Like so many things, it began with a phone call. I was in a therapy session and I had forgotten to silence my phone. Seeing that it was my son’s school, I answered it.
A school administrator’s voice informed me that Dylan arrived to class reeking of marijuana and was refusing a backpack search. Would I agree to the search?
When I arrived at the school the police were already there. I wasn’t surprised that Dylan was using marijuana at school. By now, Dylan smoking marijuana all the time had become normal. The only time I would see him not high was in the morning when I took him to school. I would give him 5 bucks for lunch which he would then use to purchase marijuana, mushrooms, or LSD after school. I suspected this but at the time I didn’t want him to go hungry. He had gotten so thin that at one point his pediatrician wanted to put him into an eating disorder unit.
The principal informed me that if Dylan did not agree to the search he would be presumed guilty and be put on a substance abuse diversion agreement that would prevent him from getting expelled. I did not permit the search because I had no idea what they might find. I also had no idea what would happen to Dylan as a result of what they might find. They insisted that by refusing the search I was enabling him.
We signed the diversion agreement which required Dylan to meet with a substance abuse counselor for an assessment. I felt it was useless because I knew Dylan had no interest in stopping his substance use. However, I wanted him to avoid expulsion. When we arrived I was somewhat relieved to see that the counselor was a butch-appearing lesbian. It gave me hope that this visit was not going to be a complete disaster.
She began to question Dylan about his substance use. He began to get angry and I interjected something, afraid of where this was going. He said something to me, I can’t remember what, telling me I needed to shut up. The counselor continued to press him and I warned her, again fearing Dylan’s impending outburst. She told me she could handle it and kept going. I took what by now had become a familiar position in medical appointments with Dylan. Head down, hands over eyebrows like blinders. Try not to get hit by flying shrapnel.
Dylan began to close his eyes, breathe loudly and clench the arms of his chair. He flew out of his chair and threatened to destroy her office. She told him to leave and he did, slamming the door behind him. I apologized for his behavior. She said she was shocked by the way he had spoken to me. To me, it had become normal. She told me he needed treatment and I told her I didn’t think he was ready. She agreed, and told me that if he acted like that in treatment they would throw him out. However, she insisted that some kind of an intervention was in order. She told me that by not allowing the search to take place at his school I had made things worse. She suggested that I should welcome the intervention of the juvenile justice system. She said I needed to set strong boundaries with Dylan and call the police or send him to the youth shelter if he didn’t comply. I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t want to be one of those Dr. Phil parents who called the police to discipline their children. And I couldn’t imagine sending him to a shelter, no matter what the circumstances were.
There was a knock on the door and Dylan reappeared, seeming to have gained some composure. I was surprised she allowed him back in. She told him she was going to make an exception and take him on as an outpatient to see if she could prepare him for treatment. If he attended the sessions with her he could avoid expulsion. I thought it was a great solution and agreed wholeheartedly.
to be continued