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.