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May 30, 2006

Acceptence of the Fairbanks "Circle of Hope Award" May 15th, 2006


Thanks to all the speakers for your incredibly kind words.  Kim and I are humbled, honored and a bit overwhelmed to be standing at the podium this evening.  As a family who has lived through both the sorrow and the hope that the disease of addiction brings, it is very gratifying to see the room filled with people who share our commitment to this odyssey.

Our journey began almost six years ago, when we discovered that our younger son David was using drugs and alcohol at a level far surpassing what we had initially excused as “adolescent experimenting.”  David was a loving, charming, and thoroughly convincing young man and we believed him when he promised he would stop.  For a time we thought we could handle the problem with home drug testing and closer monitoring of his activities.  But we were wrong.  At the urging of David’s older brother Josh, we finally brought David to Fairbanks and enrolled him in their adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program.  I remember walking into Helene Cross’ office on a cold January morning.  It was Helene’s first week as the new CEO.  We had become friends and colleagues in her previous position.  Helene gave me a warm hug, said “I’m here for you, we’ll learn about this together,” and I felt the burden on my heart lift just a little.

Although initially reluctant, it didn’t take long for David to begin embracing the concepts he was learning and Kim and I began to learn about the disease of addiction.  Like many parents we were scared and anxious, then gradually cautiously hopeful that David was taking this seriously and wanted to make changes in his life.  After months of counseling support and attendance at 12 step recovery meetings for David and participation in family counseling and education for us, we finally felt that it was safe to let David have a little more freedom. 

So on a warm sunny Saturday in early June, 2001 David got up, mowed the lawn without my having to remind him, and asked if he could go swimming with friends. I agreed, and we made plans to meet later that afternoon to go to a movie together. I was sitting out on the deck enjoying the lovely weather when Josh came out holding the portable phone and saying something was wrong.  It was the mother of one of David’s friends. She said David had been swimming in their pool, had inhaled the propellant in a can of computer duster, dove under water, and didn’t come up.  The paramedics were there administering CPR but they had yet not been able to revive him.  Kim was out of town visiting his father, so Josh and I jumped in the car.  On the way, I made a frantic cell phone call to my mother-in-law to track down Kim, and then called Fairbanks .  I needed to talk to someone who would understand what we were facing.

David was rushed to Community North Hospital, but after 30 minutes of continued efforts and the doctors’ assurance that all that could be had been done, Josh and I stood next to David’s lifeless body, holding hands, tears streaming down our faces, and asked the team to stop.  And they did.  Peter Monn, David’s aftercare counselor, arrived at the hospital shortly after.  He tells me that the first words I uttered to him were “David died of his addiction.”  I was so grateful to have someone there who understood.

Kim and I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Terrance Lacy, Kathy Nelson, Peter Monn, Rachelle Gardner, Helene Cross and the entire Fairbanks family for all they did to help David, and for their continued love and support for Josh, Kim and me.   And we want to thank our son Josh for his courageous and persistent efforts to pierce through our parental denial, and convince us that his brother was in serious trouble.


David’s death changed our lives forever.  We found ourselves members of a club that no parent ever wants to join.  Instead of marking the milestones of our lives in terms of our wedding day and the birth of our sons we now divided our life together into the days before David’s death and the days since.  But David’s death also placed our feet on a path that has enriched our lives and brought hope and joy to us in ways that we could never have envisioned in those first dark days when grief cloaked us in a veil of tears.

As Marissa has said, when we brought David to Fairbanks for treatment, we received treatment as well in the form of parent education and support.  We learned of the power of the disease of addiction and we also learned that a consequence of our son’s continued substance abuse could be… that he would die. The knowledge and the tools we gained at Fairbanks have helped us deal with David’s death and understand that even when you do all the right things bad things can still happen.

In the years since David’s death we have continued to educate ourselves about the perils of addiction and help others understand the cunning, powerful and baffling nature of this disease.  At every step we have taken in our odyssey of recovery…and at every presentation we have made about addiction over the past five years, the love, caring and support of our Fairbanks and recovery families has given us the courage to continue to share our story.  It is a story of tragedy but also of triumph, of loss and of recovery... of grief and of hope.

Two weeks before David died, we had a suspicion that he was using inhalants to get high.  When Marissa confronted him about it, he denied it vehemently, declared that he knew how dangerous it was, and vowed that he would never do something so stupid.  Exasperated, she asked “David, where are you going with all this, what are you doing with your life!”  With all the earnestness of his 16 years, he replied “I WANT to do something with my life Mom.  I WANT to make a difference.”  We have come to believe that in death David has given us the gifts of hope and recovery that have enabled us to help him make that difference.

And so tonight, in this spirit of hope we accept this award, not for anything we have done but in gratitude and recognition for our sons David and Joshua.  For David, who is certainly with us tonight in our hearts, we honor his struggle and recognize the lost promise of a life cut short by addiction.  For Josh and his wife Angie who are with us here down front, with this award we honor the continued fulfillment of their hope and the promise of their lives. 

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and if you will excuse us we want to take this award to our son Josh.

May 30, 2006 at 12:06 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2006

Substance Abuse...A Life Sentence

For a long time I have thought of the path we have walked since the death of our son from substance abuse as a journey.  A journey that we never wanted to take and from which there is no return.  And while tomorrow is promised to no one, it is a certainty for us that in this life we will never feel the touch of his hand, the breath from his lips, the warm laughter in his voice and the promise of his life.

Recently I have come to reevaluate my description of this path we traverse as a journey, since the notion of a journey inherently implies that a destination is eventually attained.  Today I feel that this passage is more an odyssey…from which there is no return, open ended and perhaps eternal.  An odyssey that began with a choice that Dave made that changed our lives forever

…a life sentence…for those that are left behind.

May 20, 2006 at 10:06 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 07, 2006

The Drawer

The drawer in the old desk was filled with memories.  The desk found its way into a number of different rooms over the years...in the four homes we have lived in these past twenty some years.  I am not sure when I began to keep them but at some point when the kids were very small I began to collect ticket stubs from the zoos, movies, concerts, amusement parks and sporting events we attended.  I never have an exact plan on how I would eventually organize and display them but I knew that it would be a unique chronology of their youth for my boys when they were adults, something they could share with their own children when the time came.

David’s death from huffing changed all that.  At first it was pictures of him that I was unable to look at, that was followed by the childhood videos I could not watch, and then there was that “drawer.”  For a long time I stayed out of the room where the desk was and if I were forced to enter I averted my eyes from the corner that it occupied. 

Five years later I still can’t watch the family videos but I have come to terms with photos.  And the drawer…it’s empty now.  Sometime that first year after losing Dave, when the grief gripped my heart and blinded my eyes, I took the memories out and threw them all away…because I knew, that whatever happened, they would always be too painful for my heart

May 7, 2006 at 11:57 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006

Len Bias' Mother to Join Us For Vigil

Len Bias' Mother Will Join Other Parents In a Candlelight Vigil

April 24, (Washington, D.C): Dr. Lonise Bias will join other parents in sharing her story, twenty years after the cocaine-related death of her son, Len, at the first annual national vigil remembering those lost to drugs. In a presentation focusing on "Life After Death...Hope is Not Extinct," Dr. Bias will present the message and that people are living in denial.  It's time to wake up.

Len Bias, a Maryland basketball player, died in 1986 just two days after being the second overall selection in the NBA draft.  Parents, siblings and friends of young people who lost their lives will gather at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia on the evening of June 8, 2006 to heed that wake up call.

The vigil is being planned by eight families who lost a young person to drugs, and is being supported by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the Partnership for a Drug Free America, National Families in Action and the Drug-Free Kids organization. 

"Every 20 minutes, drugs take another life in this country. Every 20 minutes, the dreams, promise, and talent of another American is snuffed out-leaving families and friends to suffer the darkness of grief," said DEA Administrator Karen Tandy. "In honor of those lost and in support of those left behind, DEA illuminates the harsh reality of drugs and their tragic consequences. This vigil gives hope for an America without drugs." The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will include remarks from Dr. Lonise Bias, parents and siblings, Administrator Tandy, NIDA Director Nora Volkow and Deputy Drug Czar Mary Ann Solberg. A candlelight vigil will follow, during which the photographs of those who lost their lives to drugs will be displayed.

"Every life, especially a young life, extinguished or derailed by substance abuse, is a tragic loss of promise and potential that we as individuals, community members, and a society cannot afford," said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health.  "We must therefore strengthen efforts to educate our families and communities about the lessons we've learned from drug abuse prevention and treatment research-including the special dangers faced by adolescents.  The Vigil for Lost Promise will help call attention to this need and stem the tide of suffering and loss that substance abuse extends to us all."

The eight families touched by the loss of a child or sibling to drugs came together to plan the vigil with the goal of putting a human face on the tragedy caused by drug abuse. In "An Open Letter to Families Everywhere" the families write "We belong to a club that none of us ever wanted to join. We are the parents and siblings of young people who died too soon because of drugs. Their promise was extinguished long before it could be shared with the world. We are ordinary people who are your neighbors, your co-workers and members of your house of worship. We love our children and tried to be the best parents we could be. But drugs took them from us. Some days the grief is still unbearable."

The letter is authored by Francine Haight (California) who lost her son Ryan to prescription drugs ordered over the Internet; Don and Gwen Hooton (Texas) whose son Taylor committed suicide after steroid use; Kim and Marissa Manlove (Indiana) who lost their son David to inhalant abuse; Kate Patton (Illinois) whose daughter Kelley died from an Ecstasy overdose; David Pease (Connecticut) the father of Dave who was lost to heroin and Casey who died in an alcohol-related accident; Imelda Perez, sister of Irma who died from Ecstasy at age 14; and Linda Surks, whose son Jason ordered prescription drugs over the Internet and died as a result of an overdose.   “We hope that by sharing our family’s story and David’s struggle with substance abuse, we can put a real face on the issue, and begin to break down the denial and stigma that has too often accompanied the disease of addiction” said the Manloves.

Additional information on the vigil, and the entire text of "An Open Letter to Families Everywhere" can be found at www.nationalparentvigil.com

May 3, 2006 at 02:26 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack