Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help me.
Anyone remember the '90s movie "Liar, Liar"? In the movie, Jim Carey plays a divorced trial attorney with a son in elementary school. He consistently disappoints his son and ex-wife by not fulfilling his promises and always having false excuses. As his son blows out the candles on his birthday cake, he makes a wish: For the next 24 hours, his dad cannot tell a lie. The wish comes true and a caper of extreme -- and hilarious -- consequences ensues.
A funny move for certain, and a memorable one for our family. Inadvertently, we let our elementary-age daughter and son watch this PG-13 movie at a post-Thanksgiving family gathering of cousins before we realized the extent of foul language it contained. But, like so many things, it was as funny as can be and aside from some four-letter words, it was benign. It became a family favorite.
BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT
Quite recently, I remembered this movie -- for two reasons: 1) I was called for jury duty the next two weeks, and 2) Our son's lies have risen to an all-time high.
On Monday, I will call in to see if I need to show up at the district court. I've never been on jury duty. My understanding is limited to television court scenes. "Beyond a reasonable doubt." That's the idea that sticks in my mind. It's a substantially important declaration.
Over the addiction years, I've struggled with a delicate composition of actual evidence and an overwhelming plethora of circumstantial evidence. It's never been a matter of reasonable doubt of his problems rather a clear, honest understanding of the extent and significance of these. Will it be different in a district court of law versus our family court in suburban Minnesota?
PARENTS, TRUST YOUR GUT AND JUDGE ACCORDINGLY
As parents, we are judges whether we want to be or not. We have to discern fact from fiction. We have to rule on whether our kids did or didn't do something. We have to trust our guts, our hearts, our brains. We have to act on instinct even when we have doubt, especially when it involves tough issues such as substance abuse. In short, we have to draw the line somewhere and instead of books of statutes and clear precedence, we are ruling based on the family norms we've set forth.
In order to know what's up, we have to be willing to question what we see and hear, and what we smell. If it looks like drugs, it probably is. If it smells like drugs, it probably is. The rest is up to our sixth sense. We might be wrong, but we can't afford not to explore the possibilities of what we think might be going on versus what really is going on.
COLUMBO: MY SELF-PROCLAIMED NICKNAME
Investigating stories that I know to be half-truths confirms doubts and provides clarity; in fact, it sets the parent of an addict up for manipulation if we don't question the validity of what we're witnessing. When I do the digging, it's not about being right -- I do not want to be right about my son's problems; it's about having certainty.
Yes, I do my share of investigating. Yes, I have to resort to some detectivelike techniques. And, yes, I feel proud for the level of information I'm able to secure. From phone numbers, to bus routes, to attendance and detours, it's quite the story. The information negates any denial that might creep in and it also offers a compassionate perspective that our son is struggling.
BASED ON WHAT WE KNOW ... ANOTHER DECISION
Recognizing and appreciating the struggling aspect is so important because it's somewhat subtle and not as outwardly visible as Hollywood versions of addiction and mental health. Our son is hiding the truth from everyone, most assuredly from himself. Oh, he shares bits and pieces of honesty but never the whole story.
The dichotomy of truth is pivotal in the range of emotions and approaches that consciously and unconsciously accompany our interactions with our son. There are times when we hold strong to our beliefs that drug use is bad for him, that it's not acceptable as a condition for our support including living at home, providing him a car, paying college tuition and more. There are times when we are human and our strength wavers. When this happens, it's like replaying a movie scene -- what just happened?
I received an unexpected call from his treatment director a couple of weeks ago. She asked if we would consider letting our son come back home to live with us because she feared that not letting him do so would cause irreparable harm and possible estrangement. Her rationale? His bitterness and resentment over his past and current homelessness -- that he needed to know we support him in a time of need to preclude him from making more bad choices.
Dumbfounded, it spoke to my emotional side and it confused my rational side.
So we -- me, to be honest, not my husband -- took him back in, temporarily, at the recommendation of the treatment director and against the recommendation of all the other professionals on our team and the mothers of addict children who have become my truest sounding board.
The majority is right in this situation, I know; yet the current experience has yielded some important observations and evidence that had been more or less invisible the past 12 to 18 months -- the things that only a mother can see ... a trail of clues from dirty laundry to garbage that never seems to make it from his floor to a garbage pail.
This respite housing is contingent on being drug-free and being honest about his comings and goings -- only, he refuses on both counts; and, we're not at all surprised. The truth is creating an impasse, and we're going to have to make a ruling on the rules. Our son will have to decide for himself if living at home, and healing himself, is worth not using and not lying. In turn, we're going to have to decide what's in the best interest of our family and ourselves in a way that is loving but healthy, though neither clear nor easy.
Our son is getting smarter, calmer and more resolute about his reasons for using drugs. He declares that he functions better -- better focus, more self-assured, less social anxiety, fewer depressive spirals, yada yada, yada.
This is a rerun we're not going to watch. Harsh as it seems, the treatment director has been hoodwinked by a kid who is beyond adept at presenting himself well and pushing the system.
Remember how he said he was discharged from his housing for being a couple of hours late with rent? Well, through my sleuthing, it turns out that it was more than once that he was late, and that the last time was because he'd begged a two-day extension and then tried to negotiate one more day. They'd had enough of his games.
The jury is out on this case. We've got an overwhelming consensus that our son has addiction problems and probable underlying mental illness. What would happen if just for once he couldn't tell a lie for 24 hours? Would the truth make a difference? Would it guide our decisions any differently?