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?


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 !! 

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.