The Gift of Love and Understanding

behind the dumpster

I am the father of a son struggling with an addiction. His six year battle with heroin has completely, tragically and dramatically altered his life’s path. My son’s journey has completely changed the lives of others, too – his family.

As his dad, I have had to live and learn the experiences as the parent of a child with an addiction. It is a lesson like no other. It is painful, destructive, confounding, confusing, and disruptive. It tests a parent’s love, it frays the nerves, and it destroys trust; but, it does not prevent me from loving my child or hoping for his recovery. Unconditional love and eternal hope for a child’s recovery is what keeps many parents moving forward, sometimes barely.

Amidst the garbage associated with my son’s addiction, I learned to live and celebrate the life I have been given, despite the adversity and chaos of addiction around me. I found a path to my recovery from my son’s addiction by riding my bicycle every day as a means to escape the chaos, clear my head, and find peace, clarity and purpose in my life. While my son’s addiction has been the most painful experience of my life, the gift of my 100Pedals journey – the name I have given to my bike riding transformational experiences – has completely changed my life.

As part of my commitment to live and celebrate my life, I take an extended road trip every year. This annual journey known as the 100Pedals Drive N Bike enables me to drive my car across the country while making selected stops along the way and participate in incredible bike rides in various geographies across the country. Along with a local bike ride, I usually make several presentations to parents dealing with addiction in their families, as well. These presentations are my way of offering inspiration and support to parents who struggle, much as I do, with the painful and troubling outcomes of addiction in their lives. It is also a wonderful reminder that I am not alone while I receive much love, encouragement and support for my journey.

This year’s Drive N Bike Trip took me from Scottsdale to Boston to New Jersey and back. I was gone for 33 days, drove over 7700 miles, passed through 20 states and stayed in 16 cities. Having lived in New Jersey over twenty years ago, I was blessed to have friends to stay with and spent four awesome days in the area while participating in four incredible presentation experiences. It was a wonderful homecoming that also included two great bike rides in New York City as a bonus.

What I learned is New Jersey is not exempt from the struggles of addiction, particularly the heroin epidemic. Like much of our country, parents are concerned, suffering, and fearful. I met with moms and dad who have lost children to their drug, I met parents who are learning the hard lessons I went through with addiction, I met community leaders who were struggling to get ahead of the rapidly growing problem, and I met with a community of people who were embracing their recovery programs as they battle their own addictions.

I would love to share with you the good news that New Jersey is ahead of the curve in solving, managing, and dealing with the issue. They are not. New Jersey is not worse off either. New Jersey is like every other region I visited – they are trying to figure it out and there are wonderful resources available to parents, advocates, and addicts. New Jersey’s battle is no different than every other state’s battle. The problem is growing rapidly. Ignorance, the stigma of addiction, and the lack of effectively utilized funding limits our ability to address the problem. From Mount Laurel to Wyckoff to Fair Lawn to Mendham, I experienced and connected with committed and concerned communities. I saw the pain, witnessed the frustration, and experienced the fear. It is real and relevant.

We all know there is a problem. We all are fearful of the issue. We all struggle with what to do and where to go. We all struggle to understand or cope with the reality of the situation. It is a growing problem. And, there are no easy answers or quick fixes.

There is hope. To get where we need to be we need a stronger and more connected, committed, informed, collaborative community. This is my call to action for you:

• To those who desire to judge or stigmatize addiction, open your hearts and your mind to the issue. There is much to learn, understand, and comprehend;

• To those parents who are living and dealing with addiction in their family, have the courage and the vulnerability to reach out and ask for help. The resources are there, access them;

• To those who are struggling with their addictions, make a commitment to change your life. Your family loves you, believes in you and are praying for you. Find and embrace your recovery;

• To everyone who is struggling with something in their lives – and we all are – you will find the love and support you are looking for when you first offer and share your love with others. Give someone your love today and you will change the world;

I look forward to my next visit to New Jersey. I love it every single time I come back. In the meantime, stay strong, stay focused, believe in yourself, and love those around you. We can solve many of our most serious problems if and when we do!

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