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.


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
So fast

When the faucet spits out blood
I'll find new ways to
Wash my hands
Everybody's got a reason to
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.