No one is ever prepared for that game-changing, life-altering event; that lightning-bolt interruption which comes out of nowhere and changes your world forever. When someone experiences one of those moments, they never forget the experience. My game-changing, life-altering moment was a phone call from my daughter informing me that my youngest son, Brandon, 21 at the time, was in jail after being arrested on the street for an open warrant for stealing. Though I knew Brandon had quit school and returned to Detroit to enter a rehab program to deal with a heroin issue, I had no idea what that really meant or how serious it really was. I soon learned that he was homeless, living on the streets of Detroit, and in trouble with the law. My world was completely rocked. I could not believe my little guy could have found so much trouble in his life. The pain, hurt and confusion over what had become of his life were shocking, disturbing and anguishing.
I was living in Scottsdale, Arizona, when all this took place back in Detroit. Detroit was home, it was where I spent most of my years and it was where I raised my family. The minute I received the phone call, I dropped everything, got on a plane and began my quest to save my son from his addiction and its related problems. The next two months, I commuted back and forth to Detroit by plane and worked with attorneys, judges and parole officers to arrange for Brandon to return to Arizona to live with his mom and me. I figured all Brandon needed was a little parental love, a change of venue, and a new lease on life and all would be perfect. Little did I know.
It only took five weeks before Brandon was arrested again in Arizona for criminal activities related to his addiction. He had found a new crowd of suppliers and users, and he was back in the habit. Despite my best efforts to coach, love, nurture, encourage, teach, guide, support and cure my son, his addiction was much stronger than me. While I believed and hoped that Brandon’s trip to jail was going to be a onetime experience, I quickly learned how mistaken I was. For eighteen months I lived the painful and repeated cycle of arrest, jail, remorse, recovery, relapse and arrest.
This experience nearly destroyed me. For eighteen months I battled demons. How do I help my son? How can I inspire, save and help Brandon? Why won’t he get his life straightened out? What am I doing wrong? It took me eighteen months, a failing business, significant changes in health and abandoned relationships before I realized that I had allowed Brandon’s addiction to destroy two lives – his and mine. Late one night as I sat on the front porch with my television set missing and my son out on the street, I realized what I was doing to myself in this process. As a loving, hopeful and committed father, I was repeating behaviors in the belief that things would change. I was living the definition of insanity!
It was on that night that I committed to making a change in my life that would enable me to be strong for Brandon when he was present and stronger for myself when he was not. I realized the only way I was going to be able to help Brandon was to separate myself from his addiction, his choices and his outcomes. I had to empower him to choose his path, commit myself to loving him unconditionally and live with the hope that my choices would somehow, at the right time, inspire him to change his life. If I allowed his addiction to destroy my life, I would have nothing to give him when and if he really needed me.
On that day I began my own recovery journey. On that day and for the next one hundred days, I rode my bicycle for at least one hour. Those bike rides were not physical exercises. They were meditational journeys that helped me redefine the situation and discover a path that separated me from Brandon’s addiction-driven choices. In this process, to which I now refer to as 100Pedals, I discovered clarity and purpose for my life, peace in the midst of the chaos and strength to forge ahead even when some of the other aspects of my life were in shambles.
My 100Pedals recovery program has completely changed my life. It has been three years since I started my recovery, and my life has been transformed in completely unimaginable ways. Today Brandon is embracing his own recovery challenge. He is over 150 days clean and sober. He has done this on his own. He was inspired by his dad’s path, but he had to find recovery on his own terms.
While the scars of the past experiences may never go away and the fear and threat of relapse never allow me to completely relax, I have found peace in living my life in my own recovery program. All I have to offer my son is hope for his future and the unconditional love of a father. After that his continued recovery is up to him. As long as he embraces the positive habits, thoughts, behaviors and routines that keep him in a safe place, he will be successful. I pray that he enjoys and embraces the place he is in and keeps it going every day forever. In the meantime I am grateful for the life I have, the children I have been given and the gifts I have been granted. I am committed to focus on sharing the inspirations of my experiences as a beacon of hope and opportunity for those who suffer from the monster of addiction in their family.