Monday, November 16, 2009

My heart aches

My heart aches.

It aches for my son, who has been struggling for more than five years now with depression, anxiety disorder, and addiction.

It aches because I know he is alone. He has no friends his own age. He really has no friends at all, except for fellow members of the program. I can only imagine how hard it must be for him to deal with everything he’s dealing with without having any peers to lean on. Or talk to. Or go to a movie with. Or take a walk with. Or just hang out with.

My heart especially aches because I know this is something my son will have to figure out and resolve on his own. And I know socializing is so very hard for him.

I hope and pray every day that a breakthrough will come and that someone will come into my son’s life and help make him feel “normal” again. He doesn’t deserve to be all alone.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I'm drained

It's been awhile since I've made a blog post. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it's been a lack of energy. Maybe I've been avoiding it. Or maybe it's been a combination of those two things.

Truth be told, things have not been going very well lately. I won't go into details, because I'm just too tired. The last couple of weeks have been extremely draining, both physically and emotionally. It's hard to explain, but I feel like the life is being sucked out of me. And that's not a good feeling.

Here's hoping something positive happens soon. I sure could use it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good advice for parents of teens

I subscribe to an e-mail newsletter by Mark Gregston, who is an author, speaker, national radio host, and the founder of Heartlight, a residential counseling center in Texas for struggling adolescents. Yesterday, his most recent newsletter arrived in my e-mail inbox.

The subject of the newsletter was "Never Give Up Parenting a Difficult Teen." One paragraph of the newsletter especially screamed out to me, so I thought I'd share it here. I need to start following this great advice:

"It’s easy to be so overwhelmed by problems with your teen’s behavior that you fail to recognize any progress. Progress is not 'problem solved.' Progress means steady improvement. So, if your child is screaming at you every day, and then only yells at you once every other day – then that’s progress! Finishing some of his homework, when he previously did no homework, is progress. Effective parenting requires that you look at the big picture while focusing on just a few problems at a time; then applauding any progress, no matter how small. Refuse to make your teen’s lack of a complete turnaround to be your constant disappointment. Turnarounds rarely happen overnight. Instead, applaud every step in the right direction, even if it is a small one."

Pretty damn enlightening, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One of those days

Today is one of those days. Ever since I woke up this morning, my head has been filled with negativity. I keep asking myself stuff like, “Where did I screw up? Or, “Am I just a terrible parent?” Or, “Is it all my fault?” All the stuff I’m not supposed to feel is stuff I’m feeling today. And I hate it.

I’ve been trying really hard to be more positive lately. But I’m human. The negative thoughts do enter my mind. And when they do, they tend to put me in a pretty nasty headlock.

A friend of mine posted a quote on his Facebook page yesterday:

“Positivity is complex and draining yet fruitful. Negativity is simple and lazy yet worthless.”

I need to get out of this funk today and try and remember that quote more often. Maybe I should have it tattooed on my forehead or something.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

No smoking

It's just before midnight on Sunday, October 11th. I just realized a few minutes ago that I quit smoking exactly 19 years ago today. That's 6,940 days ago. And I haven't cheated once. Best thing I ever did for myself. And something I'm very proud of.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Three out of four ain't bad

Today was a beautiful day in southeastern Michigan: partly sunny and 55 degrees or so. It was the perfect day for a family trip to the cider mill, and that's what my wife and I tried to pull off. Unfortunately, one member of our family (guess who) couldn't get out of bed.

We tried a couple of times to light a fire under him, but we were unsuccessful. Disappointing? Yes. But instead of letting that put the kibosh on the cider mill trip, we decided to just leave him at home. So my wife and I took our youngest son to the cider mill, drank some cider, ate some warm, greasy donuts, and then stopped and had a late lunch/early dinner on the way home.

Even though the family was only three-quarters complete, today's trip was sort of refreshing. We didn't let the actions of my oldest son change our plans for the day, and that seems like a big step forward for us.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dishonesty

We've had some issues with dishonesty in our house lately. Sometimes--actually, most of the time--dishonesty can hurt even more than the addiction. I never thought I would say that, but it's true. Honesty, along with trust, is such an important part of any relationship. And when I discover that my son hasn't been truthful with me, it's like a punch in the gut.

I have given so much of myself over the last few years to try and help my son. Asking for honesty in return seems like such a small thing. But dishonesty is indeed a part of the makeup of an addict. I was reminded of that by this passage from Addict in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope, and Recovery:

"Closely related to denial is dishonesty. Dishonesty encompasses the evasiveness and lies, big and small, that addicts employ in their attempts to control the world . . . A small joke that hints at the denial and dishonesty at the heart of an addict's world goes like this: An alcoholic will steal your wallet and lie about it. A drug addict will steal your wallet, then help you look for it."

I often wonder if I will ever be able to totally trust my son again. I would love to get to a place in our relationship where I don't have to stop and wonder if what he's telling me is the truth or just another fabrication. But right now, that place seems so far away. And that really hurts.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No Friday night lights for me

It's Friday, and tonight was the big local high school football game between the two crosstown rivals: Grosse Pointe North (the high school I graduated from 30 years ago) and Grosse Pointe South (the high school my son attended).

Earlier today a friend of mine e-mailed me at work and invited me to go to the game with him. I thought about it for a minute, then e-mailed him back and told him I probably wouldn't be going. Instead of making a lame excuse, I was just totally honest with him:

"maybe i'll come. but i'll be perfectly honest with you...going to high school events after what i went through with [my son's name] at south is really, really hard for me. that probably sounds dumb, but it's just something i struggle with. so don't be surprised if i don't show up."

After I sent that e-mail, I wondered if what I said would sound crazy to my friend. But I felt some comfort when I remembered a passage from the book Addict in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope, and Recovery by Beverly Conyers (which I've quoted in my blog before). I happened to have that book with me at work, so I pulled it out of my backpack and re-read the passage I was thinking of:

"Todd scratched his head, causing the silver-brown hair to stand on end. He took a long time getting to his next point, which for him seemed to be the most difficult. 'I listen to our friends talk about what their kids are doing: graduating from college, starting careers, getting married and settling down. Normal stuff, you know? I just change the subject. What did they know that I didn't? Where did I go wrong?'"

Unfortunately, this is something I struggle with almost every day. Seeing "normal," well-adjusted kids around my son's age is hard. Being around their parents? That's even harder. It's why I avoided the graduation parties when my son's class graduated last summer. It's why I have trouble hearing my friends talk about their kids' high school and college activities. And it's why I just don't feel like going to the local high school football games. All those normal kids and normal parents in one place? Man, that would just smother me.

A few hours later, my friend e-mailed me back, and the words in his reply made me realize that he is indeed a good friend:

"That is not dumb at all. I thought of that potential issue when I invited you. I am sure almost everyone would have those same thoughts."

It felt so good to know that somebody else understood how I felt.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My son's lyrics just moved me to tears

So I'm sitting at work today. Just a few minutes ago, in fact. And I'm listening to music on my iPod Shuffle. And a song that my son wrote and recorded a couple of years ago comes on in my headphones. I had forgotten all about this song, which is very Elliott Smith-esque. But I listened to it very carefully. Three times. The lyrics brought tears to my eyes. They're just so damn honest. Painful to listen to or read. But so brutally honest. I just wanted to share them.

"REVELATION"

Plastic sunset on a boulevard
Lights up diamonds
Drops of blood on a playing card
Held in hand
When the needle starts to rust
I won't need to find a vein
Was it love or was it lust?
Guess it's all the same

How can this be happening now?
It's too loud
My head is spinning
I'm off the ground
Am I living or dead?
I don't know how I got here
Nowhere
So fast

When the faucet spits out blood
I'll find new ways to
Wash my hands
Everybody's got a reason to
Reprimand
I'm lonely, I'm so lonely
How can I live this way?
Social butterfly with broken wings
Do you feel the pain?

How can this be happening now?
Not now
I'm too young
I haven't got enough clout
To black out
The sun
I got a feeling I'm not
What I could have been.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

365 days

As of today, I have been totally alcohol-free for 365 days. "Be the change you want to see in your son." That's what they told me in a family therapy session at my son's rehab facility a year ago. So I'm just trying to do my part.

Last night I was amazed when I realized that this is probably the longest stretch of total sobriety I've had since I was 14 years old. Wow. That's more than 30 years ago. (Yes, I did some stupid things as a teenager.)

Alcohol is overrated. You can have fun without alcohol. You can socialize without alcohol. You can relax without alcohol. You can work through your problems without alcohol. You can live without alcohol. I know, because I've been doing it. For exactly one year.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What a nightmare

I had a horrible, horrible nightmare last night. I won't go into detail. I'll just tell you that it involved drugs and both of my sons. It was so vivid and seemed so real. I woke up crying and in a state of panic. Thank God it was just a nightmare.

I've had trouble sleeping for a long time. Nightmares like this are a big reason why. I wish I could somehow erase my brain at bedtime so I could get eight consecutive hours of quality sleep. What a wonderful thing that would be.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One year ago

I've debated back in forth in my head whether or not to write this post, and as I work on it in an offline text editing program I'm still not sure if I'll actually post it when I'm finished. But regardless, for now it's at least a little bit of therapy for me.

Today is the third of September, which means that tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of one of the worst days of my life. It was on September 4, 2008, that my son revealed to me and my wife that he was addicted to heroin. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Something like that isn't easily forgotten.

My son had just "passed" a random drug test we had given him, but then broke down in tears and told us that he needed help; that he needed to go to rehab. He had been snorting heroin for quite some time, and he was hooked. I was devastated. To add insult to injury, I felt incredibly stupid when my son told us that he'd been using clean urine--saved in a 20-ounce Mountain Dew bottle--for the random drug tests we had been giving him. For weeks my wife and I had assumed our son was clean, when in reality he was hooked on one of the worst drugs known to man.

"Heroin addict" isn't a term I ever thought would be associated with one of my kids. To me, a heroin addict had always been something out of the movies. Or someone you'd see on the streets in the inner city. I mean, it's heroin. Sure, my son had abused marijuana and some prescription drugs in an effort to self-medicate for his depression. We were aware of that and had dealt with it. But eighteen-year-old suburban kids don't use heroin. At least that's what I thought. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

I would later find out that heroin is the new "in drug" among kids my son's age. It's cheap and easy to find. So easy, in fact, that my son was getting it from a house about a quarter of a mile away, just across the nearby main street that separates our suburban "utopia" from the city of Detroit. Who knew? Certainly not me or my wife.

My wife and I worked quickly to get our son admitted to an inpatient rehab facility, where he would end up staying for about a month. I can guarantee you that I'll never forget the car ride out to the hospital: Me in the driver's seat, my wife in the passenger seat, and my son in the back, curled up in the fetal position, shaking, shivering, holding his stomach, and crying. This was heroin withdrawal, live and in person. I remember thinking to myself, This is what heroin addicts look like in the movies. I felt like I was in a movie. It was all so surreal. And so painful. And so very, very hard.

A year later, I can say that my son is doing much better. Have there been some bumps in the road since he got out of rehab? Absolutely. Will there be more bumps in the road going forward? Certainly. But my son is alive and working hard to stay clean. He's going to school and trying his best. He's going to meetings almost every night and to outpatient treatment once a week. And he's trying to move ahead, one day at a time.

It's funny. I'm guessing that most parents don't wake up every morning and thank their higher power that their child is, quite simply, alive. But I do. Because I know that if my son hadn't asked us to get him help a year ago, he might not be alive today. Which probably means that September 4, 2008, was not only one of the worst days of my life, but maybe one of the best, too.

I love my son with all my heart.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Words can mean so much

I'm incredibly grateful for the message someone took the time to send me today. It blew me away and has inspired me to continue to go forward, be brave, and keep the faith. Yes, sometimes simple words from someone who knows a little bit about what you're going through can mean so much. Today is a good day because someone cared enough to send me some words. So simple. Yet so inspiring. Thanks, DRA.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I miss my son

I miss my son.

I miss the son who was here before the depression.
Before the anxiety.
Before the suicide attempt.
Before the stigma.
Before the drug use.
Before the hospitals.
Before the rehabs.
Before the constant battles that make up our lives now.

I miss his smile.
I miss his laughter.
I miss his sense of humor.
I miss his energy.
I miss his enthusiasm.
I miss his friends.
I miss his conversations.
I miss seeing him happy.

I love my son.
I love his eyes.
I love his caring heart.
I love his creativity.
I love his courage.
I love his intelligence.
I love his sensitivity.
I love him with all my heart.

Ask me what one thing I would wish for if given the chance.
It's such an easy question to answer:
I want my son back.

I want him to feel happiness.
I want him to feel at ease.
I want him to feel wanted.
I want him to feel like he belongs.
I want him to laugh.
I want him to love.
I want him to live.
I want him to be free of the demons that seem to haunt him.

I miss my son.
God, I miss him so much.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm burned out

The title of this post says it all. Things are just taking their toll on me lately. The situation with my son continues to be an ongoing issue. Work is kicking me in the ass. My financial situation is far from ideal. Etc. Because of all this, I have found it nearly impossible to sleep lately. I've only been getting a couple of hours of sleep--if that--every night for the last month or so. I'm just exhausted. Not sure what to do anymore.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Remembering Richmond

We got back from vacation on Sunday afternoon. It was a vacation that was supposed to be relaxing and fun. But it turned out to be stressful and heartbreaking. A couple of stupid decisions by my son and the whole vacation blew up in our faces. Not only that, but I'm almost positive that there are now two more families shaking their heads and wondering what the hell is wrong with us.

To make matters worse, not 20 minutes after we got home from vacation, things blew up at home. It was so emotionally and physically draining that I had to take a sick day on Monday instead of working at home like I usually do. I just needed some time to clear my head.

I long for a day when things in my life are relatively normal, but I don't think that day will ever come. I think being the parent of a recovering addict is forever. I think it's just something I have to get used to. That's unfortunate, but when you have kids nobody guarantees that it's going to be easy.

Last night, I went to a Little League tournament game with a friend of mine. Our league's 11-year-old tournament team is in the state tournament and going to watch them play was my therapy. The weird thing is that the tournament is being played in Richmond, Michigan, at the same Little League complex where my son's tournament team won the state championship when he was 12. It was my first trip back to those baseball diamonds since that magical night in 2002. Back then, I never could've imagined that just seven years later we'd be in the situation we're in now. My, how things have changed.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Some things don't take a vacation

I'm on vacation, staying at my in-laws' cottage on Duck Lake in Grawn, Michigan. My wife's cousin from Phoenix and her family were here, too, until this morning. Now we're waiting for my wife's brother and his wife and two girls to get here tonight. They're flying in from New York City.

Even though I'm on vacation, last night was one of the single worst nights of the last few years. My son did something he shouldn't have done, and when confronted about it he pretty much went ballistic. The whole incident was physically and emotionally draining, and incredibly embarrassing. I don't even know if trying to help my son is worth it anymore. I mean, at some point I think I have to just cut the cord and let him fly solo, even if it means he crashes and burns.

We're at the cottage for two more nights, but I wish to God there was a way for me to be home right now. It's almost impossible to relax and have fun after what went down last night. Especially in the company of others.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Kids say the darndest things

Yesterday my son said he was running out of cigarettes and needed money to buy some more. My wife and I made the crazy suggestion that he do some chores to earn the money to buy his smokes. Then I remembered that he had returned a bunch of empty bottles earlier in the day, so I suggested he take that money and buy his cigarettes. His reply?

"I don't want to waste my money on cigarettes."

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July explosion

Today is the Fourth of July and I heard enough firecrackers and fireworks going off last night to last the entire weekend. Unfortunately, there was also an explosion of sorts inside our house last night. An emotional explosion.

My son was really struggling last night and it resulted in a mass outpouring of emotions. All of the things that are affecting him negatively seemed to rear their ugly heads at one time and it was tough for him to handle. He told my wife and I how much he wants some basic things, but can't seem to find them: Friends. A girlfriend. A job. A social life with kids his own age.

We tried to explain to him that in order to find those things, he needs to get out and about and look for them instead of staying cooped up in the house all day and night. But venturing out is so hard for him, because he is not a very social person and still suffers from all kinds of anxiety. I'm telling you, to see your child so emotionally distraught over wanting (needing, really) things that most kids his age take for granted is beyond difficult. It's downright painful.

I hope my son wakes up today in a better place emotionally. He deserves it. Just like he deserves all of those basic things he's longing for.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What goes away next?

It's been a little while since I posted anything about my son's situation, so here's a quick update.

To the best of my knowledge, he's still clean. And that's a great, great thing. However, the depression and side effects from the Suboxone are still kicking him in the ass. Which means that his sleeping schedule is still totally wack. Which means that he continues to sleep the days and afternoons--and sometimes parts of the evening--away. For example, as I type this sentence it's 4:15 in the afternoon...and my son is still in bed asleep.

We took away his PS3, thinking that losing the ability to play video games would motivate my son to get on a better sleep schedule. But it did absolutely nothing. Then we really brought down the hammer and took away the one thing we thought he could never live without: his cell phone. But, amazingly, two weeks later things still haven't changed at all. So now the question is: what goes away next?

I sometimes think the next logical step would be to take away my son's guitars. But I'm a little scared to do that because it's a key outlet for his emotions. But if it's not the guitars, then I'm not sure what it is. I am really shocked that losing the cell phone didn't force some kind of change in my kid. If someone would've predicted that two weeks ago, I would've told them they were crazy and bet big money against them. Shows you what I know. Or maybe it shows that the whole thing is more out of my son's control than we realize. I just don't know anymore.

Anyway, that's where things stand. It's still beyond frustrating to be in this situation. So I try to take it one day at a time. And "try" is the operative word in that last sentence. Lord knows I deal with it better some days than others. If you don't believe me, ask my wife. Or my son.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

We are the champions


As some of you may know, I've been quite involved in Little League baseball over the last several years. When my oldest son started playing Little League at age seven, I managed his team. That was the beginning of a nine-year coaching run with his teams. I also coached my youngest son's teams for four years and served on the board of directors of our local Little League for several years. I just love Little League baseball.

This year, a friend of mine--also a Little League nut--asked me if I wanted to coach a team in the Majors divsion (11- and 12-year-olds) with him. I agreed. Neither one of us had a kid playing. We just decided to do it for fun. For me, it was chance to get out and do something I enjoyed. A distraction, if you will, from the everyday craziness that is my life.

The season started in late April and our team, the Dodgers, lost their first four games. The kids were pretty bad in those four games and, to be perfectly honest, I think everyone thought we were in for a very long season. Starting off 0-4 was not what my friend and I--or the kids--had in mind. After our fourth loss, when we gathered together as a team to discuss the game, one of the kids actually muttered the words, "We suck." Definitely reminiscent of the Bad News Bears.

But something changed after those first four games. The kids started to play better baseball and jelled as a team. Their defense improved. Their hitting improved. And their overall attitude improved. In short, the season that started off looking like it was going to be a disaster suddenly became magical.

The Dodgers played 17 more games after those first four losses. We won 15 of them. We won 11 of the final 13 regular season games, including the last seven in a row. We finished the regular season with a record of 11-6, good enough for the regular season league championship. Then came the playoffs, which was a double-elmination tournament. The Dodgers played four games and won them all en route to the playoff championship, which was clinched in a dramatic, come-from-behind, last-inning, 4-3 victory. Eleven wins in a row to end the season. Regular season champs. Playoff champs. Wow. That 0-4 start was now a distant memory.

Coaching the Dodgers was a lot of fun for me. But more importantly, the kids had a lot of fun. I have to say, it was incredibly rewarding to get cards and e-mails from parents thanking my friend and I for volunteering our time even though we didn't have kids on the team.

I won't lie. The winning was definitely nice. But giving back to the kids and the community was the real reward this season. And yes, my friend and I hope to do it again next year.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day, which is a "holiday" I've struggled with for a long time. I actually kind of wish I could just skip this day each year.

First off, I've never really felt connected to my own father. Growing up the son of an alcoholic father will do that to you. To this day, anything father-related is very tough for me to deal with. Especially Father's Day. I always run through the same questions in my head: Should I call my father and wish him a happy Father's Day? Should I get him a card? Should I invite him over for dinner? What exactly should I do??? I wish it wasn't like that, but it is.

I also struggle with Father's Day as it relates to my own fatherhood. Despite everything I've read and have been told about how I'm not supposed to blame myself for my son's issues, I still can't help but wonder if I could've or should've done something differently while he was growing up. Something that might've put him on a different, better path.

Yes, it's Father's Day. But I'm struggling with it. Just like I do every year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Death hits close to my son

Every Thursday afternoon, my son attends an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at Brighton Hospital. At yesterday's session, he found out that one of the girls in his group was killed in a car accident last Friday. She was only 23 years old. What a terrible tragedy.

I think this young woman's death has touched my son in a way he hasn't been touched before. This is most certainly the closest experience he's had with death. And while this girl wasn't exactly a friend of his, there's no denying the closeness that develops between people when they are in the program together.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this girl. Her life was cut much too short.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Something I wrote two years ago

Almost exactly two years ago, I sat down and wrote a rough draft of an essay that I was going to submit to Newsweek magazine. I was hoping they'd consider it for the "My Turn" feature that runs in every issue. "My Turn" is a column written by readers and the focus is usually on something very personal that is affecting, or has affected, the writer's life.

I had pretty much forgotten about this essay, but last night I was going through some files on my laptop and there it was. If I remember correctly, the draft was several hundred words over the limit and I just didn't feel like editing it down to an acceptable length. In any case, I remember that writing it was good therapy. And since the original intent was to have a whole lot of people read it, I thought I'd post it here. (Note: The original draft used the real first names of my son and wife. If the piece had ever made it to print, I don't know if I would've left the real names in or not. For this blog post, however, I have changed the first names for privacy reasons.)

Rough Draft of "My Turn" Essay
(June 16, 2007)

On a warm, muggy evening in July of 2002, after a weather delay of several hours, my oldest son John and his fellow Little League all-stars won the Michigan state championship game 6-1. John was a bonafide winner at age 12. And so were his teammates. A subsequent trip to the Great Lakes Regionals in Indianapolis that summer provided memories that will last a lifetime for all of us, even though we only won one game. After all, we lost our last game to Kentucky, who went on to win the Little League World Series that season.

Fast forward to January of 2006. January 15, to be exact. January 15 at 1:30am to be even more exact. How do I remember the exact date and time so clearly? Because you never forget when your wife wakes you up in the middle of the night to tell you that your son has overdosed on aspirin and prescription anti-depressants and that we have to get him to the hospital right away. Luckily, my wife Mary had been conscientious enough to have been checking on John regularly that night. In the wee hours of the morning, Mary checked John’s bedroom, only to find that he wasn’t there. She then checked the attic, which is accessible from John’s room, and found him sitting in the dark, crying. He told her what he had done—thank God—and we were soon in the emergency room having doctors pump our son’s stomach and wondering where we had gone wrong.

John was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety disorder in October of 2005. He had always been a shy, introverted kid, but he slowly became even quieter and troubled after he started his freshman year in high school the previous September. After a sparkling grade point average in the first quarter of ninth grade, things began to go downhill. The grades, his attitude, his self confidence, and his outlook on life all plummeted. It took awhile, but we finally convinced John that therapy would be a good thing for him. He reluctantly agreed to go, and we were hopeful things would improve quickly. But they didn’t.

I’ll never forget that early morning in January. After the trip to the ER—it was just about dawn by then—my wife and I were following an ambulance to a psychiatric hospital twenty miles away. Having your child admitted to such a hospital for an evaluation was standard procedure, we were told, after a suicide attempt. I think we cried all the way there and all the way back.

Thirty-six hours later, John was back home because the hospital said he was fine now. But he wasn’t. The hell on Earth continued for months. Depression, new medications, temperamental outbursts, crying spells, feelings of worthlessness; they all grabbed John and wouldn’t let go of him. Finally, in April of 2006, Mary and I made a decision I never thought we could make: we voluntarily checked John into another psychiatric hospital because we knew he needed help we couldn’t give him. This time John stayed for eight days. And on most of those days, we would get the one phone call he was allowed per day, only to hear on the other end of the line, “Please let me come home. I don’t want to be here.” Talk about having your heart broken into pieces.

When John finally did come home, we withdrew him from school. He was so far behind that trying to catch up would’ve just knocked him down again. Having public schools among the best in the nation in your community is wonderful, as long as your child can cope with a very large number of students, the cliques, the anxiety, the stigma of having attempted suicide, etc. Unfortunately, John couldn’t.

I wrote letters to the local paper and the school board and e-mailed teachers, counselors, and parents, urging them to educate themselves and their children about teenage depression. Given the fact that two young teens in our community had just recently taken their own lives, I thought there would be an outpouring of support. But when I later bought an ad in the local paper in an attempt to form support groups for depressed teens and their parents, there was absolutely no interest. I was shocked. Despite great strides forward, depression still is, unfortunately, taboo in our society. What a shame.

This past school year was no different. We found a charter school that we thought John would thrive in. But after two half days, both of which resulted in panic attacks, John decided he wanted to go back to his old school. The new school? It was just too new and different, and John couldn’t cope with it. Against our better judgment, we let him go back to his previous school. But things didn’t change. He was still overwhelmed by the size of the school and the homework and the fear of interacting with teachers when he didn’t understand something. His grades were worse than ever, and in May we withdrew him from school again. The simple fact of the matter is you can’t make a 17-year-old boy go to school if he doesn’t want to. And the daily battles, which occurred every weekday morning, just weren’t worth it anymore.

John is still depressed. And he’s made some poor decisions over the last year or so. Experimenting with prescription drugs (not his), smoking marijuana (bought at school), and smoking cigarettes (they help relieve his anxiety). Because of these things, along with the depression, his group of former best friends—kids he has known since kindergarten or first grade—have pretty much abandoned him. You’d think they’d be supportive, but that isn’t the case. They’re scared of John and the things he’s done. And they don’t want to be around him. Can I understand their reactions? I suppose. But I always tell people that if John suffered from cancer or some other “normal” disease, his friends and their parents would be knocking down our door to see how John was doing, offering to cook us meals, seeing if there was anything they could do to help, etc. But depression? No way. It’s like our house is haunted and everybody is scared to come near it. Parents of John’s friends have even called other friends’ parents to tell them to keep their kids away from John, “because he does bad things.” Imagine how we felt when we found that out.

This wonderful, intelligent, caring, funny, talented son of mine, who at age 12 won it all on the baseball diamond, has now lost it all in the game of life. At least temporarily. He’s lost all of his friends. He’s lost his school career. He’s lost his sense of direction. He’s lost his identity. He thinks nobody loves him or cares about him. And when he reaches out and calls his former friends, and none of them answer their cell phones because “it’s John,” can you blame him?

A new therapist is hopeful that he can help John. Mary and I are hopeful, too. A new therapist for me has also helped me get over a lot of the guilt I feel as a result of John’s condition. I’m more thankful for that than anyone will ever know. And best of all, our other son, who is 11, seems totally bulletproof when it comes to the happenings of the last two-and-a-half years. I guess every gray cloud does have a silver lining.

I’ll be totally honest. John’s condition has caused our family a lot of grief. My wife and I have argued more than I ever thought we could. We’ve both battled verbally (and occasionally physically) with John when we got to the point where we just couldn’t take it anymore. We’ve had to repair holes in our walls, a result of John’s anger and rage getting the best of him. Calling the local police to come and help calm things down was commonplace for awhile. And the medical bills, even with decent insurance coverage, add up pretty quickly, making it necessary to sacrifice things we wouldn’t have to ordinarily. But we all love each other and we somehow have managed to hold it all together.

You learn a lot of things when you have a depressed teenager. I’ve learned that the best place to cry is in the shower, because no one can hear you and you can’t feel the tears running down your cheeks. You learn that most other kids appear to be “normal,” and that, surprisingly, kind of makes you angry. You learn that people you once thought were your friends really aren’t. You learn that depression is a disease that a lot of people want nothing to do with, even though they know people who have been affected by it. And you learn that nobody has the right to judge you unless they’re willing to walk in your shoes for just a day or two. But most importantly, you learn that just because your child is depressed, you don’t stop loving him. In fact, you have to find a way to love him even more. Unconditionally. Because if you don’t, chances are no one else will. And that just doesn’t seem fair.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

We gotta stay positive

Before I get to the positive vibe, here are two words for you: I'm tired. That probably won't come as much of a surprise to anyone who reads this blog (both of you), but I just had to say it. I am physically and emotionally drained. And, quite frankly, I'm finding it hard to keep up with this blog. Shit happens, and I want to write about it. But I have found it very hard lately to muster the energy to do that. I guess I'm not a very good blogger.

I've also been thinking about taking the main focus of this blog off of my son's issues and throwing in some more stuff about me. Yes, I started this blog to loosely document what goes on in the life of a parent of a recovering addict who also suffers from severe depression. And since I started the blog, writing about that stuff has been good therapy for me. But lately I've been coming to terms with something: Even though my son's issues are a huge part of my life, I've got to work harder to see past the negatives and not let my son consume me 24/7/365. If I don't, I think it'll kill me.

Granted, I'm not the most interesting person in the world. But I do love to cook. And I do love music. So if I blogged about the latest hunk of meat I grilled, or posted a favorite recipe, or recommended an album that I'm currently digging, would that be such a bad thing? I'm thinking it still might be kinda sorta interesting to the two of you. And even if it wasn't, maybe the different subject matter would help generate some positive vibes inside my tired, too-often-negative mind. That would definitely make it worthwhile, no?

So stay tuned for the new and improved (and perhaps slightly more upbeat) "My Life As 3D" blog. Coming soon. I think.

P.S. You didn't think I'd get through this post without mentioning something about my son, did you? There's been a lot of stuff that has happened since the last time I posted. But I'm not going to dwell on the negatives. Instead, I'll mention a positive. on Thursday, my son's sponsor invited him to go to Cedar Point (an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio) with him and a couple of other young people from the program. My wife and I were so grateful that our son was invited to go. And he had a great time.

"We gotta stay positive."
--From the song "Stay Positive" by the Hold Steady

(Photo courtesy of my friend Sam.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

When It Don't Come Easy

“You're out there walking down a highway
And all of the signs got blown away
Sometimes you wonder if you're walking in the wrong direction.”
--From the song "When It Don't Come Easy" by Patty Griffin

I’m in a funk and have been for a few days now. I do indeed feel like I’m walking in the wrong direction; heading down a highway willy-nilly, with no idea whatsoever of where I’m going. That’s pretty much the same way I’ve felt for a few years now. There is no road map for the trip I’m on. I know that. But that doesn’t make feeling lost any easier.

I won’t bore you with a detailed recap of the entire Memorial Day weekend. I will tell you, though, that Friday was the only day my son got out of bed before the very late afternoon/early evening. And Monday was one of those days where I just shook my head and wondered what the hell just happened.

My head-shaking on Monday was the result of having given my son a little bit of freedom on Sunday night. He asked if he could go to a movie with a few friends of his. My wife and I were a little hesitant, but we thought it would be good for him to get out of the house and do something with friends. Of course, in order to do so he needed money. So we gave him $12.00 and told him that he needed to bring us a ticket stub from the movie. It was a pretty simple request, and one my son agreed to.

Well, you can probably guess what happened on Monday when I asked for the ticket stub. The response was, “It’s in my wallet, but I can’t find my wallet.” Fortunately, while my son was in the shower, my wife found his wallet. Unfortunately, we went through it and there was no ticket stub. When I confronted my son about the missing ticket stub, he said he didn’t know what happened to it. It was in his wallet. He swears it was. (Except that it wasn’t. And it never did turn up.)

This whole incident might sound like a little thing to get worked up about, but when you give money to a recovering addict, you always run the risk that it will trigger illicit behavior. I hope that’s not what happened. And I’d love to believe that the ticket stub from the movie just got lost. But, as I’ve said before, the trust is hard to come by these days.

Someone needs to drive out and find me, because I don't want to feel lost anymore.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One year later

Yesterday marked exactly one year since my son completed his first rehab stay. A lot has happened since then, no doubt. Some of it's been good. Some of it's been bad. And one year later, I'm not sure if we're in a better place or not. But one thing I do know for sure: My son is still alive, and for that I am thankful.

I love my son with all my heart. I hope he can continue to make progress in his recovery during the coming year. And I hope he can find some happiness soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A little help from my son

Yesterday I spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon cutting and laying five rolls of sod. I did it to fill in bare spots in my lawn where I had killed off wild violets that were spreading like crazy last fall. The job was pretty labor intensive and tedious. Make the bare spot a perfect square or rectangle, measure the spot, cut the sod to fit, lay it in the spot, trim it if necessary, stomp on it, water it, etc. And then repeat, about 20 times over. Luckily for me, I had a helper throughout the entire project: my son.

I'm not sure what motivated my son to get up early yesterday morning, but he did. Maybe it was the comment I made at the dinner table on Friday night, after I mentioned that I was going to spend much of Saturday laying sod. "Can I help you?" my son asked me. "You'll probably still be sleeping when I'm all finished," I replied. Maybe that wasn't the nicest thing I could've said, but I thought it was a pretty realistic prediction.

So yesterday morning, I got up and went to the garden center to pick up the sod. I got back around 8:30am, took the sod out of the van, and went inside the house for a minute. When I walked in the door, my son was standing in the kitchen, wide awake and dressed. It was one of those little miracles that I wish could happen every day. A little slice of normalcy in my otherwise abnormal life. And not only was my son up and dressed, he was ready to help me with the sod-laying chore.

I think the whole job took about four hours, and my son was there with me for about 95 percent of it. He helped with all of the tasks and it was nice having his assistance. Even though it wasn't exactly a fun activity, I still consider the time we spent together "quality time." It was father and son, working together to accomplish something that needed to be done for the household. And that hasn't happened a whole lot in the last few years.

I'm not sure if the rest of the weekend will see my son getting up earlier or not--right now it's 11:00am and he's still in bed--but I'll gladly take yesterday and put it in the positive column.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The long weekend begins...with a hiccup

Today is the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend and I'm done with work until Tuesday. I'm taking a vacation day tomorrow and I'm looking forward to four days away from work. That has to be a good thing.

I wish the long weekend would've started totally stress-free, but it didn't. My son was supposed to go to his Intensive Outpatient Program at Brighton Hospital today, but instead chose to blow it off, telling my wife that he didn't feel well and couldn't get up to go. My wife waited 'til late in the day to call me at work and tell me this, and I'm glad she did. If she'd have called earlier, I probably would've stressed out about it all day. When I did find out, though, I of course started contemplating the reasons why my son would've skipped the IOP today (as well as a meeting last night).

As the parent of an addict, it's only natural to think the worst when something like this happens. Since a drug test is part of the IOP, it's not really a stretch to think that maybe my son wanted to avoid going because he's using again. Maybe that's the catastrophizer in me rearing its ugly head, but it's a logical conclusion. I'd like to think that my son really didn't feel well. I'd love to be able to trust him when he says something like that. But to be honest, my son has pretty much destroyed any trust I had in him. And it will be a long time before that trust is rebuilt, because I've been played and lied to and manipulated way too many times over the last couple of years.

I don't know what the weekend will bring. Or even what the next few hours will bring. My son doesn't have any money and he's out of cigarettes. That probably means that he's going to be asking for money sometime tonight. But after what he pulled today, he's got another thing coming if he thinks we're going to just hand him some cash. So that could be interesting. There also could be a drug test in my son's very near future. That could be interesting, too. Never a dull moment in this house, that's for sure.

I'm going to try really hard to play through the pain caused by my son's actions today. I've been looking forward to this long holiday weekend and I will do everything in my power to keep it going in a positive direction. I will not let this "valley" ruin my weekend. At least, that's my goal. Wish me luck.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Uncle."

There. I said it. "Uncle." Which is another way of saying, "I give up." And that's just about where I'm at today, for a few different reasons.

First of all, my son admitted the other day to using again. It was "only marijuana" (his words), but that doesn't soften the blow much. And I know that "Relapse is a part of recovery." But so what. It's still very disappointing.

Then there was Saturday night, which was a major challenge in our house. My son was upset because of some issues with his friends, and my wife and I were the ones his anger was directed at. We were accused of everything from not caring to the exact opposite: being over-protective. Maybe my son was just saying things without thinking in a fit of rage, but I have to say that being accused of not caring about him really hurts. When I think of all the time, money, and energy--both physical and emotional--that my wife and I have expelled trying to help our son over the last five years or so, I am dumbfounded as to how he can accuse us of not caring. And as far as being over-protective goes? Sure, we're going to be pretty damn cautious given the circumstances facing us. To not do so would be, in my opinion, reckless.

The kicker came today, though, and it has nothing to do with my son. At least not directly. Today was the first day of enrollment for my employer's new health care plan. Our medical benefits are changing on July 1st because our association with the company that used to own us is ending (we were bought by a private equity firm a couple of years ago). I was pretty certain that the amount I pay for my health care coverage was going to go up. But I was shocked by what I found out this morning.

Under the most expensive health care option I can afford--which will cost me about $40.00 a month more out-of-pocket--the co-pay for a mental health/substance abuse office visit will now cost my family $40.00 instead of the current $20.00. For my oldest son alone, that's probably going to mean an additional $1,800.00 a year out-of-pocket if we want to continue his current treatment. And this doesn't even take into consideration any mental health office visits for me, my wife, or my youngest son. This is going to make it incredibly difficult for me and my family.

It is said that God only gives us as much as we can handle. If that is indeed the case, someone please tell God that I'm close to my breaking point.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Progress, not perfection

As I alluded to in an earlier post, yesterday was a tough day at our house. But last night, my son got home from a meeting and apologized to me for the stuff that had happened in the morning. He said he's "working on things" and then dropped the "Progress, not perfection" line on me. After I thought about it for a minute, I realized that that should be the goal with him: Progress. Not perfection. As wonderful as it would be, I really can't expect things to change quickly. It's definitely going to take some time.

Yes, last night my son taught me something. And for that I am grateful.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Last week of school

This is the last week of community college classes for my oldest son. All I can say about that is "Thank God." This morning was another ridiculous affair, with him refusing to get up until every ultimatum in the book was thrown at him. He finally got up and out the door, but he was definitely late.

I have no idea how my son's grades will be for this term, or if he'll even pass any of his classes. While the controlling part of me sometimes thinks I should've kept a closer watch on him and his schoolwork and his grades, the ever-so-slightly-sane part of me knows that my kid is 19-years-old and needs to start taking care of business for himself. I think that's the only way he's ever going to figure life out. If he tanks in school this term, maybe it'll be a wake-up call. Or not. I guess time will tell.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Good news, good times

I got the results of my stress test and echocardiogram on Thursday. "Everything is fine and normal." Let me tell you: That is a huge relief. With a history of high blood pressure in my family and the incredible amount of stress I've been under for quite awhile, it's a blessing to eventually get this news. And here's why I say "eventually"...

The doctor's office called my house Thursday morning while I was at work. My mom was here with my youngest son, who was home sick, so she took the call. Then she passed the message on to my wife, who came home shortly thereafter. Eight hours later, while my wife is with my oldest son at his therapy appointment, I'm watching TV with my youngest son and he says, "Oh, did anyone tell you that your cardiologist's office called today?" Definitely a communication breakdown. But I'm not complaining about the good news!

Last night my wife and I went to the Rotary Club Whitefish Dinner in her hometown of Albion, Michigan. Her dad is in the Rotary Club and we decided to make the 90-minute drive to show our support and visit a bit. We also met three of my wife's high school friends there and went out afterwards with them. The dinner was nice and it was fun to meet some people from my wife's past and have some quality "adult time." Originally, both of our boys were supposed to go with us. But our youngest was still not feeling well. And when we were ready to leave to head to Albion at 3:30 yesterday afternoon, our oldest--and I know you'll find this very hard to believe--was not out of bed yet. So my wife and I decided to leave both boys home and just have a night out for ourselves. It was definitely an excellent decision.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

24

What a great 24 hours I've had.

Yesterday afternoon, I somehow tweaked a muscle or vertebra in my lower neck/upper back. As a result, I could barely turn my head or move at all without pain for a good part of yesterday and all last night. I had to skip coaching my Little League game. And sleeping was a total bitch. As if that wasn't enough, this morning I had to go in for a stress test and echocardiogram at my cardiologist's office. Rescheduling the test really wasn't an option because the office requires at least 24 hours notice. If I'd have given them less than 24 hours notice, they would've charged me $150.00 for the radioactive isotope tracer stuff they had to secure for the test. In the interest of not throwing away $150.00, I decided to proceed with the testing.

Let me tell you, there's nothing like being in severe pain and having to lie on your side for an ultrasound for 15 minutes or so; then on your back with both arms up over your head for 14 minutes while a camera takes pictures of your heart; then running on a treadmill at a hellacious pace for 12 minutes so your heart rate gets up past 145; and then having to do the arms-up-over-your-head-camera-thing again for another 15 minutes. Needless to say, the testing took a lot out of me and sure didn't help my neck/back pain at all.

To add insult to injury, when I got home from my stress test today I discovered that my son didn't get up for school yet again. I'm pretty much at the end of my rope with the school thing. I didn't choose the class that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00am. In fact, I suggested early on that it might not be a very good idea. But my son assured me that it wouldn't be a problem. Well, I hate to say, "I told you so," but...

I think we're rapidly approaching a crossroads in this house. It may be time for an ultimatum. If you want to be treated like an adult, start acting like one. And stop jerking everyone around. It's just plain getting old. Real old.

Friday, May 1, 2009

TGIF

It's Friday. Thank God. The week had some ups and it had some downs. But that's life, right? I mean, even if my situation wasn't what it is, I'd still have ups and downs during the week. So I'll try not to dwell on the negatives, try to embrace the positives, and roll with it as best I can. Hopefully the weekend will be a good one.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

STOMP

My wife and I took our boys to see STOMP tonight at the Fisher Theatre in downtown Detroit. We had seats in the third row and the show was terrific. It was really nice to be out together as a family and to see the boys smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves. Definitely a great night out.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I wonder if he caught a worm

I got up at 6:40 this morning and my son was up and out the door, off to an early bird meeting with his sponsor. Actually, I'm not sure if he ever went to bed. I just know that he managed to do something he set out to do to better himself. And that's saying something.

After he got up yesterday (er, I mean last night), he called and talked to his sponsor, who has also battled depression. When he got off the phone with him, he came in and told me and my wife that he was going to go to a 7:00am early bird meeting this morning, and then out to breakfast. His sponsor told him he'd pick him up at 6:30. When I heard that, I didn't really say anything. Quite frankly, I wasn't sure he'd be able to pull it off. But, to his credit, he did.

I'm not sure how this will affect the rest of the day/night, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. One step forward, at least for this morning.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Haiku blog post

8:13 at night
My son: still not out of bed
Something's got to change

How's that for creativity???

On the bright side, it's 78 degrees outside and my wife and I just got back from a long (for me) walk. Just trying to keep from going insane.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today I'm a hypocrite

I'm frustrated today. Actually, I'm way beyond frustrated. I know I shouldn't be feeling the way I am, but I'm human and sometimes I can't help it. To top it off, I feel like a big ol' hypocrite after having posted those quotes the other day about courage and about being in control of how you react to what happens in your life.

I woke up this morning at 5:30am because nature called. When I got up, I noticed the lights were on downstairs, so I went down to investigate. My son was sitting at the dining room table eating a bowl of cereal. Now this wouldn't be such a big deal if he had gotten up at 5:30 and was eating breakfast. But he was up because he hadn't gone to bed yet.

Over the last few weeks I have grown to accept the staying up late thing. But I think this is a bit extreme. When I asked my son why he was still up, he said he couldn't sleep and that he was going to go up to bed when he was done eating. And when I asked him how he was going to get up at 10:00am for his full day of classes, he assured me he would get up. So I went back upstairs.

Well, I don't think I have to tell you what happened when 10:00 rolled around this morning. My son did not get up. Both me and my mom, who was going to drive him to school, tried to get him up. It just didn't happen.

My wife and I are at our wit's end. I think we're going to try and find some type of Outward Bound program to send my son to this summer. The status quo just isn't working and it's making everyone in the house crazy. We need more sanity and less crazy. Maybe that's being selfish, but to have several people suffer daily as a result of one person's actions just doesn't seem fair anymore.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stress? What stress?

I had my annual checkup with my cardiologist this morning. (Yes, I have a cardiologist. I've had one since 1998, when I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.) Thankfully, my EKG and blood pressure were both fine today. I never really worry too much about the former, but I do worry a lot about the latter, especially since my dad and my brother have both had high blood pressure.

After the nurse took my blood pressure, she told me it was "great." But the quote of the day came when my doctor came in and looked over my chart. "Your blood pressure is perfect," he said. "You must not have any stress in your life." When I heard that, all I could do was chuckle. Me? Stress? Oh, my God. If he only knew.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another quote for today

During my therapy session this morning, my therapist recommended a book to me: Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Frankl was an MD and Ph.D. who wrote more than 30 books on theoretical and clinical psychology. He was also a Nazi concentration camp survivor. Anyway, I bought the book today and just read the foreword. One passage really jumped out at me. This is mentioned by the foreword writer as being Frankl's most enduring insight:

"Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you."

I think this book might do me a world of good.

Courage

I saw my therapist this morning for the first time in several weeks and she had a quote written on her whiteboard that made me stop and think. I've heard similar quotes over the years, but for some reason this particular quote hit me like a ton of bricks today:

"Courage is not about not having fear, but about having fear and going ahead anyway."

I think I'll type that up, print it out, and give it to my son to carry with him in his wallet. I think I'll put a copy in my wallet, too.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Where's the manual?

It's Sunday morning and I'm enjoying a little bit of quiet before everyone else gets up. Quiet is good, because it signifies peace. Peace is good, because there have been some pretty tricky days this week. But, like always, the only thing I can do is deal with the difficulties and move on.

Learning to deal with the difficulties that stem from having a depressed recovering addict for a child has been the biggest challenge I have faced in my years on this Earth. And even after five years or so, it's still really hard for me. My wife is much better at it than I am, although she even wished out loud for a manual on how to get through this stuff the other day. The problem is, there isn't a manual. It's just a learn-as-you-go thing. Some things you'll get right. Some things you won't. But you can't be afraid to do what you think is best. And you have to learn to let go, at least a little bit. (That part is much easier said than done. But you learn.)

One more thing: The other day, someone posted a comment on one of my blog posts saying I was "an incredible father." While that comment was nice to read, it made me feel a little bit uncomfortable. Trust me: I am not an incredible father. I have made many mistakes along the way and I often times wish I could go back and fix a lot of the things I've done wrong. Unfortunately, I can't. So I just try to do a little better every day. But I still screw up. A lot. I appreciate the kind words, but I don't think the Father of the Year folks will be contacting me anytime soon. That's one thing I can be sure of.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bad day today

Not a good day today, despite the fact that I've got the day off from work. Today is a day my son was supposed to have four classes, beginning at 11:00am. I woke him up at 9:45 this morning. Then I woke him up again at 10:00 and told him it was the last call; that I would not be coming back to wake him up. I decided I wasn't going to battle with him this morning. If you're 19 years old, you're old enough to set your alarm and get up for school without the constant assistance of your mom or dad or grandma. My son always says he wants to be treated like an adult. Well, welcome to adulthood.

Needless to say, he didn't get up. It killed me to watch the clock tick to 10:15, then 10:30, then 10:45, then 11:00. Part of me wanted to go back upstairs and wake him up. But I resisted. Maybe this will teach him a lesson. It's time for him to stand up and be a semi-responsible human being.

All of this made for a pretty crappy morning. I even cried a few times. It's just so hard to be on this roller coaster I've been on for five years now. Yesterday, my son got up at 12:30pm and managed to stay up the whole day. We all had Easter dinner together. And things were pretty good. Then today comes and the bottom falls out. Again. Is it asking too much to have a few--or even two--good days in a row?

As I type this post, it's 2:08pm and my kid is still asleep. I'm curious to see what his reaction will be when he finally gets up and realizes that he missed school. As for myself, I'm trying to climb out of the funk I've been in since this morning. I'm watching the Tigers play the White Sox on TV and am making a big pot of Scotch broth with the leftover lamb from yesterday's dinner. Baseball and food: two very comforting things. Here's hoping they do the job for me.

Update: My son got out of bed at 8:42pm. Eleven hours after he was supposed to get up. I'm not even sure what to say beyond that. Except that the Scotch broth was awesome.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is risen

Just to show you how crazy things are around here...

Moments after I finished my earlier blog post, my son woke up and came downstairs. Yes, after going to bed at 5:15 this morning, he actually got up and out of bed at 12:30pm. He went into the kitchen, put a pot of coffee on, and went outside to have a cigarette.

I'm not sure how long this will last. Remember, last Saturday he got up early but ended up going back to bed to "take a nap" a few hours later, only to stay in bed until the early evening. We'll see. But for now, he is risen. And, in this case, the "he" isn't Jesus.

Maybe this will help put some happiness back into this Easter Sunday for me. (For the record, I know my personal happiness shouldn't come and go based on my son's behavior. I've read that and heard that and been told that a thousand times. But I'm still working on it.)

Happy(?) Easter

Today is Easter Sunday, but I'm not feeling much happiness.

Yesterday we had decided that the whole family would go out for a relatively early dinner. Our plan was to head out around 6:00pm. Unfortunately, when that time came around my son was still in bed. Yep. Still in bed at 6:00 in the evening despite our several attempts to get him up. I tell ya, it's gotten ridiculous. But instead of letting that wreck our plans, my wife and I took our other son out to dinner and left the sleeping one behind.

When we got home, he was finally up. And, of course, the first thing he did after getting up was to suck down one of those crappy Monster energy drinks. That's become his morning/evening ritual. Get out of bed, drink a Monster. I was already starting to think that the Monster was having adverse effects on my son's body chemistry and was partly responsible for his depression and sleep problems. Now, after reading a report online last night called "Raising the Red Flag on Some Energy Drinks," I'm pretty much convinced that my kid shouldn't be drinking that crap. How's this for an eye-opening sentence? This is from the section of the report that talks about energy drinks and how they interact with antidepressants:

"It could make the medication inactive or depending upon the person’s health could lead to other serious side effects."

Needless to say, my wife and I are going to sit down and have a talk with our son about what these stupid energy drinks could be doing to him. Maybe if he stops drinking them, his mood and sleep habits will improve. It's certainly worth a try, isn't it?

********

This morning I was awakened by noise in my son's room at 5:15am. When I got up to investigate, I discovered that the noise was him going to bed. Going to bed at 5:15am. What is wrong with this picture? I can only imagine what time he'll be getting up today. I'm guessing it's probably a pretty safe bet that he won't be at the table for Easter dinner. Oh, well...

Friday, April 10, 2009

I love this quote

One of my Facebook friends posted this quote on his profile the other day and I absolutely love it. I haven't been able to find out who the quote is attributed to, but it doesn't matter. These are words to live by for anybody:

"You can't change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future."

Word.

Meltdown

Someone in our house had a meltdown last night. It wasn't my son. It wasn't my wife. And it wasn't my younger son, either. It was me. I was the one who had a meltdown. Whether it was caused by the stress from work, the stress from everyday life, or a combination of a bunch of different things, it doesn't matter. I lost control. And I shouldn't have. I broke a plate (it was plastic, but still) and said some mean things I regret having said. But I made some amends last night and will continue to do so.

I have a couple of days off work--today and Monday--so maybe I'll be able to decompress and clear my head a bit. I hope so. I don't like melting down. It sucks. Big time.

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's not our fault

I just finished watching Intervention In-Depth: Heroin Hits Home, an A&E show that documented an epidemic of OxyContin and heroin use among teens in some white-collar Boston suburbs. I was especially affected by something the mother of one of the addicts said. She said a lot of her friends lost respect for her when they heard about her son's addiction. They automatically assumed that she and her husband had done something wrong as parents. That's a shame. A child's addiction is not the parents' fault.

I hope that if you know me personally, you don't blame me or my wife for our son's addiction. And I hope you don't think less of us as parents or human beings because our son is battling this horrible disease. We are no different than you. We've just been dealt a difficult set of circumstances that we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy. But, even so, there is one thing we know for sure: it's not our fault.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Back to reality

It was incredibly wonderful to have my son up-and-at-'em at 8:00am yesterday morning. I can't even put into words the positive vibe it brought to our home. But after three glorious hours, reality kicked back in.

Around 11:00am yesterday, my son told my other son that he was going to take a nap and that we should wake him up if he wasn't up by 1:00pm. Well, 1:00 came and went. We tried to wake him up a number of times. Many times, in fact. But he didn't get out of bed until almost 7:30pm. It was another one of those nights where dinner was on the table but one member of the family was still in bed. Not fun.

I'm not expecting anything different for tonight. I woke up last night (actually, early this morning) when my son finally decided to go to bed. It was 4:20am. Who knows when he'll get himself out of bed today/tonight. It's all so frustrating.

I want a whole day like the three hours I got yesterday morning. Maybe in time that'll happen. But for now I'll just remember those three glorious hours from yesterday and how great they made me feel.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Is It a Miracle?

I believe that a miracle occurred in my house this morning and, if only for one day, I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.

I got up at 7:00am and came downstairs to take some pills, feed the cats, check my e-mail, etc. After deciding to make a big batch of chicken enchiladas for dinner, I made a shopping list and headed upstairs to ask my wife if she wanted to go to the store with me. When I got to the top of the stairs, I saw the miracle: my son, standing in the hallway, awake and dressed at 8:00am. Oh. My. God. Yesterday he got up at 5:00pm. The day before I think it was 6:00pm. And the day before that... Well, you get the idea.

I was shocked (SHOCKED!) to see my son standing there and opened the door to my bedroom to show the miracle off to my wife. I think she was just as surprised as I was. And, believe it or not, the miracle got even bigger when I asked my wife about going to the store and my son said, "Can I go with you?" OK... Let me get this straight. Not only is my kid up and dressed at 8:00am on a Saturday, but now he's asking if he can go grocery shopping with my wife and me? You could've knocked me over with a feather.

So we all went grocery shopping. And my son pushed the cart and helped out with the shopping. And unloaded the cart at the checkout. And helped put groceries in the car. And helped unload the stuff at home. And it's 9:20am and he's in the kitchen making himself coffee. And he's in a pleasant mood. And it's all so different. And I like it. A lot.

I believe that a miracle occurred in my house this morning and, if only for one day, I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Peaks and valleys

Yesterday, my son had to give a presentation in his psychology class. This presentation is something he had had a few weeks to work on and I hadn't seen much evidence of him having worked on it. Of course, he has a lot of time between classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, so there was always the possibility that he was working on it at school. Regardless, I only asked him about the project a couple of times. Was I concerned that he wasn't going to do it? Sure. Did I want to try and control things and keep tabs on my son's progress on the project? Absolutely. But I didn't.

Well, last night when I got home from work I found out that my son gave his presentation and got 50 out of a possible 50 points. That translated to an A+. How cool is that? I am incredibly proud and hope that my son's confidence gets a boost from this success.

That was the peak. Now for the valleys.

After the high of the A+ presentation yesterday, my son failed to get up for his 9:00 class this morning. He said he didn't feel well. He also missed this class on Tuesday, which is the only other day of the week the class meets. Missing both classes in one week can't be good, especially since he's missed this class several times already. I guess we'll just have to see what happens from here on out. Hopefully he can pass the class. But if he can't, maybe there's a life lesson to be learned from it.

The other valley is the fact that my son blew off his weekly IOP (Intensive Outpatient) therapy program at Brighton Hospital today, too. I don't know what to make of that. Maybe he didn't feel well. And maybe he had other reasons for not going. Does part of me wonder if he stayed home today to avoid the weekly drug test? Absolutely. But if that's the case--and I truly hope it's not--things will catch up with him eventually. For my sake, I have to try to stop worrying. I have to take care of myself. To worry constantly just isn't healthy.

"I'm going for a walk."

"I'm going for a walk."

For most parents, hearing those five words come out of their child's mouth would be no cause for alarm. In fact, hearing their kid say they were going for a walk would probably make most parents feel good. Unfortunately, my wife and I are not "most parents." Hearing our son say, "I'm going for a walk" scares the hell out of us.

My son is a recovering heroin addict and the house that has supplied him with his drugs in the past is located probably about a quarter mile from our house. It's just across the main street that's at the end of our block; the street that separates our affluent suburb from the city of Detroit.

The last time my son announced he was going for a walk was back in the fall, shortly after he got out of rehab. I was suspicious back then and ended up doing what no parent really wants to do. I followed my son. He walked down this block and that block, never suspecting that his father was driving slowly behind him, waiting to see where his son ended up. Believe me, there's nothing like not trusting someone you love to the point of following them. I felt dirty doing it. But on that occasion, my suspicion was right on. My son ended up on the porch of that drug house. And I ended up pulling up in front of the house and ordering him to get into the car. The bottom line is that I prevented my son from using drugs that day. Who knows? I might've saved his life. But I still feel guilty about having followed him.

Fast-forward to today. About 40 minutes ago, my son came to me and said, "I'm going for a walk." When I heard those five words, my heart sank in my chest. I told him that I hoped he wasn't going to do anything he wasn't supposed to. His response was, "I don't do that anymore," as if to suggest I was crazy for raising the issue. I told him that I have concerns, and reminded him about what happened last fall. I was being 100 percent honest with him.

My son left the house to go on his walk and I wanted to follow him again. I wanted to follow him in the worst way. But instead I called my wife, who was taking my other son to his therapy appointment. I told my wife about the walk, and that I was concerned. I could sense that she was concerned, too. I said that part of me wanted to follow him, but the other part of me didn't want to play that game anymore. What am I supposed to do? Get in the car and follow my son every time he says he's going for a walk? That's crazy. And that's what being the parent of an addict will make you. Crazy.

I let my son go on his walk and I didn't follow him. As hard as it was for me to do that, it had to be done. I do not want to be a slave to my son's addiction anymore. If he went for a walk to the drug house and ends up using, we'll find out about it. His therapist has plans to drug test him at his appointment tomorrow. So for now, I'll just sit and wait for my son to come home, hoping that he didn't make any stupid decisions while he was gone on his walk.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"Intervention" on A&E

"Intervention" on A&E is such a great show. But most of the time it's excruciatingly hard for me to watch it. So much of what happens on the show hits way too close to home. I usually get a good cry out of it, though.

"I don't get it. And I just want her back. I want my sister back." That's what the sister of of the pill addict just said in tonight's episode. I have said the same thing about my son hundreds of times.

Addiction hurts so many people.

Frustrated

Yes, I'm frustrated. I'm not sure if I should be or not, but I am. In a big way.

My son is, to the best of my knowledge, still clean. But he is also still depressed, and that has him spending an awful lot of time sleeping. And the hours he keeps are not compatible with the rest of the family. For example, it is fairly typical for him to stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. That alone wouldn't bother me so much if he got eight hours or so of sleep and got up. But my son is sleeping until 4:30, 5:00, or even 5:30pm on a regular basis. That just isn't normal. We're talking 15 hours of sleep.

It's frustrating as hell to come home from work on a day when my son doesn't have class--like this past Friday--only to have him still be in bed. Or--like yesterday--to have dinner ready and on the table only to have him still be in bed. It just upsets the chemistry of the whole house.

Up until last week, one of the reasons my son was staying up until the wee hours of the morning was the damn PS3. He would go down the basement and play video games for hours and hours on end. Even on school nights. So I finally took the game controllers and hid them. He would still stay up late, but he was doing other things, like playing the guitar. At least that didn't have the stimulant effect of the video games. But last night he was up late again. And this morning I went downstairs and found a PS3 controller laying out. My kid evidently borrowed it from a friend so he could get back to playing video games. This did not sit well with me.

My son's psychiatrist has him trying a new anti-depressant, so maybe that will help things. But if it doesn't, I'm not sure how long I can put up with the schedule my son has been keeping. It's disruptive to the household, plain and simple. I realize that he is an adult (at least chronologically). And if he was living on his own and keeping these hours then that would certainly be his own business. But as long as he's living under my roof, I feel like he should keep a schedule that doesn't have a negative effect on the family. Is that asking too much?

Maybe I'm trying to be too controlling. I don't think I am, but it's certainly possible. I'd be curious to see if anyone out there has any thoughts about this situation. If you do, feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

200 days since my last drink

"Be the change you want to see in your son." That's all I'm doing, really. But 200 days without alcohol does seem like a pretty big milestone. Now when I go to the store I look for six-packs of fancy root beer. My new favorite is Goose Island. Perhaps I will become a root beer connoisseur.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In the basement of a church...

"I know a sickness ancient and cross
No crucifix could ever fix enough
But in the basement of a church, these people they talk
There is a line that must be walked
If you want to make it stop
Then stop."
--
From the song "Stop" by Ryan Adams


That song lyric, from my favorite male singer-songwriter, is very appropriate tonight. Because tonight my wife and I joined my son in the basement of a church for an open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Just before I started cooking dinner tonight, my son came into the kitchen and said to me, "There's an open AA meeting tonight at 8:30 if you and mom want to come with me." It caught me kind of off guard, but I was very happy to get the invitation.

The meeting was only about 35 minutes long, but it gave my wife and I the opportunity to join our son in a part of his life that is usually only his. We met a few of his group's members and listened to the featured speaker, a woman who is a recovering Vicodin addict. We also had people tell us what a nice son we have and how serious he is about the program. That was nice to hear. But the most memorable thing I heard tonight was the reading from the AA book Twenty-Four Hours a Day:

"AA tells us to forget about the future and take it one day at a time. All we really have is now. We have no past time and no future tie. As the saying goes: 'Yesterday is gone, forget it; tomorrow never comes, don't worry; today is here, get busy.' All we have is the present. The past is gone forever and the future never comes. When tomorrow gets here, it will be today. Am I living one day at a time? "

One day at a time. Word.

Thanks, son.

Please don't drink and drive

I am grieving today. I am grieving for four teenagers I didn't even know. Four kids. One 19-year-old, one 15-year-old, and two 16-year-olds. Devon, Erica, Jordan, and Stephanie. All students at Lake Shore High School in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Out together on Monday night, heading to Pizza Hut to get a pizza. Stopped at a red light. And in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Little did these four kids know that there was a 47-year-old woman--her blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit--at the wheel of a full-size van, speeding down Gratiot Avenue, coming up behind them. Moments later, she plowed into the back of the car these unsuspecting kids were riding in. Now all four kids are dead and the woman who killed them is facing four counts of murder.

When I watched the story on the news last night, I cried. I cried because I can't imagine the grief the families of these four kids are going through. One of the moms said she was worried because her son said he was going to get a pizza and she hadn't heard from him in awhile. So she called the Pizza Hut and the worker there said, "Which way on Gratiot were they going, because there was a really bad accident." I can't imagine being on the receiving end of that conversation.

I also cried because I can't imagine the grief the family of the driver who snuffed out these four young lives is going through either. You see, I grew up in an alcoholic home. My father was an alcoholic who had more DUIs than I could even count. On more than one occasion, he hit parked cars and all I can remember is thanking God that the cars were parked and empty. As a kid, riding in the car with my dad while he was intoxicated was a regular occurrence. I will never forget how scared I was, wondering if I was going to make it home alive, but too terrified to speak up about it. The last time my dad was arrested for driving drunk was about 20 years ago. He called me to bail him out of jail. I did it, reluctantly, but I remember it feeling like a slap in the face after all the years I had suffered as the child of an alcoholic father, and all the times I had confronted my dad about his problem.

I hope the families of these four kids, and the community in general, don't take their anger out on the family of the driver whose incredibly stupid decision led to this tragedy. I can tell you first-hand that this event is as big a nightmare for the driver's family as it is for the teenagers' families. I know what it's like to be the child of an alcoholic who drives drunk. Every day you pray to God that they will make it home safely without hurting anyone. I always worried more about innocent strangers than I did about my dad. I figured if my dad drove drunk and hurt or killed himself, then that's him suffering the consequences for his actions. But if my dad drove drunk and hurt or killed someone else...well, that would be something altogether different.

Take it from me: this horrible tragedy is a nightmare come true for the family of the driver of that van. This is what they've feared might happen for a long time. I know. I've been there. And despite what people may think, if you have a loved one who is an alcoholic or addict, you cannot "fix" them, no matter how hard you try or how hard you want to. The "Three C's" of Al-Anon and Nar-Anon tell it like it is: "We didn't cause it, we can't cure it, and we can't control it."

My hearts go out to everyone who is affected by this tragedy. There is one lesson to be learned from all of this, and it's so simple that it's almost ridiculous: DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE. If you've been drinking, take a cab, or the bus, or the subway. Or walk. Or call a friend or relative. Or, if all else fails, just sleep in your car until you sober up. But please don't drink and drive.

If you want to read more about this terrible accident, you can do so in this story from The Detroit News.

And the victims of this crash are remembered in this article from The Detroit News.

If by chance you would like to donate to a fund set up for the families of the four victims, here is how you can do so.

Lake Shore school district has set up a fund for anyone wishing to donate to the families. Checks may be made payable to:

Lake Shore Public Schools Memorial Fund
28850 Harper Ave.
St. Clair Shores, MI 48081
Attention: Business Office

To my knowledge, there is no way to make a donation electronically, at least at this point. I've e-mailed the school district to see if there is something like that in the works and will post that info if it becomes available. I am, however, willing to collect money electronically via PayPal if anyone wants to donate that way. I will take your money and add it to the check that I send to the fund. Leave a comment with your e-mail address if you are interested in doing that and I will contact you.

If nothing else, please say a prayer to your higher power tonight for everyone affected by this event. A lot of lives will never, ever be the same.

Peace.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A very proud moment...and a bit of sadness

Today is Thursday, and that means my son's only class of the day was his Music Appreciation class, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is the class with the dreaded 9:00am start. The class that my son has struggled to make it to on time and has missed a number of times. When you're a recovering addict who suffers from depression, getting up and getting to a class before 9:00 in the morning is not a very easy thing to do. But I give my son lots of credit for sticking with it.

The first test in this class happened a few weeks ago. My son had missed at least three classes before the test and was definitely out of touch with what was going on. As a result, he got an F on the test. That was a huge disappointment. But to his credit, he stayed after class the next time it met to talk to the instructor. He explained his situation and told the instructor he wanted to get back on track. Happily, the instructor was very supportive.

Well, fast-forward to today, a few weeks after that dreaded F. I got home from work and my son brought me his latest test from the Music Appreciation class. The grade this time? B+. And across the top of the test the instructor wrote, "Tremendous improvement!" It was such a joy to see my son excited over a test grade. I'm really proud of him. It's something I can't even put into words. I love my son so much.

That was definitely the highlight of my day. A few hours later, though, came a bit of sadness. I got a phone call from a friend of mine. This friend had a serious crack cocaine problem for a number of years. He was living in his car, committing crimes to support his habit, and lost his wife and kids. But he worked real hard to change his life and finally did so. He found God. He got clean. He got a job. He reconnected with his kids. He bought a house. He got engaged. Then several months ago, his fiancee broke up with him. This sent my friend back into the dreadful world of drugs. He disappeared. He lost his job. He went back to rehab. Then he disappeared again.

When I picked up the phone and heard his voice on the other end, I was worried, because he sounded desperate and in a hurry. When he told me that he had a "huge favor" to ask of me, I was even more worried. Then he asked me if he could "borrow thirty bucks for a couple of weeks." That was the kicker. There's only one thing he could've wanted that $30.00 for. So I had to say no.

But, did I mention? My kid got a B+ on his Music Appreciation test. How freakin' cool is that?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

58 days

My son is 58 days clean today. For that, I am thankful.

Are things perfect? No. Far from it. But things are certainly much better than they have been in the not-too-distant past.

Fifty-eight days. Just a little over 8 weeks. That's certainly not a very long time in the grand scheme of things. But when your son is battling addiction and has stayed clean for that long, 58 days is a pretty impressive span of time.

Keep it up, son. We're all very proud of you and are behind you 100 percent.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Finally!!!

Just a quick post to say that the check from Brighton Hospital arrived in yesterday's mail. This is the money my insurance company (finally) paid to the hospital for my son's last rehab stay, and in turn was refunded to me. I've been fighting for this money since September. Even after I was told I was going to be getting it, I said I wouldn't believe it until I had the check in my hands. Now I have the check in my hands: $6,880.02. Hallelujah.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My new fear

I've been struggling quite a bit lately with the fear of dying. This is new for me, because up until a few months ago I had never really been scared of my own death. It's also kind of strange because this new fear I've developed doesn't have anything to do with what will actually happen to me when I die. Instead, the fear is all about what will happen to my kids when I die.

I think about this a lot lately. I know that it's needless worry. After all, when I die my kids will have to figure out a way to get along without me. Right? But with my oldest son's issues of the past few years, I can't help but think about how he will get along "on his own."

Crazy thoughts. Being the parent of an addict will fill your head with them. The challenge is trying to figure out how to keep them from totally consuming you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's official: $6,880.02

I talked to the woman at Brighton Hospital today. Of the $9,300.00 I actually paid out of pocket for my son's two-week rehab stint, I am going to be refunded $6,880.02. (I thought I had paid more out of pocket than I actually had, because the Blue Cross web site listed the total claim amount as just over $12,000.00. But that's what the hospital billed Blue Cross per their contract; not what I had paid out of pocket.)

I can't tell you how happy this makes me. For the last four months or so, I thought I was out that money for good. It just goes to show you: Don't ever take "That's not covered" as a final answer from your insurance company. Yes, it was a bit of a hassle to fight this claim via e-mails and telephone calls, but I ended up getting 74 percent of my money back. And in these tough financial times, that's huge.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In need of friends

This morning I had one of my little emotional outbursts and shed quite a few tears. This happens occasionally when I start thinking about my son and the things he is struggling with. What I thought about this morning was the tremendous difficulty my son is having because of his lack of a basic human need: friends.

My son has always been painfully shy. But throughout elementary and middle school he had a core group of friends and was reasonably social. Shortly after high school started, though, he was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety disorder, and the social aspect of his life started to deteriorate. Then came his aspirin/anti-depressant overdose. It was that event that drove all of his "friends" away from him, whether it was by their own choice or because their parents told them to stay away from my son.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: If my son had cancer or some other physical illness, his friends (and their parents) probably would've flocked to him, offering their support and love. But mental illness is different. There is still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness and depression, and many people are scared of it; probably because they just don't understand it.

I don't think I have to tell you what happens when you take a person suffering from depression and anxiety disorder and take away every single one of the precious few friends they had. It only makes things exponentially worse.

I see the pain my son is feeling every day because of his lack of friends. He's 19 years old and really has no social life outside of the AA meetings he regularly attends. He's still very shy, so making new friends is something he is not experienced at or good at. He's lonely. He needs to interact with people his age. He needs people to talk to, to share his feelings with, and to have fun with. He needs that one thing that every human being needs and deserves: friends.

Here come those tears again. Damn.