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January 26, 2011

How can a parent endure the loss of a child?

Loss-picture Some months ago I was making a presentation on the prevention and consequences of substance abuse to a gathering of middle school parents.  During the question and answer phase a mother of two young sons, one about the age of David when he died, asked me "how can a parent endure the loss of a child let alone the sudden tragic death of one to addiction?"  I have given much thought to her question in the ensuing weeks and have come to believe that grief and loss of a loved one is not something that must be endured...but rather it must be lived. 

Certainly in the beginning when I was heavily cloaked in my mantel of sorrow it took every effort on my part just to get out of bed and participate in the required rituals for the living that follow a death.  But over time and with the help of family, friends, a treatment center for my own addiction and the loving arms of my wife, my other son and a 12 step fellowship....light, hope and joy returned to my life and I was able to begin to reconstruct it's meaning. 

Part of that meaning for me today is that not only must my  grief from the the loss of my child be lived but that I have the choice to live it badly, or to live it well. I have also learned that there are things I have to do...actions I have to take, some times daily even 10 years  after the loss, to continue my odyssey in this manner.  I try to live my loss well by:

  • Celebrating the time I had with Dave
  • Honoring his and others who struggled and lost their lives to addiction 
  • Reaching out to those who still struggle and their families who struggle with them
  • Having compassion for those who stumble often
  • Carrying the message that treatment and recovery do work

And so it is today that I do not simply endure David's loss...I live it....and I choose to live my loss as well as I can....one day at a time

January 26, 2011 at 10:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2011

Why Cry For A Soul Set Free

034_SHOWEROFGRIEF_24x30_09_ Only a parent of an addict can fully appreciate how as our 16 year old son struggled with his addiction... my wife and I also struggled together and at time individually with our fears for him and his future.  The anguish that consumed us day after day as events unfolded around us.....most often out of our control and at times beyond our ability to understand.  In the 11 months prior to his death in an addiction related drowning events occurred that we never dreamed we would experience when we first held our newborn son…

  •       Admission to a Drug Treatment Facility
  •       Weekly visits with treatment counselors and professionals
  •       The trips to the Juvenile Detention Center
  •       Consultations with lawyers on charges, pleas and probation
  •       School suspension
  •       His morning call from Jail when we thought he was asleep in his room 
  •      The trip to Jail to pick him up after booking
  •      Having to retrieve my wife’s car from the police impound lot
  •      EMTs trying to save his life
  •      ER Docs saying we've done all we can
  •      His Mother saying..."then stop"

 Drugs and alcohol first had turned our worlds upside down and then addiction changed our worlds forever as we were swept along on a river of tears and carried by waves of sorrow.

In the days and weeks after his death a torrent of expressions of sympathy flowed around us from friends and strangers alike.  One of the cards, which could be purchased at any drug store, arrived in a white envelop with a short verse of condolences....

Under the printed text....hand written at the bottom, just above a name we did not recognize at the time, were the simple words….

 "Why Cry For A Soul Set Free"Marker






January 24, 2011 at 12:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 19, 2011

The Growing Tide of Opiate Prescription Drug Abuse

Images[3] 2011 began with two alarming reports from the nation's top federal agencies charged with monitoring issues related to substance abuse treatment and prevention.  Both reports highlighted the current dramatic increase of the misuse of prescription opiate pain-relievers which prevention, criminal justice and treatment professional have been concerned about for many years. 

In a new study from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment admission rates for opiates other than heroin (mainly narcotic pain relievers) rose an incredible 345 Percent between 1998 and 2008.  At the same time a press release from the Office of National Drug Control Policy noted that new data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN which tracks visits by individuals to hospital emergency rooms) showed that while visits to emergency rooms involving illicit drugs had remained stable from 2004 to 2009, visits involving prescription drugs increased 98 Percent.

Clearly prescription drug misuse and abuse has reach epidemic proportions in the past decade presenting itself as a complex problem...requiring complex responses...by a complex group of constituencies.  The complexities begin with the prescribing practices of physicians and dental professions which play a significant role in the abuse.   The lack of coordination among local and national pharmacy companies. The marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies and their subsidiaries.  The lack of awareness by the general public of the seriousness of the abuse potential of prescription drugs and the importance of proper prescription drug disposal.  And finally the lack of communication and coordination between prevention - treatment and criminal justice agencies at the local, State and Federal levels in addressing the problem. 

Additionally as a person in long term recovery who spends considerable time in 12 Step meetings,  I have personally witnessed the dramatic increase over the past 8 years of individuals who have either come directly to recovery meetings as a result of prescription opiate addiction or who have had periods of long term  recovery from alcohol abuse but subsequently and suddenly find themselves addicted RX-Drugs.

The SAMHSA and ONDCP reports only confirm what treatment and prevention professionals have known forHokusai_wave_1  some time.  That within the next two years opiate prescription drug abuse will be the second highest substance abuse problem in the United States eclipsed only by alcohol.  And if we don't get our act together as a society there is no way we will be able to stem this tide.  

January 19, 2011 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2011

Ted Williams and the question of is it Relapse or Opportunity??

 Many of us who are relatively open about our recovery from addiction have been asked in recent days how we view the news of Ted Williams recent ups and downs. As a person in long term recovery who has relapsed Relapse11  twice in the almost eight since I started my odyssey I have come to believe that relapse is part of the process of recovery and that society in general (and unfortunately far too many people in recovery) compound the shame and stigma addicts and alcoholics already face by heaping more on them when they stumble.  Our friends in Al-Anon rightfully say that when people disappoint us it is because they are doing something we don't want them to do and in the end we really have no control over their actions.  Disappointment is society's way of trying to shame someone (usually a person we love, care about or admire) into doing something WE want them to do.  

I do very much appreciate Ted's situation in that for me the times that I slipped and used...were times when the conditions in my life were good.  I was doing well and felt like I could either reward myself or celebrate the successes I was enjoying.  Indeed 12-Step participants and treatment professionals agree that the disease of addiction never allows the addict or alcoholic an opportunity to rest on their laurels and that good times are just as likely to cause relapse as bad. 

In the end though Ted, and we, should not be talking about why a person relapses....what we should be talking about are what actions and supports need to be put in place to allow that person to continue on his orHelp  her path of recovery.  In some ways I feel that I was fortunate to relapse because I learned more about myself and my recovery because of the relapses.  I had experienced the beauty and the wonder of recovery, tasted it sweetness and got a good look at what life could be without the use of mind altering substances, and that is what helped me get back into my  recovery mode quickly with renewed commitment and vigor. I have learned that for me, recovery is not a steady state....you don't achieve recovery like a Buddhist achieves Nirvana.  I have to work at my recovery every day for the rest of my life one day at a time. 

So instead of perseverating on why an addict has returned to what he or she knows and does best, we should be focusing on is how we can be more supportive  and compassionate in helping him or her break that cycle.


January 14, 2011 at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack