Tuesday, June 25, 2013


As my wife and I count down to our son's one-year sobriety anniversary (just a week to go!), it's great to hear other people say things that confirm the progress we have witnessed in our son.

Today a friend of ours--who helped our son very early on and still sees him from time to time--came over to borrow a card table because he was helping a friend put on an estate sale across the street. He told us to come over and take a walk through the house for a preview of the sale.

When my wife and I went across the street we started talking to our friend about our son and how far he's come. Our friend had nothing but praise for our son. Our friend's wife was also at the house and she, too, had nothing but wonderful things to say about our boy. She told us how much better he looks, how much more talkative he is, and how much he smiles now.

That last comment? The part about the smiling? That's the thing I took to be the ultimate compliment and it's something my wife and I have noticed, too. Our son seems so much happier these days. It sounds like such a little thing; but he actually smiles.

To an "ordinary" parent, a smiling child is probably something that's often taken for granted. But when you've been through what my wife and I have been through, seeing your child smile--and hearing other people talk about it--is something extraordinarily beautiful.

I am so happy and proud. And I've been smiling all night.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Celebrating sobriety

Today I am 1,748 days sober. For those of you who aren't good at math (like moi), that's 4 years, 9 months, and 14 days. Big deal, right? Not much cause for celebrating a crazy number like that. Plus, the main reason my wife and I gave up drinking was as an act of solidarity: "Be the change you want to see in your son" is what the family therapist at my son's rehab facility told us in September of 2008. That's all we needed to hear.

My wife and I have been sober for nearly five years, but we don't really celebrate the dates we stopped drinking. Oh, sure; when September 10th rolls around each year I recognize the fact that it's a milestone for me. But there's not any fanfare other than maybe a post on Facebook or something.

Enter my son, who is just over a week away from having one year of clean and sober time under his belt. One year. Wow. When I think about that I am literally moved to tears. My son has struggled with depression and addiction since he was 15. Actually, the whole family has struggled because addiction is a family disease. There may be only one addict, but the entire family--immediate and extended--is sucked into the throes of addiction.

As my son has piled up months of clean time, we have celebrated quietly. When the second of the month rolls around, my wife and I express gratitude and tell our son how proud we are of him. Our son marks his anniversary at his AA meeting and his pride and confidence grow. And we all move on, one day at a time.

But when July 2nd rolls around in just a few days, it's going to be different. It's going to be special. It will be one of the proudest moments of my life.

It wasn't too long ago that I wondered if my son would ever achieve a year of sobriety. When you're the parent of an addict in recovery, you certainly hope for the best. And while you don't necessarily expect the worst, you know that it's always a possibility. That's why my wife and I have worked so hard to learn to live in the moment and appreciate every day for what it is.

I don't know if there's a "protocol" for celebrating or not celebrating your son being clean and sober for a year. But I do know this: My wife and I are going to celebrate. In fact, we will be celebrating by throwing a party for our son on the Saturday following his milestone date.

We will have a small to medium gathering of our friends, family, and our son's friends at our house. We will serve pizza, salad, and dessert--birthday cake seems appropriate--along with water and soda. It will, of course, be an alcohol-free event.

There will also be a very loud and talented rock and roll band playing in our backyard. A friend of ours is in a band called Destroy This Place, and its members were all cool with coming to our house and playing to help celebrate this occasion. (My wife and I passed letters out to all of the residents on our block and the next block over to warn them about the party and the loud band. We've received nothing but positive responses so far...let's hope no one complains on the day of the party!)

My wife and I don't host parties very often. But this is one party we felt we needed to throw, to celebrate the efforts and glorious achievement of our son. It will be fun to spend time with family members and friends who have been so supportive over the years. Celebrating sobriety.

P.S. Our son also just landed a new job. He's working with a contractor who installs and finishes hardwood floors. So far he's enjoying the work, the money, and being trained by the owner. He's working full time and that's a blessing.

P.P.S. Here's the latest music video from Destroy This Place. Maybe if we're lucky, they'll bring the deer mask to the party!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A sweet victory over Urban Outfitters

As many of you know, I have been working my tail off for more than a month trying to get Urban Outfitters to pull prescription drug related merchandise that they were selling in their stores and on their website. (See my post Urban Outfitters: WTF???)

Countless e-mails to the CEO of the company, tons of Tweets, the creation of a Facebook page dedicated to the cause, a bevy of Facebook posts; that all paid off this past Friday, when Urban Outfitters announced that they were pulling the merchandise in question from their stores and website.

In the grand scheme of things, my role in this was very small. Much larger roles were served by The Partnership at Drugfree.org, several state attorneys general, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers. But I do feel like my efforts helped, and I am enjoying the sweet taste of victory.

Although the statement issued by Urban Outfitters was disappointing--saying that these products were "misinterpreted by people who are not our customers"--the most important thing to me is that the merchandise is no longer for sale at UO.

This just goes to show you what can happen when a group of people band together for a cause. I am very grateful that teens and young people--the demographic of Urban Outfitters--will no longer be exposed to these products that make light of the misuse of prescription drugs.

I'm also pretty sure that Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne will not miss getting e-mail from me every day.

Father's Day postscript

Me and my boys on Father's Day. This truly is what life is all about.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

If I'm counting correctly, this is the fourth Father's Day post I've made on my blog over the years. The others were in 2009, 2011, and 2012.

If you want to go and revisit those, feel free. The 2009 and 2011 posts were pretty bleak, as I've always struggled with Father's Day. I can't help it. That's just the way it is when you grow up feeling like you don't really have a father.

Last year's post was more positive, primarily because I was feeling better about myself as a father. But I was still feeling bad due to the lack of a relationship between me and my father, who was in the hospital at the time.

This year, things are different: My dad is no longer with us. Even so, I am not struggling like I used to because I was able to forgive and reconnect with my dad for the last six months of his life. My only real regret? That he's not here today to hear me say "Happy Father's Day." If he were, and if I could say those words to him, I would actually mean them...for the first time in over 40 years.

It's funny how things work out. I went 40+ years despising Father's Day because I didn't want to make that phony phone call or give the obligatory card and gift because I felt like I had to. Today, I wish I could make that phone call and give that card and gift...because I want to.

But I am at peace today. And that's huge to me.

Last Father's Day, my older son was in Georgia living with a friend he met in rehab in Palm Springs. He seemed to be doing fine, but in hindsight he wasn't. I thank God that he realized this a couple weeks later and chose to come back to Michigan and move into a sober living house. A year later, he is more than 11 months clean and sober and inching closer to that one-year anniversary. I am so incredibly proud of him.

Last Father's Day, despite his struggles with ADHD, my younger son had just finished his sophomore year at our local public high school. A year later, he has just finished his junior year at a new school: The Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, Michigan. The school was great for him and I am so proud of what he accomplished there. He stepped outside his comfort zone and tried new things like drama and music and playing basketball. I hope he can go back in the fall for his senior year and graduate from this awesome school.

Last Father's Day, my wife and I were working on our recovery. We are still doing that and have come such a long way from where we were just a couple of years ago. Living in the moment, taking care of ourselves, doing things for us; we've finally learned how important those things are.

Last Father's Day, my mom sent me a pretty long e-mail filled with the beautiful things she's so good at saying. Today, her e-mail was shorter. But it still hit me right in the heart:


This Father's Day is the best one ever. My wife and younger son are home. And my older son is coming over shortly. We will cook good food and be together, all of us having grown and matured over the past year.

Happy Father's Day. Life is good.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Trust and Gratitude


Those of you who have followed this blog from the beginning know that trust is one of the first things that withers and dies when you are the parent of an addict. As I wrote in October of 2009, in a post I titled "Dishonesty":

I often wonder if I will ever be able to totally trust my son again.

The problem isn't so much that the trust withers and dies. The problem is that once it dies you don't know if it will ever "grow back" again. Trust can be wiped out in a heartbeat; and can take years to redevelop. But I am happy to say that this weekend marks a major milestone for me as far as starting to trust my son again goes.

My wife and I traveled to northern Michigan this weekend to attend a few days of special events marking the end of the school year at the Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, Michigan, where our younger son goes to school. (More about that later.) We have three cats, and whenever my wife and I travel we usually ask my mom to go to our house and feed the cats, clean out their litter boxes, etc. This requires her to visit our house twice a day.

Well, my mom had quite a bit going on this weekend. And although she's 82 going on 52, I decided to give her a break. How did I do that? I asked my son if he and his girlfriend wanted to stay at our house for the weekend and take care of the cats.

My wife and I discussed the idea beforehand and we both decided that we were ready to take this step. My son said yes, so he has been staying at our house since Thursday night. The thing that is strange to me--yet beautiful at the same time--is that I haven't worried about my house/cat sitters at all this weekend. Not even once.

My son has just over 11 months of sobriety in his back pocket. And it's been just over three-and-a-half years since that blog post I mentioned earlier, in which I included the joke: A drug addict will steal your wallet, then help you look for it.

Finally, I think, the trust is starting to grow back.


There are not enough words in the English language to express the gratitude I have felt this weekend.

My wife and I sent our younger son to the Leelanau School this year. Giving up on a highly acclaimed public high school and making the switch to a boarding school 300 miles away that specializes in teaching kids with ADHD was something that took courage; both for us and our son. It was also a challenge. The school is incredibly expensive and...well, let's just say we are not even close to being wealthy people. But we decided the sacrifices we needed to make were worth it. We wanted nothing more than for our son to succeed.

After a great first half of the school year, things started to go downhill a bit. Grades slipped and emotional issues reared their ugly heads. Besides ADHD, our younger son also suffers from depression. And depression started to kick his ass during winter term.

The end result was that the school asked our son to leave the dorms and become a day student. This meant that my wife had to go up north. Her and my son stayed with her parents, who luckily live about 45 minutes away from the school. And my wife had to drive our son to school and back. Every weekday. For about six weeks.

More sacrifices, for sure. Like my wife and I being apart from each other for all that time, except for two days in early May when she and my son came home for my Dad's memorial service. More expenses, too, because gas isn't cheap and driving 70+ miles round trip every school day for a month-and-a-half means our credit card took a huge hit.

But the last few days showed me that it was all worth it.

On Friday night our son was in the school play--"Just Another High School Play"--and had several major roles. And he killed it. The play is a comedy and our son--who has an incredible sense of humor and is quite funny--was totally in his comfort zone. My wife and I were so proud of his performance.

After the school play, our son hightailed it from the auditorium to the dining hall. There he participated in the school's music presentation by singing on two songs, including lead vocals on the opening number ("Jumper" by Third Eye Blind). He also played drums on one song. And you know what? He killed it again.

And oh, yeah...he passed all his final exams and classes, too.

I am so grateful for a number of things:

  • That I have a wife who is not only an amazing human being, but a dedicated mother as well. The commitment she made to help our son finish his junior year of high school was beyond heroic.
  • That our son was able to overcome some tough hardships and did what it took to succeed.
  • That a school like the Leelanau School exists at all. The students and staff at this school aren't just students and staff; they're a family. And with the help of this extended family, which truly cares about every one of its members, our son weathered the storm.
  • And finally, that our son was able to end the school year on such a positive note: Excelling in both the play and the musical performance. It was so moving to see strangers going up to my son and telling him how great he was in the play, and what a great singing voice he has.

It's been a great weekend. I'm so glad that trust and gratitude came along on the trip with me.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy birthday, Dad

Today would've been my Dad's 87th birthday. I spent years and years dreading June 4th, knowing that I had to make that obligatory happy birthday phone call or appearance. When I did, it was never truly heartfelt. But if I had the chance today, it would be. I'm just glad I reconnected with him for the last six months of his life.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you and I miss you. See ya on the other side.