Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bucket List

Bucket List: A list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.

I've never made a "Bucket List" but I woke up this morning and thought seriously about doing so. Not today, but maybe sometime soon. (Maybe the first thing on said list should be to make the actual list.)

Then when I started thinking more about some of the things I would put on such a list I started crying. Crying because I realized I will probably never have the chance to do the stuff I want to do most. (Regarding the crying: I've been feeling very down the last several days. It's not necessarily depression; I'm just sad because I've been reminded lately about how much life can suck sometimes. Oh, wait...Maybe it is depression. In any case, there's been a lot of crying lately. But I believe that crying can be a positive thing. So it's all good.)

I'm not sure what the "rules" of creating a Bucket List are. Or if there even are any. Do you include things you'd really like to do even if you know there's no chance in hell they'll ever happen? I mean, I'd love to have Nigella Lawson over to my house for dinner and have her cook for me. But, realistically? I think the odds are pretty much against me on that one.

There are other things I'd love to do, though, that aren't really so ridiculous. They are things that probably wouldn't be so out of reach for "normal" people, but to me they seem totally impossible. Several of them have to do with traveling, and traveling costs money. Simple logic would tell you that no money = no traveling. So I don't have much hope for things like:
  • Travel Internationally. I would love to go to Europe. I'm almost 52 years old and the only foreign country I've ever been to is Canada. Nothing against Canada, because I truly love it. But I can drive there from my house in like 30 minutes. I want to experience more far away lands: France, Italy, England, Sweden, Australia.
  • Go On a Honeymoon. My wife and I didn't go on a honeymoon when we got married almost 25 years ago. Money was a factor even back then. I would love to be able to finally take my wife on the honeymoon she deserves. (Hey, maybe we should go to Australia!)
  • Take a Trip Across the United States: I've been to several states besides Michigan (where I live), but I've always wanted to take a trip across the country. I'd love to drive or take a train from Michigan to the West Coast, with many stops along the way. I want to see things like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, etc. This is a tricky one, though, because not only is money a is time. Taking enough time off work to do this trip properly just wouldn't be possible.
Anyway, I think you get the idea.

My wife and I are not living in poverty. So I can't really complain. (Although I guess, in a way, I am.) We have a roof over our heads, have food to eat, and have been able to scrape together enough money to get treatment for our sons' issues. That being said, addiction and depression and ADHD really chip away at a family's savings, even with health insurance.

When you have kids with mental health issues, your family is kind of like a family business. And as the owners of that family business, you're always the last ones to get paid. Your kids are the employees and they--actually their doctors, rehabs, hospitals, schools, etc.--are the first ones to get paid. What's left goes to the owners...after the overhead paid. It's a sacrifice you make because you love and care about your children. That's the bottom line.

On second thought, maybe I won't make a Bucket List. A Bucket List means looking ahead, beyond today. Over the last couple of years I've gotten so much better at living in the moment. Living life one day at a time. Not worrying about tomorrow, but focusing only on today. It seems that a Bucket List would go against that whole concept.

Maybe what I really need to do is make a daily list of things to do. Not work-related stuff and errands. But things that will improve my life, my family's life, or even the life of someone else. Then I can focus on accomplishing things I want to do...not before I die but before I go to bed. That seems more manageable to me. One day at a time. Live in the moment. Right?

So here's my tiny little list for today, Thursday, May 23rd, 2013:
  • Call my wife--who I haven't seen in almost two weeks during this latest stretch--and tell her I love her.
  • Call my youngest son--who is struggling with some issues right now--and tell him, "I love you. Forever and ever. No matter what." (That's sort of his "catch phrase.")
  • Call my oldest son and tell him I'm proud of him for being almost 11 months clean and sober. And not to stress out too much about finding a job because things will work out in the end.
  • Talk myself out of starting a "traditional" Bucket List.
One down, three to go.


P.S. I completed all the items on today's list! I called my wife first (of course). I then called my oldest son, but he didn't pick up. So I left him a voice mail message. Last but not least, I called my youngest son. I told him, "I just called to tell you I love you. Forever and ever. No matter what." His response? "Is something wrong?" Made me laugh out loud. :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It's always something

I went to bed last night and it was spring. I woke up this morning and it's summer (sunny and 80 degrees at 10:30am). Thankfully the weather is helping to deflect some of the sadness and frustration I'm feeling today.

The sadness and frustration has nothing to do with my older son. He is doing fine, living at his girlfriend's house with her mom and stepfather and best friend. In fact, he just landed a new job as a stock person at a fruit and vegetable market that should get him 40 hours of work a week. That's something he's really excited about.

The sadness and frustration I'm feeling today has to do with my younger son. As some of you know, he suffers from ADHD and depression/anxiety. He's had a lot of trouble in school since about the seventh grade and his first two years at the public high school where we live didn't go very well. Even with an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in place, it was a disaster.

That's why we chose to send him to a special boarding school in northern Michigan this year; a school that specializes in teaching kids with ADHD. Smaller classes, more individualized attention, a beautiful campus, etc.

The first few months of the school year were like a gift from God. Everything was going great, and my son was thriving. He was happy, getting good grades, and fitting in like we never dreamed he could.

But the last couple of months have been a challenge. His depression and anxiety have kicked in and his motivation to get up and get to class and do schoolwork has waned. His grades have gone into a downward spiral and there have been a couple of incidents that forced the school to change his status from "boarder" to "day student." This means he has to commute back and forth from school on a daily basis and does not spend weekends there.

Fortunately for us, my wife's parents live about 40 minutes from the school. So my wife and son have been staying there and my wife has been chauffeuring the kid to and from school. Unfortunately for me, this means that my wife is not at home. The last stint she spent away was almost two weeks, until she and my son came home this past weekend for my dad's memorial service. Then it was back up north on Sunday morning (Mother's Day, no less). In all likelihood, she'll remain up north until the end of the school year, which is June 7th.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for doing anything to help get our son back on track in school. But the sadness and frustration I'm feeling is because the day student plan doesn't seem to be working. Our son is still depressed and anxious, and he's still way behind in his schoolwork. It's one of those situations where he's not motivated to do work because he's so far behind; but being so far behind makes him even more anxious and less motivated. So he falls even further behind.

If the situation doesn't improve, I fear that the school won't allow him to come back next year...which would be devastating. If he can't go back to that school, I have no idea where we would send him. I looked into the possibility of him going to another school we had checked out a couple of years ago, but they don't take seniors because it doesn't give them enough time to set up an individualized learning program for the student.

Although I fight it internally, I understand the current school's position. They specialize in teaching kids with ADHD, but they're not really equipped to deal with the severe depression and anxiety that our son suffers from; especially when it rears its ugly head in full force.

My wife and son are doing everything they can to try and combat this. Meeting with a therapist, adjusting medications, etc. Our son has started--on his own--eating better and working out daily. I think those things will get him feeling better about himself. I just don't know if it'll be in time for him to get his motivation back to do his schoolwork. I'm praying that it will be. I think we need another "God moment" in our lives.

It's tough being the parent of two boys with mental health issues. You do everything you can for them, but sometimes even that's not enough. My younger son is such a great kid, chock full of intelligence and goodness. But the depression and ADHD wrap themselves around his brain and keep the good stuff from getting out. Yes, mental illness sucks. Unfortunately, it's in my kids' genes and we just have to deal with it one day at a time.

There's another thing that's adding to my sadness and frustration, too. Because the school my son is attending is so expensive, I started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help offset the cost of tuition for next year. I started this whole thing before the troubles began, not really thinking it would raise much money. But friends and complete strangers have been incredibly generous and have contributed more than $8,000.00 to date. Which is great. Unless my son can't go back to the school next year. If that happens, I will definitely refund all the money people donated. But I will be out the fees that GoFundMe takes out of each donation. That would just be a kick in the gut. Not to mention embarrassing as hell.

I wish--for the umpteenth time--that I had a magic wand I could wave over my kids' heads to make their depression, anxiety, and addiction issues go away. But I don't. So I will continue to live in the moment and pray for both my boys. God might get sick of hearing from me, but I'll keep on pestering him several times a day.

And special thanks to one of my dearest Facebook friends--you know who you are--who posted this quote on my page this morning:

"Everything will be alright in the end. If it isn't alright, then it isn't the end."

That about sums it up.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You did good, Dad

It's been a little over three months since my dad passed away. As you may have read before in my blog, my dad and I did not have a very good relationship for many, many years. I harbored much resentment--and even hatred--towards him because of his alcoholism. I grew up feeling like I didn't have a dad. And that hurt me for a long time. Decades, in fact.

Thankfully, last summer I was able to let go of the resentment and hatred. It all left my body one August afternoon in what my wife perfectly described as a "God moment." Something I never thought would happen did indeed happen. I forgave my father for his past misdeeds and learned to love him again.

I got about six months of uncontested love out of my dad. Even though his health was deteriorating and he sometimes suffered from dementia, I still appreciated being able to see and talk to him without that heavy weight on my shoulders. A weight I was tired of carrying around but never thought I could get rid of. Like I said in one of the most emotional blog posts I've ever written...Better late than never.

I've been missing my dad a lot lately. I find myself wanting to call him and ask him or tell him things. When the Detroit Tigers are playing on TV and a player does something great, I fully expect the phone to ring because my dad would frequently call me to say, "Did you see that?!"

When the Masters golf tournament was on TV last month, I thought of my dad constantly. He loved to watch the big golf tournaments on television. (Back in the early '90s, in an effort to "reach out" to my dad, I took him on a one-day trip to Augusta, Georgia, to watch a Masters practice round. It's something I'm really glad I did.)

Sometimes I think about my dad and just start crying. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I have a feeling that deep down inside I regret not having that "God moment" much earlier. But, least it happened. And because it happened I was able to love my dad again for six months. That may not sound like a lot, but for years and years I worried about how I would feel if I didn't find that love again before my dad passed away. I was worried that I'd live the rest of my life full of regret and constantly wondering "What if?" But I was spared that burden. And for that I am eternally grateful.

As my dad grew older and planned for his death, he decided he wanted to donate his body to the Wayne State University School of Medicine's Body Bequest Program. "Voluntary bequest of the human body is a way in which to make a direct and important contribution to medical teaching and research," it says on the Body Bequest Program's website. So my dad's body will help medical students learn about anatomy, one of the most important courses in the education of a physician. Future doctors will become doctors because they studied and learned from my dad's body. What a wonderful thought.

Over the years, my dad did some awful things. A lot of those things will be forever etched in my memory. But you know what else will be etched in my memory? The fact that my dad's last act was the incredibly selfless act of donating his body to a local university's medical school. I think that qualifies as going out on a positive note and it makes me very proud of my dad.

This Friday afternoon, Wayne State University is holding its memorial service for all the people who recently donated their bodies to its medical school. It's an hour-long service, followed by a symbolic burial. All family members and friends are invited and from what I hear it's a beautiful event. I am really looking forward to attending this memorial with my family. My sister from New York is coming. My younger son is coming home from school to attend, too. We will all pay our respects to my father and celebrate the wonderful deed he did to help others.

You did good, dad. You did good.

The last photo ever taken of my dad. December 20, 2012.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Congratulations to my son, who celebrates 10 months of sobriety today.

Proud doesn't even begin to describe how I feel.

"The greatest accomplishment is not in never failing, but in rising again after you fall." --Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Urban Outfitters: WTF??

When I found out about this earlier today I was stunned. And if I didn't know my source better, I might've even thought it was a gag. But The Partnership at would never joke about something like this.

Urban Outfitters, the national retail store that caters to and is beloved by teenagers, is now selling a line of products that look like prescription drug bottles, syringes, medicine bottles, and actual prescriptions. These products make light of prescription drug misuse and abuse, as well as alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

I'm not sure who decided these products were a good idea, but do you want your teen--or any other teen for that matter--walking into Urban Outfitters and having these kinds of products pitched to them?

I went to the Urban Outfitters website and did a quick search for some of these items. I came up with six items that just blew my mind:

*A set of three shot glasses designed to look like prescription medication bottles.

*A can cooler designed to look like a prescription medication bottle.

*A set of four "prescription coasters," straight from Dr. Al Koholic.

*A set of three "syringe shot shooters."

*A "Boozemin" flask, designed to look like a bottle of medicine that's "RX Only" and prescribed by Dr. Al Koholic.

*An "RX" pint glass.

As the father of a recovering heroin addict--who at one time abused prescription drugs as well--I am sickened by these products. The decision by Urban Outfitters to sell these things is irresponsible and reckless.

According to The Partnership at

Prescription drug misuse and abuse [is] a dangerous behavior that is responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than heroin and cocaine combined. Medicine abuse has increased 33 percent over the past five years with one in four teens having misused or abused a prescription drug in their lifetime. Combined with alcohol, the misuse and abuse of prescription medications can be especially dangerous, making the Urban Outfitter RX pint and shot glasses and flasks even more disturbing.

As recent research from The Partnership at shows, teens and parents alike do not understand the health risks associated with the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. In fact, more than a quarter of teens mistakenly believe that misusing and abusing prescription drugs is safer than using street drugs.

Tongue-in-cheek products that normalize and promote prescription drug abuse only serve to reinforce the misperception about the dangers associated with abusing medicine and put more teens at risk.

I urge you to take action and ask Urban Outfitters to remove these products from their stores and their website.

You can e-mail the CEO and chairman of Urban Outfitters, Richard A. Hayne:

You can send a letter to the company:

Urban Outfitters Inc.
5000 South Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19112-1495

You can reach out to the company via their Twitter account: (@UrbanOutfitters)

Or send them a message through their Facebook page:

You can e-mail Oona McCullough, their Director of Investor Relations:

Or why not go all out and contact each and every one of their Executive Officers and Board of Directors? All of their e-mail addresses are listed at this link:

The method you choose doesn't matter. What does matter is that you take some action. There is power in numbers. Let Urban Outfitters know that you want these products gone. And tell your friends and family members to do the same.

There is also a petition you can sign at this link:

Finally, you can "Like" this Facebook page I created:

Stop Urban Outfitters from Promoting RX Drug Abuse & Alcoholism

Thanks in advance.

P.S. As much as I hate to call further attention to these products, I wanted to post photos of them so you could see how ridiculous and irresponsible they are. These photos are directly from the Urban Outfitters website.

P.P.S. The same company that owns Urban Outfitters also owns Anthropologie and Free People. I would suggest a boycott of all three stores until Urban Outfitters pulls this disgusting merchandise from their stores and website.