December 10, 2011

A 36 year old Hispanic male came into my office for the usual enrollment protocol. When he sat down I asked him how he got into this predicament, meaning how he got arrested for drug possession. He mentioned that he was coming home from a party with his boys and was stopped by the police who found narcotics on her person. So, I asked him what drug he had on him, he said he had marijuana. He stated that he was smoking weed. I asked him how long has he been consuming marijuana. He stated that he had been smoking weed, everyday, since he was 13 years old. So, I informed him that he has been smoking weed for 23 years of his life. He gave me a blank stare as he was processing my last statement. I asked him why did he think he’s been smoking for such a long period of time? He stated that he just wanted to gain acceptance from his friends. Now I am thinking that some tragic event must have happened at the age of 13. I believed there had to be more to the story then only gaining acceptance from a group of people. So, I went deeper with my questioning. I asked him the one question most of my clients are not prepared to see the truth in and that is, “What is going on at the home?” “What is your home life like?” “How did you get along with your father?” He gave me this strange stare. He paused for a moment and blurted out, “I used to watch my father come home drunk and beat my mother since I was a small child.” Then a few moments later he added that “he and his brother used to wet their pants when his father would walk through the front door due to the terror he experienced.” I threw my hands up and stated, “now you have the answer as to why you used marijuana, consistently, for the past 23 years.

I explained to him that gaining “acceptance” was not the primary reason for using weed it was secondary. The primary reason was to meet your need for emotional safety due to the feeling of fear, shock and helplessness he experienced when his father physically abused his mother during his formative years. The client gave me a look and said that I was correct. I stated to him that “I bet you didn’t finish high school?” He said, “how did you know?” I informed him that he was too distracted from his domestic problems to concentrate in school and, therefore, probably ditched school. He said it was true. I informed him that ditching school, running away for weeks at a time was the only way he could handle all the chaos and emotional pressure. The client stated that our conversation began to make sense of his past behavior and that he was getting a better understanding as to why he thought, felt and behaved the way he did.

I explained to him that the best thing you received out of this conversation is that you now understand the correlation between the trauma you experienced at home for many years and the amount of narcotics you consumed over the years.

To date, the client stated that his father does not drink anymore and doesn’t physically abuse his mother. However, he did state that his father is still angry and unable to connect or bond with him.

I explained to the client that the next project for him is to have “empathy” for this father and mother. I shared with him that he needed to get some understanding and awareness as to “why” his father would physically abuse his mother and why would his mother participate in the tragic event over the years. After a few minutes of dialogue, the client came to the realization that his father lacked getting many of his social/emotional needs met as a child and, therefore, he did not have the ability to show love, affection or connection with anyone. I responded by saying, “yes, so who is off the hook for blaming and shaming himself?” He gave me a stare and said, “Me”? I said, ‘ that is what I needed to hear.”

It is at this juncture that I try to get the client to understand that he is not at fault for behaving the way he did or in this case, consuming marijuana for approximately 20 years. He did what he needed to do to survive a turbulent environment (smoke weed to not feel and to forget). It was after this clarification that the client had a different outlook of his past and how it affected how he viewed himself and those he interacted with. He even mentioned that he became a “people pleaser” because he always wanted to be liked, validated and loved by others because he didn’t get those needs met by his father.

Towards the end of our conversation the clients view of his world is a lot more clear. Due to his clarity, the client was given a few projects to work complete(at his own pace) while he digested his new information. The clients projects are as follows: 1) he will go back to get his GED due to him being distracted throughout his adolescent years due to his father’s life diminishing behavior. 2) he will learn not to be a “people pleasure.” He will think of himself first and take care of his needs first. He will become “selfish.” 3) He will recommend to his wife that she doesn’t have to scream at him anymore. Her raising her voice at him reminded him of his father’s behavior. 4) He will review this conversation with his mother so he can get a better understanding as to why she stayed in such a volatile relationship. 5) He will try to talk to his father about his behavior of the past but he will not have any expectations. He will then come back and we will sit down and review the changes he has made to better his life.

As it was time to go, my client stated he felt a great feeling of relief, hopeful, relaxed and thankful. He said that it was as if a great burden had been lifted off of his shoulders. I explained to him that you finally got rid of all that emotional baggage that he had been carrying around since he was a little boy.

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