Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm back

A little over two years ago, I stopped writing anything of any substance on this blog.  I was at a crossroads. 

In May of 20012, my son Alex set my condo on fire.  Luckily, nobody was injured, although there was significant damage.  People were displaced, smoke and water everywhere.  My son was in jail, and my life was in turmoil.  I was in no place to write.

It was time to repair my son, my son who was a heroin addict, my son who tried to stay clean, but couldn't.  It was also time to repair myself.

Although his crime was against me, the first thing I did was to apologize to Alex, for all of the time I missed in his life, for the guidance I didn't provide, for the father I should have been, but wasn't.  It was the first act of many to repair the lives of two people, father and son. 

So, I got him the best attorney I could find, not to get him off, but one who would deal with the issues as they were, the truth, and to help Alex understand.  There was no attempt to work the system, but to somehow make the system an ally in the process of Alex's recovery.  Alex received a "fair" sentence and he fully accepted responsibility for his actions, although he never got to see the charred condo.

During this period, I tried to deliver a single message, that Alex was lucky.  He was alive and he had time to shape himself into something he wanted to be.  We talked about the process of recovery and the help he would need during this process.  Many of his "friends" are now dead, or are in a non-ending cycle of psychological chaos.  This is the life he was able leave behind by being in prison.

And, so the process began in 2012, going from the county jail, to a holding prison, to his current "residence" in Stanley, Wisconsin, prisoner 530539.  It's been nearly 18 months since I've seen him, because prisons don't like to put victims and perpetrators together.  And, it will be another 18 months before I'll see him again. 

But, we talk once or twice a week, just two guys talking.  I try to sneak in a lesson or two each time, but he's heard it before.  We both know what lies ahead. 

He's an excellent musician, a bass player who had/has real promise.  He plays in several bands and he tells me he's better than ever.  The bass was a gift from a friend of both of us, significant to show him he wasn't forgotten.

I completely gave up drinking, not because I didn't like it, or was being prudish, but to remind me of what it feels like to be denied something I want.  I feel like I need to know what that feels like as we continue our relationship, that I have some empathy, some understanding.  It also reminds me everyday that I have a son in prison.

While in prison, Alex has managed to get himself in shape, going from 118 pounds to 156 pounds, all muscle from the people who have seen him.  He has purpose.  He reads Smithsonian, National Geographic, Rolling Stone and watches PBS.  He's started running five miles every other day. 

So, here I am, at a time of immense hope, but also of immense terror of what he'll find when he gets out. 

I'm not writing this because I want something, just to let anyone know who's gone through this there is hope, there is something.  Because, I know the other side, the utter despair and hopelessness of being the parent of a drug addict.


  1. It's so generous of you to write this. Who knows who you may help. Sometimes, the Internet is a good, good place.

    Alex is lucky to have you as his father.

  2. All I can say is different names, different scenario, but essentially the same story, Tom. Keep the faith. it is a powerful weapon. And keep sharing your heart. It is a healing baum! Here is to continued day at a tim. Ray

  3. Hey Tom,

    I'm sorry to hear everything that has happened. I hope the best for the both of you. If you would tell Alex to keep his head up and keep playing his bass. He is a great musician. When he gets out and needs a job I'll see what I can do for him. I am working in okc inspection oilfield equipment.

    Jordan Alex

  4. I know alex. He and u were good friends at one point and I remember this happening. I am glad you have been there to support him. I have not had the drug issues and that is one reason alex and I didn't talk much anymore but he is a good person with an amazing gift for music and I wish nothing but the best for him. I will write him soon. Someday the name Alex Erdman could be as well known as Bob Dylan. He needs only to stay strong as do those who support him. I wish the best to you both when he is released.