Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Can We Maybe Cool It with the RXs?

Lately it seems like the fun never stops around here. Yesterday I turned my family's world upside down (sort of) by accepting a new job that will eventually require us to relocate. Today I went to an oral surgeon for what I thought was going to be a consultation on having an aching wisdom tooth extracted. Except that a few minutes into the appointment, I was informed that they were actually pulling my tooth today.

Who knew?

Needless to say, I was completely unprepared. Thankfully, though, everything went off without a hitch. It's been a couple of hours since my tooth was yanked out, and my mouth is still pretty numb. The same goes for my my cheek, chin, tongue, and wallet (no dental insurance). When you throw in the gauze I'm biting down on, I kind of look and sound like the second coming of Marlon Brando in The Godfather. Except I'm guessing he didn't drool like I have been.

I felt no pain whatsoever during the extraction. I guess the combination of three shots of novocaine and some nitrous oxide did exactly what it was supposed to do. (Whew!) Of course, the doctor told me I wouldn't be getting off totally pain-free, so he was sending me home with a couple of prescriptions for pain relievers. "They don't let us phone these prescriptions in anymore, so we'll give them to you now in case you need them."

When I got home, I took 800mg of Motrin, changed my gauze, and opened up the envelope the doctor had sent home with me.

What I found made me mad.

In addition to a sheet of post-op care instructions, some more gauze, and a prescription for amoxicillin, there were two other prescriptions: one for thirty Norco tablets and one for 20 Percocet tablets. In case you didn't know, Norco contains a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone (an opioid); and Percocet contains a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone (a stronger opioid). The instructions told me to take the Norco first, and if that didn't help relieve the pain then switch to the Percocet.

I was kind of surprised to see that I had been prescribed a total of 50 opioid pain relievers for the extraction of one wisdom tooth. I understand that I might experience some pain in the next day or two (or three or four), but isn't 50 pills a bit much? And why not just prescribe one pain reliever, with the caveat that if it doesn't do the job, call our office and we'll discuss it? It seems to me that pills are being overprescribed in the interest of convenience. Doctors can't phone in prescriptions for narcotics anymore, so they give you prescriptions you may not need...just in case.

That's wack.

I plan on sticking to just Motrin if at all possible. (If you follow this blog, you may recall that my son did that a couple of years ago when he had two wisdom teeth pulled.) I figure there's no sense in going overboard if I don't have to.

I wish doctors shared the same philosophy.

Did you know?

  • Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
  • More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record. The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid.
  • Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) nearly quadrupled. From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses.
  • Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report. Deaths from prescription opioids--drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone--have also quadrupled since 1999.
  • 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose and overdoses from prescription opioid pain relievers are a driving factor in the 15-year increase in opioid overdose deaths.
  • The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, but uses 80% of the global supply of opioid drugs.
(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Job Offer Accepted...Let the Adventure Begin!

As I sit here typing, it's been a little more than six hours since I--are you ready for this?--accepted an offer for a new job. Not very many people know about my decision yet, so I figured I'd use my blog to disseminate the news.

After being without a full-time job for 2 years, 5 months, and 17 days, I'm about to embark on a little mid-life adventure. But before I answer the question all of you are probably asking yourselves right now, let's revisit a post I made back in mid-February of 2104 entitled "It's Who I Am." In that post I wrote:
Educating people about addiction and depression, helping others whose lives are touched by those diseases, and breaking down barriers; these are the things that drive me today. This is my passion in life. I love doing it and I get great satisfaction from it. It's what gets me up in the morning and makes me feel like I'm making a difference. 
In a perfect world, I would love to find a job that paid me to advocate for people who are affected by addiction/depression, help them get proper treatment, and the like. Unfortunately, my education is not in that field. So getting that "dream job" is far from a sure thing. It's probably even an unlikely thing. But I have faith and will keep searching for that proverbial needle in a haystack: a job I truly love.
I worked in publishing for 24 years, and I'm certainly not getting any younger. But I decided to take a chance anyway and set out to find a new job I could be passionate about.

Today, I believe I've done that.

I've accepted a full-time Residential Assistant position at Skywood Recovery Center in Augusta, Michigan. You may recall that I wrote about Skywood's grand opening back in late April. It's an amazing new dual diagnosis treatment facility that sits on 300 gorgeous acres between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, and it has the capacity to house 100 patients.

Skywood is one of five treatment facilities owned by Foundations Recovery Network (FRN), which is a company I know, love, and truly believe in. My son went to another FRN rehab--Michael's House in Palm Springs, California--and the Heroes in Recovery organization I've worked for as a lead advocate is also affiliated with FRN. I've met and worked with a lot of FRN people over the last few years, and they've all been great. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to actually be a part of their team now.

As a Residential Assistant, I'll be interacting with the patients at Skywood on a daily basis and serving them in a variety of ways. Some of the things I'll be doing include making sure patients get to where they need to be; helping them with self-care and living skills; acting as a sounding board for them when they need some empathy and support; monitoring their care; and assisting with new patient orientation.

I'm looking at this new job not only as a tremendous opportunity to get into the field I've been wanting to get into for years, but as a chance to learn new things from some of the best people in the business.

Unfortunately, this job doesn't come without a little adventure.

Augusta, Michigan, is about 144 miles from where I live now, which makes it a little more than a 2-hour drive. That's a lengthy commute for sure, so relocation will be necessary. That alone will be an adventure for me, because I've pretty much lived in the same community for my entire life. (The only exception? When I was 18, I briefly lived in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, while I worked as a midday radio personality.)

To start, I plan on finding an apartment to rent and live in during the week. Or maybe I'll arrange to stay with my wife's brother and his wife in Grand Rapids, which is only an hour or so from Skywood. (Shhhh! Don't say anything because I haven't approached them with that idea yet!) Then after I get settled in at the new job, my wife and I will start looking for a permanent home in the Augusta/Battle Creek area. (I actually find this all kind of amusing, because for most of my life I was someone who couldn't bear even the least bit of change. I also remember saying on more than one occasion that I'd never relocate to take a job. Obviously, I'm not that person anymore.)

I have a new job, but I don't have a start date yet. I have to kind of sort things out, make some preparations, and then let the Skywood folks know when I want to start. I must say, it's wonderful that they're being so flexible with my situation.

So that's my news. It's certainly been a whirlwind week. I interviewed for the job on Monday and was offered the job on Thursday. After a couple of days of weighing the pros and cons of taking the position, it became apparent that the pros were the clear cut winner. In fact, it wasn't even close.

At the end of that blog post I wrote in February of 2014, I quoted Jen Sincero from her amazing book You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life:

"Faith is the muscle you use when you decide to blast outside of your comfort zone and transform your life into something that's practically unrecognizable to you in your present reality. Faith smothers your fear of the unknown. Faith allows you to take risks. Faith is the stuff of 'leap and the net will appear.'"

I've kept the faith for almost two-and-a-half years. Lord knows it wasn't always easy, but I hung in there. Now I'm taking the leap. And I fully expect that net to be there.


P.S. I forgot to mention that my wife will be able to keep her job and work remotely, which is a huge plus.

P.P.S. Here's a great video about Skywood. If you have a couple of minutes, please give it a look and listen.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Welcome to Michigan, Skywood Recovery!

Every year 23 million people suffer from addiction and mental health issues. Unfortunately, only 3 million of those people seek help. There are many reasons why people don't ask for help--stigma is probably the most common one--but when they finally do reach out, we have to have effective facilities to provide treatment for them. And we have to have enough beds.

Foundations Recovery Network (FRN), a leader in state-of-the-art treatment facilities for co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders, is working hard to help as many people as it can. The company recently opened its fifth location: Skywood Recovery in Augusta, Michigan. Located on the sprawling grounds of a former golf and conference resort, Skywood held its grand opening celebration on Thursday, April 28th, and my wife and I were thrilled to be able to attend.

As a lifelong Michigander, I'm excited to have Skywood setting up shop in my state. It's good to know that there will be another quality rehab option available, not only to people who live in Michigan, but to residents of the Midwest and beyond. I can tell you from personal experience that there's nothing more frustrating than trying to get a loved one into treatment and being told "There are no beds available." So it's nice to know that when Skywood is finished with their remodeling, they will have the capacity to house and treat 100 patients.

Augusta is a little village (population less than 1,000) that sits halfway between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. The beauty of the scenery surrounding it is pure Michigan, and Skywood's 300 tranquil acres provide an incredibly relaxing environment. Just being on campus makes you feel like you are one with nature and puts you at ease. All this natural beauty will be an integral part of the Skywood patient experience. In fact, Skywood is working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to return much of its land back to its original state, so it will become even more beautiful in the years to come.

As awesome as the woodlands around Skywood may be, the treatment delivered by the highly qualified staff is even better. Led by CEO Adam Marion and clinical director Lori Ryland, the people at Skywood treat addiction and mental health issues simultaneously using a patient-centered approach. That approach includes:
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Holistic therapies (yoga, massage, acupuncture, art therapy, adventure therapy, equine therapy)
Good nutrition also plays a key role in recovery, and Skywood's executive chef and his staff create delicious, balanced meals that help patients' bodies start healing immediately. Better nutrition equals better physical health, which means more strength to do the work of recovery. (Note: If the patients' food is anything like the food my wife and I tasted at the grand opening--and I'm sure it will be--they are in for a treat!)

Skywood is an impressive treatment center, for sure. They offer all of the building blocks required for someone to establish a solid foundation for long-term, sustainable recovery.

My family's first experience with Foundations Recovery Network was almost five years ago when my son spent 38 days at Michael's House, the FRN rehab facility in Palm Springs, California. It's no secret that the treatment and care he received there was instrumental in him beating his addiction to heroin. The family program at Michael's House--which my wife, younger son, and I all attended--was invaluable, too, because addiction is a family disease and the whole family needs to work on recovery. (Skywood will also have a family program.)

Foundations Recovery Network truly cares about helping people who are struggling. Their evidence-based, integrated treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders works. I know, because I've witnessed it. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am that they now have a fabulous new treatment facility in my home state.

Welcome to Michigan, Skywood Recovery!

"Addiction and mental health are still highly misunderstood, so it's important that Skywood Recovery is a safe place where people can heal." --Adam Marion, Skywood CEO

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Goodbye, Prince

Today I am devastated by the loss of my favorite musical artist of all time.

Prince's music changed my life the first time I heard "Soft and Wet" from his first album back in 1978. I became an instant fan of his musical genius and put up with some grief because of it early on because, let's face it, Prince was a bit different.

The first time I saw him perform live, in Ann Arbor in 1982, my future wife was in the audience. We didn't know each other at the time, but later on it would be just another wonderful thing that we had in common.

When I took my first real job in 1982, I actually had a Prince "shrine" in my cubicle. People would raise their eyebrows a little when they saw it, and some joked about it. "Who's Prince?" they would ask me. Two years later, when Purple Rain took the world by storm, I had the last laugh.

The best concert I've ever seen will always be Prince, The Time, and Vanity 6 at Masonic Auditorium in Detroit on December 2, 1982. Sitting in the third row, I witnessed something beyond spectacular that night, and I'll never forget it.

Through the years, Prince's records were the soundtrack of my life. I still think Sign O' the Times is one of the best albums ever recorded. And I'll be damned if Prince's B-sides weren't consistently better than most artists' A-sides.

The man was a great songwriter, a great musician, a great performer, a rebel, an enigma, and one of the most unique artists my generation--or any other--will ever know.

I've only cried twice in my life upon hearing about the death of a celebrity. The first time was on April 1, 1984, when I heard that Marvin Gaye had passed. The second time was today.

Goodbye, Prince. Nothing compares 2 U.

Friday, April 1, 2016

2016 My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest

Welcome to the official announcement of the 2nd annual(?) My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest.

I wasn't sure this contest would happen again this year, and yet here we are. Sure, last year's version was a big success, with 30 kids submitting essays and 2 kids walking away with scholarships totaling $1,750.00. But finances have been tight in my family for a while now--not having a full-time job for more than two years will do that--so putting up money to seed another scholarship fund this year was kind of iffy. In the end, though, as I wrote back in October, my wife Kathy and I decided to go ahead and do it. Because siblings matter.

Our goal this year was to meet or exceed the monetary value of the scholarships we awarded the first time around, and I'm super happy to say that we did that. My wife and I put up $500.00 of our own money and some very generous people kicked in another another $1,550.00 via our YouCaring campaign. The end result?

This year we'll be awarding a $1,500.00 scholarship to the contest winner and a $550.00 scholarship to the runner-up.

Here are the key dates you need to know about this year's contest:
  • Deadline for essays/entries: 7/1/16
  • Judging deadline for essays: 7/31/16
  • Winner notified/announced: Week of 8/1/16

The topic for the essay contest is:

“How has your sibling’s addiction impacted you and what are your dreams for your future?”

Last year's contest produced some amazing essays, a few of which marked the first time the author had ever written about the effect their sibling's addiction has had on them. I have to say, that was one of the most satisfying things about the whole experience: Giving young people a chance to tell their stories and shifting the focus off of their addicted sibling for just a little bit. Writing can be so cathartic, so maybe we helped some young people find some relief even if they didn't win any money.

This year's contest will be judged by a group of people who know a thing or two about addiction and writing. In addition to myself and my wife, these fine folks will be judging the essay submissions:

Jeff Jay
Jeff is a clinical interventionist, educator, and author who has been in recovery from addiction since October of 1981. He and his wife Debra run Love First, a private practice that provides interventions, recovery mentoring, and professional training. A former clinician with the Hazelden Foundation and Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center, Jeff co-authored the best-selling book Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention with his wife. His latest book is Navigating Grace: A Solo Voyage of Survival and Redemption.

Jeanne Keister
Jeanne and her husband Don lost their son Tyler to addiction on December 23, 2012. Since then, they have worked wonders to help break the stigma associated with addiction and evoke legislative changes through their organization atTAcK addiction. Their goal? To help young people realize the dangers of alcohol and drugs so that they and their families never have to experience the pain, tragedy, and loneliness that accompany addiction.

Hannah Miller
Hannah is an incredible young person in recovery who has committed her life to helping others struggling with addiction. She shared her story, "Nine Lives," with Heroes in Recovery back in December of 2014. A recent graduate of the University of Michigan's Master of Social Work program, Hannah is a therapist at Dawn Farm, an addiction treatment center in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Munchie Morgan
Munchie is a fabulous writer who lost her younger sister to an addiction-related suicide just over two years ago. She has shared her story on the Heroes in Recovery site, too. You can read it here: "My Sister Sarah." Munchie started the Facebook group "Someone Else's Sarah" to help bring awareness to addiction and suicide. She also writes a blog for a treatment facility.

Anne Slease
Anne has been a teacher for more than 20 years and became a mental health advocate and author after witnessing firsthand the rippling effects of mental illness and addiction in her home. Her older son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 18, but he denied it, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs instead. Ultimately, he was incarcerated and spent almost 3 years behind bars. Anne has written a novel, A Brother's Oath, a fictionalized account of the devastation her younger son faced while watching his older brother's mental health and behavior deteriorate. She also writes a blog called "Still Hopeful Mom."

Cathy Taughinbaugh
A Certified Parent Coach, Cathy has been working with parents since 2010. After discovering drug and alcohol use was an issue with her children, she found that connecting with others was a way to share tools and strategies that could help parents lessen the pain of their child’s substance use. Through personal coaching, articles, a support group, resources, and various ebooks, Cathy's goal is to offer inspiration to others facing the same or similar challenges in their lives. You can visit her website at: http://cathytaughinbaugh.com 

(Actress Kristen Johnston, author of the brutally honest and funny addiction memoir Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster, was a judge last year, but isn't sure if her schedule will allow her to participate this time. She's asked me to contact her closer to the judging period to see what her availability is. I'm really hoping she'll be able to do it.)

So there you have it.

If you know a college student who has been impacted by their sibling's addiction, and they are attending college in the fall, please share this blog with them. Maybe they'll be interested in taking a shot at this scholarship contest. All the information they need to apply/enter--requirements, rules, deadlines, etc.--should be contained in the documents below.

NOTE: These links are to Google Docs.

2016 My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest: Rules

2016 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 me at:


I can't wait to give away some money in August. And who knows? Maybe we'll do it again next year, too.

Peace. And good luck. And remember...



"You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories." --Anne Lamott

Saturday, March 26, 2016

THIS Is Why You Should Help the Sibling of An Addict Pay for College

As most of you already know, my wife and I started a small college scholarship last year to help siblings of addicts pay for college. We did it because we experienced firsthand how addiction can upset the balance in a family--and the balance in a family's checkbook.

Siblings of people struggling with addiction can get pushed aside while their family deals with a brother's or sister's disease. Believe me: It's not something that's done intentionally. It just happens.

The scholarship essay contest Kathy and I created was something we came up with to show that siblings matter. We wanted to give those siblings a voice, have them write about how they've been affected by addiction, and reward a couple of them with some money to help pay their college tuition.

We gave away a total of $1,700.00 last year--$1,200.00 to the winner and $500.00 to the runner-up. Our goal this year is to at least match that amount, and, hopefully, exceed it. As I write this blog post, our YouCaring.com campaign for the scholarship fund stands at $1,585.00, so we're getting close. But we're only actively seeking contributions for five more days, so time is running out.

If anyone needs a reason to make a small donation, I offer up this testimony from a 17-year-old girl in Montana. She sent me a message via Facebook last night after she read my Heroes In Recovery blog entitled "Siblings and the Ripple Effect of Addiction." Here's what she wrote:

"Hi, I don't know if messaging you will help. Or if it's even worth it to send this. I read your blog on the ripple effect and how it affects siblings of addicts. I haven't found something that has ever actually explained how I feel with my sister being an addict until I read that. So much of what happened to your younger son is happening to me. I don't know why I'm messaging. I don't know if I want to talk or if I want to write about my experience. I guess it just feels nice knowing that people understand how I feel. I guess I'm more trying to say thank you for writing that because it helped me realize that it's okay to feel forgotten and pushed outta the family. It's normal but thank you for writing that. I hope you know it does help. It doesn't exactly make me feel like everything is okay now but it does help."

That message is exactly why Kathy and I are doing the scholarship contest again this year. And it's why you should take a couple of minutes and make a contribution--any contribution--to the scholarship fund before the end of the month.

Kathy and I believe that it shouldn't be okay for siblings to "feel forgotten and pushed outta the family." They deserve so much more than that.


You can make a contribution to the My Life as 3D Scholarship Fund at this link:


Thanks for listening.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Update: 2016-17 College Scholarship Essay Contest

Back in October, I wrote that my wife and I had decided to go ahead with our My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest again this year. (For those who don't already know, this is a contest that awards scholarships to college students who have been affected by a sibling's addiction. We awarded two scholarships last year.)

I'll be completely honest: We almost didn't do it, because money's pretty tight on our end right now. More than two years after leaving my publishing job to pursue other interests, I still haven't found a full-time job. So putting up $500.00 as seed money for this year's scholarship wasn't easy. But we received so many emails from students asking if there was going to be another contest that we just had to do it.

Sometimes you have to make decisions based on what's in your heart instead of what's in your wallet.  

I started a crowdfunding campaign on YouCaring in mid-October to raise additional money for the scholarship(s) and so far generous donors have contributed an extra $635.00 to the cause. Our total scholarship funds as I write this post are $1,135.00, which is great. I hope people will keep donating so we can reach the $3,000.00 goal. (Honestly, even $2,000.00 would be fabulous.) By all means, feel free to share the YouCaring link--https://www.youcaring.com/college-students-affected-by-a-sibling-s-addiction-453759--with anyone you think might be interested in contributing, even if it's just a few dollars. Every little bit helps.

Here are the key dates we've established for this year's contest:

  • Deadline for essays/entries: 7/1/16
  • Judging deadline for essays: 7/31/16
  • Winner notified/announced: Week of 8/1/16

I'm also in the process of assembling the panel of judges. I'm very pleased to announce that Jeff Jay, a nationally known clinical interventionist, educator, and author, has agreed to judge essays this year. Jeff and his wife, Debra, wrote the best-selling book Love First: A Family's Guide to Intervention. Jeff also has a new memoir out called Navigating Grace: A Solo Voyage of Survival and Redemption

So that's my update. More details for this year's contest will be shared in the next couple of months. In the meantime, spread the word. We had 30 students enter last year's contest. Maybe this year we'll get even more.