Detox Counselor Weeps

Last Christmas my son was at The Castle.

Don’t think Downton Abbey, or Cinderella & Prince-Charming kinds of Castles.   I am referring to The Castle in Brockton, MA – the short term addiction treatment program for kids 13 – 19 years old.

My son was 19 when we sectioned him to detox; he was not happy with us. Yet, he had excellent care at The Castle and his detox counselor was able to meet my son square-on; good progress was made and my son knew why we did what we did.

However, after 5 clean months, a relapse and overdose took my son from this earth.  His detox counselor called me when she heard about his death and was devastated. As we talked, she wept with me and confessed:

“I lied to him; I told him he would have many Christmases to enjoy with his family – that this was just one Christmas to work through to have many more in the future.”

I said,

“You did not lie, you were encouraging him to be motivated to pursue clean and sober living – you were extending hope to him.”

And that is the truth.

I look back and remember packing eight of us up with gifts, in two cars, twice, to try and make it through a blizzard to get to The Castle to see him on Christmas day, last year; it consumed our entire day.

Hours of tedious driving later, we arrived. Big hugs were given, animated conversation and laughs filled the glass atrium as snow continued to fall outside.  My son’s face literally lit up with joy and relief at seeing his family. What a glorious moment! My heart tucked that entire scene away and logged it as: precious-memory-to-keep-forever.

Some look back with sadness and think he had the worst Christmas last year and he will never have another one to enjoy… just like his detox counselor thought. And, that it was our worst Christmas too.

I beg to differ, actually.

Last Christmas was very intentional – one that was not taken for granted because it was full of purposeful action to show our son how much he was loved. I know my son knew that – it was written all over his face for that full hour we got to spend with him. Deep down, he knew he was totally loved, and in some ways, it was a best Christmas for him I think; the usual traditions were up-ended, they weren’t there to distract everyone from the total focus of love.

After all – that’s the whole point of Christmas isn’t it? It’s not about the trimmings and the traditions/expectations and the lazy MO of the day. It’s entirely about love.

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This is a painting that my son painted before addiction took over his brain and claimed his life. He loved to paint and draw; it brought a sense of peace to his being.

Notice the star –  it was followed by some wise men long ago.

Notice the angel, front and center – it is a symbol of the Good News that God has for us all.

Notice the small yet perfect depiction of Jesus and his parents surrounded by those carefully crafted stones – humbly positioned in just the right place.

Jesus’ birth was intentional; let us not take his birth for granted… it is the beginning of God’s best show of love for us. We are each deeply loved by the Father and Jesus was willing to do what he did; be born, live to die, and rise… so we can go to heaven one day. This is the ultimate gift of love.

Simple.

The message is simple.

Dear Detox counselor,

My son is now in the presence of Jesus this Christmas… and he will enjoy all Christmases eternally.  Do not weep, dear detox counselor, for the earthly Christmases lost, for my son’s gain is far better!

Yes, my heart hurts and I miss him so very much!

Yet, … until I join him – I will keep following and keep sharing the good news!

Merry Christmas to all who read these words!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Recovering Addict wants for Christmas

So, what do you want for Christmas?

That’s the question of the season right?

Both clandestinely and up-front-boldly, parents ask it of their children, children ask it of their parents, friends ask one to another, and all are expecting tangible ideas in order to compile their secret lists and sneaky plans…

It is a conversation starter when you are in groups; a good way to get people talking about what their hearts are set on…

the latest gadget,

a new pair of boots,

coveted jewels,

or… money – to get what they really want…

Those are the kind of answers I expected when I asked a small group of men in Recovery what they wanted for Christmas. But it is not the answer I got. Not even close.

Without hesitation, his voice was steady and strong:

“All I want is one more day, just like today, clean and sober.”

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Immediately, my heart melted right into the shape of a large piece of humble pie.  In my asking, I was boldly sneaky in hopes that I would be able to gain insight and surprise these guys with a tangible gift near Christmas Day. Instead, I was stopped in my tracks.

How many of us think, all we want for Christmas is: one more day?

It is a total perspective game changer to think like this! This young man’s answer caused me to realize how very ungrateful I was to not see the preciousness of one more day. Not to see the gift of one more day.

One more day to breathe in the cold winter air and feel the crunch of snow underfoot…

One more day to enjoy a taco on Tuesday…

One more day to laugh with a friend, hug a mom, and sing in the shower!

For those in Recovery, it is a different story. One more day, clean and sober, is one more day to live and enjoy life and the people in their paths.  Too many of these young men know the instability of recovery; too many of these young men have been revived by Narcan and fully know that unexpected deaths occur. Too many of these young men fear that tomorrow may not come.

One more day is a gift for sure.

And so, I ask myself …

If I all I wanted for Christmas was one more day…how would that change my Holiday season?

One more day to cook a meal for those I love…

One more day to give a hug, loan a dollar, listen to a hurting heart…

One more day to laugh and cry and  pray…

One more day to serve my Lord…

The best gifts of this season are those intangibles – the stuff you cannot buy, but that are given by the Father of the Baby Jesus that is so prevalently depicted during this season.  Today, I am thanking my young man friend for the gift he gave me:

… perspective.

I will align myself with him and say, yes – I want the same for Christmas – the best gift:

One more day to wake up and enjoy what God has given me.

What do you want for Christmas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a Recovering Addict Mourns

It is morning, but it is dark.
Dark in the sense that everything is just not how it is supposed to be.
Dark, so dark, that I strain to see sense, but there is no sense to see.
This dark weighs like a thousand pound cloud that thunders, waiting to release the torrential rain.
How did it come to this?

Dutifully going through the motions, I slip on my suit coat.
Black. Black as dark as black can be. I feel wound & bound as I enter this day.
Just five months ago he came to the house. I recognized his hesitancy and his lack of admission right away because I had been there myself.
Not that I know it all or have the answers and can say I am free, because, in reality, we are never really free – never free enough to not be concerned.

We all walk a tenuous, tightrope of recovery.

The light begins as a pinhole stream, as hope is recognized and love is allowed in. Gaining steadiness in my walk I can say the brightness of the light grows with each day that I keep my back turned away from the lures that promise things that are not true.

Emotions are hard.
They trigger desires and thoughts to run and hide in the dark spaces and places.

Standing tall I breathe big and my hand slips into my suit coat pocket and feels a single, soft tissue. This suit was borrowed by him who came to the house five months ago. He wore it to his friends funeral. Yes… this was his tissue with his tears dried on it from just a few weeks ago. And now, here I stand, wearing the same suit, needing a tissue of my own. I pull it out and let the soft crumbled mass sit cradled in my hand like a treasure; the treasure of a friendship now lost.

Death is so very dark.
Why couldn’t I have helped him better to see the light more clearly?
Emotions; damn emotions!
Begging, they seductively whisper to me…
the darkness that thunders with the weight of rain, beckons.
That tenuous, tightrope is before me. Can I still walk it?

I am paralyzed in the moment.

Without any more hesitation, I carefully place the crumpled tissue back into my pocket. And my heart weeps a message: Dear friend, I will miss you. I am sorry I couldn’t change your mind.

And so, I step out and balance my footing…
Sober. Yes, sober, I decide on it.
And I leave the dark rumble behind me.

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My son was just barely five months clean in recovery when one of his good friends died of an overdose via a medicine laced with fentanyl. He was crushed. He wept and stuffed that crumpled tissue into his suit coat pocket.

Just about six weeks later, it was my son who died of an overdose involving fentanyl.

I cannot help but think about the impact that drug related deaths have on those who are in recovery; I imagine it frays the end of the tightrope.

Emotions are hard. Death by drugs is a slap of reality across the face that forces a hard look at mortality and threatens the recovering addicts ability to keep walking that tenuous tight rope.

As my son’s friends in recovery came to his memorial service, they wept and were crushed too.  My heart feared for each one of them.

For real, just weeks later, I watched these same friends weep over another friend who died of an overdose; It was horribly overwhelming. What bold resolve it takes to keep on going forward in recovery when friends are dying all around them.

How can we help?  We can help by being purposeful in our love and support for those  who struggle every day to keep sober and clean. Acknowledge their strength and resiliency to keep going when fear rises up and they doubt their next day will be successful. Keep reaching out and hoping and be there when they need you.

Most of all, pray.