Monday, January 18, 2010

Serenity Is My Endgame

Warning: this is a very grim post, and probably the last one for a long time about my difficulty in parenting my lost young adult child.

I entered the office alone, because Xavier threw a last minute tantrum and refused to come. I was the first client of the day and sat alone in the reception area. My son's black psychiatrist came out, and his eyes looked resigned and a tad weary, even though it wasn't even 10 AM.

His first words were shocking, but in hindsight, unexpectedly validating.

He announced, "I am done with Xavier. I will not treat him anymore."

"Why?", I asked.

"I've been doing it too long, and am burned out from youth like him. They are stupid and refuse to change."

My mouth must have been hanging open from his raw honesty, because he continued talking.

"I read your email this morning on my Blackberry," he continued, "and I got very angry..."

Indeed, my son's shrink who had become a friend was utterly comfortable in unloading his feelings about Xavier and lost young brothas like him who have been given an infinite number of chances but blew them all, and treated others like dirt in the process.

This unfortunately sums up my son, who has sucked me dry of love, time, money, and resources, and given little in return. Oh, we've had some good times and great laughs over the years, but these have been short vacations from an otherwise one-sided living arrangement where I give and he takes.

His mind was poisoned years ago by the unavoidable, lowest fantasy elements of this pleasure-centered, get-something-for-nothing culture. He is the ghetto version of the Wall Street banksters; slick and deft at creating smoke and mirrors to confuse you to continue investing in him, and just as destructive.

My son and I are at the endgame now, just as our country is, and I am left financially depleted but not defeated. I walked away from a hugely lucrative job seven years ago to work part time and spend more time at home, taking the huge gamble that he would be worth it.

I was wrong.

On the other hand, my daughter benefited enormously from my presence. If a cruel, random event doesn't do a drive by on her life and dreams in the future, then I will know that at least she benefited.

Yesterday, Xavier actually tried to con me with a whole new game of bullshit.

"Ma," he said, "since you're pressed for money, I can help..."

In a flash, I know how cheap he is, so that was a lie right there to bait me into giving him permission to deal drugs, as well as an admission that he's back in the crazy life.

"I know someone who can set me up..."

"Stop. Right. There," I growled at him slowly. "Don't even think of dealing, and if I see any drugs in this house, I will flush them down the toilet."

"But Ma, the money is good..."

"And the jail time is long," I quickly countered. "Weren't you supposed to talk to your old boss about getting your old job back this weekend? What happened to that?"

I listened to the next lie roll off his tongue, thinking again of his psychiatrist who has given up working with juvenile delinquents and stupid-assed young men who consistently screw up their parents, girlfriends, kids, and play everyone for suckers, all for what they believe is the cool and easy life. So few avoid jail once they become entrenched, that it's pitiful.

His lips were still moving.

"You wouldn't turn it down if I handed money to you, would you?" he was now saying.

"I'd call the police," I said flatly.

He saw the truth in my eyes, and responded by looking angry.

My voice was deadly serious. "You need to stop whatever you've been doing the past two months...," I began to say.

"Ma, I'm not going to change..."

"Then remember this conversation when your baby on the way is calling someone else daddy because you're locked up."

He flinched, and walked away.

If he's back to using drugs again, those words, like all the thousands of others I've used on him since he was 13, won't make a difference.

I know this, not just intellectually but in my heart. It was broken for long time, but somehow, some way, for some reason, God healed it. Things were so bad that earlier this month I prayed for Him to give me the inner strength and calmness to get on with my life and to be happy again. My request to the Lord is similar to a modified Serenity Prayer from the 12-Step Program that I have taught my clients for over a decade:

Grant to me the serenity to accept
those who cannot be changed or helped;
courage to change and help
the one person who can,
and the wisdom to know
that person is me.

This is like what one of my readers said in the last post, and I'm paraphrasing from memory: "You can keep helping someone, but when it doesn't help, you aren't helping."

Yeah, I know that Xavier might do a turn around "one day" when the proverbial light bulb in his mind comes on. My own, however, has turned on and I realized that I need not tolerate the dark drama he brings to my life.

A sick family member who will not well himself (or herself) will infect the others with their illness of spirit. The cure for the ones who are fairly well and healthy is to detach. This begins in the mind, then the heart, and if and when possible, the body... in other words, to move on. It is a process that can take years, because love for the "sick" one, instead of nurturing, spreads the disease of spirit.

I personally can't think of anything harder than giving up on one's child, which for most, is tougher than walking away from a spouse.

My son's black psychiatrist has been grieving too, over giving up some of his patients. I have an intuition that he is not quite where I am yet in the self-healing process. Almost, but not quite.

You have to understand that when you love "your people", whether they're Black Americans, Irish Catholics, gays, etc., you not only try to save them from the external forces of bigotry that grind them down, but from themselves, because first and foremost, they are human beings.

This fact trumps race, religion and culture for the simple reason that there have always been those within any group who choose to live on the fringe and against their own best interests. For a black male psychiatrist to burn out and give up on a small but significant section of the black population - young black males who refuse to get their shit together - is painfully hard.

This culture, which is fantasy-driven, hedonistic, and at times, discriminatory, created many casualties. They are everywhere.

I am about a half dozen paychecks away (from a full time job I have yet to get) from a fresh start in a new place.

Until then, one casualty lives in my home.


  1. Keeping you and your family in my prayers. Just don't stop writing!

  2. Like Mizrepresent, I am keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Take care of yourself and your daughter, that's all you can do now. Your son to quote something my father told me when I was about your son's age and making dumb choices is making his own bed and he will have to lay in it or choose to get out of it. Like a train, at the moment you have taken him as far as you can go.

  3. I meant to say it was Shay aka Blackgirlinmaine who was commenting.

  4. KIT, you are in my thoughts and I remember you and your family everytime I pray. I just love your serenity prayer and I pray too that you will have the wisdom to navigate this tough situation. (((hugs))) and more strength to you.

  5. Hello Kit,

    As you may know, I too work with those in a "storm". I've heard the serenity pray thousands of times. Your version was interesting. I believe the key words are "accept the things I can not change".

    Although I teach and/or talk about the 12 Step program, I am not a big proponent of it. As you know, that concept was introduced over 50 years ago, and it's simply not working. Sure, there are those that will stand up and swear to it's success, yet, for the overwhelming majority, the steps do not sustain recovery.

    In reference to you and your son's black psychiatrist, I understand and feel your pain.

    I've had many conversations/debates on rather or not a health care worker, psychiatrist, mother, counslor, etc, can relate to the pain and struggles of a client, if they have not gone through the same storm? The general and/or professional response is, "pain is pain", and how to deal with that does not require a person to experence the exact pain.

    To some degree that is true. However, in reference to you and your son's psychiatrist, the pain, suffering and confusion that you two are experiencing are common among those that have not gone through the same storms of those they care for.

    Epathy, joy and compassion speaks to "understanding". A pin prick may hurt, but a deep knife wound is going to hurt a little more. furthermore, it doesn't take much knowledge to bandage a small cut, but a deep knife wound is another story.

    If pain is directly related to the depth of an injury and the type of injury, then the knowledge to "fix" the injury/pain is directly related to "that" injury.

    From my experience, I've noticed a lack of understand of the mindset of those with a mental problem, including drugs,alcohol etc. Sure, they may be "professionals" but sometimes they believe the client should "get it". Some professionals, that has not been through the storm, believe since "they" get it, the client should to.

    As a patient and a "professional"... "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen. Nobody knows my sorrow"! Consequently, nobody knows the depth and magnitude of my joy. True empathy and compassion may be nothing more than a word to those that have not followed in my foot steps.

    The ending of the serenity prayer:.. "And the wisdom to know the difference"

  6. KIT,
    I could write a post length comment on the difficulties that I have experienced as the mother of three sons. Each one of them has stressed me out to the max. Disappointed me to a degree that I did not know even existed and made my life a true hell on earth. I love them fiercely-but I love me too. So, I had to free myself before I went under trying to help them become liberated from their own stupidity.

    My oldest got his story straight. My other two are still wondering around like Nomads without a particular destination in mind. It has truly troubled and puzzled me over the years as to why they make the choices that they have in life. I no longer rush to their rescue. That was the most difficult self-recognition that I have ever made because they are my babies-that forever. But they are all adults now. Each one has their own children. I stay in my place as their mother and grandmother. I also keep it very for real about what I will and will not do for them.

    I hope and pray that when the answers to the what to do question arrives for you-that you will be able to rise up in a way that sets well on your soul. Unless you have that peace of mind about your decisions in this matter no moves will seem correct.

    I will lift you up in prayer. Hit my up via e-mail if you need a sista to share some experience and wisdom with you. Or if you just want to have a release.

  7. I hope you manage to liberate yourself and Cassie as soon as possible. If he wants to go down that road, there's nothing you can do. He can't say he never had anything to cling to; he had a family. Not a traditional family, but still a real family, who loved him and sacrificed a lot for him. You will find another full-time job, a new home, and Cassie will get her scholarship, maybe you'll meet someone, you will have many more chances for happiness and celebration. It was HIS choice not to be a part of that, not yours. Hopefully God will still turn him on the right path, if the loving people in his life can no longer bear the burden.

  8. Kit, I'm still thinking about you and praying for you. My aunt is going through the same thing with her 2 adult sons, in their 50s. Thank God you are dealing with this head on. At least now there is a hope for Xavier. And for you and Cassie as well.
    Email me if you need to talk.

  9. I've been in this situation, not with my son but with my brother...I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  10. Lifeguards are instructed tosave themselves first when attempting to save some one else.
    Why is this?
    Because if the lifeguard drowns so does the person being saved.
    Airlines instruct parents to place their oxygen on themselves first and then on their children.
    Because if the parents die the child's chance for survival is diminished.

    Sometimes saving oneself IS saving the family.

  11. The Associate Pastor at my church said something profound the other day.

    He said that sometimes we're more stupid than the birds. The birds mate, have babies, and then at a certain point, the babies get kicked out of the nest. They are forced to fly, and the parents offer them two chances at assistance, and then that's that. It's do or die.
    I know that sounds cruel, and I wonder if I could do it to my children, but it also is profound. You can't hold his hand forever, you can't hold yourself responsible for his actions. You've made mistakes, but then so has he. Ultimatly, he must take responsibility for his own life, and 21 is old enough to do that.

  12. After reading all the above words of wisdom, it's still your party and you can cry if you want to.

    Meaning: (A Gospel Song, sorta re-mixed)

    We don't know your story
    All the things that you've been through
    We can't feel your pain
    What you had to go through to get here
    We'll never understand your praise
    We shouldn't try to figure it out
    Because your worship
    Your worship
    Must be real

    Kit, the title of this post "Senenity Is My EndGame" are your words. The "endgame" speaks to going through your valley to get to the other side. The rewards, or victories, are won in the valley because our struggles takes us higher. A valley is a place to grow. Dry pastures satisfies the senses of a man. Green pastures has substance.

    There is an endgame. Who's going to be your Quarterback?


  13. I'm really sorry, Kit. I really am. I understand a little, cuz I saw my sister at the same spot, just about a year ago.

    Put him out. He shouldn't live with you.

    Or... if you get to be the one to move, don't let him move with you.

    It sounds awful...

    but have faith in what you taught him.

    Believe in yourself as a mother... you have lost the game if you allow him to make you believe that you have failed, because you haven't. He failed. BUT. He can still pull it out. Just not with you or because of what you will or won't do. And if you don't believe me... hit up my sister.

  14. MizRepresent, Thank you for your prayers and thoughts.

    Shay/BGIM, Thank you too, and yeah, as a train, I've taken him as far as I know how to go. It's time for the little caboose to grow up.

    Original Wombman, It's a neat little prayer, eh? And hugs back.

    Ms Lady Deborah, "I had to free myself before I went under trying to help them become liberated from their own stupidity."

    Well said, and I know you struggled to get there. Thank you for sharing and your kind and wise words.

    Marianne, I love your comments... you must've been reading my wish list for 2010. I can actually see it happening.

    Mountain Laurel, Hey girl! Thank you for you prayers and kindness.

    Ali, Thank you too for your prayers and concern. I'm sorry that you too experienced similar problems with your brother.

    Ugly Black John, "Sometimes saving oneself IS saving the family."

    *chuckles* Yeah, and building my life raft has been a trial and error monster. But yay! It's floating!

    Big Man, Fly or die.

    Sheesh, Big Man, I understand your point (and thanks), but I'm sure glad I didn't think of it quite like that earlier. I think this had to do with my tendency to see him in a rear view mirror of the past, when he was little. It's taken awhile before I learned to see him head on and up the road... and myself as roadkill from more stress if I let this nonsense continue.

    Bear Maiden, Sorry to hear your nephew gave your sister the blues. You know, a lot of bloggers have been telling me about there sons and (occasionally daughters) and other relatives who need dynamite to break them from what is basically a desire to live as an irresponsible child at the expense of others. Growing up is hard, but I think parenting someone who won't grow up is the hardest. Anyway, thank you.

    Carey-Carey, My dear friend, that you lived on the edge once like Xavier, but made something good of your life and saved yourself, makes you living proof that it can be done. With luck my son will meet more people like you and learn this.

  15. I am so sorry. It makes me sick to hear about shit like this. I am going through a similiar situation with one of my soldiers, but I can't imagine what it would be like to have my son be like this. Just remember that you gave this boy the best life you could. It is time for you to move on. I understand that you will always love him, that's what a Parent does, but let him make his own mistakes. That is the only way he will learn.

  16. I think about you a lot, Kit. The way you share this with us is amazing and the fact that you're still standing is even more so.

    My ex was drug dependent (legal and illegal. He gamed the system like no one I'd ever known), suicidal and selfish; he suffered from depression, lied about any and everything, and pushed people away. I watched his mother deal with his crap and I wondered how she did it.

    Apparently, she looked at me similarly. She would always say "I know he's only still here because of you."

    She called me one day after another one of his selfish tirades landed him in the hospital. This time he had totaled his car in a one-car accident. We had been talking a lot during that time and she told me "You have to let go. You can't let him drag you down. You have to take care of you and doing so doesn't mean you love him any less." It took me another 4 months to finally take her advice and when I did it was NOT easy. I found, though, that it was still easier than it had been to keep holding on. I laughed at myself when I thought about it one day. All the effort I'd poured into that situation could've pulled me out of it 20x over.

    Not long ago, my ex committed suicide. I don't blame myself, but I did wonder if I had reached out to him like I thought about doing (and he wanted me to) would things have been different for him. Then, one day I decided that the train he was on was headed to this very place in time. My time in his life slowed that train down but he had to make the decision to get off, just like I made the decision to get off. Instead, every day he made decisions that kept him on, even when he knew better.

    I do miss him, I always did, and his death wasn't any easier to handle because we weren't together or communicating much anymore; however, I can only imagine what type of fresh hell I'd be in if we were.

    I say all that to say that I hope you know that no matter what, letting your son go can't be any harder than trying to help him has been, can't put you any worse off than you may be now and ultimately can only bring a better and brighter day than the ones you've seen lately.

    Much love to you and Cassie...

  17. A.Smith, I just walked in from a long morning of an interview followed by meeting with SSI for Xavier. IF he's approved for benefits, that's may well be my last large act of kindness to him. I say "if", because he ran out and got a part time job this past weekend to 'prove' he's not disabled, so his timing couldn't be worse, particularly since it probably won't last more than a few weeks or months. By that time he'll be homeless *shakes head* because I'll be on a new train not headed for a collision. Unless of course, he keeps it, rents a room, and takes care of himself like an adult. It's a stretch, but like you said in your story and wonderful metaphors that I'll remember, it could happen if he tries. Otherwise, A., thank you.

    Dirty Red, Indeed I have given him my absolute best; hopefully some of will have rubbed off on him. Thank you for caring.

  18. A man is responsible for what he makes of his own life. There is only so much you can do and it sounds as if you've done it.

  19. Wildflower, Yes, I think it's sinking in. He's working now. Meanwhile, I'm still working at finding more work. It's crazy-bad out there for job hunters, and my field has been hard. I dread to see what kind of cuts the White House will publish on February 1.

  20. Our children are worth every effort we make for them. But at some point in time we have to recognize that their success or failure in life ultimately lies within their grasp....not ours. No matter how much we want it to be different, it is what it is.

    All of us have a family member burning within their own fire.....and we burn with them.

  21. Reggie, Yeah, like my dad used to say, you can take a horse to water but can't make him drink. And as you say, it is what it is.

    About your fire metaphor... that's a very interesting. I'll be thinking about that one.


Hi, this is Kit.

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