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June 17, 2010

The Hopes And Dreams Of Parents

Father and son

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 high school diploma, a scholarship, 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 toll 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 within 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 originally intended for our children, but in the end the only thing we can truly promise them now and forever....is our unconditional love. 

June 17, 2010 at 09:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 13, 2010


I can’t remember when the first can of computer duster showed up in my son David’s room, but it certainly caused me no alarm.  As parents we work hard at providing the “tools” our children need to navigate the increasingly complex culture we live in and my wife and I were no exception.  Professionally I was an early adopter of desktop technology and felt it was important that my boys have all the advantages that a personal computer offered.  So by the time they were both in high school I had arranged for them to have their own computers in each of their bedrooms.

When the can of computer duster first appeared in David’s room I was impressed at what I assumed was his pride of ownership and desire to keep his equipment in good working order.  He had always been very particular about his appearance and usually kept his room in much better order than his older brother.  So when I saw the “duster” on the dresser I took some satisfaction in his seeming fastidiousness.

But like so many parents, I was seeing what I wanted to see in spite of the warning signs that were all around me.  Only weeks before David had completed an intensive outpatient program for substance abuse.  He was still attending an “aftercare” program of weekly meetings and mandatory drug screens.  He was at that highly vulnerable period all addicts face in early recovery when the desire to get high is still a powerful force to be reckoned with, a force that was more powerful than we knew, but more importantly more powerful than he knew.

Somewhere along the way David had learned that he could get high from inhaling the propellant from cans of computer duster, that it was cheap and could be purchased at any drug store, that it left no tell tale signs, and best of all…it was not detectable in the routine drug screens he had pledge to us that he would take and pass.  But the propellant in “duster” is poisonous when inhaled and can cause sudden death by precipitating cardiac arrest.  Death can occur without warning even the first time someone uses an inhalant.


And so it was that on a sunny June day nine years ago, while David and some friends swam at a backyard pool, inhaling the propellant from the can of computer duster and diving under the water to intensify the rush, that the innocuous can that first appeared in his bedroom beside his computer, claimed his life.  His heart stopped, his lungs filled with water, his body convulsed as he sank to the bottom of the pool and drowned in the shallow end.

I can’t remember when the first can of computer duster showed up in David’s room, but I do know there was one still in his hand when his friends pulled him from that swimming pool that day...clutched in a death grip.


Now I not only can't remember....I also can’t forget.

June 13, 2010 at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 10, 2010

The Cost of Denial

When I was first confronted by the growing evidence of David's escalating drug abuse I denied the problem by telling myself it was just a normal phase of adolescent experimentation..  

I had gone through the same phase as a teenager and I got through it OK...right?? 

I had grown up in the 60's and 70's and had more than my share of substance use and abuse.... so I would recognize the signs of troubling use in my own son....right??

I had learned to find the balance between my own "moderate" alcohol use and as a loving father I should be able to help my son find and achieve that balance as well....right??

It's just alcohol and a little pot every once in a while....nothing more that most of his friends are doing....right??

He's not acting like some drug crazed "dope fiend" so he can't be addicted..right??

Tragically...In the end my continual minimizing, rationalization and denial only served to enable David's addiction to grow insidiously stronger until it consumed his life,

Please.....at the first sign of alcohol or drug use GET HELP...go to the Partnership for a Drug Free America website designed especially for parents...http://www.drugfree.org/Parent/  where you can get advice on what to do and when to do it.

Don't wait until you lose what can never be replaced.  

June 10, 2010 at 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 09, 2010

Sorrow and Joy

Today June 9th 2010 marks the ninth anniversary of my son David's death from addiction.  The great Lebanese -American poet Kahlil Gibran once wrote that : " When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."  And indeed after almost a decade a day that once was filled with tears and sorrow has become a day of remembrance and celebration..

In the beginning I created a series of rituals that were designed in a futile attempt to keep the pain and suffering of his loss at bay or at least in someway make it more bearable.  I still perform those same rituals but today they are filled with love and acts of kindness that honor David's life, his struggle and the work of others who labor to help prevent, treat and bring recovery to those who suffer from addiction.

I also celebrate on this day the gift I received from David.  The gift of my own recovery from addiction as well as a passion,  purpose and happiness in my life that I never dreamed possible.

Truely my greatest sorrow has become my greatest joy......thank you David.....I love  and miss you so.


June 9, 2010 at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 06, 2010

The False Promises of Alcohol and Drug Use

Like most adolescents my son David was seduced by the false promises of substance use and abuse.  In the beginning he thought that drinking and using drugs would make him more popular and that they were key to unlock success in any social situation.  The seduction continued with the thrill of risk taking behavior that accompanies drug use…the feeling that he was living on the edge and in doing so was somehow more attractive to others.  And, as his use escalated, drugs promised him that they would help him cope better with life, that they would provide him a sense of security, empowerment and control he could not get anywhere else.


But of course the real promises of substance abuse where always there, patiently waiting for David,  just as they wait for all who continue down the path of addiction.  The promise that if left untreated substance abuse leads inevitably to three things, jails, institutions and death. 


 David’s journey was just shorter than most.


David experienced all three.....in just eleven months.

June 6, 2010 at 07:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2010

When Do You Know If Your Child Has A Problem With Drugs?

People often ask us, "When did you first realize that your son had a serious drug problem?  Was it the first time he came home drunk, was it when the pipe fell out of his pants pocket, or the time he dropped acid, or was it that night he was so high on alcohol and marijuana that he threatened to slash his wrists?"

The truth is that David had a drug problem long before we his parents realized it.  Each of these incidents should not have been just a "warning sign" to us.  The truth is also that when any of these signs appear it is usually just the tip of the "iceberg".   Each one of these incidents should  have screamed an alarm that would have deafened us.  And yet we wrapped ourselves in a cocoon of fear and denial, which insulated us from his addiction and allowed it to fester until it's venom claimed our joy.

When did we first realize that our son had a drug problem?

Not Soon Enough.

June 3, 2010 at 06:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack