Saturday, July 4, 2015

Scholarship Essay Contest Update (7/4/15)

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! I hope all my American readers are having a fun, relaxing, and safe holiday. I'm just chilling at home with my family, waiting for the pulled pork to be done.

Since the deadline for entering the My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest was last evening, I wanted to update you on where things stand.

I'm really thrilled to tell you that we ended up with a total of 30 entries! That number is way higher than I expected. When my wife and I decided to do this contest, I was thinking it would be a miracle if more than a couple of people entered. If you would've told me that we'd have 30 essays to read and judge, I never would've believed you. Consider me blown away.

For what it's worth, the 30 entries came from 17 different states. (New Jersey and Massachusetts had 4 each.) And of the 30 entrants, 26 of them are female. (I've always thought that women tend to share more than men when it comes to addiction in the family.) We even got essays from two sisters.

Oh. And 15 of the entries showed up in the final 24 hours, so I guess college students like to procrastinate. (See image below. Haha.)

Thank you and good luck to everyone who sent us an essay. Even though we can't give all of you a scholarship--believe me, we wish we could--please know that every single one of you is already a winner. Being the sibling of someone suffering from addiction isn't easy. Talking about it isn't easy, either, so I commend you for putting your experiences down on "paper." I truly believe that writing is therapeutic, so hopefully you benefited from sharing your story.

Now it's time for us to start reading and judging these amazing essays. We'll be announcing the winner on August 3rd.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Bitter Taste of Dying: A Memoir (Book Review)

At the age of 14, Jason Smith got his first taste of addiction. Literally. While his parents were away for the weekend, his uncle--a heroin addict who was living with Jason and his family--overdosed, and Jason had to perform CPR on him.

Performing CPR on a dying relative is bad enough, but Uncle Mark had "yellow shit coming out of his mouth and nose," and it soon coated the insides of Smith’s cheek and the back of his throat.
"That taste is unforgettable. Death tastes bitter, with a texture that falls somewhere between gritty and horrific, staining the memory for good. There’s no going back from it. Once there, it remains. Forever. All the therapy in the world can’t erase it." 
The bitter taste of dying indeed.

Three years later, Smith inadvertently stumbled upon the warm, comforting effects of drugs when he ended up in the hospital following a car accident that injured his back. One shot of Demerol and Smith was hooked.
"That first hit. There’s nothing like it in the natural world. I was in love. This feeling? I didn’t want it to stop. I wanted to feel this way forever."
Welcome to the start of Jason Smith’s 16-year roller coaster ride of addiction. You'd better fasten your seatbelt and hold on tight.

The Bitter Taste of Dying is a gripping, no-holds-barred memoir of Smith’s experiences while in the throes of the beast known as addiction. He takes the reader along on his journeys to Europe, Mexico, and China, documenting his innermost feelings and the crazy, mixed-up thinking that goes hand-in-hand with drug dependency. Smith’s days and nights are filled with desperation and recklessness as he constantly chases a high while simultaneously running away from life.

Smith can’t live without drugs--Norco, Soma, Fentanyl, OxyContin, Xanax, etc.--but he can’t live with them, either. At least not in a manner that most human beings would want to live. His addiction is his constant companion through college, allowing him to shed the shyness and anxiety he felt while growing up. Drugs make his life easier, but at the same time they make his life a living hell.

Some of the situations Smith finds himself in are nothing short of terrifying. His time spent in a Tijuana prison--where he was beaten by guards and given drinking water from a janitor’s mop bucket--and his encounter with the Russian mob had me overflowing with empathy. The lengths Smith goes to in order to stay high are beyond what most people can even comprehend. He explains:
"It’s insanity. It’s insanity in its most obsessively-compulsive form. And maintaining an addiction for a single day requires more thought, planning, and on-your-feet problem solving than many ‘normal’ people use in a month….[Addicts] are problem solvers to our core."
Jason Smith is a guy who manipulated every person in his life and every system he encountered, all for the sake of getting high. A guy who chewed on Fentanyl patches that were meant to be stuck on his arm, because his method gave him a quicker, better high. A guy who at one point wanted to die but didn’t, because he couldn’t even commit suicide right. His life and addiction got so bad that he was devoid of any feelings.
"I didn’t feel anything. They use opiates to mask pain, but they’re not smart-bombs. They’re carpet-bombs and they annihilate anything in their path. They’re not able to pinpoint which pain to hit, and which to ignore. They just numb all of it, and when you do drugs as long as I did drugs, there comes a point where there’s nothing left. I couldn’t feel."
But 16 years after that fateful shot of Demerol, Smith finally got clean and sober. As he states so eloquently: “It took me losing everything to appreciate anything.”

Smith is an excellent storyteller and The Bitter Taste of Dying is an enthralling read. The end-of-chapter conversations with his sponsor, Bryon, are almost as compelling as the words that precede them. They add an insight that I haven’t found in most addiction-related memoirs, and show the evolution of Smith’s thought process as he moves from addiction to recovery.

Like so many people, Jason Smith turned to drugs when life and the feelings that go along with it got too hard to manage. Self-medication numbed him and allowed him to navigate what he previously thought was unnavigable. But he’ll be the first one to tell you that the magic didn’t last.
"My problem was the world and my inability to deal with it, the real-life shit that people go through every day. I found a secret off ramp on the crazy highway that is the world, and I took it, parked, and nodded out for 16 years. This worked for a while. Until, like always, it didn’t."
The Bitter Taste of Dying isn’t just a riveting story of addiction and recovery. It’s a story of self-discovery and hope, too. Make no mistake: Your life can be in complete ruins, but if you try hard enough you can rebuild it. The transformation of Jason Smith is proof of that. It may have taken him 16 years to find the light at the end of the tunnel, but the important thing is that he found it. “It’s taken its sweet ass time,” Smith writes. “But it’s happened.”

(Note: Excerpts from The Bitter Taste of Dying: A Memoir are Copyright © 2015 by Jason Smith. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Scholarship Contest Update (7/1/15)

Happy July, everyone! It may be summer, but it sure doesn't feel like summer in southeast lower Michigan. At least not yet. That's fine with me, though, because I prefer temps in the low 70s to those in the 80s or 90s.

I wanted to make a quick post to let you know that there are only two days left to enter the My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay contest, which is open to any college student whose life has been affected by a sibling's addiction. The deadline is this coming Friday, July 3rd, at 8:00 PM EDT. So if you or someone you know is planning on entering, you'd best stop procrastinating and start writing!

As I sit here typing, we have 10 entries from students in 8 different states, ranging from coast (California) to coast (Massachusetts). I know there are some folks out there who told me they were going to enter, so maybe we'll get some more entries in the next 48 hours.

Once again, here's pertinent information in case you need it...

The original post that announced the contest can be found here:

My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest

And here are the links to the rules and application/entry form for the contest:

My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest: Rules

My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest: Application/Entry Form

If you have any questions about the scholarship, or if you have any problems with the documents, please contact us at:


Monday, June 22, 2015

Scholarship Contest Update (6/22/15)

By now, I'm guessing that most everyone who reads my blog is aware of the My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest I announced back in April. In a nutshell, my wife and I, in conjunction with some generous donors, are giving away a $1,200.00 college scholarship to a student who has been affected by their sibling's addiction. My wife and I put up half the money, and donors put up the other half.

The reason we decided to to this is simple: While going through our older son's struggles with addiction, we recognized that our younger son was sometimes given the short end of the stick in our family. It was never intentional; it just tends to happen when parents are hyper-focused on the issues of another child. (My wife and I also believe that writing is therapeutic, which is why we decided on an essay contest.)

So this is our way of letting young people who have experienced a brother or sister's addiction know that they're important, too. Paying for college isn't easy, and while $1,200.00 may not be the equivalent of winning the lottery, it will definitely help the person who gets it.

The last time I posted an update on the scholarship contest was in mid-May. At that time I told you that we had four entries. Since then, we've only received one more entry, for a grand total of five. I was hoping we'd have more entries by now, but I'm not complaining. Back when I came up with the idea, I wasn't sure if anyone would enter.

There are 11 days left to enter the contest--the deadline is 8:00 PM EDT on Friday, July 3rd--so maybe we'll see some more entries come in over the next week or so. But even if we don't, we will still be making a bit of a difference in someone's life.

If you're a college student who is eligible for this contest, by all means give it a shot. Right now you'd have a one in six chance, and those are pretty good odds. Also, if you know someone who might be interested in this contest, please share the info with them.

The original post that announced the contest can be found here:

My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest

And here are the links to the rules and application/entry form for the contest:

My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest: Rules

My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest: Application/Entry Form

If you have any questions about the scholarship, or if you have any problems with the documents, please contact us at:


Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Beginnings

Just a quick post to share some great news on this Father's Day. (It doesn't really have anything to do with today's holiday, unless you consider that, as a father, it makes me super proud.)

My son got a new job and will be starting it on Monday. After a little over two years at his previous position, he was hungry for a change. At his new job, he'll be making more money and working normal hours. Not only that, he won't have to work weekends and will get holidays off...with pay.

As if that wasn't enough, I found out on Friday that my son's girlfriend also got a new job! She, too, will be enjoying higher pay, normal hours, weekends off, and paid holidays.

For two young people in love, this is most definitely a new beginning. My son and his girlfriend will have a lot more time to spend with each other now, and my wife and I couldn't be happier for them!

Life is good. I'm incredibly grateful for what it continues to give me.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Guest Blog: Dawn Clancy, Founder of Growing up Chaotic and The Sibling Project

Today's guest blog comes from Dawn Clancy, the founder of Growing up Chaotic and The Sibling Project. On her website, Dawn writes: "My goal is to create a community hell bent on breaking, cracking, and demolishing the cycle of dysfunction." Be sure to visit Growing up Chaotic and check out all the great things Dawn is doing.


The last time that I saw my brother he was doped up and living in a crack house. He looked sickly scrawny. His hair was matted and greasy. When he cracked his trademark goofy smile, his mouth looked like the insides of a rotted Halloween pumpkin.

I remember looking at him and being scared out of my mind. There was a part of me that wanted to grab him by his brittle shoulders and shake him into shape. And then there was a part of me that wanted to fall to the floor, curl up into the fetal position, and cry until my eyes fell out.

Seeing him there in that crack house, melting away before my eyes, stirred up a storm of emotions that was too heavy and chaotic to handle. And that's why, after my brother disappeared into the attic, with some random girl to smoke or shoot up god only knows what, I quietly left without saying goodbye.

That was over a decade ago. And that was the last time I saw my brother.

Addiction does crazy things to families. It can drive you to feel and do things you never thought you would do. It destroys relationships and it tears siblings apart.

And that's why I created The Sibling Project: Exploring How the Lives of Siblings Are Impacted by Addiction. TSP is a series of podcasts that shines a spotlight on a group who’s voice we rarely if ever get to hear, the siblings of addicts and alcoholics.

It is my hope, with this series of five podcasts--four of which are available for your listening pleasure right now--that we can spark a new conversation and offer support and hope to the countless number of siblings living alongside an addicted loved one. But more than anything I want everyone that listens to know that they are not alone.

The Sibling Project: Podcasts

Episode #1: Meet Nicole Spivey - Nicole struggles to understand why her older brother chooses heroin over their relationship. CLICK HERE to listen to Episode #1.

Episode #2: Meet Ginny Atwood - Ginny lost her younger brother Chris to a tragic overdose in 2013. What haunts Ginny the most today is knowing how badly Chris wanted to get better. CLICK HERE to listen to Episode #2.

Episode #3: Meet Linda & Merna - When they lost their sister Annette to a tragic alcoholic related suicide, Linda became the caretaker while Merna became the peacemaker. CLICK HERE to listen to Episode #3.

Episode #4: Meet Theresa Valentin - Theresa has two addicted older brothers. As Theresa told me, one loved heroin and the other would settle for whatever drug he could get his hands on. CLICK HERE to listen to Episode #4.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Interview with Growing up Chaotic

I am honored--and humbled, really--to have recently been interviewed by Dawn Clancy for her amazing website, Growing up Chaotic (GUC).

GUC is a community for families and friends of addicts and survivors of abuse. The blog posts and podcasts there--especially the "Sibling Project" podcasts--are such valuable resources for people who have loved ones struggling with addiction. They offer incredible insight and offer inspiration, hope, and guidance.

I thank Dawn for thinking I was interesting enough to be interviewed, and for letting me promote the My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest in the process.

You can read the interview at this link:

Meet Dean Dauphinais: The Father of a Person in Long-Term Recovery from Addiction

Dawn Clancy is someone who is making a difference in this world. Alcohol and drug addiction may have destroyed Dawn's family, but she is taking that negative and reframing it into a positive so that she can help others.

Together we can help break the stigma and kick addiction's ass.