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Episode 11

Overcoming Loss

November 27th, 2020

Announcer: Welcome to Addiction and the Family, “Episode 11: Overcoming Loss.”

Casey Arrillaga: How has addiction affected your family?

Female Speaker: It robbed me of my father.

Female Speaker: Addiction's affected my family in absolutely every way.

Male Speaker: It has caused a lot of turmoil.

Female Speaker: It goes back to what I understand is at least three generations.

Female Speaker: It robbed my daughter of her mother. It robbed my mother of her daughter.

Female Speaker: Addiction has made our family quite challenging.

Male Speaker: Addiction has affected my family tremendously.

Male Speaker: It's affected my relationship with my sister where I wouldn't – I'd go for months without talking to her. It's a very difficult thing for everybody involved. It doesn't just affect the one individual. It's a disease that affects the whole family.

Male Speaker: Addiction is spread not only genetically through some of my relatives and I assume ancestors.

Female Speaker: It's generational.

Female Speaker: I think of him every day.

Casey Arrillaga: Welcome to Addiction and the Family, a podcast by and for family members of anyone with an addiction. My name is Casey Arrillaga, and I'm a social worker and addiction counselor at both Windmill Wellness Ranch and InMindOut Emotional Wellness Centers in Texas. I've led hundreds of family workshops, but I've also lived the experience of being family to addiction as both a child and adult. My wife, Kira, and I were in our addictions together for over a decade and now have been in recovery together for almost 20 years. Join us as we offer experience, strength, and realistic hope about how you and your family can find recovery together.

Kira Arrillaga: In this episode, Casey interviews Jack Dison, author or Overdose: Letters from Dad, a unique and powerful book about his relationship with his adult son, James, who was addicted to drugs. Jack talks about how this relationship evolved both when James was alive and then after he died of an overdose. Jack looks at not only their relationship and his understanding of what it meant, but also his own personal growth and recovery from and through the experience of losing his son. He talks about continuing their relationship through a series of letters that Jack started writing to James after his death. We’ll hear that interview after a quick word from one of our sponsors.

[Commercial]

Welcome back. Loss of relationship is arguably the greatest fear that human beings have. People will risk losing their lives to avoid losing relationship with others. In light of this, it should be no surprise that one of the biggest fears that many family members have is that they will lose the person they love to addiction. Author Jack Dison found this fear coming true when his son, James, died of a drug overdose just prior to entering another round of treatment, hoping to get sober one more time. Most people would think of this as losing the person they love, freezing the relationship in time, leaving nothing left to do except wish for things to go back to how they had been, or torture themselves with fantasies of getting a do-over.

Jack undoubtedly experienced many of these thoughts, but he also found a way to continue their relationship and, thus, his own recovery and growth. He started writing his son letters. These letters eventually became the book, Overdose: Letter from Dad, which is currently available on Amazon.com in paperback and as an e-book. This poignant and poetic book charts a journey of grief but also hope that can help anybody not only to learn to cope with loss, but also to treasure the relationships they have with those who are still alive. For family members of anyone with addiction and for those who have an addiction themselves, this book about facing and overcoming the greatest fear is truly a treasure. Casey was able to catch up with Jack for an in-depth interview, and here it is.

Casey Arrillaga: I just want to start by saying that I’m really honored to have you on Addiction and the Family. It’s really rare to find a book that is so heartfelt and personal and beautifully written at the same time.

Jack Dison: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate that. I hope that it will be valuable to persons in various ways and maybe this podcast will be a way to get the word out about the book for persons that might benefit from it.

Casey Arrillaga: That’s certainly my hope. If you’re running a podcast or writing a column or running a radio show, you’ve got an endless stream of guests and material if you just invite people who want to promote their book. This podcast really has not been focused that way, and it’s not something I was really interested in doing in general. My boss, I think, actually handed me Overdose and said someone had handed it to her. She said, “I’m really busy. I don’t have time. Can you read this and let me know what you think?”

I opened it up and started reading just from the introduction, the first letters, and I just felt my heart being drawn in. It’s, again, not just beautifully written, but just the personal nature of this story. Of course, there’s a lot that’s in the book and there’s a lot that’s not in the book. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with your son, James, and your journey as a parent?

Jack Dison: Sure. I’d be glad to do that. It was – when I say reasonably long journey, he lived until age 34. Not as long a journey as I would like for it to have been. The first years were just a delight. That’s what I remember them as.

We had this lively, interesting, young life that came into our life, just enjoyed him. I think he enjoyed us. I think it was a good time for all of us. Of course, it was always an adjustment to have a kid and learn how to be a parent and all of that. It was all a very positive experience in those first years.

A turning point, I guess, was that his mother and I divorced when he was about age five, I think. We separated then, I guess, divorced a little later. That was hard for him. He moved with me for me to become a single parent. That came just at the time that I had finished my PhD and moved to Arkansas State University. For some period of years there, not too long, I was a single parent.

We just continued to have a good relationship with each other. We had a lot of fun with each. An example was in those years, I remember we used to like to go skating. He was a good skater. I was not such a good skater. We had fun doing that. Also, I remember in those very early years when he was just a little tyke, I had an old bicycle. I put a seat on the back of it and could strap him in that. We would go for bicycle rides, and he just loved it. He just loved it. We took walks with each other. That part of our relationship just meant a lot to me in terms of loving him and him loving me and so forth.

A little later he moved back to his mother’s home and lived with his mother and stepfather and his younger sister. Somewhere along the way after a few years, he was pretty young – I don’t remember exactly what the age was. He started experimenting with substances, drugs, and alcohol. His life became troubled at that point. They weren’t quite sure what to do, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Of course, I was not living there.

The trouble became deep enough that they asked me to consider taking him back and being a single parent to him. I said, “Well, sure.” I just felt that was going to be a very easy thing because we had such a good relationship. Well, it turned out to not be easy at all. It was a very, very hard, difficult, challenging time for both of us. He began to display, I guess, what you might call a distorted thinking in our relationship.

I still loved him a lot, and he loved me. It became much harder to like him, I guess I would say. There were a lot of issues of trust. I think trust is a very important thing for a good relationship. The trust had kind of flown out the window, and it got very difficult.

I guess an example of the difficulty of trust was that at some point I wouldn’t go to sleep until I had my billfolds and my car keys and other important things like that under my pillow for fear that he would take the car out for a spin and who knows what would happen. That did happen at times. It became a very difficult time for me. He entered treatment the first time during that period that he was with me. Of course, I had really high hopes that he was going to go to treatment.

Everything was going to be fine after that. It didn’t work out that way. That continued on for many years then with his mom and stepfather and sister. He went into a long-term kind of treatment. It seemed to be working well.

Anyway, after that he just would go to treatment and then usually not too long after that would relapse and just had a very troubled life, I guess I would say. It was sad to see that. He went to the army for awhile and did pretty well with that, but had to leave the army because of a physical injury. I think he was using the whole time that he was in the army, which is not the easiest thing to do, but he did it.

He got married and had a child, then just continued the cycle back into addiction, drugs, and alcohol, mostly drugs at that point, I think. He would periodically get into some kind of treatment and just had a life that was on thin ice, I guess I would say. It was hard for me, hard for him, hard for all of us in that circle. Then at one point he came to me briefly and we decided that we would see if we could get him back into the VA and get some treatment there. That was very helpful.

He was very open to it at that time. He underwent a lot of change. I was living in California. This place was in Arizona. I drove out several times to see him in Arizona, and he really was cleaning up. Oh, my gosh, clean and sober.

I could have a good conversation with him. Things looked they were moving in a very good direction. That lasted about a year. Then he had some trouble in the place he was working and just got in over his head and decided to quit that job and left and went to another city in Arizona and face what you face and relapsed. That was extremely hard for him because he thought at that point his life was on a very different track, and it had been on a very different track.

He moved back to the original place, VA center. They weren’t too sure about even taking him in. Then he was going to another place. In that period of time he not only relapsed, but died of a heroin overdose. The story is much longer than that, but that’s kind of a summary of the relationship and his life and the time that he and I had together.

Casey Arrillaga: I really appreciate you sharing that. There are bits and pieces of that that, of course, come out throughout the book. Being able to hear that all together there is really valuable. If I may ask, I’m sure in a lot of ways you’ve told this story maybe in different times and places and certainly within the book itself, but if I may ask, how does it feel for you right now emotionally to walk through that story again?

Jack Dison: Well, of course, it still stirs things up. I’ve gone through a lot of healing since he died the first year or so, maybe two or three years after he died. It was just very hard going through that grief. It was just a very difficult time. I would say though that as time has gone on, it’s not as hard as it was.

It doesn’t go away. I still long for him and kind of want to reach to him. I feel much better. I’ve been able to find ways to go on with my life. I’m sure that’s what he would want me to do and certainly I would want to do myself. I still feel contact with him.

Even this morning, for example, I talked to him. I’d say, “Be with me in this. Guide me. Tell me what you want me to say.” He’s still with me.

I don’t hear a lot of direct talk from him, but I do sense things that come from him. As I say, it was very, very hard those first years following his death and has become quite a bit easier since that time. I think I’ve been able to go on with my life and accept that he’s gone on to wherever he’s gone on to.

Casey Arrillaga: One of the themes that stands out in so many of your letters is hope. Can you talk about your relationship to hope in your recovery journey both when James was alive and then after he died?

Jack Dison: Yeah. Hope was there. I think it’s possible for there to be goodness and light that comes out of or is related to even the most difficult circumstances of life. Even though it’s bad or it’s terrible or whatever word you want to use, it’s possible to hold onto the notion that it can get better. I think the key thing in hope is to want that hope and to try to do what you can to bring that about.

In James’s case, we both had hope that he would get clean and sober and go on with a “normal” life and that he would find better parts of him. We knew those parts were there. They got covered up pretty much in the addiction as it played out. I guess, also, I’d say there is hope that I would find better parts of me and hope that even now that we can be in contact with each other while he is gone, he is dead, and I’m still living. Hope also that maybe at some point we will be able to be together again and communicate again.

Of course, that’s out of my control, but a lot of things we hope for out of our control. I think it’s very good to hold onto hope where you can do some things to bring those hopes about. The alternative to hope is hopeless, and that’s not a good place to be, I know.

Casey Arrillaga: You described your own journey of recovery throughout the book and how important it is to you. What would you say to family members who may be listening to this and who may be considering whether or not they need recovery themselves?

Jack Dison: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think in the early times I didn’t really feel like I needed any recovery. I think as time went on and I came to realize that while there was brokenness in him, there was also a brokenness in me, that I had a choice. The way I thought about it sometimes is that either I could go down the drain with James or I could go on with life and have a decent life myself in spite of what was going on with him.

I think crucial to my coming to have greater awareness of the possibility of recovery and getting into recovery itself, I found another 12-step group. In that, first of all, I found that there were other people experiencing the same thing I did. There were probably periods of a year or more. I don’t know how long, a long time, that I thought I was the only one who was experiencing that kind of difficulty. It took me awhile to get there.

When I got there I found that there were people experiencing very much the same thing that I was and that we could help each other. That opened doors for all kinds of recovery for me to learn ways in which I could constructively deal with James in his struggle and also how I could take care of myself. I guess I also found that there were parts of me which had been diminished, the part of my relationship with him that was addiction. I longed for, hoped for healing. I found the 12 steps to be a very fine way of approaching that and had some wonderful people to work with. That was a very important part of my recovery. Clearly, I needed my own recovery, my own growth, my own healing, and that’s still in process.

Casey Arrillaga: Beautiful. You talk about self-forgiveness in your letters. Can you talk about this part of your recovery and what you might say to other family members out there who may struggle with this?

Jack Dison: Yeah. One of the things I guess that happened in my recovery was take responsibility and become accountable for what I had done or not done. I know that I felt very strongly and still do, that there were things that I did or did not do that contributed to his troubled life and his troubled state. I don’t say that I caused it. I don’t think I did cause it, but I think I could have done things differently.

As I began to look back at that, I felt that if I had been able to deal with that differently, maybe there would have been some different results, maybe not. I was really hard on myself. I know that James in a lot of his life didn’t feel at home in this world and didn’t feel at home in this society and culture and family and so forth. I felt like if circumstances had been different, including my own relationship with him, that maybe he could have been more at home here. I think it comes down to I can either beat myself up or I can recognize that I did as best I could as his dad and forgive myself for the mistakes that I made and the shortcomings that I had and also to try to give credit to myself for the things that I did as best I could.

Casey Arrillaga: Nice, thank you. One of the letters in the book is from James to you. I wonder, would it be okay to read that aloud?

Jack Dison: Sure, that’d be okay. I guess the letters prior to that and also my own thinking, I was really taking myself to task for ways that I could have been better, a better dad to him. I maybe would have done things that would have helped his life and made his life better. Anyway, it occurred to me that he might have something to say to me along those lines. It was just an intuition that popped into my mind.

All the letters begin, “Hi, James,” but this one begins, “Hi, Dad, Geez, don’t be so hard on yourself, Dad. You did a really good job of being my dad. It’s okay you’re not perfect because who is? You stood by me in really hard times. I always knew that you loved me, and you did the best that you or just about anyone could do. You wanted the best for me.

It was me who was messing up again and again. It was me, not you, that was throwing things off track and even into the ditch. It was me who made being a parent to me so hard. Remember that.” I think that’s a very loving letter, and I think that captures some of the best part of him. I feel that he, given the opportunity, would have written or said something just exactly like that.

Casey Arrillaga: For you, what was it or what is it like to hear that letter today?

Jack Dison: Well, it makes me feel very close to him. When I read it just then, I felt tears coming into my eyes because I felt like from my side I was trying to take responsibility for what I had done or hadn’t done. In that letter he was stepping up and taking responsibility for what he had done and not done and how it affected me. I just felt very deeply loved by him. It brought me to tears.

Casey Arrillaga: Thank you for being willing to share such an intimate and personal moment.

Jack Dison: Well, thank you.

Casey Arrillaga: What a beautiful gift to offer yourself or for James to offer you from beyond. A time when so many people would naturally question themselves, it’s such a normal thing to say what could I have done differently? Maybe if I had gone left instead of right or looked up instead of down, all the questions that anybody asked themselves, to be able to offer this sort of thing instead.

Jack Dison: It’s a real gift. It’s a gift from him, and it just feels so honest and so genuine from him.

Casey Arrillaga: You saw James go in and out of treatment and recovery many times. Given that this is a podcast for family members of people with addiction, what would you want to say to family members who are listening and who may see this same pattern?

Jack Dison: I think I mentioned before that the first time he went to treatment, I had a pretty naïve view of it. I thought that he would go the two weeks or three weeks or whatever it was and that he’d be all fixed and that we’d have it all behind us. That didn’t turn out to be that way. He was in treatment so many times. I don’t think we can even give an accurate count of how many times he was in treatment.

I think what I’d say to others who are facing that is that the fact that treatment becomes available again and again, particularly persons like James are interested in going into treatment again and again is really a good thing, really a wonderful thing. I’m so grateful that we had all of the opportunities for him to go to treatment and that he had all the opportunities. Some of them we paid for and others we did not. Others became available. As I said, some were through the VA. He got some wonderful help.

The thing I would say is don’t get your hopes up too high on any one treatment experience, but also appreciate opportunities to go into treatment. I’m convinced that James learned things, probably lots of things, some I know about, some I don’t, every time he went into treatment. It became a deepened experience for him. The deepest one was the last year of his life. It was a VA experience, but it was also supplemented by other groups that he was in at the same time.

I think it’s just extraordinary that treatment exists. I think it’s extraordinary that people can find their way to it and work through a lot of the problems that brought brokenness and troubled experiences to their life. I’m very grateful that that exists and that we were able to do that again and again many times. I’m grateful that James wanted to do that. I think there may have been a few times that he went into treatment because he didn’t have any place else to go. I think for the most part he really had a deep longing to undergo some healing and some growth and to get on a different life track.

Casey Arrillaga: Thank you.

Kira Arrillaga: We’ll hear more of Casey’s interview with Jack after a brief word from one of our sponsors.

[Commercial]

Kira Arrillaga: Welcome back. Now, let’s hear the conclusion of Casey’s interview with Jack Dison.

Casey Arrillaga: You’ve got these beautiful letters that all start with, “Dear James,” and you’ve got the one that starts with, “Dear Dad.” I’m going to ask if you can just improvise one really quickly that says, “Dear Jack,” that you’re writing to your younger self when James is going into his first treatment center. What would you say in that letter?

Jack Dison: I guess I would very quickly off the top of my head I’d say, “Dear Jack, I know this has been a very difficult time in your life, maybe the most difficult time. I’m so glad that you’ve been able to find an opportunity for placement for James in a treatment center and that he’s willing to do that. I hope very much that it will be helpful for him to move from brokenness to wholeness and that it also would be helpful for you.” In writing as the younger Jack, I didn’t really see that I needed anything at that time.

Today it not only helped James, but they also made opportunities for me as part of the treatment process to come. I know I went to my first meeting through them. I also had sessions in which they were working to do things which would be helpful for me not only in the sense of how to relate to James and how to go from here on, but also open the door for me to begin thinking about taking care of myself in ways that I had not before.

Casey Arrillaga: I really appreciate you sharing about your experience at that treatment center and engaging with their family program. I want to touch on something. You display a depth of compassion that few people find for people with addiction. I want to ask a couple questions around that. Was this always the case? If not, how did you come to such a compassionate place?

Jack Dison: I think I’d say that maybe a part of my spiritual life or some of the better parts of my life had an emphasis on compassion. I don’t think I really had too much compassion for people who were experiencing addiction. Probably one of the things that helped me more than anything else in a town that I was living in, I got connected with a whole community of 12-step people, both Al Anon and AA people. As I got connected with some of those people, particularly those who had been through the experience of addiction, I could see that they were wonderful people.

That, I think, was an important part of feeding the compassion that was maybe beginning to develop. I think I also, and I’m not sure exactly when or where this happened, but I think I became more in contact with my own imperfections and my own addictions. I didn’t have much of an experience with addiction with drugs or alcohol or anything like that. Other things including tobacco, I smoked for various years. I don’t now, but that was an addiction of sweets and chocolate and things like that. I guess there are probably other addictions as well.

Anyway, as I came to recognize my own imperfections, I became open to recognizing my path and the pain and suffering that was involved in that and also, for other person who had been through that as well. It’s been very, very important for me to experience compassion, for people to have a compassionate response to me. That was a very important learning series for me to become more compassionate.

Casey Arrillaga: Thank you. As a follow up question there, was it hard to maintain the compassion?

Jack Dison: Well, I guess I would say with James, it would come and go. There were times that I felt more compassionate and other times that I responded with judgment and anger. I think I became more compassionate as time went on. There were times that I felt some compassion and then it would get out of my grasp. I’ll put it that way.

Casey Arrillaga: Very understandable. It’s great to hear that and hear your journey with it. You’ve touched on your spirituality there. Can you talk about the role spirituality and faith have played in your recovery and your relationship with James?

Jack Dison: I’ve had some history of spiritual growth apart from James’s addiction and my relationship with James. I guess what I’m saying there is that I had some kind of a spiritual basis, maybe some kind of a recognition that I’m not alone and we’re not alone, that there is a reality far greater than me or any of us. That is the reality that created us and sustains us and does, I’ve come to discover more and more, that that reality does stand with us and guide us, even in the most challenging and difficult circumstances.

I know, for example – I think this is in the book. I’m not sure. Shortly after I received the news that James had died and that horrible reality began to sink in, I remember saying I can’t deal with this. I don’t think I can deal with this. It was a sense. It wasn’t an actual sentence that I heard, but there was a sense that came into my mind from the divine holy source that said, “Yes, we can.”

That was a declaration that I wasn’t going to be alone, and I was not alone. I sensed when James died, this is just kind of an image that came into my mind is that he fell into the arms of a loving God. That was a comfort for me to sense that. I also sense that the same God held me up then and still holds me up now.

One of the things I guess I’d say that’s an important part of the faith journey with James and me was that in that last year of his life, he had a spiritual awakening, which seemed, and I’m convinced, was very genuine. We were able to talk about that. We never had been able to talk about anything like that before.

Also, I remember that there was a time or two that he and I shared a motel room or hotel room. I remember that when he would first wake up, he would get on his knees and say a morning prayer silently. That was so impressive to me, and I was so glad that he had that kind of spiritual growth at that part of his life. Fortunately, he spent time with not only the AA group, but there was a group of people who were like a religious group, and they had kind of combined recovery and 12 steps with the religious language. He had some very good connections with some of those people and it made a huge difference in his life. I think faith is just a really important part of the whole thing.

Casey Arrillaga: Thank you. I’m reminded of something when you were talking about your relationship with James and being able to share that faith and spirituality towards the end. I have a lot of family members within family workshops and other contexts of family work around addiction who talk about or motivate themselves with just the mad scramble to try and control their loved ones recovery journey out of fear that they could die. One of the things I came to realize and have tried to transmit to people is that we have no control over life and death, but we do have some control over the quality of our relationships while we are still alive together. It seems like you and James found something in there, not knowing his life would end when it did, but finding a way to really enjoy or deepen the relationship you had while you were still both alive.

Jack Dison: Yes, I think that’s absolutely true. What a gift it was for us to be able to get to that point. As you say, we couldn’t control what was going to happen, whether he was going to live or whether he was going to die. We could do something about the nature and the path of our relationship. What a gift that was to both of us. Oh, my goodness.

Casey Arrillaga: Thank you. I’m going to ask about one other letter in the book. It’s towards the end on Pages 114 and 115. In that letter you talk about how you’ve grown from the grief of James passing. Since the letters aren’t dated, it’s hard to tell how long it takes to get to that point. Can you talk about writing that letter and how that felt?

Jack Dison: Yeah. That in a sense is what followed from your death gave me enormous opportunity for personal growth, and it did. I’m not quite sure if there was a point at which that arrived or not. I think it’s probably in some ways, which is still in process, that there’s personal growth for me that is related to all that I had with him and the loss of him and the grieving of the loss of him. I do think that in some ways that experience with James both before his death and after his death you could argue was the most important thing that ever happened in my life. He clearly opened me up.

It drove me to my knees in ways that I had never been before. There was a gradual change that has taken place in me. Interestingly, it’s been a very positive change. I suppose a way by which a person could respond to that experience would be to become bitter, but that didn’t really happen with me, fortunately. The whole thing of personal growth and healing in my life still continues. I think I various ways it is related to the experience that I had with him.

Casey Arrillaga: Just maybe to give some experience, strength, and hope to any of our listeners who might be dealing with a similar experience, do you remember how long it took before you were ready to write that letter?

Jack Dison: It was some years. I have no idea how long. It was some time. I think it’s a good thing to stay with that experience and the feelings and the reflections and so forth. I know it didn’t take place – that letter was not written immediately in the first few years at all.

Casey Arrillaga: I wouldn’t think. What helped you most to get to the point where you could write that letter?

Jack Dison: Well, I think it was probably several things. I think it was being able to take the chance to share the experience with other people, sometimes in groups, sometimes with individuals. I think just to very honest about it, to be able to put it out there on the table and look at it, and to recognize that maybe not only in this instance, but maybe as a generalization in life that hard times and extreme challenges and even suffering may be some of the very things that can open us up to growth and healing. I think that certainly was true in my case not only with James, but maybe with other things as well.

Casey Arrillaga: That is really beautiful. It’s been an enormous pleasure and honor to be able to do this interview with you. Before we wrap up, is there anything else that you would want to say to our listeners, and is there anything that you would want to say to James if he’s listening to this?

Jack Dison: I guess I would say to people that if you’re in a situation where you have someone you love who is in the jaws of addiction, if we could put it that way, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen. I think it may enter your mind that that person may die. That was certainly the case with me and James. I knew that the way his life was going, it seemed to me that there was a possibility that he would die.

I guess while I would like to then have been able to control it, I think it’s important to recognize that I couldn’t control it. Maybe what that says is to let things go and let them play out as they’re going to play out. Let me emerge as they’re going to emerge. One thing I would say is that if you or any of this time that that person does die directly or indirectly as a result of addiction or whatever, that it’s not the end of the world.

I hope that doesn’t happen to you. I hope it doesn’t happen to anybody. If it does, I’m convinced that you can get through, that even things can get better. You can grow and learn and heal. That’s a good thing.

Casey Arrillaga: Thank you so much. Is there anything that you would want to say to James?

Jack Dison: That’s a good one. I want to say to James that I love you. I feel like my love is even deeper for you now than it was. I somehow feel that your love for me is deeper. I so hope that you’re okay. I’d love to know what you know now.

We human beings are finite creatures, and we can only know so much. I have a feeling that you’re in a place that you have experienced ways of knowing that are so far beyond what we have. I’d like to say that I hope I can come together some time and share about this hope. I love you. I appreciate you. I’m glad that I had you in my life. I’m also glad that you’re still in my life.

Casey Arrillaga: Wow. That is amazingly beautiful. I wish that for you and James as well.

Jack Dison: Thank you.

Casey Arrillaga: Well, it has been such a pleasure. I want to thank you for taking the time and talking with me and bringing this message to you and anybody who listens to this for years to come.

Jack Dison: I appreciate that I had the opportunity.

Casey Arrillaga: Again, it was a pleasure. Thank you so much. You have a wonderful day.

Jack Dison: Okay, you too, Casey. Thank you so much.

Casey Arrillaga: Thank you, bye-bye.

Jack Dison: Bye.

Kira Arrillaga: That was Jack Dison, author of Overdose: Letters from Dad. I don’t know a lot of people who have gone through what he went through. I’ve been to an overdose funeral or two, but I wasn’t close with the parents in those cases. I always wondered what it was like for them.

Casey Arrillaga: Having our own child with our own issues who we thought more than a few times we might lose her, really being able to hear the beauty and strength of somebody who’s gone through that experience, that for me has just been a fear.

Kira Arrillaga: I found that a lot of it was that Jack’s continued connection with his son while he was still alive, there was the continued connection of loving your son right where he is. After he had passed away, there was the continued connection of letter writing and keeping it alive, keeping him alive in that way. Then at the end of the interview, just hearing Jack’s belief system and somebody that really lives their beliefs, that was beautiful.

Casey Arrillaga: That really as. It was a testament to the power of recovery, not just for the person with addiction, but the power and the importance of recovery for everyone in the family.

Kira Arrillaga: Well, I’ll be hugging my kid a little tighter tonight, I think.

Casey Arrillaga: Me too. Thanks for being with us through another episode of Addiction and the Family. As they say in many recovery meetings, take what you liked and leave the rest. Go out and explore the possibilities for recovery in your life and give your loved ones the space and dignity to make their own choices.

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