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.


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.


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


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.