Note from Leonard Buschel
NOTE FROM EDITOR
A Family Affair: Taking My Son to Rehab
by Leonard Buschel
When I founded Writers In Treatment nine years ago with Bob Downey Sr., our tag line was Treatment Works! I had been using drugs everyday for 26 years, and after one very hot August in the desert at the abstinence ashram known as The Betty Ford Center; I have stayed clean and sober ever since. In 1994 at BFC, nothing was forced down our throats. Neither meds nor the 12 steps. I did do a first step there and had the only revelation I needed to stay for the 28 daze; listen to my peer’s stories, my counselor’s advice, the lectures and educational classes and the still small voice within. I realized I had been living an insane existence and had flirted with death on more than one occasion. Most importantly I learned, it was not only possible to go a month without weed, booze, or percodans, it was preferred, advisable, desirable, and a win/win. No more arrests, emergency rooms, or being frozen by frightening frisks at airports and borders.
What a deal! Use and drink for 26 years, almost die, but don’t and then get healthy lifestyle, a Serenity Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, fellowship, and therapy sessions not stoned out of my mind. In addition to a God of my understanding who could be anything or anyone, including the cosmos, love, a wagging dog’s tail, holding the door open for someone, Bill W, Carl Jung, Nikola Tesla, even Ebby Thatcher or me.
Years ago I had heard Buckminster Fuller at the free library in Philly explain -“God is a not a noun, God is a verb.” That explained everything. That’s what the acid had been trying to tell me. But hearing it pass through the lips of the man who invented the Geodesic Dome, and authored the groundbreaking book, “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” made it all make sense. I think doing the 12 Steps can yield the same results for the more cautious man or woman.
It wasn’t until I had 10 years sober, proving to myself sobriety wasn’t just a phase or a fad, that I became a CAADAC substance abuse counselor. My stints as a salesman, art gallery manager, photographer, and publisher had not proven significantly successful. And as Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” And my bliss had become showing the addict and alcoholic there could be a better (and certainly longer) life after a career of wild and obsessive substance ABUSE.
In December of 1999, when I was very busy worrying about Y2K, my 19-year-old son came home one day and says, “Dad, I want to go to treatment.” I did a double take. I knew he loved pot (having been busted in Weed, CA, appealing to our family’s appreciation of irony); he also could not control his drinking. I’d found some broken balloons in his jeans after I washed them. Not a good sign. He knew the expression, ‘to treatment’ because I was working as a drug counselor. I immediately called my alma mater, and they offered him a very generous partial scholarship. I told him he had to come up with the $3000. on his own, investing in and owning his process. He borrowed the cash from a family friend and did pay it back within 6 months of graduating the rehab program. On Jan 2, 2000. I had the unscheduled joy and privilege of driving Ben to Betty Ford for his Berlitz-like total immersion course in sobriety.
Only once on the 3-hour drive did he turn to me and say, “Dad, I don’t think this is such a good idea. Can’t we just stop for some sushi and go home?”
I granted one of his two wishes. We stopped for sushi in Azusa. I told him to try the rehab for a few weeks and if he didn’t like it, I would come pick him up. I knew it was a program of attraction, not coercion. His mother flew in from Olympia, Washington for family week. I figured I’d let her have the week, since Ben had chosen to live with me in middle school, and again after graduating high school in Washington. She told me walking around the pond outside McCallum Hall with Ben and seeing the swans spreading their wings in unison, imbued them both with a healing energy. I picked him up a month later and he hasn’t used since. He will celebrate 16 years in January. Sobriety is a decision not a frog march. Similar to achieving satori, Alan Watts said, “You can’t force enlightenment through the window – but you can make sure you keep the window open.
I feel that a treatment center is where you learn to open the window, and after-care and participation in12 Step Programs is how you make sure the window stays open. I’d like to offer treatment center marketing departments a bit of advice. No one wants to Start Your Recovery Here! or anywhere. That sounds like bullshit and it is. Perhaps you’d like to say (for a small licensing fee) “Quit for a Month and See if You Like It”. Recovery starts in your heart or the frontal lobe. Only after the ice starts to melt around the heart and the fog clears from the mind after a month or two can someone sincerely decide to pursue sobriety. Recovery that starts in court rooms, board rooms, the suspension of your allowance or at the threat of being written out of a will, is only sometimes successful. We are not bad people doing bad things, we are heroes lost like the Lotus Eaters; “but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower…When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be … They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back…but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return…from The Odyssey.
In 2013, I created the Addiction Recovery eBulletin to insure every counselor, treatment provider, mental health practitioner; addiction survivor and the general population would have easy access up-to-date articles, videos, essays and professional opinions regarding the universe of addiction and treatment. I wanted the eBulletin to encourage the saved to stay that way and the afflicted to seek help before it was too late.
Please share the good news– treatment works, recovery is possible and preferable.
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Addicts and their families deserve to be emboldened and not bamboozled.