Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Saturday, January 04, 2003

 

The path to redemption


Joshua entered detox on January 1st. In theory, anyway, I have a story here, later, about that. If you are just catching this blog for the first time, you might want to start at the beginning of this story. I've spent the past few days in sort of a daze. I forgot to hit save on thursday on a very important file and have to go to work to figure out what I wrote, so I can make a very important phone call...

I hope that in a couple hours, I'll find out that everything is all right. I usually go into a fugue like this before I go on a writing or coding binge - it's a good example of why I would not be a good solo parent. Mark Twain grieved for years because one child he had died of the flu - because he'd been too engrossed in sorting out a story to notice she was cold and pull the covers over her.

Thursday I finally caught up with Allison, Josh's aunt. She's taken care of Josh, as best she could, since he was 14 years old.

Allison is a wonderful person. We're the same age. Her husband is a computer geek, just like me. We talked for hours and hours about Josh, and on every topic under the sun. She's always been pretty straight and sober. She doesn't understand addiction, or depression very well, but she does understand a few things better than anyone I've ever met - love, and persistence.

She has tried, and tried, and tried, for 8 years to get a very intelligent, massively talented, but very screwed up and heavily screwed over kid, to live up to some small part of his amazing potential.

Every time she failed, she got up, and tried again. I really admire her for her love of Josh, and her dogged persistence in loving him so hard that she's kept him alive this long.

It took me until a few months ago to figure out what I could do, to help, and only a few weeks ago, to act. She's been doing it for 8 long years. I wish I'd met her before now, I would have woken up to my responsibilities long ago.

She told me some things about Josh that I didn't know.

Three of the most important people in Josh's life died before he was nine. Three people, taken away, long before he could understand death, or deal with the grief. Josh and I always talked a lot about the one person in our family who's death we both grieved over, but I never knew there were others.

Josh went through 3 care-givers, all of whom cared less, before Allison stepped in. He was a minority white child in a black school, very small for his age. He got beat up a lot. He was diagnosed with ADD and medicated with ritalin. Allison switched him to placebos without telling him for 6 months, and noticed no difference in his behavior. 1.

Josh has told me he felt weird - while just being himself, walking down the street as a child - thinking he was sick, if he acted out his impressions of people. He thought he was sick, every time his aunt laughed at what he was doing. He'd been convinced by The System he was sane on ritalin, and insane off it - even when he was the same bubbly kid, both ways, a lot to handle, to be sure.

This is so sad, it's almost unbearable.

Imitation (and parody) is one of the delights of childhood... and the delights of parenthood. The basic honesty of children - to be aware that the emperor has no clothes - and to go up and ask him "why?"

I vividly remember Josh, at the age of 5 or so, on the back porch of our house in Ocean City, imitating an entire recent Bon Jovi video, rolling around on the floor, making all the same moves he'd made, the same stupid hip movements and hair flips...

I knew in my heart that Josh wasn't just imitating Bon Jovi, but parodying someone rediculous. He saw through to the truth, and was unafraid to act it out. My family laughed, and I laughed, and we loved him for it. I guess, later on, when he did stuff like that, he'd been convinced he was sick.

Far more people should act out, far more should tell the emperor he has no clothes, far more people should retain the ability of imitation and parody their entire lives. It would be a better world. Without people that can see past our pretentions and make us laugh at truth it would be a far sadder world. What would our lives be like without people like Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, Michelle Shocked, & Billy Joel, and the cast of thousands of others like them?

It is so easy, when you are young, to mis-interperet, and twist, even the most basic things you are told. It's pretty easy to do to yourself when you're much older, too. Yesterday I found out some things about what I really did nine years ago that are pretty amazing - but this blog entry isn't about me... and I've digressed from the story.
....
On December 17th, a few days after I started my independent internet based search for Josh, Allison had had it all arranged with his attorneys on both coasts for him to fly back to Conneticut and enter a program near home.

Josh didn't want to leave his girlfriend, and refused. Allison got very angry, told him she couldn't help anymore, hung up the phone... And gave up. (temporarily)

On December 19th, Bill, Josh's father, contacted Allison, and got Josh's phone number for me. I never called her (I'm an email kind of guy) but continued on my mission. As you've seen from the blog entries here and the story, here, Josh and I finally, talked, after nearly two years of silence. We had a series of incredible, profound conversations. Also, people whose lives he'd touched through his music, friends he hadn't talked to in years, family he didn't know that cared, and total strangers throughout the world, called him or sent him email.

All the way through New Years Eve.

On New Years day, Josh hailed a cab, and went and checked himself into a rehab center.

Now, Josh is a very clever guy. One thing he didn't tell me or Allison was that his girlfriend also checked into the same rehab center.

They pretended, on admittance, that they didn't know each other. Her mother spotted josh, and through heroics and patience, the center separated the two - and moved Josh to another facility later that day. We think. I don't know what happened after that. Yet.

I think that perhaps Josh and Joanna would benefit from going through detox together. Love is the most powerful healing agent on earth, and for two people to suffer great pain, together, can bring great joy, later. Going through agony alone is far worse than sharing it with someone also suffering.
Spider Robinson once wrote: Pain shared is lessened, Joy shared is increased.

I have to mention, also, that at a young age, after a few days, especially in a place as sterile and as boring as a rehab center is, you get really horny. Denying even that release to someone that needs all the natural endorphins he or she can produce strikes me as overly puritan. Going 28 days without getting laid, bored out of your mind, cut off from the world and the one person you love is not a balanced approach to recovery!

At the same time, I know from deep, bitter, personal experience, that two addicts and lovers have behaviors that reinforce one another. Usually one backslides eventually, and the other follows.

I have to think about it some more, and do some research. I'm very proud of them both for having made wonderful New Year's resolutions - and I hope that I, and Allison, and every one of you out there reading this - can help them stick to them.

Love,

Michael



1 Children were not designed to sit in chairs and behave for hours at a time. They were designed to swing through trees, to climb rocks, to fly with Peter Pan and Wendy until they are tired, and only then - sleep with the angels. Our society takes our best and brightest children and turns them into zombies, so they don't make trouble, and turns them sick, sullen, consumers of our most vile products. Our current educational system seriously screws with our children - but I'll save the rest of that rant for some future blog entry. I'm mad as hell, but I'm going to do some research first - and stock up on bile)

2 For a long time I've misquoted Spider Robinson, saying "Pain shared is halved, Joy shared is doubled". This derivation is true when one person shares their pain and sorrow with someone that understands, and further, if you share your pain with enough people, about 1 in 760 (according to my web logs) will also understand, and help.

Smashing glasses in the fireplace of Callahan's Bar can heal you, too.


 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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