Thursday, December 24, 2009

Remembering a friend

This year the sparkle of the holidays had already dimmed for me. Caring full-time for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease can drain a person’s health, energy, enthusiasm . . . even life. Add to that a son in prison and not being able to be with my grandchildren at Christmas and I wanted to skip December altogether.

Then I learned that a good friend from my past had died a few months ago. It didn't seem possible he was gone. Brian Ollman was full of life--just 40 years old, a loving husband and father of three young, adorable children.

Personally, he was a good friend to me when I went through some of my most frightening and difficult moments as the single mother of a meth addict.

Brian understood because he had been there. He was open about his drug past, and I remember the Sunday he spoke at church and candidly shared his own story of redemption.

Brian was there for my family the night I told my son he had to leave my home when he was just 18, because he continued to use drugs. Brian gave my son a place to stay as long as he attended school and stopped using.

Brian was there with me the evening the police searched my house. One of my son’s friends had made some improbable claims and they needed to follow up. Brian insisted I shouldn’t go through that alone. He was right and I was grateful for his presence.

And Brian was with me the Easter Sunday we went to visit my son at the California state prison where he was incarcerated about 12 years ago. We had arrived by 6:00 a.m. to assure we would be allowed to visit later that morning. It wasn’t long until I noticed flashing lights--none I had ever seen before. In just a few minutes, the parking lot was surrounded by guards who were pointing their guns at us.

They had just stopped an escape attempt a few hundred yards away and thought someone in the visitors’ parking lot may have been involved. We were detained for hours and I was ready to leave but Brian was patient and persistent. We finally saw my son for about a half hour that afternoon.

I’m only one person who can call Brian a friend. Brian’s and Heidi’s ministry to the homeless touched many lives and whatever endeavor he was pursuing, he cared about people and their souls.

I’m sure others have expressed their grief and sadness far more eloquently than I can. My real regret is that I don't think I ever told Brian how much I had appreciated him and his friendship.

But it’s reassuring to know he’s with Jesus today, and you can be sure they’re having even more fun in heaven now that Brian’s there.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

There's waiting . . . and then there's waiting

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’re anxiously waiting for my son to come home. He now has about 10 months left to serve in the Arizona Department of Corrections and we can hardly wait until he’s home with his family.

But if you don’t live in Arizona, you may not be aware that the state hasn’t balanced the budget for 2010 yet, and many budget cut options have been discussed in recent months. Especially for the Department of Corrections, one of the state’s largest expenses.

Some possible cost-cutting options: privatization, expansion of the state’s house arrest program, sending short-term inmates to counties to serve their sentences, closing entire facilities and various units throughout the state, and rewriting the sentencing code to reduce sentences and allow for early releases.

Other states are facing the same dilemma and the Pew Center on the States has released an updated report, The Fiscal Crisis in Corrections: Rethinking Policies and Practices. Check it out for an informative look at how states are dealing with this problem.

Two major issues are: how should Corrections deal with the recidivism problem that sends so many probationers and parolees back to prison? And release policies--how long should sentences really be?

There are no easy answers, and chances are, wherever you live, your state is facing similar challenges. The solutions have major implications for those convicted of crimes, their families, and society-at-large.

I urge you to familiarize yourself with the issues and to contact your state representatives about the situation where you live.

And while we’re anticipating my son will be home in about 10 months, if he were released early, it would just be an added blessing for all of us who love him and are waiting for his release.

Yes, there’s waiting and then there’s waiting.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Surprising news to some

The report headline came out about 10 days ago, and it raised some eyebrows among those who aren’t aware of the increasing problem of prescription drug poisoning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poisonings involving opioid analgesics now top the accidental death list, killing more people in 16 states each year than car crashes. Both the number and percentage of deaths involving opioid analgesics rose each year between 1996 and 2006.
These are drugs that are usually prescribed to relieve pain and include methadone (used to treat heroin addiction as well as pain), other opioids such as Vicodin, oxycodone and hydrocodone, and synthetic narcotics fentanyl and propoxyphene.
In 2006, the rate of poisoning deaths involving these drugs was more frequent for males, persons aged 35 to 54, and non-Hispanic whites than for those in other racial or ethnic groups.
If you have a loved one who takes this category of medication for short-term or long-term pain problems, you have every right to be concerned for their well-being.
Mix these drugs with alcohol and you have a funeral waiting to happen.
Read the report here. Talk with them and to your medical practitioner about ways they can better manage the pain.
It happened in our family many years ago, and the sadness over this loss has never left us. If you’ve lived through the experience of losing a loved one to opioid poisoning, share your wisdom here. We would all appreciate hearing from you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The longest year yet

Or will it be the shortest?

My son has passed the one-year mark and we’re overjoyed that we can now say he has “LESS THAN ONE YEAR” to serve of his two-and-a-half year sentence in Arizona’s Department of Corrections.

Hopefully, the days will fly by for him, his wife and daughter, and all who know and love him, and then he’ll be in the loving arms of his family.

Let’s get this out of the way first. Does he deserve to be there? Of course. His actions and choices made in the throes of his addiction determined his consequences. In fact, considering the state’s strict sentencing code that leaves no room for a judge to consider a case on its own merits, his 2.5 years are actually a lenient sentence.

But I can see how my daughter-in-law struggles with missing him as much or more now than in the early days of his incarceration. As his mother, seeing him in a prison environment is painful. But seeing what his 3-year-old daughter is feeling is far more painful.

She was just 18 months old when he went away, so she couldn’t verbalize her feelings at that time. Now she can.

At our last prison visit earlier this month, she asked, “Daddy, can you come home with me today?”

Her mom said she knows all the kids’ fathers at the day care center and wonders why her daddy can’t be there with her.

Thinking back to the early days, when I knew there was a problem but didn’t know what to do about it, I’d still like to strangle our neighborhood drug dealer.

Am I totally nuts or have you ever felt this way? When does that pain ease?

And there’s an even bigger concern. Will my son--could he--ever relapse again? Let me know about your own experiences and pain.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It’s Family Day: have dinner with your kids

Monday, September 28 has been designated Family Day 2009 to remind parents that frequent family dinners can make a big difference in their children’s lives.

For over a decade, research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) has shown that kids who have dinner more often with their families are less likely to drink, smoke and use drugs.

With so many activities crowding out family time these days, it’s time for parents to become more engaged in their kids’ lives. Dinner would seem to be an easy way to do just that.

Research findings are dramatic. In addition to reducing teen cigarette use, drinking and drug use, studies show that kids who regularly participate in family dinner even get better grades in school.

Read more about Family Day and the importance of family dinners in this Join Together announcement.

Several new reasons to avoid binge drinking

A recent study reported by the BBC says that binge drinking weakens a person's virus- and bacteria-fighting proteins called cytokines, suppressing the immune system for as long as 24 hours.

So if you don’t want to catch the H1N1 virus (swine flu) or other types of influenza this fall and winter, avoid excessive drinking. For more details, see this update from Join Together.

More good reasons to steer clear of binge drinking? This European study concluded that it’s the binge drinking, not the amount of beer, that expands waistlines and creates a “beer belly.” And expanded waistlines put people at greater risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Finally, for the last 10 to 15 years in Great Britain, the number of oral cancer cases among middle-aged men and women has been rising dramatically. Health experts there blame binge drinking and rising alcohol consumption in the U.K., not tobacco use, as the real causes.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Score another one for rehab--and the power of prayer

We’ve had one member of our immediate family whose addiction has been in full force for the past several months. The situation had become increasingly serious, and it’s been just a matter of time until someone—maybe one of my grandchildren or a stranger in a passing car—would be injured, or worse, as our loved one drove while under the influence.

It’s been difficult to address from a position of strength, since the key person in his life has appeared to be in denial about the depth of the problem.

From other choices he’s been making, we could tell he sincerely wanted to live life differently, but it’s also obvious he doesn’t have all the necessary tools. So we’ve prayed for the right time and the right decisions. And today, the miracle happened.

He’d reached his own bottom and cried out for help, and God put the church’s new pastors and my daughter-in-law (currently in recovery) in just the right place at just the right time. Doors opened and tonight he’s in a detox facility where he’ll stay through the weekend, before going into the Salvation Army’s six-month rehab program next week.

He started using, and probably drinking, at a young age, and needs help to know how to live sober and clean. I’m grateful that this program is available to him and while it won’t be easy for the next six months, pray that everyone will understand the value as we see the changes God will bring about in his life.

That makes three family members of my immediate family engaged in active recovery at the same time. Wow.

Tonight, life seems good.