AJ is the youngest of four children. His parents have worked full time jobs all their lives to provide a comfortable life for their children. Being the youngest, AJ wants for nothing. He was the only boy in the family. The sun rose and set on him. He could do no wrong.
In middle school, AJ started to make poor choices. His friends changed. He started to lie. He began to experiment with social behavior that was very dangerous. Each time his parents confronted AJ, he would talk himself out of trouble and blatantly lie. His parents would always believe him.
In high school, at the beginning of his sophomore year, AJ was caught in the bathroom smoking "weed." The teacher escorted him to the Dean and explained what had occurred. AJ was suspended for three days. When AJ got home, he lied about the whole episode. His parents called the school to complain. His Mom went as far as to threaten to sue the school district.
Later in the week when AJ's Mom was doing the wash, she found rolling papers and pot residue in his pants. When she confronted AJ, he denied the "stuff" was his. He claimed it was his friend's. She believed him and dropped the issue.
By junior year AJ was out of control. He was cutting school frequently, staying out all night on the weekends and acting recklessly. His parents continued to make excuses for his behavior. School professionals felt he was on a course of self-destruction and suggested counseling. When his parents suggested it, AJ laughed at them and said, "you can't make me go." They dropped it.
Senior year was more of the same, except the cutting was less and more calculated. AJ wanted to graduate on time and with a Regents diploma. He was brilliant, so school was not a problem, as long as he attended. June came and AJ walked with his class.
His senior summer was a nightmare. He literally did as he pleased. He disappeared for days at a time. He worked sporadically and because of poor attendance, lost job after job.
In the middle of July, he was "busted" for dealing heroin to an undercover cop. He was arraigned with bail set at $15,000.00. It took his parents a few days to raise that kind of money, so he spent almost a week in Riverhead.
His parents were devastated. Initially he claimed that he was the victim. He blamed his friend. He said it was his friend's stuff and that his friend lied to him. Again his parents believed him.
However, the District Attorney painted a very different picture. He indicated that AJ had been involved in dealing heroin and cocaine for the last six months and had developed quite a business. The D.A. definitely wanted AJ to do time. He suggested that AJ lose his arrogance.
His parents were frightened. They re-financed their home to retain a high-powered lawyer. He assured them that if AJ became more cooperative and agreed to long-term treatment, he would be sentenced to long-term probation with long-term residential treatment as a condition of probation.
AJ agreed. As the case dragged on in court, his parents became aware that AJ was lying to them regularly and in addition to his lies and dealing, he was a hard-core heroin addict.
Their lawyer convinced the Assistant District Attorney assigned to the case to go along with long term residential treatment as a condition of probation. AJ was accepted into a hard-core residential program that was a minimum of eighteen months.
By the fifteenth month, AJ left. He endured the fifteen months, but never really used the program. He took up space and made excuses.
His parents took him home and affirmed his excuses. Before long, he was back using again. His probation officer was going to violate him unless he entered another residential program. While waiting to be accepted into one, he was arrested for attempting to buy and sell heroin.
The tragedy of this young man's story is that his parents continue to rescue him. They attempt to buy him out of trouble. AJ continues to be in denial. He mildly admits that he has a serious drug problem, but is not willing to surrender and admit his own powerlessness over his addiction. He continues to want to call the shots. His arrogance continues to blind him from what he must do.
Right now he is facing serious jail time. He is not a criminal. Rather, he is a very sick young man with tremendous potential who is walking the road of self-destruction.
On a more positive note, I recently had the wonderful opportunity to be among a standing room only crowd for a performance of the Broadway Junior version of "Annie." What a show! This Catholic elementary school did some job.
Almost ninety students from grades K though 8 participated. The K through 2 students warmed this packed house with a "Tribute to Broadway." It was amazing to see these "little people" perform before a few hundred adults. Their loud melodious voices along with their in sync body gestures were most entertaining.
After their performance, the Holy Angels production of "Annie" began. These elementary school performers were outstanding. Their musical numbers were on par with any of our local community theater productions. The spoken parts were dynamic, funny and engaging. These kids did an outstanding job.
As most school do when they put on any production, they worked with a minimal budget. The sets were professional. The costumes were authentic. The co-directors need to be commended. Mrs. Brennan and Mrs. O'Connell volunteered countless hours and transformed eighty-nine elementary school kids into an exceptional performing arts troop.
When the entire company gathered for the reprise of "Tomorrow," it was overwhelming to see little kindergarteners, eighth graders and every grade in between singing with their little hearts and souls. I left that show that night with a smile knowing that the world is better and brighter for tomorrow because of them.