Friday, February 14, 2014

Max Update (Complexity that Engulfs)

I have been trying to talk about Max for months.  For years now.  I've wanted to share an update, and tell people what is happening.  So they'd know.  I've wanted to talk about how it feels so I can deal with it.  It has gotten in the way of nearly everything else I want to say.

Did you know I have over a dozen blog posts started, which I cannot figure out how to finish?  Seriously, when I open up the blogger dashboard, I have an entire screen of Draft.

What happens is I sit down and start to write, or I upload a couple of photos I like, and Max drifts into my mind, like a fog that obscures the details of a landscape.  This huge thing that's invisible when you look at it up close, but when you try to see through it, everything else turns gray and disappears.  I can't will it away, my vision is clouded. I write a little something, furtively trying to clear the fog from my mind, become lost in the complexity of my life, and give up, thinking I'll try again later.

There is a computer game series called "Civilization" that is popular.  There is an organization called "Humble Bundle" that puts together collections of computer games and sells them to raise money for charity.  It's a niche audience, but they've raised some ridiculous amount of money.  Seriously, over the years they've been selling bundles of games, they've collected, like MILLIONS of dollars.

My kids all know that I think it's silly to spend money on something new when you still have something old that works.  This is like triple-true for video games.  But the Humble Bundles always put these cute videos together marketing the collected games that are fun to watch.  So I went and watched this one, even though I know I'm not going to buy a new game.

And I wept.  As soon as the video started, I saw the little bug in the lower right-hand corner indicating that the music would be "Baba Yetu", a piece of music from the Civilization IV soundtrack.  It's a Swahili translation of The Lord's Prayer.  It's also a song that Max used to sing with the Maryland State Boychoir.  I cannot hear it without seeing his performance of it in my mind  The transporting smile on his face of concentration and joy as he sings so beautifully.  How I miss that.

That very thing is what happens over and over.  I know we should not be defined by the trials in our lives, especially not by the trials happening to someone else.  It has been such a hateful, heartbreaking, horrific experience with Max, that has no end in sight.  It it is SO hard not to get lost in the discursive thoughts about him and what is going on with him.

But crying about it seems to make it easier to write about it. Max is currently in rehab.  A locked-door, no contact with the world rehab.  He'll be there until February 19th.  After that, his living arrangements are hazy.  He might end up in a half-way house waiting for a bed to open at a residence facility that can treat him.

He's been diagnosed as bi-polar with psychotic features, specifically delusions.  He's also a drug addict.  The two things feed each other.  His delusions are rooted in a belief that when he is high, he has experiences with higher planes of existence.  Beings of great, god-like power.  Insights that relate to the future and our place in the universe.  He knows we disagree, he knows that his caretakers disagree, but that's the grave power of a real delusion; to the person experiencing it, it is very real.

A key feature of most addiction treatment programs is the 12-step sobriety plan, which holds as a central figure of its process that the addict needs to focus on a higher power to give the addict strength to control the addiction.  Can you see the dysfunctional feedback loop here?  Max thinks his most intense and visceral experiences with any "higher power" have occurred while he was high.

I think it's important to emphasize that 12-step programs are not necessarily religious.  They certainly can be, they're set up so a participant's religion fills the role of the "higher power" required.  But it doesn't require the participant to have a religion, or even to believe in God.  It requires the participant to have a commitment to something greater than themselves.  It can be the concept of family, or friendships, or it can be patriotism.  Something that connects the addict to an elevating community.

And I worry that Max has so effectively cut himself off from all the available community.  Before Thanksgiving last year, he was admitted to a residence facility that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment.  Max's problem is that when he uses drugs, it's not necessarily because he's relapsing as a drug-user, but rather that's he's symptomatic of his bi-polar delusions.  So when he repeatedly relapsed, he was terminated from the program.

Our kids are born to us, and we are so desperate for them to live, to be happy, to thrive, succeed.  The night Max was terminated from his residence program Maryland experienced record-breaking cold.  A county welfare agency put him up in a hotel with hundreds of other homeless people to get them out of the elements as part of a public health emergency.  We scrambled to find him a rehab that would take his insurance, and my Dad secured placement for Max (via a generous grant) at the rehab he's at now.

My desire for Max is that he live.  I also want him to be happy and functional.  I want him to come back.  I want someone to tell me the ways he is still valuable.  I want to enjoy his company, I want to be proud of him.  But these days, often my every parental instinct is honed to a sharp-edged urgency; I just want him to not die.

I want people to know what is happening.  In case they want to help, or to accurately pray for Max.  I don't want to make Max feel like I am shaming him.  I think Max wouldn't mind honest sharing of what is going on.

Almost two years ago, I posted about Max, and wondered, "Who knew we had a such a capacity to grieve and continue living?"  We continue to live.  We will continue to love.


Emmalyn said...

We love you. Glad for words. It is hard to express. I still have many conflicting feelings when it comes to max.

Jane Babcock said...

We do pray for Max and his family.

Deb said...

Praying here too. I'm thankful you found words to express and share some of your feelings. I wish things were different and hope things get better. I relate to hoping for every positive thing for our children-- "to live" is such a powerful, basic hope and reflects how difficult things have become. It does help us pray more specifically to know more and helps us try to understand how you are feeling.

We can't separate who we are from our beliefs. I've found it difficult to not feel rejected as a person when my beliefs are rejected. It's easier to be self-protective than to open up and love in the face of that rejection. So I admire your openness and love very much. Love is a choice that we sometimes deliberately make when we are hurting. To love anyway has been a blessing in my life.