Friday, December 30, 2016

That's Just Life

If you know me, you know I'm a huge music fan. Because of that, there are a lot of music-related things hanging on the walls of my house.

One of those things is a handwritten lyric sheet from one of my favorite folk/roots/pop singer-songwriters, Josh Rouse. It's something I got for backing his Happiness Waltz album on the PledgeMusic crowdfunding site back in 2013. For my donation, I got to choose any Josh Rouse song and have him write out the lyrics for me.

The song I chose was "Life," which was written by Josh Rouse and Daniel Tashian and appears on Josh's 2005 album Nashville. I love this song and the lyrics are words that resonate with me every time I hear them:

Life

Life is good, sometimes it's bad
It has its ups, it has its downs
Just sing a song and feel all right
Cause that's just life

If you're lost, don't be sad
There are good times to be had
Just sing a song and let love shine
Cause that's just life
That's just life
That's just life, so darling don't cry

And when your hour, it is near
And your friends they all are here
To share their love and to be kind
That's just life

Oh and when you're gone, you won't be back
I'll remember those special times we had
I'll sing this song and feel all right
Cause that's just life
That's just life
That's just life, so darling don't cry

The sheet with those lyrics written on it is hanging on the wall in my dining room, and I walk by it every single day. Lately my own life has been more than a little topsy-turvy, full of its own ups and downs. So I frequently stop to read these Josh Rouse lyrics and try to remember...

That's just life.




Friday, December 16, 2016

Another Honor for My Blog

You never know what you'll come across while you're poking around the interwebs. I just came across another list of blogs. This one is "The 20 Best Recovery Blogs of 2016," published by the After Party Magazine site. It was posted in September and I had no idea I was on it. Top 20, yo!

Here's what they wrote about my blog:

"Another parent of an addict, this time a dad, My Life as 3D follows the regular musings of a father of a boy who began his recovery as an adolescent but has continued to struggle with depression, anxiety and many of the issues we face in sobriety (not to mention in adolescence). After psych wards, suicide attempts and every bit of toxic drama in between, My Life as 3D has morphed into a seven-year journey of been-there-done-that, becoming a solid resource for any parent whose child has gotten sober and gone on medication, but still struggles."

Once again I am humbled, honored, and grateful for the recognition.

Peace.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

80 Top Recovery Blogs of 2016

The other day I saw a post on Twitter that linked to the website of a treatment center in the U.K. The post was referencing Ocean Recovery's list of the "80 Top Recovery Blogs of 2016." Ocean Recovery is a "personalistic holistic treatment programme relating to stress and dependency disorders," and they compile this list of recovery blogs "because these blogs provide our clients with a powerful way of learning about addiction and life in recovery."


Since I know a lot of fellow recovery bloggers, I was curious to see whose blogs had made Ocean Recovery's list, so I slowly scrolled through it. Little did I know that I would find my blog--this blog--on the list. What a pleasant surprise!

I had no idea my blog was going to be included, but I was humbled and grateful that it was. Writing about addiction isn't always easy, and getting some recognition for doing it is always nice. I was also happy to see so many friends' blogs on the list, along with another blog I've contributed to over the years (Heroes in Recovery).

Ocean Recovery says that these recovery blogs "serve a similar purpose to attending AA or NA meetings"--I would add Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings as well--and that "many of these people publish their blogs simply as a way to help others who face similar problems with addiction." They certainly got that right, because that's exactly why I started my blog back in 2008.

If you get a chance, go check out the entire "80 Top Recovery Blogs of 2016" list on the Ocean Recovery site. The blogs are listed alphabetically, which means you'll find mine at #43. And all 80 of the blogs are great resources for anyone who's been affected by the disease of addiction, either first-hand or as the result of a loved one's struggle.

Thanks for the recognition, Ocean Recovery. And kudos to all my friends who were honored for their blogs, too. By telling our stories, we are helping break the stigma.

P.S. I didn't know until the other day that Ocean Recovery did a list of the Top Recovery Blogs last year, too, and I was on that list! In 2015 they listed 34 blogs alphabetically, and mine was #21. Who knew?


Monday, December 5, 2016

Help Support Detroit Youth Volume on December 10th

The first time I wrote about Detroit Youth Volume was last December 20th, when I made them the day's featured organization in the Causes and Effect blog I took the reins of for one month. Causes and Effect is a blog that features a different organization or cause each day. The person authoring the blog chooses the groups to write about and donates at least $10 to them.

On that day last December, I woke up and saw a story about Detroit Youth Volume (DYV) on the Detroit News website. The article explained that DYV teaches disadvantaged kids from the city of Detroit how to play violin using the Suzuki Method, while at the same time breaking down stereotypes. It also talked about an album the group was recording with some of Detroit's finest hip-hop talent; an album that would feature hip-hop beats mixed with standards like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." I was completely sold on DYV and made two donations that day: one to the organization itself and one to their Kickstarter campaign to fund their CD.

Over the past year, my wife and I have grown to love Detroit Youth Volume and its dedicated director Clara Hardie. We went to a recital for the kids in the program in April, attended their performance at Jack White's Third Man Records store in Detroit's Cass Corridor in May, and had a great time at their hip-hop album release party in August.

DYV performing at Third Man Records in May.
Everything about this organization fills our hearts and souls with good feelings. So much so that my wife and I have committed to making a small donation to them every month. We also drive a DYV student and her mother (who is blind) to violin class in downtown Detroit every Monday afternoon. The joy these simple acts bring us is immeasurable.

This Saturday, December 10th, Detroit Youth Volume is having a tea party/fundraiser/performance at Holding House, an artist-run workspace in southwest Detroit. It runs from noon until 4:00pm and will  feature tea and cookies, along with a sale of ceramics, prints, student violins, and music accessories. The violin/viola performance, featuring kids between the ages of 4 and 18, will take place at 1:00pm.

Proceeds from this event will go toward matching funds for the Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Grant DYV recently received. The organization will receive $50,000 to fund their project "Jazz Violin the Detroit Way," but only if they raise their own $50,000 first. That's a tall order, but DYV has a year to raise the money and they are bound and determined to make it happen.

My wife and I will be at Holding House on Saturday to support Detroit Youth Volume. If you live in the Detroit area, we urge you to do the same. I guarantee that seeing and hearing these young Detroiters play their instruments will bring a smile to your face. This is truly one of the greatest nonprofit programs in Detroit today, and the love and dedication of all the people involved in it is so inspirational.

There are a lot of amazing things going on in the city of Detroit these days, but not all of them have to do with new sports arenas, new office buildings, or new housing projects. Some of them are much smaller in scale but have a much bigger impact on the underprivileged youth of the city. Detroit Youth Volume is one such example.

Hope to see you Saturday!


Holding House is located at 3546 Michigan Avenue in Detroit. (See the map at the very bottom of this post.)

For more information on Detroit Youth Volume, visit their website:
http://www.detroityouthvolume.org

To donate to Detroit Youth Volume, go to this link:
http://www.detroityouthvolume.org/donate.html

For more information on Saturday's fundraising event, visit the Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/175516889578230/


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Late-Night/Early-Morning Gratitude

I'm not sure exactly what time it was--I'm guessing maybe 1:00 or 2:00am--when I got up to pee in the middle of the night last night. (Something us middle-aged men do a lot of. Also, should I be concerned that this is my second blog post in a row that talks about urine?)

While I was in the bathroom, I heard a loud voice coming in from the slightly open window. My first thought was that my younger son and a couple of friends he had over were being loud in the family room, but I wanted to be sure before I went downstairs to tell them to lower the volume a notch.

So I opened the window a little more and listened.

What I heard wasn't the voice of a 20-something male. Instead it was a 30-something female neighbor who lives in a house on the street behind us. She was obviously out on her deck, on her cell phone, having a frantic conversation with someone.

I didn't listen long, but I didn't have to in order to understand what was bothering this woman so much: She found out her husband is having an affair.

She told the person on the other end of the conversation that she discovered some incriminating texts on her husband's phone. And that her husband's office smelled like...well, let's just say "sex." She also wondered why her husband would "want it" from someone so unattractive, saying "I wouldn't mind so much if she was hot."

I only listened to this conversation for about 30 seconds, but that was probably too long. And I probably shouldn't be writing about it either. But I can't help it. Because hearing this conversation--which was, by the way, loud and clear despite the fact that there are hundreds of feet between my upstairs bathroom window and this woman's deck--made me feel two things.

1.) I felt incredibly bad for the woman. She just had a baby a few months ago and now her world is shattering around her. I can't imagine how that must feel. I even told my wife today that we should ask the woman over for dinner. But we don't know her, so such an invitation coming from out of the blue would likely be pretty suspicious.

2.) When I finished peeing, I couldn't help but go back to bed feeling overwhelmingly grateful. Grateful that I have an amazing wife, and that our marriage--which is almost 28 years young now--is rock solid. I can't imagine ever being with anyone else; and I'm pretty sure my wife feels the same way.

Life is a challenge, for sure. My wife and I have encountered a whole lot of difficult situations that we never expected. But we've navigated our way through them the best way we know how. As a result, our relationship has grown stronger. And I'm forever grateful for that.

Like my friend Matthew Ryan likes to say, "Teamwork makes the dream work." And marriage is the ultimate team game.

I'm keeping the neighbor behind me in my thoughts and prayers today. I hope she can find some peace in her world sooner rather than later. No one should ever have to feel what she was feeling late last night/early this morning.

"A good marriage is where both people feel like they're getting the better end of the deal." --Anne Lamott

Me with my (way) better half.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Of Depression, Parenting, and...Cat Pee

It's been a difficult week in my world.

On Tuesday, a Facebook friend of mine's status update was, in fact, a suicide note. It started with "I began to think about ending my life several weeks ago" and ended with "I'm tired. SO I got the gun, loaded it up, and blew my head off." Despite a long thread of comments begging and pleading this person to please, please, please reconsider taking his own life, he went through with it. Now a teenage girl is left without a father.

On Wednesday, another Facebook friend posted that her 21-year-old son had gone missing. He left the house for school at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and hasn't been heard from since. They found the car he drove to school, but that's about it. It's a parent's worst nightmare and I'm praying hard for a happy ending for this family.

On top of those two things, my older son is still stuck in a major depressive episode. I know I recently wrote that I wasn't going to focus on my son and his issues in my blog posts anymore, but I feel I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention his ongoing struggle.

Pardon my language, but depression is a fucking bitch, and like addiction it's a family disease. When one of your children is battling depression and talks about wanting to die more than they talk about wanting to live, you can't help but be consumed by it. Especially when that child refuses to try so many things that could possibly help them feel better.

Depression is a black hole of despair. When someone is in it, it's so incredibly hard for them to think there could be a way out. So they build walls around themselves and isolate. Deep down inside, they may actually want help, but they firmly believe that nothing will make a difference; so they don't even try. It doesn't matter how much you love and encourage them. The circular thinking--I want help but nothing will help me so why try anything because it won't help?--is maddening to the people who care the most.

Especially parents.

Yesterday my wife and I took one of our cats to the vet for a check-up because the cats in our house have been acting kind of strange for a while. (For what it's worth, our cats fit perfectly into our family. One of them even takes birth control pills for dogs to help him with a chemical imbalance in his brain.) We got to talking with the doctor about changes in our household environment that may be influencing the cats' behavior and mentioned that our son was back living at home and going through a major depression.

When he heard that, the doctor paused for a moment. He then told us that he had lost his oldest son, who also struggled with addiction, to suicide. We had a good conversation about addiction, depression, stigma, and how it all impacts the entire family. He said our cats may be acting weird because our son is home and feeling so low. And because our son is feeling bad, my wife and I are affected, too. ("You're only as happy as your saddest child," the doctor reminded us. Ain't that the truth.) Cats can sense when the humans they love aren't at their best, and that can sometimes lead to some bizarre feline behavior.

I confess: I don't like cleaning up cat pee from the basement floor or the front hallway. But in the grand scheme of things, it's just a minor inconvenience. So I'll keep doing it as long as I have to. Perhaps the cats' stray peeing will stop if my son can somehow find his way back to a happier place. I know he can do it. But until he decides he can do it--and I hope and pray he will eventually get to that point--I will keep the paper towels and disinfectant close at hand.

"I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore." --Anne Lamott




Saturday, September 10, 2016

Eight Years Without Alcohol

Today marks eight years since I decided to quit drinking alcohol.

On September 10, 2008, I decided to give up drinking to be an example for my son, who at the time was in residential treatment for heroin addiction. Even though I never considered myself to be a "full blown" alcoholic, my son's struggle with addiction was a struggle for me, too. Instead of drinking wine because I enjoyed it, I started drinking it to numb the negative feelings I was experiencing. Not a good thing.

Given my family history, which is riddled with alcoholism, I'm pretty sure I would've ended up in a horrible place if the family therapist at my son's rehab hadn't told me:

"Be the change you want to see in your son."

It's clear to me now that even though I originally quit drinking as an act of solidarity, I likely saved my life by doing it.

I'll admit that life without alcohol was a little strange at first, because the society we live in puts so much emphasis on drinking. "Everything's better with alcohol!" is the advertising message that bombards us constantly. But that's just not true. Alcohol is sooooo overrated. And, as I tell a lot of people on the addiction/recovery forums I moderate, being sober is only as dull and boring as you make it. Believe me: My life has been way more fun without alcohol than it ever was with it.

So what's the hardest part about living a sober life? For me, it's dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life without having a beer or a glass (or--ahem--a bottle) of wine to "take the edge off" when things get a little overwhelming. A sober life is life at it's 100 percent, full-strength best...and worst. There are ups and downs and you just have to learn to deal with whatever is thrown at you. Thankfully, I've learned to accept that whether things are really good or really bad, they won't last. Things are constantly changing because life is funny that way.

I used to totally suck at dealing with change. I've gotten a lot better at it, but occasionally it's still really hard for me. For example, the other night--which happened to be my birthday--I was feeling super stressed out. A home repair I spent a couple of hours on that afternoon didn't go exactly how I wanted it to. Coupled with some family issues that have been weighing on me for a few weeks, the stupid home repair thing put my stress level over the top, and I was struggling. Big time.

On a day that was supposed to be chock full of happiness, our awesome neighbors had invited us over for pizza and root beer to celebrate my birthday. But I just couldn't go. I wanted to go. But instead I decided to crawl into bed at 8:00pm and decompress. In the past, I may have had a glass of wine or a beer to calm myself down and then gone on with the evening as planned. But these days I cope with things differently.

And that's okay.