In my line of work, you come across some truly resilient individuals both young and old. I primarily work with teenagers and young adults now. One such eighteen-year-old I have “therapized” off and on for the last three years. To say the least, I saw this kid at his worst. They brought me in after authorities caught this kid stealing packages from doorsteps, getting into fights in school, and breaking into cars.
For some reason though, this kid gravitated towards me. We possessed a mutual respect for one another, and he refused to work with anyone else.
He eventually opened up, and his story broke my heart. To summarize, his mom’s ex-boyfriend physically and verbally abused him and his mom. His mom had her own mental health issues, feeding into a suicide attempt and borderline homelessness. It all came together as to why this kid acted the way he did. He had a survival mentality and felt like he had something to prove. All of it stemmed from years of emotional pain, trauma, and rage.
Over the next two years, I watched this little punk evolve into a mature teenager. He put forth the effort and reaped the benefits. He got off of juvenile probation. His temper significantly improved. His high school gave him nothing but praise for his progress. He even got student of the month! His mother jokingly called me the “miracle worker,” but her son put in the work.
Fast forward a year. I am still seeing this young man as a client. Overall, he kept his behaviors and symptoms to a minimum. Except he continues to struggle with his marijuana use. Now, I am not here to start a debate about the legalization of marijuana. In this individual case, it was not a good thing that he was using. His family possesses a long history of addiction. He shows signs of bipolar disorder, which heavy marijuana use can significantly worsen those symptoms. He also became psychologically addicted, meaning he could not readily function without smoking first.
After I found out about his heavy use and relapse, I had a bit of a heart-to-heart with him. He admitted he was smoking marijuana again to cope with his emotional pain. His exact words, “I have been through some shit.” I agreed with him, but I seriously weighed out the pros and cons of his use with him. This included its effects on his mental health, finding employment, and possible legal ramifications.
He stopped smoking for a few weeks after that. This was due, in part, to his mother drug testing him at home any time she suspected use. I told him and her outright that I would never want her as my probation officer.
Just a few days ago, I get a phone call from his mother. She informed me that my client went missing following a rap concert. She found him nearly three hours after the concert in the ghetto with a dead phone. She went on telling me that he bought marijuana too. I spent the entire next session processing the incident with him.
He honestly did not have much to say in response to the points I made other than “I know” and “You’re right.” However, he explained to me that weed is “the only thing that helps.”
This particular incident served as a grim reminder of today’s culture surrounding immediate gratification. Have a question? Pull out your phone and Google it. Thinking about someone? Shoot them a text and stare at your phone until they respond. Want to feel connected to celebrities’ personal lives? Follow them on social media. Don’t feel like going shopping? Order it online and have it delivered. Feeling sick? Pop a pill. You get the point.
This poor kid had fallen victim to this ideal. I reminded him of the progress he made from when I first met him to up until when he became student of the month. It illustrated how putting in the effort could benefit him in the long run. Yeah, weed provides a temporary fix, but that will go away. The problems will still be there.
Things like our mental health, well-being, and behaviors seldom can be resolved through quick fixes. These are items that require a bit of work. It took me at least five years of constant therapy, conversations with friends and family, and self-care to get myself to a point where I feel content with my progress. I am still working on improving myself too.
My exact words to this young man, “Nothing worthwhile never came easy.”
-The Caring Counselor