Look at this man with his son. For a long time, he was pretty guarded with his feelings like most men were when he was growing up. I guess this stemmed from the way he developed, influenced by watching his dad during the mid-20th century. He never saw nor heard his dad expressing his emotions and just figured that was the way things were back then. Did it have to be this way? That question is most difficult to answer. Perhaps hindsight is 20/20. By now, you might have guessed this man is me, keeper of the website.
I don’t know how many people know what it is like to undergo a change in behavior or what is the turning point for this to happen. What is it that makes a person change and/or understand his true personality that has been shaped for a lifetime? In that lifetime sharing emotions was a sign of weakness and was rarely done. To do this was admitting defeat as a man. What was not understood back then was that peeling away the armor we wore was the first step to becoming a complete self-actualizing human being where understanding and words become action.
My turning point came on March 14, 2006, when I got a phone call from a suburban, small hospital outside Boston. They told me to go to Mass General where my son was being transferred and get there right away. Immediately, I knew he must have overdosed. The rest of that day and the next my family and I dwelled in a nightmare. Like me, many of you know how the rest of the all too familiar story goes. The story of a drug overdose that the hospital and society did not know how to treat. And, for the next seven years, I became an automaton, going through my emotional being almost like nothing terribly horrible had happened. If you had met me during this period, you would not know that I had to bury my 21 year old son. On a deeper level I probably knew the repercussions of this life altering event and I did seek the help of a therapist. Outwardly, I hardly ever talked about his death and most people never asked ( I have since realized it’s not easy for people to approach a bereaved parent). Sure, they would ask me how I was doing, but to unload on these well intentioned people was something I would or could not do.
The turning point came after meeting with my psychologist for several years and the gestating emotions gave birth to emotional fruit. I began to understand the process. I wondered how people who shared my experience were getting along in this journey we were on. I guess I wanted a way to see how they were dealing with people who were not of our group.
So, I joined a chapter of the bereavement group, GRASP and listened. I also spoke and found out that I was the “veteran” of this survival population. Subconsciously, my mind was leading me in a direction I was not consciously aware of. And then one night I awakened from my sleep, literally and figuratively, and I knew I needed to tell people about my story. I decided then in 2014, that I would make a movie about Zach. I started the process knowing nothing about the technical aspects of this endeavor. After flailing around for the better part of 3 years I came up with something, but I did not feel fulfilled. As of yet, I have not finished the whole film.
So, in 2019, a film editor/director I had met at Adelphi University brought up the idea of a website. This and the knowledge I gained from researching for the film became my next endeavor to do something positive to help heal the world. I did not know at this time, but eventually it became the way I could advocate for my GRASP group and the rest of the world (right now it’s the social media world).
Ironically, I have been connecting with people my whole life as an English teacher and athletic coach. Obviously, I did not put two and two together right away to realize I could connect to people in our mutually shared universe of SUD/OUD. The interaction with people asking about the website was what I hadn’t realized for many years was what I needed. I have communicated via email, social media and telephone calls ever since. This allowed me to communicate my feelings to people who were strangers but are now fellow advocates for change. I do this with the Blog Posts I put out there for all to see. I have bared my soul, my humanity and my empathy for all those who have suffered similarly. I do not do this for the likes, hearts, cares and other emojis meant with good intentions. I do it with the hope that other people who have lost a loved one to OUD or SUD might share their story in public. I do not expect the newly bereaved to be able to do this, although I’ve had many who have. And why do I want people to share? Please read the Blog Post again. If you can’t see yet, give it some time. If that doesn’t work, please write me an email and I’ll tell you directly. It’s hard to do, but I guarantee you it will help.