Where the Drug Deals Go Down…

I always assumed the drug deals to go down in a dark alley, a shady neighborhood, in a rundown complex, and of course, in the big cities.

But I was wrong, in part.

Sure – some of them do certainly happen in those places… but there’s a lot that do not.

I never knew, until after my son overdosed and we had a look at his phone.

Two years prior to his death, he was introduced to his first substance by another athlete at school; typical, and hey – experimentation in high school has been going on for years and years – not one generation has been able to avoid it; sad, but true.

Two years after that first introduction, was another story.

Where the drug deals go down may surprise you… it did me; I was angered when I found out.

“How did I not see?”

thRCO12E63Like an innocent sheep with the wool pulled over my eyes… I was dumb, unaware, and never saw the wolves at my back door – literally.

Cars would pull up alongside the driveway for a few minutes every so often, every few – 5 days or so, and when we asked, “Who was that?” My son would say, “Just a friend who stopped by to say Hi!” And we believed him, oh so naïve.

Exchanges on the bike trails… Oh wait!  I had seen my son’s car sitting there in the  parking lot several times before, odd afternoons and early evenings – and he said, “I was just chillin”  – meeting up with “some friends”… and I believed him, oh so naïve.

The friend card  –  (*sigh*)  – we all want our kids to have friends, so we don’t question too much, and we give them space (assuming that all the friends are good friends) … and we relax when they are just chillin’ with a friend… at least I did, oh so naïve.

Little did I know… there were deals being made, and drops going on…

in the mailbox,

in the woods,

by the dumpster…

just yards and a few miles away from home, oh so naïve.

Parents:

Where the drug deals go down (?) is right in your backyards, in your neighborhoods, and on your sport teams in your idyllic little towns; the wolves are at your back door… literally.

Post my son’s death, one source told me, “Oh, I had people drop right at the front door while my parents where watching T.V. – they never suspected a thing!”

My only point to this post today is DON’T BE NAIVE my fellow parents!

My hindsight is 20/20, just as the saying goes.

Parents:

Take note when your kids’ friends “stop by” in a habitual manner, every so often, and don’t stay very long at the end of your driveways, in parking lots, or alongside your house, or your neighbors house. Take note when your son or daughter often slips out of the house for a few minutes for no apparent reason, no matter the time of day. Note the patterns, question the nonchalant-ness, know who these friends are…

Trust me:

You don’t want to be caught unaware, where the drug deals go down.

 

 

First Moments with my Dead Son

In my battle with daily grief, I share my first moments with my dead son.

The Time to Let it Go

Walking by the stares that tried not to look, they kept looking…
but I was certain not to lift my eyes.
One step in front of the other,
I followed until the curtain was parted
and I stepped into the space that became enclosed as the curtain was let go.
A soft sway of the fabric gently moved, until the stillness was bigger.

Machines stood around me,
Entangled wires left to hang.
No beeps or whirrs or steady drones to hear.
Just silence echoed, bouncing in the space like a torpedo bomb looking for its target.
My sons body lay there, his long legs and muscled shoulders filled the table and stretched the sheet right up to his chin.

Was this really him?
I stared at his sleeping body as I had done so many times before, through all the years of nurture and care…
What do I do
but put my hand on his chest – no rise, no fall – and I feel the stillness and the silence as it stopped right here.

A tear trickles down my cheek, then another, and another,
and my voice, like a misty vapor, can only say:
God, have mercy on my son’s soul.
For the very last time I kiss his forehead and catch the scent of my son’s body
to savor as a memory forever…
The time to let it go,
Will be
when I meet him again
on the other side.

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This memory is ingrained in my mind and will never leave; the images, the smells, and the visceral pain rushes like raging waters breaking the dam, at any unexpected moment, without warning.

I cannot erase it.

I cannot ignore it.

It doesn’t go away.

I have been writing about the ongoing battles that my son, who died of an overdose, dealt with; I have shared some of the battles & victories that other friends in Recovery face; but today I share a little of the battle I face every single day, in grief.

It is common practice to encourage people to talk about their trauma’s in order to process and work through them. Experiencing the unexpected death of a child is a gigantic trauma; the battle with daily grief is real and not easily understood by onlookers and supporters, even though some try so hard.

How can you help?

Here are 5 ways:

  • Listen; we need to talk about the raw, unedited stuff sometimes
  • Be still with us and maybe hug us; we are lonely in the crowded rooms, and in pain.
  • Do not try to reason our suffering away with staid, trite phrases; we don’t want to hear it, and even if we did, our minds are so overwhelmed we don’t hear what you are saying anyway; I love you, is more than sufficient.
  • Be patient with us; it is scary to re-involve ourselves with life and activities that once were routine for us.
  • Pray for us; grief is a process and it weighs us down, sometimes just getting out of bed is the biggest accomplishment for the day; we need God’s healing.

 

Please share with those who may need to hear my story of grief, to know they are not alone,  or share with someone who can hear and then learn how they might help someone else in similar grief as me.

 

 

Trust God, Clean House, Help Others

My friend, Croix, got his One Year Coin and I was there to witness it!

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This young man was my son’s roommate at the local sober house, Honest Beginnings, and the one my son wept fearful tears with just days before my son overdosed and died.

Proud.

Yes, I was so proud of him as he beamed at the podium. We have emotionally adopted Croix and think of him as a son, as we do others we have met while we were on the difficult journey of trying to help our own addicted son in Recovery.

At the podium, my freind clearly declared and shared his testimony as to how he accomplished this milestone:

“Trust God, Clean House, Help Others” is what he said.

Basically, that was his whole speech..

This plan is so simple; it is profoundly awesome!

Trust God: At some point in our lives, we must admit that there is One over us, One we must submit to and trust with our lives.

  • For me, that is Jesus; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Clean House: No Windex necessary! It’s not that kind of cleaning. This is cleaning out the messes in life that we have created – making amends with people we have offended and hurt – seeking forgiveness and making things right with them.

  • As a Christian, I align this with the concept of repentance, making all things right in relationship to God, first, then with others; “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Help Others: This is the profoundly awesome part because it is the key that keeps him continuing on the path of Recovery.  Croix said, when he stops helping others, that’s when he sees himself begin to slip in thought/mind and heart and that’s a dangerous thing… a very dangerous thing.

Helping others is the way to stay focused — talk the talk, and walk the talk alongside!

  • Coincidentally, this is the way to follow Jesus as well, He said: be fishers of mendo as I did love your neighbor. Jesus sought out the broken and made them whole by seeking, serving, and loving. This is key to the mission, no wonder it is so effective in Recovery for one to help the other; it’s essential to passing on the wholeness & healing.

So, in case you are wondering…

or know someone else who needs to know what a good battle plan is…. this is it!

BATTLE PLAN IN RECOVERY:   TRUST GOD,  CLEAN HOUSE,  HELP OTHERS!

BUT DO NOTE:

It’s not a one time declaration, it’s a day by day, moment by moment work.

It’s doable.

Recovery is attainable.

 

PS. This is a good battle plan for every life in fact.

Trust God, Clean House, Help Others: Repeat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Addiction Sin?

This was the one question asked of me while I spoke to the high school students at the Granville Village School; my topic: Addiction Juxtaposed with a Christian World View.

Is addiction sin?

I believe the short answer to that is, “NO.” Addiction, in and of itself, is not sin because addiction is a chronic illness.

The longer answer involves a bad choice tried and then repeated, that can be triggered by emotional states & mental illness, which messes with natural dopamine levels, and can be exacerbated by genetic predisposition… all leading to chemical and /or emotional dependency. That’s my take on it all.

The truth is, we all make bad choices from time to time and they usually follow a similar pattern of pre-meditation.

I am young and I stayed up too late, I am wicked tired, and I have an early class…so I decide to start drinking coffee like my dad…or a Monster energy drink like my older sister.  This week it is one caffeinated drink, next week it is three, and now I  need one everyday to function. This is an addiction to caffeine. Lack of self-control, to get the sleep that is needed, is the sin.

I am overweight and I need to stick to my diet, but I had a really stressful day…so I reach for the bucket of ice cream and I eat the whole container. Today it is ice cream, tomorrow it is second helpings, and next week it will be a bag of chips. This is an addiction to foods as a comforter. Lack of self control, leading to moments of gluttony, is the sin.

I am super anxious and I need to calm down so I can focus…so I decide to drink a couple of beers and try smoking a joint that my friend offers me. Tonight that worked well, so I try it again the next night, and the next night, and most every night; in fact, I think chillin’ like this is the way to go for a good night sleep! This is an addiction to substances.  Lack of trust in God*, to absorb the anxiety, is the sin.

Caffeine, sugar, alcohol … or whatever the substance used (especially those that fuel the current drug epidemic), once we take part and repeat the partaking, our brains are  altered chemically and/or emotionally, and we set ourselves up for potential addiction.  When people attempt to abstain consistently from these addictive substances – headaches pound and cravings of a beastly size will come at the minimum.

This is why America runs on Dunkin’ and people cannot stick to the number one New Year resolution… so, you can imagine how much harder it is to abstain, for the one who is addicted to stronger substances that skyrocket dopamine levels and cripple the body’s own production of it’s natural dopamine?

Most choices that feed our fleshly desires, rather than the Spirit desires, are sinful acts.

Everyone falls short. We all make bad choices sometimes.  Temptations ensnare us like a trap that bites the rabbits leg.

One piece of advice from God: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18.  This warning against drunkenness implies abstaining from anything that will impair your physical being to cause you to act in ways that would harm your body, or cause more behavior that is displeasing to God.  Surrender your life to Christ, die to self, and you will be enabled with the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptations and live a fully free life.

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Short answer take-away:

No, I do not believe Addiction is a sin.

Addiction is a chronic illness and people who suffer from addiction need loving care and help.  The sin is the piggy-toe dipping, leading to a big step walking, in the ways that satisfy the flesh-desires we have instead of trusting that our God can take care of our every need.

 

*(My one disclaimer is that I believe that there are some levels of anxiety and depression, and other mental struggles, that do need medical & psychological intervention alongside a relationship with God, in order for there to be full healing).