Tuesday, September 15, 2015

If Someone You Love Is Struggling with Addiction, These Books Can Help

Greetings to all of my readers on what can only be described as an absolutely gorgeous late-summer day in suburban Detroit.

I wanted to bring to your attention a new blog I wrote for the Recovery.org website. It's called "6 Essential Books for Those with an Addicted Loved One." This is a topic I've wanted to cover for quite a while, so when the opportunity presented itself I jumped at the chance.

The six books I discuss in the blog are books that have literally changed--and even saved--my life. If you are the parent or loved one of someone struggling with addiction, I highly recommend that you check these books out. I can pretty much guarantee that you'll get something out of each and every one of them.

Here's a direct link to the blog: 


Happy reading!

P.S. Are there other books you'd put on this list? If so, let me know if the comments below.

"Knowledge is love and light and vision." --Helen Keller

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Seven Years Sober Today

I just posted this on one of the online recovery forums I help moderate. I thought I would share it with you as well.


Just wanted to share with you all that it was seven years ago today that I quit drinking.

I quit drinking because the family therapist at my son's rehab facility told me and my wife, "Be the change you want to see in your son." My son was addicted to heroin, and as his addiction progressed I started to use alcohol as a crutch. I was self-medicating to help me forget about my son's self-medication. How messed up is that??

My father was an alcoholic, and I was definitely heading down the wrong path with regards to alcohol. A glass of wine after work became two glasses of wine. Then it was three or four. Then it was a whole bottle. Or maybe I'd finish a bottle and then open another one. I credit my wife for noticing that my wheels were coming off and expressing her concern to me. I needed to quit drinking. Period. The family therapist's advice was just the final kick in the ass I needed.

My wife never drank much at all, but she quit drinking at the same time. We both figured it would be the best way to set an example, not only for our addicted older son, but for our younger son as well. It's the least we could do, right? After all, parents are the most powerful role models children have.

Over the last seven years I've learned that alcohol is overrated, being sober is only as dull and boring as you make it, and life without mind-altering substances is so awesome. And real. I credit my wife and the family therapist at my son's treatment facility with motivating me to change my life.

To anyone who's reading this and struggling with any kind of substance use disorder, please know that you can get clean and sober, and it's so damn worth it.

Peace, hugs, and much hope to everyone.

-Dean

"Don’t. Give. Up. Because guess what? Me too."
--Anne Lamott

Monday, September 7, 2015

I'm Not as Strong as I Sometimes Appear

I haven't put much thought into this post. So if what I'm writing ends up sounding like some kind of stream of consciousness rambling, I apologize.

One thing I've heard a lot from people over the last couple/few years is how strong I am. How I've gone through difficult things in my life but have handled it so well.

Here's a secret: I'm not as strong as I sometimes appear. In fact, I'm really not that strong at all.

I've been going through some tough times of late. I haven't written about them because I just don't want to. But over the last several weeks I've come to view myself as something of a hypocrite, because I can't seem to practice what I preach.

I write blogs that tell people how they should act. Live in the moment. Don't let the small stuff bother you. Practice self-care. But recently I've done anything but those things. Instead, I've let the shit going on in my world get the best of me.

Yesterday, while my wife was out of town, I honestly thought I was going to have a breakdown. I confess: I served my younger son his dinner with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Today? More of the same: stress, anxiety, fear, and lots of self-loathing.

I'm kind of a mess.

Maybe it's some kind of reaction to my being completely off of Klonopin now. (It's been a little less than a week.) I've also reduced the dosage of my anti-depressant--with my doctor's permission--so maybe my body and brain are adjusting to that, too. I'll give it another week or so and see how things are going then.

But the main point of this post is to come clean and let you know that I'm not this pillar of strength with a big shield that allows me to repel all the troubles and negative feelings that come my way. Not even close. I'm just as vulnerable as anybody else; at times, maybe even more so. I still carry around a lot of baggage, and sometimes the weight of that baggage puts a tremendous strain on me.

I know that it's okay to hurt. I know that it's okay to cry. I know that this, too, shall pass. But that doesn't make it any easier.

Namaste.

"If you have a body, you are entitled to the full range of feelings. It comes with the package." --Anne Lamott

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Guest Blog: Guns and Mental Illness

It's been less than a week since a gunman took the lives of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward as they reported a story for WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia.

Parker and Ward were just the latest victims of a troubled individual with a gun, something residents of the United States have grown far too accustomed to over the years.

Columbine. Virginia Tech. Fort Hood. Aurora. Sandy Hook. Charleston.

Just when we think things can't get any worse, two young people with the best years of their lives ahead of them get shot and killed on live television. God help us.

In the aftermath of this senseless shooting, Alison Parker's father, Andy Parker, has become what CNN calls "perhaps the world's most visible advocate for gun control." In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, Mr. Parker has vowed to do "whatever it takes" to end gun violence.

Andy Parker is on a mission. And Anne Slease is ready to help.

But wait. Who is Anne Slease?

Anne Slease has been a middle school English teacher for over 20 years. Though she's written many short stories and essays for her students, it wasn't until her own personal life took an unexpected turn that she considered writing for a broader audience. Just weeks after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Anne began writing about her troubled relationship with her older son, then 20, on a blog called Still Hopeful Mom. Two years earlier, the same son had walked out Anne's door, refusing to accept his mental illness.

Anne's experiences with her older son, mental illness, and guns have frustrated her. "I am not really a political being," she told me when she shared her blog post with me. "But these two issues, unfortunately, have set me off over the last few years. If our story can help someone else, it's worth it."

Which brings me to Anne's incredibly powerful guest blog. When I read it, my stomach dropped. I urge you to read it and--more importantly--share it with everybody you know. I believe it's something every American should read.

Thanks so much to Anne for reaching out to me and letting me share this with you.


An Open Letter to Mr. Andy Parker, Father of Slain Journalist Alison Parker

August 31, 2015

Dear Mr. Parker,

First, let me extend my deepest sympathies for your loss of your beloved daughter Alison. No parent should ever outlive their child, but to lose a child in this horrific way must be the worst hell on earth. Please know you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

I am writing in support of your mission to do "whatever it takes" to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands in our country. Mr. Parker, five years ago, a loaded handgun got into my 18 year old son's hands.

My son was an outpatient at a mental health facility being treated for what at first was diagnosed as depression. Though he'd been physically threatening to me and his younger brother, he was able to charm the intake nurses into admitting him to the day program rather than the inpatient program of this reputable facility. He was to attend sessions between 9:00am and 3:00pm Monday through Friday for three weeks. And because he had just turned 18, he was grouped with adults of various ages and diagnoses.

During this program, my son befriended a fellow patient who met him in the mental health facility's parking lot during a break one day and sold him a loaded handgun.

My son came home intending to kill himself, however, that's not what happened.

My younger son, then 13, found the gun in his older brother's room, and, thinking it was an Airsoft gun, held it up as if to shoot it. By the grace of God, my older son came into the room just at that moment and stopped him, admitting that the gun was real and that it was loaded.

Mr. Parker, my two teenage sons kept the secret of this loaded handgun in my house for several weeks. I had no idea it even existed.

Thankfully, my younger son eventually did tell me about the gun before anyone used it. Unfortunately, though, when my older son was faced with the choice of being admitted to a different, hopefully better, mental health facility as an inpatient or leaving my home for good, he chose the latter. He walked out my door on December 31, 2010.

Today, my son is in prison.

Mr. Parker, I am writing to you because I want to be sure you know our story, just one of so many stories that have not ended well in our country. It is the story of gun control as well as mental illness.

The issues are intertwined, yes. However, it is not as easy as requiring universal background checks to curb the gun violence in our country.

My son would have passed a background check. He'd never had more than a speeding ticket in his life. But Mr. Parker, remember, my son bought this gun illegally, so a background check, even if it would have flagged him, would not have been done anyway.

The heart of this matter lies so far beyond gun control itself. While I am a firm believer that we do not need the same Second Amendment that once allowed our country's citizens to protect themselves against the British so long ago, there are so many more things to consider.

First and foremost, our country's mental health care system must change. We need to identify mental illnesses sooner and much more comprehensively. American teenagers need to be educated about the signs of mental illness and what to do if they recognize them in themselves or others.

Secondly, the stigma associated with mental illness in our country must end. People need not fear what others will think of them. Mental illness occurs in one out of four adults in our country, yet people are ashamed and afraid of judgment. Years ago, people whispered the "C" word. Now they boldly announce: I have cancer. Why can't people see that mental illness is a physical illness just like diabetes or cancer? And it is treatable, very treatable, but they have to seek the treatment, thus, they have to challenge the stigma. And the three in four American adults who are not diagnosed have to end the stigma and embrace our loved ones with support rather than shame.

Finally, our insurance companies must be forced to provide proper and thorough treatment for our mentally ill population. Even if someone is brave enough to seek treatment and is diagnosed, there is no guarantee that they will receive the essential care they need.

Mr. Parker, I stand beside you in your commitment to stop gun violence. I urge you not only to advocate for legislative measures with gun laws, but also advocate for our mental health community. We need better preventative measures to identify and treat mental illness. We need more comprehensive insurance coverage for it. And we need to encourage our citizens to recognize and end its stigma.

If there is anything I can do to help you continue your mission, please let me know. You have my deepest sympathies as well as my utmost respect.

Sincerely,

Anne Slease
Wilmington, Delaware

Anne Slease is a mental health advocate, active with her local NAMI chapter where she has spoken at events ranging from police officer trainings to candlelight vigils. She writes for the International Bipolar Foundation website as well as Amy White's website, Far From Paradise, while she still maintains her own blog, StillHopefulMom.com. She and her younger son were recently part of a documentary called Semper Est Sperare (Always Hope), a film about mental illness and its stigma by director Tim Hill. And Anne has written a young adult novel called A Brother's Oath. Loosely based on actual events, the novel tells the story of Dylan Truman, a high school freshman, who witnesses his basketball star older brother, Cole, spiral into the depths of mental illness following a serious knee injury. Dylan must decide if a brother's oath is worth keeping.


Anne Slease with her son on Christmas Day, 2012. This was the last time she saw him before he was arrested.
(Note: "An Open Letter to Andy Parker, Father of Slain Journalist Alison Parker" Copyright © 2015 by Anne Slease. All rights reserved. Republished with permission.)