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."


  1. WOW!! So much to take in and see from an outside perspective. You are an amazing man and your son is an amazing YOUNG man too. It is rough as you have seen in the past 6-9 months since we met, but by CHOICE, MY CHOICE, things do and are getting better. Sam is extremely lucky to have a father like you and a family like yours. I will always keep him and your family in my daily prayers and am always here if you guys need anything. I may actually be visiting a sober friend in Atlanta this summer, so maybe I can meet up with him. HUGS--JAMES MAC

  2. As always...praying for your Sam. -AmyG

  3. All best wishes to Sam as he begins his new journey. XO

  4. Dad and Mom did good. The rest is on your son.

  5. That is great news, though you are understandably shell shocked. You wanted him to stand on his own feet and that is what he is doing. Congratulations! I think it is a definite advantage for him as well as you that he has had the courage to move far away.
    (I have a son sorting himself out far away too.)

  6. Distance is sometimes the great neutralizer. My oldest got completely sober moving 2000 miles away. What a gift.

  7. Whoa, so much to process.
    I pray that you and Mom can have peace during this quick turn of events. I have always identified with you as our sons seem so similar. Mine is almost 22, deals with depression and anxiety and ADD. He has been through a couple of treatment programs. He was kicked out of one 3/4 house for too much sleeping in and basic laziness. He has been in Asheville for about 2 years now. I can tell you that the distance of about 250 miles has certainly helped with my own detachment. He is currently living in a 1/2 way house that has very little accountability. I don't think he is working a program. He is also a convicted felon ( oh it hurts to put that in writing). He has been homeless several times in Asheville. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.
    Previous to that he was in Atlanta. We live in the area and his first "clinical" 6 week program was nearby. I will tell you that there is a strong recovery community here. I pray that your son can connect to it.
    I always appreciate how well you and so many others put your thoughts into words in your blog.
    I pray for strength, peace and serenity for all of us.
    God is good and bigger than all of us. His grace still amazes me.
    looking up,

  8. This is a blessing. Sink or swim, it's on him now...completely.

    I sent my son to Florida with the same TTFN (tah tah for now) approach. "Get sober and stay sober, or don't. Love ya. Bye." I had reached my bottom. I no longer cried for him or over him. I was just plain pissed off.

    Guess what? He got sober, and nine months later he is still sober. I pray the same for your son and peace for you and your wife.

  9. What a lot to process in one day, a rollar coaster of emotions. My nearly 20 year old has recently been having panic attacks, I just took him a week ago for the first time to the doctor. We go back in a month. Be well ~ and hoping that he has a good start to his life in Atlanta.

  10. I read about your blog from Anne over at I will be following you as I can, I have children who I have come to the same point with and sharing these situations with someone (albeit from a distance) is comforting. May the gods hold you, your family, and your son in their arms. Brightest blessings!

  11. My son is also 22. He will soon complete a treatment program that he has been in for eight months. We sent him 1100 miles from home to attend this program. It was so hard to put him on the flight to treatment back in October but sending him far from home is one of the best things we have ever done. For all of us. He has chosen to stay in Louisiana and go into the treatment facility's sober living program. He has matured and has begun to take responsibility for himself. Mom and Dad are not there to do it for him. I have missed him terribly but it has gotten easier as time has passed and I see progress. Wishing your son the best.