Friday, February 27, 2015

Live Long and Prosper

Goodbye, Mr. Spock.

As our childhood hero's age and pass it forces me to realize that none of us are forever.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

School Talks

Another two days of school talks wrapped up. It is refreshing for me to do these even if it is only make believe that I am helping. But in critical reflection I believe it is making a difference.

  • Students that have heard me talk in previous years come back to listen again, to be refreshed I was told by a student.
  • Students stand up to the stigma and share what it is like for them and their families.
  • Non-student guests come in to listen and then suddenly share their story and pain opening up with strangers.

I cannot measure or gauge the impact six years of speaking to students has had on our schools, community and students. I don't know if there empirical data points I can plot. However, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming, I have made an impact on individuals and that is the most important constituency I can touch.

You Are Not Alone, are sometimes the most important words you can say.


Friday, February 20, 2015

What Will YOU Do If It Never Gets Better?

This is another re-post of an essay that asks a questions we all must ask our self. "What if it never gets better?"

Who has the nerve to not only ask the question but who has an answer. This is what a parent of an addict never wants to face. When we face this question we face our self. It is hard , it is scary, it is real.

Another great part of this post is all of the reader comments. My advice, link to the actual post and also read the comments.

What If It Never Gets Better?

What if it never gets better? I bet that is a question every parent of an addict has ask themselves, probably more than once.

I admit I no longer struggle day to day. Most of my time in dealing with addiction issues involves reflection. Playing Monday morning quarterback is my best position in sports so I have adapted it to life.

What if it never gets any better is that question of frustration. It's usually followed by a statement like, "I've done everything I know to do."

Lately I have been thinking about this question and it is still troubling. For a fixer like me what does that really mean, I failed? I'm not one to accept defeat. There is a fix, I just haven't gotten the right formula. That was always my answer. I always seemed to disregard the real answer because I never really accepted the premise of the question. My failure to accept reality that some never do get better caused me much heartache and much grief for my son.

The last few parents I have spoke with I have ask this difficult question. It's a hard question for me to ask because I know by the time someone would write me, a stranger, an e-mail based solely on this blog there is a desperation and hopelessness that I do personally understand very well. They aren't writing or calling to find someone to tell them give up, they are looking for an answer and sometimes just someone to talk too.

Not until the last six months of Alex's active using did I learn what I needed to know and understand the first six weeks. Understanding and dealing with addiction isn't about the addict.

Understanding and dealing with addiction is about dealing with a disease and yourself.

Granted I can't ask this question to someone that has been dealing with this six weeks but it is something we all need to answer. Put aside the anger, the fixer, the disappointment, the guilt, put aside the past. Don't try to analyze and understand ideas like powerless and acceptance. Make it simple, go off by yourself or with a close loved one.

What if it never gets better? 

What type of relationship do I want to have with my son/daughter/brother/sister/mother/ father/friend or whoever your addicted loved one happens to be? 

When you get to that answer it is easier to begin working on making your own life better despite the heartache you feel for your loved one.

Sometimes it is OK to have a one sided relationship. Life is give and take. Sometimes the scales do not balance no matter how hard you try. (thanks dad, you still speak to me even after 32 years gone.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Practicing Self Care

Just a short break from re-posting past essays.

Last year was a very stressful year in my life. Family issues, health issues, personal issues and work issues and even an accident that was very traumatic for me. All in all I am glad to see 2014 in my rear view mirror.

One of the changes I made in which I had control was my job. I left a job in January in which I had worked with the same people for 16 years. A new job was one step in which I did have control of in my life. For me that's a big step for someone 59 years old and looking forward to retirement. I did not retire I got a new job that I am excited about and making worthwhile changes.

So much of our lives we believe we can control. Especially for us control freaks we think we can not only handle anything we can control anything. This is a major personality issue for me. It is struggle for me to let go, always has been.

Slowly I have been learning the limits to my control. However, one of the things I thought I couldn't control is the very thing in which I had the most control. We all become secure in our lives and that includes our jobs and careers. Going to work and getting a paycheck each day is out of our control. YEA RIGHT!

Work is important to a person's psychological well being. It should not be the thing that is hurting your psychological well being.

I have a learned lesson late in life. That seems to be the time I have learned all my important lessons.

Lesson learned: Money is the easiest problem we have to solve. Each day we wake up and have a chance to make more of it. Every single day we get to make more of what we let cause our greatest stresses. Think of all the things that each day we wake up and whatever we missed we can never get back, like time and broken relationships.

Ron practicing a little self care.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Detaching With Love

As our son progressed in his addiction we did not. We struggled with first one thing and then another. We tried loving him well, negotiating away his addiction, throwing him out of the house, tough love and anything else heard that might be a fix. Nothing improved until we tried what we had be told in the beginning, take care of yourself first.

Boundaries and detaching are critical steps to understanding where we as loved ones fit in the whole disease and puzzle of addiction. Detaching with love is easy to say but the big question for each of us parents is HOW?

Below is another reprint. "Detaching With Love". Learning to detach is learning to establish boundaries.

I have received many comments and personal e-mails asking me to explain exactly what or how do you detach with love. The other day I was again ask for an example of exactly how do you detach with love and I answered with a typically philosophical answer. That evening it bothered me because here I was answering the question again and I am not being clear to what people are asking. It finally stuck me to use the KISS it methodology. (KISS, keep it simple, stupid)

So I wrote about when detaching, enabling, boundaries, values, rescuing and a whole bunch of other things began to click with my wife and I. Below is how one step by step transformation occurredfor us and our son.

My son shoplifted to support his addiction. Needless to say he got caught several times. The first few times when he was a minor we'd get a call to come pick him up and he'd get a ticket and we'd pay a big fine and take him to court services for his probation and take him to a psychologist. This went on for a couple years.

When he turned 18 he was no longer a minor and with his record they'd take him to jail. He'd make that phone call from jail, "Please come and bail me out. I'm never going to do this again." Off we'd go. After a while this was getting expensive and no one was learning their lesson. I mean, Darlene and I were not learning our lesson. ;-) and by the way neither was our son. We were doing the same thing over and over, and our son was doing the same thing over and over, nothing was changing. He'd make the same promises, we'd take the same action and we couldn't understand why HE kept using!

This is where the idea of detaching and setting boundaries started with us. We are no longer going to pay bail. As a mom and dad it is very hard to think of your child sitting in jail. In Jackson County, MO jail he witnessed a person get stabbed. The food is universally bad at all jails, without money on your books you can't even get a toothbrush to brush your teeth, he had food stolen and had to fight at times for his food, spent 2 days in solitary for defending himself against another inmate that attacked him. Some jails they put the crazies in with the criminals like rapists and murderers, in with the drug addicts, makes no sense to me.

It's hard to think of yourself as being a loving parent when you know that for just a few hundred dollars we could get him out of those situations, but if you don't pay the bail are you really a loving parent? Finally the day comes when you don't pay the bail money. Once we let him sit in the Johnson County Resort for 11 days because we wouldn't post a $50 bond. Sounds mean doesn't it?

This is about detaching with love and not enabling.Your boundaries must match your values. It works for us this way. Overriding all is the value that we love our son. When you sit down to think about and discuss boundaries this goes at the top of the page. Every single boundary is tested against that value.

Another value we hold close and taught our kids, Stealing is wrong. Stealing carries consequences and it should. Bailing him out removes or minimizes the consequences. Contrary to our values we were bailing him out. But we hated what he was exposed to in jail. However, we had established a pattern, he got caught, he called, we jumped with cash in hand. It's not fair to change the rules without telling all the parties.

So Darlene and I sat down a determined where we would go and where we would no longer go. This began to establish our boundaries. You will never cover all of the situations, you just cover what you can and know that once you learn how to judge behaviors and rescuing against what it is you believe inside the exercise becomes easier and more natural.

Then you must sit down with your child, an addict that may or may not be high at the time and explain where you will no longer go with him. In fact you can even start each sentence with, "Because we love you........... we can no longer bail you out of jail. All your life we taught you that stealing was wrong and you know that in your heart so we cannot support your actions by bailing you out of jail when you do something you have been taught all your life is wrong. I hope you understand this and can accept our decision."

Each boundary that we had discussed the conversation went like that. Our son hated it when we turned off the TV and ask him to sit down at the table to talk. This satisfied our need to tell him our expectations and it told him what to expect from us. Yes, he still called begged, pleaded and cried from jail but what we had been doing in the past didn't work and was bad for us and him. We had to change the rules, but that didn't mean we loved him less. It meant we loved him more because it hurt us terribly to let him sit in jail.

Even with his begging and pleading we were still able to sleep at night and have a moment of down time. He was in jail and we knew jail was safer than being on the street shooting more heroin. We then began to see jail as "protective custody."

We detached from Alex's crimes and actions, we did not detach from him. We still loved him, took some of the $10 for 10 minute collect calls from jail. On those calls we always ended with that we loved him and please help yourself. We were doing all we could and all we knew to do. Detach from the actions, crimes, drug use, lying and every other terrible thing a drug addict does to himself and others. Love and support the person inside not the addiction controlling the life.

Does this help explain what detaching with love and how it works for us? Then you begin applying the same formula to all other areas in your relationship with your addicted loved one.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

7 Truths About My Addict That Took 5 Years To Learn

It is a different life today than when our son was in seven years of active addiction. Our son got clear and sober in July 2010. I have writing this blog for over 5 years. I am going to reprint some of my posts that helped me the most and seemed to have a good effect for readers. Hope this helps new parents living this nightmare.
I feel deep empathy toward parents just beginning the terrible journey of their child’s drug addiction — and those facing the turmoil of a next step: rehab, incarceration, dislodging the addict from the family home. These are still open and fresh wounds for my wife and me.
Following are seven hard lessons we’ve learned in our journey, all of which we denied in the beginning. We fought with ourselves and with each other about these things. It didn’t matter who was telling us the truth, we knew better, after all he was our son. We have come to accept these truths and now it is much easier to deal with the heartache and we’ve become more effective helpers for our son/addict.
1. Parents Are Enablers

We love our sons and daughters. We would do anything to remove the pain. Take away the addiction. Smooth the road. We’d give our life if it would help. I once wrote a letter to my son about using drugs. I used the analogy of him standing on the railroad tracks and a train (drugs) is blasting down the tracks and blaring its horn but he hears nothing. I told him it was my job to knock him out of the way and take the hit, that’s what fathers do. I understand now, I was wrong. All that would do would leave me dead on the tracks and he would be standing on another set of tracks the next day.
We raised our children the best way we knew how. At some point they made decisions that set them down this path. We can only support them and provide them opportunities to make another decision. This is a hard one. That is why at times sponsors, recovering addicts, police officers, probation officers, corrections officers, pastors, counselors can all do a better job than we can in showing our addict the correct path. That is difficult because no one loves our addict like we do but we cannot do what they need when they need it.
2. I Cannot Fix This

This goes to what I wrote above. This is a problem only our addict can fix. A concept such as this is very hard for me to accept because I try to fix everything. No one is allowed in our addict’s mind except them. They are the only ones that can decide to do something about this. This will not end until they decide to end it. Parents trying to make that decision for them only results in failure and frustration.
3. My Addict Is A Liar

Addicts will say anything to hide their addiction and take any action to mask the problem. I honestly believe at the time they do not even realize they are lying, they just say whatever they think you want to hear. I believe they have motives in this to seek approval and to give us pride. I believe addicts do not like themselves or what they are doing but at some point they can see no door out. Their only mechanism for survival is to seek somekind of approval through lying, even if they know they will be busted. I believe it offers a similar instant gratification as drugs. I think even a smile of approval from a loved one shoots off those chemicals in the brain that gives them a different high, even if it lasts only a couple seconds. When my addict tells me he is not using I really don’t hear it. I tell him often, “My eyes can hear much better than my ears.” Just as we seek evidence of their using, we must seek evidence of their NOT using. Do not rely on faith that they are not using because they told you.
4. My Addict Is A Criminal

Symptoms of this disease include illegal behavior. That is why he is incarcerated. Face up to it, Dad and Mom. He has done things wrong and he must pay the price, as they say, his debt to society. It does no good to bad mouth the police, the judge, the jail, the lawyers they did not put him there. He put himself there. When we see others on TV and in jail we think about how much they deserve to be there but our babies aren’t like them. We can justify and separate the wrongs by misdemeanor and felony but those are legal terms. The long and short of it, my addict has done things that got him put in there and he must pay.
5. Others Don’t Want Them Around
That is OK. He has wronged many people. We are the parents, it’s called unconditional love. It is not wrong for friends, brothers, sisters, grandparents, relatives to have their own feelings and pain about this situation. Some families have great support and no one abandons the addict, some people decide they do not want the trouble of an addict in their life. That is OK. We all get to make the choice and there is no wrong choice, it is just a choice by those people.
6. Life Will Not Be The Same

At 5 years old my son thought he was Michelangelo of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Running around the house with an orange bandanna tied around his head brandishing plastic weapons fighting evil and the bad guys. When we look at our addicts we see that 5 year old and mourn the loss and try anything we can to get them back. My addict is now a 21-year-old man. He is every bit an adult with at times a child’s maturity. But our world recognizes chronological ages, not maturity levels. Parents must do that too. I believe Michelangelo is lost inside of him. Those that are lost sometimes find their way back, but some do not. I can grieve this loss but it will not help him or us to move forward. An addict does not live in the past or the future. An addict lives in the here and now, if you want to help your addict you must live in the same world he does.
7. Homelessness May Be The Path He Chooses

Mom works in downtown Kansas City. When you drive down there you see homeless people with signs and some of them living under the bridges. They are dirty and hungry. They very likely are addicts, alcoholics or suffer from a mental illness. The one common denominator for all of these men and women living alone and homeless is that at some point in their life they had people that loved them. They are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends to someone. That doesn’t change their situation. They made choices that got them to this point. They can make other choices, and there are people and organizations to help them change. The key is, they must make the decisions. If our son makes the decision to live this way, it will hurt me terribly but he will do this until it is time for him to change, I cannot change him or those circumstances. It will not help him for me to give him a bed in my home if he continues to live the lifestyle.
Why is This Important?

We struggled mightily against these truths, fought with every ounce of strength. We lost our fight. We have accepted what we wished was not true. My learning is: until you understand the truth you cannot find peace within yourself or really be able to help your addict. Accepting the truth is what allows you to help your addict by helping yourself.
I do not hate my son for using drugs and putting all of us through this pain. I hate the things he does. I hate the lying, the stealing, the using. I love my son very much, I hate his ways. It is perfectly okay to separate the two.