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August 26, 2006

Accidents Caused By Inhalants

The rash of automobile accidents recently involving young people who have been using inhalants has caused great concern among public safety officials and law enforcement professionals. But in someways I hope that the rise of these reports in the media is also indicative of greater awareness by first responders arriving at the scenes of traffic accidents.

Until recently Police Officers and Sheriff Deputies arriving first at an accident would examine the vehicles involved closely for indications of drug or alcohol use.   Today, more and more accident investigators also look for empty aerosol cans, bottles or other chemical residue which are the signs of inhalant abuse.   State Legislatures have also begun to add inhalant chemicals to their list of intoxicants in State Law that are illegal to ingest while operating a motor vehicle.

For almost two decades Inhalant abuse was termed the “Silent Epidemic” because our society as a whole was unaware of both its deadly consequences and the pervasiveness of the abuse.  Parents, doctors, nurses and teachers joined law enforcement and judicial officials in not having the use and abuse of inhalants on their respective radar screens.  But through the efforts of the Partnership of Drug Free America, the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, the Alliance for Consumer Education and the New England Inhalant Abuse Prevention Coalition.

These news reports in the media are indications the picture is starting to change, awareness is beginning to emerge and with awareness the climate is right for prevention to flourish.

August 26, 2006 at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause

A recent article in the Washington Post on the opening at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) traveling exhibit “Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause” (Drug-Terror Connection Disputed: DEA Defends Traveling Exhibit as Critics Draw Parallels to Prohibition Era, August 12,) failed to cover the main focus of the exhibit; the damage alcohol, drugs and drug addiction cause in our society. Substance abuse cuts across all sectors of our society and touches one family in three. The most recent Monitoring the Future survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) continues to show an alarming number of adolescents and young adults who regularly use alcohol and drugs. But we know this tragedy beyond the statistics. In June of 2006, we joined with the DEA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and other groups to sponsor the first annual Vigil for Lost Promise. Hundreds of families who have lost a loved one to drugs gathered in Washington D.C. to share our stories, put a face on the cost of addiction and shine a light on this disease. We are members of a club that no one wants to join; we have lived through the worst nightmare. We are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who have felt the shadow of stigma and shame that continues to surround drug abuse in our society today. We know the damage drugs cause because we live with it everyday, and will for the rest of our lives. “Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause” highlights the important work that the DEA does everyday, not only stopping the flow of drugs into the United States but reducing the demand for them through education and prevention programs across the country. This exhibit plays a pivotal role in that work. We are proud to be a part of this effort and have contributed to it by allowing the faces and the stories of our children, siblings and other family members to be a part of the exhibit. The section entitled “Lost Talent” pays tribute to their aspirations, dreams, and the lost potential that is devastating, not only to our families and their friends, but to our whole society. It is estimated that on average 500 young people die from substance abuse every month. That means today eighteen families join our ranks and begin the same dark journey we embarked upon some years ago. We truly believe that the DEA’s “Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause” exhibit is making a difference and having a positive effect on that reality.

August 15, 2006 at 03:22 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 13, 2006

Stop By And See Our Son

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

invite you to stop in and see our son. He hangs out in an exhibit hall in

the Museum of Science and Industry off of South Lake Shore Drive 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 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 Windy City.  And of course you are absolutely right. Y

ou 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 with his friends from childhood,

his girlfriend and even sought professional help, 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

Chicago, 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 13, 2006 at 10:44 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 05, 2006

Hope Academy Opens

Teddy Forman, 17, knows this school year will be a change, with new teachers, different classes, a fresh start. And no drugs. Not this year. Not at Hope Academy. The Fishers Indiana teenager started classes Thursday at the new charter school, which opened at the Fairbanks drug and alcohol addiction recovery center on the Northeastside of Indianapolis. The school's goal is to offer a safe, supportive place for teenagers who fight drug and alcohol addictions. Students must pledge to stay sober to stay at the school. Only about 20 similar schools operate nationwide.

Forman said Hope Academy will provide him the support network he needs to stay sober and kick his drug and alcohol addictions for good. All of the students in the school are recovering from some form of addiction. "Public schools don't focus on kids like us and our problems," said Forman, who now avoids the friends he had at his former High School. "(I'm) just getting out of the drinking and drugging environment."

Rachelle Gardner, director of adolescent services at Fairbanks, watched students arriving for their first classes Thursday with pride. Gardner first dreamed of a school for patients several years ago. She saw students kick their drug and alcohol habits and then head back home and start using again as soon as they were around school friends. "We were really struggling once we sent the kids back to their home schools," she said. "As Fairbanks started focusing on recovery, I said, 'We've got to have a school.' " The school serves about 30 teens from throughout Central Indiana. Charter schools are public schools that are bound by the same accountability and access rules as traditional schools but are freed from some regulations. Students must attend a 12-step program, and classes will be tied to discussions about addictions. An English class, for example, might write about recovery.

Kelsey Major, 17, hesitated when a counselor at Fairbanks suggested she attend the school, but she eventually came around when she realized how much more open she could be with classmates at Hope Academy and that she would be free of temptations there. "The students here are like me," the Greenfield girl said, "and kids at this school don't use."

Marissa Manlove, secretary of the Hope Academy School Board, said the first day of classes represents a foothold for its students to change their lives. She said her son, David, never got that chance to save himself. The 16 year old High School student died in June 2001 after he "huffed" the propellant from an aerosol can of computer cleaner with a friend. As students gathered around for an official ribbon-cutting Thursday, Manlove turned to the students and told them to take advantage of the opportunity her son didn't have.

"I feel his presence here," she told them. "I look into your eyes and I see David looking back."

August 5, 2006 at 09:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 02, 2006

I Was Away When My Son Died

It sounds so weak and pathetic to say that…I was “away on business” or “taking time off or something”, when this horrific event occurred changing our lives irrevocably.  It’s not like you’ve miss your child’s birthday, or first step or first date.  To not be there when your 16 year old son dies is beyond imagining and unforgivable.  Five years have gone by and I still cannot find the words that begin to reach the depth of regret that I was not there to endure with Marissa and Josh those unspeakable moments when Dave left us.

I was away when my son died.

I am not so arrogant to think that I could have altered the outcome by being there or could have eased anyone’s suffering in even the smallest of ways….but GOD I wasn’t there at all when my beautiful boy thought his last thought, looked at the sky for the last time and took his last breath.

Marissa got the call that something had happened, she and Josh rushed over to the house and saw David on a gurney being rushed to the ambulance which took him to the ER.  As they sped to the hospital behind the ambulance Marissa told Josh that Dave was already dead.

I was away when my son died.

Almost from the beginning I have had this desire to visit the place…the swimming pool where he died.  Yet I do not wish to inflict any more pain and suffering on the family who lives there.  They did not want this…how can life be so cruel as to steal their joy of owning a pool by having one of their daughter’s best friends die there.  A boy they had known since childhood, who they cherished and loved.

And yet I want to go there…to stand where he stood, listen to the wind as he heard it, as he felt it on his face, to hear the birds and cicadas singing in the trees as he did…before the drugs took his life.

And maybe, just maybe…if I listen hard enough…I might hear in the wind the sound of laughter from that day and feel his spirit near me which I think must visit there too sometimes.  I want to visit the pool where he died because….

I was away when my son died.

August 2, 2006 at 11:16 PM in The Unspeakable | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack