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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The squeaky wheel gets the oil

As I think I've mentioned before, when we checked my son into Brighton Hospital for a two-week rehab stay in September, my insurance company told me that his care wouldn't be covered. The bottom line was that the treatment was going to cost me $12,155.00 out of pocket. That was a very bitter pill to swallow.

But on the day my son was discharged, the woman at Brighton who took my final credit card payment told me that I should submit the claim to my insurance company anyway. And that if the claim was denied, that I should appeal it. "The squeaky wheel gets the oil," she said to me.

It was a hassle, but I did proceed to submit the claim. And my insurance company denied it because it wasn't "pre-certified." In other words, I didn't get approval from my insurance company prior to my son's admission. That is true, but the only reason I didn't was because they told me that they weren't going to cover it. I didn't think I needed insurance company approval for something they weren't going to pay for.

In any case, I worked with someone from the insurance company to retroactively pre-certify my son's care. Lots of phone calls and e-mails and contact between me and the insurance company; and me and the hospital; and the insurance company and the hospital. It was one of those things where you just wanted to say, "Fuck it," but you knew that you couldn't give up.

Well, the other day I got a notice in the mail saying that the first two days of my son's rehab stay--the detox days--would be covered, but that the remaining 12 days were still under review. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the insurance company was going to cover the detox treatment and deny coverage for the rest of the stay. Until I got this e-mail this morning from my insurance company rep:

"The review was completed on 02/09/09 and letters mailed. The entire stay was approved. The service was considered acute care and therefore payable. I reprocessed the claim on 02/11/09 and you should receive an updated explanation of benefits in about 7-10 business days. If you have any additional question please let me know."

Well, whaddya know. I actually cried when I read that e-mail. Shortly after I got it, the billing person from Brighton Hospital called me to tell me she had gotten word that my son's stay was going to be covered, and that she would call me next week to let me know exactly how much money they would be refunding me. I'm not exactly sure what percentage of the costs will be covered; it could be 60% or it could be 80%. And there are co-pays and deductibles involved, too. But suffice it to say that I will be getting a significant amount of money back, and that I will not be out the complete $12,155.00.

"The squeaky wheel gets the oil." You're damn straight it does. I owe that wonderful woman at Brighton Hospital some flowers or something.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Addict in the Family

Below is a passage from a great book. It's called Addict in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope, and Recovery and was written by Beverly Conyers. You want to know what it's like to be the parent of an addict? This comes close to describing it:

"For almost every addict who is mired in this terrible disease, others--a mother or father, a child or spouse, an aunt or uncle or grandparent, a brother or sister--are suffering too. Families are the hidden victims of addiction, enduring enormous levels of stress and pain. They suffer sleepless nights, deep anxiety, and physical exhaustion brought on by worry and desperation. They lie awake for hours on end as fear for their loved one's safety crowds out any possibility of sleep. They live each day with a weight inside that drags them down. Unable to laugh or smile, they are sometimes filled with bottled-up anger or a constant sadness that keeps them on the verge of tears."

That's some pretty heavy stuff, but it's very accurate. You just learn to live with it all as best you can, because that's really your only alternative.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Where is the "STOP" button?

During a mini-crisis involving my son yesterday, I was reminded once again about how overwhelming dealing with the issues my wife and I have had to deal with over the last few years can be. I know there were never any guarantees that parenting would be easy. And I'm OK with that. But sometimes, when this "stuff" is piled on top of all the other "stuff" going on in our lives, it's just kind of smothering.

I think the best way to describe the feeling is how the father of an addict described it on an episode of the A&E show Intervention. He said he often times feels like the entire world should just stop because of his problems. Talk about hitting the nail on the head. "Hello, world? Can you please just stop for awhile? Just until I figure out what to do about my son's issues and can get everything back on track again. Then you can resume turning and we can get on with the rest of my life." How sweet would that be?

Unfortunately, that's not the way it works. So juggling everyday life with the sweeping curve ball that's been thrown my way by the man upstairs becomes the only way to survive. At least until I find the "STOP" button. Or a magic wand. Believe me: I will never stop looking.

I am starstruck, part deux

The Kathleen Edwards show on Wednesday night was stellar. No surprise there. And an incredible evening was made even more memorable by the fact that Kathleen asked me a direct question, from the stage, during the show, while introducing "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory." During her intro, Kathleen was talking about the music video she made for the song. "The last time we played here, I don't know if we had made the video for this song yet," she started. Then she asked: "Dean, had we made the video for this song yet?" I was flabbergasted. Still am.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I am starstruck

My lovely wife and I are supposed to go see Kathleen Edwards, my favorite female singer-songwriter, tonight at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. Unfortunately, the show might not happen because Kathleen is caught in a weather clusterfuck near Lake Michigan on the western side of the state. Lake effect snow. Need I say more? In any case, I woke up this morning to find this post to my Facebook wall:

"i might not be making it to Ferndale. Seriously I am in a snow storm that is somewhat isolated, but i've never been in this kind of weather before. Full white out and constant heavy snow now for at least 8 hours and a total of 18 are expected."

That post was made by none other than Kathleen Edwards herself at 1:34 this morning. I know I probably sound like some crazy, starstruck, teenage fanboy or something. But I am just so touched that Kathleen Edwards took the time to post that to my Facebook wall.

You rock, Kathleen. I hope the weather lets you make it to Ferndale for the show tonight.

Eric Hipple presentation a success!

Well, this morning I can actually feel good about making a difference in my community. The Eric Hipple presentation on teen depression/suicide took place last night and it was a big success. There were about 155 people in attendance. That may not sound like a lot, but it was a lot more than I expected. And the director of the Family Center, which sponsored the event, said that it was the biggest turnout they've ever had for one of their presentations. Afterwards, Eric hung around to answer questions and talk to people individually. There were some very emotional people who I think got a lot out of the night. It was very gratifying to have people thank me for arranging this event. I really never gave it a second thought. It was just something that had to be done, and I'm glad I could do it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I am in love with a book

For those of you who know me personally, or those of you who know me through Facebook, this will not come as a new revelation: I am in love with a book, and that book is Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff. I have said this many times and I'll say it again: it is the best book I have ever read. And by that I don't mean that it is a literary masterpiece. But it moved me like no other book ever has. Although Sheff's son, Nic, had a different drug of choice--methamphetamine--the basic story is still one that I am living, and Sheff tells it brilliantly.

My favorite passage from the book is one that has moved me to tears on more than one occasion. As the father of an addict, I can totally relate to these words from David Sheff, although the realization he describes has been incredibly hard for me to come to grips with:

"Like many in my straits, I became addicted to my son's addiction. When it preoccupied me, even at the expense of my responsibilities to my wife and other children, I justified it. I thought, How can a parent not be consumed by his child's life-or-death struggle? But I learned that my preoccupation with Nic didn't help him and may have harmed him. Or maybe it was irrelevant to him. However, it surely harmed the rest of my family--and me. Along with this, I learned another lesson, a soul-shaking one: our children live or die with or without us. No matter what we do, no matter how we agonize or obsess, we cannot choose for our children whether they live or die. It is a devastating realization, but also liberating. I finally chose life for myself. I chose the perilous but essential path that allows me to accept that Nic will decide for himself how--and whether--he will live his life." --from "Beautiful Boy" by David Sheff.

I recommend Beautiful Boy to anyone, whether you're the parent of an addict or not. If you read it, I can guarantee three things: 1.) You will love the book. 2.) You will cry. A lot. 3.) You will walk away with a better understanding of what it's like to be the parent of an addict. Trust me: it is one of the most difficult, challenging, and heartbreaking things a person can experience.

By the way, this post was prompted by my purchase of a signed copy of Beautiful Boy off of eBay this morning. Yes, I am in love with a book.

P. S. If you're on Facebook, please check out the group I started there called "Beautiful Boy by David Sheff is a phenomenal book." As of today, at least 44 other people agree with me.