Friday, January 30, 2009

Changing the Way You Think

This disease changes everything and everybody. In every conversation with my son eventually at some point he says, or something to the effect, "It's my life.........". Everyone involved with an addict knows their life becomes your life.

Changing the way you think. It is so easy to get caught up in their world. The machine gun changes of mood, the non-stop movement, trying to follow a train of thought. Try to keep up with someone that has a chemically altered state of being is not only challenging, it is exhausting. It takes more than one person. Every minute alone that you get you are stressed and waiting for the next exchange. 

Maintaining sanity in an insane situation takes effort and when you are struggling day to day you just struggle. Using logic to assess an illogical behavior is an exercise in futility. This is extremely frustrating to me and in truth frustration and me do not get along well. Frustration leads to anger and anger leads to taking it out on somebody. Luckily for me I have a very patient, understanding and loving bride. 

It is important I get back to living the way we use to live before this insidious addiction. I have always been a very goal oriented person. Short term, mid-term and long term goals were just a normal part of my life. Seems like I was always assessing where I was at in staying on track. Guess that makes me a control freak.

A bit of humor from rehab at Valley Hope. In one of the small group sessions a counselor was really grilling me. Guess she had me sized up pretty fast. Right in front of the group she said I know you,"You took that "control test" the first day. You scored 44, God scored 45 and you demanded to take the test again."               She's right, that's me.

In recovery, the mantra is one day at a time. Whatever works for the addict I am in favor of. That will not work for me.  I must get back to being my goal oriented self for my own health. One day at a time is what justifies me sitting on this couch in front of the idiot box. One day at a time is what facilitates this weight gain. One day at a time is what allows everyone else to control my life. One day at a time is what allows me to do whatever is needed and necessary at work and not what is exceptional. One day at a time is what allows me to let my hobbies and projects slide. 

I am aware.                 I must change.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Giving Up Hope

The value of friends to help you through this is most apparent when it seems most desperate. After last Saturday it almost seemed hopeless. His progression, the hopelessness in us finally reaching what seemed like the end out of frustration with this addiction. Seemed like all was lost and we were waiting for him to die. 

Not able to sleep Sunday night, a car door slams at midnight and I just know it is the sheriff with news.

Going to work Monday. Just going through the paces. Confiding in friends about the weekend. These are the friends that say, "You can't give up!" People to remind you life is not a lost cause. Death is the only lost cause.

New rehab options have been found. A place in Texas with a 2 year rehab opportunity was discovered. It's far from a done deal but we have a new hope.

Yesterday we found him. He had been using Oxycontin again. We got him to come home. He was strung out so discussing this was difficult so this morning we are going to talk. If he agrees maybe we can put together a plan about rehab, legal issues and begin working the plan. 

This is how friends save your life and maybe saves his life. Is it possible to even say thank you for people that are able to do this for you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Protecting Yourself

Just like typical parents that have the means we got our son a car when he was 16 as soon as he could drive. Gives him the freedom to have a job, play sports, date and get his drugs. As his abuse began to get worse I began thinking about the liability for myself and others.

It would be irresponsible of me to allow him to operate a vehicle. I know he is an addict and uses. My name is on the title and insurance. I confiscated the vehicle. I do not want him injuring himself or someone else because of his addiction. I don't want someone else taking everything we have worked for all our life because we did not want to upset him taking away his truck.

Drug addicts will steal to feed their habit. My experience is that he stole from those closest to him because he knew we wouldn't press charges. No one was exempt, mom, dad, sister, granny, grandpa, cousins, aunts, uncles and neighbors.

A safe holds all of our extra keys. Our extra checkbooks are kept at my office in my desk drawer. Mom locks her purse in the trunk of her car at night and sleeps with her key under her pillow. No more change jar on the dresser. I'm sure people get tired of me counting exact change at the register just to get rid of the jingle and weight. We regularly check online bank statements just to make sure he hasn't got one of mom's checks, which he does frequently.

My turn to vent. Our local Walmart is like an ATM not requiring a PIN number. Our son often took checks he stole from us and his sister there. He would buy something, write a check, they do not check ID, run it through the machine, immediate debit of your checking account, he takes the merchandise to customer service counter and they refund him cash. I requested from Walmart at the local store and there corporate office to never accept a check with our name, they told me that was not possible. NOT POSSIBLE for a retailer that has the most advanced computer system in the world. They told me the problem I describe was not their problem. As far as I am concerned, my opinion is, when they know this is a problem, and they admitted they knew what happens, then they are complicit in the drug trade when they take no actions to change their policies of not checking ID on every check transaction. When he would use his sister's checks it only had her name on the check, I would think to anyone it would be obvious a male writing a check that only has a females name, something must be fishy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I cannot think of anything more important for mom and dad than lifeboats. For each of us the boat may be different but without a lifeboat during this crisis you will drown. You cannot feel guilty about saving yourself even if you can't save him.

Some of our lifeboats:

A brand new granddaughter, the first grandchild. 3 month birthday two days ago.

Our daughters and our family. People lost in the same hopelessness about the situation. As they say misery loves company. We become our own support group.

Our jobs, an escape out of a house of madness. Physical escape is important. 

Friends that sometimes do nothing more than listen and console.

Date Night, every Friday Mom and Dad have date night and we go out with a couple life long friends. A Mexican restaurant, a cup of coffee and a stroll around the Plaza. During those 3 -4 hours the world is normal. The women complain about their jobs and the men talk  sports and tell crude rude jokes.

A ride on the Harley, nothing matters except the bike, the road, and the trip. Where ever the road goes. 

My workshop, something I can control. Taking a piece of wood and creating something that I like and people appreciate. 

Dinner parties and entertaining. We love entertaining bringing together family, or friends to fellowship. As few as a couple for a quiet evening or as grand as our annual festival attended by up almost 150. The distraction of planning these events keeps us busy and our mind occupied. 

A hard lesson for us to learn was that we matter too. Every parent knows that you would give your life to save your child. The lesson learned was we cannot save him. We can only provide the environment or force the conditions where he wants to save himself. If mom and dad do not save themselves mentally and physically they cannot be there to help when the time is right. 


Another sleepless night. Where is he? Is he alright? Did he have anything to eat? Is he alive?

But these are not new feelings. When he is out of our sight those are the overwhelming questions that flood our mind all the time. The only time a we are not consumed with these is when he is in rehab or jail.

What a desperate feeling, jail and rehab are considered safe places for our son.

Black Tar Heroin, that is what he is doing now. I googled it and that did not make me feel better.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I haven't mentioned much about rehab. I believe in rehab. I'll give a rundown of what we have tried.

As a minor child 15 years old we had our son in counseling with a psychologist. He was the one first to introduce us to the fact our son smoked weed. He would meet with our son for 30 minutes a week, us 15 minutes and all of us for about 5-10 minutes. Truthfully, between our son and me the psychologist didn't stand a chance. Our son was very manipulative and mom says I am very controlling. On reflection, I was very controlling during our sessions. When it was our time all together, our son was manipulating and I was controlling, the psychologist was overwhelmed.

When he was 16, almost 17 we had him in a local hospital outpatient program. This was something mom and dad wanted, he didn't. After about 1 month of treatment we ask for a meeting and update from the program. Weekly our son had been showing us drug tests, counselor reports etc. When we ask for a meeting the center responded they had only seen him 2 times. We had been dropping him at he door, he went in, waited someplace and came out on time either 2 or 4 hours later to meet us waiting. The counselors met with all of us, I gave them the drug tests and reports he had given us. The manager of the department looked at them and told us they were not from the hospital. Our son admitted he created them on the computer. The manager admitted these forgeries were very good. In fact she admitted they had dealt with a lot of addicts but had never came across one this talented. She wanted the documents to use in a training class, we let her have them.

Our biggest disappointment is that here in our area the availability of in-house treatment for juveniles is very limited.

Valley Hope was our next effort in rehab. I'll tell you about our experiences but up front Valley Hope was actually the best thing we found and helped our son and us the most.

We took our son to Valley Hope Atchison after the fentenayl/beef jerky incident. Upon check-in he was put into medical detox. After 4 days he was out of detox and had more freedom and could use the pay phones. That day he called one of his "friends" and they brought him oxycotin. He swallowed the pills in the parking lot of the facility. The next day his counselor called and told me he was being expelled from the program.

I didn't know what to do so the counselor arranged for him to be transferred to the Norton Ks facility, 350 miles away but I had to have him there by 10pm that night. In addition, Valley Hope recommended that his mother or I spend as many days at the Norton Facility as possible in a patient environment. I spent 4 days there going through the treatment program. That was some of the best 4 days for me to understand everything that I have had. I took part in everything as if I was an addict. 

After 30 days our son was released. Advice from the counselors was to get him into an Oxford House. We didn't, we brought him home. He relapsed about 1 month later.

About 6 months later he was back in Valley Hope, Atchison. This time he had a 2 week stay, the counselors got him into an Oxford House in Topeka this time. In the Oxford House environment he was able to remain clean for 6 months. He moved home in Feb 08. He was clean for about 1 month at home and relapsed.

Relapse and recovery is not failure it is a process of addiction. If you know someone that needs help Valley Hope is a group of people to contact. 

I believe for our son to live he cannot come home. This house, its memories, and triggers could eventually lead to his death.


I just want to share a few of my thoughts on enabling. Seems like an appropriate time considering last post.

We are enablers.

We are parents. In all this I don't know how to balance love and care without at times enabling. The hope for change drives our actions. We want so bad to grab him, hold him, shake him and comfort him through this addiction. Every single day it is a struggle to determine what is good for him, good for us, and actually enabling.

I am beginning to understand in my head that his living in and out of the house is bad for us and bad for him. It is hard to internalize this because of the desire to have him close and safe. It is coming to me that being close is not necessarily safe, for us or him.

One of my famous lines to him is, This is a "safe house". We encouraged him to be open and honest and in this house he could let down the defenses. Unfortunately we believed in the "safe house" philosophy but he only used the "safe house" and at times learned it was an "easy house".

Life Happens, even when writing this blog

Our son is out of our house. This morning his using came to a head, again. Seems like this is a regular thing. I know we must share in some of the blame for this. Repeated actions in and out are not serving any of us well. 

There are 3 rules that we have repeated over and over to stay in this house. No Lying, No Stealing, No Drugs. 

Our son has been on house arrest since Christmas Eve. He was dropped off at 5pm with a house arrest box, also known as "The Chirper" because of the sound if made when he had to blow into the tube and have his picture taken. Since that time he has exhibited bizarre behavior that I would have normally associated with using but he went for regular drug tests administered by the Johnson County Detention Center. My assumption is that he passed them all because they always let him go and return home. I was always waiting in the parking lot so I know he went in and could see the officers dealing with him through the windows.

The feeling was he was sentenced to house arrest in our home but his mother and I felt we were under arrest too. The authorities only shifted the expense of shelter, food and security to us but never ask us to accept this responsibility.

Back to why he is gone now. The evening before we were celebrating his oldest sister's and our son-in-laws birthday. We had a house full of people for dinner, and cake. He seemed as nervous as a cat in room full of rocking chairs. In and out, up and down the stairs, talking loud, lost in his own world. Bad people from his past had been calling and showing up on the caller ID. 
This morning the discovery. Spoon with residue and lighter beside his bed, (his kit) stolen checks and our checking account empty again. An admission by him that he traded an Ipod and a small flat screen TV and dvd player we kept in a spare bedroom for drugs.

I had warned him that he held in his hand the proverbial "straw". This camel's back was broken to today. I called the detention center to take him back. They refused to take him. I got angry with them and told them they could find him and his chirper in my front yard. (It is 11 degrees)

His sister took him back to house arrest detention and they refused to take him. I do not understand the criminal justice system. She then took him to Johnson Cty Jail , they said they couldn't take him because they were full. He called a friend with a land line phone and she took him there. 

He is not in our house tonight.

ps.: Another admission, using black tar heroin now.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Near Death

As a parent of an addict tons of stress comes from the prospect that at any time the phone call can come or the knock at the door brings the catastrophic news that no parent wants to hear.

As you dwell on this you begin to realize that there is so much danger in an addicts lifestyle each day our son is alive that becomes the miracle. The drugs and overdoses are a constant fear, but so is the people that are associated with this lifestyle; dealers, other addicts, disease, infection, driving while impaired. (that is why we took our sons car and hid it and he has no car).

I have not found a way to deal with this fear. It seems to be one of those things that there is no answer. I just live my life with that fear. In fact I often have thoughts in my head about what I’m going to say to people at his funeral.

A Call From The Hospital

It’s 11:30 at night and we are in bed. As far as we know our son is at college 125 miles away. The phone rings.

Hello, is this the ******* residence? May I speak with ***** or ******?

Yes, speaking.

This is Overland Park Regional Hospital and we have a young male in our emergency room. He has no identification but in his jeans we found a checkbook with your names and phone number. Do you know a young late teens white male, brown hair, about 145 pounds.

Yes we have a son that fits that description but he is at college in Pittsburg, 125 miles away.

We have a person fitting that description in our emergency room with your checkbook in his pocket. Right now he is being treated, he is unconscious and not breathing. The staff is busy and I must go. If you think this is your son you should get here as fast as you can.

You cannot believe how fast you can dress, and drive 20 miles after a call like that. Yes it was our son.

He had been at college, he and a couple other boys drove back to where our son knew he could get some drugs. This time if was fentenayl. We found out what they do is use the fentenayl patches, pull back the patch and put them under their tongue to get a high. fentenayl is a pain medication that is on a patch usually used by cancer patients for pain management and they usually last 3 days.

Our son was on the way back to college and he used one of the patches while he was eating. The patch caused his throat to stop the swallowing action and he was suffocating. Luckily this happened as they were driving right by a large hospital. His “buddies” pulled into the emergency lane and dumped him out on the driveway unconscious and not breathing. They sped away because they had a car full of drugs. The security guard saw them push our son out and got help right then. They wheeled him in and cleared his airway of the beef jerky and restored his breathing. He was still unconscious and they give him and injection of something I don’t remember what it was called. It was to counter the action of the narcotic. That immediately woke him up and bolted straight up to the sitting position. The doctors and nurses said that was exactly the reaction they wanted to see.

The main nurse that met us at the door when we got there in less than 30 minutes was crying. We positively identified that he was our son. She explained to us what happened and was having a hard time. She said she had a nephew the same age, and looked so much like our son, he was doing the same thing our son was doing and our son scared her to death. She said she wasn’t even sure she could work the rest of the night.

At 2am our son was checked out and we took him home..

For some reason I believe our dog, a golden retriever knew how close this was to death. When we carried him to his bed she sniffed him all over his body and was whining the whole time. Finally she laid down beside his bed and never left that spot all night.

This incident occurred when our son was 18 years old.

The next day we took him to rehab. (I’ll cover that later)

Another incident.

About 6 months ago he was released from jail after spending about 5 days there. When he got home he was complaining about his arms hurting. The complaints continued for a few days. He has no insurance so doctors are not very receptive to free office calls. Our oldest daughter came over, she is a manger of a pediatric unit at a large local hospital. She took one look and told him he better get to the emergency room. I took him to the emergency room. Diagnosis, severe staph infection in both arms. Immediately he was admitted.

Antibiotic IV’s were started. 2 days later surgery on both arms to remove the infection. After 2 weeks of treatment he was released from the hospital.

A very good emergency room doctor at Cushing Hospital. He took the time to explain what was going on to our son and me. A fact I didn’t know that was explained by that doctor. When addicts melt that Oxycontin in a spoon to shoot up there are things in that pill not designed to by injected directly into the blood stream. Talc is an inert ingredient in the pills. When they melt the pill so they can shoot up the talc is injected into the bloodstream. Talc does not belong in the bloodstream and winds up in the kidneys. After a time the talc works just like rice in a colander. Plugs the kidneys up completely and the only thing left to do is dialysis or transplant.

The doctor told me alone that when I brought him in that his guess was our son had a 50/50 chance of living through this staph infection. The fear was the staph would get to his heart and he would die here at the hospital.


I believe suicide is on his mind constantly. He has threatened suicide. In fact he was institutionalized for threatening suicide this last summer.

I don’t know what to believe concerning this subject, will he or won’t he but this is something you have to be aware of when dealing with an addict.

Easy to Say, Hard to Accept

I am skipping around trying to cover 5 years of this addiction as quickly as I can but it seems like alot just to be filling up space. I'm going to continue to document history but I want to put down a few very important learnings that took a long time for me to accept.

These may seem like flippant cliches but they really have meaning when living with and addict.

Love alone cannot cure this illness, we love him but he loves drugs.

We didn't ask for this. We didn't cause this. We can't fix this.

Every day thousands of people across this globe decide to and stop using drugs and never use them again. My job is to keep him alive until his day.

I can't fix this.

Until he wants to quit I am powerless to control or help with his addiction.

Protect yourself, his addiction cannot be allowed to destroy your life, family or marriage.

There are consequences for using drugs, those consequences are his not mine.

Oh by the way, did I mention, "I CAN'T FIX THIS!"

I'm sure there will be more as I write but I think you will begin to see from our past that these were hard things to accept by Dad and Mom.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Introduction to the Drugs

Our first experience with drugs and our son was when he got caught shoplifting at Walmart in high school. He was 15 and got caught shoplifting a lighter. We had to go pick him up. At the time he seemed so sorry. But that began a journey through the legal system.

First as a juvenile he got transfer out of the jurisdiction in which he was caught and into the county in which we live. He eventually went to court and the one thing that I can say positive is that he has always owned up to anything he has done when he is in court. He admitted he did it to the judge and the judge give him 6 months of probation and he had to report to a juvenile services officer monthly and take a drug test each time.

On our first visit with the JSO we ask her about counseling. She recommended a counselor and immediately we set up an appointment. At this time all we knew was he had shoplifted a lighter and we wanted to get any help we could.

At the first meeting with the counselor it involved all of us together, he ask our son if he smoked marijuana. He admitted he did and we were shocked.


After the denial wears off there is a realization that, yes my son is an addict. Then the panic, what did I do to cause this. After a few hours, days, months of mindless thoughts it becomes "I must have done something wrong in raising my son, now all I have to do is fix it before anyone else knows."

Sorry, but it is a hard lesson to learn but it doesn't work that way.

Our son is an addict. Period.

We didn't ask for this. We didn't cause this. We can't fix this. It sure is easy to to write this but I think this is one of the hardest lessons of all to internalize.

Acknowledging that a person is an addict is easy to do when you see the pictures on TV or see the homeless on the street, applying that label to your own flesh and blood is almost impossible. But if you don't do that then nobody can get better, not you or the addict. This lesson took months to learn, I might even say years to fully comprehend. And every day there is a struggle of what he was and the pull to have that back against what he is. That happy go lucky 8 year old that you remember and want back is not there as long as this addiction controls his and your life.

Another acknowledgement that is very important is that our son and us cannot go through this alone. There are a lot of things that have to be done but I feel the most important thing is to acknowledge to others close to you that this issue is real and you need their help, personal and professional.

I'd like to express my appreciation right up front to some people. I don't believe it is humanly possible for them to understand how much help they have been. Our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our son's sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, a boss, some very close work associates that have a sympathetic ear, and many other people that struggle with the same issue. These people are your true friends.

When you begin with this family problem the natural response is to stay private. As a dad it is your job to shield your family from hurt and shame. I think one of the most valuable life lessons I have learned from this is people want to help you. The people that love you do not judge you, they want to shoulder some of the pain for you. People that love you before this happens still love you after it happens. The sooner you learn that, the sooner it can help dad and mom.

Professional help: counselors, rehab centers, NA meetings, NARC-ANON, books and internet. Use all of these to help you. Some may work for you some may not. There is no shame seeking out this help. If you walk into this looking for help and feel like a failure because of your child's addiction then you need to understand that seeking help is no shame. The only real failure in your life is if you chose to not seek every bit of help you can find.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

When It Started and What It Is

Our son, by his own admission began using at the age of 15. Started with weed and progressed. In the beginning all of the natural responses from us were present. DENIAL!!! Of course no way he was an addict or even using as a recreational distraction. At the time we observed strange behavior but it was attributed to "boys will be boys" and we weren't even looking for drug abuse.

After all he was smart, extremely intelligent, you know the straight A student, never a problem with school work, learning came naturally. This was a kid that took pre-calc and trig as a sophomore, numbers were a piece of cake. Teachers in parent conferences told us he was a gifted public speaker. Communication was never a problem with him either verbally or the written word. In this he had a talent that served him well. As I look back these were tools he used to his advantage and we ate it up. Manipulated by a smart kid that happened to be an addict too.

I don't know all the circumstances of how he progressed but he has admitted he moved quickly to the "next level". Time wise I don't know the exact sequence so I'll just list some of the drugs I know he has admitted to using in high school, college and beyond. Cocaine, meth, mushrooms, all sorts of pills uppers, downers, fentynal patches, vicodin, oxycotin, xanex. As a dad all I can assume is that if it can be smoked, snorted, injected or swallowed he has tried it.

Oxycotin is his current "drug of choice". He has moved long past swallowing a few pills, it goes straight in by needle now. I need to qualify that at the current time he is trying to quit and says he is clean. Terms of his house arrest requires a weekly drug test and so far he is passing them. I'll get into the issues with the law in later writings, it's practically a book in itself.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Bio

We are the parents of 3 children, a 2 daughters and a son. Our son is the youngest. Our son has been an addict for 5 years, he is now 20 years old. our daughters have never had this problem. Dad and Mom has never had an addiction problem, so I guess "they" are right. This can happen to anyone and in any family.

We are a solid middle class family, that live in a suburban community outside of a midwestern city. The community and school district is small and local where everyone knows everyone. The area has a small local weekly newspaper. There are churchs on just about every corner. Dad and mom have been married 32 years, teenage sweethearts. Involved for years in everything with the kids and schools, sports, and community. Guess I am trying to shatter all the sterotypes first.



At this time I want to welcome you to my blog. This blog is principally going to be about parenting a drug addict. However as parents of drug addicts know they take up about 85% of your time, worry and stress, but there are other good things going on too.

I'm going to try not to dwell on all the negatives. After all there is a new granddaughter, there are vacations and there are visits with friends, those with this problem and those that don't have the issue but try to help.

My wish and goal for this blog is that maybe I can help you or you can help us. For now I think we are going to remain anonymous, maybe in time I'll post names and pictures. Please if you want to post comments (good, bad, or indifferent) they will be very much appreciated.