For 18 plus years, while leading large teams in high-end food service operations, I refined many skills, one of which helped me stay successful in high pressure environments: to stay calm, to focus on the most important next step, to be there for my team and at the same time to keep my company’s interests in mind. Luckily, we didn’t have many emergencies, but when you are responsible for 13 operations and oversee 250 employees, there is ample opportunity for things to go sideways. And I got to be pretty good at staying calm under pressure.
About 2 years ago in late February on a sunny day I happened to be home when I caught my older son trying to sneak some prescription drugs. He had recently been to a second youth psych hospital within 3 months, struggled with anxiety and depression and at times used substances obsessively. I stayed calm and yet it dawned on me that this emergency is bigger than me, that we needed help and that our son was in danger. My wife and I teamed up, we spoke to people, lots of people, we got advice and we were determined to do whatever it takes to help our son. When we told our son that we were sending him to a Wilderness Therapeutic Program, he was thrilled and we started to be cautiously optimistic. We took advantage of everything that the program had to offer, family therapy, books, podcasts, workshops. I even followed their advice of ‘selfcare’, which confused me, because I was calm. Months later it hit me like an 18 wheeler. I hadn’t been calm, I had been in shock. The thought of losing my son was too painful. Eventually, I allowed myself to reflect and evaluate how I had lived my life, where my priorities had been and what truly mattered to me. In some ways, Covid and the isolation that came along, provided a calm space to reflect on my life.
Our son started to improve and even though his recovery at times followed a 2 steps forward, 1 step back pattern, I grew closer to my son. Today, he has been sober for over 18 months and is a completely different person from the boy 2 years ago. Will he stay sober? I don’t know. What I do know is that I learned a lot from the many wonderful people we have met. I learned a lot from my son. I’m so proud that my relationship to my son, to my wife and to my other son and to myself is better than ever. It is filled with a deep sense of connection, which brings me to my favorite quote I learned along the way: “The opposite of addiction is human connection.” That is when I understood the power of community, finding your own tribe, experiencing the beauty of building connection. No, I am not calm. I am connected and it feels absolutely great.