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August 30, 2005

But Time Is Unforgiving

We are often asked what would we have done differently....knowing what we know now?   Pyschologists and Grief counselor's sometimes call this "fantasy thinking" and recommend that it is unwise to dwell too long on this kind of thought process.  Constant reliving of tragic events where a parent plays out scenario after scenario, of what they might have done to prevent or change the death of their child from addiction, eventually takes one on a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to recover from.

But given a little time and distance there are a couple of things that we can say that we might do differently.  If we could have possibly known David's addiction would cost him his life, we would have intervened earlier and more forcefully with treatment.  We would have worked harder to lift the blinders of denial from our eyes and we would have been more open and direct with David's friends and their parents about his struggle with substance abuse.  We would have been more forthright with the parents of David's using friends to enlist their aid in dealing with our children's abuse of alcohol and drugs, and had they failed to join us we would have asked their assistance in keeping our kids apart, by saying we just don't think our kids are making good choices when they are together so we are not going to allow your child at our house or ours at yours.

But time is unforgiving.

August 30, 2005 at 11:43 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 25, 2005

Why is it allowed?

If you have read some of my earlier posts you know that my son drowned at a friend’s swimming pool while inhaling the propellant from a can of computer duster.  David had been in treatment for six months for substance abuse but had turned to “huffing” because he could legally purchase it at drug stores and he could pass drug screens while using it to get high.  In the four years since his death there have been many questions that have gone unanswered but most prominent among them are these:

Why have the companies involved in the manufacture of aerosol products NOT invested in the development of a non-toxic propellant?

Why is it necessary to use something so lethal to deliver products that are so ubiquitous in our society?

It is estimated that over 120 young people die annually from inhaling propellant from aerosol products like computer duster. 

Isn’t the tragic ending of even ONE life too heavy a price to pay for these companies commercial success?

August 25, 2005 at 11:35 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 22, 2005

"Dust-Off" Urban Legend or Killer

We presented the story of our family's struggle with substance abuse, at a conference earlier this month....something we are being asked to do more and more.  The conference focused on recovery, treatment, and the prevention and education aspects of substance abuse and addiction.  Just prior to our presentation we sat in on a session that was a kind of primer on the continuing Inhalant Abuse problem in the United States. 

The session was standing room only, and at one point a young woman about halfway back in the room raised her hand to ask a question.  “There is a story going around the internet these days”, she said, “about a father who is a police officer who discovers his son dead after inhaling the air from a can of computer duster.”  She paused momentarily as she noted many heads nodding in agreement that they too had heard or seen the story.  “I was wondering,” she continued, “is that some sort of urban legend, it can’t possibly be true can it?  Besides its just air that blows off the dust from your computer….right?”

The presenter hesitated…he wasn’t sure if it was true or not.  I raised my hand and said “Yes it is true; my son died from inhaling the propellant from a can of computer duster”.

The room was silent for a moment and during that momentary stillness I looked into Marissa’s eyes and saw in them what I knew so very well…

That there is still so much to do.

August 22, 2005 at 01:29 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 19, 2005


Why is it that denial of our children’s drug use blinds us so completely, even while their addiction is robbing us of our hopes and dreams for them?

August 19, 2005 at 09:24 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (4)

August 17, 2005

Stop By and Visit Our Son

The next time you are in downtown Detroit Marissa and I would like to

invite you to stop in and see our son. He hangs out in a gallery at the

New Detroit Science Center on John R Street and would welcome a visit.

His name is David and he's a handsome boy, not very tall at 5'8",

but with incredible hazel eyes and a smile that will melt

your heart. You'll enjoy meeting him and learning about his dreams and

the things that are important to a boy his age. He wants to be an

orthopedic surgeon like his grandfather. He loves baseball, has played

catcher ever since he was in Pee Wee Little League and even started a

few times on his high school team. He's a big fan of Rap music too,

Snoop Dog, Master P, Tupac, all fill his world with the rebelliousness

and passion he shares with all sixteen year olds.

Sixteen you say ... Hmmmm ... kind of young to be hanging out by himself

in a place like the Motor CityAnd of course you are absolutely right.

You see his mother and I never wanted him to go there ... not like this.

We worked very hard to try and prevent him from making the decision

that led him there.  We worked withhis friends from childhood,

his girlfriend and even sought professionalhelp, but in the end it was

his decision, one that he made alone, knowing full well what the

consequences could be.  A decision that was made with the surety of life

as seen through the eyes of a 16 year-old, where bad things only happen

to other people.

He drowned that warm sunny day in June 2001 getting high after inhaling

the propellant from a can of computer duster. The poison in the

propellant froze his heart and lungs and though they quickly pulled him

from the pool, it was too late.

And now there his pictures are today, in that store front in downtown

Detroit, part of the Drug Enforcement Agency's Lost Talent section of the

"Target America: Opening Eyes to Damage Drugs Cause" traveling museum

exhibit. Originally the "Lost Talent" section was to feature pictures only of

famous people from film, art and music who have been lost to drug abuse.

Fortunately somewhere along the way a great idea got better when the

decision was made to include unknown people like Dave whose lost talent

and potential has been devastating, not only to his family and friends,

but to our society at large.

Two weeks before Dave died, in the midst of his stuggle with additiciton,

my wife asked him what he wanted to do with his life? And with

all the passion and sincerity that only those hazel eyes and that warm

smile could radiate he said to her, "I want to make a difference in this

world with my life."

And so you have my son ... and so you have.

August 17, 2005 at 02:19 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 08, 2005

The Real Cost of Substance Abuse

The real cost of your drug use is that for all the people you love, and all the people who love you, your addiction robs THEM of their hopes and their dreams...and in some lives they are lost forever.

August 8, 2005 at 09:43 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 05, 2005

A Parent Support Group

After our son completed his Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), Marissa, David and I met with the CEO of the treatment facility to discuss our experience and offer any suggestions we might have to improve their services to make the process more meaningful and helpful to future families.  Among the ideas that we put forward that day was the creation of a "support group" for parents once their adolescent children had completed their treatment regimen.  At that point in time when a young adult finished his IOP or In–Patient Program, they were often referred to an “Aftercare” Program of weekly support meetings, facilitated by a counselor, with adolescents who had completed their programs.

What was missing, we felt, was an “Aftercare” program for parents who faced this early part of their son or daughters recovery with the same fear and anxiety that had gripped them when they had first come to the treatment center. And their concerns are well founded.  The bad news is that 78% of adolescents will relapse in the first six months after treatment…however there is SOME good news to this scary statistic.  Of those who relapse in their first six months 28% were abstinent for the next 6 months, and 40% of them have short term, low consequences relapses and rapidly return to sobriety.

So it was not unusual for parents, fresh out of the family education and treatment programs, to face the uncertainty of early recovery with a myriad of questions and concerns….

What do I do if she relapses?  What do I do if he breaks our recovery contract?  How do I react when I see using behaviors start up again?  What do I do if she lies to me?  Can I stop him from seeing his old using friends?  This is where we thought the parent support group could make the most difference.  A group that would bring together post-treatment parents who were new in the recovery of their young adults with other parents who were one, three, six months or a year ahead of them on the same path.  A support group that would continue to be there not only in the early days of recovery, but in the months and years ahead if the need should arise.  A support group that would continue to be refreshed as new families completed their treatment regimen and sought answers to their question in this next phase of their journey.

August 5, 2005 at 04:23 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 04, 2005

Our Children

Sometimes our children come into our lives and quickly go.

But no matter how long they grace us with their presence

they still move our souls to dance.

They awaken within us a new understanding of life with

the passing whisper of their wisdom.

Our children make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon

and our world more wondrous to live in.

And though they stay in our lives for only a while,

they leave footprints on our hearts...

and we are never, ever the same.

(With apologies to Flavia Weedn)

August 4, 2005 at 01:07 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 03, 2005

The Basketball Goal

The basketball net on the goal in our driveway hangs limp against the gray August sky.  The rim is bent slightly down from summers gone by when our boys held "slamdunk" contests with their friends.  None of Bigstockphoto_basketball_hoop_3400321_s600x600 them could actually reach the rim unassisted...so they usually supplemented their efforts with a kitchen chair or a step ladder.  The pole is weathered and rusted from tweleve years of rains and snow but still stands erect and ready, offering it's sagging net, hoping to tempt a young hand and a well used basketball to plumb the depths of its frayed nylon weave.

Occasionally I heed the call, take up the ball. dribble and shoot, dribble and shoot, but never for very long.  Usually I leave while the images of the past continue on with their play.  Sometimes I hear David's voice in his mocking tone that I am too old and too slow for him.  That's when I kneel to the ground under the old net, my back to the street so no one can see me cry.

August 3, 2005 at 10:13 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1)