Sunday, March 25, 2012

A small miracle

First off, let me just say that my wife and I are totally exhausted--emotionally and physically--from the events of yesterday. It was by far one of the most challenging days of this seven-year odyssey we've been on.

Having our son show up at our house yesterday, totally unannounced and out of the blue, was not something we were planning on. But it wasn't a total shock, either. My wife and I kind of suspected that coming back to our house was our son's ultimate goal. I guess we just didn't expect it so soon.

We talked with our son for hours in our backyard. He was insistent on coming back home. That he could change. That he would follow the rules. He even wrote up a contract stating everything that he would and wouldn't do. The problem is, we've had several contracts like this before, and they were all broken.

My wife and I were adamant: Our son was not coming back home to live. Period. We heard it all. "I have no place to go." "I promise I'll change." "You don't care about me." "I need my family." "Just give me one more chance." We've heard all those things before, and as recent as several months ago we might've given in and let our son move back in with us. But not this time. We've finally learned how to set a boundary and stick to it. And we've learned that the majority of addicts say that they never really found the proper road to recovery until their family cut them off.

At one point, our son said, "If I can't come back home, you may as well kill me now." That stuff is tough to hear, but again it's nothing we haven't heard before. When it became obvious that our son wasn't going to take any of our suggestions--he even ripped up a list of sober living houses and phone numbers we gave him--and wasn't going to stop pressuring us to come home, I asked him to leave. And when he refused to leave, I told him I was calling the police to have them make him leave. While I was on the phone with the police, our son gathered up some stuff and left, yelling "You guys make me sick" as he walked down the driveway. Thankfully, the police never had to come to the house, which is a good thing. (It's happened way too many times over the years.)

After our son left, my wife and I decided to call a friend of ours who has been in recovery for several years and helped get our son into recovery for the first time six year ago. We explained the situation and our friend said that he would call our son and meet with him.

To make a long story shorter, our friend called us and told us he knew of a very structured sober living house not far from our house and that our son had agreed to go. He told us to put our son's things on the front porch and that they would come and pick them up on the way to the sober living house. (He told us he did not want us to have any contact with our son before he left.) So that's what we did.

A little while later, our friend called to tell us everything went very well. He also stopped by our house on his way home to talk to us.

As it turns out, there are a couple of guys living in the sober living house who our son already knows from local AA meetings. That made our son happy, because he was worried about being in a totally new situation again. In fact, his roommate in the house will be one of those guys he knows.

This house is indeed very structured. All of the guys have to go to 14 meetings a week, including "early bird" meetings every day at 7:00am (which could be a huge challenge for our son). The owner of the house also has a painting business, and our friend said the owner is going to put our son to work right away, so that he can earn money for his rent. That's a great thing, because finding a job has been a huge stumbling block for our son.

My wife and I feel like a small miracle occurred yesterday. There are not enough words to express how grateful we are for our friend's assistance. He took the time to meet with our son, found a place for him to go, and took him there. We hope this new development is what our son needs to truly make progress with his recovery and help him become the independent adult he wants to be.

My wife and I are very proud of how we handled the situation yesterday. We used to be soft and easy. But we've finally toughened up and are a team that knows how to stick to our guns when we set a boundary. Yesterday was the ultimate test and we passed with flying colors. We love our son dearly. But sometimes tough love is the only love that works.

One last thing. Last night, after our friend left, my wife got a text message from our son. It read:

"I am in a great place. Thank God for [our friend's name]."

That put a smile on both of our faces.

Please keep our son in your thoughts and prayers. And thanks to everyone, both here and on Facebook, for your continued support.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

I should've seen this coming

My son just showed up at the house with all his stuff. THIS oughta be an interesting afternoon.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I'm not sure if I've mentioned this in my blog before, but I'm a catastrophizer. That is, I usually expect the worst possible outcome in every situation. Kind of like a pessimist on steroids. My therapist "diagnosed" me as such a few years ago, and she hit the nail right on the head. I'm not a "glass half full" guy. I'm not even a "glass half empty" guy. I'm more like a "glass just about empty" guy. I've tried to overcome this negativity, but it's something I just can't seem to shake. I do continue to work on it, though.

So, what does this have to do with my son's situation? Because all day today, I kept thinking about his coming "home" yesterday and the circumstances around it. I kept thinking about everything he told my wife and me. That he had friends who lived in a house nearby. That they are all in recovery. And that they were willing to let him stay with them. Then I thought about him not wanting a ride to this house. And refusing to tell us where the house even is.

After thinking about it over and over, and processing everything through my brain, the catastrophizer in me came to this conclusion: I don't believe my son. That's a horrible thing to say, but I still don't trust him. I've been lied to too many times about too many different things over the years.

Obviously, my son is staying with someone close by. That's indisputable. But I'm not sure if I buy the part about him staying in a house with three other people in recovery. That sounds like something he might've concocted so that we'd say yes to his idea. I would not be at all surprised to find out that he's living with someone else. Say, another friend who may not be in recovery.

I hope I'm totally wrong about this and that it's just the catastrophizer in me messing with my head. But I can't help but think there's something fishy about the whole story. I mentioned my theory to my wife today, prefacing it with, "I hope you don't think I'm being too negative, but..." Her reply? She has her doubts about the whole story, too.

Sooner or later, the truth will come out and we'll find out if our son is lying or not. If his story turns out to be true, maybe I'll start to trust him ever so slightly for the first time in a long time. But if his story does indeed turn out to be fabricated, I will be incredibly disappointed. Whatever the outcome, though, I will learn from it and move on.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Back in town

Yesterday was a really tough day. Getting the news that my son had been kicked out of sober living (again) via a phone call in the wee hours of the morning was distressing. So was the inability to sleep after that phone call. Then, after all that, I had to work. Thankfully, I was able to do that from home.

But things got more interesting as the day went on. My son barraged my wife and I with phone calls and text messages, asking us if he could please come home. He said the sober living house would let him come back after 10 days, but he had nowhere to go in the meantime. My wife and I stayed strong, though. In fact, I didn't answer any of the phone calls. And my wife ignored a lot of calls and texts, too. When she did talk to or text our son, the message remained the same: You are not coming home and you need to figure things out for yourself.

I must say, it's pretty damn hard to turn a deaf ear to your child's pleas for help, but we've learned over the years--finally--that it's the only way. Enabling and giving in to an addict's wishes and demands doesn't do anyone any good. Believe me. We've been there and done that. It does not work and it actually makes the whole situation worse. For everyone.

The phone calls and texts continued into the night, but we didn't budge. Eventually, at about 9:30pm, my wife got a text message from our son saying that he was staying with a friend of his from his previous sober living house. This guy was my son's roommate at the sober living house in Ann Arbor and had since moved into his own apartment nearby. We were relieved to know that our son had found a safe place to spend the night. We were even more relieved that he had found a solution to his problem on his own. That might sound odd, but having our son figure his own way out of a mess he created was definitely a positive thing.

That brings us to today. Coincidentally, my wife was already scheduled to go to Ann Arbor today to accompany her father to the hospital for some pre-op testing. (My father-in-law is having open-heart surgery to fix a faulty aortic valve next month.) Because my son wasn't able to get all of his stuff out of the sober living house, my wife, who was literally going to be in the neighborhood, offered to take him to the house to get the rest of his possessions; and bring anything he didn't need back to our house. My son was grateful for that.

Later in the afternoon, after her father's tests were done, my wife called me to say she was at the apartment our son spent the night at and that they were going to get his things. Then, a little while later, she called again.

The latest development, my wife told me, was that our son had found someone to stay with for a longer term. Someone he knows through AA who happens to live in a house in the next city over from us. In other words, someone very close to home. This person lives with two other people, and all of them are in recovery.

So now my son was asking a couple questions. 1.) Would it be OK if he stayed with these people? And 2.) If it is OK, would my wife drive him back to our side of town? Needless to say, this came as a huge shock to me. And from the tone of my wife's voice, I could tell it came as a shock to her, too.

My wife and I discussed things over the phone for several minutes. It was such an unlikely and unexpected scenario that neither one of us really knew what to do. We were both uncomfortable with the prospect of having our son so close to home again. But our son is 22 years old. How can we tell him where he can or can't live? That would be us trying to control him, and that's something we can't do. Again, it took us years to figure that out, but we finally "got" it.

In the end, we decided that if moving in with people who live close to our home was what our son wanted to do, we'd have to be OK with it. No matter how uncomfortable it made us feel. So my wife agreed to drive our son and his stuff back home.

Our son came to our house for a couple of hours. When he first walked in, I asked him how he was doing. "I've been better," he said. Then he walked over to me, gave me a big hug, and said, "I love you." That felt really good to hear, and I told him, "I love you, too." He then took a shower, packed the stuff he wanted to take with him, and ate dinner with us. After dinner, he took his duffle bag, backpack, and guitar and walked to the place he'll be staying at.

The only weird thing about all this is that our son wouldn't tell us where the house he'll be staying at is. He told my wife that he didn't want her driving by all the time, checking up on him. She said she wouldn't do that, but our son still wouldn't spill the beans. We told him we'll have to know where he's staying eventually, just in case of an emergency. He acknowledged that, but for now I think he just wants to make this transition on his terms.

And we just have to let him.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kicked out. Again.

It's 1:30am Eastern Daylight Time and I can't sleep. So I'm writing this blog post.

About an hour ago, our house phone rang, waking me and my wife and scaring the shit out of me. When the phone first rang, I said out loud, "This can't be good." That's what happens when you're the parent of an addict and the phone rings at odd times. You immediately think something bad has happened. One look at the caller ID before I answered this call and I knew I was right this time.

The call was from my son. The bottom line? He said he and some other guys in his sober living house had just gotten kicked out for smoking that goddamn "incense" stuff (i.e., synthetic cannabis). My heart just sank. This is the fifth time my son's been kicked out of a sober living house in eight months. I wonder if he'll ever figure out that "sober living" doesn't really work without the "sober" part.

I don't know where he's going to go. He didn't even know if the house manager was going to let him spend the night there. We told him to ask around and try to find another house in the area. Another problem? He's got a shitload of stuff with him at the house, and no car to transport it in. So the next several hours, as well as tomorrow--which is actually today--should be interesting.

It's tough being a parent in this situation. On the one hand, I love my son from the bottom of my heart and feel incredibly sorry for what he's going through. In fact, I just spent an hour crying like a baby. But on the other hand, he's in this mess because of a poor choice he made. He knew the rules. He's been through this before. And yet, the cycle continues. I don't think sobriety is high on his list of priorities.

I will guarantee you one thing: He's not coming home. If he ends up being homeless, so be it. Moving back into our house is not an option.

Addiction sucks, people. It sucks more than just about anything. Anyone who loves an addict and is reading this post already knows that. But for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, trust me; it's something you never, ever, ever want to experience. Your addict will rip your heart out, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it over and over again. Not necessarily intentionally. But intentional or not, it still hurts. And every time it happens, it hurts just as much.

Peace to all of you and thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

Today is St. Patrick's Day, which is one of those holidays I've never celebrated. In fact, I can count the number of times I've gone out to celebrate March 17th on no hands. Because I've never done it. My view of the "holiday" may be skewed, but I've always thought of it as a drinking holiday. Like New Year's Eve or, for some people, the night before Thanksgiving. I just don't see the point in going out and getting drunk to celebrate something.

So today and tonight, the only thing I'll be celebrating is my 1,284 days of sobriety. "Be the change you want to see in your son," my wife and I were told by a therapist during our son's second rehab stint. So we are. (I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my wife also gave up alcohol at the same time I did; neither one of us drink anymore.)

There will be no green beer, Guinness, or Irish whiskey in my life today. Just water and root beer. And a corned beef sandwich for lunch at a friend's house while we watch the local high school's girls basketball team play for the state championship.


FYI, my son is still in sober living in Ypsilanti. Things seem to be going pretty well right now, even though there have been some bumps. I'm trying to concentrate on me, though. I've been totally slammed at work and have been going through a tough bout of depression myself. Staying sane has been my main focus of late, which is why I haven't blogged about my son in a while. In time, I'll try to get back at it.