Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Observable Behaviors

I was going to leave a comment on my last post in a response to readers comments but then I began thinking this is too important for a comment so I am going to write about how "Dear Enabling Mom and Dad" made me feel.

When I first read that letter written by a mom trying to make sense of her addicted son's behaviors I was uncomfortable. In fact I just kind of scanned it, but something pulled me back, and again and again I read it and finally after about the fifth time the light came on for me. This make believe letter written by this mom is five years of my life dealing with my son. She nailed it all. She put into words what I was experiencing, the disconnect between what I wanted to believe and what was really happening.

I am going to try and explain how I got to this and maybe what has guided me to this point.

In my career I was once a internal and an external consultant on work system design. Designing how people work together and the systems that enable people to work.

Pause for a joke: Do you know what a pigeon and a consultant have in common? They both fly in, eat your food, shit all over you and then fly away.

Back to my point when I would begin a project I would usually get the management team together and ask, "Why are you doing this?" Invariably someone would get around to saying, "It's their attitude!" Speaking of plant workers. Then I would meet with the union reps and plant workers, the funny thing is the answers were the same, "It's the way they treat us and their attitude."

My response was always. Attitudes are problems you have with yourself. I can't deal with attitudes. If you expect me to change attitudes I QUIT. I only deal in observable behaviors. Give me observable behaviors and we can work on the conditions that create those behaviors but attitudes and beliefs belong to YOU not someone else.

The mom that wrote the make believe letter from her son to herself was dealing in observable behaviors and using her experiences to make sense of illogical behaviors in an illogical world. To not be an enabling parent you must deal with observable behaviors not "attitudes" and "why's". I spent many years trying to figure out the "why" of my son's addiction because I knew if I understood the why I could fix the problem. All the time I was enabling and working on the wrong thing, hell I wasn't even playing in the same park so how could I fix it.

When I read that letter I began to connect five years of my son's addiction and my enabling to exactly what she wrote.

My son would tell us how bad he wanted to stop using but within an hour his druggie buddies would show up at our door and he would leave with them.

We got our son checked into a rehab 40 miles from our home. On his fifth morning there we got a call from his counselor telling us he was getting kicked out for using. He had friends bring him oxycontin to him in the rehab. He was kicked out, but before the sun set that evening we had him in another rehab facility 350 miles away from our home. Our son met people in rehab and NA meetings that he eventually wound up doing drugs with and buying drugs from them.

We didn't kick him out because it was cold outside, even though we had threatened too.

He didn't work, couldn't get a job because he failed drug tests. So he did just stay at home and slept all day and used all night. We were afraid to go to bed with him up.

Mom told me several times she was afraid of our son and his friends. She was afraid he or his friends may hurt us if we got between his drugs and him.

Our son was the boss of our life. We did things we would have never done because of his addiction and drugs.

There is a hole in the wall in the stairwell going down to the basement. Our son did not punch that hole in the wall, I did. I was so angry because I had just discovered he had stolen several of my woodworking tools to sell and pawn to buy drugs. I have NOT patched that hole even though I could do it in 30 minutes. This hole is a physical reminder to ME that I must be in control of ME. However, there are spoon soot stains on the carpet and walls of his old bedroom that we tried our damnest to get rid of every time we found them.

Despite all of these observable behaviors we continued to work on the wrong thing, him. Despite all of my training and consulting I enabled and tried to fix his attitude and worried about the why.

The mom that wrote that letter from her son's perspective found a way to look at the observable behaviors and then she is able to deal with the real problem. For me her method was genius. Harsh but genius.

Finally, to the addicts and alcoholics that commented about she was so wrong in what she said the addict thinks. I respect your comments, I believe you still love your parents all through your using and do not think of them as suckers. There is nothing more important than hearing from those that are able to articulate what it is like suffering from the disease. But just as we struggle with you and the effects of your dependency on drugs or alcohol you need to look at the effect your disease has on us parents. It's called unconditional love and with that sometimes we suffer incalculable pain. This is a mom releasing some of the pain.

Especially to the addicts and alcoholics that suffer with this disease and exhibit the behaviors that cause us parents to get to the point of writing something like this make believe letter. We do love you. We will always love you, you don't have to worry about that. That love is what ensures the survival of our species and of us personally. The thing you must worry the most about is when your parents stop believing in you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear Enabling Mom and Dad

I found this jewel of a post on another site I visit, written by LitlGrADuck. She graciously allowed me to repost it here for everyone to read

This is what one mother believes her son would write if he could only be honest and truthful with himself and others about his using and his relationship with his parents.

The orginal post can be found at:

Dear Enabling Mom and Dad

Dare I write the following ?

I will risk it.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I really didn't want to try very hard in detox, rehab. Heck, I already knew that I wasn't serious about it. That's why I was still using while I was there. And I knew I could count on you to bail me out. See? I got you coming and going. I got you to call more of those jerk off places you wanted me to go to.

So, ok, I admit I get so f**king high that sometimes I freak out. It scares me, and I feel like I want to get off this ride, and I tell you I want to get clean. What I really want is to come down off the bad tripping, that's all. Get back on a good high.

I guess if I have to go to some stupid treatment center, since I don't have to pay for it, I can deal with that.

I can make some good connections for later if I want to. I can see the people in there that are playing the same game I am. Just killing time, watching tv, taking some really trippin drugs, got some cool nurses to look at, and I can really work that Dr. What a idiot that one is. They believe anything you tell them.

Geez, I know I can get you to do anything for me, if I play you right. Oh, and summer is winding down. The cooler temps will get you to do more for me. Jeez, you are such a chump. But you are my chump. Glad I have you wrapped around my little finger. So, I gotta sit here and work on the next step in my plan. I gotta make it sound real good, so you will believe me. Yep, gotta sit here and think, while you do all my work for me. God, life is sooooooooooooo good.

Anyway, you are just a means to an end. Yeah, I tell you I love you, but right now, I love the high I get a whole lot more.

So, this rehab thing is no big deal. I can always do it again, play the game, anytime I feel like it. I know how to get in and I know how to get out.

Guess what Mom, Dad? I ain't ready to quit yet. It's too easy to stay this way. Don't need to work at some chump job, don't have to wake up at 6 am. I can eat what I want, when I want, I don't have to answer to nobody but me. And you will never understand how good I feel about myself when I am flying high. There's nothing like it. I just can't understand why you would want me to stop feeling on top of the world.

And you know how you worry all the time about my health? My health is super. No matter what messes up, I can get another bombshell high on and nothing hurts. Nothing bothers me.

Ok, so maybe I don't have a home, or a car. Those are just part of what society demands and I don't take demands from nobody. Maybe I just have a piece of cardboard to sleep on, but you know what? Me and my cardboard have been together on some major trips. You can keep your soft bed, warm house, all those damn rules.

See, my cardboard and I have a really strong relationship. No rules with it, keeps me off the ground. I don't see what the problem is with you. Nag, nag, nag, no high being around you. That is a total bummer and it sucks big time. Not interested in your straight and narrow crap. Sometimes your nagging at me makes me so angry I want to punch your face out. Ok, so instead I punch holes in the walls. No sweat, you don't like the holes, you fix them. You just better be thankful I didn't go for your face this time. Just so you know, if you push me too far, when I am on an all-time-high, and you try crashing me down? it can be your face. Just so you know who is the boss around here.

But I know you'd call the cops, and I don't need that number, so I will just work around you until you leave the house. See, I've been watching where you put things. Remember when I was a kid, and I put something down, and couldn't find it and later, you told me where it was? Yeah, you watched my every move then, and turn around is fair play. I watch what you do, what you have, where you put it, and when I need my beautiful highs, I claim your sh*t. Finder's keepers, and all that. Losers weepers. Well, just cry me a river. I don't feel anymore, that's why I don't care!

Wow, why am I thinking all this crap? I never used to be like this. I had a great family, a car, a best friend, loved sports and art, kept myself in great shape, and all that sh*t, and now look at me? I have nothing. Ok, ok, this is not a good way to think. This is going to get me really bombed out if I don't stop it. I know, where's that last hit? Ah, there it is. Yeah, that's more like it. What was I thinking about before?

Oh, yeah.

Thanks Mom and Dad. I knew I could count on you. Suckers!

P.S.If I do ever decide to come off the dope, it will be MY DECISION, not YOURS. You can't make me feel guilty enough to stop. You don't have that power.When I am ready, if I ever am, I don't want your help. I will want to do it without you holding my hand like a baby. I ain't your baby anymore. I wish you would wake up and learn that. Geez, maybe I would get off it if you didn't keep me such a cripple.

Yeah, that sounds like a good future plan to tuck back for later. I will make my own way, do all the work myself, and show myself that I am someone good, someone strong, that I can overcome anything. Well, let me think on that some more.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Inspiring E-mails

In addition to posting comments publicly many people e-mail us directly because I have our e-mail address posted on the blog. I am grateful for the help and advice no matter if it is publicly posted or privately e-mailed.

I received an e-mail the other day that is an inspiration to us and I thought it might be good for everyone else too. The author has granted me permission to post it, I hope it helps you too.

You and Mom are probably aware I lived with the depravity that is heroin (or crack or meth or vodka or MadDog) addiction for almost 12 years. We all have our war stories, so I won't go into the stomach turning details of homelessness, overdoses, prison visits, late night drama, ER crisis's, suicide threats, and stolen family heirlooms.

The reason I'm commenting is that at about 7 years into the heroin addiction of our son, his father and I broke down together. We held each other and cried together for a long time.
We were out of rehab money, out of excuses, and out of hope. When we were cried out that day, his father and I made a pact with each other.

From now on, we would decide together what was right for our family. It was a very real possibility our son would die. We asked ourselves-- if we were standing over our son's coffin right now, what would matter to us.

Would it be the opinion of an internet stranger? How about the expert advice of addiction professionals (who BTW can boast a 8-12% success rate--WTF!)? The judgment of other family members? Well meaning, and not so well meaning strangers?

We realized we would have to live with the decision of taking that phone call or not. Making that 5 hour drive to the prison once a month or not. Telling our son we loved him even when we knew he was high or not. Putting flowers on his grave or not. IT WAS OUR EYES we would have to meet in the mirror. Sometimes that meant taking a hard stand, other times it meant driving downtown to hand him a McDonalds meal on the street. Or giving that McDonalds meal to someone else's kid if we could not find him.

We decided to be
confident and united in our actions, and with no regrets however it played out.

Dad, I have seen you humbled since you started this blog. You started out, as we all did, angry and helpless. You didn't understand you had come up against something you could not reason out. But your writing shows me you are starting to get it-- You are becoming more compassionate and forgiving. You are beginning to accept your son for who he is, not who you envisioned he would be. You are more grateful for the many blessing in your life. These things are the upside of being brought to one's knees.

What I'm trying to say is don't let internet strangers bully you. Don't listen to addiction "professionals" who would pass judgment on a case they hear second hand, without knowing the client. (That borders on unethical..they should have their licenses pulled!) Keep reading, keep an open mind, stay teachable.

And don't let anyone tell you no one beats heroin. This mom knows better. My son had the spiritual awakening; he's changed on the inside. But it wasn't anything I did or didn't do.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—"
(Ephesians 2:8)

May God's grace rain down on Alex.

Love, Lou

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Addiction and Death

I don't want to bring people down with this post but it is horrific in its reality. It is something a parent of an addict lives with every day. I hope this reminds everyone to celebrate each day with your child, addiction or not.

Another blogger I read wrote about the sheriffs daughter that was found dead in a storage locker. Her body had been placed there by a guy that had been doing drugs with her and she overdosed and died. He panicked and hid the body. This reminded me of how close to death every addict is each day of their using.

One night about midnight the phone rang. It was the emergency room of a hospital. The woman on the other end of the phone ask us if we had a son in his late teens, dark brown hair, about 5'9?

Our response was yes but he is away at college 125 miles from here.

She said this young male had no identification on him but they found a book of checks with our name and number on them. She said if we thought this could be our son we should come to the hospital immediately, he is unconscious and not breathing.

Needless to say we made a hasty trip to the hospital 20 miles away.

It was our son, he and a couple of his "buddies" came back to KC area to score some stuff. At this time he was doing Fentenyl. In the car he did a patch under his tongue and was eating beef jerky at the same time. This caused his throat muscles to stop swallowing. He was choking. The story is they just happened to be driving by the hospital. By this time our son was unconscious and not breathing in the back seat of the car. His buddies pulled up to the door of the emergency room and the security guard saw them roll someone out onto the side walk and jump back into the car and speed away. When he went outside to check, our son was unconscious and still not breathing. The ER people cleared his airway and got him to breathing again. They did not know what he had done so they gave him a shot of Narcan. By the time we got there he was conscious and breathing again.

Another time our son complained of his arms hurting. Our daughter is a nurse and by the time he was complaining terribly and she came and looked at them she said take him to the ER immediately. He had not gone to the doctor because he had no insurance and the doctor would immediately know he was shooting up.

I took him to the ER and they immediately admitted him into the hospital. That night they performed surgery on both of his arms to remove the infected tissue and muscle. He had contracted a staph infection in both arms from not shooting up properly, not cleaning his skin with alcohol wipes before injecting. He spent 15 days in the hospital. After a couple days I went down to the ER doc that treated him to personally thank him. He responded by telling me that when he saw him in the ER he personally felt our son had less than a 50/50 chance to live due to the possibly of that infection already traveling up his arms to his heart. He said he was glad to hear the news that he was alive.

When he was released from the hospital our daughter taught him how to properly shoot up and why swabbing the area with alcohol was so important.

I'm sure many of you with kids actively using are wondering, WHY IS HE WRITING THIS!!!???

Every day of life is a day to hope for a change. We all know you cannot build your life on hope for their recovery but hope and love sustains you and you don't know how much it can help your child in ways we do not understand.

I am sure each of your have similar stories you can write and if it helps please do write. Writing the story may help all of us to see how lucky we all are instead of how bad it is.

It is scary to think how close to death our children are when they are using. We get our days one day at a time, sometimes minute by minute. Try not to spend them in sorrow and anger about their addiction. Our addicts don't care how you are living your life, so you must live your life for you, otherwise the drugs will claim two people.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Good Post To Read

I just read a post by a fellow blogger writing about himself and the addiction of his son. This is a post EVERY father should read no matter how deep you are into this nightmare of addiction. Thank you VJ

(mom's it may be good for you too)

Parent 2 Parent -- My Truth Be Told

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fall Festival

It is that time of year again when we host our annual Fall Festival. If you are a reader and live in the KC area or close enough that you would like to attend send me your e-mail and I will forward the information plus the scavenger hunt list and kid games agenda. We love making new friends.

Here is a link to some pictures from the last 3 years. This is our 8th annual festival.

Speaking Engagement

I will be speaking again to a parent group on Oct. 11 at The Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe Ave. Leawood, KS 66224. If you are in an area close and want to come send me an e-mail and I will forward you additional information.

In addition I have been ask again to speak to a student group at a high school but we have not yet finalized the dates.

If you know others, parents or students that would like to hear our story I would be happy to speak with you about talking to a group.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cautious Update

It's back home and to work and now its time to begin looking forward to the next vacation. LOL It's getting close to Fall Festival time so we are beginning to work on that event.

Maybe it was a fools confidence or just a odd belief inside but this was the first vacation in several years that we were not concerned with coming home to a empty or destroyed house or worried about getting a call that our son had overdosed and died. We had gotten use to, I'm in jail calls, they didn't affect us any more.

I am not a superstitious person but I almost hate to talk about how he is doing in fear of jinxing his progress. He has a job, don't know how long it will last it is dependent upon the company's production and orders. He spoke to his mom and I when we got home about budgeting, he brought up the subject. He has formulated a budget for his check, ON PAPER.

He ask us about going back to school. He has become aware both of his sisters are in school, his girlfriend is in school to become a nurse and 3 out of 4 first cousins are working on their BA or MA. He said to us,"Everyone is moving forward and leaving me behind, I don't want to be left behind. What would it take for me to go back to school." Our response was, "Son, if you want it bad enough you will figure that out and make it happen."

We have been taking him and his girlfriend out to dinner with us on Friday Date Night. It is really great to actually have conversations with him and her. We have noticed there is a sharpness in his wit returning and his voice does not have the druggie sound, you all know that that sound. He seems to enjoy being around family now. Mom and dad know it may take a little while before some in the family accepts him and we reminded him that it takes the two "P's", patience and persistence.

Even with all of this good news there is one thing I have learned in this process. Accept today and its happiness, tomorrow is a long way off.

Monday, September 13, 2010

WOW!!! Vacation Over. Catch Up Time.

For over a week we have been on vacation and I barely scanned blogs one evening. It's going to take quite a while to catch up with you all.

Thank You All

A couple months after I began writing this blog someone told me I should put a "hit counter" on the blog. For those that have been to the very bottom of the page you can see the hit count. While we were on vacation the counter registered over 100,000 hits. AMAZING! That's over 100,000 times that someone came to this blog to help us or seek help. There are no words big enough to express our gratitude for the help and advice that has been provided to Dad and Mom. Thank You is all I can say, we are eternally grateful.

Our vacation was a motorcycle trip back east. It involved riding the Blue Ridge Parkway from southern NC to northern VA. A visit to Washington DC, someplace neither of us had explored. And last but not least a trip to Gettysburg, PA. Plus many sites and deversions along the way.

I'm going to post a couple pictures on here but if you want to see them all they can be found at:

Lunch with my sweetheart on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue ridge Parkway is over 400 miles of twisting, turning, up and down scenic riding. We stopped and had a cheese and fruit lunch along the side of the road overlooking miles of the Smokey Mountains. This is common, impromptu picnics are an obvious pleasure along The Parkway. This is a must ride for any biker, one thing to check off my Bucket List. Our ride is the big red one in the background.

The White House and Lincoln Memorial

The obligatory photos in front. I think there is a DC law that mandates everyone takes these pictures. ;-) We visited so much in DC and when you think about what all of these places and what the memorials mean it really grabs a hold of your gut.

Gettysburg, PA (this was much more impressive than I imagined)

It is hard to describe the emotion of this place. Think of the men and boys that fought at this site. It is hard to even imagine the fear, the bravery and the courage it took to be in these battles. All of us should give thanks to these men and women and bow our head to them, from President Lincoln all the way down to the infantryman.