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.