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Losing Dylan: the intake

Dylan, Bird and I were sitting in the intake office of the adolescent drug treatment program. The intake counselor was asking me questions about the admission when Bird interrupted. She asked the intake counselor, “Does Dylan have to be here?”

The intake counselor told Bird that they couldn’t hold anyone against their will. She seemed confused. In front of her were two female parents and Dylan, who was hissing and spitting like a feral cat. One parent wanted to admit Dylan and the other was trying to take him home. She hesitated and then said, “Maybe we should go talk alone for a few minutes?” nodding to Bird and I.

“Be careful,” Dylan admonished the intake counselor. “Jess is very manipulative,” he said, calling me by my first name.

The three of us went upstairs to an empty counselors office. I sat and said nothing while Bird went on about how she didn’t think Dylan needed treatment, it was only marijuana, etc. Bird wanted to know what Dylan’s rights were. I suggested we call Dylan’s substance abuse counselor, who I hoped would be able to set Bird straight. Luckily we were able to get through to her. The intake person put her on speakerphone. She told Bird everything I had already told her. He needed inpatient treatment. If he refused, when he appeared in court the following week, he would likely be sent back to treatment. Bird never takes my word on anything. But she seemed to finally be getting it that there was no way out of this.

We went back downstairs and Bird explained the situation to Dylan, again. Since it was coming from her he seemed to accept it. I started filling out the paperwork, which was at least 1/2 inch thick. Bird had not brought any of Dylan’s things, apparently assuming she would be taking him back to her trailer.

As I sat filling out the paperwork Dylan would occasionally erupt in anger, calling me expletives. He told the staff I was a drug addict, not him. He told the staff I had been giving him drugs. He told me over and over again how much he hated me, and that everything that was happening was my fault. It was clear that Bird and Dylan were in agreement that I had engineered this treatment experience as some kind of punishment for Dylan.

The admission process took at least a couple of hours. I said nothing to the verbal attacks that Dylan continued to throw at me. I was embarrassed by Dylan’s behavior, both towards me and the treatment staff. By now he had hurled expletives at all of them as well.

Once Dylan understood that there was no escape, he put his cigarettes and lighter on the intake counselor’s desk. Before she could take them, Bird reached her hand out and grabbed them, curling her long fingers around them as she slipped them inside of her coat pocket. As she did so she said, “Dylan!”, as if to correct him for wasting something valuable.

They gave us a tour. Bird kept making disparaging side comments to me about the place. She didn’t like the rules. She didn’t think Dylan should be subjected to the rules. The treatment center was an apartment building that had been converted into a rehab facility. As we walked through, I thought of myself when I was Dylan’s age. I didn’t think it sounded too bad to be housed with twenty co-ed kids who were fellow drug users. I also thought of my own treatment experience, which happened when I was 21.

It was finally time for us to go. Dylan was crying and clinging to Bird, still pleading with her to get him out of there. He hugged her and told her he loved her. He turned to me and said, “I hope you burn in hell, Jess.”

The big solid door of the facility closed behind us. Looking up I saw there were tears in Bird’s eyes. “I feel like we are locking him up and throwing away the key!” she said.

I tried to reassure her that we were doing the right thing. I reminded her that every professional we had spoken to had agreed that this was the right thing. He was safe and in fact, he wasn’t locked up.

Because my relationship with Bird had been strained for many years prior, we hadn’t touched in several years. Impulsively, I hugged her. “It’s going to be OK,” I said. “We will get through this together”.

That night I went home and I remember thinking that if I died that night, I would die happy. I felt like we had just done the most important thing in the world for Dylan. I honestly couldn’t believe we had pulled it off. Finally, there was a chance for him to find himself again.

I had no way of knowing that things were about to get worse, much worse than I had ever anticipated.



Losing Dylan, part 6

After I met with Dylan, I began to question myself. Maybe Bird and Dylan were right. Had I failed at my most important job, of being a parent? It seemed clear that the anger Dylan had toward me was not going away, and in fact seemed to be getting worse.

I called Dylan’s substance abuse counselor. I expressed my concerns and our conversation became heated. I was really worried about Dylan. I felt it was time to put him in treatment, but Bird disagreed. I felt as though the counselor had misinterpreted the situation in suggesting that I hand Dylan over to Bird. I wanted to convey to her that Dylan was now being cared for by his primary enabler.

“Bird is buying Dylan weed!” I blurted out. I was scared to say it. I didn’t want Bird to get in legal trouble.

“Well then why haven’t you called the police? That’s going to be a mandatory report to DHS, which will lead them back to you as the source of the information. You should know that Jess, you’re a social worker”.

My heart sank. What had I done? As I mentioned before, I felt complicit and it didn’t seem right to be calling out Bird if I wasn’t also going to implicate myself. Still I felt certain that an intervention was in order. If Dylan stayed in the situation he was in I knew that things would get worse.

I pointed out to the counselor that he was not compliant with the substance abuse diversion agreement we had signed. I wanted him in treatment, if nothing else than to give him some time off of drugs so that he could see himself clearly. The counselor agreed that he needed treatment. However, she warned me about the possible outcomes. The local adolescent treatment center was not a locked unit. Dylan would likely run. In addition if Dylan acted out as he had been doing, he would end up in a detention center. I was afraid of both outcomes. But I was more afraid of doing nothing.

The counselor explained that Dylan’s pending legal charges could be used as leverage in convincing Dylan to stay in treatment. Since the counselor’s recommendation was inpatient treatment, the juvenile court would likely remand him there if he refused to go on his own. She called the treatment center and made an intake appointment for Dylan the following Monday.

I called Bird on Sunday night to give her the news. I told her everything that the counselor and I had discussed.

Bird was not pleased. “I don’t think he needs treatment”, she said. “This is ridiculous. For marijuana? He is just doing what teenagers do!”

“I think he needs treatment,” I said, speaking as evenly as I could. “His counselor thinks he needs treatment. If he doesn’t follow through with the counselor’s recommendation, he will be expelled from school”. I told her about the intake appointment.

“What if I don’t bring him there?” Bird replied.

I was prepared for this. “Then you will be seen as interfering with medically indicated treatment.” I said, parroting the words the counselor had suggested.

A short time later I received a text from Bird saying, “I’ll have him there on Monday”. I was surprised. I expected much more of a fight.

Then I received a call from Dylan. I told him everything I had already told Bird. He was angry and kept talking in circles trying to find his way out of the situation.

“Dylan, I’m doing this because I lov..”

He cut me off. “You’re a stupid fucking bitch,” he said, hanging up.



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