Dr. Phil talks to a mother who fears her 16-year-old son may be headed for jail.
“I am terrified for my son. He’s heading down a terribly wrong path,” says Jennifer.
Just days ago while the Dr. Phil show was taping at Jennifer’s house, Tim, 16, was arrested for disorderly conduct and had to spend the night in jail.
“He has admitted to me that he’s been doing drugs daily. He took my father’s Visa card and spent about $1,000 on the Internet on porn,” Jennifer reveals.
Tim says that committing crimes excites him. “When I break into a house, it’s pure adrenaline rush. It is a high,” he confesses. He also admits to having a drug problem. “I started smoking pot when I was 10. I’ve been doing it every day since then. Smoking weed takes away a lot of pain that I have.”
Tim has resorted to stealing from his mom and grandmother to buy drugs. It’s gotten so out of control that Jennifer has had to lock her valuables in the trunk of a car. “I can’t trust him. It’s horrible to live that way,” she says.
Tim agrees. “My life is going down the tubes. I’m terrified,” he says.
Jennifer worries that her son is destroying his life. “I don’t see the son that I used to know. He’s gone and I want him back. I miss him,” she cries.
Dr. Phil repeats Tim’s comment: “‘My life is going down the tubes and I’m terrified.’ How about you?” he asks.
“I’m terrified,” Jennifer replies. “He’s completely out of control. It started about eight months ago. All of a sudden, he started skipping school … He said that thoughts of the abuse that he went through went through his mind and he just was so bored and unhappy at school, that when these thoughts went into his mind, he had to get out. He had to go do something fun.”
Dr. Phil explains that Tim is waiting in the green room, but he cannot hear their conversation. “Depending on what you and I decide right here, then I may go back and talk to him back there.” He lists Tim’s behaviors: “Tim was arrested while we were there … And we were there when you went to go get him [from jail]. He says that he’s been doing marijuana since he was 10 years old.”
Jennifer interjects, “He says that. I never noticed it until he was about 15.”
Looking at Tim’s more recent behavior, Dr. Phil points out: “In September, he stole over $6,000 from six different break-ins, involving jewelry, digital cameras, electronics, all sorts of things … Had a 13-year-old girl in his bed during the night … You’ve come home and found him there with 18 kids.”
“My house became the place to party because I’m at work,” Jennifer says, explaining that Tim’s friends would be drinking, smoking and eating up her food.
“I truly believe that the decisions we make in the next little bit of time here are going to be outcome determinative in your child’s life,” Dr. Phil stresses. “I think we are fighting to save this young man’s life.”
Jennifer agrees. “I want to save him,” she says.
Dr. Phil wants Jennifer to understand the severity of Tim’s situation. “I understand that he is looking at jail. I also understand that he is involved in drugs. That combination and an ‘I don’t care’ attitude on his part spells disaster. We’re fighting for this kid’s life here,” he says.
Acknowledging the trauma Tim grew up with, Dr. Phil says, “You went through divorce with his father. His father was not a model citizen, correct?”
“According to you, he showed a lot of the behavior that you’re seeing in your son now. Then this other man comes in and he would yell at him, he would scream at him, he would physically intimidate him. He’s shoved him into a wall … He’s tried to strangle him.”
“I didn’t do anything. I talked to him and told him it would be OK.”
“And you didn’t turn this guy into the cops?”
“I was very much in love. I thought it would all work out somehow … I had such belief and such hope that I had finally found somebody. He didn’t see what he was doing. He thought he didn’t have any problems, and so he was kind of able to make me believe that everything would eventually be OK.”
Dr. Phil explains that Tim is not the problem; he is the target patient. “He’s the one that’s doing the things that are getting the most attention so everything can focus on him. You’ve got to get in this game, too,” he stresses. “You can’t be in that denial anymore.”
Telling Jennifer that she is in over her head in dealing with Tim, Dr. Phil says, “You’ve not taken action and I’m calling on you to take action now … I can tell you that this kid needs to be in a supportive and therapeutic environment before the sun sets today.”
He introduces Eric Garland, a field instructor with SUWS of the Carolinas, a wilderness therapy program. “By bringing the person out of their environment where they have been distracted by so many things in modern culture and society, that really gives a kid a chance to take a hard look at themselves,” Eric explains.
Dr. Phil reiterates how beneficial it may be for Tim to get away from “all the toxic elements” that have led to his trouble with the law and with drugs.
Dr. Phil tells Jennifer that he is headed to the green room to persuade Tim to attend SUWS. “You cannot waiver about this,” he warns. “He may not want to do this. He may not want to go. If he doesn’t want to go, then we’re going to make the decision for him. We have a transport agent standing by that will physically take this boy from here to that therapeutic environment if he resists going. I’m going to talk to him. I’m going to try to get him to see the wisdom of this. But we need to agree that not getting this help at this point is simply not an option.”
Tearfully, Jennifer says, “He’s all I have and I love him and I’ve made a lot of very wrong moves. But I know I have to stop now and we have to do this.”
“It isn’t about meeting your emotional needs,” Dr. Phil insists. “It’s about you having the courage to step up and point this young man in the right direction so the day doesn’t come when he is 25 or 26, and a convicted felon and his life is in shambles, and he looks at you and says, ‘Damn you, why didn’t you make me do right?’ So you step up now and do it.”