Monday, August 30, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 145

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 44
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 20
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 15


In June of 1999, our daughter Cassy explained to us that one of her friends needed a place to live. Amy, (not her real name) was one year ahead of Cassy in school but they had been in the school musical of “Annie” together, and had both been on the cheerleading squad. Amy’s parents lived in another state and for two years Amy lived with the school principal and his wife while she attended Laconia Christian School. Amy wanted to change her “living arrangement” and she asked Cassy to see if she could live with us for the next school year. I wasn’t too interested in having someone else around the house but Amy was determined to continue her education at Laconia Christian School and we all decided to give it a try.

I had occasions to observe Amy in both the school musical and the cheerleading squad and I knew that she tended to be stubborn and sometimes she would refuse to give her best effort to the tasks assigned to her. Amy was a very intelligent and articulate girl with a lot of potential but she just didn’t seem happy. She claimed that she didn’t trust men but she was usually fussing about her appearance in order to attract their attention. She was a complex girl. We didn’t really need the chaos and drama that living with another teenager could be. Mal and I knew that if this new living arrangement was going to work we’d need to establish some “ground rules” and needed to meet with Amy’s parents before we’d commit to allowing her to live with us.

Since we didn’t know them, we were very surprised that Amy’s parents didn’t bother to call us before they would allow their daughter to come and live with us. Perhaps they just assumed that our home would be a safe family environment for Amy; but, still, we expected them to call to learn a little about us. When no call came from them, we contacted them and met at our home one day before the new school year began to discuss any potential problems. We explained that Amy would be expected to maintain better than average grades in school, pick up after herself, and she would need to stay busy after school by participating in a sport or at a job. We didn’t want her just hanging around at our house while Cassy was very busy after school in sports and drama. Babysitting for a sixteen-year old wasn’t part of our plan. The people she had been living with warned us that Amy tended to make a mess wherever she kept her makeup. This was a concern because our house was brand-new and had lots of white carpeting. We insisted that all of her makeup be kept in the bathroom that she’d share with our daughter. Amy and her parents agreed that these were all good ideas.

Shortly after the school year began, it became apparent that Amy wasn’t going to participate in any “after-school” activities so we drove her around to apply for jobs at various retail stores and she was hired at “Fashion Bug.” Since Amy didn’t know how to drive, this commitment to work a part-time job would require Mal or me to drive her there and pick her up when her shift was done. Amy didn’t keep this job very long though. She had difficulty remembering her work schedule. Her “cloudy” memory caused another problem.

Amy was taking a couple of prescription medicines (one was Ritalin) that were intended to help with her with her ADHD. Well…she was supposed to take these. The problem was that she usually forgot to take them. Mal casually asked, “Amy…have you been taking your meds?” Amy got upset that her medication was mentioned in front of another student and she demanded to be allowed to take care of herself. We suggested that she keep the drugs in her bathroom so she’d be able to take them as part of her daily “getting ready for school” schedule. After she had been with us for a month or so, we noticed that she had only taken a few of her pills. We also noticed that Amy seemed to be more “clear-headed” when she was not taking the Ritalin. We called her parents to suggest that they talk with Amy’s doctor to see if the drugs were really necessary. Amy’s father was reluctant to even try this because he was convinced that Amy couldn’t function without these drugs but after Amy urged him to talk to the doctor, he agreed to get the doctor’s professional opinion.

A conference call was arranged and it was determined that Amy would cease using the medications for a trial period. Her behavior and moods would be closely monitored.

I am personally opposed to most of the prescription drugs that the medical community is pushing. I rarely even take an aspirin. I also have mixed thoughts about the misdiagnosis of attention-deficit-disorders. Although I’m sure that some children actually have this disorder, I’m also sure that many who are diagnosed do not. In Amy’s case, after being off of Ritalin for a few weeks, she began to be very clear-headed. She walked around the house smiling and whistling “show tunes!” She initiated intelligent conversations during our rides to and from school and during mealtimes. We had high hopes that this arrangement would work out for all concerned but it didn’t take too long to realize that things were falling apart.

Amy ended up breaking most of the “rules” that we had all agreed on. Her grades fell far below average, she left makeup in her bedroom resulting in several stains on the carpeting, and rarely picked up after herself. But worst of all, she tried to convince our daughter that it was a waste of effort for Cassy to try to get good grades in school. Cassy was a “straight A” student and she was motivated to do her best, so when it became clear that Amy was going to be a bad influence on Cassy, we made the difficult decision to end this arrangement. Amy would need to find another place to live.

Another family agreed to take Amy. Sadly, even though there was no indication that she needed it, Amy’s father insisted that she get back on the medications. A few years later Amy’s life spun out of control. She began using illegal drugs, got pregnant, ended up living on the street in another state and wound up in a mental hospital.

Unfortunately, there is no happy ending for this chapter.

Next chapter: My old friend, Michael Warshaw, includes us in another publication he works for!


  1. Your "life story" is filled with horrible fates that sometimes are hard to read!

  2. Increasingly, I see a lot of parallels between this blog and my own life.

    My wife has an extensive medical background working with troubled adolescents. You're right; many kids are quickly and carelessly mis-diagnosed as having ADD or ADHD and end up taking needless medications.

    Often, their parents don't seem too concerned about the situation (or their kids, for that matter).

    Sadly, many of these kids suffer similar fates.