Monday, December 28, 2009

Can't Give What You Ain't Got

The holiday has come and gone and another is rising on the horizon. New Years Eve is I am sure another stressful time for addicts in recovery. New Years Eve has always been a celebration at our home. Not the drinking get smashed drunk type, although there are a few bottles of wine and champagne emptied, but there are usually a large number of people to spread around the spirits. New Years Eve is an evening to feast on steak, shrimp and other culinary specialties anyone chooses to bring. In addition that day is also my birthday. I joke that from what I have heard there were no parties on New Years Eve until 1955, from then on it has been a day of celebration, could the two things be related? ;-) Mom says something about my ego being bigger than the Times Square Ball but I have always been comfortable in my belief parties actually began in 1955, so that is that.

It was an anxiety ridden Christmas for Dad and Mom. Not knowing what to expect. There were assurances from Alex he was doing OK but any parent of an addict knows how much weight those words hold. I thought we did well in holding our expectations to ourselves. But I guess only one person can answer that truthfully.

We have to keep tempering our expectations to reality. My continued observations along with anecdotal evidence I hear from others lend credence to my conclusions about developing maturity levels as associated to addiction. Over this holiday there was much interaction with Alex and his relatives of the same generation. In our extended family there was a baby boom that provided many siblings and cousins around the same chronological age. That makes for some interesting observations from clothing, conversations, attitudes and general social behavior. My conclusions are; I believe when a person becomes addicted their maturity level remains fairly static at the point of addiction until their addiction is being controlled and a recovery process allows maturing to resume. That has serious ramifications to those of us with an addict in our household and our setting of expectations of behavior as it relates to a chronological age versus a maturity level. The data I am not privy to in my conclusions are are the experiences Alex had outside of my purview, such as jail, dealing and buying drugs, and homelessness. How does all of that shape his character and behavior. For Alex I wonder, is there an imbalance in his expectation of life versus his appreciation of life? To me that is another of those balances that we need to work to be centered most of the time just like "give and take" to have a happy life.

So with all of this I must remind myself to live in the world of "what is vs. what ought to be." That means I must not fault Alex for not giving something he does not have to give. Dad must also not fall into the trap of lectures when I see teachable moments. Experiential learning is best for a 21 year man, not lectures from dad.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Countdown, Christmas T-1 Days and Counting

Just a quick note to say Merry Christmas to all.

All of those parents hurting because their sons or daughters are MIA. It is OK to be sad, but do not forget to look to all the others that love you and feel blessed by that love. There is hope for a parent or loved one of an addict. You just have to believe.

Exactly one year ago at this time Dad and Mom figured we had already shared our last Christmas with our son. At this time in the morning he was locked up and hope was nothing more than a flickering candle in the wind of a Kansas tornado. We had no idea where to turn. It has been rough year but you people with your encouragement, comfort and advice got us here. Alex got himself where he is today. He is clean and in our lives again. Ours thanks go out to you and especially to Alex.

I'll say it before Barbara sends me to her rock and roll website. Credit to Fleetwood Mac, don't stop believing in tomorrow........don't stop, it'll soon be here......

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Countdown, Christmas T-5 Days and Counting

The shopping is done. Today is designated as wrapping day. Too many big boxes for that baby so maybe there will be some just put into Christmas bags.

I have been really intense on allowing Alex to find his own way. Listening and following is not one of my strong traits. On Friday it was father-in-laws 81st birthday and we all gathered at a local restaurant for dinner and returned home for pie and ice cream. He likes pie more than cake. The daughters left early to finish their shopping. I took Alex to a friends house to hang out. On the way over there Alex began to talk. I'm not going to get into any details but from Dad's perspective it was probably the best father/son discussion we have ever had. I learned by listening and adding my perspective when it was right. 

I'm not saying we have turned the corner because I know it is a long way back and he told me how hard it is but he also said that world is in the past. When he speaks of the past that has a real meaning in our family. I always, for a long as I remember spoke of life as a walk down a sidewalk. As you look back over your shoulder there is nothing we can do but learn from the past. The concrete on the sidewalk past is hardened, and no matter whether it is pretty or ugly nothing can be done to improve or change it. The concrete around our feet is hardening as we walk. It we stop our progress we will become frozen and stuck, the concrete continues to harden no matter what is happening, we must keep moving forward. The concrete in front of us is just being poured. We can shape it, mold it, make hills, make curves, be creative, put in designs, even put our name on it (who hasn't scratched their initials in wet concrete)  but that is all about what is in front of us. Alex spoke well of the difference of the past and future. 

He has heard my lectures in the past, I really thought I was being tuned out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Countdown, Christmas T-9 Days and Counting

A substantial change is in place from Christmas preparations of the last few years. One year ago he was in jail and slated to be there for a while and then unannounced at 5pm on Christmas Eve the sheriff dropped him in our driveway with a house arrest monitor. We followed our normal plans to be at my cousins for our family Christmas celebration. He hooked up his monitor and called them to tell them there was something wrong with it and they said OK bring it back in on the day after Christmas. Needless to say as soon as we left, he left. We spent Christmas morning with him passed out and barely coherent the rest of the day. I don't need to describe the graphic details to anyone familiar with this condition.

Today Alex is home, he is clean (our fingers and toes crossed) and he seems intent on his staying that way. Dad and Mom are still cautious, too many times of being hurt when hopes exceeded reality.

The season of joy and happiness is fulfilling its promise. Dad and Mom are getting better at learning the limit of our control is our own lives. That in itself is bringing more peace than we have felt for many years.

We have a busy winter season ahead. As if Christmas and New Years is not enough our second daughter is getting married in January and it is going to be a beach wedding south of Cancun in Mexico. We are all going along with numerous family and friends. When we return we have a big reception, upwards of 200 planned for the weekend we get back.

I need to brush up on my Spanish, uno cerveza, por favor, gracias. OK that's it. As far as I am concerned I know all I need to know, I am now bi-lingual .

I can't help but think of all our friends on here, and their children and loved ones fighting this disease. In no way do I consider us out of the jungle, more like a small clearing. We know so well that heartache of an empty chair at the table and a missing heart around the tree. Our thoughts are with each and everyone of you as this holiday arrives. Never ever lose hope, where there is life there is hope. I believe in each and every one of our children, there is a home, there is life and there is love.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weekends Are Welcome

For so long mom and I dreaded the weekend. It meant the phone ringing off the hook, mysterious people showing up and whisking our son away and phone calls on the caller ID specifying some local law enforcement agency. The rest of a weekend never came and we were glad to escape to the security of our work.

It is so easy to get back to normal routine. Not worrying about what the next minute was bringing is relaxing. We know that we are skating on thin ice with only a thread for a lifeline but we know our son is on thinner ice with a smaller thread doing the same. Co-dependency or not every parent of an addict knows how closely our moods and feelings are tied to our addicts actions and state of mind.

For the last couple weekends we have felt safe. It allows a freedom of thought that enables you to feel a measure of guarded physical freedom. The holiday season is nearing, it will be stressful but not nearly so much as the past few years. The growth in ourselves will allow us to be better parents. 

Friday, December 11, 2009


I did my presentation last night. I feel it went well but it is hard to tell and be objective if you are the one up speaking. I spoke on the 7 truths but I did not want it to sound like I was just reading. I didn't count but i think there were probably 40 or so people in attendance. There were some very new to addiction and the leaders/sponsors of the group had a son that was over 20 years clean and sober. Everyone participated in the talk.

I decided to do this talk in the form of a validation process. I presented a truth like, Parents Are Enablers, and then spoke of my learning about this truth from my experiences and ask people in the audience to share their experiences first hand of enabling. Participation was overwhelming and at times emotional with laughter and sadness. In this way they validated to me my belief that parents are enablers but also they validated to themselves and others in the audience that this truth is valid in dealing with addicts. This process of validation exceeded my expectations of the group. Maybe it was just my hopefulness but I think some people experienced one or two "ah-ha" moments, what more could I ask for of the group.

I hope I get other opportunities to share this again.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Alex is living at home and it has been an eventful couple of weeks. The main event right now he appears to to be clean and working to stay that way. The alertness is back. A sharpness in his voice has returned and he is actively looking for a job and investigating what it will take to go back to college. I know it's a long road for him but the old cliche, every journey begins with one small step is so applicable in these circumstances I cannot help but repeat what we all know.

I recognize the difficulties in finding a job in his present circumstances but it is something he must do. It is healthy for him and critical in his recovery. I caution him not to become impatient but to just keep plodding along. In the '90's I was once out of work for 8 months so I know how discouraging it can be even for someone not suffering from addiction. Right or wrong in this society most of us tie our worth and self esteem to our job or profession. I believe, addict, non-addict or recovering addict, that is a universal trait. A principal difference is our coping mechanisms.

These are Alex's steps forward. He is definitely plodding along although in a bit of a trepid pace at the moment. Even Brooke had to learn to crawl before she could walk. I would expect an addict with many years of addiction also must re-learn many things that come naturally to the rest of us. We still find it really hard at times to figure out the balance in helping with his recovery versus enabling his addiction. I'm sure the answers to those questions will remain fuzzy for a long time. One other thing I am sure of is dad and mom will continue to make mistakes in this process, but we do try to learn.

All of you parents out there can probably recite the behaviors of your addict when they are using. After a while they become so clear. Alex has them too. The ironic thing is from what I have heard from other parents their addicts believe they are acting normal, even while using, Alex does too. I work on it but when I see those things I "go nuts". Yes that is a real diagnosis, my cousin's son who was an emergency room doctor in a hospital said many, many people are diagnosed in the ER with JPN disease. He is a real doctor and really, really smart, in fact he has diagnosed many in our own family with JPN. (Just Plain Nuts) Back to my real point.

Less than 48 hours after Alex's release he relapsed. We noticed the signs and found the evidence, like I said I went nuts but was able to calm down after a few moments or extreme anger and elevated voices. There is always an excuse. I have finally learned after all this time not to make decisions, take rash actions or issue ultimatums while angry. Hollering, cursing, and crying is OK, just keep it at that and remember my self imposed boundary, no decisions about addiction can be made during anger times. I know Alex hates it but I will only communicate decisions, actions or ultimatums in a calm discussion setting. He hates discussions.

We talked more calmly the next day. I said my piece and of course had a hard time listening but I am trying to get better. We all have things to work on with this disease that effects the whole family. His sister had a day with him and hopefully they cleared some air and I hear she took him to a meeting. So we are up to about 1.5 weeks of clean. Truthfully, from my perspective I have never seen him struggling this hard and this devoted to making it work. But only time will tell.

One step forward, one step back is actually measured as progress in our book. In the past everything was always measured as one step forward, five steps back. My business side talking, the trend is moving in the right direction.

ps.: My presentation is tomorrow. I'm just going to be myself, this isn't worth getting all nervous about. Everybody gets what they get.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Personal Invitation

A while back I contemplated how to take this "thing" that has invaded our family and learn from the experience and pass that learning on to others. I began to explore other avenues in our community, at the library, and with our local school district. Not long after that "The Partnership For A Drug Free America" contacted me and ask if I would write some articles for them to post on their website in the section called Intervene. They explained it was designed for parents and experts to pass along their experiences and knowledge for others to learn. That fit as a piece to one of my goals, but is was not local and face to face. However I have been amazed at the reaction I have received from that single posting.

An outcome of that posting is I have been ask to speak at a local support group called, Stand Up Parenting. This is a direct result of someone in that group reading my post and following up to see if I would speak to them. As a result I am achieving my goal of bringing this learning to my community and face to face with the personal interaction of parents.

I am issuing a personal invitation to all that read this blog near or far to come and watch Dad, stutter, stumble and fall in front of a group. We all need a little humility in our lives at some point. If you are able to join us the meeting is a week from tonight.

"An Addict In Our Son's Bedroom"
Thursday, Dec 10 6:30pm Room 213
The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection
13720 Roe Avenue, Leawood, Kansas 66224