Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Communication From Others

Since we have came out of the shadows and put our picture and e-mail on our blog we have gotten many personal e-mails from others. Most with the same heartache that we have experienced. Some of the letters were very re-assuring and some were so filled with the pain of a mother or father they are hard to read. We have cherished every e-mail and try to get back to each person very quickly. We know too well as parents that by the time you can open up to someone even a stranger that you feel as if you are drowning and going down for the third time.

As you know if you follow us, we are not experts our blog is just an accounting of our experiences and things we learn as we blindly feel our way through this experience of having an addicted child. As the old saying goes "Misery loves company." Well let me tell you we have found some wonderful company in this experience of blogging about our experience.

Last night Micheal wrote us. At the end of his long letter he gave me permission to use his letter. Parts of his letter are sad, parts are inspirational but most of all what I get is that this struggle will never be over, but it does change and there is life after active addiction. That life is whatever an addict chooses to be as they live with their disease and their struggle.

This is his letter in its entirety:

Dear “Dad and Mom,”

I stumbled upon your blog via a mutual blog-friend, Barbara (Writing From the Inside Out) and spent the last couple of hours reading over most of your posts and many of the comments. Yours is an issue that is very close to my heart, from multiple perspectives. But before I get into that, I share something else with you that is also very close to my heart: I ride a 2007 Road King and like you, I find a great deal of peace when it is just me, my machine and miles of deserted asphalt.

You remind me a lot of my own father… and mom is much like my own mother. My father is a consummate control freak and my mother exceeding codependent. My father is also an atheist to the point that he dislikes the word – it presumes there is something to argue about. My younger brother is, at 44 years-old, very much still in his active addiction. His drug of choice has varied over the years, but he seems to prefer opiates of one type or another. My parents are both are now in their seventies and both have dealt with addicted children for most of the past 25 years. My youngest sibling, my sister (42 years-old) is the only one of us who seems to have escaped the disease.

If you’ve been doing your math, then you have already figured that I am an addict, too. My story spans more than 25 years of using one drug or another; the one that finally took me down was crystal methamphetamine. It was not my “drug of choice,” that choice like many others was taken from me by the disease of addiction. It chose me. There is a great deal of accurate information in your blog and from those who have left comments, but there is also a fair amount of misinformation as well. It is not my goal to “set the record straight” per se, but rather to share my experience. It is from the sharing of experience that addicts and those we affect gain strength and perspective.

You mentioned how you had a problem with the “powerless” portion of the first step. For those who have not experienced the control addiction has over the addict, it is difficult to understand how we can continue to destroy ourselves in the name of getting “high.” Indeed, by the time addiction has set its hooks in us, there is no more getting high. The party was long over. There is a great deal of research explaining how these drugs affect the brain and, consequently, why so many addicts chase their drugs to the gates of insanity or death, but none of that is really important if a medical solution cannot be found. To date, there is none.

Every addict, like every person, is different and the depth addiction takes us can vary from illnesses to jail to death; everyone’s bottom is different. Although it is true that until the addict truly wants to stop, nothing much short of incarceration can be done to make him or her stop. This was my story. I had to be stopped – it wasn’t until I had been drug (and alcohol) free for a period of time that I could come to the conclusion that my way of life was no longer working for me. Although it was true for a very long time, it took some very real consequences before I could accept that I was indeed powerless over drugs and alcohol. Relapse was part of my story, but today I am just shy of five years clean.

But it is a daily reprieve. I no longer obsess on drugs and it has been a very long time since I last thought about it. I buy into the notion that I will always be an addict and that I need to regularly maintain a program of recovery to keep from relapsing. I have seen too many with many years clean forget that they are still susceptible – and many never made it back. I am very active in NA – and I have far less time to devote to it now because of the success I have realized in recovery, but I make the time because it is that important. To use again would mean flushing all that success down the toilet. What success? Let me tell you…

While in a six-month residential treatment program in mid-2004, I started attending the local community college. I wanted to become a drug and alcohol counselor. I have made many attempts at higher education over the past 20 plus years, but I was rarely successful, never completing very much. This time was different. I had almost six months clean and my grades were phenomenal. At nine months I relapsed - just before the spring semester. Grades that semester? Less than phenomenal, but I passed. Then I caught a new drug charge in April and violated probation – I received 60 days in one county and 90 in another. On August 6, 2004 I reported to jail in the first county – it turned out to be my clean date. Upon release, my drug and alcohol counseling goal was out the window – my relapse had delayed that dream to the point that it was no longer feasible. I served 40 days on the 60, but only 10 on the 90 due to jail over-crowing, but I had about 60 days clean by the time I was finally released.

I could not go to back to school that September because the semester had already started… I didn’t know what I would do there anyway since I didn’t have the clean time to get an internship to get a degree in counseling… and I could not find a job. My life was crap, but at this point, my parents were standing behind me. I also had my two younger sons living with me. I wanted to get loaded almost every day, but the next step was prison and I did not want to go there. Still, there were at least two occasions where I would have used if I could have found some dope. Call it divine intervention or just good luck, but I made it through. I returned to the junior collage in the spring of 2005 and never looked back.

It turns out that in all those attempts at higher education, I had acquired some college credits and, combined with those two recent semesters at the junior college I was only five classes away from transferring as a junior to California State University, Sacramento. I was accepted and started in the fall of 2005 at almost 42 years old. I graduated Magnum Cum Laude in 2007 with a BA in government-journalism. I was one of those “smart” kids, too, but my grades, until recently, never reflected it. I am now working on a Master’s degree in communication studies and teaching at Sac State.

Although this type of “academic” success is uncommon for recovering addicts, all of my friends in the program who do the work required to stay clean would report similar success in many other areas. It is possible. But so are the not-so-pleasant realities. I am a realist – I am not stupid by any stretch of the imagination, but addiction had me doing some very stupid (and often life-threatening) things. And there are those who because of pride, ego or some other refusal to admit that they are not in control, never find recovery. I hope this is not the case for your son – I know a great many who have dug far deeper holes and are living lives free from active addiction today. And they are happy, which is all anyone really wants anyway. I don’t believe my “God” or “Higher Power” does anything for me, but from my belief I get the guidance and strength to do the things I always knew I could do, but couldn’t.

Even in the best of circumstances, it’s going to take time. There is hope, have faith, but most of all have patience. And if he starts using again, well, unfortunately, he’ll have to face that music alone. You said it in your blog - you can’t fix him. And it’s not your fault.

I want to thank you as well. Although I have made and continue to make amends to my own parents, your account gave me a deeper understanding of just how much I hurt them and how much my brother still does. Your shared experience has deepened my perspective – and that is important because my middle son is on the same path your son is – and the one I chased for too many years. I hope they both get better before they have to experience what I did.

I am signing this with my full name, but I would appreciate it that if you share it (and you have my permission to do so), please leave my last name off it. It is an anonymous program and I do not identify as an addict anywhere but in the rooms of NA. I also have a blog that I have maintained since December 2005 that is a running account of my perspective as a “non-traditional” (read, old) college student, among other things. Many of my posts are written from the perspective of an addict - without actually saying so. It’s one of those things that if you know, you know.



kristi said...

Very insightful. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

I hate re-reading my work and finding typos and other mistakes... I guess I'm a bit of a perfectionist, too! I won't fix every little thing here, but I do want to point out that I entered residential treatment in mid-2003 (not 2004), relapsed at the end of '03 and finally got clean in August, 2004... it makes the math work out.

All the best,


Gin said...

I am glad he gave you the permission to publish this. I think it will help those who read this blog. It was very honest and like Kristi said, insightful.

Madison said...

Insightful, hopeful, and the reason why when all looks bad, it could be a good thing.

clean and crazy said...

as the saying goes, one addict helping another is without parallel. it is so profound to read this, thank you for having an open mind and i am so grateful you two have found such a wonderful outlet and way to turn a bad experience into a wonderful tool to help others. you are absolutely amazing.

Syd said...

I'm glad that you can help others through your blog. And I'm glad that Michael allowed you to post this letter. Thanks for that.

ChaiLatte said...

Thank you Dad & Mom, and Michael, for sharing. Congratulations on 5 years clean, Michael! Keep up the good work! May all of our sons, daughters and loved ones choose sobriety and recovery.

Anonymous said...

That middle son I mentioned in the letter - he got arrested for drunk driving tonight... driving my car. He is still on probation from his last one. I am beside myself. My pain is even more pronounced by my personal experience of what this disease can do and the knowledge that I cannot fix him. I hope this will be his bottom... if not, he will have to find it somewhere else. I will ot deal with his alcoholism anymore.


Dad and Mom said...


Sorry that not only are you dealing with your own sobriety your son is suffering too. I wish you both well. Remember to take care of yourself first and be strong in your own life. You cannot save your son but you have to be there and strong when he needs you.


hannah said...

It's so true what you stated about feeling like you are drowning before being able to open up and tell others. My husband and I kept my son's addiction hidden for so long, it wasn't until we were desperate that we were ready to share.

Thank you for sharing the letter - it is so insightful, and so honest.

Lou said...

Thanks Mike for sharing your experience, and thanks Mom/Dad for publishing it.

Anonymous said...

Hey there Mom and Dad!

It's been a while since I wrote and I was curious as to how y'all and your son were. It looks as though things are considerably better. I thought I'd update you on what I've been up to. When I wrote almost seven years ago, I was working on my MA and had almost five years clean. I completed that MA and was accepted to LSU to begin work on a PhD in the fall of 2011. Last May I finished my four funded years at LSU and although I have yet to finish my dissertation, I am on track to have "Dr." in front of my name possibly this year or early next year. In the meantime I am well into my "new" profession of university professor. Needless to say, I am still clean - more than 11 years now. I am still active in NA and made many new friends in the program from Baton Rouge while I was attending LSU. I have been around long enough now to know what it's like to lose friends, some of whom have been clean many years, to relapse and the ravages of addiction all over again. And I have also seen the miracles that are possible when we escape. I wish y'all and your son all the best.