I'm in the process of getting back on my horse. My goal is to get my story edited and published. The goal is to help other parent's who are saddled with the burden of having an addict in the house.
Journal Entry: March 30 – Kauai
Long time since journaling – we are at Benny's house with Channa and Zack – enjoying some time in tropical paradise. Out of treatment, Sam is not here. I hope and pray for his safety and well being. He was on schedule to be here but due to a relapse, he is not. Sam is my heartache. I just want to love him. All I know is to pray for his recovery, safety and hopefully, a spiritual awakening. It is great getting reconnected with my cousin Benny – he is a great guy. He spent some time yesterday teaching Zack to surf. Benny has a beautiful home near Poipu Beach.
Kaikala, his wife, is a native of Kauai and their home is decorated with very tasteful and traditional Hawaiian décor. The living room is filled with sofas and tables made from Koa wood and the fabric on the sofa is beautiful Hawaiian floral prints – deep reds, yellows and brown colors. The rooms are big and open with several ceiling fans. Unlike Minnesota the house has no central heating nor air conditioning. The temperate climate of Kauai makes it unnecessary and the trade winds are constantly blowing.
Zack is having a great time and is exhausted from a vigorous day of learning how to surf. Channa had a bad fall right before we left and her left leg is all black and blue – besides emotional pain she is in intense physical pain. I’m hoping she will have a speedy recovery and be able to enjoy our vacation.
Kauai is such a laid-back place and the people are very friendly. Cousin Benny is really taking good care of us here. Nice to be with family again – we have quite a lot in common – a lot of history. I am grateful for my sobriety and that we were able to have the financial resources to get here. (end).
Everywhere I go, Sam is on my mind. Why does he have to be such a hard-ass? He is so stubborn. Why won't he behave? He reminds me of Danny, the character in a book we used to read to him when he was little - Danny and the Toy Box. In the story, Danny gets mad and decides to hide in a toy box. His mom tries to get him out. His dad tries. The doctor tries. The policeman tries and so does the fireman. After awhile, his sister comes in and says "Danny, what are you mad about?" But he continues to stay in the box. Left alone, Danny thinks it over and comes to realize that he doesn’t know why he’s mad. He comes out and the book has a happy ending. In our lives, we have no happy ending so far with Sam. He just fights fights and fights.
I’m sitting on the beach at Hanalei Bay, the North Shore of Kauai with my cousin Benny, his wife, Kaikala and Channa. Zach is in our view trying to catch some waves. I find myself apologizing to Benny about Sam not being here with us. I told him we were all coming, that Sam was almost finished with a lengthy treatment program. I find myself full of shame and feel like a failure. Sam is in Minnesota running around with a kid who I know is trouble. I fear they will find trouble.
My decade of sobriety helps me trust my gut level feelings. Before leaving, I take everything of value out of the house and put the small things in our safe deposit box and leave the bigger items with our neighbors. This includes my guitar collection, a couple of shotguns, the keys to my BMW motorcycle and our cars. As much as I love Sam, I don’t put it past him to break into our house and take things that he can sell for money. Benny and Kaikala do their best to comfort Channa and me, sharing their trials and tribulations of raising their three children. Benny is a realist and just says something to the effect that Sam will have to face the consequences for his actions. Still, I'm distressed - it’s stressful wondering where my child is. This trip was planned around his getting out of treatment. Taking a nice vacation seemed like a great way to celebrate getting reunited as a family.
Channa is pain in more ways than one. The day before leaving for Kauai, Channa trips over a planter stand on wheels, while carrying a basket of laundry. Her left leg is injured. It is black and blue from top to bottom. The doctor says she should stay home and rest but Channa’s never been to Hawaii. She is so excited about going that she won’t let the accident stop her from going. It has taken twenty-one years of marriage for us to finally to get here.
The preceding two weeks have been hard. Sam was a resident at Omegon for almost a year. Omegon is a dual-diagnosis in patient treatment program in Minnetonka. They have a good reputation for helping kids uncover the “why” of what's causing them to "use." Although doing well, Donna, Sam's social worker and I can see he is getting restless. We both agree that if he does not get discharged soon he will probably run again. Channa is apprehensive and wants Sam to stay in treatment as long as possible.
His primary care counselor, Jen and Sam do not get along. Jen is strict and her control tactics with Sam are not working. Most of the kids there, after reaching certain "levels" get weekend passes. Jen doesn’t feel Sam is compliant or respectful enough. She gives him one night passes which pisses him off. Sam vents his frustration to Donna saying it’s not fair. Other kids with less time at Omegon are getting weekend passes and he is not. It makes sense: Sam is getting mixed messages. He is in the process of transitioning to public school from Omegon’s school program and is excited about moving forward with his life. When he does get passes to come home, he wants me to take him to AA meetings. He's really good at giving me "false hope." Jen can see right through his bullshit. I am wearing my rose colored glasses. I see what I want to see. I want to believe that if I love and encourage him enough that he will change his ways. Although, filled with fear, Channa is more realistic about Sam than me. I am in denial The truth is Sam still wants what he wants. Sam still does not respect or understand boundaries. Everything in life is all about him. I understand. . When I first come to AA it I, too, am very self centered.. Recovery is very tough. We say in AA "you can carry the message but not the alcoholic." In order for recovery to happen, a person has to want to get better. Alcoholism is a disease described as “cunning, baffling, and powerful.”
When released from Omegon, Sam quickly transitions from attending AA meetings to hanging out with a different crowd at the pool hall. All the progress he seems to have made in treatment starts to unravel . I feel like a fool. I can see clearly now that my wishful thinking about taking a family vacation to Hawaii as a way to bring our family back together is unrealistic. But the reality is Sam starts using again. His personality is different with drugs in his system. I am disappointed and embarrassed. When Benny and I happened to cross paths in Las Vegas, several months ago, he gave me a standing invitation to bring my family to Kauai and invites us to stay in their home. After discussing this with Channa, I accept his offer. A reprieve from the harsh Minnesota winters sounds good. I purchase non-refundable tickets online from Orbitz to Kauai and book a side trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. This is a dream come true vacation for me. I get to show my family that dad can show them a good time (after losing everything and starting over at age forty). But Sam has another agenda. Before leaving, he says he is excited about going to Hawaii with us but the minute he gets out of treatment unsettling things start to happen.
The Ipod I bought him gets stolen out of his backpack - Channa told me not to buy it and predicts he will lose it. I buy it anyway. Next we start getting automated calls, from school telling us in a robotic voice that "Sam was absent from school today." Getting these calls starts becoming a regular occurrence. On one hand we understand Sam's pent-up demand to go out and be social with his "friends." He’s been at Omegon for almost a year and in another treatment facility before that. What I see in addictive type personalities is an “all or nothing” mentality. He has to hang-out with friends every day after school and gets “tight” with a new “friend.” They met at the technical school - Sam is taking a auto mechanics class and the friend wants to be a chef. They start hanging out together every day after school - I meet him and my gut tells me this kid is no good .But like a moth attracted to light, like attracts like. Almost immediately Sam starts using again - smoking cigarettes is a given - now he's coming home high and it is quite obvious to Channa, Zach and me. Instead of taking the bus home after school, he chooses to hang out with his friends and wants us to pick him up whenever he decides to come home.
While Sam is in treatment at Omegon, Channa becomes a disciple of Al-anon for parents. I go to a few meetings and learn about co-dependency. There I meet other parents who have “Sam’s.” Al-anon is low octane - not nearly as exciting as AA. In the end I nix Al-anon in favor or AA meetings. There just is not enough time in my day to take in all these meetings. I admit that I am to some extent codependent with Sam but convince myself that I will not let him take advantage of me over and over. Some of the parents seem like whipping posts - they just keep coming back for more abuse from their kids. Many don’t know how to turn away from the abuse of their addict children. In a way, I feel out of place. Before getting sober, I am an addict who causes pain to others who try to love me. Listening to some of the mom’s talk, I think to myself, “Why can't they just tell their kids to get the hell out of their homes?” But no, they keep coming back for more. One ladies son borrows money and never pays her back. He comes home high and verbally abuses her and then punches holes in the walls. She just can't understand why her son is behaving this week and feels so victimized. I'm thinking, "Get a life, lady." On the other hand, I bet subconsciously, I don’t like hearing these stories because I'm a lot like them. I open my heart and wallet to Sam and he disappoints me. I get mad and decide to forgive him after awhile. I do something nice and he does it again. The cycle seems endless. This is my life! In a song called “How Blue Can You Get,” written by BB King, the line goes “I bought you a brand new penthouse and you said it was just a shack, I gave you a brand new Ford but you said I want a Cadillac, I bought you a ten dollar dinner, you said it was just a shack, I gave you seven children and now you want to give them back!” . . . “Why me?” What did I do to deserve this treatment? Fortunately, sobriety, an AA sponsor, going to meetings and working the steps gives me a daily reprieve from the pain and suffering I used to experience while using. My life was a roller coaster - I'd get high when I was "up" and get high when I was "down." While high I’d get a temporary reprieve from the pain I was feeling but never anything that lasted very long. The twelve step program teaches me to grow up and be a man – I am a dependable person to my wife, boys, friends, family, employer and co-workers.
Still, I'm co-dependent.