RJ is a twin from an intact home. Mom is a stay at home Mom. Dad has his own business. RJ is nineteen and a high school dropout. His twin sister is a second year college student at NYU.
All throughout elementary, junior high and high school, RJ and his sister were compared. She was bright, focused and hard working. He was bright, distracted and lazy. She finished every school year at the top of her class. He finished at the bottom, but always managed to get by.
High school presented the challenge. The freedom that comes with being a high school student became overwhelming. RJ's sister really blossomed. RJ became a disaster. He started cutting class after class. By junior year, he was cutting days at a time.
The school had recommended counseling by the middle of his freshman year, but RJ refused. He said he didn't need counseling. He was not crazy; it was his parents and his teachers who needed help.
Unfortunately, his parents backed off and hoped it was only a phase that RJ was going through. However, this phase extended way beyond ninth grade. He was now a junior in high school and was out of control.
By junior year, in addition to cutting, RJ was drinking, drugging and staying out all night.
Due to poor attendance and profound indifference, RJ was forced to sign out of school. His parents said he needed to maintain a full time job, if he wanted to live in the house. He promised his parents the world and said he would maintain full time employment, contribute to the household and work on his GED. He gave his parents an academy award winning performance on how he was going to get his life back on track.
That promise lasted about three days. He got a job within days of leaving school. His parents became hopeful, but after forty-eight of being employed, he was fired for not showing up on time. Needless to say, he lied about his termination and blamed his employers for his termination.
Every day for weeks he swore another job was in the wings. The next job never materialized. His parents became very soft in holding him accountable to the mutual agreement they had all made when RJ left school.
As the months passed, RJ became more and more oppositional. He was argumentative with his sister and very disrespectful to his mother. He literally did as he pleased. Finally, his father had had enough. He demanded a family meeting. RJ's mother was willing, as well as RJ's twin. RJ however was reluctant. Dad was firm that if RJ did not cooperate with this family meeting, he would have forty-eight hours to relocate and live elsewhere.
Somehow RJ knew that his Dad meant business this time. With some reluctance, he agreed. They met for dinner on Friday night and agreed that after dinner they would have a family meeting.
At the meeting, Dad laid out his concerns for RJ. Mom echoed her husband's concerns. RJ's sister talked about how much she loved her brother and how she felt he was walking down the road of self-destruction. That night there was a lot of hugging and crying.
After an hour of listening and shedding tears, RJ gave the performance of his life. He was so good he should have received an Oscar. He began by apologizing for all the grief he had caused the family over the past few years. He spoke of his own demons and insecurities that were holding him back from becoming the man he desired.
His father, moved by RJ's performance, asked RJ what he thought he needed to do to refocus his life. There was a long silence. Then RJ said, "If I only had a car with insurance, I would have greater access to productive employment." He said that if his parents helped with these two things, he would give them a defined percentage of his paycheck each week to pay them back.
RJ's father didn't even confer with his wife. He said yes instantly. Within days, Dad delivered on his promise. RJ had a decent car with insurance. There was one minor problem; RJ did not have a license. Unbeknownst to his Dad, it was revoked when he was seventeen because of unpaid tickets.
The car was registered and insured in his Dad's name. Within weeks, RJ was pulled over for speeding and recklessness. A local cop, who knew his Dad, gave him the heads up. RJ's Dad was devastated. RJ was told not to drive the car any longer. His father took the plates off the car. RJ put illegal plates on the car and took off. He did not come home for days until he was in a serious car accident and totaled the car.
After a few days in the hospital, RJ returned home. His parents made it clear that his dishonesty, recklessness and lack of responsibility made it impossible for him to remain in the house. They had made arrangements for him to be evaluated and entered into an intensive dually addictive treatment program. Initially RJ said yes. When the day came to move in, he ran. His parents took a firm position and said he could not return until he completed "a" program somewhere.
Unfortunately, other family members have rescued him against his parents' wishes. A relative took him in, gave him a cell phone and let him drive a family car, even though he does not have a valid license.
When confronted as to why, this relative thought they were too harsh on RJ. This kind of interference happens too often. People think they are helping and they are not. More often than not, they are only enabling the negative, destructive behavior to continue.
As long as people continue to rescue RJ, he will never be held accountable. He will never be motivated to change and get his life back on track. As I am writing, this young man is out there drinking and driving and running the risk of killing or maiming himself or someone else.
As caring parents and adults, we need to do our homework and get all the facts before interfering and undermining the efforts of those who probably know much more than we do. If we don't take the time to act prudently, it could cost someone his or her life.