Friday, January 31, 2014

My First Podcast Interview

A few days ago I was contacted by a doctor named Herby Bell, a chiropractor and recovery and wellness coach based in Saratoga, California. He had come across my blog via Cathy Taughninbaugh's site, which recently named "My Life As 3D" one of the 55 Top Addiction Recovery Blogs for 2014.

Dr. Bell is a man in long-term addiction recovery and he produces a great series of podcasts called "Sober Conversations." These podcasts are, as described on iTunes, "real talk about America's number 1 health challenge: Addiction." They are "interesting, provocative, and hopeful conversations with addiction and wellness experts and moms, dads, daughters, and sons of this systemic problem in our culture. Sober Conversations is about getting addiction 'out of the closet' and transforming the addiction treatment community into the entire community."

It turns out that Dr. Bell wanted to interview me for one of his podcasts. This was the first time anyone had ever approached me to do something like this, so I was a little surprised, a little scared, and very humbled...all at the same time.

I went on iTunes and listened to a few of the Sober Conversations podcasts and liked what I heard. So I called Dr. Bell, emailed back and forth with him a few times, and we set up a day and time for the interview. That day and time was yesterday afternoon. And today the podcast was posted to Dr. Bell's blog and iTunes.

I invite you to take a little over 40 minutes of your busy life to listen to my conversation with Dr. Bell. You can connect to the podcast two different ways:

1. Via Dr. Bell's blog, using this link:

2. Via iTunes, using this link:

(If using iTunes, look for episode #29.)

I also invite you to visit Dr. Bell's homepage. He's a great man doing great things.

My hearty thanks go out to Herby for reaching out to me and giving me this opportunity. Like it says in the Sober Conversations description on iTunes: "All good and healthy things start with a conversation."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Speaking Words of Wisdom (Teeth)

As I type this blog post my son is at the oral surgeon's office getting two wisdom teeth pulled. Not that big of a deal, really, for a 24-year-old man. Or for his parents. Unless that 24-year-old man is a recovering addict.

This is the first time in my son's nearly 19 months of sobriety that he's going to be faced with a decision regarding pain medication. I'm guessing that the standard procedure following the extraction of a couple of wisdom teeth is for the doctor to send the patient home with a prescription for Vicodin, or some other prescription opioid pain killer.

But as the father of an addict in recovery, I'm worried about that possibility. To his credit, so is my son. He talked to the doctor openly about his addiction before the actual surgery started. The doctor said the teeth looked like they'd come out pretty easily and that the pain might not be that bad. Here's hoping he's right and that my son can get by with some 800mg Motrin.

If the pain is terrible, my son told my wife that he's thought about getting the prescription pain killers and having his girlfriend keep them and dispense them to him only as needed and prescribed. I'd be lying if I said that idea didn't concern me. At this point, putting any opioid into my son's body doesn't seem smart to me; even if it's prescribed by a doctor.

I'm hoping the pain isn't too severe and that my son can suck it up and get by with a non-opioid pain reliever. But I also know it's not my life and it's not my decision. That said, I will say a little prayer asking that my son's higher power helps get him through this.

Addiction changes lives forever. Things "normal" people don't think twice about--like getting pain meds after having some teeth pulled--aren't so simple for addicts in recovery. Or their parents. And that's the tooth. (Sorry...I couldn't resist.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Exciting News!

I wanted to take a few minutes to share some exciting news with everyone!

I am incredibly honored to have been chosen as one of six Lead Advocates for 2014 for an incredible organization called Heroes in Recovery.

Heroes in Recovery (HIR) is "a movement ignited by Foundations Recovery Network and the widespread community of those who are in recovery from addiction and co-occurring disorders. Heroes in Recovery has a simple mission: to eliminate the social stigma that keeps individuals with addiction and mental health issues from seeking help, to share stories of recovery for the purpose of encouragement and inspiration, and to create an engaged sober community that empowers people to get involved, give back, and live healthy, active lives."

The Lead Advocates for HIR "carry the torch for the Heroes movement. Their job is deeply important: They share their stories, collect the stories of others, blog on the Heroes site, help out with races, and ultimately seek to inspire all those around them to break the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health issues."

So the weekend of February 9th, I'm off to Nashville--where HIR is based-- to attend a summit and train with HIR staff and the other five Lead Advocates for this year.

Words can't describe how excited I am for this opportunity. When I found out I had "made the team," I literally jumped for joy. I am so very passionate about breaking the stigma. I can't wait to start working with HIR and my new colleagues!

Look out, stigma! We're coming for you!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A New Look for My Blog

I was sitting on the couch with my laptop today looking at my blog and thinking about changing the template I use for it. You know: freshen up the look a bit. After all, I haven't changed anything since I started it in 2008.

So I had a new template pulled up and was checking out how it would look. Then all of a sudden one of my cats hopped up on me and walked across the keyboard.

Well, I don't know what button one of his four fat paws accidentally clicked, but the next thing I knew my blog was using the new template and I couldn't get the old one back.

I wasn't a big fan of the new look my cat created, so I messed around with things and think I came up with something that's visually appealing. But, maybe not.

Anyway, that's the story behind the new look here. Feel free to let me know your thoughts about it by leaving a comment.

By the way, the kid in the new photo at the top of the blog is my son. That picture was taken when he was six years old. He's throwing rocks into Lake Michigan on the beach in Leland, Michigan. It's one of our favorite places in the whole world.

Looking Back: January 23, 2007

I was looking through my pre-blog journal this morning and stopped to read my entry from exactly seven years ago today. It was pretty lengthy--I tend to ramble when I'm writing for no one but myself--but one paragraph jumped out at me.

Over the years, I have come across of lot of parents of kids suffering from depression and/or addiction who feel incredibly sad about what's happening to their child. As a parent, that's so normal. I've also encountered many parents who feel like running away from the whole situation. That's so normal, too; although it tends to fill you up with guilt and make you feel even worse than you already do.

Going through depression or addiction with a child for the first time is an exhausting and trying process. It's not something you've planned on and it's certainly not something that has an easy solution. Feeling sad, guilty, scared--very scared--and thinking negative thoughts is all part of the grieving process. You just have to work through it and believe that there's a light on the other side. You have to believe. And not beat yourself up over how you feel. Those emotions are real and normal. Trust me. I've been there.

January 23, 2007

Sometimes I feel like just walking away. Just getting in the car and driving nowhere in particular, thousands of miles away. Finding new places, new things, new people…new feelings; because the feelings I have right now hurt so bad. Why should life be so painful? Why should the suffering just go on and on. I would give my life to make [my son] happy and "normal." And I wish I could. It would take away his pain and my pain at the same time.

"Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them." --Leo Tolstoy

This pillow hangs on a door knob in our living room. It's meant to be a Christmas decoration, but we leave it up all year round.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I'm Number 55!

I woke up this morning to find out that this blog has made the list of the 55 Top Addiction Recovery Blogs for 2014 over at Cathy Taughinbaugh's wonderful Treatment Talk site. Yes, I may be clinging ever so tightly to the last spot on the list, but words cannot express how grateful I am just to be on the list.

If you know someone who is going through addiction/recovery, all of the blogs on the list may provide help and comfort. I urge you to visit as many of the blogs as you can. Remember: You are not alone!

"People who write about addiction and recovery, speak from the heart. They share their journey and become a support for others who are in the same situation." --Cathy Taughinbaugh

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How the "Club" Works

I sent a message to a Facebook friend this morning to see how things were going with her and her son, who entered rehab about a week or so ago. She had reached out to me several days ago with some questions and concerns and I was happy to share my thoughts with her.

Being the parent of an addict means you belong to a "club." It's not really a club you want to be in, but you have no choice in the matter. And being in the club means sharing with each other, offering words of encouragement, and helping others cope with what they're going through.

My friend's response to my "How are things going, friend?" question really moved me. So much so that I asked her if it would be alright for me to included an edited version of it here on my blog. She agreed, saying: "If one parent/family member feels supported from those words I would be honored."

Here is her response:

"Life is good. I keep reminding myself that life is good. This is a roadblock. Seeing that sentence 'How are things going, friend?' just made me cry. I'm not really a crier. I'm a private crier. Like I cry in the shower so no one can see. If it's happy tears I'll cry in front of the world but sad/angry/scared tears don't flow readily.

The last week I think I've cried in front of more strangers at Alanon than I care to admit. I cry when someone like you, who I've never met, reaches out to support me. The universe really is so friendly. [The rehab facility] called yesterday to say that [my son] was being moved to the men's house after 6 days in stabilization. I've left 2 VM's for his therapist that haven't been returned yet. I have questions…about his progress and how detox went for him. Not sure how much information they actually share even if [he] put us on the communication update form.

They tell me that phone call days are Saturdays and Wednesdays, so [I'm] hoping that he will be allowed to phone on Saturday. I have so many things to celebrate [with my other kids]. So I find myself on these emotional highs and then processing and grieving so much related to [my son]. I've figured out that for 6 years I've been surviving. Like treading water with my lips just barely out where [my son] is concerned. I was focused moment to moment on every phone ring and text and string of days where I wouldn't hear from him. I was focused and begging for help to anyone that would listen and no one really seemed to know what to do.

Now that he's actually tucked away somewhere where I know where he is and that he is being cared for by professionals 24/7 I'm just having this amazing release of feelings that I've clearly repressed. I also find that I'm feeling very very scared about when he gets out. I've been reading so much about addiction and have immersed myself in the books you spoke of and…his disease will likely relapse after he goes into remission. I don't know how not to be afraid of that. Perhaps I should just allow myself to be afraid of that.

Thank you for checking in. I read your blog posts. I read your FB because it makes me know that you can get to the other side of this and be full of joy and serenity."

Please keep this woman and her son in your thoughts and prayers. Even if you're not a member of our club. While I am pleased to know that my words have helped her, I believe her words may in turn help others.

That's how the club works.

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

P.S. Special thanks to my friend for allowing me to publish her very personal feelings here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Everybody Knows Somebody

While I was editing one of my earlier blog posts for possible publication on another website, I found myself typing "It can happen to anyone" for the umpteenth time in the last several years.

It's true. Depression and addiction can happen to anyone. Just like cancer. Or diabetes. Or heart disease. Or the flu. Depression and addiction don't discriminate and there's no vaccine for either one. If you're a living human being, either disease--and often times both--can rear its ugly head and bite you or someone you love.

For your consideration:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), "An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older--about one in four adults--suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year." One in four. That's a pretty high percentage. I'm guessing everybody knows somebody.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA),  "In 2010, an estimated 22.1 million Americans (8.7 percent of the population aged 12 or older) were classified with substance dependence or abuse." Again, I'm guessing everybody knows somebody.

With numbers like that, and the likelihood that everybody knows somebody who suffers from a mental illness or addiction, I have to wonder for the umpteenth time: Why is there still such a stigma attached to mental illness and addiction?

I will acknowledge that the stigma has decreased. But it's still there in a big way. And it needs to get the hell out.

In 2014 I will be busting my butt to help BREAK THE STIGMA associated with mental illness and addiction. I may be unemployed, but while I'm looking for work I'll have some extra time to devote to this cause.

If I were STIGMA, I'd watch my back.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Looking Back: January 24, 2007

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but prior to starting my blog I kept a journal. Like my blog, the journal was therapy for me. I wrote in it a lot. Nothing really polished, just stream-of-consciousness entries. I tried to write at least something every day. Sometimes I wrote many entries on the same day. Deeply personal, honest thoughts.

My journal ended up being hundreds of pages long and to this day no one except me--not even my wife--has ever read it. But last night I was flipping through the memories and decided I would share some of them from time to time here in my blog.

Welcome to a new feature called "Looking Back." I hope it offers some insight that may be helpful to others.

January 24, 2007

What to do about [my son]? The biggest question in my life. And it has been for over a year. 

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of him trying to overdose on pills. The scariest moment of my life. A year later, we've made some positive strides...but we're still nowhere near where we'd like to be. But my son is alive. And he may be a pain in the ass much of the time, but I love him dearly no matter what. I am confident that someday something will click and things will vastly improve. I sure hope so. This morning [my wife] used my line: "I can't do this anymore." If she's starting to say things like that, you know it's been tough. Peace and love to you, son. We love you so much. And we're so glad you're still with us.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

18 x 3 + Some Goals = First Blog Post of 2014

Today is the second day of 2014 and for some reason the number 18 is figuring prominently in my life:

*This is the first time I've been unemployed at the start of a new year in 18 years. After a total of almost 24 years with the same company, I left my job on December 13th. I decided it was time to move on. At 52 years of age, I may be taking a big chance. Time will tell. But I have faith that everything will work out. And I'm very lucky to have a wife who completely supports my decision. (When I said to her, "We might end up homeless," her response was, "There's no one I'd rather be homeless with." Yes, I am a lucky man.)

*In two days, my younger son will turn 18. I can't believe it and I have no idea where the time has gone. My "baby" is going to be an adult.

*Lastly, my older son is 18 months clean and sober today. Pardon my French, but holy shit! The sober days keep adding up for him and turning into sober months. And 18 months means a year-and-a-half. It's been a long road for the entire family, but I thank the Lord above that I am able to say my son has been clean for 18 months. I couldn't be any more proud or grateful. Seriously. Whenever I look back on where he was and where he is now--and where I was and where I am now--I cry tears of happiness.

Okay. Enough of the 18 thing. I just found it kind of strange. Onto 2014...

I'm not a big "New Year's resolution" guy, but I have been thinking a lot about the coming year and what it could bring. In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night last night and came up with six goals for 2014.

Right about now I can hear a lot of people saying to themselves, "But wait. A 'goal' is the same as a 'resolution,' isn't it?" That's a great question, but the answer--in my opinion--is no.

A resolution is, by definition, "A firm decision to do or not do something." As I see it, with a resolution you either succeed or you fail. It's an absolute. If you resolve to quit smoking and 10 days into the new year you light up a cigarette, you're done. You did not stick to your resolution.

A goal, on the other hand, is "The object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result." A goal is not an absolute. It's something you strive for. You choose something you want to do or accomplish, you see the end result, and you take steps to get there. If you don't reach your goal--at least in theory--you'll have made significant steps toward getting there. "Progress, not perfection" is perfectly acceptable.

So, with that being said, here are the six goals I have set for myself for 2014:

Last year was a great year for me as far as living in the moment goes, but I think I can do an even better job this year. I will strive to appreciate every single day for what it is, without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Life. One day at a time. It's how it should be lived.

In 2014 I will have the honor of becoming affiliated with an incredible organization called Heroes in Recovery. I intend to bust my butt for them and do everything I possibly can to help break the stigma associated with substance abuse and mental health disorders. (More details to come!)

It took a long time for me to figure it out, but life's too short to spend the majority of your time working at a job you're not crazy about. I've decided it's not all about money. It's about enjoying what you do and feeling fulfilled. Setting out to find a job I'm truly passionate about at my age might be nuts. But that doesn't mean I can't try. What I'd really love to do is help parents who are struggling with their child's addiction. It's a long shot, I know. But never say never.

As I've mentioned before, my younger son has struggled with depression and ADHD. The public school in our hometown failed him miserably his freshman and sophomore years. I thank my lucky stars that we found the Leelanau School, a strength-based experiential boarding high school for intelligent kids who simply learn differently. It's made such a huge difference in our son's life. So come Saturday, June 7th--God willin' and the creek don't rise--I plan on sitting outside on the lawn of the school's beautiful campus and watching my "baby" graduate. (My older son didn't graduate from high school--he got his GED instead--so I will more than likely bawl my eyes out come June 7th.)

My wife and I are "givers" and try to help people as best we can. Whether it's counseling parents who are going through an addiction nightmare with their child or donating money to worthy causes, we love to "pay it forward." We are far from wealthy, but we are grateful for what we do have and don't mind sharing with those who are less fortunate when we can. I truly believe that you reap what you sow and I will continue to try and help others in whatever way I can.

In a perfect world, I'd love to be able to travel as much as I wanted. The only foreign country I've ever been to is Canada. And there are so many places in the United States that I am dying to see. But, as we all know, the world isn't perfect. Nevertheless, in 2014 I am going to try and get me and my better half to a few more places we haven't been to. One place that's already on our schedule is New Castle, Delaware, where we will attend the Inaugural atTAcK addiction 5K race on Saturday, March 1st. It's not a short drive, but it's an event I refuse to miss. atTAcK addiction is a great organization that was started by parents who lost their beautiful boy to drugs and I want to support them. (Rest in peace, Tyler Armstrong Keister. Your family is helping kick addiction's ass.)

So there you have it. Those are the goals I've mapped out for myself for 2014. I have 363 days in front of me and I plan on spending those days trying to achieve all six things I listed above; or at least making significant strides in the right direction. After all, they're goals...not resolutions.

"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." --Yogi Berra