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