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."

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

Monday, May 14, 2012

This 'n' that

Yesterday was Mother's Day and it was kind of sad not having our son around to help us celebrate. Not that we did anything super exciting. My wife and I both view Mother's Day (along with Father's Day, Valentine's Day, etc.) as sort of a "Hallmark Holiday," so our "celebrations" are pretty low-key. But I did cook a nice meal, and our son was definitely missed at the dinner table. To his credit, though, he did call my wife to wish her a happy Mother's Day.

It's been 16 days since we started our "no contact with our son for six months" plan, and things seem to be going alright. I would, however, be lying to you if I said we haven't had any contact at all with him. There have been a couple of instances where we have seen him or talked to him very briefly. And by "very briefly," I mean for about two minutes (or less) on each occasion.

The first time was when our son stopped by our house to pick up a prescription refill that his psychiatrist called into the pharmacy and my wife picked up. Some people--including his sponsor--might say that this goes totally against the "no contact, let him figure it out" rule. But when it comes to our son's medication, we're not going to just let him run out and stop taking his anti-depressants because he doesn't have the money to pay for them. That's not safe. (We know this from past experience.)

The second time was when our son ripped his favorite sweatshirt and called my wife to ask her if she could sew it for him. My wife said she would, but that she didn't know when she could get to it. She told him to drop it off, and he did. (He came by the house and put it through the mail slot.)

I guess yesterday's "Happy Mother's Day" call counts as a third time. But, seriously... I'm not counting that as any kind of negative. There was no begging to come over for dinner on my son's part. It was just a polite, loving phone call, and my wife was very happy to get it.

So that's an update on my son. We haven't heard anything negative from his sponsor, or from the owner of the sober living house. So we're assuming things have improved. He hasn't been kicked out of the house and, to the best of our knowledge, he's still clean. (By my calculations, today would be 50 days.) My wife and I continue to pray that things continue to go well.

Now for an update on me.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was trying my best to "live in the moment." I'm happy to report that I seem to be getting better at that than I ever dreamed I could. The little things in life aren't getting me down as much as they used to. I don't feel the need to be in total control of everything like I used to. And I'm getting better at letting go. Both in my personal life and my work life, I notice a big difference. My wife notices it, too.

I think this is a major accomplishment on my part, and it makes me feel much better about myself. I used to be a full-blown Type A personality. Now? Maybe not so much. Hell, I'm even sleeping better than I have in years. Actually falling asleep easily and sleeping through the night.

It's taken me a long time to get to the place I'm in today. More than seven years. And I attribute the changes to a few different things:

  • I believe I've finally found the right dosage of the right anti-depressant. For the last few months, I just plain feel better. I've tried a bunch of different anti-depressants over the years, with limited success. But right now, things are good. I'm glad I didn't give up trying.
  • I think I've learned to let go of stuff simply because I was too exhausted from trying to hang onto it. For example: I used to come home from work worrying about the projects on my plate and obsessing over them, even while I was trying to get to sleep. I finally figured out that was no way to live. Surprisingly, my boss is largely responsible for me finally "getting" this. "The work will be there tomorrow," he always tells me. "You and your family should always come first." And you know what? He's right.
  • Anne Lamott. Anne Lamott is an amazing woman and an amazing author who writes books full of incredible honesty and self-deprecating humor. She writes about faith. And grace. And hope. And covers topics like alcoholism, sobriety, depression, Christianity, and parenthood. (Coincidentally, she has a 22-year-old son with the same name as our son who is also in recovery.) Anne Lamott was always one of my wife's favorite authors, and I started reading bits and pieces of her books. To my surprise, there are so many things she writes about that I can totally relate to. Reading her stuff makes me feel so comforted. Like I am not alone. She is such a wise woman. Sometimes I think of the old Joan Osborne song "One of Us" ("What if God was one of us?...) and think that Anne Lamott might just be that person. If you've never read anything by her, you need to. As soon as possible. My wife and I recently had the pleasure of attending a talk/Q&A session with Anne at a local church. I swear, it was like a religious experience for me. And it was such a pleasure to meet and talk to her afterwards.
  • My wife is also responsible for my living a better life of late. My wife is the most amazing woman I know, and her outlook on life is so positive. I'll be honest: my wife's positive outlook on life used to bother me. I was always feeling so down and negative, and she was always feeling upbeat and positive. It was, quite frankly, annoying. But over the last year or so, I've started to cross over to her side. Being negative and pessimistic takes a tremendous toll on a person. And I was that person. Living in the moment, appreciating what you have, taking negatives and re-framing them into positives, and not letting the little things in life get you down. My wife has taught me how to do that. I'm still learning, but I'm a much better student than I used to be. I honestly don't know where I'd be without my wife. She's the most important person in my life. Without her, I think the last seven-plus years might've killed me.
  • The last thing that has helped me change and get to the place I'm at today is this blog. When I started this blog back in December of 2008, I had no idea if I would keep it going or not. But I did. And I'm glad I did, because every post I make is therapy for me. It allows me to get my feelings "out there," and getting comments from people--many of them in the same situation as me--makes me feel like I'm not alone. So thanks to each and every one of you who reads my rambling posts. You're like my little army of therapists.
Wow. That's a long post. Thanks for sticking with it. And thanks for sticking with me.


Friday, May 4, 2012

One week later

It's been a week since the last "crisis" with my son and I'm happy to report that things seem to be going well. He did not get kicked out of his sober living house and we haven't had contact with him; no phone calls, no texts, no e-mails. So at this point, I'd have to say his sponsor's plan is working. It's not easy being cut off from him, but if he's gaining some independence, figuring things out, and working the 12 Steps like he should be, it's more than worth it.

Oh, wait. My wife did have one brief encounter with our son last Saturday. She went to the grocery store, which is right across the street from the neighborhood Starbucks. As she was leaving the store and heading to her car, she happened to bump into our son and his sponsor. They were coming out of Starbucks, books in hand. They had been working the steps. My wife gave our son a big hug and told him she loved him and was proud of him. When my wife came home and told me what had happened, she called it a "God moment."