Lost

Lost……..that’s the dominant thought and reoccurring emotion I have had since we lost our 26 year old son Nick to addiction and mental illness. It’s not an emotion that I am unfamiliar with however.

I can’t look back on a life filled with success upon success. The work/career that I found myself in for nearly 30 years, I did because I could. Does that make sense? What I wanted to do and loved to do, and felt “called” to do, was to be a father. A father to my two children, Nick and Vanessa. Nothing so resonated with me as that. Nothing.

But all that changed nearly 16 years ago when Nick opened a door that could never be closed. Slowly at first and then more rapidly at the end, we witnessed a destruction of a life. I have called it a death of a thousand cuts and nothing could be more accurate.

Attempting to find long term affordable, quality care and recovery for a son with mental illness and addiction leaves both the ill and those who love this individual in a state of absolute despair. The recovery community says to “detach with love”. Has anyone ever imagined how difficult that is? I could “detach” with anger ….and did, many times during the struggle for Nick’s life. But to “detach with love”….that was a ongoing struggle. In the end, the disease won. Nick died in his addiction although for years, both he and we, alongside him, struggled repeatedly to find the care that he so desperately needed.

In the process, we, all of us, became sick ourselves. How do you not when you find someone you love and someone so beautiful being repeatedly savaged by these diseases? Can you imagine someone you love being ravaged by metastasized cancer and you being absolutely powerless to not only stop the advancement of this disease but receiving no understanding at all from those who should normally love and care for you?

Father Greg Boyle of HomeBoy Industries, who has seen his fair share of addiction and death, has coined the phrase that these individuals live with a “fatal absence of hope”. I can say that not only is this true for the mentally ill and the addicted, but it is absolutely true as well for those who love this person. But how does one go one without hope? I don’t know.

There are days when it’s simply enough to lift your head off the pillow. There are days when even that, is too much. But go on, I must. I must. Because as I write this to you, whoever you may be, there are 12, 13, 14 and 15 year old children who will open these same doors that can never be closed. There are ten of thousands, hundreds of thousand and more, whose lives will forever be changed by this one decision.

How is it that some things “stick” in your memory while other from just yesterday are lost forever? After Nick died, I recalled with clarity a conversation I had heard months before on CNN. An individual who had suffered enormous loss during Hurricane Katrina was being asked by the CNN host how it was that she was able to go and help others. What she said “stuck” deep in my heart and soul. She said “at some point in my grief, I stopped asking ‘why me’ and began asking ‘what now’. That brief conversation coupled with loving and then losing Nick, changed everything for me. Things that once satisfied no longer did. That which mattered had now changed.

Around this very same time, I lost my job and turned 60. Not only did I have overwhelming grief, but I experienced that sense of ‘lostness’ repeatedly. I did have time to read, to pray, to journal, to reflect and to write to others, on all that now mattered to me. Which led me to make contact with several individuals within the field of addiction such as Dr. Mimi Silbert of Delancey Street, Dr. Nora Volkow from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Thomas McLellan from the Treatment Research Institute, Gary Mendell of Brian’s Wish, Bill White, an incredible chronicler of addiction history, Denise and Gary Cullen of GRASP and Broken No More, and Greg Williams who has produced “The Anonymous People” and on and on.

What I began to find out once my energies were no longer needed to try and keep Nick alive, was that there is a large army of good and decent individuals, many who have worked for decades to bring better understanding, empathy and services to those afflicted with these diseases.

During this same time, I decided to produce a film about Nick and our story, titled “Beautiful Boy: More Than An Addict”. With the creative help of my son-in-law, Michael Fryer, it was an effort by me to honor, despite overwhelming obstacles, the courageous work of recovery encountered by Nick and so many others, that I witnessed firsthand. It was also an attempt to, hopefully, open up a larger conversation about the “culture” that surrounds us and that has led to an epidemic of drug usage and drug death.

As you can imagine, I have lots more to say. For now though I need a nap. I look forward to sharing more thoughts with whoever finds value in what I have to say.

For a better day,

Jim

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58 comments

  1. You are a courageous warrior, truth-seeker and beloved man of God…..Beautiful boy, Nick, has one Beautiful father….YOU!

    1. What kind and wonderful words.. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather “journey” with than you Rilla. You have a heart for the broken and lost.. for Walt .. for Nick.. a Better Day.

  2. Tom Myers · · Reply

    Bless you and your family for the years of struggle and the work you are embarking on with the film and this blog. Continue to speak from your heart as a father and a person who knows first hand what this disease can and will do. Go make a change!!! Get others involved in making a change. Save one Child and the change begins.

    1. Change is coming Tom.. thank you for years of friendship, support and encouragement. Solo Dei Gloria..

  3. Thank you Rilla and of course, thank you Tom for your kind, supportive and encouraging words. All should know that this film would not have taken place except for the generosity of Tom and his family. For that .. and for so much else, I will always be grateful..jim

  4. Jim, you are so very courageous. Thanks you for this blob. I will add it to the resources section on both of our websites. Take care my friend.

    1. Gary.. thank you for your comments. Coming from you and Denise, and knowing of the work you have accomplished at GRASP and Broken-No-More, your comments are even more highly valued. Looking forward to meeting some day. Be well. Jim

  5. Bill Kerr · · Reply

    The heaviest of hearts are those of grieving parents for children no longer here to love and hold. The sun rises each morning and brings with it the immense despair and unending ache …… Then, little bits of thoughts, sounds, and shapes ‘reminding of Nick’ will burst forth like a gift from God. Cherish them. Our hearts and love hold you guys, always.

    1. thank you Bill… I know you understand…remembering Cody .. remembering Nick..

    2. Theresa Todisco · · Reply

      i just heard abut your site . I just can’t get a grip .. Ilost my baby son from an overdose this past Christmas evening. I can’t go on I really need to be home with him but thats not happening so there is a lot of moms and dad’s that need to help each other .. If someone can help me structure myself and help me put something together i have been volunteering since I was 16. I am well recognized with who fits the right part in this.. Please help me help you my email is ttodisco@c21northshshore.com my name is Theresa Todisco My son I lost Is Billy Todiscy “Billy T.”I have a lot of backup. Please help me help you.. Sincerely, Theresa Todisco

      1. Theresa…. I am so very, very sorry for the loss of your Beautiful Boy. I understand this deep pain and loss, I truly do. After losing my son, Nick, 7 years ago, I also felt like I could not “go on”; and yet, at the same time, I felt I had to. If for nothing else, I was saying that death, Nick’s death and it’s awfulness, would not be the last word. So I did..”go on”. One day at a time and now 7 years have passed and much has changed … but slowly.
        I wish I could say there was a “formula” that one could follow.
        As I reflect on these past 7 years I only see “ingredients” that made for healing. In the beginning, I had to tell Nick’s story, so with the help of my son-in-law, we produced the film “Beautiful Boy..More Than An Addict”. I suppose it was my way of giving “voice” to this senseless and unncessary death. I somehow knew instinctively that in telling Nick’s story, that I was also telling the story of many, many others. After the film, I was asked to speak at various events, which was, for me, a difficult decision but a necessary step into courage. I blogged some, and as you can see, it has been a long time since I have contributed to my blog site. Not necessarily because I didn’t have things I wanted to say, but more because I didn’t want to have Nick pigeonholed nor myself. I titled the film with the words “more than an addict” because he was .. so much more, and I didn’t want him to only be remembered for this lost struggle. I find I remember him best when I surround myself with those things that he loved.
        For a period of about 3 years I built a non profit called Seams of Gold and held 3 annual community service events to help the faith community better understand and care for those who struggle, as Nick did, with mental illness and addiction. Then I felt it was time to close that chapter down. During that same time I became a very public advocate for change, working with Shatterproof; Facing Addiction and Addiction Policy Forum. All three exist today and may be an avenue that fits with your heart. Change is coming, but sadly at a very, very high price as you so very well know.
        Theresa.. I say all this to say that I found comfort in either building or joining others where I could give my voice to this insanity. And it is insane. Loving and losing Nick has forever changed my life and my faith..as it should. I continue to attend a 12 Step Recovery meeting where I find the same “ingredients” necessary for recovery and for my life as a follower of Jesus. Find your voice and community. You may contact me via this site or via my email which is wciac@yahoo.com if you would like to speak further. My prayers will surround you.
        In Christ
        Jim Contopulos

  6. carlfielstra@gmail.com · · Reply

    Jim,

    Beautiful tribute to a Beautiful Boy. Thank you, Jim, and all those who put the video together.

    Our advanced culture is woefully unprepared to salvage those, like Nick, who suffer.

    Keep on with the campaign. Each word shared has the potential of turning a dual addicted person from a death march to a life that is set free.

    It’s an honor to work with you. Like you we have witnessed in our own family the ravages of dual addiction.

    Your state, it takes a community to embrace and help those who so painfully suffer.

    Blessings,

    CJF

    1. Thank you Carl..well said “from a death march to a life that is set free”.. so very well said.. I know you know..

  7. Paula Pyburn · · Reply

    Jim, thank you for being transparent and sharing your heart. Thank you for taking your loss and “giving back” to those who so desperately need it by sharing what you’ve learned, your pain, and your blessings. I am honored to walk alongside you and hear and learn from you.

    1. Paula.. thank you for your support, encouragement and kind words. I know you and your family know of what I speak. Together, we can build that Better Day for those we love and for those we should.

  8. Robyn Downing · · Reply

    I only met you once when Vanessa was teaching voice to my daughters at your home. Even without you knowing it your family had such an impact on mine. Thank you for sharing your heart. I am so sorry.

    1. Robyn.. thank you for your kind words. Perhaps together, we will see this “Better Day” for our children..

  9. Ginger Safstrom · · Reply

    Thank you Jim for sharing Nick’s story and the journey of your family. For those of us who have known and loved all of you, it has has such resonance. But more than that, your courage in giving voice to your family’s experience and loss has real power. May God use Nick’s story and this poignant film to touch many and bring about much needed changes in our society regarding the issues of addiction and mental illness. Your beautiful boy is remembered with much love always.

    1. Ginger.. thank you for your kind words. I know you know. You and your family have always stood close by. Thank you for that.

  10. Sherry Angel · · Reply

    Jim,
    A friend of mine posted your video on Facebook and I watched it last night, grateful that social media connects us to messages we might otherwise never see–because we value what our true friends want to share. I was deeply moved by your video. I have no personal experience with dual addiction or the kind of loss your family has suffered, but I so admire the way you are transforming tragedy into hope for others. Take care.
    Sherry

    1. Sherry.. thank you so very much for your kind words. It is someone like yourself and others that have not personally been touched by mental illness or addiction that I hope might respond to our/Nicks “story”. Oftentimes, the toxic stigma surrounding both of these disorders have created a wall of silence. This has allowed us to criminalize, rather than care for our sick. But it takes what I call a “national conversation” to create a societal shift. That will take for all good and loving people to say “enough” ..not just those of us who have been so devastated. Thanks to you for caring and loving those of us who have been personally decimated by this disease.

  11. Thanks to all of you who have responded with such loving and caring comments. My hope and prayer is that all of us, not just those who have been personally touched by these disorder will move within our circles of influence to affect a Better Day.
    Nick loved the movie White Squall. I remember a phrase from that movie that says “Where we go one.. we go all”… That is the Better Day is look too. Thank you for journeying with me towards that Day.

  12. karianne majer · · Reply

    jim,
    thank you so much for always opening up the door to the other side that people don’t always want to hear, but the truth is that addiction and mental illness do need to be talked about and understood, and you have opened up the barrier. Thank you for all your doing. Ill be waiting for the next blog

    1. thank you Karianne.. who would have guessed where our paths would lead us .. to a Better Day.. I hope and pray for.

  13. Jan Lindsay · · Reply

    Loving your family as always. Keep writing, searching, finding, sharing, loving, living.

  14. carlfielstra@gmail.com · · Reply

    Jim, my friend and co-laborer:

    To my close friend, Jim:

    As I observe the world about me it seems deep personal loss often brings wisdom, comfort, and perspective that others who similarly suffer would not otherwise know.

    In countless situations I have witnessed the truth of a statement my Pastor (who recently lost his young son to the complexities of mental illness) made many years earlier, i.e., “God never wastes our hurts.” As I read your heartfelt thoughts, and as I on numerous occasions have had the privilege of meeting with you, I am yet again seeing God’s economy at work. Your deep wounds in the loss of your son, Nick, is another affirmation of how God artfully uses wounded healers like you in keeping alive your (our) “hope for a better day.”

    I am told there is an inscription at the National Archives that says “The past is prologue.” The foregoing in view, i.e., God never wastes our hurts, and the past is prologue, seem aptly coupled in a current catchphrase often repeated, “Been there; done that.” Hopefully, your passionate and eloquent advocacy on behalf of the dual diagnosed will bring our culture to the point where we will be able to complete “been there; done that” with “and know I will not have to do that anymore.”

    We are in desperate need of a culture-wide mindset change of mindset on behalf of acceptance, and accommodation of those, like Nick, struggling with mental illness and chemical addiction. I hope and earnestly pray that when the suffering knock, even if ever so quietly, we will be quick to respond with comfort and meaningful assistance. Nick’s tragic death, and the realization that thousands more are now suffering, should be an unrelenting prod to bring about that better day.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the thousands still alive and who now struggle are empowered by a proactive mindset to search out those who are steadily dropping deeper and deeper into despair. Scripture tells us that the people perish for want of a vision. Inasmuch as Nick’s passing is and will always be a deep wound, I am thankful that your hurt and subsequent new life mission are now touching others. May minds and hearts open wide as the fraternity of suffering are heard.

    The churches and faith communities widely dispersed across our nation and across the world are strategically positioned to link arms and lead in this effort. Therefore, I commend and stand with you in the quest for a better day. May it be, and may it be soon.

    May extraordinary Blessings, strength, and flesh not hardened abide with you and keep you in all you undertake.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Carl J. Fielstra

    , would otherwise such as that your family continues to suffer through Nick’s untimely death,

    1. Carl, what comes to mind as I read your eloquent words, is the fine phrase from Henri Nouwen regarding Jesus as a “wounded Healer”. Seeing Him as such and seeing ourselves in our woundedness, is, I believe, essential for change to truly come. I know you understand this and I link arms with you and many, many others who are moving towards that “Better Day”. It is coming, of that I am convinced.. thank you for your eloquent voice in this…jim

  15. Lauri Bladh · · Reply

    I understand the disease of addiction and mental illness better than you think. Thank you for allowing me to get to know Nick (and you) better through this beautiful and peaceful film. I know Nathan loved Nick and he was one of his closest friends. I hope I never have to experience losing a child through any kind of death. But for those who have, this poignant film can surely give them peace and comfort knowing they will see their loved one again. You are a man of faith and trust and are on the road to blessing the lives of others who are or will walk in your shoes. I admire you for that Jim. God bless you!!

    1. Thank you Laurie.. all death is hard..losing a child is the hardest death of all.. My desire for this film and this blog is to give a face to the tragedy that surrounds us and that many times, is occurring within our “beautiful boxes”…glad to have you aboard.. For Nathan .. For Nick and the many “other Nicks”…For A Better Day .. Jim

  16. Schame · · Reply

    Nick’s story could be my son’s story. He died almost two years ago. He too was a handsome young man with wonderful friends, a family who loved him, a person with a heart of gold. What an honest and lovely tribute. Prayers for you and your family.

    1. Thank you for these kind words. Prayers for you as well and for the many “other Nicks”.

  17. Marcia Kennedy · · Reply

    Thank you Jim for this, I lost my beautiful daughter Rhea on May the 28th just three days after her 31st birthday. She also struggled with addiction for 16 years. Bless you and this was beautiful.

    1. Marcia.. thank you for these kind words.. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. There is no doubt that the death of a child is the hardest death of all. Be good to yourself and to those you love.
      Jim

  18. I just lost my daughter a month ago. Your story touches deep places with honesty. Thank you. She was so much more than her illnesses, and is missed by many.

    1. I’m very sorry for your loss yet very thankful that my words may have brought some comfort and healing. It’s tragic that many times we settle for just a ‘label’. It diminishes the humanity of us all. God’s comfort for you now and for all time.
      Jim

  19. Pamela Robinson · · Reply

    I just watched the Beautiful Boy More than an Addict video. Thank you for the video. My son just died on Christmas Day 2014. In searching for help I ran across your video. I could switch the name to Aaron and put my sons picture there along with his sister and my husband and I. Our Aaron struggled for years with depression, anxiety and addiction until it finally ended his life a few days ago in his escape. In watching the video I know that others share the same pain we did for years. What a beautiful tribute and hope for the future. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Pamela… My heart breaks over your loss. I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful boy. If there is anything I can do for you or your family, please reach out. My prayers for you. I do know your pain.
      Jim

  20. wendy nahmias · · Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to your beloved son and for all the addicts in our world. We lost our son Gabriel last September after a long battle with this insidious disease. He also had a dual dx, which just as you emphasized made finding effective, long-term help even more challenging.

    1. Wendy… yes, it is truly a powerful and baffling disease..”insidious”. Whilst it will never had been soon enough for those of us who have lost, there is change coming. Just today, in our area, the Catholic Diocese attracted over 1000 people to address mental illness and addiction. That gives a bit of hope…I hope it does for you and for all those who loved your beautiful boy.
      jim

  21. Linda Cooper · · Reply

    Your film tribute to your son is overwhelming …… so touching and so correct as to the state of our world and the treatment of the dual diagnosed. My husband and I lost our sweet, dear 33 yr old daughter, Susan, 2 years ago after years of what can only be said to be the most courageous struggle with recovery and treatments that I could ever imagine. Her disease became the entire focus of her life in the attempt to get well. She took a fatal overdose of her meds one night. Her dual diagnosed husband did the same 6 months after she died as he could not struggle any longer without her, and for both, in the environment of having at their disposal as much treatment as they needed. In the end, neither of their many professionals were concerned enough to make comment on all the warning signs …. all were too concerned with protecting their own selves (HIPPA) to reach out to family to make us aware of their quickening spiral. Orange Co. CA Mental Health and 911 did not want to get involved after repeated calls by my daughter’s home care workers in the days leading to her suicide. When will this not be the norm for our dual diagnosed kids and adults….when will professionals quit looking at them as just a drug addict? And when will even the addicted be treated with respect?
    I truly wish for a new day of understanding……

    1. Linda.. I read your comments and cried. For your daughter, her husband and for you and others who have been devastated by this disease. I wish I had an answer for your questions..”when will professionals quit looking at them as just a drug addict” .. “when will EVEN (empahsis mine) the addicted be treated with respect”?
      It has been five years now since we lost our beautiful boy and while I can point to some positive changes, it will never come soon enough for those of us who have lost. There is much to be done and my experience tells me that only when the pain of remaining on the same ‘path’ becomes greater than the pain of change, will we, as a society, begin to build for that “better day”.
      Truly my heart breaks for you. In recovery, they say that “a grief shared is halved”. If the viewing of this film has “halved” your grief .. if only for a moment, then it was worth all the effort for you, your daughter and son in law and for the many “other Nicks”. Gods presence and peace to you in your grief.
      Jim

  22. Carl J. Fielstra · · Reply

    Jim, It occurs to me that the hoped for change is slow coming because those we expect to lead, i.e., government and practitioners, are groping in the dark. Leaders cannot lead until they know the destination and route. Moreover, the overarching drive toward political correctness intentionally avoids spirituality as a bona fide course toward wholeness.

    To the extent groping and correctness slow progress, the growing number of folks impacted by mental illness and addiction must come forward and begin articulating proven solutions, including spirituality. More must come from the affected than a generic plea for treatment and money. Treatment needs to be defined so the destination is clear and the route can be charted.

    I offer as an example the push to quit smoking cigarettes. That campaign is in direct response to combating cancer. While quitting smoking is not the sum total in the cancer fight, it is an actionable step that is within reach. The demand for a cancer cure and the resulting “no smoking” campaign has brought about an entire paradigm change in our culture. Smokers, once the norm, are now marginalized.

    There are many causal factors in mental illness and addiction. Indeed, no one picks up a chemical substance with the goal of becoming addicted, and no one sets out on a behavioral path with the intent of acquiring mental illness. Similarly, no one begins cigarette smoking with the intent of contracting lung, throat, and other cancers. In fact, I am persuaded that with the body of knowledge presently available linking cigarettes with cancer, new smokers pick up the practice believing and hoping they will not become nicotine-addicted or, if addicted, will be among those who managed to avoid cancer.

    Quitting smoking is not an all encompassing answer to cancer, but it is a proven measure in cancer avoidance. And, as a proven avoidance, quitting smoking has become a culture-wide, tangible step people can take and government (with mandated warnings and stiff court-imposed judgments) can promote.

    Inasmuch as it appears there are hereditary factors that predispose mental illness and addiction, and that flawed thinking and decision making are common threads in these conditions, I believe a tangible step toward both treatment and avoidance must address how we think. More specific, as individuals and as a culture, how we value life. In my mind, It follows that we should encourage and even promote community connectedness and spirituality in the regimen of daily life. Sadly, it appears the relentless pursuit of political correctness militates against promoting spirituality. It also appears that widespread involvement with, among other things, social media is quickening the pace toward dysfunction, isolation, and loneliness.

    (I find it strangely ironic that “social media” is actually “anti-social” to the extent personal communicating devices, though enlarging the capacity to socialize, actually isolate its users. According to Facebook I have more than 200 friends in various circles However, I have personal association, i.e., face-to-face association with only one or two of these many “friends.”

    We’re in a sinkhole where intimacy, the village, and the community are failing. As the community fails, so does its values and priorities. Among the failures is spirituality. Thus, political correctness be damned. We need tor rebuild the cultural infrastructure and include spirituality This is a tangible, defined step in treatment.

    1. Carl I could not agree more with your statement regarding “social media”. How ironic. I set off on this last effort with Riverside County agreeing to one more Seams of Gold because I felt I could engage the faith community and begin to build “congregational teams” addressing mental illness and addiction. I WAS WRONG. After speaking 4 times to InterFaith communities, I was politely dismissed for more ‘pressing’ matters such as the upcoming pancake breakfast.
      I say this to only relect that if the/our community which has a MANDATE to “care for the oppressed and afflicted soul” cannot or will not engage then must it not be said that we(our faith communities) look much more like the culture than otherwise.

      MLK Jr. once said that “the early church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and priciples of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that TRANSFORMED the mores of society” … Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

      How far we have fallen from the clear course set before us. So I won’t despair, I do see some slight change underway such as The Grace Alliance and their efforts. They are clearly offering a ‘hand’ to the faith community. Time will tell whether or not that ‘hand’ is grasped. Always love your insights.
      jim

      1. Carl J. Fielstra · ·

        The Church, aka the Body of Christ, is in sad shape. Really, a Pancake Breakast prioritized over learning what can be done to aid those who are most dear to Jesus’ heart? Appalling, but indicative of the way things are. I am compelled to agree with a maverick Lutheran Pastor friend who left the denomination when it became apparent to him he was operating a franchise, not a church.

        There’s a good story in the June issue of Christianity Today. It talks about multi-site churches, church mergers, etc. I felt sick in my soul after reading the article. It seemed to me that churches are functioning as commercial enterprises jockeying for position and market share. Programs, formulas, glitz and slick, personality driven… The church is studied and analyzed like a Wall Street company. I don’t think Jesus had this in mind when He departed for Glory and left His followers with the task of carrying on until He returns.

        Yet, Jesus loves His Bride. This being the case, and a promised wedding feast promised, I hope to be a bridal attendant, doing all I can to help Jesus’ Bride, His Church, shed her baubles and beads for true beauty.

        We can begin by encouraging the Bride to be obedient to the Groom’s desIres. Beauty of the Bride is hard to find when she adorns herself with self-interest, yet remains consistently resistant to what pleases the Groom.

        Obedience, regardless of cost, is a true mark of beauty.

        Jesus deserves nothing less.

  23. Kathleen Mcshane · · Reply

    My son passed this passed August still fresh your video is very empowering and Inspirational Thank you Love and Prayers for change in our systems!

    1. Kathleen… I stand in solidarity with you and your grief over your son’s passing. I have not blogged for a long time now, but it is very comforting to know the video and these words might have brought some comfort to you and those who loved your son.
      Jim

      1. Carl J. Fielstra · ·

        Jim,

        I Saw your reply to Kathleen Mcshane, and sensed you are growing wearing in pressing for that “better day.”

        The road to systemic change is often long and lonely. Few are cheering.

        I hope that when called to give an account we will hear cheers from victims and near-victims, “Thanks for not giving up.”

        The thought is timely thought as we and fellow-Christians conclude this holiest of weeks.

        The One we celebrate was abandoned by His intimates as He walked a very lonely road to His eeming demise.

        I am thankful He foresaw the joy ahead and didn’t give up.

        Gather up courage, my friend.

        Don’t give up.

        CJF

      2. Thank you Carl … “courage” the rarest of virtues is truly needed
        Jim

  24. My husband, myself and the father of her baby have been struggling for the past five years with this struggle of dual diagnosis. My 33 year old daughter has had all the treatments, from klonopin, meds, several admissions to rehabs, 8 ect treatments. Every time things seem good they fall apart. Even having a two year old son does not keep her from the addictions. Admitted to faith farm, 9 month program for addicts. Thrown out in 5 hours, do not know what she did but told people about auditory hallucinations in her head. Unfortunately prefers pain meds over her antipsychotic meds. Life has been turned upside down for all who love her. Thank you for your article. Hits the nail right on the head. She will be coming home this week from the psych center at the hospital. Since her boyfriend has kicked her out, she will be here back home again until we can find help for her. Unfortunately we cannot afford a facility that treats dual diagnosis patients. Tough times since her father is at the end of his rope with her and she has no where else to go.

    1. Marsha… I truly wish I had some words to help heal the pain you and your family are experiencing. Sadly, I do not. Several years after the loss of Nick, my wife became employed by our counties mental health clinic. Each evening when she returns home, I hear the very sad and disturbing stories of individuals and their families that are torn apart with struggles from mental illness and addiction. When I say to you that my prayers will stand with you, please know that, at this time, it is the very best I have to offer and that in the end, it is the “luminous Nazarene” that brings healing.
      A friend
      Jim

  25. "Brandon's" Mom · · Reply

    I lost my beautiful son as well ,in this way. He was a joy and a blessing to my life. I wish I knew something more and could have done something more. I still live with that and it is a helpless feeling. God Bless you and your family

    1. Brandon’s mom… thank you for reaching out with your comments. I take some comfort in knowing that this blog and the film we completed still ‘speaks’. At the time of Nick’s death, I knew that, sad to say, Nick and our story was not unique. Now 6 1/2 years later after this loss, I continue to grieve what was lost…to us and the many other families such as ours..your’s included. We…all of us…deserved more. I spoke recently to a close friend who lost his 20 year old daughter to complication of addiction and stated that the courage we observed in our loved one must now become a catalyst for our own courage. May you and those who loved Brandon find that path of courage. From someone who understands.
      Jim

  26. Shari Schutter · · Reply

    Thank you for making this video about your beautiful Son. It hit so close to home, as we lost our Son May 29, 2016 from depression and drug addiction.
    It’s important to us for people to realize these kids were not bad people, they were beautiful souls that just suffered from the diseases of depression and addiction.
    God bless your family. We know first hand what you are going through.

    1. Shari… thank you for your kind response. I can only imagine again the deep pain you are in the midst of. I always gives me comfort to know that Nick’s/our story continues to ‘speak’. “A grief shared is halved … a joy shared is doubled” ..Lament For A Son.
      Jim

  27. Renee Baxter · · Reply

    I to want to thank you for making this beautiful film . I lost my son on jan. 2 2017. He too was a great young man just 36 years old that stuggled for so long, he left a wife and two beautiful children 5 and 1,. It is so hard thinking of the pain he went threw to try to beat those demons. This is so new and so hard to understand why some must die and some can recover . I wish I old have done more.

    1. Renee…. it’s kind of you to take a moment, in the midst of what I know to be overwhelming grief, to say “thank you”. I have had my own basket of regrets. I know with a certainty that so so many of these lives could have turned out different if only our culture was one of care and concern. Sadly, it is not and we see all around us, the devastating results of a society that has marginalized and criminalized our sick while spending billions of dollars elsewhere. I can hope for and work For A Better Day. My heart and prayers are with you and all those who loved your son. … Jim

  28. Kathy Krieg · · Reply

    My beautiful son passed away a little over a year ago when he relapsed. The struggle of addiction is so real and so filled with unnecessary shame. I am at the point where I want to reach out and help others, just as you have done with this video and your fight to create a more accepting and healing society. Thank you for sharing part of your journey and for holding up a light for those of us who ache on a daily basis.

    1. Kathy… I’m so very sorry for your loss. Very few know the depth of your grief and that will make it additionally difficult. Thank you for your thoughtful words. After losing Nick, I felt I had to tell his/our story if for no other reason that I instinctively knew that his/our story was not unique. I felt then and do today, that God gave me those words which is why they continue to ‘speak’ with comfort and instruction. Looking back, I think that several events ‘saved’ my life. One is producing the film, second would be finding a community where I could tell the truth and respect the loss, then stumbling into a small book titled “Lament For A Son” and then finally, transforming the grief and pain into advocacy. I am not as actively involved in direct advocacy as I once was, but I do believe that many are. As a result of this ‘crowd of witnesses’ to the pain we have suffered, such organizations as Faces and Voices of Recovery; Addiction Policy Forum; Shatterproof; Facing Addiction; Transforming Youth Recovery, and countless others have begun the monumental task of turning this culture into one that treats both mental illness and addiction as one with Care That Never Quits. That, I believe, is the redemptive work underway and I am certain that many will benefit from your voice. My very best to you and to all of those who loved your beautiful son. God’s peace….Jim

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