Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fighting another battle

I've found myself fighting another battle with another store that just doesn't seem to understand anything about prescription drug abuse. (Remember the Urban Outfitters fight?)

They are actually selling shirts that resemble football jerseys. Except instead of a player's name above the number on the back, they've emblazoned the shirts with "ADDERALL," "XANAX," and "VICODIN." They're charging $58.00 for a t-shirt and $98.00 for a sweatshirt.

I was going to post a photo of the shirts, but decided not to. I don't want to give them any more exposure than they've already had.

I have worked tirelessly over the last several days fighting against these ridiculous, sickening shirts and the store selling them.

After contacting the pharmaceutical companies that own the registered trademarks to Adderall, Xanax, and Vicodin, I am confident that legal action will be taking place. And that "big pharma" will prevail. (Crazy how I'm actually rooting for big pharma, isn't it?)

The store selling these shirts has no absolutely no clue what they're doing. It's so sad.

If you're on Facebook and want to help support my fight, please go to the page I created and "Like" and "Share" it. There is power in numbers.


Why am I fighting this fight? Because of messages like these three, which I received via the Facebook page I created:

"this [is] totally absurd.....and just plain glamorize drugs and drug abuse in any way is just evil. my daughter was addicted to vicodin and soma. her 31st birthday is in a few days...too bad she has been dead for 2 years leaving behind a then 5 year old daughter at the time. I am outraged!!!!"

"Thank you for this page. My stepson died of an overdose in 2011 and these shirts are absolutely horrendous. Not only did it take him away from us, but almost destroyed our marriage. It has been hard and we are just now starting to learn how to live with the pain. He had other substances as well as prescription drugs in his system. They should be ashamed of themselves."

"You are doing a wonderful thing with your page and your fight. I don't know you, but I truly appreciate what you are doing. My cousin passed 9/25/10 at 31 from prescription overdose. I know some people will never understand the fight that is in all of us that have loved ones that battle this disease. But please, keep up the great work. You are making a difference."

Enough said.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The poetry of Anis Mojgani

This is one of those blog posts that has absolutely nothing to do with my son's addiction or recovery; and everything to do with my recovery.

During my recovery I have had "help" from a few incredibly gifted and talented people. Most of these people are either authors (David Sheff, Anne Lamott) or musicians (Kathleen Edwards, Ryan AdamsMatthew Ryan, Jim Bryson, Hannah Georgas, The Bergamot, Rickie Lee Jones). Their works have had such a positive effect on me and my life and have helped me navigate my way through some very tumultuous times.

But there is also a poet who has moved me and helped me in ways I can't explain. His words and attitude on life speak to me like they are coming from some higher place. That poet is Anis Mojgani.

I first became aware of Anis's poetry when I saw this video of him performing his poem "Shake the Dust" as part of the To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) "Heavy and Light" tour:

I watched that performance over and over again. My mind was blown.

I then started watching every performance of Anis's that I could find online. I bought his books from Amazon. I started reading his blog. I became convinced that Anis Mojgani is a gift from God.

On Februay 13th of this year, me, my wife, and our younger son--who is big into poetry--went to the TWLOHA "Heavy and Light" show at St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit. The whole show was great. Stories and music with a positive message, full of inspiration. "Songs, conversation, and hope." But the highlight for me was definitely Anis Mojgani's performances. Seeing him perform live made his poetry even more moving. It was breathtaking.

After the show, we had the pleasure of meeting Anis, who won back-to-back titles in the National Individual Poetry Slam in 2005 and 2006. Standing next to him I felt like I was in the presence of greatness. Because I was.

If you like poetry at all--or even if you don't think you do--I highly recommend that you check out the work of Anis Mojgani. There's no doubt that his words have made a difference in my life. Maybe they'll make a difference in yours, too.

Here's a great video of Anis performing several of his poems. Check it out. I think you'll like what you hear and see.

"So when the world knocks at your door, clutch the knob tightly and open on up. And run forward. Run forward as fast and as far as you must. Run into its widespread greeting arms with your hands outstretched before you, fingertips trembling though they may be." --Anis Mojgani, from "Shake the Dust" (from the book Songs from Under the River: Early & New Work, © 2013 by Anis Mojgani).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Four years and six days later

Four years and six days ago, I wrote a blog post entitled "I miss my son."

It was a poem of sorts, and I remember how it hurt like hell--and then some--to write it. I remember crying the whole time I was typing. It came from my heart, though, and I had to get it out.

Last night I revisited that post and cried again. But this time I cried tears of happiness.

The reasons for my happiness lie in this excerpt from that post:

Ask me what one thing I would wish for if given the chance.
It's such an easy question to answer:
I want my son back.

I want him to feel happiness.
I want him to feel at ease.
I want him to feel wanted.
I want him to feel like he belongs.
I want him to laugh.
I want him to love.
I want him to live.
I want him to be free of the demons that seem to haunt him.

I read that passage over and over and over again last night.

Then I realized: Four years and six days later...

My son feels happiness.
My son feels at ease.
My son feels wanted.
My son feels like he belongs.
My son laughs.
My son is in love.
My son is living.
My son appears to be free of the demons that haunted him.

And best of all?

I believe I have my son back.

"Don't give up, don't ever give up." --Jim Valvano

Monday, August 19, 2013


During the last several years, I've read more books about addiction than I can remember. Scientific books, self-help books, memoirs, books about rehabs, etc. If there's a book out there about addiction, chances are I've read it. Or it's on a bookshelf waiting for me to read it because my wife and I have our own little addiction library at home.

The other day, on a day off from work, I finished reading one of the better memoirs I've read. In fact, I read the entire book in one sitting, which is unheard of for me. (I'm a pretty slow reader. I'm a perfectionist and I like to read slowly so I make sure I don't miss anything. It's a sickness, really.)

The book that had me hooked right from the Foreword--and made me spend most of my day off on the family room couch--is GUTS: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster by Kristen Johnston.

Johnston is an actress who is probably best known for her Emmy Award-winning portrayal of Sally Solomon in the late-'90s/early '00s comedy series 3rd Rock from the Sun. She currently stars as Holly Franklin in the TV Land comedy The Exes. She's also a recovering addict.

GUTS is an incredibly honest, sobering (pun intended), and hilarious memoir. Hilarious in parts for sure, thanks to Johnston's wicked sense of self-deprecating humor. But the book is very serious, too. After all, addiction in and of itself isn't really funny.

One of the most serious and honest parts of the book takes place while Johnston is hospitalized in England on New Year's eve 2006:

"....I heard a loud bang. Because I'm from New York City, I almost ignored it, assuming it was just someone being murdered. Then, out of the corner of my eye, a burst of orange. I looked up from my bed out the window, and I saw the most glorious, enormous splashes of color lighting up the skyline. Fireworks! I could even hear the 'oohs' and the 'aahs' floating up from the celebrating crowd.

To this day I don't know exactly why, but for some mysterious reason, this was the moment that sanity finally chose to break through the madness that had held me in its iron grip for so many years. With no warning, I was struck by this thought:

There are people in that crowd who are looking at the same fireworks I am right this very second who are STONE COLD SOBER. There are people in that crowd who don't feel the need to touch the back pocket of their jeans constantly to make sure the six pills are still there. There are people in that crowd who are simply enjoying the spectacle, without wondering if they have one refill left at the pharmacy, or if they would have to call yet another doctor. There are people out there RIGHT NOW who are with their loved ones and are just happy to be alive.

Grief overwhelmed me. True, real sorrow not for me, but for finally seeing the truth of what I was. A selfish, self-serving, loathsome creature who did nothing to better the world. I finally truly felt the weight of all the pain I had caused, all the tears that had been wasted on me, all the gifts that had been given to me that I had just carelessly frittered away, and all of the thousands of hours I had spent obsessing about something as ridiculous, boring, and stupid as me. 

I don't want this life anymore, I thought. I can't bear who I've become."


That's some powerful stuff, isn't it?

So is this, which is my favorite passage from the book:

"I knew that I needed to start accepting that I was me--and I needed to do it pronto--because life, it is short. And the very notion of spending the rest of my life still desperately wishing I was anyone but me? Unacceptable."

Take it from me: GUTS is a book you'll start reading and won't be able to put down. And when you're finished with it, you'll admire the hell out of Kristen Johnston for putting her addiction, her life, and her soul "out there" for everyone to see. And for helping to break the stigma associated with addiction. ("I believe, without a doubt, that the shame and secrecy that shroud the disease are just as deadly as the disease itself," she says in the book's Epilogue.)

It should also be pointed out that Kristen has donated a portion of the book's proceeds to SLAM (Sobriety Learning And Motivation), a group she formed that is dedicated to starting the first sober high school in New York City/New York State. You can learn more about SLAM at

"Silence equals death.

I won't stay silent any longer.

I hope you won't either."

(Note: Excerpts from GUTS are © 2012 by Kristen Johnston. All rights reserved. You can follow Kristen on Twitter at @kjothesmartass; visit the GUTS website at; or preview and buy the book--and read its terrific reviews--at

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Did I just say that?

"My son's addiction has made me a better person."

Wait, what?? Did I just say that???

Actually, no. I just typed that. But I did say it yesterday during a discussion with the headmaster of my younger son's school. And it was the first time I had ever said it to anyone. Including myself. It just came out.

And you know what? It's true.

First of all, let me be crystal clear: As I've said before, being the parent of an addict is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. It's not something you ever think about when you have kids.

My hopes and dreams for my older son were definitely in another "bucket." That bucket contained academic and athletic excellence, graduating from high school, going to college, graduating from college, etc., etc., etc. I imagine my dreams for him were the same dreams almost every parent has for their children.

But someone up above had other plans for my son...and for my wife and me.

When I first learned that addiction had overtaken my child, it was pretty much a nightmare. I thought it was a curse. The reason? Because I used to be one of "those people" who believed the stigma that is so frequently associated with addiction. I thought heroin addicts couldn't possibly come from a decent, middle-class, suburban family. I thought that a heroin addict wasn't a worthy member of society.

Boy, was I wrong. And I got educated in a hurry.

I will never say that my son's heroin addiction was a blessing. That would be a ridiculous statement. Certainly I would rather be living a more "normal" life, with memories of my son's high school and college graduations locked away in my mind instead of memories of dishonesty, stealing, heroin withdrawal, rehabs, and the like. That said, though, my son's addiction has turned out--to this point, anyway--to be far less of a curse than I initially thought it would be.

Being the parent of an addict has made me a more cognizant, sympathetic, empathetic, forgiving, caring, understanding, grateful person. It's made me appreciate the little things in life and made me more aware that I should live in the moment instead of worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. (One day at a time, right?)

This might sound kind of twisted to some people, but being the father of an addict has made the current me much kinder and gentler than the me that existed before my son's addiction. Not only am I more willing to help people, I want to help people. I want people who are going through experiences similar to those I went through to know that things can work out. There is no guarantee, of course. But there is hope.

I have also become passionate about working to help break the stigma associated with addiction and depression. I blog about it. I post on Facebook about it. I Tweet about it. I talk to people about it. Addiction is a disease that can happen to anyone. 

People I know frequently tell me that they can't imagine how my wife and I have made it through all the stuff we've been through over the last several years. Well, if you would've told me eight years ago what was in store for me and my family, I probably would've said "Uncle" and told you I wouldn't be able to handle it. "No thanks. Give that to someone else, please."

But as I look back today, I was able to handle it. So was my wife. We were able to handle it together. As a team. And I believe that we are both better people because of it. I also believe our relationship with each other and with our children is stronger because of it. It took a while, for sure; but never giving up on our son--or on each other--has paid off.

We may have a few more gray hairs and be much poorer financially because of our son's addiction. But we are emotionally richer because of it. And that's not such a bad thing.

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger." --Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, August 16, 2013

You can get through it

Happy Friday, people. This is just a re-post of something I wrote a while back that appeared a few different places online. It was published at the Heroes in Recovery website, and in the "Stories of Hope" section of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids' website. But in case you haven't seen it...

You Can Get Through It

My 23-year-old son first started using drugs when he was around 16. Suffering from severe depression and anxiety disorder, he attempted suicide by overdosing on anti-depressants and aspirin. Luckily, he survived that suicide attempt. But following that incident, his friends abandoned him, which put him into an even deeper depression. He turned to drugs and alcohol to help him feel "normal."

Over the years, he has used an assortment of drugs: marijuana, prescription meds, inhalants, cocaine, heroin and probably more. My wife and I first got him into rehab when his pot smoking became a habit. Thirty days later, he came home clean. But just days after that, he admitted to us that he had tried snorting heroin. I think at that point we realized our son had a problem that was much more serious than we initially thought.

In the time that followed, I quickly learned that addiction is a family disease that affects everyone in the household. It also turns your life upside down. The sweet and innocent child I once knew became a liar, a thief and a high school dropout. But he was my son, and I still loved him.

And at the same time, I hated him. I hated him for the stealing--money from me, money from my wife, money from his little brother, the family video game console and a video camera, all traded for drugs. And I hated him for the disruption he had brought to our home. The constant angry battles we had, which sometimes got physical, were horrible. I can’t even remember how many times I called the police to come and intervene, just so no one got hurt.

Life in our home was beyond a nightmare and I kept wondering how this had happened to us. Having an addict in the family wasn’t on my list of life goals. Yet here I was, caught in the middle of a living hell. Like most parents new to a child’s addiction problem, my wife and I tried to control our son in hopes that we could "fix" him. We would limit where he could go, lock up valuables and medications in a nice new safe and regularly drug test him. For quite a while, he passed those drug tests and everything was fine and dandy. Or so we thought.

One day, after passing his drug test, my son came to me crying and said, "Dad, I need help. I need to go to rehab." I was puzzled and asked him, "Why do you need to go to rehab? Your drug test was clean." It was at that point that he confessed to being addicted to heroin. So how was he passing all of those drug tests? He had a 20-ounce Mountain Dew bottle full of clean urine stashed in his closet. Every time we tested him, he used the clean urine. Boy, did I feel stupid. This parent-of-an-addict thing was definitely a learn-as-you-go experience.

We drove our son to rehab that day and I’ll never forget it. It was like watching a movie. My son was in the backseat of our minivan, lying down, shaking, shivering and crying. I was heartbroken. Of course, the whole rehab process was another nightmare. Rehab is not cheap, and even though I have decent health insurance, it still cost us a small fortune. Dealing with all the insurance company red tape was a challenge too. One of the biggest obstacles in getting treatment for a loved one suffering from addiction is the crap you have to go through with insurance, if you’re even lucky enough to have insurance. Our country needs to wake up and realize that addiction is a disease that can affect anyone. Getting help for it shouldn’t involve jumping through hoop after hoop after hoop.

My son only did two weeks in rehab before the insurance company said they wouldn’t cover any more time. Two weeks in rehab for a kid addicted to heroin? I knew that wasn’t enough time but I couldn’t afford to pay out-of-pocket. So my son came home. To no one’s surprise, it wasn’t long before he relapsed.

That was a little over three years ago. After that relapse, there were short periods of clean time, lots of therapy sessions, more relapses, boundaries that my wife and I set but didn’t keep and more mayhem. A little over a year ago, we discovered our son was using cocaine, and that was the final straw. My wife and I decided that we could no longer let our son’s addiction ruin our lives and the life of our younger son. We gave our son an ultimatum, just like we had given him ultimatums many times before. Except this time we were 100 percent serious and would NOT back down. We told him he could go back to rehab or leave the house.

I’m sure my son thought this time was like all the other times, and that my wife and I would cave. So he declined to go to rehab. He refused to leave the house, too, until we told him if he didn’t we would call the police to assist us in getting him to do so. He finally did leave, and stayed with a friend for a couple of days before trying to convince us to let him come home. We dug in our heels and told him no. At that point, he agreed to go to rehab.

This time we sent him to a rehab facility in Palm Springs, California, which is a long way from our home in Michigan. But this rehab stint (38 days, followed by a couple of months in a sober living house) seemed to be very good for our son. He did relapse while in California, though, and got kicked out of the sober living house. He asked to come home, but we told him if he came home to Michigan, he would have to move into a sober living house here. So he did.

A few sober living houses later, I feel like my son is finally in a good place. He’s been living in a sober living house not far from our home since early July of 2012. As I write this, he is approaching 10 months clean, which is the longest stretch of clean time he’s had since he first started using drugs. He recently got his first real job and has a new girlfriend who makes him happy. He also seems to be maturing as a person. It’s great to see the emergence of the intelligent young man I knew was inside that body all along.

I am hopeful he will continue on this path of recovery but I’m well aware that there could very well be bumps along that road. Nonetheless, I am incredibly proud of my son’s progress. He’s been through so much over the last several years and has not given up. I truly admire him for that. My wife and I have never given up on our son, either. We have detached ourselves from his problem so that we could move on with OUR lives and OUR recovery. But we will always be there for him with love and emotional support.

The most important thing I’ve learned through my son’s struggle with addiction is what they teach in Al-Anon and Nar-Anon: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it.” When you’re first faced with the addiction of a loved one, you tend to think exactly the opposite. It took years for me to finally figure out that the "Three C’s" are absolutely correct. And when I figured that out, a tremendous weight was lifted from me.

The other words that helped me start living my own life, without it being totally controlled by my son’s behavior, come from the best book I’ve ever read: David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. In that book is the following paragraph, which I find to be so profound:

"Like many in my straits, I became addicted to my son’s addiction. When it preoccupied me, even at the expense of my responsibilities to my wife and other children, I justified it. I thought, How can a parent not be consumed by his child’s life-or-death struggle? But I learned that my preoccupation with Nic didn’t help him and may have harmed him. Or maybe it was irrelevant to him. However, it surely harmed the rest of my family – and me. Along with this, I learned another lesson, a soul-shaking one: our children live or die with or without us. No matter what we do, no matter how we agonize or obsess, we cannot choose for our children whether they live or die. It is a devastating realization, but also liberating. I finally chose life for myself. I chose the perilous but essential path that allows me to accept that Nic will decide for himself how, and whether, he will live his life."

Again, it took me years to accept this. But I finally have. My son will live or die with or without me. When all is said and done, it’s his choice. Not mine. Like David Sheff said, it’s a devastating realization, but also liberating. And accepting it means that I have been able to move on to my recovery. Which is just as important, if not more important, than my son’s recovery. I also have a wife and younger son who deserve my attention, which they weren’t getting when I was consumed by my son’s addiction.

If you have just recently learned of a loved one’s addiction, please realize a couple of things. First of all, YOUR life and YOUR recovery are not to be ignored. It’s very easy to forget that, but please don’t. Seek out Al-Anon and/or Nar-Anon meetings in your area or online support groups. There’s no doubt that the support of others in similar situations is an invaluable resource.

Also, know that you are not alone. Anyone can be afflicted with this awful disease. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Yes, you will experience emotions like you never have before. And you will more than likely embark on the biggest roller coaster ride of your life. But you can get through it. Trust me. You can get through it. You will learn from experience and from others’ experiences. You will cry. You will mourn. You will wonder why the hell this is happening to you. You will love. And you will probably hate. You will experience a loss of trust. But you can get through it. One day at a time. Just like the addict.

You. Can. Get. Through. It.


Update: As of today my son has been clean and sober for 13 months and 2 weeks. He is employed and living with his girlfriend, her mom, and stepfather. And a couple of very cute chihuahuas.

Life is good.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

New tattoo

I got a new tattoo yesterday. It's on the inside of my left forearm--the same arm I have my son's first name tattooed on--and it's inspired by one of my favorite quotes from my favorite writer. I think you've seen the quote here before, but here it is again:

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up." --Anne Lamott

Hope is a wonderful thing. And I am full of it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Facebook post

I belong to many addiction-related groups on Facebook. One in particular is incredibly emotional. It's a group for mothers of addicts, and most of the posts there are gut-wrenching. Mothers--and some fathers, too--posting about the struggles they are going through with their addict children. People whose kids are in dire straits. People whose kids are overdosing and being sentenced to jail time. And yes, people who have lost their child to addiction. My heart goes out to each and every one of these human beings.

On occasion, though, people post positive things in the group. Last night, for some reason, I decided that I would be one of those people. I posted this photo of my son...

...along with these words:

"My 23-year-old son: 13 months and 5 days clean and sober. Love him so much and am grateful for every day."

I felt a bit guilty for posting something positive, but I wanted people to know that things can change. I also wasn't sure how the post would be received. I mean, I didn't think anyone would criticize me for posting what I did. But I'm always a bit paranoid, so I wasn't sure what the reaction would be.

As it turns out, there was nothing but overwhelming love. As I type this post, 207 people have "Liked" my post and 39 people have made wonderful comments on it. I was pretty moved by it all.

After reading over all the comments this morning, I decided to leave a comment of my own. I thought I would share it here:

"Thank you for all your wonderful comments. I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to post this picture of my son and tell you how long he was sober. I know that so many people here are either still struggling with their child's addiction or, worse yet, have lost a child to addiction. In no way do I mean any disrespect towards those people. I just thought that my posting what I did would offer up some hope for people currently fighting the battle. Also, my son's sobriety doesn't mean my wife and I (yes, I'm a dad, not a mom) don't still struggle with our son's addiction. But we struggle less. And we have learned to put our lives and recovery high on our priority list. After all, the choice to get/stay sober can only be made by one person: the addict. We can't want it more than they do, although that was the case with my wife and I for many years. I am grateful every day that something 'clicked' for my son and that HE decided he was tired of being an addict. I also realize that it will be a lifelong issue for him. And I pray that he stays on the right path. If you would've asked me 5 years ago, I probably would've told you that I didn't think I'd EVER see my son stay sober for more than a month, let alone more than a year. But my wife and I never gave up hope. And, for what it's worth, the change occurred in our son after we finally set a boundary--you can no longer live in our house--and, more importantly, finally stuck to it. Almost a year in a sober living house did wonders for our son. When he finally decided he wanted to move out of the sober living house after 10 months of sobriety, he asked if he could come home. My wife and I stuck to our guns and said no. We did not want him to come home and fall into the same bad habits/routines he had before. So now he's living with his girlfriend and her mom and step-dad. And he's happy. And we're happy. And he's slowly but surely maturing into the 23-year-old man he is. I'm sorry for rambling, but I wanted to tell those whose kids are fighting the battle or have lost the battle that I pray for each and every one of you every day. Please do not burden yourself with guilt. Remember: You didn't cause your child's addiction, you can't cure it, and you can't control it. Remember to take care of YOURSELF. Lastly, never be ashamed, because you are not alone in dealing with this disease. I will end this lengthy post with a quote from my favorite writer, Anne Lamott. This quote inspires me every single day of my life: 'Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.' Peace and love to every single one of you. Feel free to reach out to me anytime if you'd like to chat."

If you read this blog, please pray--or whatever you do--for all the parents of addicted children out there. Being the parent of an addict is something that's unimaginable and can only really be understood if you are one. But trust me: We need all the positive thoughts and prayers we can get.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

My next guest blogger?

I've been thinking about this for a while now.

My Life As 3D has only had one guest blog post since I started it. That was from my wife, who just recently wrote something on my son's one-year sober anniversary date.

But the guest blogger I'd most like to see an appearance from son. He's a great writer, but I don't know if he'd be willing to contribute or not.

Maybe in time I will ask him.

It could happen.