Main | August 2005 »

July 31, 2005

The Mall

I went to the mall today.  Being male I am probably genetically predisposed to have an aversion to shopping.  Like most men when I need something I go and buy it and rarely go to more than one store to get it.  But there I was today, on a Sunday afternoon, walking down the concourse absently looking at the faces of those that came and went before me.  And then I saw them, a man about my age dressed as I was in shorts, t-shirt, sneakers, a baseball cap and trendy sunglasses.  Beside him was his son, in perfect step, stride for stride, dressed the same except that the khaki shorts, tennis shoes, shirt and sunglasses were all hip designer labels.

Before I knew it they were by me, but that brief encounter was enough.  The ache was already there deep in my stomach, the intensely visceral feeling of grief and loss that comes on you without warning when you have lost a child.  A father at the mall with his son, a boy about the age that David would be today if he were alive.  Dressed like he would be, laughing and smiling like he would, joking with his Dad the way that boys and their fathers have always done.  The way I still desperately want to.

And then they were gone leaving me to my memories, my hurt, and my tears. These encounters are emotional landmines for me, that come out of no where when I least expect them. They can be sights, sounds, smells and taste and I never know when and where they will occur.  Yet when they do I am transported right back to that dark place, that vale of tears, when addiction and substance abuse took away the light in my life that was David.

July 31, 2005 at 10:41 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 23, 2005

Five Stages

Some of you who find your way to this site will be in the early stages of discovery of your child’s drug use.  Others will have been struggling with your young person’s continuing addiction problems for some time now.  And a few, like Marissa and me, come to this place to share our strength and hope that has been forged in the crucible of trial and tragedy.  We all seek answers to questions that sometimes do not have answers and can only be somewhat resolved in our minds by learning from those who are just a little farther down this path than we are ourselves.

The discovery or acknowledgement of substance abuse and addiction in our family begins a period of grieving that is every bit the same as grieving the loss of a loved one.  It begins with denial of the problem, moves to anger directed at ourselves, our loved one or the substance they are abusing, and then turns to bargaining with God or our higher power to be relieved of this problem or loss.  When an answer to our prayer is not forthcoming depression sets in and then, only if we are lucky, eventually we become accepting of what has been inevitable from the beginning.

But whatever brings you to this place and wherever you are on this path, know that it is a journey…not a destination and that you will learn the most from those who have walked this way before.

July 23, 2005 at 11:51 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 20, 2005

A Normal Family???

I know that my first entry is long, involved and full of details….and I do pledge to be a bit less wordy in future entries, but it is essential that you begin to understand the depth and the breathe of addiction and the dark places it can take you both individually and as a family.  When I first heard addiction described as a “family” disease I thought of only the genetic or the inherited qualities the affliction could cause.  What I failed to appreciate was the collateral damage that this disease causes the family and friends who surround the person struggle with substance abuse.  Physical, emotional, psychological, and financial are but a few of the aspects of daily life that are turned upside down for all who are touched but the addict or alcoholic.

It is also essential that you understand that this disease has no regard for ethnicity, gender, age, financial or social status.  After David died we struggle with much that I will relate over time, but in those darkest days, the weeks and the months immediately following our loss, Josh, our older son frequently characterized us as the “good” family, that this kind of “bad” thing is not supposed to happen too. And yes indeed, while David was truly “just your normal high school boy….so were we, “just your normal family”.

July 20, 2005 at 11:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

July 17, 2005

A Beginning

Today I begin my initial foray into the exciting but sometimes intimidating world of the "BLOG".  I must admit that I have found the experience challenging and intriguing  as it affords us an incredible opportunity to communicate in a new way, where we not only publish information but share our stories...our highs,our lows, our triumphs and our tragedies, the joyous places our hearts can soar to and the very dark places that some of us must journey to....against our will.

My name is Kim Manlove and I am not your guide, your tutor or your mentor.  I am just a grateful fellow traveler on this journey where sometimes you may find me just a bit further down the path than you.... at other times you will find me a follower of the footsteps of those who have gone before us.

Our dark journey began in the summer of 2000 my wife Marissa and I discovered that our 15-year-old son David had a substance abuse problem. As most parents when they first make this sort of discovery, we faced myriad emotions, among them anger, confusion and fear. We looked for help and were indeed fortunate that Fairbank Treatment Center in Indianapolis Indiana, was not far away. The treatment center did an initial assessment of our son and recommended that he participate in their Intensive Outpatient Program or IOP. Unfortunately, the program was already at capacity and could not enroll him for several months. So armed with the knowledge that our son did have a serious problem which needed our immediate attention, we spent the next six months working as best we could on our own, to combat it. But, by December of 2000 we came to the realization that we were losing the struggle with David. On New Year’s Eve he came home from a party after dropping acid and abusing . After a painful and tearful confrontation he agreed to seek treatment at the treatment center. Fortunately for us, they were able to accommodate him this time, and so we began the New Year 2001 at Fairbanks and added hope for thr first time to the emotions we were experiencing.

The treatment regimen at the treatment center was not only for David, but for my wife and me as well. Dave attended four meetings a week while my wife and I participated in two, one with him and the other a parent education program for family members. And it was the parent education program that provided us with invaluable information and tools with which to deal with David's addiction. We learned about the disease of chemical dependency, how it is an affliction that is not temporary in nature but more one like diabetes that requires constant attention and monitoring for the rest of ones life. We learned about addiction from a physical, emotional, and psychological perspective, and we learned about relapse, the triggers that cause it, and what we could do to prevent it, or deal with it when it did occur. Finally we learned about love…and how sometimes love enables or facilitates addiction. We learned that sometimes there must be tough love to combat the addiction. And we learned that in the end there is always unconditional love that holds us together and says that while we hate what this addiction is doing to you and to us, we will always love you.

While tentative at first, David did well in the program. He attended meetings faithfully, participated fully in discussions and did not shy away from the intense self-examination that comes when addicts get together in small groups and inevitably strip away the trappings of denial and self pity. After three or four weeks David began to publicly acknowledge that he was an addict -- all the while taking and successfully passing weekly drug tests. He also started attending weekly meetings of Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous and began to search for a sponsor, all necessary elements for success in the Fairbanks recovery program. But the success David was having at the treatment center came at a price. As often happens with recovering addicts, he replaced his drug and alcohol abuse behaviors with other risk-taking activities. He was arrested twice for non-drug related offenses, and his grades at school suffered tremendously. But after two months at Fairbanks he successfully finished the program and graduated to their after-care program of voluntary meetings. He also continued to attend AA and NA meetings and successfully passed regular drug screenings, which were a requirement of his recovery contract with Fairbanks and with us. With the help of some academic tutoring he was able to finish his sophomore year at Lawrence Central High School and officially become a junior. But the specter of relapse was ever-present and was a constant source of worry for my wife and me, so we turned again and again to Fairbanks for guidance and advice on how to face the uncertain future of a recovering addict.

School ended in early June 2001 and David was looking forward to a summer in which he could find a job to make enough money to buy a car, and to try and win back some of the trust that he had lost as a result of his substance abuse. But his desire to get high was very powerful, more powerful than we as his parents knew, and more importantly, more powerful than he knew himself. And so on a beautiful, warm sunny Saturday the second week of June he got up early, mowed the yard, and then asked if he could go swimming with some friends at their pool not far from our home. They swam for a while and then he and a friend left, ostensibly to go get something to eat. But they did not go get something to eat. They went instead to a drug store in the neighborhood and bought a can of computer duster. Some time before his friend had showed David how they could get high by inhaling the propellant from the computer duster, and best of all for David, the chemical in the propellant would not show up on any of the usual drug tests. But inhalants can have deadly side effects that occur without warning. They returned to the pool and began to do what is called huffing; or inhaling the propellant from the can under the water to intensify the high. And on the third or fourth try, David suddenly went into cardiac arrest and drowned before his friends or paramedics could save him.

Many wonder why we share this story of loss and tragedy -- that somehow we failed in all that we as a family, and Fairbanks as a treatment center, tried to do for Dave. And while it is true that his death was tragic and the worst kind of loss parents can endure, we know that the answer is that David died of his addiction -- in spite of all his parents, his friends and the treatment center tried to do to prevent it. The answer is also, that the education and coping skills we learned from the Parent Education Program at the center gave us the tools to understand how powerful addiction can be and to put his death in the perspective that even when you do all the right things and work very hard -- bad things can still happen.

We will forever be grateful to Fairbanks for what they tried to do for David and more importantly what they have done for us to help us understand and cope with his loss. We can't help David now, what we do from here on out is for ourselves and for others.

That is why we do what we do and why we tell our story. A story about just a normal high school boy, a story about our son David

July 17, 2005 at 12:58 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (8)