Monday, March 30, 2015

Update on My College Scholarship Plan

Back in November, I wrote a blog post announcing my plans to offer a college scholarship to a younger sibling who has been affected by their brother's or sister's addiction.

My wife and I put up $500.00 of our own money, and we were hoping to raise at least another $500.00 via a GoFundMe campaign. Thanks to some generous donors, we did raise an additional $500.00 and have a total of $1,000.00 to offer as a scholarship. (Note: It is not too late to donate to the campaign if you'd like to. I would be thrilled to be able to offer a larger scholarship; or even two scholarships if we could get to the $2,000.00 mark.)

I'm now in the process of putting the finishing touches on the scholarship, which will be an essay contest. I've assembled a panel of judges, am finalizing details, etc. The official announcement of the scholarship, including how eligible kids can apply, will be coming very soon.

Thanks again to everyone who has donated. And if you'd still like to make a contribution, no matter how small, it would be welcomed.

Here's a direct link to the GoFundMe campaign:

As I wrote in another blog post a year ago, "By the time the younger sibling of an addict gets to the point where they need help financially, their parents are quite frequently tapped out. And, once again, the sibling--through no fault of their own--gets moved to the back burner, at least temporarily."

I'm out to change that for at least one person. It may not be a large amount of money, but I'm hoping it will make a little bit of a difference in someone's world.

"We rise by lifting others." --Robert Ingersoll

Sunday, March 29, 2015

New Blog on The Fix Website

Happy Sunday, people! I'm just dropping in to let you know I have a new--and somewhat controversial?--blog up on The Fix website. It was posted late Friday and has already generated some interesting comments.

The blog is titled "Has the Time Come for Mandatory Ignition Interlock Devices?" It was inspired by a story that showed up in my email inbox last week via the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids' "Join Together" daily email, which collects the latest news on substance abuse and addiction.

The gist of the blog is whether or not Ignition Interlock Devices--which prevent someone from starting their car if their blood alcohol content is above the legal limit--should be installed on all new cars. A recent study by the University of Michigan offers up some pretty staggering numbers with regards to how many lives could be saved--and injuries prevented--if they were.

I invite you to head over to The Fix and read my blog. If you feel inclined to comment on it, and/or share it with others, that would be fabulous.

Here's a direct link to the blog:

As always, thanks for reading. I truly appreciate your support!


Monday, March 23, 2015

I Am Truly Blessed

Yesterday was my wife's birthday. We are now a combined 106 years of age, which I guess means that I'm 77.

Seriously, though...

I have written before about how amazing my wife is and how lucky I am to have her. I honestly don't know where I would be without her. She is, as I said in my Facebook post yesterday, my love, my rock, and my best friend for life.

I am grateful for so many things these days, but at the top of that list is the fact that my wife and I worked through issues we had early on in our son's addiction, got on the same page, and collaborated as a team to find our way out of a difficult situation. That teamwork, along with a whole lot of self-care, has made us better, both individually and as a couple.

Marriage, like life, isn't always easy. And it can be a lot harder when a child is going through addiction. If you've been through it, you likely know exactly what I mean. If you haven't been through it...well, you'll just have to trust me.

We had a great day in our house yesterday. I cooked my wife a birthday omelette for brunch. We went for a walk on a sunny (but cold!) spring day. My wife spent time reading a book I got her for her birthday. And our older son and my mom came over for dinner (I made chicken quesadillas and brownies).

Sitting at the table last night with my wife, my boys, and my mom made me realize yet again how truly blessed I am. I think some people in this world have so much, but somehow manage to take it for granted. Believe me when I say that I will never take what I have for granted. Money and material things may come and go, but family is what it's all about. And I've got a hell of a good one.


"Love your family. Spend time, be kind, and serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised and today is short." --Unknown

My wife with her birthday omelette.
I am a lucky man.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sometimes People's Generosity Blows My Mind

As you probably all know by now, I decided to take the Shatterproof Challenge in Cleveland on August 6th. I'll be rappelling down the side of the 22-story Westin Hotel to raise awareness for addiction and recovery. My son will be joining me, too, which is soooooo badass. (If you haven't read my earlier posts, you can do so here and here.)

The only requirement to participate in the Shatterproof Challenge is that you have to raise $1,000.00 for Shatterproof, which is a fantastic nonprofit working to end the stigma associated with addiction. I met my fundraising goal before my son decided to rappel with me, so all that was left to do was raise his $1K.

This morning his campaign stood at $265.00, which was very good progress.

But then I found an envelope stuck in my front door.

In that envelope? A check from a friend, made out to "Shatterproof." The amount of that check? One thousand dollars. As in $1,000.00. As in, the total amount my son needed to raise to go walking down a building with me.

Sometimes people's generosity blows my mind.

I could sit here and type some fancy words to tell you all how grateful I am for this friend's amazing donation. But no matter what words I chose, they wouldn't even begin to describe my gratitude. The fact that someone I know cares enough about this cause to make such a donation is so unbelievably awesome to me.

To my friend, I just want to say:

My son and I thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.


Wow. Just wow.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

This Rappelling Thing Just Got a Whole Lot More Awesome

As I wrote in a blog post a couple of weeks ago, I'm rappelling down the side of the Westin Hotel in downtown Cleveland on August 6th to raise money for Shatterproof. Shatterproof is a nonprofit organization whose goal is protecting our kids from addiction to alcohol or other drugs, and ending the stigma and suffering of those affected by the disease.

I reached my $1,000.00 fundraising goal the other day, so the Shatterproof Challenge is a definite go for me.

But yesterday I asked my son if he'd be interested in rappelling with me. I thought it would be pretty damn cool if we did it together. Father and son, going all superhero on a 22-story hotel to celebrate recovery. More importantly, his recovery.

And guess what. He said yes.

So now this Shatterproof Challenge event is a whole lot more awesome than it already was. It may seem silly to some, but doing this with my son is going to be an epic, once-in-a-lifetime father-son moment.

The only hurdle now is to raise another $1,000.00 so my son can participate. So if you'd like to help him out, feel free to visit his fundraising page and make a tax-deductible donation, no matter how small. Seriously, every little bit helps.

Here's the direct link to my son's Shatterproof page:

As recent as three years ago, my son was still struggling with addiction. The progress he's made is something my whole family is grateful for every single day. To give you an indication of just how far he's come, here's a Facebook status update of his from a few days ago:

"Could not be happier with where I'm at in my life at the moment. ‪#‎elated"

Hashtag "elated"? Yes, ELATED!

I have to confess: When I read that status update, I started crying tears of happiness. I still get teary eyed when I read it now. Thank God my wife and I never gave up on that kid, huh?

I'm counting down the days until our Shatterproof Challenge--as of today there are only 145 to go--and I can't wait to be side by side with my boy, 22-stories up, in Cleveland on August 6th.


"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." --Helen Keller

Come August, this will be me and my son. (Photo courtesy of Shatterproof.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

New Heroes in Recovery Blog: "Young Heroes in Recovery"

Just sticking my head in the door to let you know that I have a new blog posted at the Heroes in Recovery website. It's called "Young Heroes in Recovery," and it was inspired by a New York Times article about young people in recovery and the incredible organizations that help them get and stay that way.

One of the young adults featured in the Times story is a young lady I've had the pleasure of meeting in person. Her name is Hannah Miller, and she has an amazing story of recovery. She shared that story, "Nine Lives," with Heroes in Recovery back in December. If you have a few minutes, I strongly urge you to check it out. It'll show you what kid of recovery miracles can and do happen.

That's all for now. If you take the time to check out my Heroes blog, please consider giving it a "Like" and sharing it. Also, comments on the blog over at the Heroes site are always welcome.

Here's are some direct links for you:

My new Heroes in Recovery blog:

The New York Times article that inspired it:

Hannah Miller's story at Heroes in Recovery:

Collegiate Recovery Program (mentioned in the blog):

Young People in Recovery (mentioned in the blog):

Blue Community (mentioned in the blog):

As always, thanks for reading.


"Everything that I have in my life today is a direct result of my sobriety." --Hannah Miller

Hannah Miller, an amazing young person in recovery.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Guest Blog: "No One Is Immune"

I've written here many times that addiction is a disease that affects the entire family. Today's guest blogger takes that sentiment one step further, by relating how her son's addiction even affected the family dog.

Today's unique video guest blog comes from Anita Devlin, whose son, Michael, has been sober for more than four years. Anita and Michael are the co-authors of the book S.O.B.E.R.*: A Story of Addiction Told By a Mother and Her Son(*S.O.B.E.R. stands for Son Of a Bitch--Everything's Real).

Anita prefaces her video blog with these words:

Writing a cost letter to someone in treatment is not what it sounds like. It is not about how much the addiction cost you in monetary value, but rather what it has cost you emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. As a family and as an individual, you have lost things along the way.

I reached out to my son Mike’s best friends and certain family members, asking them to write to him as well. I wanted him to receive letters from people I knew were going to tell the truth about the destruction he had caused. It was not the time for flowers, poems, or fiction.

I remember sitting at my laptop and looking at our family dog, Skilo, who had loved Mike so much, but was more afraid of him as his using progressed. Yes, I wrote Mike the cost letter below, but since I was menopausal, I thought I had a right to do it. I never imagined how huge the impact would be for anyone that reads it.

No one is immune to the octopus of addiction.

(The following is the text of the letter from Skilo to Mikey.)

Dear Mikey,

Maybe this is the first time someone in treatment has received a letter from a family member like me. I feel that I am a part of this family and that your behavior has affected me as much as anyone else. I came to live with you six years ago, which is when I think your drug problems were beginning.

I can remember living in Georgia, watching my eleven brothers and sisters being adopted, and I was left all alone because I was the smallest and the weakest. No one wanted me, and I was scared. One day I overheard a conversation on the phone about a family’s dog passing away and that the one left behind was very sad and lonely. They were looking for someone to keep him company. I had no idea where Cape Cod was, and I was petrified to go on an airplane by myself. I only knew that I was on my way to live with a special family and a boy named Mikey.

It was not long after I arrived that your dog Brewster passed away. I knew that the family dogs were closest to you. Winston would sit every day with his nose through the fence waiting for you to come home from school. You would take them for rides and play together in the backyard for hours on end. I also know that you were the one that would help them get up on Mom and Dad’s bed at night when they were old and in pain and couldn’t get up by themselves anymore.

When Brewster passed away, you and I became best friends. I would wait for you to come home from school and whistle our private sound so that I could follow you. We would swim together and play lacrosse together, and I would snuggle up with you to watch movies. I would always wedge myself between you and your girlfriends on the couch because I knew I really was your “only” girl.

I was the luckiest dog on the planet.

One day that all changed. You went away to college, and when you would come home, it wasn’t fun anymore. You ignored all of us and were mean and angry all the time. There was no more playing in the backyard. There was just a lot of fighting and yelling. Now instead of laying with you on the couch, I would instead lay with Mom so she could squeeze and hold me tight. She would cry so hard that my head would be soaked from her tears. This happened all the time. You would just create a big mess and leave. I couldn’t wait for you to go away.

There was a time when I would get so excited when Mom or Dad would say, “Mikey’s coming home!” But now when I hear you are coming home, I start to shake. I know you see me hiding in the corner or outside behind the bushes. I know you see me with my tail between my legs as I tremble. Your yelling and screaming at Mom and Dad has made me want to jump out and bite you many times. The only reason I didn’t was because I may have been sent away, and Mom would not have me to cry on anymore. I am supposed to have unconditional love, but instead I hated you.

I hear Mom, Dad, and Alex talking now about how you are away somewhere because you want to get better. I hope you do because I miss the Mikey I first came to live with. I am getting older now, and soon I won’t be able to run around in the backyard or swim anymore. I too am going to need help getting up on Mom and Dad’s bed at night. So please get better and come home before it’s too late. I’m waiting for you.


Your best friend, Skilo

Skilo and Mikey


Thanks so much to Anita Devlin for contributing to my blog, and for offering such a unique perspective on the effects addiction can have on a family.

If you'd like to be a guest blogger for "My Life as 3D," get in touch with me via 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.

I look forward to hearing from some of you soon.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Eight Years Ago Today: How Low Could I Go?

(Note: This blog post also appears on The Huffington Post's blog site as "Change: It Can Happen if You're Willing to Let It.")

As my readers and friends have no doubt heard me say before, I look back not to see how bad things were, but to see how far we've come.

This morning I took a peek at the voluminous journal that predated this blog and saw the entry from eight years ago today. I thought I'd share a few "highlights" from that entry dated March 6, 2007:

My kid is pissing his life away and I have no control over it. It hurts me so much inside. It’s like someone is ripping a part of my life out of my heart. Why is he like this? Why can’t we figure out how to fix him? Why, why, why?


I’m taking a sick day today, and that seems appropriate. Because I’m sick of life. Sick of every little aspect of it. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to go to work tomorrow. I think I’m emotionally fucked up. Probably for life, too.


This is bringing me waaaaay down. I still need that magic wand to fix [my son] and get this family back together. I want us to be a “normal” family again. Not this dysfunctional “phony” family. We project love and normalcy to friends and family. But that’s just an act. In reality, we’re just a dysfunctional mess of a family.

When I read old, toxic thoughts like those, I don't dwell on the negativity contained in the stuff I wrote. Instead, I rejoice in the fact that I somehow found the tools I needed to turn my life around. As I eventually learned--no doubt after March 6, 2007--I could not fix my son, no matter how much I wanted to. And there was no magic wand. He had to take care of himself. I, on the other hand, had to concentrate on fixing me, because I was as sick as he was.

As the parent of a child going through addiction, figuring out that your life is the most important one in the equation is probably the most difficult thing you'll ever have to do. Like finding-a-needle-in-twenty-haystacks difficult. Some parents never learn or accept that self-care should be the number one thing on their "Things to Do" list when their child is struggling. Even though it took me several years, I'm glad I finally bought into the idea. Because I probably wouldn't be sitting in this chair typing this blog post today if I hadn't.

When I talk to parents who are new to their child's substance use disorder, I'm frequently reminded of a passage from a Thomas Lynch essay called "The Way We Are," which appears in his book Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality. It reads:

"It hurts so bad that I cannot save him, protect him, keep him out of harm's way, shield him from pain. What good are fathers if not for these things? Why can't he be a boy again, safe from these perils and disasters?"

Those are the kinds of thoughts that filled my head back in 2007. And 2008, 2009, 2010, etc. As parents, we get so used to being in control of our children's lives. From the moment they are born, we are in charge of their lives. We are their parent and guardian from day one, their defender, protector, and keeper. Until one day... we're not anymore.

Pardon my French, but letting go is so fucking hard.

Sure, my wife and I never gave up on our son. And we tried to point him in the right direction on more than one occasion. But the decision to get clean and sober was ultimately his, not ours. (I sometimes imagine my addicted son as a player in one of those old electric football games that were popular when I was a kid. You'd have the little figure lined up perfectly, turn on the power, and, despite your best intentions, the player would go off in some crazy direction you never intended. So on the next play, you'd have to line him up all over again, and hope he went where you wanted him to this time.)

And the decision to change my life was no one's but my own.

I'm living proof that that a person can be lower than low emotionally, but still make a comeback and change their life. If you're willing to change, you can. But you have to be open to things like getting professional help (therapy does not make you a freak) and educating yourself about your issues (self-education beats self-medication, any day of the week).

I used to be the epitome of a pessimist. I didn't look at the glass as being half empty; I looked at it as being almost empty.  Hell, my therapist labeled me as a catastrophizer in our first session. But eight years later, I'm a different person, living in the moment and appreciating every little thing in my life.

If I can do it, anyone can.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Small Towns, Normalcy, and...Me

When I went to the Heroes in Recovery lead advocate summit last month, one of the most enjoyable things about it was meeting the new lead advocates for 2015. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are seven lead advocates this year, and only three of us--Susanne, Hillary, and myself--have done it before. So four folks are brand new.

It's always great to be among people who are passionate about the same things you are, and there's no doubt that Bo, Lisa, Marta, and B. Rae are just that.

At the very end of the summit, after we had worked all day Saturday, served dinner to the residents of The Next Door, and gone out for a terrific sushi dinner as a team, we returned to our hotel. It was there that B. Rae--an amazing young woman in recovery--asked if she could interview me for her video blog. Of course I said yes!

The result of that interview was posted today, and I thought I'd share it with you. My hope is that my words may be helpful to parents who are going through a child's addiction. Or to anyone who is going through a loved one's addiction. Just remember: it was late, and I was tired.

Thanks so much to B. Rae for the opportunity. I will always take every chance I can get to share my thoughts. The more we talk about addiction, the more we help break the stigma associated with it. And the more we chip away at the stigma, the more we open the doors of hope to those who need help.


"This stigma associated with drug use--the belief that bad kids use, good kids don't, and those with full-blown addiction are weak, degenerate, and pathetic--has contributed to the escalation of use and has hampered treatment more than any single other factor." --David Sheff, in his book Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy


Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Aftermath of Addiction: Getting Used to Normalcy in Life

(Note: This blog post was originally published on The Fix's website on January 19, 2015.)

Parents of addicts live precarious lives. I know, because I’ve been there. My 25-year-old son started using drugs at around age 15 and struggled with addiction for nearly 8 years. In a quest to feel “normal,” he tried to alleviate his severe depression by self-medicating, using drugs like marijuana, Klonopin, “Spice,” cocaine, and, ultimately, heroin.

Needless to say, those years were a tumultuous period for my wife, my younger son, and me. When there’s an addict in the family, day-to-day life becomes a challenge, emotionally, physically, and financially. Addiction is the family disease that shows up uninvited on your doorstep one day and takes everyone in the house hostage. You have no choice in the matter.

When addiction came calling, everyday life in my home went from being normal to being anything but. I lost trust in my son. He stole from me and did things I never could’ve imagined. As bad as daily life was, holidays were even worse. What once were relaxing, joyous occasions turned into potential nightmares. My entire family would walk around on eggshells, wondering not if, but when the shit would hit the fan. I went from eagerly anticipating holidays to downright loathing them.

Fast forward to today.

After a long journey, my son is now two-and-a-half years clean, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He finally has the things he longed for when he was using: an amazing girlfriend, a steady job with benefits, and his driver’s license. My wife and I often wondered if things would ever get to this point, but we never gave up hope. We loved and supported our son unconditionally, and now, much to our delight, he’s living a pretty normal life.

And here’s the kicker: So are we.

The surprising thing about living a normal life, after so many years of not doing so, is that it’s kind of hard to get used to. I never would’ve thought that would be the case, but it’s true. While our son was getting high, my wife and I got used to living in a tornado of chaos. To us, that became normal. When that tornado finally stopped, the silence was deafening. It was like we had been dropped into a whole new world.

It was only natural that we would approach our new normal lifestyle with a bit of trepidation at first. After all, our son had had small stints of sobriety over the years, but none of them stuck. This time, though, things were different. When our son got clean on July 2, 2012, he was more determined than ever. Sober days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and months turned into years.
Slowly, normalcy began to creep back into our lives.

I really noticed how eerily normal our lives had become during this past holiday season, the third in a row with a clean and sober son. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas were the best that I could remember. The family was together, things were calm and laid back, and there was absolutely no drama. Then I remembered: It was the same the year before, too.

Wow. Normal had been right under my nose for more than a year, and I hadn’t even realized it.

If you look in a dictionary, you will see “normal” simply defined as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.” But I have other definitions.

Normal is being able to trust my son implicitly. Normal is having my son stop by the house, just to say hello. Normal is having my son and his girlfriend spend their day off of work taking my younger son out to lunch and to a movie. Normal is not having to worry about whether the phone’s going to ring in the middle of the night with bad news on the other end. Normal is being able to give my son money and not wondering if he’s going to put it up his nose. Normal is seeing my son mature into the wonderful young man I always knew he could be. Normal is hearing my son say “Thanks for everything,” and knowing that he means it from the bottom of his heart.

But best of all, normal is having my son say “I love you, dad,” and hugging me so tightly that I think I might break. And then turning around before he walks out the door and giving me another hug, just because he wants to.

Normal is pretty damn amazing. And I’m getting more and more used to it every day.

Recently I was looking through the personal blog I’ve been writing for the last six-plus years. (I like to say that I look back not to see how bad things were, but to see how far we’ve come.) In my entry for January 12, 2010, I wrote:

Two questions popped into my head [today] and wouldn't leave. They are actually questions I've been asking myself a lot lately:

1. Will I ever be able to trust my son again?

2. Will my son and I ever have a good relationship again?

Those are incredibly huge questions for a father to ask himself about his 20-year-old son, and it hurts me to have to ask them all the time. But I really don't know the long-term answer to either one. Right now, the only answer I can give for either question is, "I hope so."

I am so incredibly grateful that today the answer to both of those questions is a resounding  “Yes.”

"Grace means suddenly you're in a different universe from the one where you were stuck, and there was absolutely no way for you to get there on your own. When it happens, you really have to pinch yourself." --Anne Lamott