Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Talk To Your Teenager

About 3 weeks ago Friday I spoke to students at a local high school, Blue Valley Southwest. I was ask by a teacher to speak at his new school. For several years I had spoke to his students at another school. This was my first venture at BVS.

I spoke to 4 classes of students. A mix of ages from freshmen to seniors.

The week after I spoke I returned to the school to retrieve my coffee cup that was forgotten and left on the teachers desk. Unknown to me that Monday the teacher ask his students to write down their thoughts about my talk and what they got out of Friday. He ask them to be honest and he also committed to the students he would not read their papers but deliver them to me directly.

This is the first time I had written response to what students thought of my discussion. I am going to quote some of what they said. This is not to toot my own horn about my talk but to emphasize it is CRITICAL we talk to our young people. They will LISTEN but you have to be HONEST.

These were handwritten letters on notebook paper, single spaced and some of then a full page long. I am sitting here sifting through over 50 of these.

- different than any other story or speaker that has talked to us about drug usage. I loved that you didn't say "don't do drugs" but rather you showed us and told us what would happen if we did.

- my eyes watered up a couple times

- I went to my closest friends and basically said, "Look, I don't care what happens promise me you'll never do drugs."

- It was life changing.

- Your words hit me hard....

- Your presentation was amazing and different than than the usual presentation.

- I had a cousin who went through this and it was very much similar.

- When you started yelling I could feel the anger, when your started breaking down I could feel a tear in my eye.

- I appreciated your honest and direct manner.

- This felt much more important because it didn't feel fake.

- Other presentations are too corny, "say no to drugs" you gave us real life.

- ...incredibly touching and so moving.

- It made me want to stay drug free even more for the sake of my family.

- It was brave of him to speak about something so personal to him.

- I am glad you didn't sugarcoat anything.....I have family members that have struggled with drugs so it is good to know there is hope.

- ....my uncle died because he was a cocaine addict.... thank you.

- I can't even imagine what my parents reaction would be if they got a call that I was unconscious and not breathing from the hospital.

- ....drugs completely trash families forever.

- His son was a normal kid that got addicted. I found it interesting it could happen to anyone.

- I personally have never done any kind of drug. I have been offered it many times. What you talked about will always be in my mind.

- I learned a lot about these things from my mom who is an addiction therapist who deals with kids my age.

- My mom struggled with pain pills for a couple years, she has been clean for 6 years....life was hard.... I had to stay strong for my little brothers.


The biggest impact on me from all these letters was how they all were so glad my son came out of his addiction and is clear and sober today. I believe they felt a personal connection to my son.

In every class I challenge each of them to go home and talk to their parents about drugs. I have heard from teachers that kids actually do that, parents have mentioned it during parent teacher conferences.

We change the world one person at a time. I challenge you to make that effort with one person each day. There are people we have all heard of that have changed the world, Jonas Sauk (polio) Madame Currie (x-ray) Florence Nightingale (nursing) Alexander Fleming (penicillin). Maybe your name will not be known as these people but all of us can have the same impact on a person that they did with there efforts. Be the light.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

175 Lost Souls Per Day

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has now put a number on how many people died from a drug overdose in 2016. The total number is over 64,000 last year. Do the math, that's over 175 per day, over 7 per hour.

I was just thinking, 175 people per day. That's like a jet airliner crashing every day with no survivors. Can you imagine what we would be doing to the airlines if a jet crashed every single day, 7 days a week for a whole year? Quite frankly I would imagine there would be a shutdown on air travel until the problems were identified and rectified. Every person in the nation would be talking about the danger and risks.

What should we be doing with a problem like that but the people are not on a jet. 175 people per day just as dead as if they were on a jet. What should we be doing about big pharma and the drug war? I written about our national drug war on addicts before.  Granted some of these deaths are from already illegal substances but how many were because a person became addicted to a legally prescribed drug and suffer the consequences of addiction?

Seven people per hour, these people aren't just some low life drug addict as a lot of people unacquainted with the disease of addiction assume. These 7 people are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. They are loved by people and died from a horrible disease.

Next week I will be speaking to high school students. YES, I will be adding this horrible statistic to me talk.

Symbolic gestures show empathy. Now is the time to move past symbolic gestures. It's time for our government AND our communities to stand up to this epidemic. Be involved, no one is expected to save 175 people each day but if you are the difference that saves ONE that makes you a hero.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Outrage

Last night as our family watched our Kansas City Chiefs get beaten by our nemesis Pittsburgh Steelers we sat in shock after the final whistle. As the game faded and the miserable game summary concluded another show began. That's how TV works.

After the game "60 Minutes" began late.

On "60 Minutes" the main segment was about the opioid epidemic and how the Drug Enforcement Administration  (DEA) we counted on to protect us from deadly drugs let us all down as a nation. You can watch the episode here if you missed it and I highly recommend you watch this episode.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ex-dea-agent-opioid-crisis-fueled-by-drug-industry-and-congress/

For me the shock of the "60 Minutes" episode was equaled by the shock and outrage I saw as my son watched this program.

Prescription opioids was my son's drug of choice (DOC). He tried just about everything but Oxycontin was his DOC. He took it by mouth, he smoked it and finally he was melting it and shooting it up in his arm or any vein he could find. When it became harder and harder and too expensive it get Oxy's be switched to black tar heroin. Most people already know that prescription opioids are the same as heroin. Heroin is eventually substituted for opioids by addicts because it is cheaper and more readily available on the street.

My son was verbally outraged while watching this program. "DO THEY KNOW HOW OR CARE HOW MANY LIVES THEY DESTROYED AND PEOPLE THEY KILLED???!!!

Yes, I know all caps is social media speak for shouting. He was shouting at the TV and us.

During one part of the program they described a small town of early 390 people and the pharmacy for that town took delivery of over 9,000,000 pain pills to this single pharmacy. My son quickly pulled out his phone and got his calculator out and figured that to be over 23,076 pills per person in that town during that 2 year period.

His ANGER was genuine.

Our son then went on to describe how this contributed to our problem today. He explained to us how the drug manufacturers, created a monster that was turned loose on the United States. He went on to explain today the monster is out and uncontrollable. Opioids are now manufactured by drug cartels with no quality control and not caring what goes into the drugs. He then went on to explain how Fentanyl is coming across the border and is more dangerous than heroin.

This all because the people, DEA, we counted on to protect us were protecting big pharma instead.

Honestly, I never expected to EVER hear this stuff come from my son's mouth. I saw at that moment what I always wanted to see. The seething rage of an addict in recovery towards the drug that took seven years of his life and future.

As a nation we should be outraged. It is time we begin putting people and lives over money. For too long big money has shaped and controlled our government and our lives. The outcome of this in the pharmaceutical industry has been millions of lives lost.

Too put it into perspective we all can understand because millions of victims and deaths are hard to grasp. It took me nearly one hour to write this essay. During that time four more people died from a drug overdose. If you took 15 minutes to read and contemplate this essay, one more person died from a drug overdose.

THIS IS A CRISIS! 
THIS IS AN EPIDEMIC!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"I Love You" 3 Special Words

As we grieve as a nation for those caught in the Las Vegas massacre there is something we all can do for each other.

Tragedies happen every day. Small personal tragedies that don't get the coverage of national news but they are just as impactful to people as what happened yesterday in Las Vegas. We get caught up in life and never realize we could be a part of tragedy in a split second.

As loved ones of addicts we know that fear well.

Below is a reprint of a post I did over three years ago, August 19, 2014. It is just as relevant today was it was then.

Did You Say "I Love You" Today?

Did you tell someone that you love them today? Did you show someone today that they are a special person in your life? What would you say or do if you knew tomorrow was not coming?

Last night I was coming home from work. It was a beautiful evening and work had taken me to the country and a drive around the lake. I was following a SUV and we were cruising along not fast, just the speed limit on a two lane country highway in Kansas. In an instant the world exploded.

A one ton truck was coming the opposite way and all of a sudden it clipped the very end of a trailer being towed by a truck in front of the SUV. The one ton truck swerved directly into the SUV. A head on collision at 55 miles per hour. The two vehicles hit with such impact the both left the ground and spun around 180 degrees.

I slammed on my brakes and was barely able to steer around the truck while avoiding another pickup coming towards me. I stopped fifteen feet in front of the truck. The driver was half ejected from the truck and be was barely breathing. I called 911 and went to tend to the driver. His breathing hesitated and his eyes met mine. I reached down to his hand and lifted it in mine to check his pulse. He exhaled his last breath.

I went to the SUV and the driver of that vehicle obviously did not make it. I could tell from following he never knew what hit him. He didn't even have time to hit his brakes.

Still on 911 talking to the dispatcher I kept repeating that they're dying, they are dying, hurry. Emergency vehicles arrived quickly, probably 3 minutes. There were people stopping but the two drivers were already gone.

I was close enough that as I swerved to avoid hitting the truck, debris and fluids was showering down onto the hood and top of my truck. Broken windshield pieces and a windshield wiper were in the bed of my truck.

Life is a matter of seconds all strung together. One second later and it would have been me instead of the SUV. My life, his life they are all the same. Sadness grips another family that is unspeakable. When the name was released I looked on Facebook. He was a husband and father to three children. He was 39 years old. I have an unspeakable sorrow in my heart for someone I had never met until I saw him in the SUV.

No one expects it to be their day. Life is about seconds that mean minutes and turn into days. Seconds matter to each of us. We allow our seconds to tick by without telling and showing people how much they mean to us.

Did you say "I love you to someone today?" Did you show someone today that they are a special person in your life?
Don't let the most important second of your life tick away.  


Did you Say "I Love You" Today

Friday, July 28, 2017

It Hurts So Bad.....Why Can't It Stop

It's been a while since I've dealt with the daily drama and heartache of a child actively using. Not a day goes by since in the last seven years I haven't thought about the pain and felt grateful I was a parent that came out the other side with a child in long term recovery.

Today I am shopping in the grocery store and casually ask the butcher for some help. He was very helpful with not only the bacon but also some large wild caught shrimp. Makes me hungry writing this, but that's not the point of this story.

We continue a casual conversation and he mentioned he just lost his 23 year old son and was having a hard time. I ask, and prefaced it with I didn't want to pry or be too intrusive but what happened. He explained to me he died from a heart condition. The valves in his heart were gone and he died while doctors were operating on his heart.

I expressed my sympathy. I cannot imagine in any way how hard that must be. I went on to explain I was only being nosy because I know so many, too many people that have lost their child at a young age to addiction. I went on to apologize in that I didn't want him to think I assumed the same was for his child. Then I told him how lucky I am to not have lost my son because he was a heroin addict but has been clear and sober since July 2010.

His eyes welled up and his voice broke. My son was using drugs with needles and stuff. He never mentioned the drug of choice but he said, the needles and drugs are what destroyed his heart.

He went on to tell me it is so hard and they are in counseling. I gave him one of my cards I give out when I speak with this blog address.

He also said they have no one to talk too. He said "Whenever I mention it to a friend or someone they don't understand......they don't understand at all. "

Here we are are two 60 year men standing at the end of the meat freezer in the aisle of a grocery store with tears on our cheeks and in our eyes.

He stared at my card....."Your name is Ron?" Yes it is. "Can I call you if I need too?" You can can call me any time.

NO ONE IS ALONE IN THIS!

If you can't talk to a person, find another person. There are too many people suffering with no support. As I tell all of those young people, hands of help are extended all around you. Take the first step, reach out and grasp one of those hands. It will be good for both of you. This goes for all of us no matter our age.

I leave the grocery store after shaking this mans hand and sincerely telling him he is not alone.

Pull into a favorite vegetable stand for some home grown tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe and berries. I here a woman's voice, "Ron Grover, Ron Grover". Around the tables and counter comes a person Darlene and I had coffee with 7 years ago because they reached out to me after reading this blog and discovering we only lived 10 miles apart. Our sons shared this same issue.

After two encounters not one hour apart I come to realize I have ignored writing for too long.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Night Time Rituals

Everyone seems to have before bed rituals. For most they are personal. Seems for most people they do not change no matter where you are; on vacation, at home, traveling on business, whatever or wherever you happen to be at the time.

For the parent of an addict there is always a thought or a prayer to end the madness in that bedtime ritual. Many times tears are a part of laying your head on the pillow.

Something I incorporated into my night time ritual was to deliberate on a simple question. "What did I learn?" It's a simple short question but is so powerful for the parent of an addict.

Self care is critical for any person with a loved one suffering from addiction. Self care may include a massage or a vacation but the most important self care I found for me was knowledge and information.

When we ask our self, "What did I learn?" it opens the door to new learning and unlearning. There are 3 types of learning; old learning, new learning and unlearning. Unlearning is the hardest, when we learn what we thought to be true but find it isn't, we unlearn and find a new path to learning.

As we begin a process of self learning we build a knowledge base that works for future days.

At times as I begin to process the learning, the day and experiences I would play out scenarios in my mind on how to handle future encounters for myself and my loved one. By applying my learning each day I was better prepared to handle any crisis or drama the next day.

Learning and preparation provided me a small measure of peace each day.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Sister Has Passed

Yesterday, March 7, 2017 my sister passed away. She was diagnosed with uterine cancer in July, 2016.

My sister was named after my father, his formal name was Ivan Glen Grover. Gigi was a shortened version of Glenda Gale Grover.

My sister was a homebody. Except for a very short period out of high school she lived in the same house where she was born and raised. Mom and Gigi made a home together after my dad passed in 1982.

I am not sure at times what the roles were in that home. Sometimes I think it was Mom caring for Gigi and at times Gigi was caring for Mom. Especially later in life Gigi fell into the role of primary caregiver when Mom began showing signs of dementia. I really believe it was a symbiotic relationship throughout both their lives.

As each of us live our lives we create a legacy. A legacy doesn't just incorporate a few achievements. A legacy can include lessons learned and taught. My sister left several personal memories for each person that knew her but I want to speak to an unintended legacy.

Gigi was not one to visit doctors. Maybe there were personal reasons but there was also one overriding financial reason, most of her life she did not have or afford health insurance. This is not a political statement, this is about lessons from her life.

Access to and going to the doctor and having yourself checked is a matter of life and death.

The 5-year survival rate for women with uterine cancer is 82%. The 10-year survival rate is 79%. If the cancer is diagnosed and it is still only in the area it started, called local, the 5-year survival rate is about 95%. If the cancer has spread regionally, the 5-year survival rate is about 68%. www.cancer.net/cancer-types/uterine-cancer/statistics

Gigi was not diagnosed early. She was diagnosed in July 2016 and gone in March 2017. Maybe she could have been one of those 95%, maybe not. No one could possibly know for sure. But, for sure we know early diagnosis helps.

A lot of medical exams may be embarrassing and are not pleasant but watching my sister die from this disease was not pleasant either.

Ladies, get those annual exams. Men, don't forget you need to be prodded and poked too.

Rest in peace Gigi


You will be missed by many

Friday, February 3, 2017

Teachers

Again, I get an email from a teacher asking if I have time to speak with his classes about my story.

Every school I visit the teachers tell me of the fear they have for their students. Stories that kids have related to them and the help students have reached out and ask for help to help them through terrible situations. The teachers want a way to help guide their students.

Stories come back to me from the teachers after I speak about the impression I had on their kids. They, like me cling to that hope we help them to make a good decision.

I dream of the time when a young person is faced with that choice to try something, words flash in their mind of a speaker they heard in class. I dream of a student confiding in a teacher or adult that they were presented with a choice and they did the right thing. Not because they might get caught, but because it was the right thing to do.

Even if you aren't teacher or a public speaker. Please take the time to tell a young person you are there for them. It's easy to believe in someone, it's more important to have someone believe in you. Think about what means to a young person or to yourself.

When any of us look around hopefully we see outstretched hands. Grasp a hand. We all need them sometime.

Teachers, a special message for you. 

Thank You for what you do and the hands you have outstretched to all those hungry students. I believe in you and what you do!!! 

(teachers, please share what you are doing in your class or with students. experiences you have had. the more we share the smarter and better we all become.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Another Blogger

Another mom with a son in recovery has decided to blog about her experience parenting and addict.

Please take a moment to visit and offer your thoughts.

Holding Your Breath Waiting To Breathe