Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking back on the not-so-distant past

Yesterday I posted this status update on my Facebook page:

"My blog went over 49,000 views today. And @bettyfordcenter is now following me on Twitter. Crazy."

Several friends commented on my post. Some offered their congratulations. A couple even suggested that I should write a book.

Ha! Although I was very flattered, I doubt I will ever write a book about my experiences as the father of an addict. But I will admit that the thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

You see, in addition to this blog I have a personal journal that preceded my electronic postings. That journal is more than 200 pages long, and it goes back to what I refer to as "the darkest days." The days when my family's life was a real living hell. When there was no hope in sight and I wondered if we would ever be able to survive what we were going through. It was awful period for everyone involved.

Today I found that journal on my computer and read it. Needless to say, it was an incredibly tough read. There were things in it that I didn't even remember. (Or maybe I just wanted to forget them.) Things so horrible I have no idea how my wife and I ever navigated our way through them. But we did. Together we figured it out as we went along and found a way to do it. It was damn hard and physically and emotionally draining. But we did it.

Reading that journal made me realize how far I have come. Just a few years ago, I could barely function. For example, in an entry from March 2, 2008, I wrote about having gone into a conference room at work so I could cry:

"The pain I feel right now is indescribable. Even crying doesn't help."

I also quoted a passage from David Sheff's Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction--the book I was reading at the time--because I could totally relate to it:

"When I am alone, however, I weep in a way that I have not wept since I was a young boy...Tears come at unexpected moments for no obvious reason, and they pour forth with ferocity. They scare the hell out of me. It scares the hell out of me to be so lost and helpless and out of control and afraid."

Today, almost four years later, I still feel afraid from time to time. But I no longer feel lost, helpless, or out of control. I've even kind-of-sort-of figured some things out.

One thing's for sure: I've worked extremely hard on my recovery and have made progress. Looking back on the not-so-distant past today just confirmed that for me.

By the way, don't hold your breath waiting for that book. :)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Life plans can change

I don't usually post things like this on my blog. In fact, I don't know if I ever have. But when I saw this last night it struck me as being particularly profound. It reminded me of that moment I realized my son was an addict, and that the life plan I had imagined for him wasn't going to happen. At least, not right away.

Thanks to Karen Salmansohn for posting this on her Facebook page. If you get a chance, check out her website: Karen Salmansohn: Self-Help For People Who Wouldn't Be Caught Dead Doing Self-Help. There's some great stuff there.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best. Christmas. Ever.

I know it was two days ago, but I'm still soaking in all the wonderfulness that was Christmas 2012. I really cherished the holiday this year. Having my son participate with almost six months of sobriety under his belt was an unbelievably great feeling.

He spent Christmas Eve at his sober living house and came over mid-morning so we could open presents together. Earlier that morning, though--very early, in fact--I was the first one awake in our house. I came downstairs, turned the Christmas tree lights on, built a fire in the fireplace, put on some Christmas music, and sat on the couch...and cried. But unlike the last several years, I was crying tears of joy. I was just so damn happy. It was like I was living a dream.

My son stayed at our home the whole day, and we had a fabulous family dinner with my mom, brother, and youngest sister. Unfortunately, my dad couldn't make it over because he wasn't feeling well and continues to have major issues with his hearing. But we put together a nice doggy bag of food for him and sent it home with my mom.

Both of my sons are doing so well right now. As a parent, there's really nothing more I could ask for. I am so incredibly grateful.

This really was the best Christmas ever.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One year later

Flashback to one year ago...

If someone would've predicted what my life was going to be like today, describing the current scenario, I probably would've told them they were crazy. After almost eight years of struggles, I really wouldn't have been able to imagine something like they were describing. But, of course, I would've gladly said OK to it.

Amazingly, one year later that imaginary scenario is indeed here, and I am reveling in it one day at a time. Living in the moment. Grateful for every day, hour, minute, and second.

I'm not sure what I did to deserve such a turnaround, but I appreciate my higher power deeming me worthy of it. And it's not just me. My entire family is in such a better place today than they were at this time in 2012. It's like night and day, really.

As I've said before, I'm very aware that things in life can turn on a dime. And if they do, I will deal with that. But right now I am at total peace. It's a feeling I haven't felt in years, and a feeling I wasn't quite sure I would ever feel again. Stupid me.

With Christmas only days away, I can't help but think about how much emphasis is put on material things. People need to have the best this and the best that, and Christmas lists are full of fancy things that cost a lot of money. Well, I don't have a lot of money and "things" have become less and less important to me. I guess that's why I have an old-fashioned "dinosaur" lo-def TV. And an 11-year-old car that's falling apart (but still runs great). And, of course, no cell phone (insert laugh track here).

For the past several years, when Christmas time rolled around I would wish and hope and pray for one thing, and one thing only. I wasn't expecting to get it, but I kept on wishing and hoping and praying. It couldn't hurt, I thought. And whaddya know? This year I got it.

I should say that I am so incredibly proud of my boys. They've both come so far this year and are in such good places right now. I am incredibly proud of my lovely wife, too. A lot of couples who have gone through what we've gone through over the last several years may have ended up going their separate ways. But my wife is my rock. She's the glue that has held this family together through all of its difficulties. Without her, who knows where my boys and I would be.

I also have to say that I'm proud of myself. For forgiving my father after 40+ years of resentment. For learning to let go. For finally setting boundaries and sticking to them. And for learning to live in the moment more. All of these things are things I couldn't have imagined doing a year ago.

I have no Christmas list this year, because I have already received the ultimate gift. One that has no monetary value, but one I will cherish and enjoy while I can...one moment at a time.

As 2012 winds down and 2013 comes knocking on my door, I will continue to go forward, be brave, and keep the faith.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

There are some things that I believe
Like if you've got nothing you've still got your family
And when you are no one you're still the king...
--Kathleen Edwards, from her song "Good Things"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy birthday, son

Twenty-three years ago to the moment, my wife and I were at the hospital awaiting the birth of our first child. We went to the hospital very early in the morning, after calling my oldest sister to tell her that it appeared our first child was going to be on her birthday, which also happens to be her oldest son's birthday. Yes, 12/12 has some meaning in my family.

While at the hospital, I remember wondering what the hell was happening. I was 28-years-old, but still felt like a kid. And here I was about to become a father. I was equal parts excited and scared. Probably no different than any other rookie parent-to-be. A true emotional roller coaster.

We spent all day and much of the night waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. And wondering: When was this little human being going to decide it was ready? Was it going to be a boy or a girl? What would it look like? Would it be healthy?

Finally, at 9:57pm, our questions were answered and my wife and I became the parents of a beautiful 7-pound, 12-ounce baby boy. It was one of the happiest moments of my life and a night I will never forget. A few hours after the birth, I went home feeling like the luckiest man on the planet. Because I was the luckiest man on the planet.

We named our son after my mom's father and my wife's father. When we took him home to our tiny little house with the freshly prepared nursery I remember how strange it felt. Two of us went to the hospital...and three of us came home. Life as my wife and I knew it would never be the same.

Flash forward 23 years to today: 12/12/12. It's definitely a magical date from a numerical standpoint because it's the last repetitive date most people on Earth will ever see. But it's also a magical day for some other reasons.

My son is five-and-a-half months clean and is in the best emotional place he's been in about eight years. For this I am incredibly grateful. He also got his first real job the other day and will be working 35 hours a week and earning his own--as he referred to it on Facebook--"bank" (bank = money). This is such a huge milestone for him. I believe this will have an immeasurable positive effect on his confidence and his life in general. Definitely another thing I am grateful for.

Christmas is less than two weeks away and these days our society places a lot of emphasis on material things when it comes to this holiday. In the past, there have indeed been material things that I've wanted for Christmas. Maybe only one or two things for past several years, and nothing really major. But this year I have no Christmas list because there are no material things I want.

This Christmas is all about the state of my family. For the first time in eight years, there is some sense of normalcy surrounding my family. People are doing well. Some heavy burdens--not all having to do with my son--have been lifted. And I feel a sense of peace I haven't felt in a long, long time.

I know there are no guarantees in life, so I realize that things could change in an instant. But I have come a long way this year, too, and have learned to live in the moment and truly appreciate every good day. And today is a good day.

Happy birthday, son. I am so incredibly proud of you and love you with all my heart. Here's hoping your 24th year will be your best ever.

"Just when you think it can't get any worse, it can. And just when you think it can't get any better, it can." --Nicholas Sparks

12/12/89

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving recap

It's two days after Thanksgiving and this is the first opportunity I've had in a while to actually sit down and write a blog post.

This Thanksgiving was so much different from last year's. In 2011, my son was living in a sober living house in Palm Springs and was greatly missed at our dinner table. This year, though, was a different story.

My son is now about 4.5 months clean, which is the most clean time he's had since he was 15 (he's almost 23 now). There are not enough words for me to express how proud I am of him. And how thankful I am that he seems to have found the right path.

On the day before Thanksgiving, my son was over visiting--his little brother is home from school this week on break--and invited my wife and me to an early-bird "Gratitude Meeting" Thanksgiving morning. We gladly accepted, as did my Mom, who was also invited.

So on Thanksgiving Day, my wife and I got up at the crack of dawn; but not to start the big day's meal preparation. Instead we drove to a church just a few blocks from our house and joined a couple hundred other people for a beautiful 7:00am Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There were members of AA there along with many family members and friends who came to show support and gratitude. It was such an incredible turnout.

After the standard AA meeting opening remarks and readings, a microphone was passed around the room and everyone in the room spoke briefly about what they were grateful for. It really was quite moving. There was so much love and hope and courage...and, yes, gratitude in that room.

When the meeting was over, we dropped our son off at his sober living house and came home to get the Turkey Day meal started. I cooked my butt off! But when 5:30 rolled around and my family started arriving, things were all ready to go.

My mom, brother, and youngest sister joined us for dinner. Unfortunately, my Dad wasn't feeling well and couldn't make it over. But we sent a nice care package of food home for him. My oldest sister, who lives in New York, couldn't make it either. (I'm hoping we can figure out a way to all be together at Christmas time.)

We had a great meal and a great time just sitting around and talking. I have to say it was one of the most relaxing, stress-free Thanksgivings I can remember. Having both of my boys in a good place is most definitely the biggest reason for that. There was a sense of normalcy to the day and evening. I have to admit, I had kind of forgotten what that was like. 

The highlight of the whole holiday, though, was reading my son's status update on Facebook that evening:

"So grateful for the support of my family and friends and the opportunities I am no longer denying myself today. Happy Thanksgiving."

I think those words--which brought tears to my eyes when I read them--show what a long way my son has come.

It was indeed a happy Thanksgiving. I hope it was for all of you as well.

"Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back." --Anne Lamott (from her book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wake the f*ck up

This is probably more of a rant than a blog post. But I need to get it off my chest. (Be forewarned: I'm tired and cranky from being up too late watching election coverage.)

It's time for people to wake the f*ck up and start realizing that the vast majority of addicts are not addicts because they WANT to be. Contrary to popular belief, people don't wake up one day and decide, "Hey, I'm gonna be a drug addict! That sounds like fun!" Or, "It would be sooo cool to be an alcoholic! I'm going for it!"

It's a disease, people. And we need to work incredibly hard at breaking down the stigma associated with the disease and start helping those people who need it. We also have to educate young people earlier on in life about drugs and addiction. I wish schools would cover this subject way sooner than they do now. (If they even do now.) I'm a firm believer in prevention. We teach kids "Don't go with strangers" almost as soon as they're out of the womb. But something that can be just as dangerous sits on the back burner and, in my opinion, never gets the attention it truly needs in schools.

Granted, it's been a while since I've had a kid in elementary school--yes, I'm old--but I don't recall any drug/addiction education being taught to my kids while they were there. Well, here's a newsflash, people: By the time kids get to middle school, it might be too late. More and more kids are experimenting with drugs and alcohol earlier on in life and there are drug problems in schools everywhere in this country. And it's not just the high schools or inner city schools. I live in a rather affluent community and my son used to tell me that he could buy any drug he wanted inside his high school.

Maybe schools don't want to put a whole lot of emphasis on drug/addiction education because they think it's a taboo subject. Screw that. If you try to sweep it under the rug, you're just contributing to the problem. We need to BREAK THE STIGMA. We need to educate kids before they start experimenting and make a wrong choice that leads them down a hellish road I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Wake the f*ck up, America. Start teaching kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol in elementary school. Ramp up that teaching in middle school. And make a more explicit/graphic class on the dangers of drugs and alcohol mandatory for all high school freshmen. Too many kids and parents walk around with the "It can't happen to me" attitude. I'm here to tell you: It can happen to you.

Parents have a responsibility to educate their kids and set examples for them, too. So many moms and dads out there throw cocktail parties, or come home from work and have a couple of drinks before dinner, just to wind down. All they're really doing is glorifying alcohol in front of their kids. They leave alcohol and prescription drugs lying around the house and think nothing of it. Then they wonder what the hell happened when their child ends up having issues with alcohol and drugs. Again: Wake the f*ck up.

I wear a new bracelet proudly. It's a white silicone bracelet similar to the yellow "LIVESTRONG" cancer awareness bracelets so many people wore and still wear today. My new bracelet says "LIVESOBER." I bought a bunch of these bracelets from the store at an online site called "Sober Is Sexy." Yesterday I offered up bracelets to both of my boys. They both accepted them and are now wearing them, too. I think that's totally badass.

You know what's even cooler? When I posted on Facebook about my kids wearing the "LIVESOBER" bracelets, I got friends sending me messages asking me where they could get them. Imagine that. People wanting to join me and my boys in making a statement and spreading the word. I love it. I wish more people--especially young people--understood that it is possible to lead a normal, enjoyable life while being totally sober.

Not that it matters, but this post was inspired by a couple of comments posted on a newspaper story online...in the sports section of all places. The story was about free agent baseball slugger Josh Hamilton--who has a history of struggles with drugs and alcohol--possibly signing with my hometown Detroit Tigers. After reading the story, I read some of the comments people had left about the story. Of course, there were people bashing him because of his addiction. I'm just so tired of ignorant people bad-mouthing addicts; especially those in recovery. Until you've walked a mile in an addict's shoes, how 'bout keeping your mouths shut?

There I'm done. I'm sorry for ranting (not really). And I'm sorry for using the (edited) "F word" (sort of). This is just a subject that I'm passionate about. I wish more people were. Especially our educators.

P.S. My son got his 4-month chip the other day. I'm so incredibly proud of him. One day at a time. They all add up.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Belated love is still...love

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may recall my post from August 2nd of this year called "Better late than never." It's the one where I provided details about my having grown up the child of an alcoholic father. And how I felt like part of my childhood was stolen from me because of my dad's alcoholism. It's also the post where I declared to the world that the 40-plus years of resentment and hatred I felt towards my dad suddenly vanished in a sort of "God moment."

Getting over those feelings was huge for me. As I stated in that post, I never thought it would happen. But it did. And almost three months later, I am still at peace with myself. The anger I carried around for so long doesn't live inside me anymore. In fact--and this is hard for me to admit--love is starting to replace it.

My dad is still having health issues. My mother is doing her best to care for him, but it's getting more and more difficult for her. In fact, about 10 days ago I got an early morning call from my mom telling me that my dad had fallen in his bedroom and couldn't get up. At age 81, my mom couldn't possibly lift my dad up. So I got in my car and rushed over to their apartment to help. (Luckily I live in the same city, only about a mile away.)

When I got to the apartment, I lifted my dad back up to his feet and helped him get into his living room chair. He was very grateful and thanked me over and over again. He also said he didn't know what he'd do without me. And there were a few "I love you"s, too.

I got a strange feeling when I heard my dad tell me he loved me that day. I felt very different than I had any other time I'd heard him say, "I love you." It was like he actually meant it. And I felt that. I hugged my dad, gave him a kiss, and said, "I love you, too." That felt different, too. Because in my heart I felt like I actually meant it.

Flash forward to this past Saturday at 6:00am. My wife and I were both sleeping when the phone ringing startled us and woke us up. I immediately uttered the words, "This can't be good"--which, by the way, is a very common thought for the parent of an addict whenever the phone rings at a strange hour. Fortunately, this call had nothing to do with my son. But unfortunately, it was my mom calling to tell me she needed my help again. My dad had fallen again, this time in the bathroom. My wife and I both got up and got dressed, and we raced over to my parents' place.

When we got there, I jumped out of the car to go help while my wife proceeded to find a parking spot. I arrived to find my dad lying on the bathroom floor, asleep. After waking him up, I lifted him back to his feet, waited for him to wash up and put a robe on, and helped him into his chair.

Once again, my dad was incredibly appreciative. He was almost in tears while he was thanking me and telling me he knows he can always count on me and my wife. And, of course, he told me he loved me again. And I felt it again. And I said, "I love you" to him again. And this time I knew I meant it. Forty-something years later and the love between a son and his father was being reborn.

During the day that day, I cooked up a wonderful chicken and sweet potato dish and my wife and I took the food over to my parents' that evening and ate dinner with them. When I walked in the door, my dad looked at me and said, "My savior!" He and my mom really enjoyed the food; and the company. When my wife and I left I gave my dad a big hug and told him I loved him. Because I think I really do.

Watching my dad get old is incredibly difficult for me. I fear getting old myself, so seeing him struggle and lose his independence is tough. But it would've been even tougher if I hadn't let go of the past. I'm so very thankful I was able to move on.

While driving home that night, I told my wife how much I enjoyed hearing my dad say positive things about me. And how much I liked hearing him say, "I love you."

"I feel like it's real now," I told her. Because I think it is.

I love you, dad.

"Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past." --Anne Lamott

Friday, October 19, 2012

"We are heroes to each other"

I shared my story with the wonderful website Heroes in Recovery. Today it went live. You can read it at the link below.

Maybe my story can help some other parents of addicts get through their tough times. Or help break the stigma. Or make a difference in some other way. In any case, I was happy to share.

Like the website says on its home page:

"We all need hope. We all need inspiration. Know that you are not alone, not the only one who experiences a loss, hurt and heartache. We are heroes to each other. Be inspired. Be encouraged."

Here is my story...

http://www.heroesinrecovery.com/stories/dean-d-s-story/

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thank you, Heroes in Recovery!

Got this great t-shirt in the mail today from the Heroes in Recovery people. I will wear it proudly.

BREAK THE STIGMA

Damn straight.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

90 days

My son is 90 days clean and sober today. I love him so much and am so very proud of him.

One day at a time...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Things are very good

Just dropping in to say that things are very good right now. My son is still clean and sober. I think it's 79 days today. He's got a girlfriend now, too, which is something he's been longing for. She's also clean and sober. We haven't met her yet, but our son seems very happy. So that's a wonderful thing. My wife and I look forward to meeting the young lady soon.

Other than that, there's not much to report. My wife and I are just going about our business as empty nesters. Last weekend, we spent most of our time helping my parents move from their upper flat into a smaller first-floor apartment. This weekend, we just plan on taking it easy.

Last but not least, our younger son is doing well--and having fun--at boarding school. In two weeks we get to go up for Parents Weekend and bring him home for a week-long break. We can't wait to see him. I'm sure he's going to seem like a different kid after being off "on his own" for more than a month. We shall see.

To everyone who reads this blog: Thanks again for your continued support. If I (or my wife) can ever be of any help to you or someone you know, get in touch with me through the Comments section. Addiction is everywhere and is nothing to be ashamed of. You are not alone.

Peace.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ignorance

The other night, my wife and I rode our bikes to our city's downtown area so we could have a dinner out. We're pretty much "empty nesters" now since our older son is in a sober house and our younger son is off at an amazing boarding school. So going out for dinner spontaneously is kind of a new thing for us.

While we were in the restaurant eating our meal, there was a young family sitting in a booth two away from ours. The husband and wife looked to be in their early 40s, and their two sons were maybe 9 and 11 or so. The husband had been having a negative, "humorous" conversation with the waitress about the city of Detroit, which is very close to our city. (The Detroit border is actually at the end of the block we live on, which is only about 10 houses away.)

I didn't think much of the conversation that was going on until the guy got up to go pay his bill and continued to joke with his waitress. "Yeah, that's where I go to get my heroin. Didn't you know that? I walk over there to get my fix. I pick up a couple of bags and I'm all set."

At that point, I was just shaking my head on the inside. Part of me wanted to say to the man, "You know, I'm the father of a recovering heroin addict and I find your conversation offensive." But I didn't. I just figured the guy was totally ignorant and really had no clue that what he just said offended someone in the restaurant. I mean, how could he have possibly known that he was just a few feet away from a dad whose son used to pretty much exactly what he was joking about? So I just let it go.

For the last few years I've felt pretty much the same way about people who jokingly refer to people as "crackheads." You know: someone does something stupid or crazy and someone else says, "What a crackhead!" I find that offensive, too, but I just let it roll off my back. Crackhead is just another word that people use without realizing that it may offend someone. In my mind, it's in the same league as "gay" or "retarded," two other words people often use in a derogatory, "joking" manner.

It's just ignorance. That what I keep telling myself. But that doesn't mean that ignorant people can't get my blood boiling a wee bit every once in a while.

Monday, September 10, 2012

4 years sober

It was 1,461 days ago that a family therapist at my son's second rehab facility--Brighton Center for Recovery--told me: "Be the change you want to see in your son." And 1,461 days ago, I quit drinking; not only to set an example for my son--and his little brother--but because I knew I had to, before things spiraled out of control for me, too.

I am the son of an alcoholic. And the father of an addict. But today I am 4 years sober, and incredibly grateful that I was given the power to change.

Sobriety? It's badass.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The best birthday I can remember

Today is my birthday. Normally, that wouldn't be such a big deal. Once you get to a certain age, birthdays are kind of like any other day. If you wake up and you're breathing, that is something to celebrate. But this birthday feels extra special for a couple of different reasons.

Last year, my son was in rehab out in Palm Springs on my birthday. This year, he's living in a sober living house in Detroit and has more than two months of sobriety under his belt. Not only is he clean and sober, but he seems to be making excellent progress in the game of "life," too.

But the main reason this birthday feels so special is this: When I woke up this morning and turned on my computer, I had several birthday greetings awaiting me on Facebook. I was appreciative of all of them, but there was one in particular that actually made me cry tears of joy. It was from my son:

"Happy Birthday Dad. Thank you for never giving up on me. I love you."

That is the best birthday present I could've ever asked for.

A happy birthday phone call from my younger son, who is now away at school in northern Michigan, was the icing on the cake. He sounded great and said he loves his new school. What a blessing.

Tonight my wife, older son, and I will go out for dinner to celebrate my birthday. But it's already been the best birthday I can remember.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Why my blog is called what it is

Just a quick post to explain the meaning behind the name of my blog, because a few people have asked me about it.

It's pretty simple, really. My first, middle, and last names all start with the letter "D." Over the years, lots of people have called me "3D" or "D3" or "Triple D." "My Life As 3D" is kind of a twist on "My Life In 3D." That's why I have the "3D-Mensional Musings" and "No special glasses required" phrases in the subtitle.

Not real clever or subject specific, but when I started the blog a few years ago I really didn't think it would go anywhere. Knowing what I know now, I probably should've named it something more straightforward. Something to do with being the parent of an addict. But when faced with naming the blog, I just went with the first thing that popped into my head. And I'm not going to change it now.

Anyway, that's the story. Just in case you wondered.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September is National Recovery Month

I just wanted to spread the word that September is National Recovery Month. According to the Recovery Month website, "Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover."

Most of all, I think Recovery Month is about hope. That no matter what your mental or substance use problem is, help is there for the asking. If you or a loved one needs help, don't be embarrassed or ashamed. You are not alone. Please gather up the courage to reach out and ask for assistance. And never give up hope.

People who work in the recovery field seldom get the credit they deserve. Their jobs are often thankless and go unrecognized. So in honor of Recovery Month, I would like to thank all of the professionals who have helped my son. From Michigan to California, I appreciate everything all of you have done to help my son in his recovery, which is still very much in progress.

I would also like to take some time to celebrate my son's recovery. Sixty-one days clean may not seem like a long time. But it is for my son. And I'm confident that that number will grow, because I sense that my son truly wants it to.

So take some time this month to acknowledge National Recovery Month. Check out their website. Check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. Reach out to someone you know who's in recovery and tell them that you're pulling for them. Or help someone you know who needs help find the help they need. Don't be afraid to try and make a difference.

People with mental health and substance abuse problems are not freaks. They are not contagious. They are just human beings who are "wired" differently. And contrary to what some people might think, the parents of these people are not bad parents who don't care about their children. They just happen to be the parents of some uniquely wired kids. So don't judge or be afraid of a parent of an addict. They are not contagious, either. If you have children who are wired normally, be grateful for that. But don't think negatively about those of us who weren't so fortunate.

Do I wish that my son wasn't an addict in recovery? Absolutely. I'd be lying if I said otherwise. But I've come to the conclusion that everything happens for a reason, and maybe I was put in this situation so that I can make some kind of difference in the world. If dealing with my situation helps just one other person deal with theirs, then I'm good with that.

National Recovery Month: Celebrate it. Hopefully by doing so we can all help...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

60 days clean (again)

Congratulations to my son, who is 60 days clean and sober today. I am so incredibly proud of him and love him with all my heart. He's really hoping he makes it to 90 days--and beyond--this time. (He relapsed at 89 days the last time.) But right now he's focusing on 61.

One day at a time. And they all add up.

I am truly grateful to my higher power for watching over my family right now. Life is good.

Peace.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Heroes in Recovery guest blog post is live!

Today's the day my guest blog post for the Heroes in Recovery website went live. Here's the direct link to the post: http://www.heroesinrecovery.com/blog/2012/08/23/guest-blog-dean-dauphinais/

If you have a few minutes, please go read it. Share it on Facebook and Twitter. Comment on it. Rate it. Any way you can spread the word or give feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Since the guest blog post reveals my name, I guess my anonymity is gone for anyone who links to it from this blog. But I'm OK with that. The important thing is getting the word out and helping to break the stigma associated with addiction.

Thanks so much for your continued support.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Son #2 is heading north

We just received word today that our younger son (he's 16) was accepted into a wonderful therapeutic school in northern Michigan that specializes in teaching kids with ADD/ADHD. The last two years in public high school have been very difficult for him, even with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in place. Yes, the school made certain accommodations for him; but he was still being taught in a mainstream classroom. And that type of learning didn't work for him.

The school he'll be attending this year is incredibly expensive. Even with a substantial amount of financial assistance, I'm not totally sure we'll be able to afford the tuition and board. But my wife and I are committed to getting our #2 son the best education possible. We don't want him to just skate by and barely pass in a public high school. We want educators who know how to teach ADHD kids to bring out the wealth of intelligence, creativity, and potential that lives inside our son.

After touring the school last week, our son said he thought going there could be "life changing" for him. My wife and I agree and are willing to make whatever sacrifices we have to in order to give him this opportunity. He'll be in a beautiful setting--right on the shores of Lake Michigan--and will be experiencing a unique, hands-on type of learning.

Gotta run now. We have to leave bright and early Friday morning to go up north, because we have to deliver our son to school on Saturday morning. That doesn't leave much time to shop for a boatload of things, pack, etc. This all happened so quickly. But we're so very glad it happened. (Although, as of Saturday afternoon my wife and I will be "empty nesters." That is going to be very strange.)

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." --Confucius

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Catching up

It's been a while since I've posted about my son, but in this instance, no news is good news. My son is doing quite well, staying clean, doing the things he's supposed to be doing at his sober living house, going to meetings, driving regularly (practicing so he can get his full-blown license), etc. He still doesn't have a regular full-time job, but he does occasionally work for the owner of his house, cleaning windows, painting, and doing other home maintenance work.

I've seen two major changes in my son since he's been back in Michigan. The first is increased self-esteem. This might sound silly to some, but my son actually posted a picture of himself smiling on his Facebook page the other night. When I saw it, I almost burst into tears. I think it's the first picture he's ever posted of himself where he has a smile on his face. To see it made me incredibly happy.

The other change I've seen in my son is maturity. Since returning from Georgia, my son seems to have matured quite a bit. I've mentioned it here before, but my son kind of got "stuck" emotionally at around age 15. This is not an uncommon thing among addicts. In fact, it's widely believed that a person's emotional age can indeed get stuck with drug use. Like this article says, "Emotional age is fluid and adjustable, unlike physical age which advances in a predictable way over time. People with drug and alcohol addiction often hold on to less mature ideas and behaviors that don’t enhance their life. When they use drugs and alcohol to cope with...problems, they stunt their emotional growth at that spot."

My son was stuck for a long time, but he seems to be learning how to handle adult situations better than he ever has before. He's also learning more about life in general. It feels like his emotional age is finally catching up with his chronological age. And believe me, that's a wonderful thing to see.

So that's my update. There have been a whole lot of other things going on in my life lately: Crazy stuff at work, my parents getting ready to move to a smaller apartment, refinancing a mortgage, looking for a new school for my younger son (who has ADHD issues), etc. Sure, things have been hectic and stressful, but I'm still doing my best to live in the moment and take things--and days--one at a time. Letting go of the resentment towards my dad has certainly helped set me free, too. I honestly never thought I'd be rid of that pain. A Facebook friend of mine posted a saying today that really said it all: "Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got."

Oh, one last thing: My guest blog post for the Heroes In Recovery website is now slated to go live this Thursday, August 23rd. I'm extremely excited about being "exposed" to a wider audience and will definitely share the link here when the post goes up.

Peace.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Shame on you, Mountain Dew

I stole the photo below from my son's Facebook page. He shared it along with the comment, "Srsly?"

This is just so wrong on so many levels. Very sad, I think. Mountain Dew is releasing a "Premium Malt Flavored," non-alcoholic version of its soda. (In case you aren't aware, Mountain Dew is very popular among kids.) I think it's safe to say that the can even looks like a beer can. Gee, this won't put young kids on the road to drinking alcoholic beverages at a young age, will it? I'm sorry, but this makes me sick. Shame on you, Mountain Dew.

I went to where they posted this photo on their Facebook page and left a negative comment about this new product. If you agree, I urge you to do the same. Here's the link to that page. I also plan on sending my opinion to PepsiCo, which is the company that owns the Mountain Dew brand. Here's a link to the Contact page at their website. They're going to get an earful from me.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Better late than never

(Note: A version of this blog post appears on The Huffington Post's blog site as "Forgiving My Alcoholic Father: Better Late Than Never.")


Of all the blog posts I've sat down to write, this one might very well be the toughest. But I'm going to try and get through it. Ironically, this post has absolutely nothing to do with my son--who, by the way, seems to be doing fine right now. This post has to do with my 86-year-old father. I've mentioned my father in this blog a few times before, but I've never really discussed him in depth. So here's some background information.

For as long as I can remember, my father has been an alcoholic. Pretty much all of my childhood memories of him revolve around his drinking. I remember countless car rides where I was scared to death, wondering if I'd make it home alive because my dad was driving drunk. I remember running and hiding in my room when my dad came home from work because I knew that he would be drunk. I remember worrying that he would burn the house down when he passed out on the living room couch with a burning cigarette in his hand. (If I had a dollar for every time I tiptoed into the living room and very carefully took that cigarette out of his hand, I'd be rich.) I remember the multiple DUIs and the multiple parked cars he hit while driving drunk. (Thank God he never hurt anyone.) And I remember him calling me and asking me to come bail him out of jail after his last DUI (which I did).

I remember never being able to have friends sleep over at my house as a kid because of the potential embarrassment and humiliation I would feel if my dad came home drunk and passed out in the living room, snoring and gurgling and coughing like he did. I remember the time friends dropped me off at home late one night and we found my dad sitting in his car in the driveway. The driver's door was open, the car was running, and my dad had one leg out of the car. But he was passed out. I remember telling my friends that night that my dad must have been really tired from a long day at work. I don't know if they bought that explanation or not.

I remember being in restaurants and watching my dad down two or three Club Manhattans on the rocks before he even opened a menu. I remember one particular instance when my dad got into a shouting match with my mom at a restaurant. He actually stood up at the table and started yelling, creating quite a scene. My mom and I got up and left. We took a cab home.

I remember the giant bottles of Canadian Club whiskey my dad used to buy. And the office lamps he had them made into after they were empty. There was also the "OUT FOR A GLASS OF LUNCH" sign on his desk. And the fact that he spent a good portion of his work day--he owned his own business--at the bar down the street, where his secretary would call him if anything came up.

I remember when my wife-to-be had to move out of the place she was living in and I told her she should come live with me at my parents' house until we could find a place of our own. I was terrified at the notion of her living under the same roof as my dad, but I am very grateful that she understood and put up with it--and him--for several months.

I think you get the idea by now. In my mind, my father robbed me of my childhood, and even some of my early adulthood. We never really had a relationship. And over the years, what relationship we did have became more and more strained. For a long time, I hated my father. Hate is a strong word, but that is truly how I felt. I resented growing up without a father, even though I technically had one. I wouldn't want to talk to him or see him. The phone would ring, the Caller ID would show my dad's number, and I wouldn't answer. Or call him back. If I called my parents' house and my dad answered, I would often times hang up. That's how bad things were between us.

A lot of my resentment also stemmed from a period several years ago when my dad got sober for a while and got very active in Alcoholics Anonymous. Unfortunately, he never did anything about Steps Eight and Nine, which tell the alcoholic that they should make a list of all the people they have harmed, be willing to make amends to them all, and make direct amends to such people whenever possible. I never got any kind of apology from my father. Never. Ever. Even to this day.

I discussed my issues with my father many times with my therapist, my wife, other family members, and even a few friends. A lot of them told me that I should reach out to my father and try to repair the relationship, and that if I didn't I would regret it someday. But I just couldn't accept the suggestion that I should be the one to make the first move. After all, I did nothing wrong. My dad ruined my childhood and it was up to me to fix our relationship? That made no sense to me. (For the record, my therapist told me it was strictly up to me, and that I had to decide what to do based on how I felt.)

Fast forward to June of this year. My dad went to the Veteran's Hospital in Detroit for a routine check-up. They found some irregularities in his heartbeat and blood pressure and decided to keep him overnight for observation. To make a long story short, he ended up being in the hospital for a couple of weeks, during which time the doctors also detoxed him from alcohol. Unfortunately, while he was hospitalized my dad started suffering from dementia (possibly brought on by the detox). This was an incredibly sad development, and all I could think about was that I had probably missed my chance at any type of reconciliation. I was okay with that--I really didn't have much choice--but it still made me sad.

From the hospital, my dad went to an extended care facility for rehab and physical therapy. It was hard for me, but I went to visit him several times. He was "different" during these visits. Me, my wife, my siblings, and my mom all recognized this. He was a kinder, gentler person, and a soft side of his personality that we hadn't seen before--or at least in a very long time--came out. Even so, he would be having a normal conversation with us and then suddenly switch over to telling us some nonsensical story that he thought was real. My heart would break when this would happen. But we all just went along with it and accepted that things would be different now.

My dad spent four weeks at the extended care facility and when it was time for him to be released my mom asked me if I would help her get him home. I would do anything for my mom, so I agreed to help her. I also took my son with me, just in case I needed more help. To be honest, none of us really knew how physically able my dad would be; and my parents live in a second story flat. I had visions of possibly having to carry my father up the stairs, which I was more than willing to do if it was necessary.

To my surprise, though, when my son and I arrived at the facility, my dad was much more fit than I thought he would be. He could stand up and walk on his own, although the nurse made him ride out to the car in a wheelchair just to be safe.

When we arrived at my parents' house, my dad insisted on trying to get out of the car and up the stairs by himself. Amazingly, he was able to do just that. My son and I followed behind him as he negotiated the stairway. But he made it all the way without any problems. My mom even told him that he handled the stairs better than he did before he went into the hospital.

My dad sat down in "his spot" on the couch and my son and I went down to the car to get all of his  belongings. We brought everything upstairs and before we left I found the strength to actually sit down on the couch next to my dad. I told him I was glad he was feeling better and that he looked much better to me. This is where things get a little bizarre.

My father looked me in the eye and thanked me for helping him get home. "I can always count on you," he told me. "You're always around when I need you. I appreciate that." After hearing that, I stood up, gave my dad a big hug, kissed him on the cheek, and said, "I love you." And as I let go of him and moved away from him, I felt something very strange happen. It's impossible to describe exactly how it felt, but in that moment I could feel an incredible weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I felt all the resentment and hatred and negative feelings about my dad disappear. And suddenly, I was at peace.

Some of you reading that last paragraph might think I'm crazy. In fact, for a couple of days I thought I might be crazy. Which is why I waited to tell my wife what I had felt. I wanted to see if I still felt that way after some time had passed. And I did. So I eventually told my wife and sent an e-mail to my sisters and my mom. I told them that I was alright with everything now.

Forty-plus years of resentment and hatred towards my father, and it all disappeared in what my wife might describe as a "God moment." (By the way, it's just a coincidence that my dad's initials are G.O.D.) I never thought it would happen. Never. Ever. I always thought my dad would die and I would feel the resentment and hatred until the day I died. But that's all changed now. Better late than never.

"Make the call. Send the card. Bury the grudge." --Regina Brett (from her book Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Next stop: Heroes in Recovery

Just wanted to share some exciting news. I've been asked by an amazing organization called "Heroes in Recovery" to be a guest blogger on their website. Heroes in Recovery "celebrates the heroic efforts of those who seek the addiction and mental health help they need without feeling ashamed or isolated." Evidently, these folks follow my blog and like it. So they asked me to write a blog post for them.

I must say, getting asked to do this was quite humbling. When I started my blog, it was primarily just to have an outlet to share my feelings. I had been keeping a journal for quite some time, but having my thoughts collected in a Word document seemed strange. I decided to start blogging instead, on the off chance that maybe someone else might benefit from reading about my experiences as the parent of an addict. I figured if I could help just one person, it would be worth it. But I never expected something like this to happen.

Thanks so much to the wonderful people at Heroes in Recovery for giving me an opportunity. I am truly grateful. You can look for my guest blog sometime in late August, I believe. Or maybe September. (I guess the first thing I have to do is actually write the piece!) I hope I don't disappoint.

In the meantime, I urge you to pay a visit to Heroes in Recovery and check out their great site. They do truly fabulous things.

FYI, this is their launch video. Check it out, too.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Going in the right direction

This week has been a pretty big one for my son, who, at age 22, still doesn't have his driver's license. He took driver's training when he was in high school and took the test to get his license when he was 16; but he had some problems with parallel parking and the tester failed him. He never tried taking the test again and his depression/addiction issues sidetracked the whole process for years. Until Monday.

On Monday, he planned to go to the Secretary of State's office to finally get another driving permit. His last permit expired when he was 18, so he hasn't driven in over four years. Before getting his permit he also had to get a replacement Social Security card, because he had lost his original one.

I took my son to the Social Security office Monday morning to get the replacement card and he took care of the whole transaction himself. That in and of itself was a big accomplishment for him. He seems to be overcoming his shyness and fear of such situations. Later in the day, my wife took him to the Secretary of State's office to get the permit. He took care of all the "business" there, too. And walked out of the building with his permit, which is actually a Level 2 driver's license.

In Michigan, a Level 2 license allows holders to drive a car unsupervised. The only real restriction is that they can't drive alone between 10:00pm and 5:00am. In order to drive during those hours, they have to be accompanied by either a parent or licensed driver who's 21 or older.

My wife and I didn't realize that our son could actually drive by himself now. He's the one who educated us about that. So on Wednesday we let him take my wife's car for the day so he could go out to a local mall and put in job applications. He also borrowed the car yesterday to drive to the pool with some housemates. And today he borrowed the car to go to an AA picnic at a local park.

Of course, my wife and I are a little bit nervous about all this driving stuff, but we decided our son needs to do this in order to mature and continue making progress with the basics of life; and, maybe most importantly, to continue gaining independence and self-confidence. Besides, my wife's car is pretty much a beater--it's a 1997 Lincoln Mark VIII that has a lot of issues, but still drives well. (We call it "The Pimp Car.") So if something were to happen to it, it wouldn't be the end of the world. (As long as our son or anyone else wasn't hurt, of course.)

To be perfectly honest, I was wondering if this time would ever come. But six-and-a-half years later, my son is behind the wheel and eligible to take the test for his full-blown driver's license whenever he's ready. (The Secretary of State waived the 30-day waiting period because he's over 21.) After some driving experience and some practice parallel parking, I think he'll be prepared to do that. And I'm very confident that he'll pass the test this time. He has way more self-confidence than he did when he was 16.

I'm still incredibly proud of my son for recognizing the fact that he was in a bad situation in Atlanta and realizing that he needed to get out of it. He's doing well at the sober living house. He is amongst friends in recovery, all of whom seem to be great guys. And the owner of the house has told my son that he sees a definite change in his attitude. I have, too. Example #1: He went to the midnight showing of the new Batman movie the other night and the movie didn't get out until about 2:45am. But my son still got up at 6:30am and went to an early bird meeting. Example #2: Yesterday he went to not one, not two, but three meetings.

I also have to say that it's nice having my son close to home again. Granted, it's a bit more stressful having him close by, but when he's far away my wife and I miss him so much. So does his little brother. And our three cats.

My son is 19 days clean today. It's not 90 days, but I think this time he's on his way to 90--and beyond. I sense that he's definitely going in the right direction. And for that, I'm grateful. And proud.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Here's the song

For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here is my son's song. I uploaded an MP3 file to YouTube.



"ONLY GHOST" (lyrics)

just another way to kill the pain
just another way to shut me down
just another day that got away
it's all coming unwound
I could pull another couple strings
to get me off the streets
but I'd just as soon embrace the sting
and revel in self-defeat

where did it all go bad?
there's no way to tell
and it's all so sad
I did this to myself

a cigarette burn always marks the site
of my last fall from grace
yeah, you know I cannot seem to wipe
this guilt from off my face
it's a fire raging deep within
pour gas onto the flame
feeding 23 long years of sin
and it always winds up the same

where did it all go bad?
there's no way to tell
and it's all so sad
I did this to myself
I would kill to hold you close
but you're too far away
you could be my only ghost
and I'd love you just the same

(swear I'd love you just the same)

Monday, July 16, 2012

"Only Ghost"


My son came over for dinner on Saturday night, which was really great. I grilled burgers and the four us of had a nice family dinner together. But before dinner, my son told me he was "going upstairs to record something." An aspiring musician/songwriter, he had brought his acoustic guitar with him. So he headed up to my bedroom, where the seven-year-old eMac desktop computer resides.

About 20 minutes later, while I was downstairs on my laptop, I noticed that my son had posted something new on Facebook. It was a link to a music sharing site, where he had uploaded a new song called "Only Ghost." This is what he had recorded upstairs.

I listened to the song and was blown away. Even though it was a rough "demo" version of the song, recorded on the first take into an old computer, it moved me to tears. The song, which has a folk rock sound, is very personal; the lyrics tell part of the story of my son's journey.

I asked my son if I could share the song on Facebook and he had no problem whatsoever with that.  Not surprisingly, a lot of my friends loved the song and left very positive comments. My kid has a lot of talent.

I wish I could share the song here, but it's posted on the music sharing site under my son's real name and sharing it here would mean stripping him of his anonymity. But if you'd like to hear the song, maybe I can get him to post it to a more anonymous site; or simply give me an MP3 file that I can post here. (If you're friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, I posted the link to the song the other day.)

In the meantime, here are the lyrics to the song. Straight from my son's heart...

"ONLY GHOST"

just another way to kill the pain
just another way to shut me down
just another day that got away
it's all coming unwound
I could pull another couple strings
to get me off the streets
but I'd just as soon embrace the sting
and revel in self-defeat

where did it all go bad?
there's no way to tell
and it's all so sad
I did this to myself

a cigarette burn always marks the site
of my last fall from grace
yeah, you know I cannot seem to wipe
this guilt from off my face
it's a fire raging deep within
pour gas onto the flame
feeding 23 long years of sin
and it always winds up the same

where did it all go bad?
there's no way to tell
and it's all so sad
I did this to myself
I would kill to hold you close
but you're too far away
you could be my only ghost
and I'd love you just the same

(swear I'd love you just the same)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Beautiful people do not just happen."

Someone recommended another parent-of-an-addict blog to me today. The blog is called "Meth Addiction--A Mothers Perspective" and it's written by a mom who's relatively new to blogging.

When I went to the blog, I read the most recent post. Then I moved to the post immediately below it. A post entitled "Dedicated to all the beautiful people who are on the same journey." It was there that I came across this amazing quote:

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." --Elisabeth Kübler Ross

Wow. That quote spoke to me like not many others have.

It actually moved me so much that I made it my Facebook status update; posted it on my son's Facebook page; and e-mailed it to a friend who's going through a difficult time right now.

And now I'm sharing it with you.

It seems like blogging parents of addicts all share their experiences and innermost thoughts for the same reason: to help others. Like the author of this new blog says in her "About Me" section: "[I'm] hoping that as I travel along in my journey of acceptance of my son's addiction to meth, and journal my thoughts, I can help others who may be on the same path."

Finding that quote sure helped me today. Maybe it will help you, too.

"Beautiful people do not just happen."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Finally found those knives

Yesterday I was looking for something I couldn't find--a more frequent occurrence of late--and was going through all of the kitchen cabinets hoping it would turn up. I never did find what I was looking for, but on the very top shelf of one of the cabinets, waaay at the back, behind the soup bowls, I did find some things that I had forgotten were even missing: three small, very sharp knives.

About seven years ago, when my son first started to have issues with severe depression, he went through a "cutting" phase. He would use a knife to cut--or self-injure--himself. (To this day, you can still see the word "SIN" as a scar on his left bicep.) Knives would often go missing, and we'd sometimes find them in his room. Or hidden in his bed covers. It was very scary.

It finally got to the point where we had to hide all the knives. The larger kitchen knives were all hidden in one place. But these three smaller paring knives must have gotten stuck up on the top shelf of that cabinet at a different time. I'm not sure when they were hidden up there; but I do know why they were hidden up there.

Thankfully my son eventually outgrew his cutting phase. But finding those knives yesterday brought back some pretty dark memories. It also reminded me how much my wife and I have been through. And how much our son's been through.

And how far all of us have come.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Best thing I've read today

My son's latest Facebook status update:

"Extremely grateful to be back home with my friends. With their help I will be able to stay the fuck out of my head. Taking it easy, trying to get well. One day at a time."

Word.

The Fifth of July

My son is back in Michigan and has returned to the sober living house he was previously asked to leave because he wasn't getting up on time. Back then, the owner told him he couldn't come back under any circumstances. But my son took it upon himself--while he was still in Atlanta--to call the house owner and ask to come back, because he needed to. The owner agreed.

This was a monumental step for my son and I'm incredibly proud of him for taking the initiative. It shows me that he truly wanted it.

He spent one night at our house, had dinner with my family last night, went to a meeting, then went to sober living, where lots of familiar faces were ecstatic to see him.

The road to recovery is a long one. And even though it may get sidetracked from time to time, there is always Hope along the way. Always. We must never forget that.

Yesterday was the Fourth of July. But today I'm celebrating the Fifth of July. No fireworks needed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Goodbye, Atlanta

As I type this, my son is on his way to the airport in Atlanta. He's flying back to Michigan this morning. The arrangement with his roommate didn't work out, and he's decided--after a little more than a month--that he needs to come back to Michigan and return to a sober living house.

There are lots of feelings running through me right now: Pride. Fear. Disappointment. Gratitude. Love. Hope. Confusion. Happiness. Sadness. Etc. It's like I'm in a thunderstorm of mixed emotions without an umbrella. I'm just trying to sort them all out and avoid drowning in them.

I've been dealing with so much lately, including major health issues with my father (another thunderstorm of mixed emotions). I'm just not sure I can write an intelligent blog post at this time. I may post more details about my son's return later. Or not.

One question I do have: When is this incredibly long test God is giving me going to end? And, when it's done, will I pass or fail?

Regardless of the circumstances of his return, I love my son more than life itself. I will be very happy to see him and hug him. As will his mom, his brother, his grandma, his aunts...and, of course, his cats. 

The journey continues...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The dreaded "sixth sense"

When you're the parent of an addict, over time you tend to develop a "sixth sense." You just have a feeling when things aren't right with your addict child. Even when they're not around. It's hard to explain, but if you're reading this and happen to also be the parent of an addict, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm referring to. For the rest of you, I guess the best thing to compare it to is "mother's intuition."

I've had a feeling over the past couple of days that something wasn't quite right with my son. I hadn't heard from him, either via phone or online. While that troubled me a bit, I tried really hard not to focus on it too much. I just went on living my life, knowing that I have no control over what my son does.

Well, tonight my wife and I were sitting in the family room watching TV, the phone rang, and the dreaded sixth sense of mine kicked in. "Uh-oh," I said. "This can't be good. It's gonna be [my son's name]."

Sure enough, it was our son calling. He talked to my wife for a few minutes, and everything seemed fine. Then my wife said, "Do you wanna talk to dad?"

She handed me the phone and I asked my son how he was doing. He said he had just gotten back from a meeting with his sponsor, and that they had stopped at Chick-fil-A for dinner. They had also done some reading from the "Big Book." So far, so good, I thought. But then my son volunteered some more information.

"I relapsed last Thursday," he told me. "I went out and drank a few beers and I felt like a fucking idiot after I did it. I was one day short of 90 days, which I've never done before."

While I was disappointed to hear this news, I was not completely surprised. Like I said, I could sense that something wasn't right when we hadn't heard from our son for a few days. The difference this time, though, was how I reacted. I did not get angry. I did not raise my voice. I did not chastise my son. Instead, I told him things would be OK and that he just needed to get back on the right track. And that he shouldn't be too hard on himself.

I could tell he was truly remorseful. One sure sign of this was simply the fact that he told me about his relapse. I mean, think about it: he's in Georgia and we're in Michigan. He could very easily have kept the whole thing to himself, and my wife and I never would've known. But he was honest. He also reiterated how upset he was that he didn't make it to 90 days. "But I've got five days now," he told me. I told him that was great, and that he just needs to make good choices and take it one day at a time. (You know, that "one day at a time" thing really is the key.)

After we were done talking, my son asked to talk to my wife again. She took the phone in the other room, and when she was done with the call she came back to the family room. "Did he tell you?" I asked. She said he did. We chatted briefly about the relapse, but we didn't dwell on it. We've simply learned to handle things like this better.

Life has been pretty complicated and unfair lately. My dad is still in the hospital and is not doing very well. He's been hospitalized for 12 days. He's been diagnosed with delirium and doctors think the cause of much of what he's experiencing could be alcohol withdrawal.

The mixed emotions I'm feeling about my dad's situation alone are enough to wear me down. But when you throw in some other things that have happened over the last few days involving some other family members...well, sometimes I wonder just how long of a test God has in store for me and my family.

I love my son so, so much. Unconditionally. And I told him that tonight. I'm also incredibly proud of him for having had the courage to call and be totally honest about what happened. Lastly--and this might sound strange--I feel sort of "special" because he chose to tell me first, because I'm usually the last one to know.

I truly believe my son will make that 90-day mark.  Five days down, 85 to go. One at a time. Stick with it, son. I have faith in you.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A very emotional day

My wife and I just got back from paying our respects to a young man who left us much too soon. I may cry the rest of the afternoon. A very emotional day, for sure.

And the prayer on the young man's prayer card?

Serenity

Grant me the Serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change...
Courage to change
the things I can
and Wisdom
to know the difference.

Amen. Rest easy, #94.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Another life taken much too early

My son called me at work this morning with some tragic news. A friend of his--who I happened to coach for one year when they played together on the same Babe Ruth League baseball team (which won the 2004 league championship...photo below)--passed away on Friday of a drug overdose. My son had been keeping in touch with this wonderful kid and had just talked to him on Friday. He was only 23 years old.

I could tell my son was pretty upset about the news, which he had learned about via Facebook. But I was happy and touched that he decided to call me to talk about it. And I was even happier when he told me he was getting ready to go to a meeting. I knew sharing with others would help him deal with things.

We talked for a bit and I told my son how sorry I was about his friend. I told him to be strong. Then we hung up. And I started to cry.

Another life taken much too early by drugs. Another family devastated by the horrible disease called addiction.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Feeling some change on Father's Day

So, it's Father's Day again. I was all set to write a post explaining how I feel about Father's Day and how difficult it is for me to deal with every year. But then I remembered that I've already addressed those feelings in this blog before. In 2009 and again last year. So why bother doing it again? Instead, I'm going to repost my 2009 post, and comment on it briefly. First the post:

"Today is Father's Day, which is a 'holiday' I've struggled with for a long time. I actually kind of wish I could just skip this day each year.

First off, I've never really felt connected to my own father. Growing up the son of an alcoholic father will do that to you. To this day, anything father-related is very tough for me to deal with. Especially Father's Day. I always run through the same questions in my head: Should I call my father and wish him a happy Father's Day? Should I get him a card? Should I invite him over for dinner? What exactly should I do??? I wish it wasn't like that, but it is.

I also struggle with Father's Day as it relates to my own fatherhood. Despite everything I've read and have been told about how I'm not supposed to blame myself for my son's issues, I still can't help but wonder if I could've or should've done something differently while he was growing up. Something that might've put him on a different, better path.

Yes, it's Father's Day. But I'm struggling with it. Just like I do every year."

To be honest, the feelings I have toward my own father haven't changed. We really don't have a relationship because of his years of alcoholism. But I've come to accept that. It's baggage I've carried around for more than 40 years, so I'm kind of used to it. I will admit that it's little tougher this year, though, because as I write this post my dad is in the Veterans Administration hospital in downtown Detroit. He had some chest pains earlier in the week and has been in the hospital for a couple of days for observation. I went and visited him briefly yesterday, and I'm pretty sure he'll be released today or tomorrow. My dad is 86 years old and his health is not good. He should've been dead 30 years ago from all the drinking and smoking. (Think "Mad Men" x 20...and then some.) I'm not sure how he's survived this long. It truly is a medical miracle, for better or worse.

On the bright side, my feelings about my own fatherhood have changed. Over the last couple of years, I've come a long way in healing myself. To be honest, I never thought I'd get here. But I've finally realized that I didn't cause my son's addiction, I can't control it, and I certainly can't cure it. And I think I've done everything I possibly can as a father to help him with his situation. So I'm doing better in that regard. (For the record, I owe a lot of my progress in this area to my amazing wife.)

So now that the whole Father's Day thing is out of the way, here's a brief update on some other stuff going on.

My son is still in Atlanta. Actually, it's Cumming, Georgia, a town that really needs to think about changing its name. He is living with his friend in a lake house, which is next door to his friend's parents' lake house (on Lake Lanier). The house is vacant for a few months so they're renting it from the owner until they start hunting for an apartment or house to rent.

To the best of my knowledge, my son is still clean. Today would be 85 days. His next step is to get his driver's license and buy a car. Oh, and he still has to get a job. He's been looking, but it's tough because it's about five miles into town, and he really has no transportation. (His friend is still on probation and is limited as to where he can go.)

My wife and I had an incredibly fabulous weekend last weekend. We went to see two of our favorite female singer-songwriters--Kathleen Edwards and Rickie Lee Jones--on back-to-back nights. Both shows were amazing. And I was fortunate enough to be able to surprise one of our dearest friends by arranging a meeting with Rickie Lee Jones after that show. It sort of fulfilled a lifelong dream for her, so that was pretty great. (She also got to meet Kathleen Edwards.)

Lastly, our younger son finished 10th grade this past week and started Driver's Training. He continues to grow up more every day, and--despite the fact that he's a teenager--he's a sweet, sweet kid.

That about sums things up. My wife and I continue to heal and live our lives. We realize that we--both individually and as a couple--are important. And we will continue to take care of ourselves...and each other.

Postscript: While I was typing up this post, my wife said to me, "You got an e-mail from your mom." I wanted to share that e-mail with you just to show you what a beautiful, kind-hearted, angel of a woman I have for a mother. Here's her e-mail:

"HAPPY FATHER'S DAY my dearest Son.

I don't know how to express how proud I am of you and how much I Love You. I feel you must know my feelings.

[My sons' names] are very fortunate to have you as their Father. They might not fully realize this at their young age. Be patient with them.

As they grow older, and have many experiences both good and bad, they will understand and acknowledge what you have done for them. In the meantime, Love and Cherish both of them. They both are God's/the Universe's Gift to you (and you to them) to teach many lessons of Love (and Hate, too) in the journey you are all traveling.

Happiness to all of you (and [my wife's name], too, as their Mother) on this Special Day ... Your Mom, Always !! 
XXXOOO"

Postscript II: My son called today to wish me a happy Father's Day. He said, "I didn't even realize it was Father's Day until someone mentioned it at a meeting I was at." I smiled. Not only because he called to say,  "Happy Father's Day"; but because it was 2:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday and he had already been to an AA meeting. Not only that, my son said he got a new sponsor last night. And he confirmed that today is 85 days clean for him. "It'll be 90 days on the 22nd." I smiled again.

My son sounded really, really good. More mature. Level headed. Like he's been maturing, both chronologically and emotionally.

I've been the proudest father in the world all day long.

Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

"The next right thing"

The day after our son made the decision to move to Atlanta to live with a friend, my wife and I are still a little bit numb. And sad. In fact, the first thing I did when I woke up this morning was cry. But it didn't last long. And I didn't cry again the rest of the day.

All we can do is hope that our son's higher power guides him to where he needs to be. It's out of our hands. It always has been. It just took us a while to figure that out. Over the last several months, my wife and I have gotten pretty good at letting go. But it's still really hard.

On the bright side, we were very happy to see this as our son's Facebook status update today:

"Extremely grateful for all the friends I've made the past year. I would not be where I'm at today without all of you. I will definitely stay in touch and keep doing the next right thing."

"Keep doing the next right thing." That sounds like a pretty good game plan to me.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Off to "The ATL"

I thought today was going be a tough day because it was my first day back at work after a five-day weekend. But it ended up being tough for a totally different reason.

During the drive in to work this morning, I was pretty upbeat. I kept thinking about how good I felt and how well things seemed to be going. I was (almost) looking forward to spending the day at the office, catching up on work. But five minutes after I sat down at my desk, my phone rang. It was my son.

"I got kicked out," he said in a very sad and quiet voice. So quiet, in fact, that I wasn't sure I heard him correctly. "What did you say?" I asked him. And then I heard it, loud and clear. "I got kicked out. I have to pack my stuff and leave."

When I asked my son why he got kicked out, he said it was because he didn't get up on time again this morning. He said the house owner told him he had had enough warnings and that he had move out immediately. No ifs, ands, or buts.

I told my son I was sorry and that he'd have to figure things out on his own. I suggested he talk to the house owner about other places he could possibly go. All the while I was doing this, I felt physically ill. I really didn't have any answers for my son. This is something that hit me completely by surprise. So I ended the call by telling him, "You'll just have to figure it out."

When I hung up, I started to cry. You'd think that after all I've been through, something like this would get easier to take. In a way, it has gotten easier. But the pain and sadness can still hit me like a ton of bricks, and sometimes the tears just start flowing.

I immediately tried to call my wife, thinking that our son called me because he couldn't get in touch with her. She is always the first person he contacts--either by text or by calling--because they both have cell phones (and I don't). Unfortunately, I couldn't reach my wife. I tried calling about a dozen times, but all I got was her voicemail.

When I finally did get ahold of my wife--who had been out walking with a friend...without her cell phone--I asked her, "What do we do now?" As I suspected, she had no idea what I was talking about. When I told her, I could tell how surprised and disappointed she was. We talked briefly, then she said she was getting a call from our son. So I hung up. Meanwhile, I was still crying and decided there was no way I could stay at the office for the day. I packed up my stuff and headed back home.

Strangely, about a half-hour after completing the 40-mile drive to work, I found myself making the 40-mile drive home from work. Only this time I wasn't feeling so good about things and had tears running down my cheeks. When I got home, my wife told me our son had texted her and asked if we could help him out by coming to get his stuff. I know a lot of people probably think we should have said no, but we agreed to do it. Our son has no car, and he had a ton of stuff at the sober living house. It was all sitting in the driveway of the house, and there was no way he could have gone anywhere with it.

My wife and I went to the house, our son loaded his stuff in the back of our minivan, and he got in. We then drove home in total silence. I think everyone was at a loss for words, yet at the same time knew exactly what everyone else was thinking.

When we got home, we talked. Our son admitted to having screwed up. He sounded genuinely remorseful, too. He knows he was in a good place and that his behavior ruined that for him. My wife and I expressed our disappointment and told our son that we didn't really know what to do next. As it turns out, though, our son had a plan.

While he was in sober living in Palm Springs, our son had a roommate he got along really well with. The two of them became good friends. When this roommate went back home to Atlanta, he told our son that he could come live with him anytime. So that's what our son's plan was: to go to Atlanta and live with his former sober living roommate.

During our conversation, our son's phone rang. It was his friend telling him that he had bought him a plane ticket to Atlanta on a flight that leaves Detroit at 5:12pm today. My wife and I were kind of in shock over this. Our son was going from sober living in Detroit, to out on the streets, to flying to Atlanta all in a matter of a hours? That seemed crazy. But you know what? We decided we had to let him go, both literally and figuratively.

Our son is 22 years old and, despite his addiction and depression, we can't tell him what he can or cannot do. We can make suggestions, but the decisions are ultimately his. To tell him he couldn't go to Atlanta would've been a giant step backwards for us. It would've been us trying to control our son again, and we've worked so hard to move away from that.

So we helped him pack his stuff into one big duffel bag and a carry-on bag. And we called his grandma (my mom) to tell her to come say goodbye. And we got our other son out of school 30 minutes early so he could say goodbye, too. We all hugged and cried a little, and there were plenty of "I love yous." Then my wife drove our son to the airport. As I type this post, he is off to "The ATL."

It's still hard for me to comprehend that this all went down so quickly. I wish my son nothing but success as he starts this new phase of his life. It will definitely be a challenge for him. He'll be on his own. Living with someone else, yes; but without the structure of a sober living environment. He'll need to find his own path and, hopefully, work the program because he wants to; not because he has to.

His plane just took off and I miss him already.

I love you, son.

Postscript: For the record, my wife talked to the owner of the sober living house and our son was indeed kicked out for repeatedly not getting up on time. It was not because he used. In fact, as of today our son is 67 days clean. He also looks great and seems to be as clearheaded as he's been in years. So those are the positives we're taking away from all of this.

"Grace is doing my best, and letting go of the outcome."
    --http://www.onecraftymother.com/2011/04/grace-doesnt-wear-red-cape.html

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How my favorite author got sober

Anne Lamott is my favorite author. Her words are so inspirational and healing for me. In this video she talks about how she got sober and the spiritual path she's taken since becoming sober. Good stuff.

"I got to the point where I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards." --Anne Lamott

Friday, May 25, 2012

Who's counting?

I've been meaning to post here for the last several days, but I've been incredibly busy at work and with stuff around the house. Now I'm off work for five days--a sort of mini Memorial Day weekend "staycation"--so I figured I'd update everyone on how things have been going.

First off: My son is 62 days clean today. How do I know this? Not because I'm focusing on counting his clean time, but because he is focusing on counting his clean time. This is very different for him. During his previous streaks of sobriety, he wasn't always sure how long he'd been clean. If you asked him, he'd give an answer like, "I think it's about 34 days." Or, "I'm not really sure." But now he is totally aware of his status. I think that means he's "locked in"--at least for now.

Now, regular readers of this blog are probably wondering how I know what my son's up to, because in an earlier post I told you that we were cutting off all contact from him for six months, on the advice of his sponsor. That plan changed a bit for a couple of different reasons.

The main reason for the change is that 10 days ago my son had an issue with his heart. He texted my wife that he was having occasional irregular, rapid heartbeats and he was very concerned about it. He also told her that a doctor he saw in Palm Springs mentioned something about this problem several months ago.

While I suppose my wife and I could've let our son take care of this heart issue on his own--call a doctor, schedule an appointment, find a ride to the appointment, etc.--we decided to step in and help out. Because I myself suffer from atrial fibrillation, which can be hereditary, my wife and I decided it would be best to skip going to a regular doctor and take my son straight to a cardiologist. My cardiologist.

We were very fortunate that my son raised this issue on a Tuesday, because Tuesday is the only day my cardiologist--who is the best doctor I've ever had--is in the office. We were also lucky that he had had a cancellation for that day, because it normally takes months to get in to see him.

My wife called me at work to let me know she was taking our son to the appointment, and I left the office to meet them there. When my son was finally called in for his exam, I accompanied him; not because I was trying to be a control freak, but because I have a long-time rapport with the doctor and have a lot of experience with similar heart issues. Plus, I was generally concerned.

After the nurse gave my son an EKG, we had to wait about an hour for the doctor to come in. The doctor listened to my son's heart carefully and could not hear anything abnormal. He also said the EKG was totally normal. While the doctor said my son could possibly have atrial fibrillation--which can be hereditary--he said it was highly unlikely that he would have it at such a young age. He said it was more likely that my son has something called atrial premature beats, which is not as serious. And because my son has been experiencing these irregular beats only occasionally, the doctor did not want to put him on any medication at this point. The doctor told my son to let him know if he started having more frequent episodes, and asked him to come in and have an echocardiogram done the following week.

The most amazing part of this doctor's visit for me was the hour my son and I had to wait to see the doctor. During that hour, I had some of the best conversation I've had with my son in years. Not about anything in particular. Just about "stuff." It almost felt like I was having a dream or something. Seriously. My son and I hadn't talked like that in a long, long time. I even went out on a limb and asked him how he was doing with his sobriety, and whether or not he still has cravings.

His answer seemed very honest. He told me that he doesn't have cravings very often, but that he does have dreams about getting high. He added, "I know I can't go out and get high just once, though, because when I do my brain just tells me it wants more and more. And I don't want to deal with that shit anymore."

Yesterday my wife too our son to have his echocardiogram done, then took him to the urgent care clinic because he's been sick with a nasty sore throat/cold the last few days. After getting a prescription filled, they stopped by the house briefly for a "cat visit" before my wife dropped our son back off at his house.

I have to say, my son seems so much more level-headed now. The way he talks, the way he acts; it just seems so much more "normal." Hugging him and telling him that I love him felt so good yesterday.

Later on, my wife told me that our son told her he feels the best he's felt in years, even though he's sick with a cold. That alone speaks volumes to me.

So that's the health stuff. The other reason the "no contact at all for six months" plan has changed a bit is because the person who suggested it is no longer my son's sponsor. My son said they weren't seeing eye-to-eye on some things and that they both thought it best to amicably part ways. My son has a new temporary sponsor for now and says he'll see how that works out.

I should add that even though the strict "no contact" plan has technically been compromised, my wife and I are still committed to having very little contact with our son for a while. We still think it's the best way for him to gain independence and learn to figure things out on his own.

Some people may think we're being hypocritical by saying we want our son to figure things out on his own after we just took him to three doctors' appointments. But your kid's heart isn't something you really want to mess around with. So if us taking him to the doctor makes us hypocrites, I'll proudly accept that designation in this instance.

One more thing: I've said this before but I want to say it again. If you or someone you love is going through a problem with addiction, try your best to be open about it. I know it's not easy, but I really believe it's the only way the stigma associated with addiction will ever be lessened. I am very grateful that God gave me the ability to be totally transparent about my son's condition right from the start. I have nothing at all to hide and will talk to anyone about everything my son and our family have been through. I know some people might find that strange, but addiction is everywhere and can happen to anyone. There is nothing to be ashamed about.

Happy Friday and praise the Lord. My son is 62 days clean today. But who's counting?

"Everything I have to offer anyone...depends on me staying sober." --Anne Lamott