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October 30, 2005

My Older Son Josh

This past week a dear friend of mine asked me how my older son Josh was doing now four and a half years after his brother's death from addiction.  Josh is three years older than Dave and they had grown up very close with Josh always comfortable in his role as the protective and caring older brother.  Their relationship had become somewhat strained in the high schol years as each other made their way through different circle of friends.  But as Josh headed off to college for his freshman year a rapprochement of closeness had begun that we, as their parents were convinced would carry them through adulthood.

Despite being away at college, it was Josh who repeated who repeatedly sounded the alarm of David's escalating addicition, eventually piercing the enabling and denial of his parents.  It was Josh who mobilized his and David's own friends to constantly monitor his brothers activities and report their concerns to his parents.  And in the end, it was Josh who was there with his Mother during those first unspeakable hours following his brother's death while I flew back from Arizona where I had been visiting my father.

I shot hoops in our driveway with Josh last night where the three of us boys once played endless games of "HORSE".  Josh got married last year to Angie, a close high school friend who was of incredible support to him after Dave died.  Marissa and I so cherish our new daughter who's beauty is only eclipsed by her gentle warmth and eternal kindness. They have a cute little apartment and are both in graduate school studying counseling.  Josh is working an internship this semester counseling adolescent first offenders while Angie is working at a youth shelter.  They both hope to continue on with their studies and perhaps pursue academic careers.

As it is for us all, life goes one...especially when we wish we could either stop it or turn it back.  In those first few days and weeks after the tragedy we railed against the merciless march of time and cursed each new dawn.  But with the passage of time acceptance  returned slowly, although it never returns completely....and we once again embraced the new day with the hope and the joy that it once held for us.   And at the heart of that hope and joy is my older son Josh and his new wife Angie, following their dreams and making their own way on their own journey.

My oldeJoshandangier son Josh is well.

Thank you so much for asking.

October 30, 2005 at 08:37 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2005


To say that I am not a fan of reality TV shows would be a gross understatement.  Placing supposedly ordinary people who undergo an extensive screening process to assure their normalcy, in extraordinarily contrived situations, holds no cinematic attraction for me and never will.

However, I have become a devotee of a new kind of reality show that recently debuted on the Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E).  It’s called INTERVENTION and it is as brutally honest and real as most network reality shows are deceitful and lame.  Each week the show not only profiles adolescents and adults who struggle with addiction but they also chronicle the collateral damage done to their families as well. 

The dialog is unscripted; the locations are homes, motels, streets, dumpsters and overpasses. The principle characters don’t act; they live their pain, their hopelessness, their denial and their fear, sharing it with the camera, all of it reality at its most humbling.  Family members and friends share their pain with real life counselors who are experts in performing “interventions” where the addicts are confronted with their addictions and offered treatment.  Most episodes end with some sort of update on how the addicts fare in recovery, detailing successes of sobriety as well as relapses.

In my view INTERVENTION is reality television as it should be, weekly stripping away the denial and the stigma of substance abuse.  Judge for yourself.

October 25, 2005 at 07:59 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2005

The Tattoo

I have a tattoo on my wrist of the number 24 which is most often hidden by my watch.  24 was the uniform number my son David wore when he played baseball for his high school team here in Indianapolis.  The two and the four are in block digits and are done in his school colors, maroon and black.  It fits nicely under my watch where no one can see it.  But I know it is there.  I got it a year after Dave died, an aging university dean who looked incredible out of place walking into the Tattoo and Body Piecing Den.  It took me a while to convince the “artists” on staff that my request was serious and that I was not some irate father who’s under age son or daughter had come home with a satanic image indelibly etched on the back of their young shoulder.

I wanted this tattoo…and I wanted done that day.

It had taken me a year to get up the courage to enter that den of iniquity but I had known for some time that they had something there that I needed.  In those first horrible weeks after Dave died when a veil of tears cloaked us tightly, I grew a beard, something I had never done in my entire life.  I never liked facial hair, and as it got longer my dislike seemed to grow proportionally.  It itched, was a magnet for food and I was constantly tugging at it.  But still I was driven by some nameless desire to let it grow.

And then one day it dawned on me that my need was not so much to do something I had never done before but that I desired some sort of overt symbol, a mark or sign that I was different, that I was not the same as I was before   Something that would represent the fact that my son’s death from substance abuse had not only fundamentally altered my life, but that I was changed and that change was irrevocable.

And so the 24 became that symbol, my indelible mark, etched on my body, a permanent reminder for me that while I hold David’s memory as a treasure close to my heart, I am marked by his death forever.

October 22, 2005 at 01:35 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2005

Saturday Mornings at the Treatment Center

As I write this I am volunteering at a local treatment center staffing the bookstore.  It is the center that my son was attending when he died and the same center I entered two years later when the “self-medication” of my grief and depression with alcohol and prescription drugs took its inevitable ugly turn making my life unmanageable and robbing me of what little hope and joy I had been struggling to preserve. 

I drove by this center for more than 15 years, knowing that it was here but never venturing within its grounds.  I wasn't exactly sure what went on here.  I knew the center had something to do with alcoholics and drug addicts but that was about the extent of it.  While there was no barbed wire or containment fencing, I suspected (and hoped) it was some sort of secure or locked down facility.  And unfortunately, like most in our society I was convinced the center housed weak willed individuals whose addictions had rendered them homeless, unemployable and morally bankrupt.

My enlightenment has come at a heavy cost, the death of my son from addiction and the humbling acknowledgment of my own disease of substance abuse.  And yet I am not bitter.  Working here every Saturday morning I am surrounded by those I used to look down upon in my ignorance and arrogance.  Wonderful people from all walks of life and age groups, who come here to rebuild their lives, rediscover hope and seek new joy.  We are your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers and your loved ones.

October 17, 2005 at 12:37 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 16, 2005

Tragedy and Inevitablity

Last night I slipped downstairs to our darkened kitchen for the proverbial "late night snack".  As I opened the door to the freezer the soft light from the compartment illuminated the array of family photos on the refrigerator side that one finds in any home across this country.  Tucked in the middle of the menagerie is a picture taken at Christmas 2000 of two proud parents and their two beaming sons in front of our family room fireplace.  Image Happiness and joy radiate from the faces in the picture and yet as I gaze upon it five years later my heart aches for the son who is now absent from the touch of our fingers and the embrace of our arms.

Aristotle said that "tragedy reflects the inevitability of death" and that tragedy occurs when certain social conditions combine with hereditary predispositions.  I'm not sure how I feel about the inevitability portion of the great philosopher's equation, but I do know how I feel about tragedy...I feel it's ache, it's emptiness and it's sorrow every day.  And if by sharing our story and our hope we can help one child and one family from feeling what we feel today then perhaps we can hold at bay tragedy's inevitability one life and one family at a time.

October 16, 2005 at 01:20 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 14, 2005

A Recovery High School

Since David died in the Spring of 2001 Marissa and I have become involved in a number of initiatives at both the national and the local level.  One of those projects ihas been the creation of a new charter school in Indianapolis called Recovery High which is affiliated with a local treatment center.  This school will serve adolescents in grades 9 through 12 who have been through treatment programs and are seriously committed to their recovery.  Statistics tell us that 90% of kids who come out of treatment and return to their local schools are offered their drug of choice the first day they are back in school.  Recovery High will offer students a supportive recovery atmosphere where they can complete their high school work while continuing their life long journey of being substance free.

This past Monday the Recovery High School charter passed it's final political hurdle when it was approved by the City-County Council of Indianapolis in a unanimous vote that marked the first time in Council history a new Charter was approved without opposition.

October 14, 2005 at 03:52 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)