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December 31, 2005

An Equal Opportunity Disease

We are accustomed as a society to see the disclaimer at the bottom of company promotional brochures proclaiming that they are “An Equal Opportunity Employer”, signifying that they do not discriminate in the hiring of employees.  For those of us who have a loved one who suffers from addiction we also know that Substance Abuse is an “Equal Opportunity” disease. 

Addiction is no respecter of race, gender, creed, education or economic status.  Our two parent family, our advanced degrees and the nice house in an affluent section of town did not insulate our family from the tragic consequences of chemical dependency.  Parents in suburban areas persist in believing the myth that affluence somehow inoculates their children from substance abuse.  Current research continues to show that Parents believe drug abuse ranks near the top of problems faced by their kids today, the irony is however, that Parents DO NOT believe the problem can or does affect their OWN children.

If you are a parent who is visiting and reading this Blog for the first time and you think that your kids are immune from the scourge of this disease, please know that you are dead wrong….and unfortunately I do mean dead.

December 31, 2005 at 06:57 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Tonight after Mass we stopped to see some friends who have an annual Christmas Eve party.  They have been a part of our lives since our children were in grade school together and, like many, have been of great comfort and strength to us since David's death.  The gathering is a time for good food and casual conversation catching up on the events of the past year and plans for the new one.

We had not intended to stay long and as we made our goodbyes one friend wished me a Merry Christmas, and then lowering his voice said.... "I guess tonight you miss David the most." 

"No", I replied, "I miss him the most...every night". 

December 24, 2005 at 11:03 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2005

Coach Dungy

The news of the death of Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy's 18 year old son yesterday was a reminder to us that no matter how much time has passed since our own son's loss... we can be immediately transported back in time to that day 4 1/2 years ago when we began our journey to the heart of darkness that surrounds the Dungy family now.  They are cloaked in a veil of tears today and for weeks to come marking their initiation into this club that no one ever wants to join. 

For parents the loss of a child is a violation of a law of nature that we are never to die before our children.  In those days that immediately follow the loss we sleep walk through the blur of family and friends who seem to swirl around us... our bodies and minds numb to our own existence.  We curse the sun that rises  and sets, the world that continues to turn when our world has totally stopped. 

This past spring our family was recognized for our work in sharing David's story by a local community service organization.  Coach Dungy was the keynote speaker at the activity and we had a chance to talk with him briefly after the ceremony.  He shook our hands and in his soft and quiet way he congratuated us and said, "I can't imagine what it is must be like to lose a child".

I am so sorry Coach that you know now, may God raise you and your family up.

December 23, 2005 at 04:22 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 22, 2005

Tuesdays With Addicts

I went to my regular Tuesday meeting at the treatment center this week and sat in my usual chair.  The chair is at the farthest corner of the room opposite the door.  This is an all men's meeting that includes adolescents and adult in-patients as well as alumni of the treatment center like me.  I sit in the same chair every week because I can clearly see each person's face as they shuffle into the room at a halting gait.  While the names change every week, the faces are always the same...exhibiting the familiar cross-section of emotions and attitudes one usually finds at an in-patient facility.  The emotions range from looks of bewilderment, anger, belligerence, shame, arrogance, grief and hopelessness.

Conventional wisdom might hold that a facility like this expects its largest influx of patients after the New Years Eve parties have taken their toll forcing the alcoholics and addicts to surrender to their inevitable fate... and yet, here we are the week before Christmas and Hanukkah, and there is not an empty bed to be had in the facility nor an empty chair in the room of my Tuesday's with Addicts group. 

I had mentioned in an earlier entry that this time of year is extremely difficult for those whose struggle with substance abuse and their families.  Not because of the endless round of holiday parties and the temptation that presents but rather the loneliness, depression and sorrow that accompanies the disease of addiction and which is intensified by the emotions of the season.  While so many of celebrate the light, joy and hope of the end of the old year and the coming of the new, the addict, young or old, feels only the shame, hopelessness and darkness that has colored their past year and promises to remain unchanged if they continue down their present path.

What many of the in-patients don't know in my Tuesdays with Addicts meeting...is that they can regain hope, they can feel joy again and they can rebuild their lives if they will embrace the program of recovery that is offered.  Recovery does work, I see that in the faces of others like me who come to volunteer at the treatment center, who give back what was so freely given to us.  And in giving it away we are allowed to keep a measure of it for ourselves.

And so I'll be there next Tuesday...as usual. 

December 22, 2005 at 03:21 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 18, 2005

Our Hopes and Dreams For Our Children

As parents we have hopes and we have dreams for our children.  The dreams begin before they are  born when we may hope for a boy or a girl but certainly hope for a healthy child,  The dreams continue through childhood when we hope for success in school, popularity among peers, athletic ability or musical talent.  In adolescence the dreams persist but on a grander scale as we hope that achievement in sports or academics will be indicators of success in life.  A scholarship, a high school diploma. admission to college all become the artificial benchmarks by which we measure our hopes and our dreams for our children.

But substance abuse can exact a heavy price on our dreams for our children.  It may delay them for a while, alter them irrevocably or destroy them, leaving us to mourn over what we thought was once witin our grasp.  We grieve the loss of what WE wanted for our children which in the end was not really totally within our power to control.  But with knowledge about the disease of addiction, and the understanding that with intervention and treatment there can be recovery, we can restore hope to our lives and recapture our dreams.  Those hopes and dreams may not be exactly what we had intended for our children, but in the end the only thing we can truly promise them is our unconditional love. 

December 18, 2005 at 10:49 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 17, 2005

I'm Glad You're Here

While I consider myself somewhat technologically sophisticated I don't begin to appreciate the megabyte magic behind the World Wide Web or this Blog.  All I know is that when I type my thoughts and memories into this computer and press a button, suddenly you can instantly see inside my soul.

I don't know where you are right now, geographically or emotionally.  I don't know how you got here...how out of millions of sites on the Web...you ended reading these words.  But I AM glad you are here.  I do believe that finding your way here was no accident.  And if you are here because someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction and you don't know where to turn the website of the Partnership for a Drug Free America is a great place to start. www.drugfree.org

Here you will find that there is help, there is hope and there is healing. 

And most of all you will find that you are not alone.

December 17, 2005 at 05:33 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 15, 2005

Childhood’s End

-- for David Manlove –

                If we could turn back the sweep of time …

swaddle you again among layers of childhood –

hope like air for the soul

would find its way in and

breathing it deeply

you would be strengthened

and sustained.


as a matter of course

you would inch your patient way through

parting layers of adolescence

and slowly unfold

a glistening destiny –

if only time

would obey …

                             Myrna Gray



December 15, 2005 at 10:19 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2005

Happy Birthday Dave

This Sunday will be David's 21st birthday.  I say "will be" because even though he lost his battle with substance abuse four years ago, his family and friends will celebrate the joy of his life and the grace that it brought to our lives in the all too short time he was with us. 

It is natural I think for all of us to mark our existence in this life by celebrating certain milestones.  Some are milestone of development like childhood and adolescence, some are significant occasions of education like graduations, some are relationship turning points like engagements and marriage and of course there are the life changing events of the birth of our children.  But for those of us who have lost children to addiction these mileposts are over shadowed by the emptiness that we feel from their absence. 

I have lived over half a century in this world and yet I divide my life now into two parts...my life before David's death and my life after his death.

Happy Birthday Dave

I miss you so....


December 10, 2005 at 09:22 AM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 03, 2005

I Used To Love This Time Of Year

I used to love this time of year.  The briskness of the wind in my face as it stirs the snow into eddies of white, the rush of the season to find exactly the right treasure for that special loved one.  The good cheer and sound of laughter shared with family and friends in the warm glow of a crackling fire, and the anticipation and excitement of anyone under twelve who still "believes."

But for those who have a loved one trapped in the cunning and baffling grip of alcohol or substance abuse, this season brings little solace or joy.  In its place there is often anger, fear, denial and sorrow that can be intensified by the gush of good will that invariably accompanies the holidays.  Instead the torrent of our emotions sweeps us down a darker stream into a sunless sea of lost hopes and dreams.  In the end, substance abuse robs us of our hopes and our joy for our loved ones.  And sometimes drugs steal from us their smile, their laughter, their touch...and the world becomes cold and bleak without their warmth.

I used to love this time of year.

December 3, 2005 at 07:22 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0)