Friday, November 23, 2018

Good From Bad

Sometimes I want to step away from all of this addiction stuff. My son has been clear and sober since July 2010 so what can't I just give it up and move on? How do you move on from the most traumatic event in your life?

Honestly, not a day goes by that I don't think of those 7 years, not a day goes by that I don't recognize and appreciate that I am one of the lucky ones.

When I think of the horrors many times I force myself to think of the blessings. How, you might ask are their blessings in the life of parenting an addict?

Maybe I am fooling myself but I honestly believe that no matter of any circumstance of life experience, good can be found.

When I reflect I understand today I am a better person and father through this experience. My son's addiction forced me to slow down in my thinking. I had to deliberate much more on my life and his life. I had to be sure to not only show my love to others but to verbally express it too. That was something I didn't know how to do before. I had to learn not all of us are alike or capable of the same thing. I always assumed anyone could do anything if they just tried hard enough and worked hard enough.

I learned many people, myself included do not understand a chronic disease like addiction. Maybe that's why I continue to write on this blogs and share on many addiction Facebook pages even after eight years of relative peace. Someone help me, "relative peace", do you have a better description? Not sure that fits but my word skills aren't developed enough to turn the perfect phrase.

Yesterday and last night I spent a considerable amount of time on Thanksgiving evening commenting to people expressing their exasperation on Facebook pages concerning their loved one. This morning I think the only thing worse than sitting down and commenting on FB pages on Thanksgiving is being that person writing their of their fears and heartache. Pleading for help on Thanksgiving Day.

Some days I wonder why I don't just put all of this behind me. Deep inside I hope that I never put this all behind me.

Hope is a double edge sword sharpened like a razor on both sides. It cuts both ways so carefully use that sword for good. Put hope in yourself because that is the only place you can control the sword. I learned when when I placed that hope in others the sword always cut deeply.

Just a few random thoughts on a rainy day at the lake, Sincerely, Dad.  (Ron)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Beautiful Boy Movie

Today I gathered up enough guts to see the movie Beautiful Boy.

My history with this story goes back many, many years. I can still remember clear as day, we were at a Starbucks with friends for coffee and the book was a new release. Starbucks had it right at the register, something like a "book of the month" type display. As I got coffee I picked up the book and bought it too. At that time we were in the midst of our own struggle with our son addicted to drugs.

Immediately my wife and I began reading the book. Sometimes I became anxious because she was actively reading it and was anxious to get started. When she put it down I got my chance. Furiously began reading and after about 60 pages I put the book down. Darlene inquired why I stopped reading. The answer was simple to me. I didn't need to read this book I was living this life.

There was not room in my heart for another or more hurt. I already hurt enough.

I never finished the book.

Today Darlene and I went together to see the movie, Beautiful Boy. For those not familiar it is about the struggles of David and Nic Sheff. Nic became addicted to crystal meth and David was a struggling father.

The story is riveting, particularly if you have a loved one suffering with addiction.

Yes, the movie was hard to watch. There are tough scenes of Nic shooting up, the touching moments of love between David and Nic and the struggles of how a life and death struggle affects every single person loving a person struggling in life addicted to drugs.

Throughout the movie I re-lived the struggle of David. I was David, I am the father, I struggled every minute, awake and asleep searching for an answer. Every time I heard David whisper "everything" I heard myself whispering, "I believe in you."

One thing I noticed was how David used writing to cope with and understand what was happening. He and I shared this experience, my salvation in this struggle was also writing.

As I watched I kept waiting for that moment when the movie translated the deepest valley and worst hurt onto the silver screen. No matter how good the writing and acting I come to realize there is no way that level of pain and hurt can be realized on a movie screen. That level of pain and hurt loving an addict can only be in a heart.

Go see the movie.

I thought about what this movie has meant to me. I'm 62 years old, nearly 20 years of my life I have been in one of these phases, parent of and active addict, parent recovery and advocacy. That's nearly a third of my life I have devoted to the monster. A fellow blogger that is a fantastic read, Annette wrote a great essay about this very subject this week. (click on her name to be taken to her essay) She said it well. We are in different places right now but we both grew and learned together reading and counseling each other.

I don't know David and Nic Sheff personally, but I feel close. We shared an experience. At the end of the movie on the screen a written fact flashed in black and white, "Nic Sheff has been clear and sober for 8 years." My son has been clear and sober since July 2010, eight years.

Where there is life there is hope. Never, ever stop loving and never, ever stop believing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Relapse and Overdose

In the news is a story about Demi Lovato, actress, singer and celebrity. She makes the news because she relapsed and overdosed. The story goes on to detail that her life was saved when she was brought to the hospital and administered Narcan.

There is not a single parent of an addict that cannot relate to this news. We have either experienced the same with our loved one, imagined the same, or lost our loved one because help wasn’t there in time.

As I devour the news about Ms. Lovato it brings back my own horrors as a parent of a son actively using and getting that call from the emergency room. Arriving at the hospital and hearing how close we came to losing our son.

Relapse and overdose are so closely related. 

I remember the mistakes I made in dealing with my son when he relapsed. How much damage I may shoulder is incalculable but I do bear the remorse.

Relapse is a bad thing because of the danger it poses but it should not be considered a betrayal of trust as I took relapse. Time and experience allows me to understand things I could not while caught up in the drama and actions.

Now I understand how addiction is a disease and with that disease it may come out as a relapse. Other diseases do the same thing.

Imagine these scenarios:

I am a diabetic, it is a loved one birthday. I slip up, birthday cake and a Coke. My blood sugar spikes, emergency medical help is required.

I suffer from heart disease, out of shape, but that fried chicken, mashed potatoes smothered in gravy looks so good, two helpings fill me up. The next day I am feeling pains in my chest, 911 is called.

I am old, I am fat, I am out of shape, of course it snowed last night 18”. My body is that of a 70 year old, my mind is that of a 25 year old. Of course I can shovel that snow. Last thing I remember was grabbing my chest and falling into the snow. 

We can all imagine so many scenarios like these and probably more. In those scenarios loved ones gather around and tell me and tell me how much they love me and want to help me from doing that ever again.

When a person that suffers from addiction we stand around and belittle them. We shake our head and mutter something like, “just and addict, what do you expect.”

It’s time we learn from these actions. I did the just an addict….. until I understood. When an addict relapses they need the love, concern and help the same as any other person suffering from a disease. 

Reach out to those that relapse and to their loved ones too. “How can I help?”, is a perfect opening line. Every person suffering from addiction deserve just as much love and help as anyone not dealing with this disease.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Believing In Someone

A few months ago The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids ask me to write an essay for them to update their readers on our family progress. It's been several years since I have written for The Partnership so a catch up was interesting to write.

I am going to post my essay here on my blog too. It's been a few months since I updated my blog. The drama and daily crisis isn't the same as when my son was actively using, so the need to write isn't as urgent.

Here is what I submitted to The Partnership.

Believing in Someone

It’s been many years since I wrote posts for Partnership for Drug Free Maybe it’s time to catch you up since my first post in November 2009, “7 Truths About my Son’s Addiction That Took 5 Years To Learn.” Since that time, my son has been clear and sober since July 2010.

As the parent of an addict in long-term recovery it involves another learning process. How do you live with and parent a child in recovery?

I am going to take liberties with my language. It is my opinion that parents of a child addicted to drugs that enter recovery do suffer from PTSD. It’s not natural as a parent to suffer nightmares of your child using and death, its not natural to find tears flowing down your cheeks for no apparent reason, it’s not natural to be suspicious of every action and word, even a simple I love you. The fear and suspicion is overwhelming.

Trust has been broken at the core level. 

The good news, it gets better. 

Slowly we heal. It’s a struggle learning to trust a person that hurt you so bad. You see struggles and actions by that person that allow you to support and brings back that belief in someone your love so dearly.

No one has to suffer in isolation. None of us are alone. Just as you do while living the horrors of a child in active addiction reach out and grab those extended hands of help.

Recovery is a hard road for both your child and you. My hardest lesson was no one is perfect. We all must be allowed mistakes and we all must accept forgiveness. Addicts in recovery are not perfect. Parents in recovery are not perfect. Pointing out every misstep does not help either of us. Each of us make mistakes, critical for all is the need to ask that all important question, “What did I learn?” 

There were many mistakes of good intention made by all during our son’s recovery. Talking and communicating helps us both recover and heal.

Since July 2010 my son has become a college gradate, works a full time job, owns a home, is a father and is raising his own family. There IS life after addiction.

Another difficult lesson to learn that I hope you learn is that their recovery is theirs to manage and your recovery is yours to manage. Recovery is different for everyone. Do I consider myself fully healed? No, there are still flashbacks triggered by random thoughts and encounters. You find a way to deal with the triggered horrors and random tears that flow down your cheeks.

One of my recovery processes is speaking to groups of young people and adults about being the parent of an addict. To this day seven years later when I speak to groups my eyes well up recounting our experiences.

Life is good. Every cliché you hear is what life is like. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. They all work as long as you work them. 

In closing, I’d remind you where there is life there is hope. Continue to love and never stop believing. Loving your addicted child is natural. Believing in them is something you must do and show in your actions. Believing in a person is powerful. Use your power of belief to help your child suffering from this horrible disease.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

My Speaking

I write a lot about my speaking to students, young people at detention centers and to adults when I am invited.

A couple of weeks ago a teacher utilized the video production class equipment at his high school and videoed one of my classroom talks for me. Unfortunately the class was shortened by 12 minutes due that day being an assembly day so I had to edit myself on the fly. However I tried to make sure I captured what I think are the most important parts of my story.

At this time I have stopped talking at our local high school out of respect to our son. He ask me not to talk there while his stepdaughters are attending that school.

This talk was given at Blue Valley Southwest in Leawood, KS.

Attached is a link to the video. If you take the time to watch it, I am always open for helpful critiques. (It's that nasty habit of mine of always asking, "What did I learn?")

Feel free to share this with others that you think it might help.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

You Can't Do This Alone

A part of my recovery process as a parent of an addict is speaking to young people about addiction and what happens to a family.

Last night I spoke again to young people for the Johnson County Department of Corrections. It energizes this old man to do these talks.

After I finished a young man hung around until everyone left. He said to me he used needles. He told me he had never heard what he was doing put in a way I spoke. No one said it in a way that made him think until today. He said he had a lot to think about, a lot to think about what he was doing. Then he kept thanking me over and over.

So many amazing things done and said by these young people I can't detail on here because of confidentiality.

I am not naive enough to believe one talk will change a young persons life but I do believe bricks build strong foundations and I am happy to be a brick.

When my son was actively using I struggled with the concept of why I seemed to have no impact on him no matter what I said or did. Nobody loved him like his mother and I but we seemed to have no impact on his using. It took me a long time to realize that sometimes others can have a bigger impact on my son than either of us.

Sometimes counselors, therapists, other addicts in recovery, police officers, judges and strangers can have a bigger impact than Mom and Dad.

Don't fool yourself into believing that they do things or enter recovery because of Mom and Dad. They do it for themselves. Be patient, allow and encourage others to enter your child's life. Your loved one that is addicted to drugs must discover for them self there is a different reality possible being clear and sober.

Mom and Dad, I learned one of the best things I could do for my son was to provide opportunities for discovery.