Welcome to my Blog - What Is A Blog?

A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. ... Your blog is whatever you want it to be.

For many years I have kept a journal, which I don't write in as much as I once did. I have an inner yearning to communicate with the world through writing and pictures Part of my motivation is to leave something behind to a world that has given me so much - a mom, dad, brother, grandparents, a loving wife, high spirited and gifted sons, close friends and loyal customers. Most of us have had some help along the way to get where we are. In my 12 step program, step 12 is about giving back to others. I hope there are posts here that will warm your heart, make you smile and make you think. That is what my blog is all about. I hope you enjoy it. Ken

Monday, May 24, 2010

Progressing at Omegon

I’ve always wondered why Sam went the way he did. Was it the pain he felt about being adopted? Whatever bothered him, he wouldn’t say.

Channa and I tried to do it right as parents. Sam was adopted as a newborn. An open-adoption; his birth mom lived in Mississippi. Channa was in the hospital room when she gave birth to Sam and was first to see him open his eyes. We gave him all the love we had to give. Our extended family and friends embraced him. Mommy and me classes, horseback riding, religious school, Big Bird, Mr. Rogers – we really tried our best to set instill good values so his moral compass would always point true North.

It’s time for a quarterly review of Sam’s progress at Omegon. Channa, Sam and I are seated with his primary counselor moderating the meeting. The various players file into the room, one-by-one: His teachers, counselors, and even Peg, the program director. During our meeting we receive detailed accounts of his progress. He gets glowing reports of doing well in school, participating in group; he gets good marks all around. I’m proud of the change in Sam’s attitude and behavior.

One of my favorite musicians, Eric Clapton is coming to town and I’ve purchased tickets for our family to go to the concert. I’d asked the staff at Omegon if Sam could go. Because of his good behavior, they agreed. I’d bought an extra ticket so his best friend Staci could come too.

Before the concert, we eat dinner at our house. Channa’s prepared Sam’s favorite food: Steak, cooked on the Weber grill, baked potatoes, and canned peas. Out of nowhere, tears well up around my eyes. I’m filled with gratitude that Sam is with us at a sit-down meal. We’re together again as a family!

When it’s to go to the concert, Sam asks to drive with Staci in her car to the Excel Energy Center. I say no. He starts arguing. I tell him unless he changes his tune I will take him back to Omegon and he can forget about attending the concert. He backs down and we go in one vehicle.

Robert Cray, a soulful blues musician opens the show with a song called “Phone Booth,” and we’re not disappointed. Cray has a way of reaching inside and grabbing my heart; it’s as if his heart connects to mine and I can feel what he’s feeling: The pain of loss, the joy from finding a new love: The blues is a language from the heart and Cray is fluent. Sam and Staci are seated behind us. It looks like they’re enjoying the show. Between acts, Sam and Staci go walk around for a bit, probably to smoke a cigarette, but when Clapton comes on, they return to watch him play. Back in the day people there was a saying, “Clapton is God.” I won’t go that far but for me, listening to him play becomes a religious experience, as if God is channeling all the deceased blues legends right through his soul – the late Albert King, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, and Freddie King. Clapton is flat-out amazing.

After the show we drop Sam off at Omegon. I feel sad because he’s not coming home. I’m reminded me of my own separation anxiety I experienced when I was a kid: Being left behind and abandoned. It feels like I’m abandoning Sam. But on the flip side, I feel grateful he was able to get out and spend time with us; something we haven’t done in a long while. Everyone enjoys the show. We have good memories for weeks to come. Sam’s good behavior continues enabling him to get “leaves” to spend with us at home. He’s now earned privileges for three hour passes.

I remember the first pass. Grandma Rose is in town and we think it will be fun to take Sam out to lunch. I pick Sam up on my BMW F-650. I bring an extra jacket and helmet. Before meeting for lunch at Maynards, a lakefront restaurant in Excelsior, MN, we take a ride through the country roads. It’s April; the beginning of Spring. The smell of fresh cut grass and burning wood is in the air. The landscape’s turning from brown to green. We pass several farms and see herds of Black Angus cattle and horses. We weave through the country roads until we reach Excelsior. Grandma Rose is excited to see Sam. We enjoy a lunch of hamburgers, French fries and cokes. When our time is up, I let Sam keep the jacket and helmet at Omegon until next time. Sam gets extra attention when some of the kids at Omegon spot him riding up on a motorcycle and walking in with a helmet and leather jacket. He seems to like the added attention. During this time, I feel our relationship is getting better.

Off drugs, Sam’s a great person to be with. He’s back to his old self; funny, animated and level headed. The three hour passes progress to overnight stays at home: We enjoy having Sam back home. Channa makes him malts and Sam and Staci comes over to hang out with him. He wants me to take to a Saturday night AA meeting. I felt encouraged again: Is recovery happening? Sam’s good behavior continues but his primary counselor Kate and him are butting heads. She’s real strict and Sam is challenging her authority. Sam loses and Kate penalizes him for being disrespectful.

I speak often to Barb, Sam’s social worker. We think it’s odd that Sam’s only getting one night passes, after being at Omegon for almost nine months. We both ask Kate. She holds her ground saying until Sam can be respectful to her; he’s not getting a weekend pass. Knowing Sam, Barb and I petition the director and soon Sam starts getting weekend passes.

The passes are structured so the kids can gradually rejoin their families. Sam continues with attending AA meetings. He wants to smoke cigarettes: Omegon officially doesn’t allow smoking on passes but according to Sam “all the other kids smoke.” When I asked the therapist, at Omegon, he says he didn’t want to make an issue of it. He says it’s up to us if Sam smokes or not. Channa and I talk it over and decide not to buy him cigarettes. We tell him that he can’t smoke on our property. Sam has Staci bring him cigarettes and together, they takes walks to the nearby woods to smoke. His good behavior continues.

Sam’s sixteen and his younger brother’s Bar Mitzvah is coming up. It’s a big event: Our families are flying in for the celebration. I ask Sam if he will to be the DJ at the party. He loves pushing buttons and working electronic equipment and is excited to help out. He comes along with me to rent the sound equipment. Mark, the store manager, talks to Sam like a friend. He shows him how to use the equipment. For the Bar Mitzvah ceremony Sam puts on a suit and tie and participates in the services. My mom and dad are super happy to see Sam. His safety and well-being are in so many of our hearts. He smiles a lot and seems very happy being in the presence of our family. When it’s time for the party, Sam does a wonderful job being the “DJ” and emcee. It looks like he is finally turning the corner. Some of his friends are at the party: He’s elated to be hanging around with them. Everyone has a great time.

The staff decides it’s time for Sam to transition to public school to a program called HAP (Hopkins Alternative Program). Sam is excited: This means he’s reaching the end of his treatment at Omegon.

The first day at school, he runs into a lot of his old friends from Hebrew school. In an enthusiastic tone of voice he tells me how he ran into Mark, Nathan, and other old friends. The HAP program has an affiliate program at Hennepin Technical School where twice a week, Sam is enrolled in auto mechanics class: Sam LOVES cars. He comes home on weekend passes and brings his dirty laundry. He asks me if I’ll get him an Ipod. I discuss this with Channa and she tells me not to do it. I don’t listen and buy him one. After the second or third day the Ipod disappears. Sam says someone stole it right out of his backpack.

Sam is chomping at the bit to get out of Omegon. He is still butting heads with Kate, his primary counselor. She’s threatening to pull him out of the HAP program if he doesn’t change his tune. I’m still keeping in regular contact with Sam’s social worker and we both reach the conclusion if we don’t get him discharged soon, that he will do something to get himself kicked out. Channa doesn’t agree. She wants to keep him in treatment as long as possible. Hers is fear-based thinking: In treatment he’s safe. But Sam’s been at Omegon for almost a year and he’s only received one or two weekend passes. My feeling is he’s gone about as far as he can go at Omegon: He needs to get out, spread his wings, and fly.

I often feel guilty and shame over the whole situation; having a son with challenges and his being angry most of the time. I want things to be better. Finally, after some prodding by Barb, it is decided that Sam will be released from Omegon and come back home on March 15th.

Spring break is coming up; I think taking a family trip to Hawaii will be a nice way to celebrate Sam’s completion of treatment.

In February, I’m in Las Vegas on a business trip. My first cousin, Benny, who lives on Kauai, also happens to be there visiting his dad and brother. We connect on the phone and make plans to have dinner. Over dinner, my cousin and his wife extend an open invitation to come visit. We can stay with them.

I return home with the idea of taking a family vacation to Hawaii. In the twenty years of our marriage, I’ve not taken Channa to Hawaii. With Sam getting out of treatment, what could be a better way to reunite our family than taking a trip to Hawaii? I email my cousin and tell him the dates we’re thinking about. He replies saying “come over.” I book a flight. A decision has been made: We’re going to Hawaii! On my next visit with Sam at Omegon I share my excitement with him that he will be leaving Omegon at the end of March and we’re going to Hawaii to celebrate. He seems excited to hear the news.

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