Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking back on the not-so-distant past

Yesterday I posted this status update on my Facebook page:

"My blog went over 49,000 views today. And @bettyfordcenter is now following me on Twitter. Crazy."

Several friends commented on my post. Some offered their congratulations. A couple even suggested that I should write a book.

Ha! Although I was very flattered, I doubt I will ever write a book about my experiences as the father of an addict. But I will admit that the thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

You see, in addition to this blog I have a personal journal that preceded my electronic postings. That journal is more than 200 pages long, and it goes back to what I refer to as "the darkest days." The days when my family's life was a real living hell. When there was no hope in sight and I wondered if we would ever be able to survive what we were going through. It was awful period for everyone involved.

Today I found that journal on my computer and read it. Needless to say, it was an incredibly tough read. There were things in it that I didn't even remember. (Or maybe I just wanted to forget them.) Things so horrible I have no idea how my wife and I ever navigated our way through them. But we did. Together we figured it out as we went along and found a way to do it. It was damn hard and physically and emotionally draining. But we did it.

Reading that journal made me realize how far I have come. Just a few years ago, I could barely function. For example, in an entry from March 2, 2008, I wrote about having gone into a conference room at work so I could cry:

"The pain I feel right now is indescribable. Even crying doesn't help."

I also quoted a passage from David Sheff's Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction--the book I was reading at the time--because I could totally relate to it:

"When I am alone, however, I weep in a way that I have not wept since I was a young boy...Tears come at unexpected moments for no obvious reason, and they pour forth with ferocity. They scare the hell out of me. It scares the hell out of me to be so lost and helpless and out of control and afraid."

Today, almost four years later, I still feel afraid from time to time. But I no longer feel lost, helpless, or out of control. I've even kind-of-sort-of figured some things out.

One thing's for sure: I've worked extremely hard on my recovery and have made progress. Looking back on the not-so-distant past today just confirmed that for me.

By the way, don't hold your breath waiting for that book. :)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Life plans can change

I don't usually post things like this on my blog. In fact, I don't know if I ever have. But when I saw this last night it struck me as being particularly profound. It reminded me of that moment I realized my son was an addict, and that the life plan I had imagined for him wasn't going to happen. At least, not right away.

Thanks to Karen Salmansohn for posting this on her Facebook page. If you get a chance, check out her website: Karen Salmansohn: Self-Help For People Who Wouldn't Be Caught Dead Doing Self-Help. There's some great stuff there.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best. Christmas. Ever.

I know it was two days ago, but I'm still soaking in all the wonderfulness that was Christmas 2012. I really cherished the holiday this year. Having my son participate with almost six months of sobriety under his belt was an unbelievably great feeling.

He spent Christmas Eve at his sober living house and came over mid-morning so we could open presents together. Earlier that morning, though--very early, in fact--I was the first one awake in our house. I came downstairs, turned the Christmas tree lights on, built a fire in the fireplace, put on some Christmas music, and sat on the couch...and cried. But unlike the last several years, I was crying tears of joy. I was just so damn happy. It was like I was living a dream.

My son stayed at our home the whole day, and we had a fabulous family dinner with my mom, brother, and youngest sister. Unfortunately, my dad couldn't make it over because he wasn't feeling well and continues to have major issues with his hearing. But we put together a nice doggy bag of food for him and sent it home with my mom.

Both of my sons are doing so well right now. As a parent, there's really nothing more I could ask for. I am so incredibly grateful.

This really was the best Christmas ever.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One year later

Flashback to one year ago...

If someone would've predicted what my life was going to be like today, describing the current scenario, I probably would've told them they were crazy. After almost eight years of struggles, I really wouldn't have been able to imagine something like they were describing. But, of course, I would've gladly said OK to it.

Amazingly, one year later that imaginary scenario is indeed here, and I am reveling in it one day at a time. Living in the moment. Grateful for every day, hour, minute, and second.

I'm not sure what I did to deserve such a turnaround, but I appreciate my higher power deeming me worthy of it. And it's not just me. My entire family is in such a better place today than they were at this time in 2012. It's like night and day, really.

As I've said before, I'm very aware that things in life can turn on a dime. And if they do, I will deal with that. But right now I am at total peace. It's a feeling I haven't felt in years, and a feeling I wasn't quite sure I would ever feel again. Stupid me.

With Christmas only days away, I can't help but think about how much emphasis is put on material things. People need to have the best this and the best that, and Christmas lists are full of fancy things that cost a lot of money. Well, I don't have a lot of money and "things" have become less and less important to me. I guess that's why I have an old-fashioned "dinosaur" lo-def TV. And an 11-year-old car that's falling apart (but still runs great). And, of course, no cell phone (insert laugh track here).

For the past several years, when Christmas time rolled around I would wish and hope and pray for one thing, and one thing only. I wasn't expecting to get it, but I kept on wishing and hoping and praying. It couldn't hurt, I thought. And whaddya know? This year I got it.

I should say that I am so incredibly proud of my boys. They've both come so far this year and are in such good places right now. I am incredibly proud of my lovely wife, too. A lot of couples who have gone through what we've gone through over the last several years may have ended up going their separate ways. But my wife is my rock. She's the glue that has held this family together through all of its difficulties. Without her, who knows where my boys and I would be.

I also have to say that I'm proud of myself. For forgiving my father after 40+ years of resentment. For learning to let go. For finally setting boundaries and sticking to them. And for learning to live in the moment more. All of these things are things I couldn't have imagined doing a year ago.

I have no Christmas list this year, because I have already received the ultimate gift. One that has no monetary value, but one I will cherish and enjoy while I moment at a time.

As 2012 winds down and 2013 comes knocking on my door, I will continue to go forward, be brave, and keep the faith.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

There are some things that I believe
Like if you've got nothing you've still got your family
And when you are no one you're still the king...
--Kathleen Edwards, from her song "Good Things"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy birthday, son

Twenty-three years ago to the moment, my wife and I were at the hospital awaiting the birth of our first child. We went to the hospital very early in the morning, after calling my oldest sister to tell her that it appeared our first child was going to be on her birthday, which also happens to be her oldest son's birthday. Yes, 12/12 has some meaning in my family.

While at the hospital, I remember wondering what the hell was happening. I was 28-years-old, but still felt like a kid. And here I was about to become a father. I was equal parts excited and scared. Probably no different than any other rookie parent-to-be. A true emotional roller coaster.

We spent all day and much of the night waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. And wondering: When was this little human being going to decide it was ready? Was it going to be a boy or a girl? What would it look like? Would it be healthy?

Finally, at 9:57pm, our questions were answered and my wife and I became the parents of a beautiful 7-pound, 12-ounce baby boy. It was one of the happiest moments of my life and a night I will never forget. A few hours after the birth, I went home feeling like the luckiest man on the planet. Because I was the luckiest man on the planet.

We named our son after my mom's father and my wife's father. When we took him home to our tiny little house with the freshly prepared nursery I remember how strange it felt. Two of us went to the hospital...and three of us came home. Life as my wife and I knew it would never be the same.

Flash forward 23 years to today: 12/12/12. It's definitely a magical date from a numerical standpoint because it's the last repetitive date most people on Earth will ever see. But it's also a magical day for some other reasons.

My son is five-and-a-half months clean and is in the best emotional place he's been in about eight years. For this I am incredibly grateful. He also got his first real job the other day and will be working 35 hours a week and earning his own--as he referred to it on Facebook--"bank" (bank = money). This is such a huge milestone for him. I believe this will have an immeasurable positive effect on his confidence and his life in general. Definitely another thing I am grateful for.

Christmas is less than two weeks away and these days our society places a lot of emphasis on material things when it comes to this holiday. In the past, there have indeed been material things that I've wanted for Christmas. Maybe only one or two things for past several years, and nothing really major. But this year I have no Christmas list because there are no material things I want.

This Christmas is all about the state of my family. For the first time in eight years, there is some sense of normalcy surrounding my family. People are doing well. Some heavy burdens--not all having to do with my son--have been lifted. And I feel a sense of peace I haven't felt in a long, long time.

I know there are no guarantees in life, so I realize that things could change in an instant. But I have come a long way this year, too, and have learned to live in the moment and truly appreciate every good day. And today is a good day.

Happy birthday, son. I am so incredibly proud of you and love you with all my heart. Here's hoping your 24th year will be your best ever.

"Just when you think it can't get any worse, it can. And just when you think it can't get any better, it can." --Nicholas Sparks