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 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.