decisions being contemplated that offer extremely temporary relief from uncomfortable feelings in the present that will cause huge, unpleasant, and deeply damaging long-term problems in the future. Some of this is common to all teenage minds--but some of this is simply addict mindset, too. No, she is not using drugs--but addiction is a disease of the spirit, not caused by substance one uses.
And there is one thing I have been painfully aware of for a long time that has become painfully obvious now, and that I have no way of addressing. Much of my own journey was shaped, I discovered in my own recovery process, by having a concept of God and a higher power instilled and imprinted upon me in youth and adolescence that I knew I didn't believe in, and it has taken me many years of work and diligence to come to my own understanding of God that I find I can believe in and rely upon for guidance and support. And after a few failed and flawed attempts when she was in grade school to provide some sort of spiritual background for her--or in English, attending a few churches that I simply could not even fake, for any length of time, any sort of real belief in the tenets of, and so I made the decision to not attend any, because one of the things that fed my own disbelief for years was seeing my parents' hypocrisy in spiritual matters, of the contrast between what they professed to believe as a part of their chosen religion and what they actually did the other 167 hours of the week--I have left her largely on her own, with the fellowship (which she has attended more or less regularly, without pushing from me, for several years, not participating but certainly listening to and ingesting) the only real source of spiritual input. And it has been more successful than one might think--for a sixteen-year old, she has a rock-solid belief in right and wrong, a very developed moral code that one usually doesn't see in kids her age, that she adheres to more or less rigidly. That has been a pleasant surprise, and it makes her stand out in her peer group. On balance, I believe it's a positive.
But the flip side of a rigid moral compass is a tendency to self-righteousness--and OH EM GEE. I feel partially responsible for this tendency in her, because it is only in the last two years or so that I have made deep inroads against my own tendency to self-righteousness--and between being a parent to three daughters and working with teens for a living, I know better than almost anyone that the values parents exhibit before a kid enters middle school become the youth's default value system. And the self-righteousness I regularly displayed and exhibited, especially circa 2006-9 when her own value system was taking shape, is coming back at me in spades from my now-16YO. There is no quarter given to others, no allowances made for human fallibility, and no gray areas recognized, much less taken into account. Everything is seen as either right or wrong, and woe to those who fall on the far side of that divide...even if for many years and in hundreds of ways the same people have been on the right side of the boundary in every conceivable area.
It is exhausting to deal with. For both of us. And the saddest, most awful part of it for me is seeing the toll it has taken on her. This wonderful daughter of mine has become deeply unhappy, and she simply cannot find her way out of the morass. I am enlightened enough to know that much of her pain is not due to me or caused by me--but I am the one in front of her, and I am bearing the brunt of her reaction and lashing out. And as I type those words, I am awash in emotions, most prominently a sense of revulsion regarding my falling short in at least one area of parenting.
Because this is was what my father did to me, for the thirty-seven years we shared on this earth. And this is something that I have done, not constantly and not on every subject, but far far too often when I have felt frustrated and angry about problems, temporary and intractable, in this house during her lifetime. Maybe it is a human characteristic--one of the most enduring and accurate axioms out there is that "you always hurt the ones you love." But seeing your own shortcomings, your own flaws, reflected back at you and feeling the searing pain that they cause, no doubt, in others is a feeling that I not only do not want to experience, but one that I honestly and truly believed that I was going to be spared from experiencing.
And it is doubly painful to see and feel my illusions and denial shattered into shards.
And triply painful to see, on a daily basis, the effect the illusion had on my child, the one I love the most in this world, the one I would do anything at all to keep other people from hurting.
Recognition is necessary to resolution, but action has to follow. One thing that we did agree on last night is something I have suggested for months that she was resistant to for a long time--that she could benefit from outside counseling. In retrospect, one of the reasons she developed as well as she did in the grade school years was the presence of the social workers in the grade school--she went through a lot of emotional turmoil in those years, but had some independent way of dealing with it, someone to talk to that was not directly involved in the turmoil. As she entered adolescence, she developed a disdain both for talking about her feelings in general and for any belief that an outsider was capable of helping her. For her to concede last night--and actually for a few weeks now--that she might benefit from having an outside person to talk to is a big step for her. And with me off from work this week, and Family & Children's Center a few blocks away, there is no reason we can't go down there and try to set something up. I still have insurance that I think would handle this, and even should the worst happen and funding for my program (and thus my job) vanish in October, F&C has sliding scales that I would be very willing to meet. I tend to forget about the vital role that a counselor I was referred to as part of the service plan developed so long ago when Sabrina was an infant and her parents, in early recovery, were trying to get her home to us was a recommendation for counseling. MOTY, as was her wont then and now, tried to use the counseling as a jury and a way to impose her will on the system and on me, and blew it off once Sabrina was totally released from foster care--then and now, the honesty required for counseling to be effective is not present in her makeup. I ended up continuing with it for over a year on my own--and it helped me navigate many choppy waters, from the breakup with MOTY to the entire relationship with Lila, and was a major factor in my finding both the faith that I had enough going for me to make the change and the courage to actually make it to let go of my father's business and make a living on my own merits and skills. That was probably the most important--and best--decision I have ever made, and even though Aldo and sponsorship was probably the biggest factor, those weekly sessions with Paul were a factor, too, one I have tended to discount over time.
And as far as my daughter is concerned--it can't hurt and it might help, and if she is willing to consider it--and it is a measure of desperately unhappy she is that she is willing to consider it, because her mantra for several years has been "I can handle this and I don't need help"--then I am going to follow through with it. And maybe the flames that are starting to engulf this household can be quenched.
Because there is nothing more depressing than seeing and speaking with your child when she gets up in the morning and discovering that she is still so angry and hurt and full of pain.

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