Another impact from drugs

The second session included Bill and his wife, Margaret. She offered her take on the concerns expressed by Bill. Much of her description of Bo, their son, matched Bill’s interpretation heard at the first session. One startling difference was her straightforward, professional air. Unlike Bill, who broke down into tears while expressing his (their?) helplessness, Margaret gave an appearance of a stolid parent. She was concerned for Bo yet displayed no emotion. In short, they are conceptually in agreement and, yet, express themselves differently.

Margaret provided additional history of Bo’s scholastic and athletic achievements. He was a track star who was offered a college scholarship. He was prepared to study engineering. Margaret is a chemical engineer in her profession. Hearing the telephone message punctuated by Bo’s loud voice and cursing, I had wondered about safety. Margaret seemed to take light of what she described as chronic behaviors with an agitated state. A climactic moment occurred when Bill, again, broke down in tears.

Margaret maintained her professional air while Bill lost it. She gave him no words of empathy, not even offering Bill a tissue. I gave him the box that was perched in front of her on my desk. She offered no outward signs of solace to Bill. She continued to provide useful information about Bo. “He sustained an injury and received pain pills. He’s hooked on them. It’s taken over his life,” Margaret concluded. The look on Bill’s face intuitively suggested a man feeling defeated and perhaps lonesome with his grief.

The next session lasted two hours. I asked Bill and Margaret to describe what had been done to intercede on behalf of Bo. Bill looked at me. Margaret started to say something and I respectfully held up my hand toward Margaret. Bill, what’s been tried to deal with Bo’s drug problem?

“The college sent him to a doctor who oversaw the medical needs of their athletes until Bo’s primary care physician was notified. His injury happened at a meet, which called for a stoppage. He was brought to a local hospital after the trainer, physical therapist and EMT on call at the meet determined the severity of Bo’s injury. They admitted him and he started on pain management, including medication. We were notified and drove the many hours to the hospital. His injury was serious. MRI revealed a torn ACL. He would require surgery. He chose to do so immediately. His hospital stay and rehab the doctors recommended interfered with school. He couldn’t do both so he chose to drop out. We supported that decision. We didn’t realize that Bo kept taking pain medicine and convincing the doctors he was in severe pain. We hoped he’d rehab, return to college and follow his academic program. No one could be certain about his athletic future.

“Bo came home, of course, to continue rehab. He couldn’t work out like he was used to. His appetite gradually changed. He said that he didn’t want to carry his track weight. Now I wonder if something else was going on.”

Margaret sat quietly and I asked her to continue. “What Bill said was pretty right. We thought Bo would return to school. Friends of his came to visit and go out. We didn’t know that they partied. Bo was picked up for DUI a year or so ago. He lost his license and was told to get counseling by the judge. He came home and got mad. He swore so much. He refused to attend counseling for alcohol. Meanwhile, his pain persisted even as his knee got better. He convinced his primary care physician and a pain management doctor to provide pain medicine. He’d be awake all night and sleep the days away. He refused to get a job due to his pain. The other night brought it all to a head. His moods tore us up.” Bill teared up.

So, folks, where do we go from here? While my recommendation for couples counseling was accepted to reinforce their position in helping Bo, I wondered about the status of their marriage. I also wondered if any medical provider took note of Bo’s possible opiate addiction. They were sure about my second recommendation for family counseling and its possible benefit. This is a story told many times throughout our country. We’ve more people on opiates than any other nation. Bill and Margaret’s helplessness might be more rampant than we can imagine.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email