Saturday, December 24, 2011

Home for Christmas

As I type this post, my wife is on her way to Ann Arbor to pick up our son. He is coming home for Christmas weekend and we will take him back to his sober living house on Monday. Although I'm sure it will be a bit stressful, we're all really looking forward to spending Christmas together. (There are also three cats in this house who will be thrilled to see their buddy again.)

Today we will decorate our tree. It's been up since last weekend, but we've been waiting for our son to come home before we decorate it. After that, we'll probably just hang out, wrap gifts, watch football, and enjoy being together at home.

Tomorrow we will exchange gifts and I will cook up a nice Christmas dinner.

Nothing too overhwelming. Just a nice Christmas weekend together. Fingers crossed.


On a Christmas-related note, yesterday my wife and I went to our local Kmart store and anonymously paid off the layaway balances for three people. Money has been tight for us lately, but we know there are a whole lot of other families in much worse shape than us. Hopefully our gesture will help make this Christmas a little happier and a little easier for those three people and their families. And being "Secret Santas" made my wife and I feel pretty special inside.

'Tis the season.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Majoring in "Recovery"

So, my son has been living in a sober living house in Ann Arbor for almost two weeks now. Things have been up and down with him, but at least I'm pretty sure that he's clean and sober. At least nobody at the house has told us otherwise (they do drug test the residents). So that's a good thing.

Monday was his 22nd birthday, and we weren't able to be with him to celebrate. But we did go out and visit him on the Saturday before, took him to lunch, bought him a bus pass, and did some shopping at the mall. It was nice to hang out with him, and even nicer for him and his brother to have some quality time together.

I think my son is a bit disappointed to be back in Michigan. In a perfect world, I think he would've liked to have stayed in Palm Springs, with the warm California weather and the new friendships he had made. But he didn't follow the rules, and I think he thought heading back east was his only option. The house he's living in now is nowhere near as nice as the sober living house he was living in in California. He went from living in a pretty plush place to living in the basement of a house that's much--how shall I say it?--less comfortable. But I guess that's a consequence of his actions.

I do think Ann Arbor is a good place for him to be, though, assuming he embraces it, works hard on his recovery, and gets/stays serious about moving forward on the right path. I told him the other day to think in his mind that he's attending the University of Michigan and majoring in "Recovery." He's in a great college town and living in a house that's probably the kind of house he'd be living in if he was living off-campus as a student. He needs to "go to class" every day, study hard, and work towards that Recovery "degree." It would be nice if he found some kind of work, too, because Lord knows my finances will not be able to support both him and the rest of the family much longer.

This week will be tough. With Christmas coming up a week from today, my wife and I haven't quite figured out what to do about our son coming home for the holiday. He said the house manager told him he would be allowed to come home for two days. While that sounds great, and we'd love to have him spend some time with us--he hasn't been in our house in almost four months--there will more than likely be a huge amount of stress associated with such a visit.

My wife and I are in the process of coming up with a list of "boundaries" that we would expect our son to follow if he comes home for Christmas. While we don't want to be too controlling, the simple fact of the matter is that if he's going to be spending time here, he's going to have to follow house rules. That may even include not going to visit friends who live nearby, because some of those friends are still doing the kinds of things that our son just can't do if he wants to stay clean. One stupid decision could get him kicked out of the house in Ann Arbor; then he would be in an incredibly difficult position.

I'm not sure if he'll agree to the rules we set forth. But if he doesn't, we will probably just tell him we'll pick him up on Christmas morning, let him spend the day at home, and then take him back later in the evening. I guess the choice will be his.

The holidays are always stressful. But when you're the parent of an addict, that stress can be multiplied exponentially. And then some. I have to remember that my life--and my recovery--are important, too. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that. But I'm working harder on staying focused on me. I think I need to major in "Recovery," too.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tough morning

I think I just had some sort of mini breakdown. Haven't cried that much in a long time. Sometimes it's the only way to feel better. So happy to have such a wonderful wife. She helped me through it.

One day at a time.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Back to Michigan

Through a series of unfortunate events, my son's California treatment/sober living days have come to an end after a little more than three months. There's no need to detail everything that happened, but the unfortunate events did include another relapse, which resulted in a positive drug test and my son's expulsion from his sober living house. Rules are rules, and if you break them you will suffer the consequences. At some point, that has to sink in, doesn't it?

During the series of unfortunate events, one thing did happen that made me extremely proud of my son. A girl he knows, who is also in recovery and was also kicked out of her sober living house, texted him late one night from her hotel room. She told him that she had just taken all of her meds. My son reacted by waking up someone in his house who had a car, going to the hotel, and taking the girl to the hospital. The woman who runs the sober living house told my wife that our son "saved that girl's life." That's pretty powerful.

So tomorrow, my son flies from Palm Springs back to Michigan. He's coming "home," but he's not coming home. Arrangements have been made for him to move into a sober living house in Ann Arbor, which is about an hour's drive from where we live. The house appears to be a decent place--though nowhere near as nice as the Palm Springs digs--and the guy who owns it is in recovery himself. It's near a bus line (Ann Arbor has a great bus system), near the University of Michigan Addiction Treatment Services (which has top-notch outpatient care), and is reasonably priced. Ann Arbor is also supposed to be a very recovery friendly city, with lots of AA and NA support meetings to attend, a large recovering community, and a strong support network. I think there should be some decent job opportunities there, too.

This whole "move" is happening pretty quickly, and my wife and I were scrambling a bit yesterday, making sure our son got all his "extra" stuff to the UPS Store so they could pack it and ship it back here. (He ended up with more stuff in Palm Springs than he originally took there because we had sent him things he had needed/wanted over the course of his stay there.) One observation: Having a bunch of clothes and books and a guitar packed and shipped from California to Michigan isn't cheap.

Late tomorrow afternoon, we will pick our son up at the airport, take him to his new sober living house, and help him get situated. It'll be great to see him, but I wish it was under different circumstances. I'm also not sure how it's going to be having him in sober living so close to home. Yes, it's an hour away, but it's way closer than California. I'm pretty sure he might lobby to come home at some point. But that really isn't an option anymore. At least not until he gets some quality sober time under his belt and gets back to working the program seriously.

December is going to be a tough month. My son's 22nd birthday is only eight days away. And, of course, Christmas is right around the corner. I'm not sure how these days will be celebrated, but I guess we'll figure it all out as it comes.

I really hope this Ann Arbor thing works out, because it's probably the last option we can afford. The last few months--the last few years, really--have drained us financially, and at some point my son is going to have to take full responsibility for his recovery; if he ultimately chooses to recover. My wife and I have to do what's best for us and for our younger son. We have lives, too.

The next couple of days will be interesting and challenging. But then, being the parent of an addict is always interesting and challenging. That's the nature of the beast. If you're reading this post, please take a moment to say a prayer or think a good thought for my family...especially for my son.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


My son was kicked out of his Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) because he didn't go yesterday. He was pretty much on "final probation" after not showing up for three days in a row last week. They told him if he chose not to show up again, he was out. So, it's not like he wasn't warned. But it's a shame, because he still had multiple days left that the insurance company was going to cover. Oh, well.

I'm just so frustrated. As I told a friend in an e-mail yesterday, my wife and I have done everything we can possibly do to help our son. It just seems like he's not interested in doing what he has to do to turn his life around. He seemed to be doing well for the first month or so that he was out in Palm Springs. But now? Not so much. He talks a good game at times. But he doesn't follow through on anything he says he's going to do. I'm so tired of carrying his baggage. I think it's time to just let him go.

By the way, we never heard my son's voice on Thanksgiving. We tried to call him and he didn't answer his phone. He did send my wife a text message at one point that said "Happy Thanksgiving." My wife replied and asked him to call us, but he never did. I guess that was his choice.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving Day and I will confess to feeling more than a little sad. I feel like there's a big hole in my heart because my son is in California and won't be with us today. Yesterday, while doing some early cooking for today's big meal, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably while cutting and de-seeding acorn squash. Pretty much every time I think of my son lately, I start crying. Go figure.

I hope my son is able to share this day with other people in recovery. The woman who runs his sober living house told us that she has a big Thanksgiving dinner at one of her houses for everyone who is still in town for the holiday. And there is an open house at the IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) facility, too. So there will be places for my son to celebrate Thanksgiving. I just hope he takes advantage of the opportunities.

Today I will cook my ass off and watch some football. Then I will sit down and eat (too much) with my wonderful wife, my younger son, and my family. My oldest sister, who lives in New York, came to town for a surprise visit and will be here for dinner. Joining us will be my parents, my other sister, and my brother. It's been a while since my parents and all my siblings have been in the same spot for Thanksgiving. So I will try my best to enjoy this day.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 21, 2011


More lies from my son today. Very disappointing. I know the lies are just another part of my son's disease. But that doesn't take away the pain that's inflicted every time he lies to me and my wife.

No need to go into details about what happened. Just know--if you didn't already--that trusting an addict is something that can't be done. It doesn't matter if the addict is a stranger, a co-worker, a neighbor, a sibling...or even your own son. It doesn't matter if the addict is in the same house, or if they're 2,300 miles away. In their world, honesty is not the best policy. They just do and say whatever they have to in order to get whatever it is that they want. It's so incredibly selfish. And it's part of the disease.

The old sports saying says, There's no "I" in "team." That may be true. But there is an "I" in "addict." And all it cares about is itself.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When will it sink in?

It's been 89 days since my son went to Palm Springs, California, for his latest round of treatment. After 39 days of inpatient treatment at Michael's House, he moved into sober living. That happened on October 1st. Almost two months ago. And yet, after nearly three months total in Palm Springs, my son still doesn't seem to "get" it.

His recent relapse was disappointing, but it was still something I could deal with. Relapse is part of the disease, and it is a very small percentage of addicts who get sober without ever relapsing. That's just an unfortunate fact of life. The things I do have tremendous difficulty dealing with, though, are the things my son does--or doesn't do--that seem to indicate he just doesn't care. For example...

While he's been away, my son has overdrawn his bank account multiple times. This is the account my wife and I deposit money into so our son has money to buy groceries and other essentials. We've told him numerous times to keep better track of his money, and to be careful not to overdraw the account. But he just keeps doing it. And it costs us money in bank fees whenever it happens. Last night my wife told him to send us his debit card and we would just wire him money from now on. That costs $5.00 a pop, but it's way cheaper than the bank fees.

A week ago yesterday, my son had a first appointment scheduled with a new therapist who came highly recommended by another family whose son is in recovery. We sent the therapist a check to pre-pay for the session. But guess what? Our son decided to just not go. No phone call to the therapist or anything. He just didn't go.

This past Friday, we got a call from the head of the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at Michael's House. He said our son hadn't been to IOP in three days, and that if he didn't call or show up by Monday they were going to discharge him, because he wasn't living up to the terms of the program. When my wife called our son to tell him this, he said he's been having trouble sleeping and hadn't been able to get up in time to go to IOP. That story sounds a bit fishy to me, but at least he called the head of the IOP late Friday afternoon and told him he would be there on Monday. Will that actually happen? We'll have to wait and see.

It's these types of things that make me wonder if my son really cares about getting sober. Or if he thinks he's just on vacation out in California for a while on our dime. To be perfectly honest, my wife and I are very close to telling him that we're cutting him off. No more money, no more assistance with anything. That may seem harsh, and it would probably really hurt us to have to do that. But I'm not sure we have many choices left. We continue to be taken advantage of, and it's getting old.

If we cut him off, I can't imagine what would happen to our son. He has no job, no car, no driver's license, no other place to live. There are only nine days left in November, and when the end of the month comes there will be hard decisions to be made. Do my wife and I want to continue financing what seems like a less-than-sincere attempt at recovery? I don't think so. Can we possibly come to the incredibly painful decision to cut our son off completely? I'm not sure. But the clock is ticking.

There were two more little things that happened yesterday--which happened to be my twenty-third wedding anniversary--that really made me sad.

During an exchange of text messages with our son about the bank issues, my wife finally texted him from the restaurant we had gone to for a celebratory lunch and said, "I'm done talking about this for now. We're celebrating our anniversary." She got no message back. Nothing at all. It might sound a bit selfish, but we both thought it would've been nice if our son had at least replied with "Happy anniversary." But he didn't.

Then, late yesterday afternoon I posted a quotation to my son's Facebook wall. It was a quote that I really like, and I felt it was rather appropriate:

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it." --Bill Cosby

I was hoping my son might find some inspiration in that quote. But instead, he deleted the post from his Facebook wall. That may sound like a trivial thing, but it kind of hurt me. On the other hand, maybe he is afraid. Maybe that's why he deleted it.

I think it's going to be a tough week in our house. Thanksgiving is coming up on Thursday, and this will be the first Thanksgiving we've ever spent without our son. I'm sure there will be some tears shed. He can be a tremendous pain in the ass a lot of the time. But we do miss and love him. I just hope the whole recovery thing sinks into him soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Addiction's effect on the family

Over the last several years, I’ve thought countless times about the adverse effects my son’s addiction has had on our family; especially how it has affected our younger son. There’s no denying it: addiction is a family disease, and it takes its toll on everyone in the family.

Well, yesterday I came across one of the most powerful and moving pieces I’ve read in a long time. It was written by Nic Sheff. Nic is the son of David Sheff, the author of Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey through His Son’s Addiction—one of the best books I’ve ever read. Nic is also an author, and his first book, Tweak, was published around the same time as his father’s book. The two books tell the tale of Nic’s addiction from two different perspectives.

The piece I read yesterday was written by Nic Sheff for a website called the fix: addiction and recovery, straight up. It’s a great site, and there is plenty of good reading there. But this piece, entitled “Brother and Child Reunion” really hit home for me. The story tells how Nic’s addiction affected his little brother and sister. And his family. Needless to say, our family has experienced a lot of what Nic writes about.

Reading this piece was tough for me, and I was in tears by the time I got through it. But I am so grateful that Nic wrote it. And that I came across it. I also e-mailed the link to the story to my son in California. I asked him to do me a favor and just read the article. My hope is that maybe some of what Nic Sheff wrote will strike a chord with my son, and maybe help him realize that his addiction is not only his disease.

Do yourself (and me) a favor and take a few minutes to read this wonderful piece by Nic Sheff. Here’s the direct link:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Home for the holiday?

My wife got a text message from our son yesterday in which he asked if he was coming home for Thanksgiving. He said that "all his friends" from sober living were going home for Thanksgiving. So he wondered if he was coming home, too.

This caught us by total surprise, because having our son come home for Thanksgiving hadn't really entered our mind. When he agreed to stay in sober living through at least November, we assumed that meant he'd be in California for Thanksgiving. Maybe that was wrong on our part, but that's what we thought. And that's what my wife told him when she replied to his text message.

To be perfectly honest, we don't have the money to fly our son home for Thanksgiving and then fly him back. The expense of rehab and sober living has drained us financially. A flight from Palm Springs to Detroit at holiday time, especially on this short notice, would be completely unaffordable--if there was even a flight available.

We also wonder if in fact "all" of our son's sober living friends are indeed going home for the holiday. We find it hard to believe that everyone has the means to fly home for Thanksgiving and then fly back. These guys are from all over the country, and airfare isn't cheap. It could be that our son is just homesick; or maybe he's looking for an excuse to come home for whatever reason. We don't really know.

When my wife texted him back yesterday afternoon asking him if all his friends were really going home for Thanksgiving, our son never replied. Eighteen hours later, he still hasn't replied. So he's probably angry with us. Or maybe "all" his friends aren't really going home for Thanksgiving. Who knows. But all of this was a big stressor for me on an otherwise beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Maybe we'll hear back from our son today. Or, maybe we won't. In any case, him coming home or Thanksgiving isn't really an option. And we're reasonably sure that someone he knows will still be in Palm Springs over Thanksgiving, and that they can do something to celebrate the holiday.

This whole incident is just another example of why it's so hard to detach myself from my son's addiction. There are constantly things coming up that require some sort of action by either my wife, myself, or both of us. The only way to eliminate these issues would be to cut our son off completely; and I don't think we can really do that at this point in his recovery.

Until our son is totally self-sufficient, I think we have to be there for him to help with certain things. (Without enabling, of course.) But as long as we are always there to help him with certain things, our son may never become totally self-sufficient. It's a big, fat Catch-22 for sure.

On a brighter note, I went to an Al-Anon meeting with my wife yesterday for the second week in a row. These are the first two Al-Anon meetings I've ever been to, and I have found much comfort and support there so far. I had been to Nar-Anon meetings in the past, but found them to be much more depressing. I usually left those meetings feeling worse than I did when I walked in. Maybe it was just a "bad" meeting that I was attending. In any case, I eventually stopped going altogether. But I will keep going to this Al-Anon meeting. It really helps to share with others, and to hear the problems others in similar situations are having in their lives. It helps to know that I'm not alone.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Back to the crib"

My son was able to move back into his original sober living house yesterday and is really happy to be back. He commemorated the event on his Facebook page with this status update: "outta the crash pad, back to the crib."

He's thrilled to be back in a familiar setting, around the supportive group he knows best. And he says he's learned a lesson. We talked to the woman who runs our son's house, and she agrees. She said the incident was a huge lesson not just for our son, but for the entire house. She called it "very powerful."

Yesterday was an incredibly tough day because my wife and I were dealing with another family crisis. So it was nice to have good news about our son. A little bit of positivity can sometimes go a long way. To that end, if you happen to have a spare prayer or good thought you could send my family's way, we would greatly appreciate it.

"Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible." --Charles Caleb Colton

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unfamiliar surroundings

After a delay of a couple of days because of a shortage of space, my son finally went to another sober living house on Monday to serve out his three-day "sentence" for relapsing. So, tonight should be his last night there. That's assuming he is clean(er) tomorrow, which would allow him to move back into his original sober living house.

The temporary house is in a different part of town, so the last few days have been kind of tough for my son. He's in an unfamiliar location, so getting around town and figuring out where things are has been a challenge. He also hasn't had the benefit of getting rides to meetings from guys in his original house. But maybe this is all part of a lesson learned.

I love my son so much. And despite his relapse, I'm incredibly proud of his progress. Hopefully he can get back into familiar surroundings tomorrow, which would be a very good thing. The guys in his house are a great group, and I know their friendship and support mean a lot to my son.

Fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Relapse is part of the disease

Last night I posted the link to my blog in a new Facebook group I belong to called "The Addict's Dad." One of the members there commented on my post, saying that he likes my blog but disagreed with my statement that "Relapse is part of recovery." He said that relapse "is part of the disease; it has nothing to do with recovery."

I thought about that comment for a long time, did some research online, and have to say that I now agree with that commenter. Relapse is a part of active addiction; not a part of recovery. The addict makes a conscious choice to use again. But that doesn't necessarily mean that relapse is a horrible thing.

"Relapse should not be viewed as a failure; it is part of a learning process that eventually leads to recovery." That quote is from Susan Merle Gordon, a Ph.D. and author of "Relapse & Recovery: Behavioral Strategies for Change," a research report by the Caron Foundation, one of the nation's oldest and largest addiction treatment centers. It appears in an online article that also goes on to say: "The potential for relapse is part of the chronic disease."

I'd like to thank the commenter on Facebook for making me reflect on my earlier statement and do some research. I appreciate the education. One thing's for sure: As the parent of an addict, you're always learning.

By the way, after talking to the woman who runs my son's sober living house last night, it appears that my son did indeed smoke the herbal incense he bought. I kind of figured that was what happened, but so be it. The woman said my son was very honest--with her, at least--about what he had done, and was very upset about having done it. Hopefully this is just a bump in the road to recovery. My wife and I will pray that that's the case.

The consequences of my son having relapsed are two fold. He has to leave his current sober living house for three days. He will move to a different sober living house during that time period, and will be monitored closely. He also can't participate in his IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) for those three days. If he stays clean for three days, he can then move back into his original sober living house.

Addiction. It's always an adventure.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Relapse. Sort of.

"Relapse is part of recovery." Anyone who loves an addict who's tried to get clean has heard that phrase. In fact, I've talked about it in this blog before. And, for the most part, I think it's true. But that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

Today I found out that my son relapsed. Sort of. He went out and bought some "herbal incense"--also known as synthetic cannabis, which is legal in a lot of states--and was going to smoke it. But before he could, he inadvertently left a rolled "joint" in the bathroom of his sober living house and it was found by someone in authority.


Even though my son didn't smoke the incense, just having it was a violation of the sober living house's rules. Fortunately, this doesn't mean he's kicked out of the house. Unfortunately, it does mean that he has to leave for three days before he can resume living there.

Where will my son go? I have no idea. When my wife talked to him, he was waiting to hear from the woman who owns the house. He said she was "calling around" to see where he could go for three days. I don't know if it'll be a homeless shelter or what. I guess we'll find out soon enough, though.

This setback is disappointing, for sure. I guess the bright side is that the incense didn't get smoked. But knowing that my son took money we gave him for food and went out and bought that crap with it...well, it's just a big letdown. We also just mailed a check to cover his rent for November, so I hope he learns a lesson from this little incident and gets back on track with his recovery. And find a job.

And don't get me started on how angry it makes me that this "herbal incense" shit is sold legally all over the place. It's incredibly dangerous. Here's a recent TV news report from Georgia about the stuff:

Postscript: The more my wife and I think about this incident, the more we think maybe the story we're being told isn't totally truthful. We think there's a possibility that our son did smoke the incense, and that he's just too scared or ashamed to tell us. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now, but he's lied to us so many times over the years that it's hard not to think about the other possibilities. As I've said many times before, it'll be a long time before we're able to trust our son again. That's sad, but true.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Music therapy

Since going to Palm Springs, my son has been longing to have a guitar with him. He couldn't have one while in treatment, but when he moved into his sober living house, he started asking us if we could send him one of his guitars from home. Or if we could bring one with us when we visited.

To be perfectly honest, shipping a valuable guitar from Michigan to California--or checking one on an airplane flight--involves some risk. So my wife and I sidestepped the issue for a few weeks.

After visiting him, though, I felt like him having a guitar in Palm Springs would be a great thing. So I found an inexpensive Epiphone acoustic guitar on that had pretty good reviews and had it shipped to my son in Palm Springs. It arrived yesterday.

This morning, one of his Palm Springs friends posted a photo of my son playing the guitar, with a caption that said my son was singing and playing while she heals.

Seeing that photo and reading that caption litereally brought tears to my eyes. Music therapy is a good thing.

"Family Weekend" at Michael's House

It's been almost a week since my wife, younger son, and I got back from our Palm Springs visit, and I've been meaning to put together a blog post about it. Unfortunately, the long trip home, jet lag, a nasty cold, trying to catch up at work, and my home DSL service going out for three days all got in the way. But those things have all passed, so I'm going to try and get down to business now.

The Michael's House "Family Weekend" program we attended took place at the Hyatt in Palm Springs from Friday, October 14th through Sunday, October 16th. It was an intense, emotional, and draining experience, full of education and hope. Our journey to and from California was long and tiring, but it was well worth it.

It's pretty hard to put into words how wonderful it was to see our son after more than 50 days. When we met up with him downtown on Thursday night, it was great. Needless to say, there were lots of hugs involved. And seeing him and his little brother reunited was even greater.

The "Family Weekend" program went from 8:30am to 4:00pm each day, and was facilitated by Alan J. Massey, who spent 17 years at the Betty Ford Center as a counselor, manager, and supervisor. He's also a recovering alcoholic, with 37 years of sobriety under his belt. Definitely an excellent set of qualifications! Two therapists from Michael's House also helped out by leading some of the group sessions.

There were about 30 or so people participating in the program, and all of them had different amounts of addiction "experience" under their belts. But they were all there for the same reason: because they care deeply about their addicted loved ones. I have to say, though, I think being "veterans" who have been dealing with our son's addiction for several years made the three days a little easier for us. I think it was a lot tougher for the people who were relatively new to all this; especially the couple who just recently found out that their son was using drugs. (They sent him to Michael's House just days after they discovered he was using, and they were still very much in shock.)

The family program consisted of educational aspects combined with group therapy sessions. On Friday, family members met the Michael's House staff; talked about what dealing with addiction has been like; watched a great DVD called Pleasure Unwoven: An Explanation of Brain Disease of Addiction; heard a presentation called "Healthy Self-Addictive Self"; and had a breakout group therapy session.

On Saturday, the patients joined the program, which included a "Shameful-Shamelessness" presentation; a discussion of family roles and a role playing skit (which my younger son participated in); a communication talk and exercise; and the most powerful breakout group therapy session of the weekend. This group session consisted of the addict and their family sitting in the middle of the rest of the group, who were seated in a circle. The addict and their family members then took turns telling each other: 1.) What they've learned about themselves since they arrived at Michael's House (or at the "Family Weekend"); 2.) What issues and concerns they have; and 3.) What their plans are for their recovery. (Yes, family members need to go through recovery, too.)

There was a lot of brutal honesty during this group session. A lot of tears and apologies, too. For me, the most powerful thing was hearing my own son be so honest with my wife, younger son, and me. And hearing my younger son talk very matter of factly to my older son. Pretty emotional stuff, for sure. My family also had the "honor" of going first during this session. The therapist leading the group later told me that he knew we'd do a good job and that he wanted us to set the tone for the whole group. Chalk that up to experience, I guess.

On Sunday, there were more breakout group sharing sessions; a presentation on "Relapse and Recovery"; and a breakout session to discuss what our plans were in case of relapse. We then wrapped things up with everyone talking about what the highlight of the weekend was for them.

The Michael's House "Family Weekend" program was so incredibly beneficial. And we met so many lovely people from all over the country. It was so nice to be around so many people going through the exact same thing we are going through. For at least one weekend, nobody had to feel "alone."

The family program was a lot of hard work, but we managed to squeeze some fun in, too. Among the highlights was going on the Palm Springs Tramway ride on Saturday night. This is a 2.5 mile ride up a mountain on the world's largest rotating tramcar. At the summit is Mount San Jacinto State Park, which is just beautiful. The view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking as well (see photo below). We took our son's roommate--a great kid from Atlanta--with us on this little trip and we all went out to Pizza Hut for dinner afterwards. It was a fantastic time.

We also went out to lunch with our son's therapist from Michael's House on Friday afternoon. It was nice to meet him in person, and we got to thank him for everything he did for our son.

On the last day, our son gave us a quick tour of Michael's House, which is actually a pretty nice place for a rehab facility. We also took our son grocery shopping, then went back to his house and hung out by the pool with some of his housemates for a bit. They all seem like great guys.

While we were there, one of his housemates told us that their sober living house is only a half block away from the house where Elvis and Priscilla Presley spent their honeymoon! So we went and checked it out on our way back to the hotel. (By the way, the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway house has its own website!)

Saying goodbye to our son was tough, but we left Palm Springs early Monday morning knowing that he is in a good place right now, surrounded by good people. He also seems committed to staying sober and plans on staying at the sober living house at least another month (through November).

This is the most hope we've felt in several years, and it feels very good. Palm Springs is a very beautiful place. In more ways than one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

California here we come

It's been 50 days since my son went to Palm Springs, California, to start treatment. He spent 39 days at Michael's House before moving into a really nice sober living house, where he's been for 11 days. (If you want to see just how nice the sober living house is, check out the photos here.) So far, things are going very well.

Tomorrow my wife, younger son, and I head off to California to visit. We will also participate in the "Family Weekend" program at Michael's House. It'll be a long weekend, and it won't all be pleasure. The family program runs from 8:30am to 4:00pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So it'll be like being at work or in school all weekend long. But we hope it'll be a tremendous educational experience for all of us. And we'll be sure to have some fun in the late afternoons and evenings, too.

I can't wait to see my kid.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

37 days

Thirty-seven days ago, my son got on a plane and flew to Palm Springs to start treatment for his addiction and depression at Michael's House. Thirty-seven days later, he's clean and feeling better. That's pretty damn incredible.

In two days, he's being discharged from Michael's House and moving into a sober living house in Palm Springs, where's he's expected to be for at least 30 days. And in two weeks, I'm pretty sure that my wife, younger son, and I are heading to California to participate in the "Family Weekend" program at Michael's House. That's another big expense, but it's one way we can participate in the recovery of someone we love dearly. And you can't really put a price on that.

Thirty-seven days. Every one of them, one day at a time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I really hope this investment pays off

My wife and I are not wealthy people. Yes, we live in one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, but we are not wealthy. In fact, our income falls well below the median income for both individuals and families living in our community. We spent 16 years living in one of the smallest houses in our entire area (it was less than 900 sq. ft.) and only moved up to a bigger house about seven years ago. (A house that's now worth about half what we paid for it.) We desperately need a new car. Our two cars have a combined age of 24 years, and one of them is literally being held together with tape in certain places. We have much needed house repairs that we've put off for quite a while. You get the picture. Bottom line: Money has always been tight for us.

So yesterday, when we had to make a rather substantial payment to the treatment facility our son is in, it was tough. Insurance not covering our son's room and board because they think he's "medically stable" and capable of receiving the rest of his treatment on an outpatient basis is total bullshit. But there are lots of things that are total bullshit when it comes to insurance companies and substance abuse/mental health treatment. So we deal with it, bite the bullet, and pull out the credit card. (That's what credit cards are for, right?)

The payment we made yesterday was in addition to the initial payment we made when our son was admitted. And this most recent payment only brings us up-to-date through today. We'll still owe for more room and board after our son's residential treatment is completed. That's about another two weeks' worth of room and board. Then we'll get to pay his sober-living house rent for at least a month. And that isn't cheap, either.

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that addiction hurts people in different ways. The emotional damage this disease inflicts upon the loved ones of addicts is bad enough. But there is also a financial burden, even if you have health insurance. This is now the third time we've paid thousands of dollars for our son to go to rehab. And even though it's painful, and even though it totally fucks up our budget, and even though it will greatly affect our financial future, we continue to pay the money. Because we love our son and want him to get the help he needs.

That being said, this will probably be the last time we can afford to do this. Unless I win the lottery or something, I can't imagine being able to pull this off again. It's just not realistic. So I really hope this investment pays off.


UPDATE: My son's latest treatment plan is a compromise of sorts. Instead of staying two additional weeks in the residential treatment facility--as his therapist first recommended--he's agreed to stay one more week. (Hey...Less room and board!) After that, he will move into a sober-living house in Palm Springs for a month and do an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). After that month is up, my wife and I aren't sure what the next step will be. But we're trying not to think that far ahead right now.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some better news

Over the last few days, things have improved a bit with regards to my son's situation.

He called the day after he hung up on us and apologized for having done so. He also said he would stay in Palm Springs an additional two weeks--as recommended by his therapist--so he can do an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) at Michael's House. He will be staying at Michael's House while doing the IOP, so that's a good thing.

Unfortunately, insurance won't cover any additional room and board for our son because he is now "medically stable." In fact, this stipulation kicked in several days ago. So for several days, we've been racking up room and board charges of $195.00 a day for our son. And we'll continue to do so for as long as he stays at Michael's House. We are not wealthy people, so this is definitely a financial strain for us. But our son's treatment is important to us, so we'll bite the bullet and figure out how to pay for this and the other charges our insurance company won't pay for. Maybe we'll have a bake sale or something. (Who wants to buy a few thousand brownies?)

One more thing: We talked to our son again last night and now he even says he'll "think about" staying in Palm Springs to do his transitioning into sober living. This is a small victory, although I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he decides he wants to move back to Michigan to do this. We shall see.

One day at a time. That really is the only way to tackle things like this.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Feeling Yourself Disintegrate"

Unfortunately, the other shoe is dropping with my son's situation. In a couple of different ways. First off, insurance isn't covering as much of his treatment as my wife and I were initially told they would, so it's kind of a financial nightmare at this point. In addition, our son called us last night and seems to have done a total about-face, saying he wants to come home on his discharge date (which is supposed to be 9/24), as opposed to staying out in Palm Springs to do his "transitioning."

His therapist called us and said he really wants our son to stay in residential treatment for an additional two weeks--which we'd have to pay for out of pocket--but that if he isn't on board, then we'd just be wasting our money. We're supposed to talk to our son tonight to try and figure everything out. If we can't get him to commit to staying in Palm Springs for additional treatment and his transitioning into a sober-living facility, I guess my wife and I will have to decide if we're ready to tell him that he'll be on his own out in California. That would seem to be the only other option, because we certainly don't intend to pay for him to fly home and put him back in a no-win situation, amongst people who are a negative influence and the dope houses that are just a short walk away.

So, after three weeks of relative calm, the stress is building again. Tonight's phone call ought to be interesting.

UPDATE: Our son called. We tried to explain to him that both his therapist and us want him to stay in Palm Springs longer, to get more treatment and more sobriety under his belt. He argued with us about it for about five minutes. Then he hung up on us.


On a brighter note, my wife and I took a wonderful four-day road trip to St. Louis this past weekend. Without kids. It was a trip to celebrate my 50th birthday and the purpose of the trip was to see two of our favorite musical acts: Kathleen Edwards and Bon Iver. In addition to being the opening act, Kathleen is also the girlfriend of Bon Iver's frontman, Justin Vernon. She has also become sort of a friend of ours. Our friendship developed from us having attended several of her shows over the years, talking to her after those shows, e-mailing back and forth, etc.

We had a great time, and the night was more like a religious experience than a concert. The highlight of Kathleen's set was her dedicating the last song to my wife and me. The song is a cover of the Flaming Lips' "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate," which is a song about addiction. When my wife and I heard the dedication--which was a total surprise--we both cried. What a beautiful, thoughtful thing for Kathleen to do. It was also a total fluke that someone I knew at the show happened to capture the dedication and song on his camera phone. The video isn't great--he wasn't super close to the stage--but the audio is fine. You can see/hear for yourself below. You can also watch Bon Iver's performance of "Perth," the opening song of their set.

We also had the pleasure of going backstage after the concert and hanging out for a bit. Getting to meet Justin Vernon was pretty cool. He's an incredibly nice guy, and he signed a setlist for us, too (see photo below).

All in all, it was a very memorable night.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Three years sober

Three years ago today, while my son was in rehab for his heroin addiction, I gave up drinking.

"Be the change you want to see in your son." That's what the family therapist at the rehab facility told me.

So I made that commitment 1,095 days ago. I made a small change in my life to try and set a positive example for both my sons. As a father, it was the least I could do.

Sobriety is badass.

One day at a time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Good things for my birthday

Today is my birthday. And for the second time in the last four birthdays, my son won't be here to help me celebrate because he's in rehab. But this time feels different. Very different. And that's a good thing.

My son called last night, and at the end of our conversation he wished me a happy birthday, saying he was sorry he couldn't be home for it. But I told him not to worry about that, and that him feeling better was the best birthday present I could possibly ask for. And that's the truth. Screw the material things. They're just things. But my son feeling better? That's really something. A good thing.

The kid still sounds great, too, although he admitted to being a little homesick. I'd say that's probably normal, because this is the longest he's ever been away from home, or away from family. And I'm sure he misses his cats (probably more than he misses us). But again, just like last Saturday, at no point during our conversation did he ask to come home. I think my son is in a very good place right now. And I think he realizes that, too. Another good thing.

My son might be absent from our house on my birthday, but he has an incredible presence in my heart. All good things considered, this might be my best birthday ever.


I'm 50 years old today. (Damn, that's old.) To celebrate, my wife and I are embarking on a four-day road trip/getaway. It starts tomorrow with a drive to suburban Chicago to see our nephew play in his high school football game. We'll spend the night at my wife's brother's house, then get up on Saturday morning and head to St. Louis for a couple of days. We're staying in a really cool hotel, and the big birthday celebration will be capped off by going to the Kathleen Edwards/Bon Iver concert at The Pageant in St. Louis on Sunday night. Good things, for sure.

I'm not positive--my memory is total crap because I'm so old--but I think this will be the longest trip without kids that my wife and I have taken in 22+ years of marriage. Let's hope we can stand each other for four days!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The best phone call ever?

My wife and I were having dinner with some friends at their house last night when my wife's cell phone rang. Because our son's therapist had told us that our son would probably call us this weekend, my wife excused herself to check her phone. When I heard her answer the call, then say, "It's great to hear your voice," I knew it was our son.

I stayed with our friends, sitting in the family room, while my wife talked to our son. The whole time I was sitting there, I was trying to continue carrying on a conversation with our friends while thoughts about my son and the phone call going on in the other room raced through my head. It was an anxious few minutes, for sure.

Eventually, my wife returned to the family room and handed her phone over to me. In the few seconds that elapsed between the time I took the phone from my wife and the time I said "Hello" to my son, I was even more anxious. I just didn't know what to expect to hear on the other end of the line.

When I finally started talking to my son, I was shocked. His voice sounded so different. He sounded refreshed and like a totally different person. We talked for several minutes and he told me several things that made me feel so hopeful:
  • He's doing well.

  • He's completely off the Suboxone he had been taking for nearly 3 years.

  • He really likes his therapist.

  • The treatment facility is really nice.

  • And, finally... He feels "normal."
That last one is a big one, for sure. It's something I haven't heard my son say in years. And it was so great to hear it.

My son and I wrapped up our phone call and my wife and I continued with our rare night out. There was no doubt we were feeling pretty good about things at that point.

Then, about halfway through dinner, I realized something that made me feel even better: At no point during the conversation with my son did he say anything negative. There was no "I hate this place" or "Get me out of here" or "I want to come home." This was the first "first phone call" from any rehab or hospital or three-quarter house my son has been in that didn't include him saying one of those things. He was totally positive throughout the entire call.

It was tough not hearing our son's voice for 11 days. But the phone call we got from him last night was well worth the wait. It was so amazing to hear him sound as good as he did. He really did sound like a totally different person. I know that might sound ridiculous, but it's the only way I can describe what I heard.

Obviously, my son is not "cured." In fact, he has a long way to go in his recovery, which will continue for the rest of his life. But the phone call from him last night was so incredibly uplifting. And it reassured my wife and I that he's in a good place, safe, clean and sober, and getting the help he needs.

That phone call last night? It might just be the best phone call I've ever gotten.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thank you to the angels

It's been 11 days since we put our son on a plane and sent him off to Michael's House Treatment Center in Palm Springs, California. It's something that had to happen. After a bizarre incident during our family vacation in northern Michigan, and some evidence of drug and alcohol use upon our return, my wife and I could see that things were spiraling out of control again for our son.

Prior to sending him to treatment, we finally gave him the ultimatum that we had previously failed to follow through on: either go to rehab or leave our house. After initially saying he'd go to rehab, our son slept a day away (literally a day; as in 24 hours), and then reneged, saying he could get clean on his own.

We told him that wasn't an option and that he would have to leave. He did leave, too, albeit reluctantly. He packed up a duffle bag and took off, on foot, for a friend's apartment. He asked for a ride (he doesn't drive), but we said no. He asked for some money, but we said no. It was hard to watch him leave with nothing, calling us names as he walked down the block. But as much as it hurt, for the first time in a long time we felt like we had taken control of OUR lives.

Our son was gone for a couple of days. He would text once in awhile to ask for money. Or to say he was hungry. Or that he needed cigarettes badly. But we stood our ground and told him his only option was to stay away or go to rehab. We had taken his house key, so we kept the doors locked, just in case he showed up back at the house. We weren't backing down. We had finally decided that enough was enough. Thankfully, a couple days later our son told us that he would go to treatment. So we let him come home.

While our son was gone, my wife and I had continued our search for a rehab facility, which had begun several days earlier when we first gave our son the ultimatum. For those of you who've never done it, finding a residential treatment center for your loved one is a little bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. Only harder. Not only did we have to find a facility that was right for our son, but we had to find a facility that was insurance friendly. I know this might sound hard to believe, but insurance companies and substance abuse treatment don't really mix well.

We considered the place our son had gone to last time (Brighton Hospital, about an hour away), but they said our insurance company (still) didn't play nice with them. We also considered several other places scattered around the metro Detroit area and the state of Michigan. We even looked Hazelden in Minnesota, but insurance was an issue there as well. It was a total nightmare. My poor wife must've spent three straight days on the phone with rehab facilities, our insurance company, the HR rep at my job, and my son's therapist. Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time online searching for places that could help our son. We needed to find somewhere to send him!

During this time, I had reached out to Ken Seeley, an interventionist who used to appear on the A&E TV show Intervention. Ken was my favorite interventionist on that show and I had friended him on Facebook a few years ago. I had even e-mailed him a year or so later when my son was struggling to see if he could help. At the time, he had me call a representative of his new company, Intervention 911, and we talked about possible treatment options for my son. Unfortunately, everything we talked about was just too expensive to consider.

This time I e-mailed Ken and asked him if he could recommend any treatment centers in Michigan that could help my son with his addiction and depression (known in the field as "co-occurring disorders"). Ken finally got back to me and told me that a place called Michael's House in Palm Springs, California, would be the perfect place for my son, and that I should call a gentleman with Foundations Recovery Network--the parent company of Michael's House and three other treatment centers. This man could help us, Ken said.

I was a bit surprised at Ken's e-mail. Palm Springs is 2,300 miles away, and after looking at Michael's House's website, I was pretty convinced that there was no way in hell we could send out son there. The cost would be a huge factor. But my wife and I decided to call the guy from Foundations Recovery Network (FRN) anyway, just to see what he had to say.

What transpired after that can only be described as some kind of miracle. Seriously. The guy at FRN was incredibly understanding and helpful. He knew exactly what we were going through and said that he could make treatment at Michael's House a reality for our son. Because of contracts FRN has with several insurance companies--including ours--the treatment at Michael's House could actually be affordable for us. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It was like we were put in touch with angels to guide us somewhere we'd never been before. FRN even talked to our insurance company and got confirmation that our son's treatment would indeed be covered. Not 100 percent, but to an extent that made the whole thing incredibly affordable for us.

After a couple of days of talking to our guardian angel at FRN, and waiting for a bed to open up at Michael's House, we got word that Tuesday, August 23rd--which was two days away--would be the day we'd be sending our son to Palm Springs.

The next hurdle, unfortunately, was finding a last-minute flight for him. Getting to Palm Springs isn't super easy to begin with, because their airport is so small. You have to take a flight to Phoenix or Salt Lake City or Denver, and then take a smaller plane to Palm Springs. I spent hours online looking at flight options and couldn't find one that worked. I was totally frustrated.

I sent our contact at FRN an e-mail to tell him I didn't know if we'd be able to get our son to Palm Springs on Tuesday. His response? "We have a great travel agent we work with. I'll get them on it right away." Again, it was like an angel was at work here. But it got even better. Our contact called my wife to tell her the travel agent could definitely get a flight for our son, and asked if we wanted them to book the flight for us. My wife said we had no problem with them booking the flight, but that the cost was a concern for us. (We didn't know if there would be a surcharge involved for getting a premium seat on a last-minute flight, or how much the flight would cost...or anything.) At that point, our FRN contact told my wife: "I talked to my boss and he said we can write the flight off." That's right. They were going to write the flight off. As in, they were going to pay for the flight. As in, flying our son to Palm Springs would cost us nothing. Not one penny.

I'm telling you, my wife and I were shocked. All of this was coming together like some kind of dream. The fact that there are people out there who want to help heal other people is so incredibly amazing. And we're so glad that we found them. It was like a tremendous weight had been lifted off our shoulders. And it felt like the first thing that had gone right for us in years. We cried, but this time we were crying tears of joy.

Our son arrived safely in Palm Springs late on Tuesday night, August 23rd. At the airport he was greeted by a representative of Michael's House, who transported him to the treatment center. Michael's House also called us--at about 1:45am our time--to let us know our son was safe and sound.

Eleven days later, my wife and I are happy to be hearing encouraging reports from our son's therapist at Michael's House. There were some bumps early on, but things seem to be going well now and we are cautiously optimistic. To know that our son is safe, in a treatment facility that specializes in co-occurring disorders, and in the hands of people who want to help him is such a wonderful feeling. It truly is.

Thank you to the angels who helped make this happen. You have no idea how appreciative we are.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A new journey begins

As I type this note, my son is on his way to Palm Springs, California, to hopefully get the treatment he needs to start his life anew. If you're so inclined to do such things, please say a prayer for him tonight--or even right now--and whenever you might think about him. Or light a candle for him. Or both. Michigan to California is a long journey. But my son is a wonderful young man who has a long journey ahead of him. I hope he believes in himself and embraces this opportunity for change.

Special thanks to Ken Seeley and Jeffrey Seltzer of Intervention 911 and (especially) Britt Bonner and Foundations Recovery Network. You are all angels my wife and I didn't know existed. And to the staff at Michael's House: Please take good care of my son and guide him in his recovery. He's a great kid who just needs some help finding his way.

Thank you all for your support. I love you all.

And I love you, son. Here's hoping you can rest your heavy head tonight on a bed/Of California stars.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fingers crossed

Something good may be brewing. My fingers are crossed. Please cross your fingers, too. And, if you're so inclined, say a prayer for my son and my family.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Can you help my son?

I'm still in a funk today. Hopefully it'll lift soon. If not, I'll just keep fighting it off, one day at a time.

While I was eating lunch today, I thought to myself how cool it would be if I could put a classified ad in every newspaper, magazine, and medical journal read by mental health professionals. And on all the websites they visit, too. Maybe if I did that, that one person who could possibly help my son would see it. And maybe things could change a little.

I honestly believe there's someone out there who can help my son; at least with his severe depression and anxiety disorder (which I believe to be the driving forces behind his desire to self-medicate). We just haven't found him or her yet. So, if you happen to be reading this blog...

Can you help my son? For 6+ years my son has suffered from severe depression, anxiety disorder, and addiction. He has no self-esteem. No self-confidence. No desire to do anything. He feels worthless, unwanted, and incredibly lonely. There has been a suicide attempt. Psychiatric hospital and rehab stays. Countless doctors, therapists, and medications. Twelve-step programs. Three-quarter houses. Etc. But nothing has worked. There has to be someone out there who can help him. Are you a brilliant doctor who might have that one medication or treatment that might do the trick? Or a cutting-edge therapist who can reach into my son’s soul and pull out the wonderful, intelligent, loving young man who so desperately wants to see the light of day? I’m convinced there has to be someone out there who can help my kid. Please respond ASAP. We really need you. I feel like time is running out.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I'm going on hiatus for a bit. I'm feeing a bit overwhelmed by everything right now and don't really feel like talking about any of it. It's not a good feeling. Hopefully I'll get over it soon.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

We are total wusses

Over the last several hours, the text messages between my son, my wife, and I have been flying back and forth. I know. That sounds strange. I can hear people asking, "Why don't they talk to each other?" And other people are saying, "Hey, you don't even have a cell phone. How are you texting your son?" Well, in answer to the first question, texting is just how my son prefers to communicate. (Maybe it's his anxiety disorder.) And in answer to the second question, I can send and receive text messages using my laptop. So, now that that's out of the way...

My son was digging his heels in for hours, saying he wasn't going to a shelter. He wanted a ride to his friend's apartment. We said no to the ride to his friend's, but said we'd consider giving him a ride to a shelter. So he continued texting us about how miserable he was. How he had this huge pile of stuff and was sitting in a park and had nowhere to go and couldn't even go to the bathroom because he couldn't leave his stuff to find somewhere to go. And how he had called a bunch of people, but no one could give him a ride. Etc.

After hours of this, he finally called at around 10:30pm and asked if we could come and get him. We could take him wherever we wanted to take him, he said, but he didn't want to spend the night in the park. At this point my wife called the homeless shelter in Ann Arbor that the program director had recommended. Unfortunately, the intake person at the shelter said they couldn't accept our son because he isn't a resident of Washtenaw County (where Ann Arbor is located). The person on the phone was very apologetic, but explained that recent budget cuts prevent them from taking in non-residents.

We did a quick Internet search for homeless shelters in Wayne County--where we live and where the three-quarter house is--but most shelters we came up with were located in Detroit. Now, no offense to the city of Detroit, but the three-quarter house program director cautioned us against sending our son to any shelter in Detroit. "He won't make it there," he told us.

Out of options, my wife and I caved. We decided we'd go get our kid and his stuff, bring him back home for tonight, and start looking for somewhere else for him to go tomorrow. He only needs to be somewhere else until Monday, assuming he refrains from using drugs or alcohol for the next four days. The program director said that if our son comes back on Monday and his drug levels have decreased--meaning he hasn't used again--that they would take him back, although he would be put in a different house than he was in before.

So, right now my wife is on her way to the other side of town to pick our son up. I'm home, feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, defeated, and physically ill. In fact, I've felt like throwing up for the last five hours or so. This situation is something no parents should have to go through. As much as we wanted to stick to our guns and be hard-asses about what happened today, we ended up wussing out yet again. I guess the thought of our kid sleeping in a park with most of his possessions, nowhere to piss or shit, no money, and no food to eat was too much for us to handle. Maybe we're just not strong enough. We have a lot of will power when it comes to certain things, but it turns out we couldn't do what we said we were going to do this time. For better or worse, the fear of what could've happened to our son got the best of us.

It's so fucking hard being the parent of an addict. Seriously. I do not recommend it if you want to keep your sanity. Please go easy on us.

I hope the buzz was worth it

You know that roller coaster ride "up" I was so appreciative of yesterday? Well, today's the "down." Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay down.

My wife called me at work this afternoon to tell me that our kid tested positive for pot and had to leave the three-quarter house. Yup. That's right. Two days after we wrote a check for $420.00 for the next month's rent, he gets kicked out. It's just unbelievable.

Yesterday our son had jury duty. So my wife had to drive out to the other side of town, pick up him up, take him to the courthouse in downtown Detroit, and wait for him until he was finished. After he was dismissed from jury duty, our son came home for a few hours. During part of that time, he took off on his brother's bike, allegedly to go to the gas station to buy cigarettes.

I thought he was gone much longer than he should've been, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I guess that was a mistake. Because what really happened, according to my son, was that he rode to a friend's apartment, where they smoked a joint. This is because my son was depressed, because it was his old girlfriend's birthday, and he just wanted to get high.

So that's the story. The up and down continues.

As of right now, I'm not sure what's going to happen to my son. My wife and I told him if he got kicked out of the three-quarter house, he wasn't coming home; and we're sticking to that. The program director recommended a homeless shelter in Ann Arbor. Maybe that's an option. But my kid has a lot stuff with him, and no transportation.

I told my wife to tell our son to call his friend and have him drive him to the shelter. But our kid says he can't reach his friend. So evidently he's sitting outside, down the street from the three-quarter house, with his stuff. That's sad, and it breaks my heart. Maybe this will teach him a lesson, though.

I will openly admit that I may be a horrible parent for being so hard-assed this time around. But, you know what? Right now, I want nothing to do with my kid. He knew what the consequences would be if he screwed up. And he chose to smoke that joint anyway. I hope the buzz was worth it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No meeting necessary

Today was supposed to be "D-Day" for my son. Today was supposed to be the day my wife and I met with the director of the three-quarter house program to see if our son was could stay in the program or if he was going to get kicked out for not doing what he was supposed to do. But there won't be a meeting today after all.

Yesterday my wife talked to the program director, who said it appeared as though our son had "flipped a switch," and that he was now doing the required things he hadn't been doing before. Because of this development, he said we didn't need to meet today and told us our son could continue in the program. All we had to do was write a check for the next month's rent. What a huge relief.

Another huge relief: At no point during conversations and text messages with our son this past weekend did he say he wanted to come home, or that he didn't want to continue living in the three-quarter house. Could it be he's settling in and truly understanding the benefits of being there? We sure hope so. And we hope even more progress is made over the next 30 days.

So, the roller coaster ride continues. Up and down, up and down, up and down. Today, we're on an up. And we'll take it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Same old story, different house

We had a family meeting with the three-quarter house program director on Monday. Me, my wife, and our son. This was a meeting to discuss our son’s progress; or, as it turns out, the lack thereof.

We thought things had been going pretty well with our son. He had sent us text messages saying that he thought he might want to stay at the three-quarter house longer than 30 days. On Saturday he came home for a short visit and packed up more clothes and personal items (books, CDs, etc.) to take back to the house with him. And late Saturday night, he even sent my sister an e-mail telling her that the place wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be, that he had awesome roommates, etc. That e-mail really gave us hope.

Unfortunately, it seems my son has spent the last few weeks at the three-quarter house just hanging out, and not doing everything he should’ve been doing. The list of “violations” that we heard sounded all too familiar: Not getting up on time. Not looking for employment regularly. Not doing chores, or not doing them properly. Etc. It sounded like my son had taken his same old behaviors and just transferred them to another house. Which, I think, is why he thought the place wasn't so bad. But, as the program director stressed, the three-quarter house is not a place to “hang out.” There’s a routine that needs to be followed. And our kid was not following it.

The director of the house my son is staying in wanted him gone on Monday. The program director read us a text message that the house director had sent him that morning. It said our son “has to go.” But, after some discussion, the program director decided to give our son one more week to see if he can turn things around. Our son, who was pretty upset about everything that was going down, reluctantly agreed to that. To be perfectly honest, though, I’m not sure he’ll be able to turn things around, primarily because it doesn’t seem like he wants to.

So, we have another meeting scheduled for this coming Tuesday. That’s “D-Day.” If our kid has turned things around and is starting to get with the program, we’ll write a check for another month's rent and he’ll stay at the three-quarter house longer. But if he hasn’t started to turn things around by Tuesday, he’s done there. And we’ve told him that if that happens, he’s not coming home. I’m not sure where he’ll go—maybe a shelter or something—but my wife and I have pretty much come to the conclusion that we can’t keep living the way we’ve been living with our son at home. It’s just a drain on everyone. And I don’t think we can take it anymore. Now, if he turns things around, and then wants to come home, that’s something we can probably work out. But if he thinks he’s going to come back home and crawl right back into the same rut he was in before he left, he’s going to have a wake-up call coming.

I pray to God that my son will figure some things out over the next few days and start acting like someone who wants to change; who wants to mature; who wants to turn a corner and start living the way someone his age should live. But I’m not sure it’ll happen. And I’m terrified to think of what we’ll have to do if it doesn’t.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day pass

My son got a day pass to come home for a visit today. After an appointment with his therapist (on that side of town) and a haircut (on this side of town), he'll end up only being here for about eight hours. But it'll be nice to have him back on home turf for a little bit. And I'm sure our three cats will be thrilled, because I can tell they miss him a ton. I think I'll cook up some kind of special dinner tonight. Maybe some ribeyes on the grill are in order.

In other incredibly promising news, my son texted my wife yesterday and said he thinks he might want to stay at the three-quarter house for more than 30 days. He said he wants to be more independent, and I think the three-quarter house is putting him on that path. It's great that he's feeling that way. I just hope it continues, because my wife and I definitely think it would be great for him to spend at least another month there. The structure is great for him and, after three weeks, I think he's finally starting to get in a groove.

We have a family meeting with the program director on Monday afternoon. It'll be interesting to see what he has to say about my son's progress, and what recommendations he makes.

One day at a time, right?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

I'm not real big on Father's Day. Maybe it's because I don't consider myself to be a very good father. And I'm not at all close to my own father. I always wanted a great relationship with my father. It just never happened. There is a lot of hurt inside of me that was caused by my dad while I was growing up. I'm not sure if it will ever heal. But I've come to accept that.

I suppose I do/have done some things right as a father. But I feel like I've failed more than I've succeeded. That sucks, too, because I always wanted to be the best father in the world. Unfortunately, I think I'll have to settle for mediocrity.

As I type this, my wife and youngest son are up north at my wife's parents' house. And my oldest son is at his three quarter house on the other side of town. But I'm about to leave to go visit my oldest, take him out to lunch, and maybe take him shopping for some new clothes that he needs. I also got up early and baked him a couple dozen cookies. I hope he appreciates them.

So Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. Being a parent is the hardest job on this planet. Even when things go smoothly. If things don't go smoothly, it becomes even harder. Trust me. I know. I will continue to do the best that I can, and I hope that as the years go on my boys recognize the fact that I tried my damndest.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oh, well

My son's job didn't work out.

This is disappointing news, but life goes on. Hopefully another opportunity will present itself soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Great news!

My son texted my wife a little bit ago to tell us...

He'll be working as a dishwasher at a restaurant near the three-quarter house he's living in, Friday and Saturday nights from 5:00pm until close.

This really is incredible news. I called my son to congratulate him and he sounds great. Things are going well. It's such a good feeling. Thank you, higher power. Thank you.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Update on my son

My wife had to take our son to two medical appointments yesterday, so she headed out to his three-quarter house early in the morning. Between the two appointments and a mother-son shopping trip to Target, my wife ended up being gone pretty much the entire day.

But when she got home, she had good news to report. She said our son seems to be doing much better. He likes his two roommates, he's finally getting settled, and he's growing accustomed to the routine: Getting up early, doing chores, looking for work, going to a mandatory number of meetings, etc.

I was so happy to hear this. After a rough first few days, it seems like things are starting to progress in a positive direction. Hopefully this will continue.

This might sound silly, but unless you've been through something like we've been through, you can't possibly understand how wonderful hearing news like this feels. I will cherish the positivity for now. And pray for more to come.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A blast from the past

I was missing my son this morning and remembered a song I made up when he was a baby. I used to sing this song to him to help him fall asleep:

I love [son's name] more than candy
More than ice cream
More than pop.
I love [son's name] more than anything
More than anything anyone's got.

It's been one week since he moved into the three-quarter house. I really hope that the whole experience will end up being a good thing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1,000 days sober

It seems like only yesterday, but it was 1,001 days ago that I had my last drink. September 9, 2008. Four days after my son entered rehab for heroin addiction. And the day after my 47th birthday.

I don't remember what my last drink was. Probably a glass of white wine, which I was drinking pretty heavily at the time to try and help me "cope" with the fact that my then-18-year-old son was a heroin addict in a residential rehab facility.

I've told the story many times. During a family therapy session at Brighton Hospital, the therapist told me and my wife: "Be the change you want to see in your son." She said it was crazy for us to tell our son not to self-medicate with heroin or marijuana or pills, while at the same time we were drinking alcohol. Even if we were just drinking socially--and I confess, at the time I was probably a borderline alcoholic--it was still self-medication.

That made perfect sense to me. It seemed like quitting drinking was the least I could do to help my son, and it would also set a good example for my youngest son, who was 12 at the time. So on September 10, 2008, I began my sobriety.

It's kind of ironic that I'm celebrating 1,000 days sober while my son's living in a three-quarter house his addiction doctor made him move into because he tested positive for pot. Sometimes I wonder how much influence my sobriety actually has on my son. It's hard to say if it's had any effect at all. But I feel better since I quit drinking, and I definitely think having parents who don't drink is a big plus for my youngest son. So, 2.75 years later, I am committed to staying sober.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What the hell am I doing?

I didn't sleep very well last night. All the events of yesterday have me doubting myself yet again. Did I do the right thing? Did I screw up? Will the three-quarter house (eventually) work? Is it going to have a negative effect on my son? Is there a better place I should've sent him? What the hell am I doing?

Aside from the actual addiction, the hardest thing to live with when your child is an addict is the constant self-doubt. Wondering if there's something you did to contribute to the problem; or if there's something you should be doing to help fix the problem. Both of those things are horrible things to carry around with you. Especially the latter. Because when it comes right down to it, the only person who can fix the problem is the addict. As loved ones we can only try our best to help guide the addict in the right direction. But unless they truly want to change their life, it won't happen.

I think my wife and I have done almost all we can to help our son. Our son has to want to help himself. And I don't know if he does. I really don't. And that makes me so incredibly sad.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

So much for peace of mind

I enjoyed peace of mind for about 36 hours. Then everything went all to hell.

I'm so emotionally wiped out that I don't have the energy to go into great detail about the day. But a lot of it has consisted of my son sending text messages to my wife telling her that he hates the three-quarter house; that people are using drugs in the house; that someone has stolen $10.00 from him; that people in the house keep asking him for Suboxone; and--get this--that people have stolen his Pop-Tarts. Seriously. His fucking Pop-Tarts.

I don't know how much of what my son is saying is true. And it's quite possible that none of it is. During his previous stints in a sober-living facility and in rehab, we were told similar stories during the first few days. It may just be a case of an addict being uncomfortable in a situation and saying anything he can to try and get himself out of that situation. Or, some of what he says may be true. I don't know. But we've told our son to deal with what's going on by telling someone there about it. Not by texting us and asking to come home. In fact, I've told him more than once today that he's free to leave the three-quarter house if he wants to; but that if he does, he's on his own and he's not coming home.

The 36 hours or so of peace of mind I experienced was totally badass. I want to feel like that more often. I'm just not sure it'll ever happen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

"He looks better already."

Our son had to see his addiction specialist again this morning, so my wife drove out to the three-quarter house and took him to his appointment. She also took some more stuff out to him: His bike, which should come in very handy for him; a lockbox, which is required for keeping his prescription meds and valuables in; his cell phone, which he hasn't been in possession of for I can't even remember how long; and some other things. She also took him shopping for some food and other necessities while she was out there.

The report from my wife is that our son appears to be doing very well, and that he seems to be committed to the program. He was up at 8:00am this morning, which is already a giant step in the right direction. And at the doctor's appointment, the doctor said, "He looks better already."

We are cautiously optimistic. Keep those prayers and positive vibes heading our way. And his way.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Doorway to Recovery

To say it's been a very interesting couple of days around here would be an understatement.

On Tuesday, my son went to his regularly scheduled appointment with his addiction specialist, who is the doctor who writes his prescription for Suboxone (a narcotic medication used for the treatment of opioid dependence that my son takes). A condition of my son continuing on the Suboxone is complete sobriety--no use of any drugs or alcohol--and he has been told this repeatedly by his doctor.

Well, on Tuesday my son was randomly drug tested and tested positive for marijuana. Because of the dirty test, the doctor gave my son an ultimatum: Move into a three-quarter house/sober living facility by Friday--as in three days later--or lose the Suboxone prescription. Since withdrawing from Suboxone "cold turkey" can be a pretty horrible thing, my son had a pretty big decision to make. So did my wife and I.

When my wife broke the news of this development to me on Tuesday evening, I went ballistic. I let my son have it verbally. In hindsight, I was probably too harsh on him, and probably dropped about 20 more f-bombs than were necessary. But I couldn't help it. I was pissed. Incredibly pissed.

After I went off on my kid, I grilled the steaks I had been preparing for dinner, then went on a bike ride up to the local Little League diamond to watch some kids play ball. I just needed to escape for awhile. I wasn't really surprised that my son had tested positive for pot. He had gone to the Movement Electronic Music Festival in downtown Detroit the previous Saturday, and I was definitely concerned that that environment might provoke him to use. But even though I wasn't surprised he had used, I was still disappointed. I was also a bit shocked by the ultimatum the doctor gave him.

I came home from the Little League diamond, went to bed early, and pretty much avoided the whole situation until the next day. During the workday on Wednesday, I communicated with my wife a few times about what we should do. And after work we talked about it some more and started looking for potential places for my son to go. We also talked about the possibility of sending him to rehab again, in order to kick the Suboxone totally, once and for all, in a safe and monitored setting. But after doing some research online and making some phone calls, it appeared the only rehab facility that would take him in to withdraw from prescribed Suboxone was a private pay facility; and they wanted $15,000.00 up front. That wasn't an option, so my wife and son continued to look for a three-quarter house.

Luckily, one of the programs recommended by the doctor--The Doorway to Recovery--had a bed open in one of their houses. So my wife and son arranged to meet with the program director today.

This morning the three of us drove out to the Doorway to Recovery office and met with the director. He himself is a recovering addict, and my wife and I liked what he had to say. Our son, though, was still resistant. At one point, he got up and walked outside to have a cigarette. After a few minutes more of talking to the director, it became apparent that my wife and I had to convince our kid to give this program a shot. And if we couldn't do that, having him return home could not be an option.

We went outside and talked to our son and pretty much laid it on the line. We gave him two options: 1.) Give the three-quarter house a real chance. Or 2.) Find someplace else to live.

After a few minutes, our son finally came around to the three-quarter house idea. So we filled out the intake paperwork, wrote out our check ($445.00 for the first month), and then hopped in the car to follow the program director to our son's sober living facility.

The house our son will be living in is in the town of Plymouth, Michigan. The house has a total of 13 men living in it and is within walking/biking distance of a nice downtown area, lots of stores, a library, and several parks. It's a pretty nice setting, really.

While we were there, my wife and I met several of the guys living in the house. All of them seemed like very nice guys and they all told us they know exactly what our son is going through. One of them, who was sort of hand-picked by the program director to mentor our son, seemed especially well grounded and told us he'd work with our son and show him around the area.

The whole process today took around five hours. But it felt like ten times that. And I can't even begin to tell you how emotionally draining it was. As I'm typing this post, I've got tears running down my face. Some of them are tears of sadness, because it's hard to "commit" your son, whether it's to a psychiatric hospital or a rehab facility or a sober living facility. But some of the tears I'm crying are tears of joy, because I really feel like this could be a great place for my son. There is a ton of structure there, and structure is something recovering addicts need desperately. And, to be perfectly honest, my kid was getting absolutely no structure at home.

On Tuesday, I was pretty devastated to hear that the doctor gave my son such a harsh ultimatum. I thought that took a lot of balls. But tonight, I'm incredibly thankful that the doctor had the balls that maybe I don't have. I probably should've given my son a similar ultimatum a long time ago, AND followed through with it. But that really isn't as easy as it sounds. In fact, nothing about being the parent of an addict is easy. Nothing at all.

I am exhausted now and am looking forward to a good night's sleep. I am also praying that this experience goes well for my son, and that he embraces this opportunity and makes the most of it. I'm hoping he'll stay at this three-quarter house for at least 30 days, and maybe longer. And that the program gives him the structure he needs, teaches him some much needed life skills, and increases his confidence and self-esteem.

Oh... There's one more thing I'm really looking forward to: A much needed "vacation" from the world of addiction for me and my lovely wife. We so deserve it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Some progress, perhaps?

A friend of my son's, who is also in the program, moved out of his house over the weekend. He moved into an apartment at the other end of town. My son's been hanging out with this kid for the last several weeks, and it's been a really good thing for both of them, because they have some of the same issues. They get along really well, too. In fact, my son's friend told my son that he could move in with him if he gets a job and can afford to split the costs. I think this might provide a bit of motivation for my kid. At least, I hope it does.

The last couple of nights, my son has spent some time hanging out at his friend's new place. Last night, before going over there again, he told me and my wife, "You know, hanging out there was fun and it's a nice place. But there's no TV, no Internet, not much furniture. I realized how much I take for granted here." When I heard that come out of my son's mouth, I was flabbergasted. It might not sound like much to anybody else, but to me it was an indication that my son might be maturing a bit.

One more thing: Last night my wife told me that our son was telling her about hanging out at his friend's place the previous night. He told her another friend came over and that the three of them just hung out, playing poker for fun, with no alcohol and no weed. Just three guys sitting around and having a good time, without the assistance of any mood altering substances. Probably pretty unusual for three guys in their early 20s.

These things give me hope. I will take them with a grain of salt, for sure. But I am cautiously optimistic. Perhaps some progress is being made. Fingers crossed. Toes, too.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Free to a good home

So, after trying to sell those Deftones concert tickets all week, and most of the day today--see the post immediately before this one--I did something crazy with them.

After lowering the price of the tickets on Craigslist this afternoon, I got this e-mail:

If no1 will buy em ill take em 4 free so they don't go 2 waste. If u r a trusting person ill even give u an I.O.U. & hook u up w the $ n a couple wks when I get paid next, but I jus put every dime I have n my gas tank. I know it's a long shot, but figured I'd throw it out there.

Something about this e-mail got to me. So I called the phone number Jon included in his e-mail and told him he could have the tickets. For free. I think he thought I was kidding at first, because he sounded kind of like he was in shock. "Really?" he said. "Yep," I told him. "And you don't have to owe me any money, either. Just pay it forward to someone else somewhere down the road."

Even though I was out more than $115.00, giving the tickets to Jon made me feel really good inside. Here's someone who desperately wanted to go to the show, but he didn't have the money. I had spent the money in January, so it was gone long ago. I figured, Why not make a stranger happy and, at the same time, let them know that there are still kind and generous people in the world?

When Jon and his friend came to pick up the tickets, they were incredibly grateful. "This is the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me," Jon told me as I handed him the tickets. I'm not sure if it's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for him, but I'm pretty sure it might be one of the nicest. And, to top it off? Jon promised me he'd pay it forward.

Today I took a negative and I reframed it, turning it into a positive. It was a good feeling. And it was a good day.
Postscript: It's the morning after the concert, and I just got this e-mail from Jon:

Thanks again 4 the tix!!! We had a freekin blast!!!