Sunday, March 25, 2012

Observations of a Weekend

Just a few quick observations from this weekend that may not be much but mean a lot to me.

  • My mom turned 82 years old on Thursday. We had a house full of family on Sunday to celebrate her hanging around to be with us.
  • Grandkids 6 months old and 3 years old really like to be pushed in a swing by Grandpa.
  • My son is planting a garden????!!!!
  • On Sunday mornings when our youngest daughter was 3 she would stare at me while I was sleeping until I woke up and she would remind me it was "Donut Day". Her 3 year old daughter knows Sunday morning is "Donut Day".
  • You know Spring is here when you are mowing the grass on Saturday afternoon.
  • Kansas Jayhawks, Final Four
  • Last Fall our air conditioner compressor went out. We have not fixed it yet. Our windows are open. I forgot how nice it was to open windows instead of switching the thermostat straight from furnace to air conditioner.
  • Re-building the carburetor on an old lawn mower to give to Alex. Pulling the starter rope and it started perfectly on the first pull.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Answers -- Anonymous

Another question came in a comment to my St. Patrick's Day post. Feel free to ask questions of me, it keeps my thoughts going. The writing subjects seem to be non-existent in my mind lately other than to say again Alex is doing well, Mom and Dad are doing well and that there is life after addiction.

Anonymous ask: In a previous post you mentioned that you didn't do the 'god thing'. It seems obvious that you found support from your blog, but I'm curious about Alex. Did he follow a 12 step program that asks you to believe in a higher power? Does he currently participate in a recovery program, have a sponsor, go to meetings, etc? My own son does not like the traditional AA route and believes he can succeed in recovery without that -- that's why I'm curious what helped your son.

This is a difficult question to answer. I learned a while ago that his recovery was his to manage. The more involved in his recovery I got the more I screwed up everyone.

To provide context to my answer I must give you some important background.  When we were new to this and he had been to rehab we reminded him to go to meetings, we drove him to meetings and we went to meetings and we kept track and counted how many meetings he attended. This was us trying to force our idea of recovery on him. I even regularly told him I didn’t think he was serious unless he was attending meetings and working an “active” recovery program. Of course by active I meant one that I could monitor and observe. I was all about controlling this disease and forcing it out of my son.

Not until I gave up trying to control him and his addiction could he take control in whatever manner he chose.

The difficult part of this question is for me to try and speak for my son. I really don’t know what he does to manage his recovery. I don’t know about his belief in a higher power. I don’t know of a sponsor in his life. Truthfully, I don’t ask these questions of him and he doesn’t ask about my recovery.

I can tell you what I observe. I know he has a girlfriend that he loves and she loves him. I know he loves her daughters. I know he loves his son and he is a good father. I know he is not perfect but he now works on living a life of honor as he was raised. I use the phrase, ”I know” because from his observable behaviors and words, these things are self evident.

NA and 12 Step programs have saved the lives of millions of people across the globe. There are spin-off programs in church’s called Celebrate Recovery, there are partner programs like Nar-Anon. I believe these programs are wonderful. In truth, when someone comes to me for help, either parent, addict or loved one the first resource I mention is NA and Nar-Anon. I have tremendous respect and admiration for these programs and the people they have helped. However, one size shoe does not fit everyone.

Your son must find the shoe that fits. I really don’t know what my son does to keep from using again. It is his process to manage. The most you can do at this point is to provide a model for your son. Seek what works for you and work it. When you are healthy his methods will make more sense to you. And, if he relapses, you will still be healthy and be in a much better position to help him when he needs help and encouragement.

This question also gives me a chance to expound on what has helped me. You are right in your observation this blog is my principle recovery model. But it is not the only thing. Comments and questions play a huge role in my recovery. I learn from each person that reads this and writes. I learn from the many blogs I read each day and comment to those others in this club. My recovery includes all of those parents that privately email me or call me on the phone with questions and can barely talk through the tears, these parents teach me. My recovery program is talking to students at schools every chance I get. My recovery involves being a Parent Ambassador with The Partnership at Most importantly my recovery involves listening.

Monday, March 19, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Parade

Saturday was a wonderful day in Kansas City for a parade. This is the first time I had been to the St. Pats for 20 years. In the past it was pretty much just a reason to watch a parade, drink a lot and watch people on floats and marching while they were drinking. Quite a while ago they cleaned it up and they actively work on not allowing drinking by parade watchers and parade participants. It has become a decent day out for the family. Of course afterwards there are areas of town that you can over indulge in spirits but I'm no longer part of that group. That was when I was younger and dumber, from the looks on the local news they have found many others in that stage of their lives.

It was great being in the parade. A big thank you to my brother-in-law for inviting us to join.

Everyone but Erica and I rode in the truck. We walked the whole parade. I have no idea how many thousands of people were there but the sidewalks were 3-4 deep all the way with most of the time it was 7-8 deep.
Just too much excitement for Brooke. She crashed half way through the parade. When we got to the area where the local TV station was broadcasting the parade live Brooke got her time on TV. They ran up to the truck and had her all over TV and she was even on the local news. Too bad she slept through it all. 

I don't have any other pictures yet. Darlene had the camera. This is just one I took with my iPhone running up beside the truck.

Answers -- Anonymous

This is the last of all of the questions. So as not to make the post too long I split them up and answered each day. I'm answering them in the order they were received. This is not a one time thing, if you have a question feel free to post and I will add it to the list. 

Anonymous ask: In my job as a social worker in an inner city pediatric clinic, I talk with preteens and teens daily. I have an opportunity to talk with them casually about substance abuse. I'd like to do some prevention work with them. What can I say to them that they may actually hear and remember? All suggestions are appreciated.

In my talks with high school students here locally I believe what has been most effective is sincerity and honesty. I don’t try to threaten or scare I just lay out the facts. I don’t keep harping on the just say no stuff, they have all heard that before. I don’t go into the legality of drugs because they all know that they are illegal. My whole discussion is centered around if you make a choice to try this then here is what you will become and what you will do to the people you love.

I try make it clear that they have a choice in the beginning to try but after that, choices begin to disappear. Before you know what has happened the drugs own you. It seems powerful to the students when I speak of being owned by a drug and a dealer. You essentially become a slave to the drug and dealer. You will do whatever it takes to obtain your drug. You will lie, steal, harm others and prostitute yourself to obtain your drug. You are OWNED by your drug and dealer.

You can view my entire presentation to students on youtube. I have links on a previous post. Feel free to watch them and use whatever may be effective.

Good Luck, just don’t stop talking to these young people. They need adults with honest and real information in their life.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Answers -- Annette

I will answer all of the questions. So as not to make the post too long I am going to split them up and answers will follow on each day. I'm answering them in the order they were received. This is not a one time thing, if you have a question feel free to post and I will add it to the list.

Annette ask: How have you reconciled Alex's right to privacy as you blogged about his addiction and shared his story at schools? Did you have his permission, what about while he was in active addiction?

The privacy thing went out the window when his name was plastered across the front page of the paper of our little town. It was for some minor crimes here in our hometown but in a small town anything is news. It wasn’t like we were famous but most people in our community knew us. I was very active in local politics and with the schools. Darlene was in the schools all the time. His sister was a school leader and very popular. Alex was very popular when he was in school. Privacy for all of us was an illusion, at least it was in the beginning. In the beginning of his addiction and on my blog we tried to hide everything and that didn’t do any good.

Alex went with me once to talk at his old high school. He did great but he had been clean only about 3 months and he told me afterwards it was just too hard. For a while he tried blogging, he knew about my blog and he knew it had helped me. But he said writing wasn’t for him; that was a couple years ago. And, at that time he was trying recovery but relapsing.

In my mind all of those horrible things he did while he was actively using were symptoms of the disease. I've had many of my elderly relatives come down with Alzheimers disease. At times they have done things that would make your hair stand on end some even violence against family members. I was not ashamed or embarrassed of them, I loved them and they had a disease that had some very harsh and terrible symptoms. I have gotten to the point that Alex’s symptoms were nothing more than an indication of another terrible disease.

I compare the symptoms and stigma of addiction today to those that were HIV+ in the 1980’s. At times as a nation it seems we did all we could to destroy the person without understanding the disease. Remember Ryan White? No matter if it is addiction, HIV or any other disease some will choose to vilify the person and never seek to understand the disease, that is their loss.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Answers -- Cathy

I will answer all of the questions. So as not to make the post too long I am going to split them up and answers will follow on each day. I'm answering them in the order they were received. This is not a one time thing, if you have a question feel free to post and I will add it to the list.

Cathy ask: Recently you commented on Barbara's blog that when Alex was first in recovery you experienced "convoluted dark thinking" for a long time. I feel like I am in that place myself. My son has been in recovery for 3 months now but I can't seem to move forward. I tend to spend a lot of time reflecting/dwelling on the last several years of living in "crisis mode" 24/7. I'm in a pretty rough place. How did you move forward from that way of thinking? Thanks

A big part of getting over it is time. We build walls and had our shields at the ready to protect ourselves from that addiction monster. Every time I would see him or talk to him my thoughts would be of suspicion and anger. That’s a bad way to live for him and me. The key for me getting over it was dropping everything he had done wrong to me. I knew how much he owed me in cash for bail and everything else. I knew what he had stolen. I knew how he had torn things up. I knew how much he had hurt the ones I love. I was waiting for my apology and payback.

Finally, I realized as long as I held on to all of that hurt pain and anger I was not going to move forward, even though he was moving forward. When I was sure I wanted to get better I told my son I was proud of him, I believed in him and I wanted the past to be in the past. That’s how I was able to let go. I had to face my fear (my son) man to man. 

After all, I knew what he was capable of and if he went back to that place I had decided that I couldn’t travel that path with him in the same way I did before. So if I wasn’t going there again there was no use to continue living in that place. Besides you miss a lot of good when you are living in a bad place.  Here is a post I wrote last November about what I learned about how to be with Alex. It took me a long time to get to that point and even longer to be able to put it into words.

About those walls and shields we build to protect us from the bad; it was like I imagined that I built a huge stone castle and I was living within the walls. For self protection I put our addicted son outside those walls. But in time I had to learn that the same walls and shields built to protect myself kept me from the good too.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Patricks Day Parade

My brother-in-law collects Army trucks and enjoys driving them in local parades. On Saturday it is St. Patrick's Day. Kansas City has a huge St. Patrick's Day parade each year. They say it is one of the top parades in the nation but I am not Irish so I wouldn't know for sure.

This year my brother-in-law is going to drive one of his trucks in the parade. I don't know which one but they are big enough to hold several people so we are going to be in the parade riding in the truck.

If you are at the Kansas City Parade give a shout out to the crazy, Irish-for-a-day people riding in a big tan or green Army truck. (see pics below. the guy standing on the left in front of the green truck is Darlene's dad, on the right is his brother who passed last Dec. he also brings one on 4th of July and we ride around the neighborhoods blowing the horn and waving flags)

Answers -- Anonymous 1 & 2

I will answer all of the questions. So as not to make the post too long I am going to split them up and answers will follow on each day. I'm answering them in the order they were received. This is not a one time thing, if you have a question feel free to post and I will add it to the list.

Anonymous 1 ask: Did you have any 'god moments' when dealing with your son's addiction that you could share?

I can’t really say there were god moments. I don’t do the god thing so I don’t attribute actions, behaviors or results to god or other spiritual deity.

Anonymous 2 ask: How long was your son using before you became aware that he had a problem? And what were the first signs?

We found out our son was using from the court. He got caught shoplifting a lighter at Walmart when he was 15. It went to court and he was referred to a court services officer in our county and she drug tested him and he hit on marijuana. At that time I was at that point of no big deal, so he smoked a little weed, boys will be boys. We put him in counseling and the counselor was concerned and he had all of us go to some NA meetings and none of us took it serious. Couple years later it became obvious his problem was no longer just a little weed. More legal trouble with shoplifting, car was getting banged up for no reason. He would not bring any of his friends to our home. Money and things began to disappear from our house and he was forging our name on checks to get cash from the grocery store where he worked and from Walmart. At this time, around 17 years old Dad and Mom finally began to leave that place called denial and realize our son had a real life problem. But just because you are no longer in denial it doesn’t mean you know what to do or that you begin doing all the right things. We did everything that any other parent with no experience does, all of it wrong.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Answers -- Barbara

I will answer all of the questions. So as not to make the post too long I am going to split them up and answers will follow on each day. I'm answering them in the order they were received. This is not a one time thing, if you have a question feel free to post and I will add it to the list.

Barbara Ask: Have you ever followed your gut regarding Alex rather than going along with the typical "do's and don’ts of relating to an addict"? If so, what was the situation and how did it work out?

Barbara, 90% of the things I did was my gut reaction. I read many books, listened to many people and wrote thousands of words on this blog. My way is even if someone gave me step by step methods I can’t just accept what I read and am told. I read the words and then work a process in my mind to conceptualize my learning. I question how does what I am reading or being told relate to my past life experience. Probably doing this kept me from learning faster what I needed to know and caused me to make many mistakes. I was nearly 50 years old when this disease entered my family. I had no life experience in which to accurately compare the disease, behaviors and symptoms it was exhibiting. If 1, 2 and 3 happened then 4 was to follow, that is Ron thinking. I had to learn that at times 2 came first followed by 6 and 4 and the answer may be somewhere past 10. This is why I suggest to people to do that they are capable of doing at any given time concerning this disease and after that sit and deliberate, ask the hard question, “What did I learn?” How am I going to apply this learning in the future? This helped me to learn how to act instead of react. I spent too many years reacting to my son’s behavior instead of acting on his actions.

Barbara Ask: How did you and Darlene meet

Darlene was a friend of my cousin. We met going to a company picnic at Worlds of Fun in 1974. Darlene was still in high school and I had graduated the year before.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Answers -- Syd

I will answer all of the questions. So as not to make the post too long I am going to split them up and answers will follow on each day. I'm answering them in the order they were received. This is not a one time thing, if you have a question feel free to post and I will add it to the list.

Syd asks: Do you have a specific 12 step recovery program? If you do how did it help you? If you don't, how were you able to reach an understanding of powerlessness and letting problems go?
No,  Syd I do not have a 12-step program. In the beginning of our awareness of our son’s addiction Darlene and I went to some NA, Nar-Anon and Al-Anon meetings. I didn’t feel they worked for me. Looking back I can it wasn’t necessarily that they weren’t for me it was more I wasn’t for them. I am a very focused answer oriented person. The answer I was seeking could not be found at a 12 step program because at that stage I had an answer, I was looking for an implementation strategy. This went on for me for 5 years. Personally I could never get past the powerless step because I could not see addiction as a disease, all I could see it as was a weakness of character and I took his addiction as a personal attack on me.

Just as I say in my videos to the class. The light bulb came on by way of Alex. We really did have a nasty fight about his using. After the fight we sat down at the kitchen table and he played the game with me about me holding my breath and him not thinking of drugs, wanting to use drugs and going to get drugs. He said he would lose the game very time. The light came on for me that very moment. I understood there was more to this than just willpower, want to, and poor character. More importantly I learned his addiction was not an attack on his father. When I learned that his drugs were as important to him as oxygen was to me I understood everything I had done in the past was useless. I then did a lot of thinking and deliberation on my own self. With a new paradigm I began to figure out what new life and actions would be required of me. I learned no matter how hard I fought my son was not the enemy, it was the disease. I had to learn how to battle a disease that not only I knew nothing about but had never even recognized as a disease. Peace for me came when I no longer took my son’s addiction and behaviors as a personal attack on me. I came to an understanding that one day the disease very well could defeat my son but it would only defeat me if I allowed it to happen.

Time alone, great support from family and friends along with a lot of deliberation of my beliefs and thoughts allowed me to reach a peaceful place inside.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I just finished reading two very enjoyable posts by Syd over at I'm just F.I.N.E. -- Recovery in Al-Anon. About a week ago he posted that he was taking questions. Although I have been very public in my posts I have decided to open myself up to questions in the same manner as Syd. Syd offered a prize for the best question and I do not envy him in making his decision, there were some very good questions. I don't need that additional decision making stress so each of you get a prize. Drumroll please,  an honest and probably incoherent answer to your question. Please fire away.

It seems I have run into a block about writing. I am busy answering many private e-mails I receive from parents. I feel an intense drive to answer these e-mails when someone writes me. I think about the beginning of our journey and how those feelings overwhelmed us to the point that all we did was sit and cry. To have a mother or father look for help so desperately that they sit down and write a complete stranger; I know that place too well in which they have found themselves.

I still am reading blogs and commenting, although less than I use too. It is not because I don;t care it is just that I see so much wisdom in the comments and the writer's post seldom there is anything I can add of value.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Lately I have have been getting questions and emails about using Suboxone. I have little to no experience with Suboxone treatment. I believe Alex used some Suboxone he acquired on the street but I don't know for sure, he did mention once that he traded for some.

From my point of view I view Suboxone or other treatments like Methadone as a method. I am a big believer there is no "right" way. There are many ways, some may work better or faster but each family must find their own way. Yes, you read right, each family must find their way. This is a family disease. Just as a person in a family may have cancer, opinion and consultation is sought and given by all loved ones. Addiction is no different even though just as a patient with cancer, they are the one inflicted with the disease and must struggle alone with treatments.

I put forth my opinion. There is no magic bullet or pill to cure this disease, at least not at this time. Suboxone has helped many people. So has NA, rehab, and other methodologies. Not being a doctor, counselor or an addiction professional I'm not offering a professional opinion, just a personal opinion/observation. I believe no matter the methodology it's 90% the addict and 10% methodology.

Without the drive and will of the addict to get better the methodology will be deficient in the treatment and cure. We've all seen miracle cures of loved ones and friends that fought a terrible disease like cancer. But, we have all seen those with the same disease give up and succumb to the eventuality of the prognosis.

Seek out what works. Look at the methodology, the success rates and the risks. Never forget that despite all the claims of the methodology the outcome is determined by the afflicted. One of the biggest differences a loved one of an addict can make is to be there when they are needed but only when it is appropriate.