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.


  1. I get the trust thing so much and I long for a day when I can trust my son as you have learned to trust yours again. I'm not sure a parent of a non addicted kid would get the whole sitting the house/cats thing but it makes perfect sense to this parent of an addict. Your son has come such a long way and it's a wonderful thing to be able to read about his journey through your words.

    Congratulations to your younger son, too, who is also doing so well and finished out the school year on such a high note. So awesome! I'm happy you had such a great weekend and I hope the Summer brings all kinds of wonderful your way.

  2. As one who has an adult child who seems to have come back from the dangerous brink, your message is encouraging and poignant. On Oprah's Soul Sunday series today Gary Zukav took on the topic of addiction from one of his books and it had passages I now long to go back and re-read to re-view as I purchased it long before there were any clues of what lay ahead. His discussion of how addictions are an opportunity for growth took on a whole new meaning in terms of temptation and overcoming and re-gaining strength and balance. With the insanity under control at least for now, makes the pain of the past more understandable as we are helpless to take the pain from the addict. I'm glad your son is in a good place and you can recommend the facility as a beacon of hope to others who are still on the potholes version of the path.

  3. Dean, your attitude of gratitude is contagious and I am grateful that I re-read your post this morning. I could literally feel your pride in your son's performance! I also understand how good it feels to trust day at a time. Hope your day is great and thanks for sharing your family stories in such an authentic way.