March 26, 2012

Compassion and the Recovering Adolescent Addict

For many parents who have a child in the throes of substance abuse or recovery from addiction developing compassion for for them, their using friends and sometimes even ourselves does not come easy. Compassion is difficult in the beginning because it means we must go with others or take ourselves to those dark places where we are weak, vulnerable, lonely, broken and afraid. Compassion of course is rarely our first response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it in denial, anger or resentment.

The Dali Lama says that, “Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival. Without compassion, none of us would long survive.”

How do we get there? Is there some guidebook or strategy for how to develop a sense of compassion? Actually, compassion is much like a developing awareness. We can begin by acknowledging that there are others who are not as fortunate as we and try to find ways to help them out. Maybe it’s with a kind word or act. That doesn’t take too much from us. In fact, by trying to find ways to help others, we benefit as much, if not more, than the recipient. We soon learn that it feels good to show compassion for others. Then, it becomes easier to show compassion. Then, we don’t even need to think about it – we just have it.

March 26, 2012 at 11:25 AM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2009

Can You Drug Test For Inhalants?


There is a common misperception that when someone is abusing Inhalants by huffing or sniffing... that drug tests are ineffective.  The reality is that there are more effective and extensive tests for inhalant abuse than any other abused substance.  While there exists only one test for substances like alcohol, cocaine, marijuana or herion NMS Labs (who do forensic drug testing) list 18 tests different tests for Inhalants depending on whether they are a solvent, areosol or gas? 

So if you suspect someone is abusing inhalants know what you are looking for so the right test can be applied by the testing facility!!!

July 20, 2009 at 03:31 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2009

A&E Intervention Bret Cansler

I have been a fan of A&E's Intervention show from the beginning.  To me it is the only "true" reality show on television today in which life is not artificially enhanced by a continuous flow of contrived events.  On Intervention life is allowed to unfold in all the unnatural and natural power of simply living. 

This past Monday's episode about Bret Cansler was a prime example of reality TV in it's poignant depiction to date of adult alcoholism.  A once successful businessman, loving husband and father devolves in a relatively short period of time to a "highly functioning" alcoholic. 

We often hear advocates say that Addiction is an equal opportunity disease but the denial and stigma of our society is so strong that we rarely accept the equality factor of the equation.  In this episode about Bret the raw power of his story stems from the ordinariness of his life, his family and his world.  To the world at large people like Bret present a visage of success behind which lurks the darkness of substance abuse. As the episode progresses we see the darkness emerge as Bret is forced to look at the unmanageability of his life through the eyes of his ex-wife, brother, girlfriend and finally his two children, who are by far the bravest two players in this compelling drama.

In the end the Intervention succeeds and Bret enters treatment willingly with a renewed commitment to make a new beginning with children.  His success is short lived as his life is cut short by esophageal cancer, a direct result of his alcoholism. 

Most would say a sad ending but I do not.  In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous chapter entitled The Family Afterward it says that " this painful past may be of infinite values to other families still struggling with the problem."

Watch the final scene of this episode and decide for yourself.

(Bret's Episode 93

July 14, 2009 at 09:30 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 07, 2009

Coroners and Amends

I hated coroners.

The day my son died from addiction caused by inhalant abuse I was visiting my father 2000 miles away.  It took me 10 hours to get back to Indianapolis from Phoenix Arizona . By the time I arrived the County Coroner had "processed" my son's body at the hospital and because of the "suspicious" circumstance of his death had ordered that the body be taken to the local medical center for an autopsy to be performed.

My wife and older son had been able to say their good-byes to David at the hospital.  To hold and hug his lifeless body for the last time, kiss his lips, run their fingers through his hair...and I was desperate to do the same.  The unspeakable grief I felt was magnified 10 fold by the guilt that gripped my soul for being so far away when his took his last breath.  My desperation to touch him, kiss him, hug him...turned to anger and rage when I was told I could not see him.  And by the time I was finally able to view his body 4 days later that rage had turned to hatred.

Two years after David died I sought treatment for addiction, became involved in 12-Step recovery and began attending AA meetings.  For the uninitiated AA is essentially a program of suggestions on how to live life without drugs and alcohol.  One of those suggestions was for me to get a "sponsor" and then work the "12 Steps."  A sponsor is a kind of life coach or mentor to help demystify the AA program and provide guidance in progressing through the Steps.  One of those steps is to make a list persons we had harmed or who had harmed us.  A later step is to make amends to the people, places and things on that harm list. 

Coroners were high on that first 12 Step list of mine and when it came time to make amends to them  my sponsor and I decided that since it was more the organization than any one individual ....that it was impossible to address the entire organization in any meaningful way.... that a"living" amends would be the best course of action. 

But last week...after 5 1/2 years in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous my Higher Power provided me with the opportunity to finally make a direct amends to all Coroners.  Harvey Weiss of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition called to ask if I would be willing to help him make a presentation to the the group and as I drove to the hotel where the conference was being help I realized I had the opportunity to do something I had needed to do for a long time.  Something that would help me clean up my side of the street by admitting I was wrong and ask what I could do to make it right.

So when I finished my part of the presentation I told the 350+ coroners from around the State of Indiana I had one more thing to do.  I told them I was in recovery and of my need to make I had hated them and why...that I was wrong....that there were only fulfilling their professional responsibilites and asked what I could do to make it right. 

There was silence in the room for what to me seemed like an eternity but then before I realized it there were on their feet applauding....and I had my answer.

July 7, 2009 at 08:46 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2009

The David Manlove Memorial Tournament at OYO

When our son died of addiction at the age of 16 the little league program where he had played asked us if they could sponsor a special tournament in his memory.  We had spent seven wonderful years at the Oaklandon Youth Organization (OYO) ball park where David learned the value of fair play and good sportsmanship while honing his considerable skills as a short stop and catcher.  Dave was a natural athlete and excelled particularly in baseball competing on championship, travel and all-star teams at OYO and going on to play on his middle and high school teams as well.  We were extremely grateful to OYO for their strong emphasis on fundamentals and team play knowing that these were important life lessons for our son.  So when they asked if they could hold an invitational memorial tournament in his name we were honored and touched by the gesture.

In the ensuing years the tournament has grown in size and scope and this past Sunday OYO held the 8th David Manlove Memorial for little league teams from central Indiana.  Over the years, as we have become more involved in the prevention, treatment and recovery of adolescents who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction OYO has joined with us with increasing enthusiasm in carrying the message to participants and spectators alike that addiction is a powerful disease and no respecter of age race or social standing.  The folks at OYO made this year’s 8th DJM Tournament particularly memorable for us by making the day one of voluntary service for all from the parent volunteers who prepped the fields in the early hours of the day… to those who staffed the concession stands and to the umpires who called the balls, strikes and endured the slings and arrows of outrageous parents.  

It is always been an emotional day for us filled with wonderful memories tinged with tears, but over time those tears that had once come from sadness  have been replaced by joy over how special this tournament has become.  Yes the proceeds from concessions, raffle and t-shirt sales go to support The 24 Group, a foundation that supports families whose young people struggle with addiction… but this day has never been about money.  What it is about is honoring a young man’s struggle against a dangerous and powerful disease that took him from his parents in a sudden and tragic manner.  It’s also about making parents and young people aware that early alcohol and drug use may seems like innocent experimental but can lead to addiction faster at a younger age.  And finally it is about the fact that no family is immune from the devastating effects of addiction.

There were many extraordinary moments this year but the one that will stay with us forever came at the end of the long but joy filled day.  It was the consolation game to decide third place for the 10 year olds and when it was over the coach sought us out to tell us his boys had something to say to us.  They had selected the tallest young man on the team to be their spokesperson and in a quietly eloquent manner he expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to participate and their condolences for our loss.  He then presented us with a check for $100 on behalf of the team and the coach said each boy wanted say thank you and shake our hands personally.  

And as I looked into each young man’s face I saw David smiling back.  The tears of joy return once more and flowed like a river of hope deep in my heart. 

Thank you OYO for helping Dave continue to make a difference.

June 7, 2009 at 09:11 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2009

Hope Academy Baccalaureate Address May 31, 2009

I was extremely honored to be invited to offer the baccalaureate address to the 2009 graduating class of Hope Academy, the only recovery high school in the State of Indiana.


"Thank you Rachelle so very much and thank you Class of 2009 for the honor you do our family in allowing us to play this small part in the joyous occasion of your graduation from Hope Academy.  As many of you know Hope has been near and dear to Marissa and my hearts since before its inception.  In 2001 our son David was one of the millions of adolescents across this country that left treatment centers for drug addiction only to return to the same friends, the same school and the same behaviors.  The results were tragic for his friends, his family and most of all for him.  In the years after his death we shared the dream with many others here at Fairbanksof a recovery high school that would support young adults early in their journey of sobriety.  Many who worked tirelessly to make Hope the reality that it is today are here with us tonight and deserve our gratitude. 

So whenever Marissa and I visit the school and especially tonight at this baccalaureate we see David not only in your eyes but also in the hope of your hearts for all that is to come and all that is now possible for you.  David of course is here with us today in spirit.  But I know that if he were on the stage with me tonight….he would want to lean over to the microphone and say….

“Whazzup Fools!!!!!!”


Again let me say that we are humbled by your kindness in asking me to speak tonight and I pledge to repay that kindness by being brief in my remarks.  The remarks will be in two parts…the first will some thoughts about our spiritual journey through 12 Step recovery and the second portion will be a bit  more traditional. 


To begin the evening Marissa and I would like to present each of you a token of our gratitude, a red-tailed hawk feather that exemplifies our spiritual connection to Hawks,. That connection began the day after David died when a friend who had lost a son three years before came to both console and to mentor us in the days of grieving that lay ahead.  She shared many valuable insights with us not the least of which was the suggestion that we select a symbol for our son, something that when we would encounter it would never fail to bring his spirit close to us.  Over the next two days I had close encounters with Red Tailed Hawks, the first on the way to the church to plan David’s funeral and the second as I stopped at the Fire Station to thank the ambulance crew who had come that day and worked so valiantly to save David’s life.   Hawks had always been a favorite of David’s and so the message was clear hawks should be our symbol for him.  In the ensuing years as I too embarked on my own journey of recovery from addiction we have learned much about hawks from Native Americans lore and have discovering some incredible similarities between hawks and 12 Step Recovery along the way.


Indians believe that Hawks are visionaries and messengers. They help to open our minds and our eyes so that we may hear and see the visions and messages that the Great Spirit (or our Higher Power) is sending our way. Native American’s believe that there is never a moment when the Great Spirit/Higher Power is not trying to get a message through to us but we are often too busy or preoccupied with temporal problems to receive them. 


The messages Hawks bring are about freeing ourselves of thoughts and beliefs that limit our abilities to soar above our lives and gain greater perspective on it. Indians believe that while we remain earthbound, then the possibilities of life are limited! But if we soar high above we catch a glimpse of the bigger picture which is why Hawks are held in such esteem.


In the same vein 12 Step Recovery helps us to become more like hawks by giving us the vision and clarity to see the world in a way others cannot.  With recovery we are better able to soar like hawks above anger, resentment and fear thus freeing us from our day to day problems.  And like hawks, recovery allows us to hear, see and feel the wisdom from our higher power that helps us better serve others. 




Tonight’s Baccalaureate and your coming Commencement are truly a time of celebration.  But leaving High School behind and heading to college or moving into the workforce can also be a time of apprehension and uncertainty about what the future will bring.  As long as you are in school, grades and test results measure your accomplishments.  You had a pretty good idea of what is expected of you and where you stand.  But once you leave High School, you will have to rely more on your Higher Power, the Power that will guide you in a world undergoing ceaseless and tumultuous change.  Yes….you will have the benefit of every electronic and time saving device that mind of man or woman can conceive of, you will twitter and text to your hearts content.  But… will be so busy using these tools; you will hardly have a moment to think.


When I was your age….and how many times have you heard your parents tell you that????…we thought the world was a simpler place.  My class of 1970 had a relatively more uniform sense of identity and a more common view of what our country was about and what the forces were, that opposed us.  But for you, the Class of 2009, the world is a much more complex place.  Certainly the United States is without equal in it the power and influence that it wields through out the globe.  But the forces that oppose us today are more indistinct and unclear than ever before.  We are opposed by a faceless and fanatical world-wide terrorism, we are opposed by grinding poverty that affect over 70 percent of the world, we are opposed by centuries old religious and ethic strife in every corner of the globe, and finally, as if that wasn’t already enough, I believe we are opposed by rampant intolerance that threatens the very fabric of our civilization.

After two world wars, the Holocaust, multiple genocides and countless conflicts, we really must ask ourselves how long it will be before we are able to rise above the national, racial and gender distinctions that divide us, and in doing so ultimately embrace the common humanity that binds us together.  The answer depends not on our stars or some mysterious force of history or nature; it depends on the choices that you, The Class of 2009, will make.  And never was there a class that was more prepared and poised to meet the challenges that this world, and your future holds for you.


In the years to come some of you may lift the lives of others through your capacity to teach. 

Others of you may save lives through your ability to heal. 

Some of you may create opportunity through business enterprises.

Some of you may build homes, buildings, highways.

Some of you may move goods across the country.

Some of you may enrich the lives of us all through your accomplishments in science and law.

Some of you may nurture others…..

And some of you may give comfort to others.


But I hope that whatever you choose to do, that you will all be bound together by a common spirit of service to others, a common goal of caring for your fellow inhabitants of this world, and a common dream of reaching out to those who are less fortunate than you, and in doing so

lift them up to the light of self-respect,

lift to them to the light of freedom from want,

and most of all lift them to the light of love.


This evening, at this ceremony of warm memory and high expectations, I ask you to do this…..that in the coming years you will embrace the faith that

Every challenge surmounted by your energy;

Every problem solved by your wisdom;

Every soul stirred by your passion;

And every barrier to justice brought down by your determination;

Every one of these will ennoble your own life, will inspire others to do the same, and by doing so will explode the boundaries of what is achievable on this earth.


If you remember nothing else about what I have shared with you tonight just remember this….the real purpose of life is to live a life of purpose.


I close tonight with a verse that has become a kind of mantra for Marissa, Josh, Angie and me since David’s death.  Some of you already know it.  It’s a popular verse but it really sums up our family’s feelings tonight and our wish for all of you in the years to come.

It goes….

Some people come into our lives and all too quickly go.

Some people move our souls to dance.

They awaken us to new understandings with the passing whisper of their wisdom.

Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.

They stay in our lives for a while; they leave footprints on our hearts,

And we are never, ever the same again.

 Dave left footprints on our hearts,

You, the Class of 2009, in turn have left footprints on ours and many other hearts,

But Now it is time for you to go out and leave footprints on the heart of the world.


God Speed Class of 2009"

May 30, 2009 at 05:22 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2009

Far From the Madding Crowd

I recently came across this fragment of a note that I wrote to now unknown friends in those early days after Davids death from addiction  and the ensuing funeral.  It was a time when the rest of the world returned to their daily routine while our world was still rent asunder.  As I read my words today the emotions come rushing back and yet I marvel at how prophetic they were.  The tools for our recovery were indeed within our hands but it would take many months and years before they were instilled in our hearts. 


June 2001 

Now that the rituals are concluded and the chorus of expressions of sorrow and comfort has quieted, the silence of our home is sometimes soothing and at other times deafening as we struggle with the conundrum of why we grieve for a soul set free. We are beginning to respond to the incredible outpouring of caring and affection and your notes to us were among the very first that helped assuage our pain. 


We are doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.  Ironically it appears that the knowledge and coping strategies we learned while working through the substance abuse program David was enrolled in, have given us the tools and a framework to come to terms with his decision and its tragic consequences.  And while it didn't seem to work for him it has worked for us.


As I may have indicated, once we do the things that are required either by custom or by law, we plan to go away for a while.  I had suggested to Marissa that we go to my Dad's condo in Sedona Arizona but she has indicated that she needs the ocean to heal her.  We had promised Dave a trip to the Caribbean for "Fall Break" if he kept on track with his studies and his recovery.  It is a promise we have decided to keep albeit a bit sooner and sadder than we have planned.  We will try and find a place "Far from the Madding Crowd" where we can begin our healing in anonymity.  Not the usual high profile resort.....any suggestions you might have in that regard would be most welcome.


We so appreciate your kinds thoughts and prayers and I also thank you for remembering Marissa's love of Hydrangeas. The plant is beautiful and will be a wonderful addition to her garden.

We love you both very much and the next time your son returns  for a visit hold him tight and hug him and tell him that you love that for yourselves and for us.



May 20, 2009 at 03:43 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2009

The War On Drugs

The word came today that the War has ended.  A war that the United States has been engaged in longer than World War I or II.  Longer than the Korean or Vietnam wars and yes longer than the latest quagmire that Iraq has become.  The end of the war was greeted with scant fanfare, no ticker tape parades, no joyous throngs crowding city centers and no banner headlines trumpeting the end of a long and dark national nightmare.   

The War on Drugs was declared in 1969 by President Richard Nixon and for the past 40 years this conflict has affected millions of people across the globe and cost tens of thousands of lives.  Even though hostilities ended this past week hundreds of thousands are still prisoners of this war in jails and correctional institutions all over the world.  The financial cost of prosecuting the war to date has been in the trillions of dollars…..but of course the human toll is incalculable.

This campaign was undertaken by the Government of the United States with assistance of participating countries to reduce the illegal drug trade and curb the supply of substances that were deemed “immoral, harmful or undesirable.”  Other than the inference that those who used or abused illegal substances were they themselves immoral, harmful and undesirable little or no attempt was made to approach addiction as a disease or enhance treatment opportunities for those who suffer from it.  The philosophy that cutting off the supply would reduce the demand was hopelessly flawed from the beginning; consequently the war was doomed from the beginning.   And as we witnessed in Vietnam and Iraq flawed philosophies and policies lead to ineffectual efforts, tragic results and failure.  And the War on Drugs was indeed a colossal failure of money, and the more important, precious human capital it squandered.

So when the new White House Drug Czar announced the end of the War on Drugs this week it was noteworthy that he ushered in a new era of focusing on the treatment of addiction and the sustaining of recovery for those who suffer from the disease.  

Perhaps now we can get on the important work of treating the disease like the public health crisis it is and at the same time begin to address the depressing state of adolescent and adult treatment in America.

May 16, 2009 at 03:16 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 28, 2009

The Lonely Path of Loss

We first spoke out publically two and a half years after our son David's death from addiction.  Publically was an understatement.  The event was the kick off to Inhalant and Poison Awareness Week sponsored by the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) and held at the National Press Club in Washington DC.  We did not know it at the time but on the dais that day with us were all the major national players in the field of substance abuse prevention from the White House Drug Czar to the top researcher in the field of addiction as well as media outlets from all over the US and the world.  Harvey Weiss, the head of NIPC had recruited us two months earlier after an article appears about our story in a local news paper.   After the Press Conference was over and the reporters and correspondants had finished their interviews with us Harvey took us out to dinner that evening to thank us for our participation that day. As the evening wore down Harvey ended our time together with this prediction.  " I can't thank you enough for what you did today but I want you to know I don't expect you two will be around very long", he said " I have been doing this for a long time now and in my experience few parents who have lost a child stay involved for more than a couple of years," 

Five years later his words from that night still haunt me.  Today were are more committed to sharing David's story and carrying the message of our recovery from his loss than ever...yet I understand why he made that prediction.  Over the years we have met and have become acquainted with many who are on this same journey.  Loss of a child for any reason is tragic but when the cause is substance abuse or addiction the stigma and shame our society still directs toward parents is often too much for them to endure for long.  Divorce is more common than not, parents who become advocates are more likely to be the Mom with only the occasional Dad.  Many do become active in movements or start foundations of their own but Harvey was right...the majority eventually fall by the wayside.  For many telling their story over and over becomes too painful, other carry deep seated resentment toward people, places or things that they feel failed them and their child, some never are able to shed their guilt that hangs heavy on their hearts...and others just get tired of railing against the cunning and baffling foe that is addiction.

In our 12 step programs of recovery we learn that too much analysis leads to paralysis so I will simply close this entry with my deep feeling of gratitude for all who trudge this lonely path with us...and say that no matter how long you stay I thank you for your willingness to bare your grief and loss to the world.  For in doing so you have given strength and hope to those who unfortunately join our ranks everyday.

April 28, 2009 at 09:55 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 21, 2009

The Roadside Cross


The rude cross is nailed loosely to the telephone pole.  The nails that hold it are crooked and bent indicating a hammer held by hands unsteady with profound and painful grief.  There are scraps of handwritten notes, signs and diminutive statues of angels, smiling or crying cherubs and artificial flowers.  A shirt had hung on the cross for a while.  Around the foot of the pole are the remains of cigarette butts and half burned candles that once contributed meager illumination for many nocturnal vigils.

A 16 year boy died here late one night last fall when he lost control of his parents car on the dangerous curve and slid into the unforgiving telephone pole crushing the drivers side and extinguishing the life just inside.  Some said he was high on prescription drugs but it really doesn't matter now.  What does matter are the lives that have been changed forever, the dreams that are no more, the pain that will lessen over time but never goes away and the touch that will never be felt again.

We pass these roadside crosses all the time...memorials to lives and loved ones that are so nameless and faceless to us that they usually are just a blur as we hurry on with our lives.  But I know this one; know his parents and his brother.  I know where they are right now and where there will be in the months and years ahead.  I know that the numbness is replaced by pain which in turn is replaced by melancholy. And if they are lucky over time, memories that once caused heartache may become treasures of warm remembrance sometimes punctuated by a single tear.

I know that because that is how I feel about losing Dave when ever I pass by a roadside cross.

March 21, 2009 at 07:13 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack