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September 30, 2006

The Decision

Last week the transmission went out on our car.  It had served us well. We had had it for a long time, and it had lot of miles, but the cost of repair was just too high to justify keeping it around.  So the decision was a simple one right???…a no brainer, one perhaps tinged with the slight feeling of exhilaration that sometimes accompanies the buying of a new car.

But the decision was not simple and there was nothing exhilarating about it. 

You see this was David’s car, the one he learned to drive in, the one he took and passed his drivers test in.  With his mother’s blessing he installed a “killer” stereo system with an amplifier and speaker that was the envy of his friends.  When prom came a few weeks before he died he worked for two days straight detailing the car for his girlfriend until it sparkled in the moonlight and shook the neighborhood as he cranked the stereo up on their way to the big dance.

The decision brought back the pain of David’s loss to addiction more acutely than I had felt in a long time…grief that weighed so heavily on my heart that I gasped for breath, tears that came in torrents and sorrow so intense that it forced me to my knees.

The decision brought my own addiction feelings back so strong that for the first time in almost two years I felt driven to seek refuge from his loss in the oblivion I had once found in drugs and alcohol.

In the end I didn’t drink or drug but I did weep and then made the decision to remove the stereo system from the car before we traded it and have it installed in my car.  Sure it’s a bit much for a balding 54 year-old to drive a car that has a speaker system that can shatter glass but I know that David approved of the decision.

September 30, 2006 at 02:37 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 12, 2006


David died from addiction three months before September 11th.  In the weeks and months after the fall of the Twin Towers many peopled asked if it had been especially hard for Marissa and me because we had so recently lost our son.  Strangely it was not difficult because we knew where the families of those who had perished were at that very moment.  We knew that their worlds had stopped revolving, we knew how they dreaded the dark and cursed the dawn, and we knew how they hated that life moved on a pace while their lives were frozen in time.

We also knew that in three months from that day in the fall of 2001 that most would go on some how...some way , and we also knew that there would be some who would never shake the darkness of grief from their souls.

I hear a lot of people talk about how their lives have changed since 9/11 or that their lives have been changed forever.  And yet for 97% of people living in the United States the only thing that has changed about their lives five years later is that they pay a little more for gas or they have to wait a bit longer to get on a plane to fly to their favorite vacation spot.

Only those who have experienced sudden tragic loss of a loved one can truely understand the loss of the 9/11 families, and what a struggle each day is when your world is changed forever in an instant.

September 12, 2006 at 10:07 AM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2006

Death Missed Me Tonight

Death missed me tonight....not by much, perhaps 3 to 5 seconds...not much, but enough to keep me from waking up with chalk lines traced around me.  I was on my way to the pharmacy, just a quick trip the kind we take thousands of times without thinking.  It was twilight and raining but had turned to sprinkles as the clouds of the wet spell cleared off to the east.  As I drove over a rise in the road a coal black desginer truck sped past me gunning his engine and in doing so lost control on the wet pavement.  The vehicle rushed by me and crossed the center line 15 feet behind me...careening violently off a utility pole and disappeared into the woods.  The entire incident took all of 7 seconds, and on what is normally a heavily traveled thoroughfare, I was the only witness.

The only witness, and yet if I had been 3 to 5 seconds earlier the truck would have taken me out, a  head on accident that happened in the blink of an eye, a poor unfortunate guy on his way to get his blood pressure medicine so he could live another 30 years. 

30 years more to mourn my son...our reunion delayed; or was it a kind of repreieve...a chance to continue to carry the message...to honor his struggle.

Death missed me tonight...why? Its not for me to say.

September 11, 2006 at 09:44 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 04, 2006

Addiction Lesson Learned

One of the first things we learned when Dave was in treatment was that if left untreated, the disease of addiction leads to three inevitabilities: Jails, Institutions and Death.  We learned, tragically, that even when there is treatment this same triad of consequences can also occur.  In fact it wasn’t until Dave entered a treatment facility, (which for the uninitiated counts as an institution) that he began to run afoul of the legal system and added jails to his addiction portfolio.  He was arrested twice and was first detained in the a County jail on charges of theft in four different jurisdictions in a two hour period.  His second arrest came not long after in another County for theft again which meant a brief stay at that county’s juvenile detention center.  His behavior at first was inexplicable to us for a young man who had everything he could ever want at his finger tips.  But it was only inexplicable until we looked deeper at his addiction profile.  From childhood he had always been a risk taker, always willing to try anything…do anything…just to say he’d done that”.  We learned that risk taking or thrill seeking is often an attribute of an addict or alcoholic and when the drugs are taken away in early recovery he sought an outlet for that thrill seeking behavior wherever he could find it.

Like many parents who first encounter the legal system we sought legal representation for Dave, telling ourselves we just wanted to be sure that he didn’t get caught up in a system that seems to us at the time to be unfair, inefficient and inconsistent.  So instead of allowing him to face the natural consequences of his actions we wrongly sought to prevent them, rescuing him from himself we thought and yet in doing we perpetuated his reliance on the certainty that Mom and Dad would not let bad things happen to him.

Today we feel quite differently about what we would and would not have done when our son was arrested…but that is not to say we find totally palatable the current view the criminal justice system has about those who suffer from the disease of addiction and become ensnared in its tentacles. George Brenner of the Gallahue Mental Health Services was a presenter this past Spring at a Judicial Conference in Indiana and shared his view of the current judicial state of affairs in that State with regard to the treatment of the disease of addiction.

He says:

The Emergency Rooms for this chronic illness are the arrestee processing center and holding cells

The Detox facilities are the county jails

The Waiting Rooms and chronic care follow up are the Probation Departments and the courts

And finally the long term care or residential facilities are not hospitals but the Department of Corrections

For my part I do agree and believe, that until we can rid ourselves of the stigma that permeates all sections of our society regarding those who suffer from addiction we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past.  But let me assure you that I am not naive about my own son’s illness or the consequences that it brought to him and the consequences that have been visited upon his brother and his parents which we will carry for the rest of our lives.  I usually don’t indulge myself in the luxury of magical thinking about him and play “what if games”.  I don’t do that because I know that once begun it is a downward spiral that only returns me to the darkness and hopelessness of those first days, weeks and months after his death.  But if he had survived that day and was us today…at the very least he would still be in recovery…or he’d be treatment…or on the streets using…he might be homeless or he might be in prison.

Several years ago I met a father whose seventeen year old son had just been sentenced to sixty years in prison for serving as a lookout for two other boys who took two Juvenile Detention Center guards hostage while trying to escape.  In the process the other boys beat guards severely leaving one close to death and maimed.  The Dad told me it was the worst possible thing that could happen to a parent, and before I could stop myself I looked at him and said…I’d trade places with you in heartbeat…if it would mean I could have my boy back. 

September 4, 2006 at 09:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack