Friday, January 30, 2015


No, this blog post isn't a review of the series finale of Parenthood, the NBC television series that came to an end last night after six seasons. Although I do admit that I did watch the series and found it reasonably entertaining, despite the fact that all of the characters in any given scene usually talked at once. (Real life in big families may indeed be that way, but I often times found it annoying to watch on TV.)

Instead, this blog post is about real life parenthood. The kind I've been dealing with for just over 25 years. The kind that is, without a doubt, the most difficult job anyone can embark on.

Bringing a new human being into the world is the easy part. Pretty much any man or woman can become a father or mother. There's no real skill involved in that. You find a mate, do the deed, and nine months later you're presented with the fruits of your labor. But being an actual parent? That takes a whole lot of effort. And I don't know if you ever really know if you're doing a good job at it.

I think most parents believe that raising a child or children will be easier than it really is. Sure, it's scary at first. But you learn as you go along and kind of get in a groove. I know that's how it was in my world. Then your kids hit their teenage years and everything you had down pat goes out the window. Having a teenager is like giving birth all over again. You encounter new issues, new challenges, and new stress. Lots and lots of new stress.

Everyone who's followed this blog knows about the struggles my older son went through during his teenage years and early twenties. As a result, my wife and I struggled, too. That's one of the crazy things about parenting: how you feel is determined largely by how your children feel. (I think it has something to do with love.)

My younger son has also struggled. To begin with, he had the unfortunate experience of growing up in the midst of his brother's depression and addiction. That's not a good situation for any kid. But he also suffers from depression, along with ADHD. When he hit his teenage years, he had a difficult time in school. His first two years of high school were torture. Thankfully, we found an amazing high school for him, and his junior and senior years were better than we could have ever expected.

Following graduation, my younger son moved on to Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After a semester there, though, the academic work proved to be a bit too challenging for him. He made the decision to put his studies on hold, leave school, come home, and look for a job.

My wife and I fully supported our son's decision. Sure, in a perfect world he would've gone to college, found the work challenging but doable, gotten decent grades, and graduated. But we all know the world isn't perfect, and--surprise!--what you envision for your child while they're growing up may not be what actually happens to them. In fact, they're very often two totally different things. (I call this the "parenting reality check." It's when dads realize their son isn't going to be a major league baseball player or NFL quarterback, but instead just a regular ol' person.)

My son came home at Christmas and didn't go back to school. Since then, he'd been taking it easy and looking for a job. But being at home was frustrating for him for a few different reasons:

1.) Finding an entry level job in or around a major metropolitan area (Detroit) with a very high unemployment rate isn't easy.

2.) Being at home after spending more than two years away at school (high school and college) means not having many friends around.

3.) My son absolutely hates where we live. Grosse Pointe is a mostly affluent suburb, but we are anything but affluent. And that makes it hard to fit in sometimes. (A lot of the time, actually.)

In a nutshell, my son felt "stuck," and the situation was making him uncomfortable. So two nights ago he came up with a plan: Go to Lansing (Michigan), stay with some friends, and look for a job there.

I'll be totally honest. I wasn't completely enamored with the plan. My wife wasn't, either. But one thing we learned while dealing with our older son's problems is that we can't control our kids' lives. As much as we want to be in control, we as parents are only here to direct our offspring for so long. When they undergo the metamorphosis from teenagers to young adults, you have to loosen the reigns and eventually--gulp--let go.

Yesterday our son went online and bought a Greyhound bus ticket to Lansing. Then he packed his stuff and asked us for a ride to the bus station in downtown Detroit. It was kind of a shock to me and my wife. Yes, we knew our son had come up with a plan the night before. No, we didn't think he'd be putting the plan into action the next day.

We tried to get our son to wait a bit longer before starting this new journey, but he insisted it was what he wanted to do. And, he pointed out, he's 19. An adult. And he should get to do what he wants to do.

The parent I was a few years ago likely would've insisted that our son stay home. That he work harder at finding a job in the Grosse Pointe area. And that he just deal with living somewhere he didn't particularly care for. But the parent I am today decided that my son's plan, as spur-of-the-moment as it was, might be a great thing. Maybe it's what he needs to kickstart his life and gain some independence.

Or, maybe not.

Regardless, my wife and I agreed that we had to let him try. Having our son do what we think is best and stifling his desire to try something new would just mess with his confidence and make him question his ability to think and make decisions for himself. For a 19-year-old trying to find his way in life, that would not be a good thing.

So we let go.

We drove our son to the Greyhound bus station last evening and helped him carry his stuff inside. Then we gave him big hugs, told him we loved him, and left. (Oh, I might've slipped him some cash, too.)

A new chapter in our son's life has begun. Whether this chapter is long or short, successful or unsuccessful, one thing is for certain: it'll be life experience, and hopefully that will benefit him as he moves along in this crazy world.

Did my wife and I make the right decision? Hell, I don't know. I guess time will tell. A lot of parenthood is throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. At some point down the road, we'll be able to look back and figure out if we did a good job or not. (Fingers crossed!)

Which brings me back to the Parenthood series finale last night.

I think the most emotional scene for me was when Zeek, the eldest member of the Braverman family, was sitting with his eldest daughter Sarah. He asked her the question I ask myself almost every single day:

"Have I been a good father?"

I like to think that I have, in spite of any mistakes I've made along the way. Hopefully my boys agree. Lord knows I've tried pretty damn hard.

Godspeed, my son.

"I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway...let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves." --C. JoyBell C.

Nineteen years ago, things were easy!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Another Side of Breast Cancer

I'm sure most of you read the title of this post and thought you may have stumbled across another blog by accident. Breast cancer? What's a guy who writes about addiction and recovery doing writing about breast cancer?? Let me explain.

My youngest sister was diagnosed with invasive, metastatic breast cancer in July of 2011. This was a huge blow to her, because she had already lived most of her life with lupus and its many side effects, including countless surgeries. Adding breast cancer to the mix didn't really seem fair. But my sister is a fighter and was bound and determined to kick cancer's ass.

Having spent eight years as a comprehensive cancer center administrator and ten years as a medical school administrator, my sister was very familiar with breast cancer. In fact, she was diagnosed while consulting for the cancer program at one of the region’s largest medical centers. (Talk about your work life and personal life colliding.)

Following a lumpectomy in August of 2011, my sister elected to have a bilateral mastectomy as a preventative measure. Her surgery was successful (thank God), and afterward she made another choice: to undergo breast reconstruction. Little did she know that getting new boobs was going to be a way bigger ordeal than the mastectomy.

That August, my sister's first plastic surgeon told her, "By summer, you'll be in fightin' shape." What he didn't bother to tell her was which summer.

My sister's initial reconstruction took place in September of 2011, but that was hardly the end of her journey. What followed were many complications and multiple operations. She even enrolled in a clinical research study in hopes of getting things resolved once and for all. Three years after her first reconstruction, my sister was still having issues with her newest breasts. When she followed up with her plastic surgeon, he informed her that one implant had rotated sideways and the other was upside down.

"There’s nothing more I can do for you," he told her as he hurried out of the exam room.

What. The. Fuck.

"As a patient I felt abandoned," my sister explains. "I felt like I’d lost my breasts--AGAIN. True enough, there was nothing more HE could do for me." Fortunately, my sister's journey and knowledge--which she likens to "drinking water from a firehose"--led her to Dennis Hammond, an internationally acclaimed expert in breast reconstruction revision in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dr. Hammond performed his surgical magic on my sister on Tuesday. She came home on Wednesday. So far, everything has gone splendidly. Physically, she's doing great. Emotionally, she's doing even better. She sounds like a totally new person, even if only two parts of her are actually new. It appears as though her three-year roller coaster ride may actually be coming to an end.

Hallelujah, Jesus, and praise the Lord.

My sister is quick to point out that having breast reconstruction was her choice, and that the procedure may not be the right choice for every woman who has a mastectomy. There are questions that need to be asked and informed decisions that need to be made.

Educating other women about the process is one of my sister's passions. In fact, at the onset of her reconstruction journey, my sister agreed to be one of the subjects of a powerful book about breast cancer surgery and reconstruction. The book, by veteran medical writer Patricia Anstett and award-winning photographer Kathleen Galligan, is scheduled for publication later this year and will tell women's stories poignantly through words and photos. It's purpose? To inform the more than 225,000 American women--some as young as 20--who undergo surgery every year for breast cancer, often without much information or medical consultation.

This book needs some help, though. A month-long Kickstarter campaign to raise $18,000.00 has two weeks left and is still shy of its goal. As I write this, the fundraiser still has about $6,500.00 to go. Without that money, there's a very good chance that the book won't get published. And that would be a shame.

If you could possibly make a contribution to this cause--any contribution, small or large--I would be so appreciative. So would my sister. Like addiction, breast cancer touches so many lives. And the more information a woman facing surgery has at her fingertips, the better. This book can truly make a difference.

Let me emphasize that this book is about choices and doesn’t advocate for breast reconstruction; rather, this book seeks to provide much-needed information to women as they make decisions.

"With my professional experience in healthcare, one would think I’d know the the right questions to ask," my sister says. "But I didn't. I was completely unprepared to choose my plastic surgeon, which, in my case, was one of the first steps in my treatment. The lesson: When you don’t know what you don’t know, you don’t do what you should do."

Please consider helping other women get the information they need, so they can learn from others'  experiences and do what they should do the first time around.

Here is a direct link to this important book's Kickstarter campaign page:

And for more information on the project, along with a great blog on mastectomy, lumpectomy, and reconstruction, visit the Breast Cancer Surgery Stories website at this link:

Thanks for letting me digress a bit with this blog post. This is a cause near and dear to me and I appreciate you taking the time to read about it.


My sister. Markings like these are often made by plastic surgeons pre-op
to indicate their surgery plan.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Looking Back: Eight Years Ago Tonight

I was perusing the journal I kept before I started this blog and came across an entry from January 28, 2007. Exactly eight years ago, when my son's depression was at its peak and his addiction was getting worse. I thought I'd share an excerpt here.

January 28, 2007

I’m working at home tomorrow. Right now, I don’t even want to be home. I’d rather be somewhere far, far away…all by myself. Getting drunk and forgetting about how fucked up my life is. Because it is fucked up. For a few days there, I thought we were turning a corner. But instead we hit a brick wall.

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.

Again, I say this:

I look back not to see how bad things were, but to see how far we've come.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Guest Blog: "The Other Side"

Today's guest blog comes from Chris, the founder of KLĒN + SŌBR / Since Right Now Pod. He is currently in his 18th year of abstinent recovery from alcohol and other drugs. You can visit his website at


Recently a normie friend reached out eager and excited with the idea that I’d be a perfect fit to speak to their child’s middle-school class. Someone, given my new venture here, that could put an experienced voice and face to a cautionary tale of addiction and recovery. I had to decline.

While I undeniably have a tale of addiction, an evolving message of recovery, and I believe I can have a relatable, credible dialogue with adults with SUDs [Substance Use Disorders] who are in or seeking sobriety and recovery, what I don’t have is a prevention message. I’m working on it. I have a 4-year-old daughter--a fact which almost demands I have one within the next decade or less. But I’m certainly not qualified now to be a voice of prevention. For children.

It may go without saying that the notion of substance use prevention was a message I never heeded. What could come as a surprise—though I imagine not—is that it was a message I rarely, if ever, heard as a child. I’d suggest that I was, in fact, exposed to the opposite message: substance use normalization. Often indulgence. Occasionally over-Indulgence. Sometimes abuse.

Of the approximately four parental figures (two bio, two step, & more!) I had during my formative years—let’s call that birth through seventeen--two of them smoked cigarettes; they all, at times, smoked a not-insignificant amount of marijuana; they all partook, some more eagerly than others, of cocaine; acid, mushrooms, what-have-you made appearances; and they all--without qualification--imbibed copious amounts of alcohol with great regularity. And that’s just the low-hanging fermented fruit on the family tree.

However! Let me make something (im)perfectly clear: I’m not judging them and I’m not blaming them for the inception, course or duration of my active addictions. Were they irresponsible? Maybe. An adult’s view of their own childhood is often from a grassy knoll.

What I am doing is painting a picture of the behavior-modeling available to me as a child. My childhood included, in no particular order or relevance: a Folger’s coffee can packed full of pot on a refrigerator door shelf; very memorably being taken to see Poltergeist by a parent tripping ‘shrooms; being allowed to eat pot seeds like they were sunflower seeds; between the ages of 5 and 15 having my first drink of wine with one parent, first beer with another and first toke of weed with yet a third; and being present for the planning and preparations to move one illicit substance and the transportation of another--both across international borders and each with a different parent.

So, yeah, I grew up with a fairly non-traditional model of substance use. One could say that with a genetic predisposition to a substance use disorder, in addition to my depression and anxiety, the fix, if you'll pardon the expression, was in. Yet for all the aforementioned freewheeling mind altering going on around me as a child, I remained remarkably abstinent until I left home. It would seem I had some coping mechanisms in place. Some vague notion of what was…sensible…vis-à-vis drugs. I had some measure of self-control.

So, what happened? Nurture didn’t seem to have an immediate impact. I was certainly more abstinent than almost all of my peers throughout my childhood. I would argue I was almost impervious to peer pressure. Was it simply my nature to develop a SUD? There certainly seems to be antecedent and subsequent players in the family tree to suggest it’s in the gene pool.

Would a more temperate attitude towards substance use from my parents have prevented my ultimate fall? Would an overt prevention message have helped? I don’t know. But I really don’t think it would have. It certainly couldn’t have delayed things any more than I delayed them almost unconsciously on my own.

What does all this mean for my message for my daughter? Well, first, I’m going to hope like hell she’s a normie. However, at the moment, all I’m thinking I can do is play the role of grizzled sherpa for her as she undertakes what may be an inevitable exploration and hope the descent isn’t too steep or too long. Then walk her back up.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wanted: Guest Bloggers

It's been a little over six years since I started this blog, and I can count the number of guest blogs I've published on one hand. In fact, I can count them on one finger, because there has only been one of them. That lone guest blog was written by my wife back in July of 2013 on our son's one-year sober anniversary date, and was creatively titled "Guest Blog Post from My Wife."

This morning I woke up and started thinking about having some more guest bloggers contribute to My Life as 3D. I've been keeping rather busy and have been writing for a few other outlets, so I don't get to post here as often as I used to. And with things going so well with my son these days, I often struggle with what I should write about. So why not let some other people do a little bit of the work? It would give me a bit of a break while allowing some other folks to be heard. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

So if you'd like to be a guest blogger for My Life as 3D, please get in touch with me. If you are already connected with me, feel free to contact me via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. If we aren't connected (yet), you can reach me using the "Contact Form" in the righthand column of the web version of this blog. It's right under the list of "Most Popular Posts." Tell me what you'd like to write about and why. Unless it's just totally out there, we can probably make it happen. My only requirement? You must write about something that's somehow related to addiction/recovery.

Thanks for your continued support of this blog. I appreciate every single person who stops by to read any part of anything I've written. Never in a million years did I think this blog would still exist after six years. To be honest, I wasn't sure it would make it past the first post. Yet here we are.

I look forward to hearing from at least one or two of you soon.


"You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." --Anne Lamott

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Back with Heroes in Recovery for 2015

Despite being out of work, my life has been pretty busy over the last couple of months. So sometimes I forget to update people on what's going on with me. Or sometimes I post a status update on Facebook about something, and intend to blog about it later. But then I forget to do that, too. Maybe my brain is just too full. Or maybe the forgetfulness is a part of manopause.

In any case, I don't think I blogged about being selected to be a Heroes in Recovery lead advocate again for 2015. I absolutely loved my Heroes experience in 2014 and I'm so honored and excited to have been asked back.

If you don't already know, Heroes in Recovery is a grassroots movement determined to break the stigma that surrounds addiction and mental health issues. By sharing real stories of recovery online and holding events across the United States--including several 6K races (that extra K is for recovery!)--Heroes raises awareness and sparks conversation. Our goal is to inspire the 20 million people in the United States who are suffering in silence from addiction or co-occurring disorders to seek the treatment they need.

This year I'll be working with seven other lead advocates from all around the country, along with our fearless leader. We will gather stories from people in recovery, write blogs, host events, and spread the word that seeking treatment is nothing to be ashamed of, and that recovery can and does happen.

I'm so looking forward to heading to Nashville the weekend of February 19th for our lead advocate summit. I can't wait to be reunited with the two other returning lead advocates and meet the five new members of our team. Doing great work with great people in a great city makes for a truly rewarding weekend.

If you'd like to share a story of recovery on the Heroes in Recovery website, please get in touch with me. I can help you through the process. Whether your story is about your own recovery or that of a loved one, I can assure you that it will go a long way toward helping people who read it. Your story may convince someone who's on the fence about recovery to finally take that first step. So please consider sharing. (Note: You can reach me by using the "Contact Form" in the righthand column of the web version of this blog. It's right under the list of "Most Popular Posts.")

My passion in life is helping others, and serving a second term as a Heroes in Recovery lead advocate will allow me to keep doing that in 2015. For that I am incredibly grateful.


P.S. I've written quite a few blogs for the Heroes in Recovery site. (And there will be more to come!) You can access them all in my author archive at this link:

I've also shared a few stories of my own on the site. If you want to read them, here are the links:

In addition, my wife and younger son have also shared their stories:

Monday, January 19, 2015

New Blog on The Fix About Getting Back to Normal

Just a quick post to let you know that I have a new blog up on The Fix website. It's titled The Aftermath of Addiction: Getting Used to Normalcy in Life, and it discusses what things have been like for me over the last couple of years now that my son is clean. You probably wouldn't think so, but getting back to a normal life can be kind of a challenge.

If you get a chance, please go check out the blog. Here's a direct link to it:


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Causes and Effect (or, I Can't Wait 'til December)

In 2014 my life was full of change. The biggest change, without a doubt, was being unemployed. I hadn't been unemployed for an entire year since the early 1990s, when I chose not to work so I could be a stay-at-home dad for my oldest son. That was a great experience.

Not working last year was technically my choice, but that choice was prompted by my position being eliminated by the company I had worked for for 24 years. Instead of staying with that organization and taking a newly created position, I decided to take the generous offer they made me to leave. It's not too often that someone offers you money to go away, so I jumped at the chance. I was a bit worried at first, but in hindsight I really should send them a thank you note.

I spent a lot of 2014 looking for a new job I was passionate about. I didn't have any luck, but the extra time I had on my hands helped bring some good things to my life. For starters, I was able to rejuvenate myself. My old job was incredibly stressful, and the stress had been eating me alive for years. When I walked away, I could feel a huge weight being lifted off of my shoulders. Not having that job stress for an entire year was an indescribable luxury.

Being unemployed also gave me more time to write. I definitely wrote more for this blog, churning out 114 posts in 2014, the highest annual total in the six years of the blog's existence. In addition, I was able to write for some other online outlets, including To Write Love on Her Arms, The Fix, and The Huffington Post. The money I earned from writing for those sites totaled exactly $0.00, but the exposure has been great; and you can't put a price on that. (I did take on some paying freelance gigs, too, just so I didn't feel like a total slug.)

In December another very cool thing happened to me. I was chosen to participate in a blog called Causes and Effect. Causes and Effect: My Year of Giving Daily began in 2013, the brainchild of entertainment and culture journalist Melinda Newman. Melinda decided to donate $10.00 every day of the year to a different organization or individual that needed it, and to write about her experiences daily. As she wrote in her first blog post, "The only criteria is to give the money to some outlet that needs it that day more than I do." In 2014, Brian Mansfield, a music writer for USA Today, took over the blog from Melinda.

For 2015, Causes and Effect will live on thanks to 12 different writers, each one responsible for a single month. Yours truly has December. That gives me almost a whole year to think about charities I want to donate to, and to get suggestions from my readers. So feel free to contact me through my blog with the names of charitable organizations you think could use the money, along with a little publicity. (Note: There's a "Contact Form" in the righthand column of the web version of this blog. It's right underneath the list of "Most Popular Posts.")

In the meantime, I'll be sure to stash away $310.00 so it's ready to give away to 31 different charities/causes come December. While $10.00 may not seem like a large donation, at least it's something. I like how Melinda Newman addressed this in her first Causes and Effect post in 2013: "I don’t expect my $10 to change the world, but my hope is it will somehow change me. And I am reminded of this quote by Edmund Burke: 'No one made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.'"

I like to give to others and I like to write. I'm hoping Causes and Effect will be a perfect fit for me.

I can't wait 'til December.


P.S. I urge you to follow the Causes and Effect blog via email. That way you'll find out what charities and causes are benefiting from the $10.00 donations on a daily basis. If you go to the blog, you'll see a link at the top of the page that says, "Subscribe to Causes and Effect by Email." Just click it and sign up. Here's the link to the blog:

Technology Gone Haywire: Why I Despise Cell Phones

(Note: This blog post also appears on The Huffington Post's blog site under the same title: "Technology Gone Haywire: Why I Despise Cell Phones."

I don’t own a cell phone.

And when I say that, I don’t mean that I don’t own a smartphone. I don’t even own a "dumb" phone. The only phones I have are the ones hooked up to my landline, and you can make them ring by dialing the same phone number I’ve had for more than 35 years.

I’ve never owned a cell phone, and the reason is simple: I despise them.

I despise how they distract people. I can’t stand how everyone feels the need to always be connected, no matter where they are. I hate hearing people carry on conversations while they shop/eat/walk/pee/poop. Seriously, if you’re sitting on a toilet and get a sudden urge to call me, please don’t. And if you’re in the same car dealership waiting room as me, I do not want to hear you talking about the cyst on your left foot that won’t go away.

I’m so disappointed with how cell phones have changed the way today’s society--especially young people--communicate. WTF. Thx technology. ILY & I no YOLO but I am LOL at society. ROTFLMAO. ICYMI ppl have 4got how 2 tlk. (J/K. But I think they have forgotten how to write in cursive. Millennials: You can Google "cursive.")

I loathe how the cameras on phones--by the way, why do we still call them phones?--have ruined live music shows. Everyone at every concert is suddenly a photographer or videographer, and they have to hold their phones up to capture the moment. Here’s a tip for you shutterbugs: The show’s a lot better when you’re not watching it through your handheld device.

It makes me sad to see couples out on a date, sitting at a table in a restaurant, waiting for their food to come; but instead of talking and, God forbid, interacting, they're both staring at their phones, scrolling through this feed or that, trying to keep up with their friends, or circles, or tweeps, or what have you. Good old-fashioned romance is being choked to death by iPhones and Galaxies.

I’m also tired of almost being killed by people who find it perfectly fine to drive their cars while dialing/talking/texting/navigating. No matter what the traffic laws say, so many people find it necessary to keep in touch while on the road, even if it means risking their life or the lives of others. And while I understand the convenience of Google Maps or a GPS app on a phone, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for people to just let themselves get lost once in a while. After all, you can’t find yourself until you’re lost, right? (By the way, that car going 50 miles per hour in the fast lane on the freeway? The driver is on his or her phone. I can almost guarantee it.)

Although I don’t own a cell phone, I do pay for cell phones. (Add this to the list of things I despise about them.) My wife and youngest son have phones and I’m the one responsible for our family’s "plan." Lucky me. I don’t use the devices, but I get to preside over their use and send Verizon money every month.

Last week I was lucky enough to get to call Verizon and try to negotiate a cheaper plan, because our current monthly bill is tough to pay while I’m out of work. After finally getting a live human being on the other end of my phone (landline, of course), and explaining my dilemma, they suggested a plan that costs $30.00 more a month. I swear someone is just trying to torture me. Hey, Verizon: I don’t want "more everything"; I want "less everything"!

My son thinks I’m bound and determined to be the last person on this planet without a cell phone. Quite frankly, I would be totally fine with that. If I have an emergency and can’t find a pay phone (millennials: you can Google "pay phone," too), it’s not like the person standing next to me won’t have one I can borrow. Trust me. I have this all figured out.

The issues caused by this technology that has gone haywire and changed the world forever have even found their way into popular music. The latest example is the song "Tones" by my friends The Bergamot (see YouTube video below). Early in the song the duo demands, "Stop texting, when we’re talking, and I’m spending this time with you." Later on, they sing:

You say politely, you don’t want to fight me, and I take things too seriously
What could break you and take you so far away from here?
Fingers punching, always talking when your lips have nothing to say
It’s so quiet in the room now that your phone’s all tucked away
And we can just talk about it some other day.

Cellular phone technology seemed like an amazing idea in its infancy. But the more powerful, more affordable (ha!), and smaller these handheld computers have gotten, the more connected the world has become. And by being more connected, society has become more disconnected than ever. The world will never be the same.

As for me, you can have my landline when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers. And before anyone asks: Yes, I do have running water.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Heroes in Recovery Blog: Helping Others Is My Passion

Just a quick post to let you know that my latest blog is up at the Heroes in Recovery website. It's entitled "Helping Others Is My Passion," and in it I talk about how helping people who are struggling with the addiction of a child or loved one is a huge part of my life now.

Please check out the blog if you get a chance. After you read it, click the "Like" button and feel free to leave a comment in the space provided under the blog post.

Here's a direct link to the post:


Am I Going Back to School?

(Note: This blog post also appears on The Huffington Post's blog site as "Contemplating College at Age 53.")

I don't have a college degree.

For more than thirty years, those six words have sort of haunted me. In a world where popular opinion says that a college degree is necessary in order to find a decent job and be successful, I've managed to meander my way through my work life without one. Have I had decent jobs? I think so. Have I been successful? I guess that depends on how you define success.

I've performed very well in every job that I've had, and I take great pride in that. To me, that's success. On the other hand, someone who gauges success by the amount of money someone makes would probably say I could've done better. But that's fine. I have never been all about money and I've done well enough over the years to keep my family fed, put a roof over our heads, and provide us with some nice things.

Sometimes it blows my mind that I've only worked full time for four different employers in my lifetime. I spent the summer after high school graduation working for a landscape company. After that I spent a short time working as a radio personality in Ohio before going to work for a library reference/textbook publisher. I spent the vast majority of my career working for that company, putting in a total of 24 years with them before my position was eliminated in late 2013. Over the years, I also worked on and off for my father's business (a general building contractor).

I was never someone who was in love with school. I managed to graduate from high school with honors without working very hard. After high school, I went to broadcasting school. My dream was to work on the radio, and trade school was the shortest line between where I was and where I wanted to be. That six-month stint in broadcasting school was the most enjoyable educational experience of my life. I loved it and was sorry when it ended.

At the ripe old age of 18 I was hired by a radio station in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, to be their midday air personality. I moved away from home for the first time, had my own apartment, and was living my dream. Unfortunately, the dream ended when I discovered I couldn't make enough money to even pay my rent. That's when I decided to abandon the radio gig and move back home to...go to college.

I decided to go to college as kind of a last resort. I wasn't thrilled with the idea, but at the time I had a "What else am I going to do?" mentality. I lived in the metro Detroit area, and I knew my scant career in radio was unlikely to land me a job in a major market. (Lord knows I tried, though. When I returned from Ohio I sent résumés and air check tapes to every radio station in Detroit.) Going to college seemed to be the logical, albeit not my favorite, choice.

The whole college thing was probably destined to fail right from the beginning. My parents were not well off, and they told me that I'd be paying for 100 percent of my tuition and books. I chose to attend a local "commuter" college, so at least room and board weren't an issue. But I remember going to a bank in downtown Detroit and taking care of the paperwork for my student loan and saying to myself, "What the hell am I doing?" Taking out a loan to pay for something I didn't really want seemed kind of stupid to me. But what else was I going to do?

To make matters worse, I chose to study radio broadcasting in college. I obviously knew a lot about the subject and profession already, but it was the only thing I was interested in. I thought if I got a college degree in broadcasting, maybe I could land a major market job, or at least a job in a reasonably large market. In other words, a job that might pay me enough money to live on.

I went to college for about two years. The introductory radio courses were boring for me because I knew the material. I aced those classes without even trying. On the flip side, the non-radio courses--with the exception of one film class--were excruciatingly painful for me. I wasn't interested in the subject matter. I didn't want to be there. I felt like I was wasting money I didn't even have yet. Add all that up and you can probably guess what happened next.

I quit.

Instead of going to college, I set out to find a job that would appeal to me in some way. I had always been interested in English and writing, and I found a job posting for an editorial assistant with a local publisher. I applied, and after two interviews I was offered the position. Long story short: I would end up working for that same company for 24 years.

I don't think the lack of a college degree ever really hurt me during my publishing career. But I always had an inferiority complex, because I worked for a company where just about everyone had at least a bachelor's degree.

Now my publishing career is history, and I'm looking for a job that I'm truly passionate about. And while I've been searching for that needle-in-a-haystack opportunity, I've come to the conclusion that A.) I might just need that bachelor's degree now; and B.) I definitely need more education in the field I'm interested in (addiction/recovery).

So maybe it's time to go back to school. (And let me stress the word maybe.)

I'm still not in love with the idea of going to school. Especially at my age. I'm also not sure how I would pay for it, since I'm unemployed and my wife's income isn't even enough for us to survive on. We also only have one car, so the logistics of getting to and from school present a challenge. But maybe online classes are a possibility.

I took the first step in the process last week when I requested my college transcripts. They're supposed to be mailed to me today, so I should have them tomorrow or the next day. It'll be interesting to see how many credits I actually have, and what my grades were like. (To be totally honest, I don't even remember how I did in the classes I hated.) It'll also be interesting to see what credits will even be transferable, given that I took these classes more than 30 years ago. But, what the hell. Life's an adventure, right?

If any college administrators out there are reading this and want to give me a full scholarship to their school, I will gladly accept. And if anyone wants to give me college credit for my life experiences and present me with a bachelor's degree, I will gladly accept.

Ahhh. If only it were that simple.


"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." --Mark Twain

My last day of work at the company I spent 24 years with.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Goals for 2015

Last January 2nd, I wrote a blog post outlining my goals for 2014.

I chose "goals" over "resolutions" because a goal is not an absolute. Instead, it's something you strive for. As I wrote last year, "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."

Last year I set six goals for myself:

1. Keep living in the moment
2. Start working for "Heroes in Recovery" and make a difference
3. Find a job I'm passionate about
4. See my son graduate from high school in June
5. Continue to help others as much as I can
6. Travel more

I was conscious of those goals all year long. I even posted an update on my progress in early August, just to make sure I was staying on track. So, now that 2014 is in the books, how did I end up doing? Here's my self-appraisal:

I nailed goals 1, 2, 4, and 5, and couldn't be happier with the results. Goals number 3 and 6? Maybe not so much.

I did travel some in 2014--Delaware, New York City, Nashville, Georgia, Stittsville (Ontario), Akron.  Some of it was work-related. Some of it was for fun. But I didn't travel as much as I wanted to, or, more importantly, go anywhere I "dream" about visiting. I'd really like to take a nice vacation with my wife (we never went on a honeymoon!). I'd love to escape to someplace warm in the winter--Hawaii, Puerto Rico, maybe the Bahamas. Any of those places would be awesome. I'd also like to go to Europe at some point. Unfortunately, the money to take a trip like I want to take just isn't there right now.

And speaking of money...

Goal number 3 was key to keeping my family's cash flow flowing. Unfortunately, I did not manage to land a job I'm passionate about--or any job--in 2014. A severance package got me through most of the year, so income and benefits weren't an issue. But all good things come to an end, and severance is no exception. So now I'm kind of under the gun.

I did apply for three jobs that would've satisfied my passion, so it's not like I wasn't trying. I actually thought one of the jobs was going to happen, too. But at the last minute it fell through. I also applied for a couple of jobs I thought would've been fun--at Costco and Trader Joe's--but neither one of those materialized.

Sometimes I think I should bite the bullet and take a job just for the sake of taking a job. Something that would provide a steady income and health benefits. But the more I think about doing that, the more I feel like I'd be selling out.

Earlier this week I came across this amazing quote from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the late Swiss-American psychiatrist who wrote the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying:

"It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do. Otherwise, you will live your life as a prostitute, you will do things only for a reason, to please other people, and you will never have lived. And you will not have a pleasant death."

Amen to that. And then some.

I posted that quote on Facebook and commented, "I don't want to be a prostitute!" While that remark may have been funny, I can't stress enough that it's exactly how I feel. At this point in my life, I'm not at all enamored with taking some corporate gig and sitting in a cube all day. I've said it before and I'll say it again:

It's not all about money. It's about enjoying what I do and feeling fulfilled. I want a job that allows me to help others and make a difference in the world.

Selfish? Maybe. But I'm not giving up on the dream. Not yet. In the meantime, I'll keep doing the freelance work I've been doing, and maybe try to pick up some more. And I will shop around for health insurance.

So as I sit here typing on New Year's Day, I've decided to shorten my list of goals for 2015. Last year I had six goals. This year I have one:


That's it. I have 364 days to nail this one. And I plan on doing it.

While I search for the perfect job, I will continue living my life like I have over the past year. I'll live in the moment (it's the only way to live, people); keep working for Heroes in Recovery as a lead advocate (I'm grateful they asked me to return in that role for 2015); continue to volunteer as a parent coach for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (giving other parents hope is so important); and try to be the best human being I can be.

Happy new year, kids. May your 2015 be totally badass.

"I'm here to be me, which is taking a great deal longer than I had hoped." --Anne Lamott