Saturday, November 18, 2023

It Is Thanksgiving Week

 9 years ago on Thanksgiving morning I wrote a post about what does the parent of addict have to be thankful about? It is the week of Thanksgiving 2023 and I think it is time to re-publish that post from 9 years ago.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What's Thanksgiving to the Parent of an Addict?

What a question. What does the parent of an addict have to be thankful about?

I remember the horrors of holidays. It seems no matter the occasion Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays or anything that was special to our family our son while he was using found a way to bring heartache and sorrow to the occasion.

Why couldn't he just be OK for one day? Why do we have to have every holiday and special occasion ruined? These were the constants in our life.

Looking back it is easy to remember these events. A son showing up on Christmas Eve while we were walking out the door. Drug dealers delivering heroin to our home on Christmas Eve as casually as a pizza delivery person. Thanksgiving not being able to rouse him to join us for lunch. Going down to a prison located 125 miles away on Thanksgiving eve to pick him up after being released. Every holiday was an event.

The perspective of time and distance allows me to understand most all of our anguish and hurt was self imposed. We EXPECTED what was impossible to be delivered. My son was an addict. My son was addicted to drugs and I didn't understand addiction and what it meant.

My son suffered from the disease of addiction. He did what addicts do and all that is expected of an addict. He used drugs no matter what I wanted or expected. My heartache and anger was self imposed. I expected from him something he didn't have to give. At least not at that time.

If your loved one is suffering from addiction accept the reality of what IS and don't play a game with yourself of OUGHT to be able to be good for one day.

Secrets from a father about for surviving a holiday with an addicted loved one would include:

  • Temper your holiday expectations. 
  • Accept what is given.
  • Love with no return expectation.
  • Do not expect something from someone that they do not have to give.
  • Inside there is still a person. You loved them all their life, do not forget.
  • Where there is life there is hope. Look around you and see the life.
Never stop believing. Tomorrow my son will be joining us with his family. Hugs will be shared. We will give thanks to all and each other. 6 years ago if anyone would have told me this day would come I would have thought they were crazy. Never stop believing in yourself or others.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Monday, March 27, 2023

OXY, the Right Way, (but I still hate it)

Three weeks ago I had a total knee replacement in my right knee. I am not new to joint replacements, already had my left knee replaced and my right shoulder replaced. Make no mistake if you haven't experienced a joint replacement, joint replacement hurts. However, you get to the point that the short term pain makes for long term relief.

After a couple days in the hospital its comes the day for me to be discharged. Maybe that's the wrong word, everyone else gets discharged, I think for me it's probably more like I got thrown out. LOL

On a Thursday the nurse comes in with my discharge instructions. Darlene was paying close attention, me, probably not so much. The very nice nurse explaining that about an hour before they wheel me out I would receive a last dose of Tramadol through my IV and I would get a pain pill to help me get home, a thirty mile drive. She told me to take it easy and when I get home my best course of action would to be elevate my leg, put ice on my knee, take another pain pill and take a nap.

On the way home we stopped at the pharmacy to pick up numerous prescriptions I was given upon my eviction. A quick stop at the drive through window resulted in bottles of a blood thinner pill, a pill for nerve pain at night, an iron supplement, an anti nausea pill and pain pills.

When I get home an examination of that small sack revealed the familiar translucent little orange bottles. A quick read of the label on each bottle yielded the familiar instructions of dosage and time. Pulling out the last bottle I saw the drug name and froze. A sudden fear gripped me, no not fear, more like terror. My heart stopped, an emptiness gripped my gut. Flashbacks of syringes, bent blackened spoons, aluminum foil with black tracks, random short straws filled my mind. OXYCODONE printed on the label. As I read the label on that orange bottle, "take one or two by mouth every four to six hours as needed for pain, (max 6 tablets/day) As I read that small bottle began to change as I read. I looked down and in my hand I held the grim reaper. Complete with black robe and scythe, a black emptiness under the hood. In my hand I was holding the grim reaper. I thought of all those people this pill claimed, the endless tears shed by those loved ones watching as this simple pill tore life from their loved ones body. 

Despite my flashbacks and feelings I was a compliant patient. Settling into the recliner with a pillow under my leg and ice on my knee I swallowed one of those pills and took a nap.

You see, oxy was my son's drug of choice for seven years. When oxy became too hard to get and expensive the natural progression was to heroin. Seven years of fear, hate, nightmares and pain flooded back to me. It has been since July 2010 since that life was put aside by him. He now wears a robe of recovery, he looks good in that robe.

Those simple white pills worked well. I would only take one pill at a time, usually about every six hours. Thirty minutes after swallowing I could count on the pain going away, left with simple heaviness remaining in my leg with no pain. I guess as a side effect of that pill I also felt a general malaise, slightly groggy and no feeling of pain, physical or emotional. 

I didn't like that feeling. The pain relief was good but that overall mind and body feeling was horrible for me. Staying ahead of the pain was the key. For the first few days I was a good little patient, regular dosages of my medications made me feel OK and kept me bearable for my caregiver, Darlene. 

Today I take one pill about an hour before visiting my physical terrorist. It helps during my therapy to better loosen my knee and enable me to heal quicker. When therapy is complete any remaining pills will be returned to that same pharmacy and dropped into that locked metal box at the end of the counter for proper disposal.

For me I didn't like the effects oxy had on my feelings. The numbness is disconcerting. But I understand for others that feeling could be highly attractive and addictive. The ability to escape physical and emotional pain by easily using an opioid can be physically and emotionally addictive in many ways.

As I sit in the recliner with my trusty ice bag several visitors would come by to see me. As the door opens I see my son and his family. A panic grips me. When getting around requires a walker or cane you tend to make things as easy for you as possible. I am sloppy. Sitting openly on the counter, next to the coffee maker, candy and various snacks was that little bottle of oxycodone. WHAT HAVE I DONE?! 

We had a great visit. There was no way he didn't see all of those little orange battles. After an hour or so hugs were shared and goodbyes were expressed. The words, "Get well and if you need anything......" echoed as they left. Thinking later I realized trust and love is a much better way to live life rather than living in fear and anxiety.

I understand some of you reading this may understand what I have experienced. I also know many of you may be asking yourself, "why can't I have this?" Along with that comes jealously, anger and hurt. If you cannot relate to what I am feeling please take a moment to reflect. You are not alone. Reach out to others. Help my be no further away than an outstretched hand. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Holiday Season

During the holiday season, as families gather we all have the best intentions. I am thankful for the family and fellowship shared on these days.

However, as we gather remember there may be those that are afraid or hiding from us or themself. Struggles can be inside. As you give thanks and gather try to add these to your menus too. Listen, accept and encourage without judgement. We are only well when all are well.
Everyone needs others at some time in their life. The time for someone that needs you may be sitting next to you today. Reach out your hand and accept what others have to share.
Make a commitment today that you will accept and not condemn. When you do that you will find the true meaning of the season.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022


 It is with mixed emotions I write about this milestone.

After I received another email from a parent lost and searching for answer about her daughter's addiction I looked at this blog. A couple years after I began writing this chronicle of our struggle Blogger developed a dashboard with loads of statistical data concerning this site I could privately access. Nothing was available concerning personal information of readers but it did have a simple counter of visitors. When I looked the other day a striking number appeared. There have been over 1,000,000 visitors to this site reading various posts I have written.

It is so sad that after all this time parents are still looking for answers to fight the monster of addiction in their loved ones. I spell out parents but it isn't just parents. Brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, friends and anyone affected by drugs and alcohol come here searching for peace. 

Also, as I visit my blog and answer letters from people I feel a deep internal satisfaction that maybe I am helping others through our shared struggles. As just a dumb old dad maybe somehow my twisted words gives someone strength to face the next minute, hour or day. You don't have to be a professional counselor or have a bunch of letters behind your name to be there for someone needing help.

Parenting a child suffering from a life threatening disease like addiction is no longer front and center in my life. However, I know that helping others with this struggle will be a lifelong labor of my soul. 

No one that loves a person struggling with drugs or alcohol must walk this path privately, secretly or alone. There are people, some close and some you have never met with their hand outstretched willing to help. You are not alone, allow those who have traveled this path to help. It will help you, it did me when I was lost many years ago. Maybe that is why I write, first to question others for myself, then to repay and honor all of those that helped me.


 If you have questions or are struggling reach out to someone. Take care of you first. Personal confession, that is the hardest thing to do. I will answer your email, I will pick up your call. Your pain is real.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

As Time Goes On

It's been over 13 years since I created this blog as an effort to learn more about addiction and find peace for myself during our son's addiction.

So much time has passed and things have changed so dramatically in our life. I'm sure or I hope you have read about our progress. The question that continually enters my mind is what has happened with all of those people and families that regularly read this blog so long ago? What about those that have only discovered this blog lately in a search for help with their own family issues?

Some of those long ago readers I am Facebook friends and hear of their life today. Some of the people like Barbara and Lea that read this and in turn I read their blogs have experienced tragic outcomes.

I would love to hear from everyone about their life, good, bad and ugly. Please share your successes and your tragedies. 

The truth is that unfortunately this blog is still relevant. Blogs are not as popular today as they were in 2009 but I still get new readers and emails all the time from families struggling. 

Your story may be the one that lights a candle in the dark for others in the world of loving a person struggling with addiction.

A simple phrase none of us have forgotten still rings true: 


Monday, March 15, 2021

 A fellow blogger from the UK contacted me today. She lost her brother to addiction. She wrote a moving post that I want to Guest Post here so here goes. Here's a link to her blog:

This is Allison's Guest Post

I wish I knew then what I know now

Alison and her brother, Danny celebrating his 40th birthday 

This picture was taken on my brother Danny’s 40th birthday.

Just a few hours later we, and our two younger sisters, were sipping champagne in a nightclub. Just a few months later he was telling me he needed my help as he’d been taking heroin. Just five years later I was reading the eulogy at his funeral.

I applaud all those who are trying to support people and raise awareness about addiction. And I take my hat off to every single brave soul that has shared their story publicly. You are all incredible and should be enormously proud of yourselves. 👏

But I want to share something from the other side. I want to speak directly to the families of addicts. The people that feel they can’t carry on.

My brothers addiction caused me so much pain and frustration because I loved him so much and couldn’t keep him clean. He lied to me and our family. He caused our parents so much worry that my mum lost the ability to sleep. And sometimes, I’ll confess, I thought my life might be easier if he wasn’t around. Watching someone you love self-destruct and hurt your entire family, and being powerless to help is horrible and my sympathy goes out to anyone in this position.


When Danny died I felt (and continue to feel) that he had fallen off a cliff. I was trying to reach him but couldn’t quite grasp his hand to pull him back up. I was so used to there always being another day, another clean period, another reason to believe, that I couldn’t and still can’t comprehend that there is no hope. For he is gone. We are out of second chances.

And now he’s not here we see and continually talk about how incredible he was. We miss his humour because he was so full of banter, never missing an opportunity to wind someone up. We miss his kindness and loyalty. He was so fiercely protective of us all that it feels as if these invisible arms we always had wrapped around us have disappeared. We miss the way he supported and loved our mum and dad, and the incredible bond and relationship he had with his teenage son. We miss everything about who he was. He was so much more than the addiction that stole him from us.

I felt inspired to share our story in the hope other families could learn something from us. My book, The Counsellor, tells my brothers story and the impact he had (both wonderful and painful) on my family. I share the first year of my grief, the heartbreak of losing my dad just seven months later and how through it all, I developed an understanding of addiction in a way I never had before. I often think about everything I have learnt since his death and wish I knew then what I know now. But as I can’t turn back the clock the least I can do is share my thoughts with you. So here goes…

  • I wish I knew that only he could save himself. I wish I had encouraged him to seek help more and not tried to do it for him. I couldn’t fix him.
  • I wish I had listened more. He tried to tell me and help me understand but I had already judged him and thought I knew best. I should have listened.
  • I wish I was able to talk about his struggles openly and release the shame that comes with addiction. I am not ashamed. I love and idolise him more now than I ever did as I appreciate how hard he had to fight.
  • I wish I checked in more. Days and milestones mattered so much and I wish I had paid them more attention. If you are reading this and you’re in recovery, well done. We are all so proud of you.
  • I wish I knew that the gift of time was precious and not to be taken for granted. I wish I had appreciated every minute and wish we’d had more of them.

Loving addicts is not easy. It’s downright hard. But losing them is so much harder because you/they don’t get another chance to try again. The hope that you spend your lives clinging on to is gone. As I say at the end of my book, if you think it hurts watching your loved one self-destruct, you are going to hate how it feels when you have to accept they are never coming back.

No matter what you are going through, keep talking. Sending you lots of love.


Learn more about Alison Kerwin’s book The Counsellor: A powerful true story about addiction, grief and love.

Available to buy now from: | | Waterstones | Barnes & Noble

A Disease

Here are a few short musings about our experience and learnings. No matter where you are in parenting or loving someone addicted to drugs these might be something to consider when you are alone.

When you were using the drugs it wasn't personal against us, it was the disease.

When you were mean to others it wasn't you, it was the disease.

When you stole things from us and others it was a symptom of your disease.

When you lied to us it was a symptom of the disease.

When you would disappear for days it was to escape the pain, a symptom of the disease.

When we demanded you stop using by screaming and pleading it was us not understanding the disease.

When we kicked you out in the cold with just the clothes on your back it was us ignorant of the disease.

When we withheld our love because you hurt us, it was us not working to help you with your disease.

I don't write these as excuses. These are facts along with countless others not written here. From my point of view some of these build a foundation to consider the horror of current events or the shame of past events. 

We can't just turn off the feelings and emotions experienced by the trauma of loving an addict. My method of dealing with the PTSD is working to continuously learn from my past experiences. For each us this may be different. However, healing doesn't just simply wash over you one day. Each of us must continuously work on our own healing as we see fit and need. 


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Is This Blog Still Relevant?

While scanning the internet to see if after over a decade my blog remains relevant I found where a student athlete in central Florida used info in my blog to write an article for the Highland News-Sun.  This article was published in the October 27, 2020 edition of the newspaper.

I am reprinting this on here for you to see. I guess maybe my blog is still relevant.


Miguel Arceo

Draw Your Line of Morality

Allow me to introduce you to Ron Grover, the father of a son who is currently recovering from a battle with drug addiction. Grover authored a blog post titled, “The Emotions I Experienced as the Parent of a Child With Addiction.” In it, he writes, “For many years, I couldn’t separate the disease in my son, from my son himself. His addiction was a personal affront that I held onto very deeply.”

Imagine, if you can, sitting through his shoes for even one day. Having to watch as your son falls victim to a terrible disease, the son that Psalm 127:3 calls, “a gift from the lord [sic].”

Barbara Hampton, a mother of a son in recovery, wrote another blog titled, “I Got My Son Back: A Mother’s Struggle with Her Son’s Addiction.” Hampton wrote, “My phone would hardly ring and I was always waiting for the one call I was so terrified to receive.”

Again, imagine thinking that every phone call you receive might be the one telling you that your child may have overdosed.

Both of these stories are nothing short of tragic and happen to thousands of families in the United States. Despite this, some supporters of President Trump are more than willing to publicly criticize Hunter Biden’s past struggles with drug addiction. Ever since President Trump exposed his past with cocaine at the first debate, supporters of his have deemed it morally right to attack Hunter Biden. There has been widespread sharing of a photo of Hunter Biden at his lowest point and many accusations. You do not have to agree with Joe Biden’s policies to publicly acknowledge that attacking his son’s past with drug addiction is way below the belt. Joe Biden is no longer just a presidential candidate, but is someone who stood in the same shoes as Ron Grover and Barbara Hampton. He is one of the thousands of people who had to bear witness to the horrible effects of drugs on a person’s life. How can you justify attacks on a drug addict’s father?

If you are able to justify these attacks, I ask you to do the same to veterans who suffer from addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “One government report notes that more than ten percent of veteran admissions to substance use treatment centers were for heroin (10.7%), followed by cocaine at just over 6%.” Tell the parents of these brave veterans that the apple does not fall far from the tree. If you can justify the attacks on Hunter Biden, I ask that you publicly attack all the people on your Facebook profile that may be secretly fighting a battle with addiction. Tell them that their family does not deserve a new job because they are struggling with addiction.

Those willing to attack Hunter Biden’s past are those who are willing to overlook their morals and every sense of decency in their lives. No one deserves to ever be publicly shamed for a past drug addiction, regardless of what political party they may be coming from. I truly wish that you and your family never have to know what Ron Grover, Barbara Hampton, Joe Biden, or the thousands of parents of drug addicts had to endure. Drug addiction is a terrible disease that anyone can fall victim to, no matter how well you were raised. Why is it any different when you do not agree with the family of these recovered addicts?

Miguel Arceo is a student athlete at Sebring High School.

Monday, December 7, 2020

My Letter To Santa

Dear Santa,

It's been a hard year for the kids this year, no matter if they are on the naughty or nice list. Please be easy on the judgements and do whatever you can for the little ones. They have gone through a lot this year and all of them have been real troopers.
Please give all the parents and adults, young or old, the wisdom to know they may need nothing but others need everything. It's been hard on so many. If you have a job and income, share with others. Sharing with each other is wonderful but sharing with those in need is spiritual and good for your soul. Let those adults that share feel the magic in their fingers and heart as they reach out and help someone in need.
Finally, the gift of appreciation is one everyone needs. So many have lost someone this year. Instead of tears of love lost for that special person on this holiday show each person the wonder and love each of those people brought to their life.
Merry Christmas,
Ron Grover

Friday, September 18, 2020


I haven't been writing lately. There hasn't been much going on in our life other than the things I have detailed in previous essays. I didn't want to waste time for all that read this blog.

As a member of many Facebook groups dealing with addiction I have been reading about people struggling with forgiveness. When you are hurt so deeply forgiveness can be difficult to find and to extend.

I struggled at time with forgiveness. We all have heard many times that forgiveness is about ourself, not our addicted loved one. However, I learned to say many things while failing to internalize the words.

Eventually I learned to swallow those difficult words and those same words provided life giving nourishment.

If you have read much of this blog you know my penchant for breaking things down to a simple concept and symbolic gestures. One symbolic gestures of these I developed about forgiveness that helped me through some difficult struggles. I'll share here what helped me, no matter how silly it may seem.

You know what those copy paper boxes at the office look like. Big bold letters, "Hammermill" on the side. I pictured putting all of those things that I was carrying with me into one of those boxes. All of the stuff I couldn't understand and couldn't accept I put into that cardboard box. After I got it all of those things stuffed in that box and the lid put on, no tape or sealing the box.

After I get the box stuffed I set the box up on the mantle of the fireplace right in the living room. It's all stored away but readily accessible. I can get into the box any time I want but to do so I have to figuratively take down the box and physically open the lid.

When the time becomes right I can move the box to the back of the closet. Everything is still there in the box but it is no longer in the center of my life. I learn that the box can be close and accessible but stored away out of sight and sometimes out of mind.

You all know what happens to those things stored in the back of the closet. One day we get new shoes and a few new clothes and our closet becomes to jammed and those things we don't need every week get treated like everything else us "pack rats" can't get rid of but need to have close. That old "Hammermill" box gets carried to the basement and slid onto that top shelf. 

One day when you move you may decide to take that box and set it out in the recycle bin. Maybe you hold on to that box and the day comes when you are gone those people you love the most finds that old box and box buried with you and forgiveness is granted. 

Don't wait for others to share that box of forgiveness. Share forgiveness when you are able. It is so much more meaningful when you can share a gift through a smile rather than through tears.  


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Tragic In So Many Ways

This morning on my Facebook feed a news story popped up about a robbery and outcome in Camdenton MO. This is the area where we own a lake home so I try to stay connected to the local news and events online.

For the last several days it has been news about a man robbed the pharmacy at the grocery store we patronize when at the lake. In summary from the news reports a man entered the grocery store, jumped the counter in the pharmacy, brandished a gun and stole several hundred pills containing opioids. No one was hurt and no shots were fired. There were clear pictures of this individual and his pickup truck used in the robbery.

This morning it has been reported the individual was "captured". Law enforcement did the job they are suppose to do. They found out who the suspect was and due to the danger involved surrounded the home with multiple officers. The suspect was ask to surrender and instead he shot himself in the head. He was transported to the local hospital and is reported in serious condition.

As you can probably guess I am disturbed by this story especially since I haven't posted on this blog since July 6, 2019 and this story spurred me to write.

On my Facebook feed about this story there are so many comments from people stating: "good", "got what he deserved", "saved us money from having to jail him". It is disgusting what I have been reading.

I choose to respond to the comments with this: From what I read an assumption of mine is that this person suffered from addiction. Addiction is a disease. What he did was wrong but what he did is also a symptom of the disease. People suffering from addiction need compassion and resources. An act like holding up a pharmacy to get pills is an act of desperation by a person suffering from his addiction. Harsh words and feelings do nothing to improve the situation for anyone or any loved one suffering the effects of this disease. Of course, I too am now receiving all the hate from people about my comment.

Addiction is a polarizing disease. I feel a hopelessness that this young man could only see robbery and shooting himself as a solution to his disease. Who knows what his circumstances were to get to this point but I know there are options. Most times options someone addicted cannot see. 

Until we all see the actions of this man are symptoms of the disease outcomes like this will continue.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Let It Ride

It has been many months since I wrote a post for this blog. Looking at the last post was I wrote was November 23, 2018.  Often I wondered if anyone even reads blogs anymore? Sometimes I even thought about should I take it down?

Last week I got a call from a mother. She remarked that she found peace reading my posts. She related that she didn't feel so alone. I checked and saw new comments to various posts. I even looked at the essays posted on The Partnership for Drug Free Kids, ( and they are still being read and comments being posted on them.

It makes me feel good that people are still getting help from writing. It makes me sad that people still are searching for help in my writing.

So many times I have wondered why we can't put an end to this scourge of drug addiction.

Darlene told me yesterday that an acquaintance of ours, his brother overdosed and died last week.

This morning a teacher that would host me in his classroom to speak to his students wrote me a note that one of his former students (from before I began speaking) died from an overdose. He related how he was a good student, good athlete and a kid everyone loved.

Makes me sad for this child (30 years old) and his family. Makes me sad for all the "statistics" but all those statistics are so much more than a number. They were brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, relatives, friends and human beings that deserved so much more. We deserved so much more from them too. We counted on their love and to be a part of our lives.

As I said to to that teacher that messaged me, I hope every student that heard my talks remembers me and my story when they are challenged.

Never miss an opportunity to extend a hand to someone struggling with addiction or alcoholism. You never know when it is their time to enter recovery. Recovery works. The love you show may be the straw that tips the scale.

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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

You Did, You Did, You Did

How do we help our loved one that is addicted? I struggled mightily with that question for years while I lived a life of a son actively addicted. I was never able to to understand; because my answer usually came down to a simple, I must fix him.

After many years I began to take some of the emotion out and go back to my own tried and true problem solving methodology. Back to the basics.

I'm a pretty simple guy without a single hour of formal education beyond high school so I usually use past experience and analogies from my life to learn. What I applied was something that made it easier to understand where I was in relation to fixing my son.

Many years ago when I was a lot younger I worked as a laborer in the local laborers union. Pretty much most of the time if I wasn't on the end of a 90 pound jackhammer busting out concrete I had a come-along in my hands pouring it back. That experience became a metaphor for life with me.

Life is like a sidewalk. As I walk along that sidewalk I look back over my shoulder. There is a concrete sidewalk behind me with hardened and set concrete. There is nothing I can do to change that concrete now. Around my feet the concrete is wet but it is quickly becoming hard. If I don't keep moving forward I will become trapped in that hardening concrete. In front of me the concrete is wet and pliable. I can shape that concrete any way I chose. I can look back over my shoulder and see the hardened concrete and learn from where I walked but I cannot change it. Ahead of me I can shape the concrete into a path I choose. I can add curves, or hills. I can work it to be as smooth or rough as I want. I have the power to shape my sidewalk. Sometimes I can walk along and do nothing, leaving it rough and ragged, sometimes I am on my knees working it with the care and tenderness of soothing a baby. My sidewalk becomes my choice to design and make.

As the father of an addict I hate to think how many times in discussions* (see definition of yelling) with my son I started everything with "YOU DID......." At the time that was important. "You did" was a way of keeping score and also trying to change the shape of that sidewalk over my shoulder.

After years of learning and reflection I have come to realized no effective discussion begins with, "You did......"

We all do it and most of us have had to done to us. Defensiveness is not a good way to begin any dialouge.

It's hard to do when we are all wrapped in emotion but when we realize and accept the sidewalk behind us is unchangeable we can more easily work on the things that make a difference.

In summary, if we don't work on ourselves first we cannot effectively work with anyone else.

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.

- 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 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.