Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It's New Year's Eve. Pass the Root Beer.

So, it’s New Year’s Eve. Woohoo! Let’s party!!

Or not. Because New Year’s Eve has never appealed to me much as a “holiday.” I think the only time I ever really made a concerted effort to “celebrate” it was during a three- or four-year span during my teenage years. Maybe from the time I was 15 or so until I was 18?

Back in those days, I did some really stupid things. Overall I was a terrific kid (you can ask my Mom), but damn…when I look back and reflect on some of the behaviors I engaged in, it scares the hell out of me.

Having grown up in an alcoholic home (compliments of my Dad), I always associated New Year’s Eve with drinking. Not that it was much different than any other night in my house. I mean, my Dad was always drinking. I guess New Year’s Eve just meant that the beverages consumed included some more variety. Instead of just the usual Club Manhattans on the rocks, maybe there was some Champagne or Cold Duck thrown into the mix, too. And, of course, the kids were always invited to imbibe at the stroke of midnight, if not before.

(Cold Duck, a combination of wine and Champagne that was invented at a restaurant in Detroit--yes, as a Detroiter my Dad knew the history--was big in our house at holiday time. The first time I ever got drunk was when I had too much Cold Duck to drink one Thanksgiving. I was probably 12.)

So New Year’s Eve was, to me, a drinking holiday. Growing up, that’s what I saw, and it was engrained in me from an early age.

I think I was 15 when I had my first truly horrific experience with alcohol. It was New Year’s Eve and a girl down the street was having a party. I was excited to go because I had a bit of a crush on this girl, and she had way cool parents (or so I thought at the time). Her parents were so cool that they were letting her have a party with alcohol. The plan was for everyone to bring a bottle of something, then it would all be mixed together into a “punch.”

Great idea, right? Wrong.

Looking back, I can’t even fathom how something like this was allowed to happen. I know it was a different time--likely 1976--but what the hell kind of parents would let such a thing go on in their house? I can only imagine that it must’ve been an extreme case of “If they’re gonna drink, let’s have ‘em drink at home so we know they’re safe.” Sadly, I think some parents still subscribe to that theory, although I’m certainly not one of them.

But back to my story.

I went to the party. The punch was mixed. I drank punch. Actually, I drank a lot of punch, because I didn’t know what the f*ck I was doing. By 9:30 or 10:00, I was completely wasted. I knew I was going to be sick, so I made my way from the basement (party headquarters) to the bathroom at the top of the stairs. So, in what was probably one of the biggest examples of Murphy’s Law I’ve ever encountered in my lifetime, what do you suppose happened when I got to the bathroom? Yup. It was occupied.

I certainly wasn’t planning for that scenario. I started to make my way back downstairs, but only got down a couple of steps before I threw up. And boy, did I throw up. All over the stairs. All over the wall. All over myself.

Strangely enough, nobody noticed. The kids downstairs were partying too much to notice. And the music was so loud that nobody--downstairs or up--could hear me being sick. At the time, this gave me the false impression that I was home free. That nobody would know that I had been the one to fill the stairwell up with vomit.

Yeah, right.

It didn’t take long for the girl’s father to find the mess I had created. And it took even less time for him to pin the crime on me. The fact that I was covered in my own puke kind of made it a dead giveaway.

Long story short: I was asked to leave. I grabbed my coat, left the party, and made my way down the block, on foot, back to my house.

It was very snowy out and I have no idea how I managed to navigate my way home that night. I remember wondering what the hell I was going to tell my parents, who would most certainly be up and about. But somehow I managed to go around to the back door, waited for the perfect opportunity, and snuck in without anyone knowing. I quietly went to my room, took off my soiled clothes, and got into bed.

I remember waking up the next day with my first hangover. I felt like I was dying. And at that point I wanted to die.

Happy new year, huh?

You would think that that incident would’ve taught me a lesson, but it really didn’t. I remember going out and drinking for the next couple of New Year’s Eves, too, but I didn’t get sick anywhere but in my own bathroom at the end of the night. Needless to say, there was a period during my teenage years when I was obviously hanging out with the wrong people. When I found a different crowd to run with, things definitely changed for the better. Thank God.

Maybe that horrific experience back in the mid-seventies helped mold my current opinion of New Year’s Eve. I’m sure it must’ve had some effect. In any case, for me New Year’s Eve ranks right up there with St. Patrick’s Day as, first and foremost, a “drinking holiday.” That’s why I like to spend December 31st at home, safe and sound, with people I love.

Tonight I’ll cook a nice meal, we’ll enjoy each other’s company, and maybe we’ll even make it to midnight. But it will be an alcohol-free “celebration,” and the only scary thing about it will be hearing the gunshots ring out from across the border in Detroit at 12:00.

I hope all of you out there enjoy your New Year’s Eve, no matter how you celebrate it. Just remember: if you drink, don’t drive. Don’t make this holiday one your family will never forget for the wrong reasons.

Now, pass the root beer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve, 2014. I'm sitting on the couch with my wife, watching Law & Order reruns, and listening to the rain from a Christmas Eve thunderstorm pounding down on our family room roof. It's almost 50 degrees outside, which is not very Christmasy. But I'm not complaining. Our younger son is upstairs, safe and sound in his room, playing an online video game with friends.

Oh, yeah. We just ordered Chinese takeout, too.

I grabbed my laptop and wanted to write a blog post, but I don't know what to write about.

There have been a lot of thoughts running through my head over the last few days. My mind always starts racing--even more than usual--around Christmastime, even though I've never been a huge fan of the holiday. Especially since it's grown so commercial over the years.

I know Christmas is supposed to be a religious holiday first and foremost, but we aren't very religious. (We're spiritual, not religious.) So we like to think of it as a family holiday. Almost like a second Thanksgiving. A time to be together, eat good food, and be grateful for what we have.

For several years in the not-so-distant past, Christmas was bittersweet. Sure, we had things to be thankful for. But we also had our struggles. Our older son's addiction wreaked havoc in our family and holidays were kind of like a ticking time bomb. We tried to enjoy Christmas, but something deep down inside us was saying, "It's gonna blow up, it's gonna blow up," over and over again. And sometimes it did. We just dealt with it the best we could and salvaged what we could of the holiday.

Since our older son got clean in July of 2012, Thanksgiving and Christmas have become kind of ethereal. We spent so many years wondering what a "normal" holiday felt like, that when we finally got a chance to experience it...well, it took some getting used to. Nonetheless, I'm so incredibly happy that this will be our third normal Christmas in a row.

Some people won't have a normal Christmas tomorrow, though. One family in particular, a family from the suburb in which I live, will have the agonizing task of trying to get through Christmas without their 16-year-old daughter. She was killed Monday night when a gunman sprayed the car she was in with 30 or so shots from his automatic rifle. This happened on a desolate corner in the neighboring city of Detroit.

There were four other teenagers in the car, too. Three of them were wounded and one was unharmed--if you can consider having to live with what happened to them that night for the rest of their life "unharmed."

I keep thinking how horrible it must be for the deceased girl's parents and family. A few days ago, they were likely full of joy, preparing for Christmas. Now they are full of grief, and have to prepare for a funeral.

Christmas will never be the same for them again. Never. Ever. I can't imagine how painful that must be.

There's been a lot of speculation on social media and in the papers about exactly why this happened to the suburban teens. They were admittedly sitting in the car smoking some pot right before the attack. Some people are saying the shooting was a drug deal gone bad. Others say it was a random robbery attempt. Lots of folks say the kids shouldn't have been where they were, or doing what they were doing.

I say, "Does it even matter?"

I don't really care what the kids were doing. What happened to them was another senseless act of violence in a society that has pretty much become numb to such acts. This tragedy has received a lot of media coverage because it happened to a group of (mostly) suburban kids while they were in the scary old city. But the sad truth is that things like this are happening every single day, all across our country.

Pardon my language, but what the fuck has happened to our society?

I posted this on Facebook today:

One thing that's wrong with the world today: Too much blame. Not enough compassion. Life's too short for constant finger-pointing, people. We're all in this together.

Things are so screwed up these days. People get shot and people blame the victims. Or people get shot and people blame the police. Or people get shot and people blame the president. Sometimes I just want to pack my bags and move somewhere that's free from the constant finger-pointing I mentioned on Facebook.

Okay, so I feel like I'm rambling now.

The Chinese food will be here shortly, so I need to wrap this up. Our Christmas Eve will be very low-key, just like every other day and night around here. Tomorrow morning, we'll open gifts. Or, should I say, the boys will open gifts. We are not very materialistic in this house--especially this year because I'm still out of work. My wife and I bought books for each other, and we've already made the exchange. (I got Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Fast. She got George Clinton's Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?: A Memoir.) There just wasn't anything that either of us really needed, because--and this may sound unbelievable--we already have everything we need.

Tomorrow the whole family will also be together for Christmas dinner, and before we eat we'll recite our new regular "grace":

"Right this minute, we understand that this is all there is, so let's really be together." (Thank you, Anne Lamott.)

I wish all of you who celebrate it a very merry Christmas. When you read this, take a moment (or several) to truly appreciate what you have. If you have a spouse or significant other, hug them and tell them you love them. If you have kids, hug them and tell them you love them. If you're with your family for the holidays, hug everyone and tell them you love them. Because we never know what tomorrow will bring.

Please don't ever take things you have for granted. Note: By "things," I mostly mean non-materialistic things. Because those are the "things" in life that really matter. Everything else is just stuff. And I know one family that would gladly trade all the stuff in the world for the chance to have their beautiful daughter back, to hug and hold closely this Christmas.

Rest in peace, Paige. My family is praying for you and your family.

"The value of life is not in its duration, but in its donation." --Myles Munroe

"The marks humans leave are too often scars." --John Green (in The Fault in Our Stars)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Note to Parents: WE Are Our Kids' Role Models

At the risk of sounding like a scrooge or a grinch--or maybe just a plain old killjoy--I've decided to go ahead and write this blog post.

Those of you who know me know that I'm on Facebook a lot. It's one of the primary ways I network with the recovery community and share my writing.

I've been on Facebook a long time, and there aren't a whole lot of things that bother me when it comes to what other people post on their pages. But one thing that has always bothered me is this:

Parents posting photos of themselves partying with alcohol.

I've seen several of these photos lately; maybe it's because the holiday season is upon us and people are hosting or attending Christmas parties. And while I understand that not everyone leads an alcohol-free life, as parents we should know that WE are the role models for our kids. What we do has a tremendous amount of influence on our children, whether we like it or not.

Sure, people will argue that they're adults and they have a right to do whatever they want. But I'm a firm believer in parenting by example. If your kids see your alcohol-related photos posted on Facebook, what kind of message do you think that sends to them?

In his terrific book Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy, David Sheff writes:

“A study undertaken by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that children of alcoholics were four times more likely than other kids to become alcoholics. Kids who have seen their parents drunk are five times more likely than kids who haven’t to get drunk one or more times a month.”

If you're the parent of a teen or tween, think twice about what you're posting on your own Facebook page. It's very likely that your child(ren) will see it, so use common sense. (That's what you tell your kids to do when it comes to Facebook, right??)

Bottom line: If you're out partying this holiday season--or any season, for that matter--it's probably not the best idea to post photos of your imbibing self on Facebook.

I will now step down from my soapbox.


"We should never permit ourselves to do anything that we are not willing to see our children do. We should set them an example that we wish them to imitate." --Brigham Young

This may be an extreme example, but you get the idea, right?

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Better to Give Than to Receive

(Note: This blog post also appears on the Huffington Post's blog site under the same title: "It's Better to Give Than to Receive.")

I woke up this morning, turned on the Internet, and came across a New York Times OpEd piece titled "Is It Bad Enough?" Written by food writer, author, and columnist Mark Bittman, the piece focuses on the current state or our country and the spontaneous protests that have been going on nationwide.

Bittman writes:

"The root of the anger is inequality, about which statistics are mind-boggling: From 2009 to 2012 (that’s the most recent data), some 95 percent of new income has gone to the top 1 percent; the Walton family (owners of Walmart) have as much wealth as the bottom 42 percent of the country’s people combined."

Those numbers were shocking to me. How can one family have more money than so many others? I'm all for the American Dream, but looking at those stats can certainly make one realize why the non-rich may feel at least a little bit slighted.

Earlier in the week, I read another eye-opening article about being a "have-not" in the United States. This one was on the website. Titled "Why People Stay Poor,"  it's actually an excerpt from Linda Tirado's book called Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America.

Tirado says:

"It is impossible to be good with money when you don’t have any. . . .When I have a few extra dollars to spend, I can’t afford to think about next month--my present day situation is generally too tight to allow me that luxury. I’ve got kids who are interested in their quality of life right now, not 10 years from now."

Tirado talks about how she once lost a truck that was towed because she couldn't afford to get it out of impound, and about how "It’s impossible to win, unless you are very lucky. For you to start to do better, something has to go right--and stay that way for long enough for you to get on your feet."

Reading those pieces from Torado and Bittman made me feel extremely fortunate. Which is strange, because just the day before I had posted this as my status update on Facebook:

"I kind of thought this to be the case, but I can now confirm based on experience: paying bills is way easier when you have an income!‪"

Looking back at that status update made me feel like a fool.

Yes, it's true that I have been unemployed for a year now. I've been doing some freelance work here and there, but I don't have a steady income by any means. That said, my wife works. And although her income is modest, we do have some money in the bank. The bottom line: We are far from being poor and are likely way better off than a very large number of Americans.

After I read the Bittman piece, I read part of it aloud to my wife. She was astonished by the statistics it quoted as well. Then she looked at me and said, "We should go to Kmart and pay off some people's layaways."

You have to pay a fee to use layaway. That seems unfair.
Paying off a complete stranger's layaway account is something my wife and I first did three years ago. Knowing that someone's holiday hinged on their coming up with enough money to free Christmas wish list items from a back room at their local Kmart was unsettling to us. So we went to Kmart, explained what we wanted to do, and went "shopping" in the layaway room for bundles of gifts we wanted to secretly pay for. We were "layaway angels" to three families that year.

Today, we did the same. Granted, things are way different for us this year. Three years ago, we were both working and things were pretty damn good. Today, only one of us is working. In fact, I applied for unemployment yesterday. But we are still blessed and do not want for much. Spending some money to brighten the Christmas of three less fortunate families just seemed like the right thing to do.

There was another article that caught my eye the other day.  It was a story in USA TODAY about a layaway angel who spent $20,000.00 to pay off every single layaway account--all 150 of them--at a Toys R Us store in Bellingham, Massachusetts.

My wife and I only spent one-tenth that much today, but the end result was the same: We made a difference in some people's lives this Christmas. Our hope is that the beneficiaries will realize that there are indeed still people in the world who care about others. Maybe someday they will remember what someone did for them and be inspired to pay it forward.

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." --Charles Dickens

Looking through the shelves in the layaway room.
So many things to choose from.

Friday, December 12, 2014

I Think We'll Celebrate

Today is my son's 25th birthday.

When I woke up this morning and remembered that, I started to cry. Not because I was sad, but because I was overwhelmed with happiness.

It you'd have asked me as recently as a few years ago, I would've told you that I wasn't sure my son would even make it to 25. Sure, I had hope. But addiction and depression can twist a person's life in ways that are totally unpredictable. I had no idea what loomed on the horizon for my son.

Four years ago today, on my son's 21st birthday, I wrote a blog post called "21 Years Later." In that post, I said:

"When you become a parent, nothing is guaranteed. You hope that your children are healthy and intelligent, and grow up to be fine adults. But if there are a few bumps in the road along the way--like addiction and depression--you have to improvise and ad lib to the best of your ability in order to help everyone--most importantly, your child--get through it. There's no owner's manual. It's like trying to figure out the most complicated computer software known to mankind just by sitting down and playing around with it. Trial and error. Over and over and over again."

Today I am grateful that we--me, my wife, and our beautiful boy--never stopped trying. Even though there were times we probably wanted to, we never gave up.

When our son comes over for dinner after work today, my wife and I will probably tell him (for the umpteenth time) how incredibly cold it was the night he was born. And how beautiful the full moon was that night. But more than that, we will tell him how much we love him. And how incredibly proud we are of him.

Today is my son's 25th birthday and his 893rd consecutive day of sobriety. I think we'll celebrate.


"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day." --A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Catching Up

It's been a week since my last post, and some stuff has been going on. So I thought I'd stop by and give you an update.

First of all, I've had two new pieces published in the past week over at the Heroes in Recovery website.

The first piece is a blog post entitled "Being Transparent to Help Break the Stigma." It talks about how sharing my experiences with my sons addiction is therapeutic to me, and about how sharing helps bring addiction out of the shadows and into the light.

The second piece is a story I wrote in the aftermath of one of the best Thanksgivings ever. "The Greatest Gift I Could Ask For: My Son's Sobriety" let's people know what an amazing thing my son's recovery has been, and that they should never give up if they, or someone they love, are struggling with addiction.

I hope you'll take the time to read both pieces. And feel free to leave comments on them at the Heroes website. I always like to know what people think about the topics I write about.

The other stuff going on in my life has to do with facing the ugly reality of unemployment. Without going into detail, I was being compensated for a while (with health insurance), but that has now run out. I am doing some freelance work, and my wife is working; but having a major chunk of our household's cash flow disappear has been pretty eye-opening.

Here are some random thoughts that have kept popping into my head over the last week or so:

*Paying the bills is tough when you lose your largest, steadiest source of income. It's certainly a wake-up call, and things will no doubt be incredibly challenging for me and my family going forward.

*When your health insurance benefits go away, you realize how important they actually were to you. It was kind of easy to take them for granted. Now I'm trying to decide whether to go on COBRA for a while--at a cost of nearly $1,600.00 a month--or if I should just take the plunge directly into the world of Obamacare.

*Something else you take for granted when it's included in your employer's benefits package: life insurance. You cruise along for years with ridiculously affordable life insurance--again, taking it for granted--then all of a sudden it disappears. If you don't know this already, trying to find life insurance that won't break your bank account is a pain in the ass. Especially when you're in your fifties and have some minor health issues. My advice to younger folks out there who are blessed with having life insurance through their employer: Go buy some life insurance from another source while you can do so at a decent rate. It'll save you a lot of hassle later on.

*I need a job. So if you know someone who might know someone...

I guess that's about it for now. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and wish you a very happy holiday season. Remember to take time daily to be grateful for the little things in your life. Some of the greatest gifts we have in life are things we tend to take for granted. Live in the moment and appreciate everything each day brings you. There are no guarantees for tomorrow.

In the same vein, there's a fabulous quote in the new Anne Lamott book (Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace) that I've fallen in love with. This quote hit me so hard that I printed it out and hung it up on my dining room wall. And I've used it as "grace" for the last two dinner gatherings I've hosted with my entire family.

"Right this minute, we understand that this is all there is, so let's really be together."

Amen, Anne. I think that line sums up life perfectly.


P.S. Here are direct links to my newest pieces on the Heroes in Recovery site:

"Being Transparent to Help Break the Stigma":

"The Greatest Gift I Could Ask For: My Son's Sobriety":

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Held Hostage by a RX Drug: My Klonopin Nightmare

I'm breaking up with Klonopin.

Klonopin is the brand name of a drug that belongs to a group called benzodiazepines, or "benzos" for short. Benzos are psychotropic drugs used to treat a number of disorders, including anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and muscle spasms. Other brand name benzos include Xanax, Ativan, and Valium. (FYI: Rohypnol--widely known as "the date-rape drug," but not available legally in the United States--is also a benzodiazepine.)

These drugs are depressants/tranquilizers and work on the central nervous system by affecting chemicals in the brain. They are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. and are deemed to be effective for short-term use. Unfortunately, according to a story in The Boston Globe, "Doctors and patients say physicians often prescribe benzodiazepines with no discussion of the dangers and the drugs' declining effectiveness over time."

Welcome to my world.

Let me be clear about one thing: I've never abused Klonopin (generic name "clonazepam"). It was prescribed to me by my doctor, and I always followed the dosage instructions to the letter. But many people who take benzos for a long period of time become psychologically or physically dependent on them.

I am one of those people. My body became physically addicted to this awful drug.

I was first prescribed Klonopin by my (former) psychiatrist about nine years ago. My son was struggling with depression and addiction and it was adversely affecting our whole family. My anxiety level skyrocketed and sleeping was very difficult for me. My psychiatrist suggested I try Klonopin, and at that point in time I was open to trying anything that might help make me feel better. And it did.

Funny thing, though (not really): My doctor never told me that long-term use could be harmful.

My initial prescription had me taking a 0.5 mg Klonopin tablet five times a day, and I thought nothing of it. I figured my doctor knew what he was doing. After all, he kept refilling my prescription and never said anything about it.

A couple years later, though, I felt depressed and started seeing a therapist. When she found out how much Klonopin I was taking, she said I was "grossly overmedicated." She even suggested that my depression could be directly related to my Klonopin use.

That shocked me, and I decided I didn't want to take Klonopin anymore. One afternoon I went home and did something that turned out to be incredibly stupid: I flushed my remaining pills down the toilet and quit "cold turkey."

Big mistake.

The next morning, I felt like I was dying. I had chills, my head hurt, and my body was shaking uncontrollably. I couldn't even get out of bed. Naïvely, I thought I had come down with a bad case of the flu. But I eventually wondered about the possible connection between my symptoms and my having stopped taking Klonopin.

I had my wife call my psychiatrist to ask him if the two things could be related. He said they were, and that I never should've stopped taking my Klonopin cold turkey. It turns out that when you stop taking benzodiazepines suddenly, you risk a boatload of horrible symptoms, including anxiety, depression, dizziness, headaches, irritability, muscle spasms, nausea, heart palpitations, seizures, and tremors.

Funny thing, though (not really): My doctor had never mentioned that to me.

I got my Klonopin prescription refilled and felt better almost immediately after I started taking it again. I can't even begin to tell you how scary that was. This medication, which was prescribed to me like it was no big deal, had hijacked my body. That was incredibly frightening to me. I felt like Klonopin was holding me hostage. So much so, that after my "dopesick" experience I didn't even want to wean myself off of the drug. I was terrified that I'd go through withdrawal again.

I did some research online and learned that benzos can be quite nasty. They are also some of the hardest drugs--prescription or otherwise--to quit. I made the decision to slowly taper off my dosage. No matter how long it took, I had to get clonazepam out of my system.

I've been tapering my dosage for several years now. Yes, years. I've gone from taking five tablets a day to taking just a little more than half a tablet daily. In a few months, I plan on being completely Klonopin-free.

Recently I was pretty sick--physically and emotionally--for a couple of weeks. I knew it was related to the Klonopin tapering, but I fought through it. It wasn't unbearable and I was bound and determined to keep going. A huge part of my motivation was an article I read entitled "How Worried Should We Be About Benzos?" Among the things cited in that article is a new study published in The BMJ (originally called the British Medical Journal) "strongly linking 'benzos' to Alzheimer's Disease."

How horrifying.

Our society is drug crazy. Too many doctors prescribe too many medications willy-nilly, without warning their patients about side effects or long-term implications. And they don't seem to care that unsuspecting folks like me can end up in a place we never wanted to be because of it, even if we take the drug as prescribed.

I'm breaking up with Klonopin. And I can't wait until it's totally out of my life.

Postscript: As the father of a son in long-term recovery, this was a tough piece for me to write. It almost feels hypocritical, or like I'm "outing" myself. But I decided to tell my story to help educate others. If a doctor wants to prescribe a benzodiazepine for you, please discuss it with them at length. I don't want what happened to me to happen to you.


P.S. For an update on my experience with Klonopin, read my 11/11/15 post "Goodbye, Klonopin."

Evil stuff. Very, very evil stuff.

On the left: My former prescribed daily dose. On the right: What I've
tapered it down to.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Helping a Sibling Affected by Addiction Pay for College

Back in April, I wrote a blog post entitled "Of Lottery Winnings & Younger Siblings of Addicts." In a nutshell, that post talked about what I would do with the money if I ever won the lottery. And how I'd love to set up a foundation to help younger siblings of addicts.

In that post I wrote:

"Younger siblings of addicts are amazingly special people.

"Addiction is a family disease, and there's no doubt that it eats away at families in every way possible: emotionally, physically, financially. It affects everyone in the family, too: mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles. But I don't think anyone is affected as much as younger siblings are, because they are so innocent and vulnerable. They really don't know what's going on with this person who means so much to them, or why it's happening."


"Unfortunately, an older sibling's addiction also has a negative financial impact on younger siblings. While trying to help an addicted child, parents burn through money like nobody's business. They spend thousands and thousands of dollars on rehab treatment, hospitals, therapy, intensive outpatient programs, sober living houses, special medications, etc. . . . By the time the younger sibling of an addict gets to the point where they need help financially, their parents are quite frequently tapped out. And, once again, the sibling--through no fault of their own--gets moved to the back burner, at least temporarily."

Well, I've decided that I'm not going to wait until I win the lottery to help.

Even though money is incredibly tight for my family right now, I feel a need to make a difference. Yes, I am unemployed and without much income. But I have some savings. And I have decided to dip into that money to help a younger sibling of an addict pay for college.

So here's the deal:

I'm putting up $500.00 of my own money to fund a scholarship of sorts for one younger sibling of someone who has suffered from addiction. I've also started a campaign on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe so that anyone who wants to contribute to this scholarship can do so. (I'd love to get the amount of the scholarship up to $1,000.00 or $2,000.00. Or even more if at all possible.)

I'm still working out details, but my thinking is that I'll officially announce the scholarship on my blog in the spring. I will create an application for people to fill out and email to me by a specific date. That application will require an essay that discusses how the applicant's life has been affected by their older sibling's addiction. I will review all the applications and essays. I will also enlist the help of a handful of connections from the addiction/recovery community. As a group, we will vote to determine who gets the scholarship. The recipient will be posted on my blog and their scholarship check will be made out to the college or university that they are attending.

All of this might sound like a crazy idea, but I'm a little crazy and this is something I really want to do. I've seen first-hand how addiction can affect an innocent sibling's life. This is my attempt to try and make a difference.

If you have any comments or suggestions, or if you'd like to help out in any way, get in touch with me through my blog. Or leave a comment below.

Here is the direct link to the GoFundMe campaign:


"No one has ever become poor by giving." --Anne Frank

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Two New Blog Posts Published Today

Just wanted to let you know that I had two new blog posts published elsewhere today.

The first one is my latest blog for Heroes in Recovery. It's entitled "Parent Collaboration: A Key to Dealing with an Addicted Child." It talks about how important it is for parents to be on the same page when dealing with their child's addiction.

The second one is my latest piece at The Huffington Post's blog site. This one is entitled "What Some Old Photos Revealed to Me About My Son's Depression, Addiction and Recovery," and is adapted from a post that first appeared here on my personal blog last month. It talks about the effect looking through some old photos of my son had on me.

Lastly, my Huffington Post blog "Bigger U.S. Health Crisis: Ebola or Addiction" was cited today in a Letter to the Editor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I was flattered to see this and am grateful that even more people will now be hearing the message I've been working to get out for so long. My thanks to Janice Meinert of Shaler, Pennsylvania, for writing that letter.

All in all, quite a busy day. Here are direct links to the aforementioned pieces:

New Heroes in Recovery blog post:

New Huffington Post blog post:

Letter to the Editor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

As always, please read, share, like, and comment. We need to keep spreading the word. :)


Sunday, November 2, 2014

28 Months

Just wanted to share the Facebook status update I just posted:

"Awesome things: Having [my son] drive himself over to visit on what just happens to be his 28-month clean/sober anniversary date. There are no words to describe the feelings of gratitude I have every single day. Every. Single. Day. ‪#‎Grateful‬ ‪#‎NeverGiveUp‬ ‪#‎RecoveryHappens‬"


Thought for the Day: Hope

"The reason I never give up hope is that everything is so basically hopeless. Hopelessness underscores everything--the deep sadness and fear at the center of life, the holes in the hearts of our families, the animal confusion within us; the madness of King George. But when you do not give up hope, a lot can happen. When it's not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens like one of those fluted Japanese blossoms, flimsy and spastic, bright and warm." --Anne Lamott

That is all.


Monday, October 27, 2014

My (Way) Better Half

It's been nine years or so since my older son's issues with depression and addiction started. For about seven of those years, my entire family experienced things we never signed up for.

The term "roller-coaster ride" is often used to describe what people go through when someone they love is addicted. That's because it's exactly what it feels like.

Things start off slow. Then all of a sudden you find yourself plummeting downhill at terrifying speeds. You get that sinking feeling in your stomach. You may even feel like you're going to throw up. You go through dangerous curves, thinking you might get thrown from the tracks. Then things slow down a bit. But the next thing you know you find yourself at the top of another death defying hill, looking down and wondering if you're going to make it to the end of the ride. Up and down. Up and down. Over and over again. It can be incredibly scary and you'd better hold on tight.

When we're scared, it always helps to be with someone else. Someone to comfort us. Someone to hold our hand. Someone to experience the fear with us. Someone to let us know that everything's going to be okay, even if there's a chance that it won't be.

I am so blessed that I have that "someone else" in my life. She is my rock, my guiding light, my best friend, and my (way) better half.

My wife and I met at work. Long story short: The copying machine on her floor was broken, so someone sent her down to my floor to use the copying machine that was right next to my desk. We met, I was smitten, I think she liked me, too, we were both dating other people, I left the company, we started dating...and the rest is history. On November 19th we'll celebrate our 26th anniversary.

I honestly don't know where I would be without my wife. When I look back on all the things we've been through together--especially the stuff with our older son--I often wonder if I could've survived any of it without her. I'm so lucky to have such a kind, understanding, compassionate, and loving person as my teammate in the game of life.

If there are such things as hearts of gold, my wife has one.

Knitting and crocheting are two of her passions, and she's so good at both. She creates beautiful hats, scarves, blankets, mittens, socks, etc. And what does my wife do with most of the things she makes? She donates them to charity.

Two of her favorite charities are Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation and Afghans for Afghans. Through those charities she sends her creations to impoverished Native Americans in South Dakota and people struggling in Afghanistan. I can only imagine how cherished they are when they are received by their new owners.

Early next month my wife will be hosting a Heroes in Recovery knitting event where a group of knitters will be making hats and scarves for residents of a local sober living house.

She also has a page on Facebook called "Handmade Hearts 4 Hope." On that page she posts photos of colorful little hearts she knits. They're sort of like worry stones. Or, as someone on Facebook once called them, "A hug in your hand." And, of course, she gives these hearts away to random people who need a little hope in their lives.

My wife is all about giving. Bringing happiness and hope to others is so important to her. I've tried for years to get her to open an Etsy shop so we could maybe make a little money off of her amazing talents. But she keeps putting it off because she'd rather give her things to people less fortunate than us. God bless her.

And if all that wasn't enough, she also introduced me to the writings of Anne Lamott.

When I met my wife, I met an angel. An incredible person who always has a positive outlook on life and stays calm, even when life throws its toughest challenges our way. Lucky for me, her positivity has been contagious over the years. She's helped me transform myself from a constantly stressed out Type A personality to someone who lives in the moment and doesn't sweat the small stuff anymore.

My wife is the best thing that's ever happened to me. And the world is a better place because of her.

Anne Lamott once wrote, "A good marriage is where both people feel like they're getting the better end of the deal." In my case, I know I'm getting the better end of the deal.


My rock and best friend (modeling a hat she made for our nephew).

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Addiction Crisis > Ebola Crisis

Ever since news of the Ebola crisis broke, and a few Americans contracted the disease, the United States government has been taking extraordinary measures to head off the disease and save lives.

But the fact of the matter is, as of today only ONE person has died from Ebola virus on U.S. soil. And that person was infected in Liberia.

Meanwhile, more than 42,000 Americans die every year from drug overdoses. Most people in this country probably don't know that, though, because it's not a figure that shows up on the evening news every single night.

I've been thinking about the "Ebola vs. Addiction" comparison for quite a while. I've wondered why our government doesn't treat the addiction crisis with even a fraction of the resources it's putting forth for Ebola. Quite frankly, I don't get it.

More than 100 Americans lose their lives to drug overdoses every single day. But for some reason, the government keeps shoving the problem to the back burner.

Having grown tired of being bombarded with news about Ebola--the precautionary measures being taken, the money being spent on these measures, etc.--I finally decided to put my thoughts on this subject in writing. I wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post and it was published yesterday.

The blog is entitled "Bigger U.S. Health Crisis: Ebola or Addiction?"

I invite you to visit the Huffington Post site, read the blog, like it on that site, and share it with everyone you can. The addiction crisis in this country is way bigger than the Ebola "crisis." We need to let the world know that.

Here's the direct link to my blog on the HuffPost site:


Monday, October 20, 2014

Helping Others

When I started this blog with my first post back in December of 2008, I didn't even know if there would be a second post.

Almost six years and 385 posts later, I'm still here and more people than ever are reading my words.

One of the greatest things about this blog is that it offers me the opportunity to reach people who are struggling with addiction--either their child's or their own--and let them know that they are not alone. My hope is that by reading about my experiences--both good and bad--others might be able to find some solace.

A good example of this happened yesterday.

Late yesterday morning I received an email through this blog from a mother whose son is suffering from addiction. She told me she had been reading my blog, explained her family's situation, and said that her husband needed to hear from "a father who has been there." She gave me her phone number and asked if I could call them.

I called the number she gave me and it went to voicemail. I left a message and told the woman she could call me back. A little while later, she did.

What ensued was a 71-minute conversation with the woman and her husband.

When we finally wrapped up the call, I was grateful to have had the chance to talk to this couple. I think they felt better than they did prior to our talk. Maybe, just maybe, I was able to offer them some comfort and hope.

Talking to other parents who are struggling with their child's addiction is sometimes difficult. It requires me to revisit the past and look back on how things were for my son and my family. Sometimes I even guilty because of how well my son and my family are doing now.

Regardless, I will never stop helping those whose lives have been changed by addiction. I know what it's like to feel lost and hopeless. To feel shame and guilt. To be addicted to my child's addiction. To wonder, "What the hell do I do now?" And to question every little decision I make as a parent. It's not a good place to be. In fact, for a parent it's probably one of the darkest places you could ever be.

I'm not a doctor or professional counselor. I'm just a dad who went through some incredibly difficult and trying times. Somehow I managed to navigate my way through them and came out on the other side reasonably okay.

Here's hoping I'm able to shine at least a little bit of light on others' darkness.


Friday, October 17, 2014

3,231 Days Later, Another Roadblock Falls

I dropped my son off at his house about 30 minutes ago, and on the way back home I cried. But the tears I cried were tears of happiness, relief, and gratitude.

Why the tears? Because today--3,231 days after being eligible to receive it--my son finally got his driver's license!

This is a rite of passage that most kids go through at age 16. But the first time my son took his road test, back almost nine years ago, he didn't pass because he messed up on the parallel parking test.

For several years after that, my wife and I wouldn't let him get his license because we didn't want him driving while he was using drugs. It was a safety precaution we took, not only for our son's sake but for others as well.

Since getting clean and sober, our son just hadn't gotten around to taking the driving test again. He's had a permit for years, but getting his actual license was always on his proverbial list of things to do.

Until today.

My wife left early this afternoon to go get our younger son at college because it's his first break of the year. I stayed home, borrowed my mom's car, and took our older son to his road test.

I watched nervously as he underwent the parking tests, but he nailed them without even coming close to touching a cone. Then he and the tester hit the road. About 20 minutes later, they returned and my son was all smiles.

Another roadblock eliminated. Another weight lifted off my son's shoulders. Another move toward complete independence. Another positive step in a series of positive steps that has continued for the last two-plus years.

After the road test, my son and I went right to the Secretary of State's office to take care of the necessary paperwork. While he was having his picture taken for his license, I almost had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

My son smiled so big for his photo. You could see the pride and sense of accomplishment in his face. He will be 25-years-old in December, and he waited such a long time for this day.

Another one of life's milestones reached. So what if it was just a little bit late.

"I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky." --Sharon Olds

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A New Podcast Interview with...Me

I am very grateful to Dave Cooke of 100 Pedals for finding me worthy of interviewing for his terrific podcast series "The Addiction Conversation."

If you want to hear some of my story--or if you've never met me in person and just want to know what I sound like--please give the podcast a listen. And feel free to share it with anyone you think it might help.

Dave's incredibly kind introduction to my interview, from his website, says:

"Today’s guest, Dean Dauphinais has two sons. His oldest son suffered from depression that ended up manifesting itself into a heroin addiction. Fortunately, his son managed to embrace his recovery and is now over 800 days clean and sober. While the story could end there, this is only the beginning. Dean and his wife have applied many of the lesson is this experience to strengthen their relationship, to embrace sobriety in their life, to use it as a educational reference for their other son’s life, and share the inspirations and insights of their journey to support other parents going through similar challenges. There are great nuggets in this podcast and I am grateful for Dean’s time, his authenticity, and his wisdom."

Here's a direct link to my podcast interview with Dave:


"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story..." --Neil Gaiman

Dave Cooke of 100 Pedals: Another dad making a difference.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Busy Week: Another New Heroes in Recovery Blog

I've been writing quite a bit lately, and not everything I write gets posted on this blog.

So here's another heads-up about a new piece of mine that was just published over on the Heroes in Recovery website. It's a blog post entitled "Trust: It Can Eventually Come Back."

Losing trust in a child who's struggling with addiction is inevitable. It's not a matter of if it'll happen, but when. And once it does, it's not a good feeling. You wonder if you'll ever be able to trust your child again.

But I'm here to tell you that the trust can return. Because it did for me.

Please go check out my post and feel free to leave a comment on it. I'd sure appreciate it.

Here's a direct link:


"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." --Ernest Hemingway

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Latest Blog Post at Heroes in Recovery

I just wanted to let you know that I have a brand-new blog post up over at the Heroes in Recovery website. It's called "Love, Thanks, and Incredible Hugs." I'd love it if you'd take a few minutes to go read it.

Feel free to leave a comment under my post at the Heroes site, and share the post with anyone and everyone you think might find it helpful.

Here's a direct link to the post:


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pictures Are Worth Thousands of Words

(Note: A version of this blog post also appears on The Huffington Post's blog site as "What Some Old Photos Revealed to Me About My Son's Depression, Addiction and Recovery.")

"A picture's worth a thousand words."

We've all heard that saying. The idea behind it is that a single image can convey a story just as well as a whole bunch of words, either spoken or written. I've heard that saying hundreds of times during my lifetime, but the meaning of it hit me hard last week.

Let me explain.

A few months ago, the hard drive on the laptop I was using as my primary computer, which I inherited from my dad, crashed. It had a lot of photos from the last eight years or so on it and, like a fool, I had never backed any of them up. I was one of those people who didn't think my hard drive would ever crash--until it did.

Luckily, a local computer repair shop was able to salvage all the data from the deceased hard drive and put it on an external hard drive for me. Whew! I was terrified that I had lost a whole lot of memories, but I was able to transfer everything over to a new laptop (which, by the way, I immediately backed up).

Then last week I got an email from a well-known online photo site. They were pitching their new online photo storage service at a special introductory rate. I usually delete emails like this, but I started thinking about my recent hard drive scare and reconsidered. Yes, I had backed up all of my photos to an external drive now. But what if something happens to that device? Then what?

I didn't really want to spend the money, but my fear got the best of me--which I'm sure is what the company was hoping would happen--and I took the plunge and signed up for the photo storage service. The price wasn't bad, the storage capacity they were offering was huge, and I would have peace of mind.

The next step was uploading several thousand photos from my computer to the "cloud." While I was doing that, I took a trip back in time and looked at many photos of my son very closely. These photos went back to 2006, which was not too long after his issues with depression, anxiety, and addiction started.

What I saw in those pictures blew my mind.

In nearly every photo of my son, you could see the pain and anguish in his face. You could see how depressed and withdrawn he was. In a few "selfies," which he took with my camera at some point, you could see that he was obviously high.

When my son was depressed and addicted, he didn't really like having his photograph taken. I think it pained him to have his image captured because he was so uncomfortable with himself. I looked at hundreds of pictures of him while the uploading process was taking place and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I saw him smiling for the camera. And those smiles looked forced.

In a word, looking at those photos was heartbreaking. Here was visual evidence that my son went through some of his most formative years feeling miserable. Granted, my wife and I were trying to help him through his depression and addiction and we knew he was suffering. When the photos were originally taken, I don't recall them having much of an impact on me; likely because they reflected how things were for us at that moment in time. That was our "normal" back then. But seeing the look on my son's face in those photos years later reminded me of how bad things were.

A lot of the photos made me cry.

As the older pictures finished floating up to their new safe haven in the cloud, the more recent photos--the ones from after my son got clean and sober--queued up and got ready to follow. Let me tell you, the difference between the "before" and "after" photos is stunning.

The "kid" in the after photos is the complete opposite of his before counterpart. My son now looks outgoing and happy in pretty much every photo. And smiles? Whereas the before version wouldn't/couldn't smile if you paid him, the after version can't not smile. Every photo shows his lovely grin, full of teeth that he even whitens now. Every time I see this Version 2.0 of my son, I want to ask him, "Who are you and what did you do with my real son?"

Then I realize: This is my real son. This is the son that was bottled up inside his body for years, suffering from depression, anxiety, and addiction. This is the son my wife and I knew was in there. The son we knew we'd see if his inner demons could ever be slayed. It took some time, and it was a challenge to everyone involved--especially my son--but those demons are gone now. And I hope and pray that they never return.

After initially hesitating to spend $60.00 a year to store my photos online, I'm now thankful that I made the decision to do so. The whole uploading process allowed me to look back and see how far my son and our family have come over the last several years.

I could very easily print out a half-dozen or so photos, line them up next to each other, and you could see the story of my son: from his agonizing struggles of the past, to his happy, clean and sober being of the present.

And I wouldn't have to say a word.


"When I look at my old pictures, all I can see is what I used to be but am no longer. I think: What I can see is what I am not." --Aleksandar Hemon

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Small Honor for ADHD Awareness Month

Regular readers of this blog know that in addition to having a son with addiction issues, I also have a younger son (he's 18) who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The biggest "side effect" of my younger son's ADHD had to do with his schooling. He struggled academically until we finally found the right high school for him: The Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, Michigan. The Leelanau School supports discovery of individual potential through academic, physical, and personal development of students who learn differently. And it changed my son's life.

I've blogged about the school before, most notably in a post this past April entitled "The Greatest High School on Earth."  In August, The Huffington Post published a modified version of that post called "How a Change in Schools Transformed My ADHD Son's Educational Path."

October is ADHD Awareness Month, and I was quite pleased to find out today that the HuffPost version of my blog post was cited by the ADHD Awareness Month Coalition as one of "The Best Blog Posts on ADHD" for 2014. It's number 12 on the list of blog posts at this link:

I'm so grateful that people consider things I write to be worthy of sharing. Especially when those things are about subjects I'm incredibly passionate about. When my stuff is shared, the audience for my message grows larger. And that's a wonderful thing.

Thanks to all of you for your continued support and readership.


"A drop of ink may make a million think." --George Gordon Byron

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Latest Huffington Post Blog

My latest blog to appear on the Huffington Post's site is an edited, slightly updated version of a post that originally appeared here back in August of 2012. It's about my reconciliation with my alcoholic father after forty-plus years, just six months before his death.

It was probably the most difficult blog post I've ever written, and sometimes I wondered if I should've just kept the experience and feelings to myself. But I thought the message was an important one, so I shared it with you all.

Because of the importance of the message, I'm grateful to be able to share it with a much wider audience via the Huffington Post. They just published it today. Here's a direct link to the post:

"Forgiving My Alcoholic Father: Better Late Than Never." 

Maybe someone in a similar situation to mine will read my post and decide to let go of the negativity they feel toward someone in their life. I have to say, it's very liberating to do so.

"Forgiveness is all about taking care of you, not the person you need to forgive. It’s about putting your desire to feel good before your desire to be right. It’s about taking responsibility for your own happiness instead of pretending it’s in somebody else’s hands. It’s about owning your power by giving all your anger, resentment, and hurt the heave-ho." --Jen Sincero

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Blog Post at the Heroes in Recovery Website

Just dropping in to let you know that I have a new blog post up at the Heroes in Recovery website. It's about unconditional love, and how it can be a powerful tool for parents of children going through addiction.

If you get a chance, please go to the Heroes site and check out the post. I'd also love to hear your feedback on it, so feel free to leave comments on the blog over there.

Here's the link to the post: "Unconditional Love: A Powerful Tool for Parents."


"What it's like to be a parent: It's one of the hardest things you'll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love." --Nicholas Sparks

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Another Huffington Post Appearance

To say that I'm thrilled to have the Huffington Post publishing my blog posts would be an understatement.

Today they published "Insight Into the Mind of Someone Suffering From Addiction," which originally ran here as a post entitled "6/13/11."

This is the sixth post of mine that the HuffPo Blog has published. I wish I could say I got paid for them using my writing, but I don't. Not a penny. But the exposure and the ability to get my message out to a much wider audience is compensation enough. If one person reads something that might help their child, or helps them understand addiction or depression better, then that's a wonderful thing.


Thanks, Kristen Johnston

Always nice to have an Emmy Award-winning actress who's in recovery--and who actually gives a sh*t--on your side.

I tweeted one of my blog posts over on Twitter today and Emmy Award-winning actress Kristen Johnston--who is in recovery and known on Twitter as @kjothesmartass--praised it and replied to it.

This isn't the first time she's taken the time to share something I've written, and I'm truly grateful.

If you get a chance, check out her terrific blog "One Big Mouth."


Friday, September 12, 2014

More Moving Words from the Past

As you may recall, I recently posted about finding an old spiral notebook of my son's while cleaning my basement. In that post, entitled "6/13/11," I included an excerpt from a note my son had written. His words gave insight into how a person suffering from addiction feels, and why they take drugs.

Yesterday, during another phase of basement cleaning--my wife and I are doing our best to downsize and purge--I found another spiral notebook. This one included a list of "10 Negative Consequences" of my son's addiction. It was mesmerizing to read my son's list, which must have been a homework assignment from his therapist. There was also a list of pros and cons about going to rehab in California. (I sure am glad the pros eventually won out.)

The rest of the notebook was mostly filled with song lyrics. My son was/is an aspiring musician, and back when he was using drugs his music was an escape for him; his only "friend," really. Of all the lyrics in the notebook, these four lines had the most impact on me:

"Untreatable disease
Do with me as you please
Slam me up against the wall
And break me at the knees"

Yet another glimpse at my son's innermost thoughts during his addiction. He obviously felt that addiction had a firm grip on him, and was expressing his vulnerability.

Again, I post my son's words here only to help explain what types of things people suffering from addiction think and feel. People don't want to be addicted. But if their brain is wired differently and they're predisposed to the disease, they can find themselves someplace they never wanted to be. And escaping that dark place can be the biggest fight of their life.


"I felt guilty and ashamed for stealing from the ones closet to me just to get high. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway because all that mattered to me at the time was getting loaded." --My Son, from his list of "10 Negative Consequences" of his addiction

Thursday, September 11, 2014

10 Ways to Be a Better Human Being

Just a quick post to let you know that I have a new blog up on the Huffington Post site.

It's entitled "10 Ways to Be a Better Human Being," and is an extended version of a post I made here on a Thursday back in May. (That blog post was called "Thursday Thoughts.")

If you get a chance, please check it out. And maybe share it, too. Together maybe we can make the world a little better place.

Here's the direct link:


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Six Years Sober Today

Today marks exactly six years since I had my last taste of alcohol.

I don't remember her name, but I am forever grateful to the family therapist at Brighton Center for Recovery who told me in a family therapy session back in 2008, "Be the change you want to see in your son."

I took her advice and ran with it.

My son was in rehab, but that session ended up changing my life forever. Go figure.

I will commemorate today's anniversary with an ice cold root beer. After 5:00pm, of course. ;)


P.S. If you want to read "the rest of the story," you can check out the blog post I wrote for Heroes in Recovery back in May entitled "Be the Change You Want to See in Your Loved One."

P.P.S. My son is 800 days clean and sober today. :)

"We should never permit ourselves to do anything that we are not willing to see our children do. We should set them an example that we wish them to imitate." --Brigham Young

Sunday, September 7, 2014


(Note: This blog post also appears on The Huffington Post's blog site as "Insight Into the Mind of Someone Suffering from Addiction.")

With our younger son off at college, my wife and I are empty-nesters again and we've been cleaning and purging so we don't end up being old people featured on the TV show Hoarders.

Early this morning I was cleaning in the basement and came across a spiral notebook that my older son had used during his attempt at community college a few years back. It was pretty tattered, so I decided to put it in the "recycle" pile. But I decided to flip through it first to see if contained anything of any significance.

Most of the pages were blank. A few pages had some random doodles on them. There were also a couple of pages that had daily schedules written on them from my son's earliest stays in sober living houses.

Some of the pages, though, were oozing with negative emotion and made me cry both tears of sadness--for the past they represented--and tears of gratitude--for where my son is today.

There were four pages that had the words "FUCK MY LIFE" scrawled in giant letters; letters so big they took up all 8-1/2" x 11" of the sheet of paper. But the thing that hit me the hardest--and I mean it hit me like a Mike Tyson uppercut--was a two-page note my son had written.

The note was dated 6/30/11, which was a little more than two months before my wife and I sent our son to Palm Springs for treatment at Michael's House. I will not share the entire letter here because it is much too dark and personal. But I will share this one small excerpt, only to give people an idea of what goes on inside a person's mind when they are suffering from addiction:

"I feel dead inside. It's like nothing can make me feel better, and only drugs can block out all the bullshit, take my mind off of it for any period of time."


Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.

That paints a pretty clear picture of how an addicted person feels inside, doesn't it? They don't want to be addicted. They just want to feel better and block out the negative emotions. They want to clear their mind of the things that make them hurt. And self-medication is the only way they know how to do it.

About 10 weeks after my son wrote that note, my wife and I created a boundary and stuck to it. Our son could either go to rehab or move out of our house. It took a few days, but he chose to go to rehab.

Thank God he did.

When my wife got up today I asked her, "Do you want to see something that will make you feel grateful today?" Then I showed her the note our son had written. She was overcome with emotion just like I was.

I thought about throwing the note away, but part of me said to keep it; not so I can dwell on the past,  but to serve as yet another reminder of how far we've come.

My son is 797 days clean and sober today. That's two years, two months, and five days. And I am grateful for every single one of them.

I love my boys with all my heart.


"My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone." --Anne Lamott

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Blog Post on Shame at the Heroes in Recovery Site

Just a quick post to let you know that I have a new blog up over at the Heroes in Recovery website. It's entitled "SHAME: It Can't Survive Being Shared." If you get a chance, go over to the Heroes site and give it a read. Also, feel free to leave comments on the blog and give it a star rating (if you click on that fifth star, it makes me super happy).

Here's a brief excerpt from the blog:

"But shame robs us of worthiness. It tries to convince us that people will think less of us simply because of our situation. And it very frequently prevents people who need treatment for their substance abuse or mental health problems from seeking it. We need to fix that, not only as individuals but also as a society."

You can find the full blog post at this link:


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Three Years Ago Today

One of the best changes that has occurred to me over the last couple of years is the ability to (usually) live in the moment. I don't--okay, I try not to--look off into the future, and I sure as hell don't dwell on the past (anymore). But as I've said before, sometimes it can be beneficial to look back at certain events just to gauge the progress that's been made.

Which brings me to today's post.

As my wife and I were getting ready to head out to a barbecue a few minutes ago, I looked at the calendar and realized that today is August 23rd. Seeing that date jogged my memory--or at least what's left of it--so I had to sit down and write this short post before we left the house.

Three years ago today my son left for residential rehab at Michael's House in Palm Springs, California. I discussed that event the day it happened in a blog post entitled "A New Journey Begins."

I believe with all my soul that my son's time at Michael's House and his subsequent stay at a sober living house in Palm Springs were the two key things that led to his recovery. Did he have some slip-ups after he got home from California? Yes. But I still believe that the treatment and knowledge he received out there eventually sunk in--and stuck.

Living in Michigan and putting your son on a plane to a treatment facility in California isn't easy. When we did that, my wife and I took a leap of faith and put our trust in others. And we are grateful every day that we did.

"None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith." --Paulo Coelho

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hello, Huffington Post

The last 36 hours or so have been pretty crazy, and I'm running on fumes. So this will be relatively short.

Yesterday my wife and I woke up before dawn to drive our younger son to Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as he gets ready to start his freshman year. Almost three hours there, unloading, setting up the room, lunch, the convocation, then almost three hours home. It was a long but memorable day.

Then I got home and found out that the blog at the Huffington Post had published one of my posts. It's a modified version of a blog I posted here earlier. Here's the link to the Huffington Post version:

How did this happen?

The other day I had received an email from the Huffington Post with the subject line "An Invitation from HuffPost." When I opened the email, I was shocked to read this:

"Welcome! You've been invited to join the HuffPost blogger community. Please click the link below to learn more and set up your account."

I had one of those "Is this a scam?" moments, but clicked the link and followed through with the process. I submitted the blog post on Wednesday evening, and by Thursday afternoon it was live. Needless to say, I was thrilled.

To add some icing on the cake, I submitted another blog post around lunch time today. Within 30 minutes, the second post was live on the Huffington Post site, too. Again, it's a modified version of a post that originally appeared here. But the message is one I want to get out far and wide. Here's the link to the HuffPo version:

"Depression and Addiction: We Must Break the Stigmas"

I'm hoping all of this is really happening and that it's not the prednisone I'm taking (for a pinched nerve in my back) making me imagine things.

To recap:

*My younger son started college yesterday.

*My older son is more than two years clean and sober.

*And the Huffington Post has published two of my blog posts in the span of less than 24 hours.

I am stunned and full of gratitude.

Now I just need a job.


My first Huffington Post blog post was featured on their Mental Health page this morning.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

College Bound

It seems like only yesterday that I was blogging about my younger son graduating from the Leelanau School. But in reality it was 74 days ago, summer has flown by, and fall is almost upon us. So tonight we will load up the SUV, and tomorrow morning my wife and I will take our "baby" to Aquinas College--a small school with a gorgeous campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan--so he can start the next phase of his life.

As some of you know, I didn't go away to college. Neither did my siblings. Or my mom and dad. Or my older son. So this whole "heading off to college" thing is completely foreign to me. Luckily, for the past two years we've had the experience of having our son away at boarding school, so him transitioning to a dorm environment away from home--and us to "empty nesters"--shouldn't be a problem. The academics, I'm not so sure about. But I'm doing my best to let go of the worry and keep the faith.

Like a lot of kids his age, my son doesn't know yet what he wants to do when he grows up. He's a late bloomer, so that's perfectly fine. One class he's taking that he's really excited about is Japanese. He's a big fan of anime (Japanese animated productions) and has expressed an interest in studying in Japan. If that were to happen, that would be badass. We'll have to wait and see.

I suppose sending your child off to college for the first time is never easy; especially when it's your youngest. It's a little more challenging for me because I'm still unemployed (eight months and counting...ugh) and keep thinking about the money aspect. But my wife constantly tells me, "It'll be okay," so I'll assume that she's right and we'll see how things go.

Just a few short years ago I really couldn't envision a time when my older son would be more than two years clean and sober and my younger son would be college bound. I'm not exactly sure how we got to the place we are today, but I'm grateful as can be that the stars, planets, and universe finally aligned. I will not take these days for granted and will enjoy every little moment as much as I possibly can.

Needless to say, I am proud as hell of both my boys.


"And you may ask yourself, 'Well...How did I get here?'" --Talking Heads

"I do not understand the mystery of grace--only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us." --Anne Lamott

P.S. Here's a video that shows the beauty of the Aquinas College campus.