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.