Blog Posts

The Next Journey, A New Direction

I’ve spent the last four years writing posts, creating a blog, doing a podcast, speaking at meetings, telling the story of my four sons, two who fell prey to substance abuse. I feel I’ve told the story, as a multitude of others, so many times that it no longer seems to change things in my mind. The number of overdoses and deaths has continued to rise with each of the four years. One son died and the other has been in active recovery for nearing four years. I am grateful that so many people, to include my recovering son, helped me gain some understanding of drug and alcohol addiction. I will continue to try and understand and offer help to those suffering from addiction as well as those who care so much.
I am a member of the elder generation (seventy-seven to be exact) and as most, aware that my time is limited to help, but it has moved to the top of my bucket list. I did a podcast titled “Journey to a Good Place”. That’s where I am. Believe me, I was far distant from any such place for so many years. Addiction to my own anger towards my first addicted son ate away anything that was decent in me. I found myself insensible and thought that it was all about choice. The second son’s addiction only increased this misery and anger.
I was fortunate that my higher power had me look into my second sons’ eyes as we turned him away to a distant detox facility and I found strength and a willingness and vowed not to see another son succumb to this disease. His eyes opened mine. I saw how lost he was and so young to deal with the challenge in front of him. I saw his brother’s battle for years only to end life itself.
I was so filled with anger that I never tried to search for answers. Reaching out was not on my agenda. His mom had no such weakness and sought help with a local NAR-ANON group. My initial instinct was to go with her to support her. This particular group cross-talked and the stories the first evening convinced me that I was not letting his mom go through this without me by her side. Here we learned each week more and more about addiction and what our role was in healing ourselves and in turn helped our son realize we loved him dearly and that the hard work for recovery was up to him to process for active recovery.
From this point I started my own recovery. I listened intently to people, sponsors, addicts, news articles, followed social media daily that dealt with success and failures. It became an obsession and I started my journal, where many of my posts originated from. I could sense the changes in my mind. I was experiencing the same feelings my son was going through. There was a physical, mental and emotional healing happening and I gained strength each day that I made the journey with this son.

I realized if I really opened my eyes and mind, that my son who died was fighting a battle that so many before and since lost. I accepted that substance abuse was a disease and as such required so much effort for healing and most importantly that love and support contribute to the healing rather than a give up attitude or a father who suffers from total misunderstanding. It becomes a matter of understanding drug and alcohol abuse is a disease much the same as any physical or mental illness and as such deserves love and support. You see the individual suffering no different than the youngest to oldest going through devastating diseases that exist throughout the world . Oppression only hampers any healing or success towards recovery.

For myself, I feel there is still some unexplained need for me to become more active in providing a service to those people and projects working directly with those suffering from substance abuse. There are many private, townships and state organizations who work daily in providing aid to those in need. I hope to satisfy this bucket item by contacting these organizations to see if there if there is some way I can help. There are positions like recovery coaches that can provide help if doing nothing more than making coffee for meetings. The point is they are taking an active role in helping and not talking about it. I needed to put my story for social media to examine and take away benefit if there was something there that helped. The next level for my own satisfaction now is to actively help in some manner. I do not see the heartbreaking stories going by the wayside nor the number of overdoses and deaths decreasing. One death from drugs or alcohol is unacceptable to anyone who has lost someone they love and cared for. This epidemic demands so much more help than exists today. Those of us directly affected by this disease, need to reach out to those fortunate enough to somehow escaped this social disaster, that their voices are needed as well. Together we need to seek every avenue possible to make certain we start seeing overdoses and deaths start decreasing and not increasing. This disease does not sit secretly from the public to see. It reveals itself each and every day to all those who look closely and realize the next victim may be someone you love dearly.

Lessons from Those Addicted

Over the years I’ve found that there is much to learn from the addict, especially those in active recovery. Having dealt with two sons fallen victim to substance abuse, one succumbed to the disease and the other nearing four years recovery, as a parent you search almost daily for explanation and some degree of understanding. To be sure as a society we still search for answers and all possible aid to reduce the suffering caused by this disease. The battle continues daily and at the same time victims mount up.

I myself have found from success and failure that recovery has a better chance where the real lessons come from those in active recovery and have experienced and know full well the hard work involved. They also know support is vital to the journey. If we as parents and those caring step back and realize as my recovering son says “if you’ve never been an addict, you’ll never fully understand” So what are we do? Are we to stand by and watch in pain? To me, my answer was to look in all direction for success stories and how they related to the paths of these two young victims. Information resides throughout social media on successful measures used by many in active recovery.

I decided to become deeply involved. I looked for stories, meetings, books and programs that would help. Before long I found answers to success and failure. I also learned quickly to be non-judgmental. I don’t believe any us who have never been involved with active addiction can do more than suggest. I listened carefully to both active and recovering addicts.

I’ve visited a good number of detox, rehab and sober living facilities over the years and found those actually operated by well-educated active recovery personnel seemed to have a higher success rate in dealing with addiction. Most of these facilities operate on a “been there, done that” program. They know the journey, the steps needed. They know that the entire body needs healing, emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally.
You soon see the path is not a short time fix. My deceased son visited rehabs regularly. I say visited as they were short stints and he had no interest in truly reaching out. The programs were a weak attempt to detox, attend lectures, and explain dangers. The son in recovery spent thirty days in detox facility and eighteen months in rehab and sober living. He learned from counselors, therapists, residents in sober living and his own search for understanding the immense challenge in front of him. He established life-lines with his sponsor, recovering friends and the loved and support from his waiting family and friends at home. The burden of recovery fell on his shoulders and he knew it and was determined to make it through the first time (which he did).
At the same time, we need to heal ourselves. This journey is no easier than those suffering from substance abuse. As parents, family and friends we attempt to carry on our daily jobs without constant thoughts of those actually addicted. Again, a difficult task. As we reach out, just as the addict, we can find hope from those who are or have traveled the same path. It comes back to lessons learned for us as well as the addict.
In the case of substance abuse actual firsthand experience, with multiple years of recovery, seems the best guide, especially to those in early recovery. The same holds true for us. There are real life stories, meetings and people who know full well what you’re going through. At the same time, they do not judge but want to help you in any way possible. They will suggest rather than direct you as they know there is no single answer. When bumps in the road comes up that acts as a trigger to you or your addict, a list of contacts is available who are more than ready to give aid. Everyone concerned needs support to combat this battle. I would venture to say that when we become directly involved with substance abuse, we become “clients” ourselves seeking help.

Searching for Recovery

As a society, we stress and empathize the negativity associated with substance abuse. It goes without saying that almost if not all things dealing with addiction have pain and suffering for both the addict and those trying to help. We read and see throughout social media overdose, relapse and death daily. Pictures of beautiful young people before and after they fell prey to this dreadful disease show the physical damage. The stories and obituaries read of the mental and emotional stress to those who care.

Maybe we need to reach for the stories of recovery and the wonderful changes that occur as active addiction journeys toward active recovery. There are a multitude of stories of recovery and the happiness that evolved. The changes in lifestyle and quality of life are heartwarming and should give hope to those suffering. We need more spotlight on the benefits of recovery and maybe a bit less of the drawbacks and the grim future. Those suffering with substance abuse have little self-control in escaping without a great deal of support and help from those knowing the hard work that is required to cleanse one’s self. Our part as parents, spouses and friends is love and support. By support I’m not talking about enabling but rather encouragement, praise, and above all love even if at a distance. It is as important to those caring as it is to those addicted. Blaming yourself, anger and loss of hope have no value where addiction is involved.

There is more than enough information published today describing that substance disorders are a disease and as such need to be attacked in the same manner as any other deadly disease. Extensive research is taking place throughout the country to address this epidemic. It’s obvious that there is no single pill or treatment that will make this go away. As we find ourselves in a standby position, we can only reach out for help and support for ourselves and our addict. Joining support groups, whether the addict or those caring, will get help from lessons learned good and bad. It becomes a search for understanding of substance abuse. The more we learn, the better we are prepared to meet all the obstacles, end the chaos, and learn how to take back our lives.

Bumps in the road are frequent, especially in early recovery. If the one addicted has done the hard work involved by attending meetings, finding a sponsor, working the 12 steps, and associating with friends in active recovery, he or she has helpful tools to meet those bumps. Basically, for those of us caring, we can do the same. We need our own set of tools. We need to take baby steps in how we look and understand at addiction.

Both sides need to be prepared for a long and difficult journey. There are many recovery stories and we want to make every effort to be one of those stories.

The Right Choice (for the addict and those who care)

The subject of addiction brings on a whole host of issues requiring choice on the part of the addict and those caring. Some choices need to made in rapid fashion while others require planning and careful thought of the pros and cons of the choices made. Whether an immediate or future decision, the choice can help or hinder recovery.

From the initial start of the path to recovery, each of us must understand that we know little to absolutely nothing regarding the journey in front of us. The person addicted no doubt is not in any position to think clearly or may not even care. On the other hand, those of us caring may be much the same. Unless we have been confronted with this disease beforehand, we may clueless as to where to begin. Someone like myself, having lost a son to drugs and alcohol, had preconceived notions that were totally useless in helping and may have caused more damage than good. With the second son’s addiction his mom and I decided to reach out and find help.  At this point we attended our first NAR-ANON meeting and started searching possible answers.

First and above all NAR-ANON stressed to us the three “C” s. I believe these must be driven into you mind from the begging: you did not cause it, you cannot control it and lastly, you cannot cure it. If you attempt to use these points as base, it may help you with your own well-being and the addict as well. The journey to active recovery will be a lifelong challenge but there are many success stories out there to help and guide your choice.

if your addict truly wants to regain sobriety and willing to be put to this difficult task, there is a host of options awaiting their choices. I think both parties must be prepared for relapse. This journey will deal with the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional strains on the body as never before. if you can come into the battle, understanding the foe, there is always hope. One thing added to the base for myself was to remember love and support. Love is the strongest of the virtues and the hardest to deal with.

Addiction is a poor example place to seek out love, therefore those who care have an additional decision to make. Once again one of the hardest ever met. Keeping love on top of the requirements can help you over the rough spots or bumps in the road. The addict may be blinded by the disease but every clear moment he or she feels sorrow for the damage done to those loved. I’ve heard and seen the addicts in recovery cry and shame themselves over and over again. The pain is as deep or deeper than we realize as they may no longer be directly involved with our lives. Understanding their suffering will enforce your feeling of love and support.

I’m not talking about financial support but love and encouragement. If you end every conversation with I love you, you may just be giving them that piece of hope that they still have not been abandoned by those they loved so much before falling prey to something that only has one goal and that’s to control your mind and spirit. The disease has no concern for the consequences of the addict’s choice to use and most certainly has no concern for those suffering along with those addicted.

This topic is only to point out the importance of our choice towards recovery on both sides of addiction. There is a magnitude of information on social media that may help. Participating in meetings with real life stories, joining support groups, books, podcast and other sources can guide you to your best hope.

Relapse From the Other Side

Relapse should not only be associated with those with drug and alcohol behavioral issues. It can occur with those trying to provide help in some way because of love or fear of the outcome. Myself, I fell victim to anger and total misunderstanding of what addiction was with regards to drugs and alcohol. It can be as difficult to change action and behavior and may require as much recovery time and effort.

One of the major issues is that we try to pretend that it is non-existent to those around us. We continue life not realizing the behavior is like a slow growing cancer and unless treated can result with dire consequences. Relapse is almost a certainty if we are unwilling to change behavior and seek understanding of the disease. I have in the past explained my own failure. Having lost one son to drugs and alcohol, I choose the wrong path and saw a second son addicted to drugs as no different than the one lost. The damage done to myself was as devastating as the damage to the second son. The emotional, physical, mental and spiritual parts of my life fell aside along with my sons, both in this case.

My second son has been in active recovery for close to four years. Our conversations during this timeframe are more like friend to friend rather than father to son. I have been able to realize faults on my part that had a direct affect on how I viewed addiction. Occasions surfaced that made me step back and relook at my actions or reactions to the journey both sons elected toward healing.

I was guilty of various measures to catch them in a lie or just plain red handed in the act of using drugs. I reminded myself that I too did the same thing with my first son. I kept a journal which was an extension of where and what I was before. I recorded all the deceit, money dealings, stealing, evidence of drug use, passing out, arrests. It was a story of the deceased son once again. There was nothing going on that I had not been plagued with for so many years. I still had no understanding of addiction but stood back and let it happen. This is not to take credit for anything. This is not I told you so. I was loaded with anger once again and could only see a bad ending. I have no idea why I did not push earlier to get help. I guess I sat back and waited for what’s called desperation. My real freight was would it be in time. I did not have a clue what desperation was and how anyone but the Addict could predict when it would happen. I’ve learned since then with conversation with this son and others that it just happens. No real definitive or logical reason. It happens. That is scary. To think you return to sobriety and happiness is as much a mystery as death itself.

I was an all-out investigator waiting to repress my own son. I was busy looking to accuse and gain satisfaction knowing I was right. This is what a good father does? Where was love? Where was understanding? It surly was not inside of me. Where was my point of desperation? Was I waiting for a bad ending as before so I could live in misery for whatever remained of my life? Looking back is not normally a good thing but I think maybe in recovery such as mine, it might be good to see the way I choose to live. Take a good look at myself inside and out and see if you can find a person deserving any level of true happiness. I see a life concentrating on staying miserable. I’m grateful to those who repeatedly admonished me and convinced me to take action to go back and see what was going on in my life. I don’t see it as a bad thing to review past mistakes and see what lessons you have learned. Again it seems there is a need for some group or place that looks for reason and understanding of the second time around individual. There is a need to look at past and put it into the present situation and somehow fix both in order to save yourself.

Obviously subjects scatter about in my journal make no sense to someone reading my recorded thoughts but they are a record of my behavior and actions of a particular journey in my life. I can open it and read as a book providing me with more and more perception every day. It is a text book for me to study and grade myself on my behavior and am I getting better. Discovery is a major aid in learning about one’s behavior.

There have been far too many other events during this journey where my behavior and actions were not helpful to my sons or myself. Even today I still feel I’ve relapsed at times but because I keep an open mind and reach out to understand I regain self-assurance. I have confidence in my recovering son that he has the recovery tools to avoid relapse. Myself, I continue to learn and understand why my own behavior and actions kept me from enjoying life itself. I’m in a better place for seeking understanding not only the addict behavior but my own as well. I feel regret and pray for forgiveness from my deceased son. Not that I could have stopped him but for not understanding. Relapse does not have to be solely associated with drugs and alcohol. Fear of the outcome can be replaced with love and trust that tragedy can be prevented.

Addiction- Understanding Both Sides of Heartache

How much more can be written about addiction? There are limitless stories of death, relapse, heartache and recovery throughout every form of social media. It’s unfortunate that more stories are of fallen victims and the suffering left afterward. With all that has been written, few describe the pain and suffering for those with user disorder and their connection with those also affected by the disease.
Each has their own indescribable heartache but separated by distance, minus communication, support, love and understanding only makes healing and success more difficult for each. The question becomes how we assure those involved are each working towards continued recovery. The idea of relapse diminishes as days grow to weeks, months and years. Our son has managed to remain clean by staying busy and doing what he needs to do as far meetings, working with his sponsor and the steps. It is time for him to move on but it will require our help. He is still young lacks the ability to stay focused and continually deals with mental and health issues. As parents, we feel the need to provide some help as he enters into maturity. As a young man, now in his early twenties, his time in active recovery has strengthened our belief in his abilities and those of our own.
Listening to each side of the distress of addiction from the addict and those caring can provide more insight that how much love must remain for both. There is no room for hate and anger as I so often experienced. Hate and anger makes you blind to any real solution. As a society we should be looking for cures much the same as for cancer or any other disease. I understand full well all that is involved and can only hope that a cure is not too far down the road before we lose so many young lives. I can only speak to what I myself have found to give me strength and his strength to survive. As a family, we are following our own healing process yet we have been together from the beginning. We know each is working towards healing and know without doubt there is love and understanding that precedes us and guides our behavior towards each other.
Addiction brings out the worst of us. The anger and hate for those suffering because of the addict and the lying, hurtful and deceitful circumstances of the addict themselves. There is no good behavior or actions associated with addiction. We are talking about unacceptable emotional behavior that can only result in severely damaging or ending any relationship. Open minds during these difficult times is so difficult. The active addict’s mind has chosen to think only of themselves and the means to satisfy their habit. I’m not sure anyone can define or project desperation on the part of an addict to where there is a willingness to put aside the habit and seek help. It may never happen and as result those with hope and love will need even more support to endure.
Somehow it seems there is a need to look even deeper into those cases where success resulted. I believe you will see that love and support was a contributing factor toward the reason for success. The addict gained strength from knowing that his or her family has not abandoned them. Isolation, both from the addict and the family does more harm than good especially if the final result is death of the addict. With death the addict suffers no more but those who gave up love and hope will continue to feel great pain, possibly until they themselves give up life. Healing is a result of both sides working together to reach out. Asking for help can give each a better chance of recovery. Isolation for the addict such as self-medicating, or for the family unwillingness to change or understand, makes the opportunity of success more difficult.

Sober Living Transition to Reality

 

Recently I read where church and community groups were organizing to step in and help people living in the streets and homeless become independent and rejoin society. This is of course a massive effort and I hope they are successful with their venture. One major point made in the piece I read was that some would be up to the challenges involved and other may see the task as so overwhelming and end up back in the very life they wanted to leave.

After finishing eighteen months, living each moment, day to day in a rehab facility in Florida, my son and his roommate who has become part of the family were given notice that they completed recovery and had sixty days to depart from the facility. Not sure of how all that comes about but no doubt money is involved at some point or need of beds. It now becomes decision making time. In most cases users arrive and depart with a duffle bag of belongings. Get ready, get set, go out into the big world and fend for yourself.  Are they able to make the transition?

NAR-ANON expresses certain “suggestions” throughout meetings. Enabling is  to be avoided. They do say that if your addict is in recovery, you may help. Believe me, they need help as much as they needed it in rehab. They finally start to gain some sense of reality and now face real situations. They may have been users since the teen years and have not a clue of the way of the world. As our son’s parents we made the decision to step in and help. Call it enabling but having lost one son, time and cost goes out the window. How much would I pay to have him back? I am guilty of insuring this son has every opportunity to continue recovery.

I spent over a month in Florida with my son and his roommate trying to assist them in transition. I’ve had to relearn many things myself during the time spent with them and the many individuals you deal with as you set things up with minimal issues. Their work schedules and hours left me with idle time. I decided I would attend NA and NAR-ANON meetings to get a different perspective on how things differ from those at home. I also wanted to meet with their sponsors who have been their life line these past months. I will address this subject at another time as it is more a session of learning for me.

My primary goal was to act as a mediator, advisor and help them learn to budget. I also acted a guarantee of the lease which was a crucial decision for them and myself as well.  They agreed the rent would be sent to us bi-weekly and we would make sure payment was on time. The utilities, food, etc. were theirs to manage. What they had in their favor was eighteen months of sobriety, jobs, minimal savings and some furniture stored at their homes. It was enough to get them started. I had brought a trailer of furniture that had been stored in our basement. The family had provided pieces of furniture, lamps, silverware, pots and pans that they no longer needed. On their days off, we filled in other needs at the Goodwill, Restore, Salvation Army, and yard sales. I also helped them with shopping and learning to prepare economical meals. I will not go over all the learning sessions only to say it was very difficult and for two young men a huge endeavor.

They’ve been on their own for almost two years now and all payments are on time. They have moved to other better paying job still associated with user treatment centers. They made the choice to continue their recovery and have made new friends and reunited with family lost during the time of addiction. I only mention this as a good story, not to be mistook for the norm. My point is that with a proper amount of recovery time and regained trust as parents we should be able to help in some way we see suitable. We should not feel guilty. The goal for each of us is to return to sobriety and once again enjoy happiness.

As parent(s), family members, friends we have to decide when to step back in to the life of the users. You may set boundaries in all related matters concerned with the transition in order to minimize your own stress and that of the person active recovery. Everything dealing with addiction is choice. Hopefully, working together will prove successful.