Friday, January 30, 2009

Making a difference already

Today the Detroit News ran a story about the upcoming Eric Hipple presentation on teenage depression/suicide that I wrote about earlier this week.

Well, at 11:40am today I got an copied in on an e-mail from the director of the Family Center of Grosse Pointe & Harper Woods. It was to the reporter who wrote the story for the Detroit News. Here's what it said:

"Hi Tim,

Thanks for the great coverage on Eric Hipple in the Detroit News. You'll be pleased to know that a young male adult read your column and contacted me today. He struggles with depression and suicide. He was looking for resources in the Ypsilanti area & I was able to give him contact info for University of Michigan Depression Center. He sends his appreciation to Eric for providing this presentation even though he is unable to attend due to the distance & his job. Together, we do help to make a difference!

Again, thank you & the Detroit News for the support of this very special community presentation.


The presentation hasn't even taken place yet, and it's already made a difference. How awesome is that?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

School daze

My kid blew off school again today. Very frustrating. (Actually, way beyond frustrating.) When I was going to college, I had to take out student loans in order to go. Twenty-some years later, here I am paying for my son's classes and books, and he can't do me the courtesy of actually going to class. Yes, it's an early class (9:00am). But he's the one who picked it. No one held a gun to his head and told him to choose an early morning class. Hell, I even told him--after he couldn't get up for class the first time--to drop the class and replace it with something that met later in the day. But he said he was going to go. Oh, well. Like everything else in my crazy life, it is what it is. In any case, while I was listening to my iPod at work today, these lyrics from "Chinese Translation" by M. Ward hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd like to permanently engrave them on the inside of my kid's eyelids:

"See I once was a young fool like you
Afraid to do the things
That I knew I had to do
So I played an escapade just like you
I played an escapade just like you..."

Maybe someday something will click inside my son's head. I sure hope so.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Teenage depression/suicide presentation on February 3rd

I worked really hard to make this presentation happen and I expect it to be a very worthwhile event. I will do anything I can to help get rid of the stigma associated with teen depression (and depression in general).

Eric Hipple is a former Detroit Lions quarterback who became an overnight fan favorite in Detroit after he passed for four touchdowns and rushed for two others in his first NFL start: a 48-17 win over the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in October of 1981. I remember watching that game on TV like it was yesterday. (Note: My other vivid memory of Hipple was him getting jacked up by Tampa Bay Buccaneer Scott Brantley in 1985. Check out the video below.)

Unfortunately, in April of 2000 Hipple's 15-year-old son Jeff took his own life after struggling for years with undiagnosed depression. Since then, he's been on a crusade to help educate teenagers and parents about depression by giving talks to community groups, working as an outreach represenative for the University of Michigan Depression Center, and authoring a book called Real Men Do Cry. “I somehow feel that if I can save just one life, then Jeff’s death was not in vain,” Hipple says. God bless you, Eric.

Please feel free to pass on the info if you're local. And a special thank-you to Debbie Liedel of the Family Center of Grosse Pointe & Harper Woods for helping make this event a reality.

(Click on the image below to make it bigger/easier to read.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One thing wrong with our health care/insurance system

It's no secret that a major sore spot with me is how people who suffer from depression or addiction are often treated by other (so called) "normal" people or by our health care/insurance system. I wish depression and addiction didn't carry the stigma that they do. It's incredibly unfair when people who suffer from these diseases--and they are diseases--are screwed over.

Case in point: My wife and I checked our son into a rehab program at Brighton (Michigan) Hospital in September to help him overcome an addiction to heroin. Brighton was recommended to us by our son's therapist, and it has a great reputation. So taking him there was a no-brainer. In addition, my health insurance company considers Brighton an in-network facility. What could be better?

Well, as often is the case with insurance-related matters, things quickly deteriorated when we were ready to have our son admitted. After calling my insurance company to check coverage, Brighton told me that my son's stay may not be totally covered. This was a bit of a shock, but it didn't stop my wife and me from checking our son into Brighton. If your child desperately needs help, and you have a world-class "in-network" facility at your disposal, you go with it and worry about the financial matters later. Getting help for your child is your main concern. So when the hospital required me to pay upfront--just in case--I gladly got my Visa card out.

To make a long story short, when our son was discharged after two weeks in Brighton Hospital, we were told that my insurance company was not covering his treatment. At all. The reason the insurance company gave for not paying? Brighton is not a "traditional" hospital, but rather a "residential facility"; and under my employer's policy, treatment at a residential facility is not covered. Of course, I wondered why Brighton was not considered a traditional hospital. I mean, they have doctors and nurses and everything a traditional hospital has. Was I missing something? Indeed, I was. Because in addition to those "traditional hospital" things, Brighton has two other things that are the kiss of death when it comes to insurance coverage: educational and recreational programs.

How sad is it that an insurance company will deny coverage because an addiction treatment facility offers its patients an educational program as part of their recovery, to help them learn about why they have this disease? Are you kidding me?!? And shame on Brighton for providing a pool table, ping-pong table, and a horseshoe pit to help alleviate patients' boredom. What the hell were they thinking??? (Note: Many doctors who specialize in treating addiction will tell you that there's nothing worse than a bored addict.)

This whole scenario is almost as ridiculous as the one that took place last spring, when my wife and I took my son to a rehab facility in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to help him with his increased use of marijuana. The insurance company didn't pay for that, either. The reason: "Marijuana isn't physically addictive, only psychologically addictive." I actually asked a customer service rep at my insurance company about this one. "You mean to tell me that because my son has a problem with marijuana, his treatment isn't covered? But if he had a problem with crack cocaine, his treatment would be covered?" Amazingly, the answer to that question was, "Yes."

The bottom line is that most health insurance companies' coverage for treatment of chemical dependency is a total joke. Having a family member who is addicted to drugs is a big enough nightmare without having to bend over and take it from your health insurance company, too.

Rest assured that this issue with my insurance company certainly isn't over. Not by a long shot. I plan on appealing their decision and will not give up until I've exhausted all possible options. If it takes a lawyer, I'll get me a lawyer (providing I can find one who will work on a contingency basis). I will not go down without a fight. That you can be sure of.

Sending your kid to rehab the first time: $3,000.00
Sending your kid to rehab the second time: $12,155.00
The fact that your kid is still alive, in spite of your insurance company: Priceless

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It's the little things that can really make your day

Last night my oldest son had class until 7:45pm, so when I got home from work I suggested to my wife that we take our youngest son out for dinner. We didn't go anywhere fancy, just one of our favorite local places that has excellent burgers. But while we were sitting at the table eating, my son held up his cheeseburger and said to me, "Dad, this is really good. Thanks for taking us out for dinner." It was just two sentences and a total of twelve words. But that simple thank-you meant the world to me. It was just nice to hear the satisfaction and appreciation in my son's voice. Maybe we need to go out for cheesburgers more often.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

All aboard the emotional roller coaster

Today was a very emotional day for me. It was one of those days where I wished I was not as tall as the clown's finger, and that the guy running the emotional roller coaster would've just kicked me off the ride for being too short. Instead he let me on, and as a result I experienced a very lofty emotional high--thanks to the exit of President Bush and the swearing in of President Obama--and an almost subterranean emotional low. I was hoping that today would've been all upbeat and positive and joyous for me, but it didn't work out that way. But at least I got to watch the historic inauguration festivities with my younger son. I'm very thankful for that. I'm sure he'll remember it for the rest of his life. As for the emotional low? It, too, shall pass.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right?

Today is Martin Luther King Day, and I've got the day off work. My lovely wife, however, is working, back on a full-time schedule as of today. (She had a full-time supervisor's job before she had to quit a couple of years ago in order to better deal with our son's issues.) But as I type this post, at 3:14 in the afternoon, today has been anything but a leisurely day off.

Today is also my son's second day of school at the local community college. He has three classes today, spread throughout the day/evening. His first class started at 11:00am and, since my wife was working and I wasn't, I got the job of driving him to school. (He doesn't have his driver's license yet.) We got out the door pretty much on time, but the traffic on the freeway was backed up because of some road construction. OK... Now we were going to be a little late. That alone was enough to stress me out, but then my son added to the stress. "I never got my Suboxone this morning," he revealed to me when we were about halfway to school. Suboxone is the opiate blocker that my son takes every day to help curb the cravings for heroin. It's a prescription drug that's part of the intensive outpatient program (IOP) he's involved in at Brighton Hospital. My wife had simply forgotten to get the medication out of the safe this morning.

Well, if you're a recovering addict taking Suboxone, there's one thing you don't want to do: miss a dose. (The last time my son missed a dose, it led to a craving that was almost satisfied by illegal activity. If it wasn't for me intervening, who knows what would've happened.) So there was only one thing to do: drop my son off at school, go back home to get his Suboxone, and then head back to school to give it to him. Just another example of my wife and I having to do whatever is necessary to keep things on track. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right? My son and I agreed on a meeting time/place and I headed home to get the pill.

When I got back out to my son's school, I met him and asked him if he'd like to go out to lunch instead of eating the lunch my wife had made him this morning. Of course he jumped at the chance. We went to Subway, grabbed some food, and headed back to school. There was still an hour to kill before my son's next class, so we went to the school bookstore to get the books he needs for this term. Needless to say, it's been a long time since I purchased college books. I was blown away by the fact that the books for his four classes cost me nearly $500.00. But ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right?

I'm back at home now and my son will be at school 'til around 8:00 tonight, when either my wife or I will pick him up. I hope everything goes alright. It's going to be a long day for him; there's no doubt about that. And he's got a 2-1/2 hour break between his second and third classes. Hopefully he'll be able to find a constructive way to kill that time.

Now... On to planning dinner!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ryan Adams takes a break

My man Ryan Adams announced the other day that he's taking a haitus of sorts after this current tour with his band, the Cardinals. As a lot of you know, Ryan Adams is where it's at for me musically. So I was a bit saddened by the news, but deeply respect the guy's decision because he's got some physical ailments he's dealing with and probably needs an emotional rest as well. The trouble is, I hang out over at the Ryan Adams Archive (it's really my second home) and a lot of people there seemed to be much more broken up about Ryan's announcement than I was. This made me feel kind of strange. And prompted me to post this there:

Is there something wrong with me?

First off, let me say that we should all be grateful for the music that Ryan and the Cards have given us. It will live forever, no matter what becomes of Ryan's career or the Cardinals' career or the collective Ryan & the Cardinals' career. But here's the deal...

As I've read all the posts here over the last couple/few days, I've felt kind of strange. I feel like there are a whole lot of people here who are way more affected by Ryan's announcement than I've been. And I've considered myself a huge Ryan Adams fan ever since I first saw Whiskeytown live at SXSW way back when. I mean, ask anyone I know and they'll tell you that I'm pretty much obsessed with Ryan and his music. So I'm wondering... Why hasn't his announcement affected me like it's obviously affected so many others? Is there something wrong with me???

I understand why people are disappointed. I'm disappointed, too. I love Ryan Adams and I love the Cardinals. And seeing a great thing come to an end is always hard, especially when it's in its prime. But the simple reality is that Ryan Adams is a human being and is entitled to make decisions in the best interest of himself, just like the rest of us do for ourselves in our everyday lives. Granted, this decision has a direct impact on something we love, but in the grand scheme of things, is it really that big of a deal? Obviously, the health and well being of Ryan Adams--whether it's physical, emotional, or some combination thereof--is the most important thing, isn't it? The fact that we may suffer a bit because of Ryan's decision is really secondary.

Maybe I'm over simplifying the whole thing. Maybe I'm just old. Maybe I've just been desensitized by other things going on in my life. I dunno. But as I read all the posts here by people who are just totally broken up about this, I almost feel like I don't belong here. Yeah, I'm bummed about Ryan's announcement. But it's just another thing that I can't control, so I'm gonna let it go. Sure, I'll listen to Ryan and the Cards as much as I ever have. Probably more. But I actually feel a sort of peace knowing that Ryan's making a decision he thinks is best for himself. Isn't that what we would want for anyone who means a lot to us?

I don't like sports analogies, but I'll throw this one out there. I live in Detroit and a few years ago our football team, the Detroit Lions, had one of the best running backs ever to play the game: Barry Sanders. And one day, when he was at the top of his game, he quit. He just felt like it was time to move on. So he did. Were people angry? Yes. Were people disappointed? Yes. Did people think he was making a mistake? Yes. Did people feel cheated? Yes. But you know what? The dude made the decision that was right for him. And he left us with a ton of great memories that'll live forever.

That's all I got. I love Ryan Adams & the Cardinals and I always will.

(How's that sappy saying go? "If you love something, set it free...")

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Changing priorities

In an earlier post, I mentioned how little things can become a source of great hope when you're going through what I'm going through with my son. It really is amazing how things that most people probably take for granted become major achievements or dreams in our house. Yes, priorities change and--for lack of a better description--the bar is sometimes lowered.

For example, hoping that my son would get excellent grades in high school evolved into hoping that my son could just finish high school. And when I realized that my son wasn't going to finish high school, then I didn't even really care, as long as he could find some happiness and get his life on track.

We're still working on that happiness/life-on-track part, but at least he was able to pass the GED exam last spring. That was a major milestone. But if you would've told me ten years ago that having my kid get a GED instead of a high school diploma would be cause for celebration, I would've told you you were crazy.

See what I mean? Priorities change. And in my world, you just have to roll with that change as best you can. It's the only way you can survive.

And then there were three

Some of you may know this already, but I'm a member of a program that is comprised of a (supposedly) select group of customers. It's called the Amazon Vine program and its members get free stuff from in exchange for writing reviews about the stuff on the Amazon web site. On the third and fourth Thursdays of the month, at 3:00pm eastern time, Amazon's Vine program posts a variety of items on their web site. Vine members are allowed to choose two items to get for free. Not all members are offered the same items. The program supposedly targets its members and offers them stuff based on prior purchases, interests, etc.

Well, someone at must've gotten the impression that I like video cameras, because today I got my third one since I've been in the program. It started with a Flip Mino camcorder in June. Then I got a Flip MinoHD (hi-def) camcorder in November. And today I got a Creative Vado HD camcorder. I've used the first quite a bit and like it a lot. The second one didn't work very well with my older Mac PowerBook, so it's just sitting in the box. As for the third one... I'm curious to see how it will compare to the other two. These are all very small camcorders that record on flash memory and connect to your computer with a flip-out USB connector. So they're very cool. Obviously, I'm thrilled to have gotten them for free.

Some of the other cool stuff I've gotten from the Vine program:

  • A George Foreman 360 indoor grill with five interchangeable grilling plates
  • A big Tyco radio-controlled wheelie motorcycle
  • An Oral-B Pulsonic electric toothbrush
  • A Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush
  • A 6-pack of some tasty raspberry chipotle BBQ sauce
  • Lots of books
  • Some video games
  • Some CDs

Believe me, when I first got the e-mail from inviting me to this program, I thought for sure it was a scam. But it's not. It's actually pretty damn cool. I love free stuff!

Could this be a turning point?

When you're the parent of a recovering addict and have been struggling for as long as my wife and I have, it's real easy to get excited and feel hopeful about little things that reflect a possible positive change in your loved one's life. Not only is it easy; it's pretty much necessary. Because not only is life with an addict "one day at a time," sometimes it's "one baby step at a time."

One of those baby steps took place today, which was my son's first day of class at a local community college. (Actually, it was his first day of class for this semester. He was enrolled last semester, but had to withdraw after less than a week of classes in order to go into rehab. So we're looking at today as a fresh new start.) Granted, he only had one class today. But it was a class that started at 9:00am. I'll admit, after weeks of him staying up 'til 3:00 or 3:30 in the morning, and then sleeping until 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon, I wasn't real confident that he'd get up early this morning and make it to a 9:00am class on time. In fact, if I were a betting man I probably would've bet against it. Well, lo and behold! My son got up early, was ready on time, and got to class on time. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised, but I'll take a pleasant surprise over the other kind of surprise any day.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking that I'm crazy. This event may sound so incredibly rudimentary and basic to you that you're wondering how I could possibly get excited about it. Trust me: This is a huge step for my kid and for us. Maybe, just maybe, this is a turning point for him. Maybe getting "out there" and having a routine and socializing with new people will be a springboard to a better way of life for him. I am hoping and praying with all my might.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My favorite music of 2008

I posted this on my Facebook page back in December. Thought I'd reprise it here...

I don't really like making these lists, but I'll bite and throw out these records as my favorite from 2008. Not necessarily the "best" albums of the year. But albums that I really enjoyed listening to. And still enjoy listening to.

FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2008 (in no particular order...honest):

Kathleen Edwards: Asking For Flowers
Collin Herring: Past Life Crashing
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges
Old 97's: Blame It On Gravity
Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago (technically first released in 2007, but...)
Earlimart: Hymn and Her
Drive-By Truckers: Brighter Than Creation's Dark
Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes
The Hold Steady: Stay Positive
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: Cardinology
Sun Kil Moon: April
Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Rattlin' Bones
Blitzen Trapper: Furr
Calexico: Carried to Dust
Conor Oberst: Conor Oberst
Bob Mould: District Line
Anathallo: Canopy Glow (A late addition...but very deserving!!)
The Raconteurs: Consolers of the Lonely (Another late addition. How did I miss this one?)


One Day As a Lion: One Day As a Lion EP


Whiskeytown: Strangers Almanac


Taylor Swift: Fearless

4 months down...

Today marks 120 days since I've had a drink. Four months without alcohol. And you know what? I don't really miss it. Have there been times when I've said to myself, "Man, I could use a glass of wine to take the edge off"? Absolutely. But for the most part, the lack of alcoholic beverages in my life is no big deal. And whether he recognizes it or not, this should be sending a message to my son about self-medication.

"Be the change you want to see in your loved one," was the directive the family therapist in my son's rehab facility gave us. Meaning that it was hypocritical for my wife and I to tell my son not to self-medicate and then turn around and have a glass of wine or a beer or a margarita after a stressful day. It makes a lot of sense, really. And it's really a small sacrifice to make in the grand scheme of things. (The icing on the cake is the fact that I've lost 17 pounds over the last few months. I'm sure the lack of alcohol has been a contributing factor to the weight loss.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


That's not me sleeping. It's my son. And he's damn good at it. Going to bed in the wee small hours of the morning and sleeping until late afternoon is his specialty. And it's getting old. Not sure what to do about it, but something has to happen. I realize that he's an addict, and that his recovery is affecting his system. But things are getting ridiculous. He's starting school in a week or so and I don't see how he's going to pull it off. Here's hoping a miracle comes our way soon. Maybe that miracle can bring a job with it, too. Because my kid could use one. Hey... At least he's alive, right?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Static in the attic

"Sometimes I feel like the static in the attic
Is making me just confused."
--From the song "Cobwebs" by Ryan Adams

I've definitely been dealing with some static in the attic over the last few days. Struggling, for sure. The end of the holiday break, my son's addiction, the uncertainty of the future, finances, etc., etc., etc. I don't quite understand why I got dealt the hand I did, and coping with it seems to be getting harder, not easier. It hurts. And every day seems to be a struggle lately. Maybe it's just the winter blahs piling on top of everything else. I hope so.

By the way, today is my youngest son's thirteenth birthday. I don't know where the time has gone.