Monday, March 16, 2009

Ten Days

On Saturday I received a telephone call from our son Mike telling me he "really needed to get some clothes washed." Evidently the place where he had been staying doesn't offer him that luxury, so I explained my tight schedule and asked him to call back on Sunday, yesterday, after lunch so that we could arrange something.

Yesterday passed without a word from Mike, and considering the busyness of our day, it was a blessing of sorts. I still thought it odd (when Mike has something he needs he is fairly persistent until that need is fulfilled). Claudia had several events to attend to throughout the course of the day, and I had a hospital visit I needed to make after that, so it was about 9:00 PM before I was home, and by that time I was too tired to think about Mike's lack of communication.

This morning, though, I decided to check where I always check if I haven't heard from him in a timely fashion. I have in my favorite bookmarks a section I call "Minnesota Criminal Justice." There are several sites there that almost always fill in details for me about our crime-ridden, third oldest son. I opened our county's jail custody website, clicked through the alphabetical list until I arrived at the "F" designation and, sure enough, there was Mike's mug shot glowering back at me.

The site says that he was arrested Saturday night, several hours after talking with me, for misdemeanor business trespass. Since I'm not an expert in Minnesota legal designations, I'm not sure what kind of illegal action that represents. I am assuming, based upon Mike's history, that it must be shoplifting or something akin. (Or perhaps it could be that he was physically present in a store which previously had legally "excluded" him from being there, due to a previous illegal act).

A week ago he was in my car, having returned to our community three days earlier. I was asking him if his intent was to remain crime-free. His response was less than enthusiastic. He knows himself well enough to know that he cannot make any such guarantees. I asked him what compels him to be consistently engaging in criminal acts. "I'm an addict," was his response. I said, "What are you addicted to, Mike?" "Well, it's not like what you think. It's not drugs and it's not alcohol. I'm addicted to excitement. I get bored with things and need to do something that's exciting, and then I find myself breaking the law."

I have pondered his self-analysis a number of times in the past few days. To the outsider it might sound like denial or escapism, but in my experienced opinion, he has accurately described himself. It is the Mike that we have come to know in our years of parenting him. Nearly everything he has done over the years that has resulted in trouble for him (whether the commonplace infractions that all kids experience in a family's home all the way up the line to the "big ticket" legal items like burglary and theft) is tied to excitement factor. The bottomline is that Mike is addicted to excitement. Biologically speaking, I suppose that includes at least adrenaline and cortisol (I am no endocrinologist either). The complex weave of a person's psychological bearing never ceases to surprise me.

For the person who is addicted to pharmaceuticals or to alcohol part of the solution is avoid substances and those who use them. For someone whose addiction is literally "in house," though, I wonder what that means? For now, at least, what it means for Mike is that his ten days of freedom after ninety days in prison have now come to a conclusion. Today, and perhaps for a few more days, our community is safe from our son, and our son's self-identified addiction is controlled, but only behind the bars of a county jail cell.

There has to be a better way, but I don't know what that is.

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