Monday, June 22, 2015

Scholarship Contest Update (6/22/15)

By now, I'm guessing that most everyone who reads my blog is aware of the My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest I announced back in April. In a nutshell, my wife and I, in conjunction with some generous donors, are giving away a $1,200.00 college scholarship to a student who has been affected by their sibling's addiction. My wife and I put up half the money, and donors put up the other half.

The reason we decided to to this is simple: While going through our older son's struggles with addiction, we recognized that our younger son was sometimes given the short end of the stick in our family. It was never intentional; it just tends to happen when parents are hyper-focused on the issues of another child. (My wife and I also believe that writing is therapeutic, which is why we decided on an essay contest.)

So this is our way of letting young people who have experienced a brother or sister's addiction know that they're important, too. Paying for college isn't easy, and while $1,200.00 may not be the equivalent of winning the lottery, it will definitely help the person who gets it.

The last time I posted an update on the scholarship contest was in mid-May. At that time I told you that we had four entries. Since then, we've only received one more entry, for a grand total of five. I was hoping we'd have more entries by now, but I'm not complaining. Back when I came up with the idea, I wasn't sure if anyone would enter.

There are 11 days left to enter the contest--the deadline is 8:00 PM EDT on Friday, July 3rd--so maybe we'll see some more entries come in over the next week or so. But even if we don't, we will still be making a bit of a difference in someone's life.

If you're a college student who is eligible for this contest, by all means give it a shot. Right now you'd have a one in six chance, and those are pretty good odds. Also, if you know someone who might be interested in this contest, please share the info with them.

The original post that announced the contest can be found here:

My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest

And here are the links to the rules and application/entry form for the contest:

My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest: Rules

My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest: Application/Entry Form

If you have any questions about the scholarship, or if you have any problems with the documents, please contact us at:


Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Beginnings

Just a quick post to share some great news on this Father's Day. (It doesn't really have anything to do with today's holiday, unless you consider that, as a father, it makes me super proud.)

My son got a new job and will be starting it on Monday. After a little over two years at his previous position, he was hungry for a change. At his new job, he'll be making more money and working normal hours. Not only that, he won't have to work weekends and will get holidays off...with pay.

As if that wasn't enough, I found out on Friday that my son's girlfriend also got a new job! She, too, will be enjoying higher pay, normal hours, weekends off, and paid holidays.

For two young people in love, this is most definitely a new beginning. My son and his girlfriend will have a lot more time to spend with each other now, and my wife and I couldn't be happier for them!

Life is good. I'm incredibly grateful for what it continues to give me.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Guest Blog: Dawn Clancy, Founder of Growing up Chaotic and The Sibling Project

Today's guest blog comes from Dawn Clancy, the founder of Growing up Chaotic and The Sibling Project. On her website, Dawn writes: "My goal is to create a community hell bent on breaking, cracking, and demolishing the cycle of dysfunction." Be sure to visit Growing up Chaotic and check out all the great things Dawn is doing.


The last time that I saw my brother he was doped up and living in a crack house. He looked sickly scrawny. His hair was matted and greasy. When he cracked his trademark goofy smile, his mouth looked like the insides of a rotted Halloween pumpkin.

I remember looking at him and being scared out of my mind. There was a part of me that wanted to grab him by his brittle shoulders and shake him into shape. And then there was a part of me that wanted to fall to the floor, curl up into the fetal position, and cry until my eyes fell out.

Seeing him there in that crack house, melting away before my eyes, stirred up a storm of emotions that was too heavy and chaotic to handle. And that's why, after my brother disappeared into the attic, with some random girl to smoke or shoot up god only knows what, I quietly left without saying goodbye.

That was over a decade ago. And that was the last time I saw my brother.

Addiction does crazy things to families. It can drive you to feel and do things you never thought you would do. It destroys relationships and it tears siblings apart.

And that's why I created The Sibling Project: Exploring How the Lives of Siblings Are Impacted by Addiction. TSP is a series of podcasts that shines a spotlight on a group who’s voice we rarely if ever get to hear, the siblings of addicts and alcoholics.

It is my hope, with this series of five podcasts--four of which are available for your listening pleasure right now--that we can spark a new conversation and offer support and hope to the countless number of siblings living alongside an addicted loved one. But more than anything I want everyone that listens to know that they are not alone.

The Sibling Project: Podcasts

Episode #1: Meet Nicole Spivey - Nicole struggles to understand why her older brother chooses heroin over their relationship. CLICK HERE to listen to Episode #1.

Episode #2: Meet Ginny Atwood - Ginny lost her younger brother Chris to a tragic overdose in 2013. What haunts Ginny the most today is knowing how badly Chris wanted to get better. CLICK HERE to listen to Episode #2.

Episode #3: Meet Linda & Merna - When they lost their sister Annette to a tragic alcoholic related suicide, Linda became the caretaker while Merna became the peacemaker. CLICK HERE to listen to Episode #3.

Episode #4: Meet Theresa Valentin - Theresa has two addicted older brothers. As Theresa told me, one loved heroin and the other would settle for whatever drug he could get his hands on. CLICK HERE to listen to Episode #4.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My Interview with Growing up Chaotic

I am honored--and humbled, really--to have recently been interviewed by Dawn Clancy for her amazing website, Growing up Chaotic (GUC).

GUC is a community for families and friends of addicts and survivors of abuse. The blog posts and podcasts there--especially the "Sibling Project" podcasts--are such valuable resources for people who have loved ones struggling with addiction. They offer incredible insight and offer inspiration, hope, and guidance.

I thank Dawn for thinking I was interesting enough to be interviewed, and for letting me promote the My Life as 3D Scholarship Essay Contest in the process.

You can read the interview at this link:

Meet Dean Dauphinais: The Father of a Person in Long-Term Recovery from Addiction

Dawn Clancy is someone who is making a difference in this world. Alcohol and drug addiction may have destroyed Dawn's family, but she is taking that negative and reframing it into a positive so that she can help others.

Together we can help break the stigma and kick addiction's ass.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

"There Is Still Some Time": A Moving Essay from a Powerful Book

Yesterday I finished reading Jamie Tworkowski​'s book, If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For. For those of you who don't know, Jamie is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms.​ (TWLOHA), an amazing organization whose mission is "presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide."

The book is a collection of some of Jamie's writings from between 2005 and 2014, many of which appear on the TWLOHA blog (a blog I was honored to write for in March of last year). Even though I had read many of these pieces before, I wanted to take them in all at once, in book form. And I'm so glad I did.

If You Feel Too Much is a book of hope, for sure. It should be required reading not only for people who may be struggling, but for everyone. The messages Tworkowski's essays convey are so important.  They tell us what is actually important in life, and how we should live and treat others. If more people thought and lived like Jamie Tworkowski, the world would be such a better place.

Of all the selections in this book, a couple of them really stand out to me. Of course, there's "To Write Love on Her Arms," which is the piece that gave birth to the entire TWLOHA movement back in 2006. Jamie wrote the story about then-19-year-old Renee Yohe, who was battling depression and addiction, frequently cut herself, and had attempted suicide. After Jamie posted the story on MySpace, it went viral. The rest, as they say, is history.

But of all the writings in If You Feel Too Much, I was most moved by "There Is Still Some Time." It's a short piece. Under 300 words. But those words are so impactful. Here is the essay in its entirety:


If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.

If you feel too much, don’t go.

If this world is too painful, stop and rest.

It’s okay to stop and rest.

If you need a break, it’s okay to say you need a break.

This life--it’s not a contest, not a race, not a performance, not a thing that you win.

It’s okay to slow down.

You are here for more than grades, more than a job, more than a promotion, more than keeping up, more than getting by.

This life is not about status or opinion or appearance.

You don’t have to fake it.

You do not have to fake it.

Other people feel this way too.

If your heart is broken, it’s okay to say your heart is broken.

If you feel stuck, it’s okay to say you feel stuck.

If you can’t let go, it’s okay to say you can’t let go.

You are not alone in these places.

Other people feel how you feel.

You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.

There is still some time to be surprised.

There is still some time to ask for help.

There is still some time to start again.

There is still some time for love to find you.

It’s not too late.

You’re not alone.

It’s okay--whatever you need and however long it takes--it’s okay.

It’s okay.

If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.

If you feel too much, don’t go.

There is still some time.

(Copyright © 2015 by Jamie Tworkowski)

If you need some hope, pick up a copy of If You Feel Too Much and read it. And if you know someone who's going through a difficult time, no matter what the reason, maybe grab a copy for them and suggest that they read it. It is truly powerful.


"You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people, and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things." --Jamie Tworkowski (from the essay "Happy Birthday")

Me and Jamie Tworkowski in Detroit in February of 2013.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I'm Fat Again

This post, like most of the other posts in my blog, is about addiction. But the drug being discussed here isn't marijuana, prescription meds, cocaine, or heroin. It's food. And the person who suffers from that food addiction isn't my son, a friend, or someone I know from the Internet. It's me.

The reason I'm writing this post today is simple.

I'm fat again.

I haven't always been fat. As a kid, I was beanpole skinny and could eat anything I wanted, anytime I wanted, and I never gained weight. Maybe that was because I was always active, riding my bike everywhere I went (remember when kids did that?) and playing sports with my buddies all day long.

Whatever the reason, I remember being extremely self-conscious about being so thin. When I took off my shirt, you could see my ribs wanting to poke through my skin. Yeah, I was that skinny.

I started gaining weight when I was about 19 or so. I'm sure a reduction in physical activity was a major factor. After all, at that point my friends and I were driving everywhere we went. Not to mention the fact that some of the places we went were bars, which meant drinking a lot of beer, which meant consuming a lot more calories. Oh, and let's not forget the late-night, post-bar stops at the local greasy spoon.

Less physical activity + More calories = ____________

I've always sucked at math, but even I can figure out that problem.

Throughout my early and mid-20s, I was heavier than I wanted to be. I don't remember what I weighed, but I do remember wondering where those love handles around my waist had come from. For a short time, in my early 20s, I actually joined a gym. I would go work out religiously at least three times a week. Looking back, I can't believe I ever did that. But I did. I started to lose weight and gain muscle. Unfortunately--or maybe fortunately--my brief love affair with the gym came to a screeching halt when the place burned down.

Fast forward to my late 20s, when I got married and my wife and I had our first son. I had been a smoker since the age of 14 and decided to quit 10 months after our son was born. My plan all along was to quit smoking, but my doctor lit a fire under me one day when I went to see him with a bad sinus infection. "Quit smoking today," he told me. "Not tomorrow, not next week...TODAY." So I went back to my office, went into the bathroom, and smoked my last Benson & Hedges Deluxe Ultralight Menthol. (According to an app on my iPod, that was exactly 9,000 days ago.)

After I quit smoking, I realized that for years I had been using cigarettes as a stress reliever. With that stress reliever now gone, I found myself using food as a substitute. I became a stress eater extraordinaire, and I started to pile on the pounds (or, as my friend Jim calls it..."chuck").

I never got to the point where I was obese or anything. (At least not my definition of obese; the federal government may have classified me differently). I was just fat. I had to keep buying bigger clothes, I was very self-conscious about how I looked, I started wearing my shirts untucked to hide my "spare tire," etc.

I think my weight peaked sometime in 2009. I remember going to see my psychiatrist, stepping on a scale, and hearing him say, "235."

"Holy shit," I thought to myself. "I'm FAT!"

Then in early 2010, I ended up with a bout of diverticulitis. I spent a few days in the hospital, hooked up to IVs. Then I was on a liquid diet. Then I graduated to a very limited diet. A few weeks later I followed up with my primary care doctor and, to my amazement, weighed in at 204.

I was flabbergasted, because that was 31 pounds less than the previous time I had been weighed. (Did I mention we didn't own a bathroom scale at the time?) Suddenly, I was inspired to keep losing weight. I had already kicked my Diet Coke habit in the hospital. Now I wanted to start eating better, too.

From somewhere deep within, I summoned the willpower I needed to make some big changes in my life. Water became my drink of choice and I was drinking almost a gallon of it every day. In addition, I stopped eating foods that had been a staple in my diet for so long. I admit it: I've always been a sucker for carbs, and it was tough for me to stop eating bread, chips, crackers, pizza, and the like. Needless to say, I couldn't eliminate carbs altogether, but I came pretty close. (I actually remember ordering a pizza for my boys one day and not eating a single bite of it. WTF?)

I was on a mission to lose weight. So much so that I even bought a bathroom scale.

Instead of eating a sandwich and chips in the cafeteria at work, I'd eat a salad. Every. Single. Day. I avoided snacking during the day and, even more significant, late at night. There were no more binges where I'd find myself eating an entire bag tortilla chips, a sleeve or two of cookies or, God forbid, an entire pint of ice cream. I was a new man. And I kept it up for quite some time.

On August 4, 2012, I weighed in at exactly 175 pounds. That's 60 pounds lighter than I was in 2009. I  was incredibly proud of what I had accomplished. I didn't even mind having to spend money on smaller clothes. I had never had to do that before, and it felt great.


Once a sucker for carbs, always a sucker for carbs, right?

Today I weighed in at 208.8. Somehow, I've managed to gain more than 30 pounds back since August of 2012.

According to the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, my BMI is 28.3, which makes me "overweight." And I'm only 1.7 whatever-the-units-of-measure-are away from being "obese" (a BMI of 30 or above).

In other words? I'm fat again.

Eating continues to be a crutch for me. Combine that with the fact that I love to eat, and you can probably figure out how I've managed to put all that weight back on. I'm addicted to food and I overeat. Plain and simple.

Most people have pizza and eat a slice or two. Not me. I have pizza and routinely eat four or five slices. If it's available, on most days I would have no problem eating an entire pizza.

And forget that guideline that says a serving of meat should be the size of a deck of cards. When I have a steak, I inevitably eat three or four decks of cards.

Yes, I suck at portion control. But apparently I'm pretty good at a number of these food addiction symptoms listed on the Healthline website:

  • Constant obsession with what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and how to get more food
  • Overeating at mealtimes
  • Constant snacking
  • Eating at strange times like the middle of the night
  • Hiding eating habits from friends and family or eating in secret
  • Bingeing and then purging, exercising, or taking laxative pills to “reverse” the binge
  • Eating even when full
  • Eating to accompany pleasurable activities like watching TV or talking on the phone
  • Associating food with punishments or rewards
  • Feeling shame and guilt after a binge or after consuming particular foods
  • Consistent failed attempts to control eating or eliminate bingeing episodes

I need to try and reign in my eating habits again, because I want to "drop some chuck." I don't need to get down to 175 again. A lot of people--including my wife--told me I looked too thin at that weight. But I wouldn't mind seeing 190 (or maybe 185?) on the scale again.

Part of me feels weird for sharing my food/weight issues with you. I know there are people out there who have much more serious food-related problems than I do. I see shows on TV like My 600-lb Life and my heart bleeds for those people. I can't imagine being so heavy that I couldn't leave my house or do simple things like bathe myself. Compared to those people, I'm pretty normal. Hell, my wife still tells me I'm not fat.

That doesn't change how I feel, though. I just don't feel comfortable in my skin. So I'm going to try and do something about it. Again.

In the meantime, pass the pizza. Wait, I mean...SALAD!

"It would be so nice to go out wearing soft canvas, strap-on oatbags, filled with M&M's, which I could nibble nuzzlingly like a horse." --Anne Lamott

On the left: April 6, 2008. On the right: June 8, 2012. Somewhere in
between the two would be nice.