Personal Journey: Addiction, recovery and my son Josh

The Schultz family Jeanne, Josh, Jeff and Sierra with their dog Lilly at their Johns Creek home. When Josh went into treatment for opiate addiction the family got a puppy, Lilly, as part of a distraction and a symbol of co-dependency. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

The most important story I’ve ever written wasn’t about a college football game. It isn’t about an athlete, a team, a trade, an injury, an ownership, a stadium issue, an Olympics or the NCAA. The most important story I’ve ever written was about addiction and recovery.

My son’s story. My family’s story. My story.

I wrote a “Personal Journey” with my son, Josh, who first went into treatment for an addiction to Oxycontin in the spring of 2011, just before his scheduled finals his senior year at the University of Georgia. Having written about athletes with drug and alcohol issues in the past, as well as growing up in the somewhat loose culture of California, I believed I knew a lot about the worlds of addiction and recovery. It turns out I knew very little.

» Get the complete story: “Lost and Found”

Josh’s struggles and relapses in his first two years were painful for all of us. But our lives today are better off for it. My wife, Jeanne, and I have gained a new perspective and live our lives completely differently, one based on spirituality, gratitude over expectations and understanding the concept of powerlessness.

We wanted to help our son recover. But we learned the hard way that was out of our hands. Understanding powerlessness is the most difficult lesson for both the addict and the parent.

Addiction, whether we’re talking about drugs, alcohol, food, gambling or anything else, is a one-day-at-a-time battle. Josh is approaching two years of consecutive of great days.

Why are we telling this story? Because Josh and I believe if we can help just one addict, one parent or anybody who has been touched by addiction and mental illness, it will be worth it. It’s the final step of any 12 Step program: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

I hope you read the Personal Journey in Sunday’s paper or online. A closer look at our story:



Reader Comments 0

39 comments
Janelle Winters
Janelle Winters

Thank you so much for your vulnerability in sharing your story, Jeff (and Josh)! The kind of hope that you two share is invaluable. It is so encouraging to hear the positive light and perspective you share (by talking about expressing gratitude instead of expectations and celebrating "great days," for example). Yes, feelings of despair will and do come. Yes, it's so difficult to celebrate one great day when it seems that most days aren't great, and yes, it might take a lot of effort to re-train ourselves to not rely so much on expectations, and yes, sometimes it seems impossible to embrace powerlessness, but your example shows that it can be done! And that it's not a smooth and perfect process either, and that that is okay. Thank you! https://oceanaddictionrecovery.com/ 

Floppy
Floppy

The more he stays straight, the easier it will be. Happy for him and your family, I know it aint easy

DOG-GONE-IT
DOG-GONE-IT

Jeff, I was exposed to Agent Orange in the mid seventies. Because of it I have diabetes, spinal stenosis and multiple connective tissue disease. I will live in pain for the rest of my life. Often the pain is unbearable, therefore I take morphine for the pain as prescribed by a VA rheumatologist. Five years ago I lived in Amsterdam for a year. Physicians there do not like to prescribe opiates. My only option there was cannabis and hashish. When you hurt a great deal you use what's available, which is what I did. It was as effective as morphine in many ways and so much better in so many ways, yet here it isn't an option, therefore I have no option than a powerful, addictive medication that interferes with my writing ability (ABJ - UGA) and my art (watercolor). Something is wrong when the powers that be deem morphine a better option than cannabis. The laws for medical marijuana don't apply to my condition. I believe that if morphine is necessary; herb should always be an option. I feel for you and your son, but in families where love is abundant any problem, when tackled together, has a great chance of being positively resolved. If this comment is cogent - it is the meds!    

atlfanman
atlfanman

It took a lot of courage to bring your personal story to the public. All the best to your family!

patriotdog
patriotdog

Well said, well written and a big dose of what's important in this life. Sports is not even in the top 20.

Good luck to you, Schultzie, and to Josh.

John Mclaughlin
John Mclaughlin

It really has to be an amazing feeling to be able to be Josh and to be able to say that he has overcome his addiction. Something that really stands out is what you mentioned about how addiction is a day to day battle. That really speaks words, and can really help bring awareness to those who are trying to quit their addiction cold turkey and keep relapsing. Thank you so much for being willing to share Josh's story. 


http://www.integrative-health.us/skokie-drug-rehab.html 

Spun Webb
Spun Webb

Jeff - I live in Los Angeles (11 years now), but am originally from GA -- born, raised, and a UGA alum. I still read just about every one of your columns online (weekend predictions are the highlight of my fall weeks - Go Lilly!), just as I did back home as a long time subscriber. Obviously, you cover all of my favorite teams, so I can only hope to continue to do so as long as you keep writing, with your unique perspective truly appreciated. I'm one of the chosen who not only feel I understand your wit, but apply the same comedy and passion about sports to my life. So I know you don't get it much here, but thank you for your work. This story is truly amazing and I commend Josh especially, as well as your family for your courage and message here. Bravo. Well done, and thank you again. I'm forever pulling for you all. Cheers.

74Dawg
74Dawg

Nothing but the best to you and your family, Jeff. Anyone who has not had this type of situation with a loved one cannot really understand the daily pain and helplessness that it brings. Good for you Josh. Hang with it buddy.

Take your life back.

Stingshuh?
Stingshuh?

Hey Everybody!!.........Happy Fathers Day to all that Qualify!.......and if your lucky enough to still be able to go see your Dad today, well you are very blessed.

KevinE
KevinE

Jeff, I enjoy your work/columns.  Having said that, this is the best thing you've ever written (that I've read).  Thanks for sharing.  Prayers for Josh's continued sobriety and for your family.

Monte Barnes
Monte Barnes

I believe you know my father Craig Barnes. I battled addiction for seventeen years so I can completely relate personally to the struggle. I am very happy to hear your son is doing well. Ive been sober for 5 years now and I am also an addiction counselor now. So if there is anyway that I can help you or your son feel free to reach out. Im sure you know how to reach my dad.

Sincerely

Monte Barnes

purplehaze
purplehaze

I'm in the battle now. Thank you it is truly the greatest battle of my life. God bless and prayers both ways please

HotDawg
HotDawg

Jeff,

Best wishes to your son, you and your family. 

Amazing to open up. 

I hope this is somewhat cathartic for you. 

I'm sure you have all the readers support and prayers in such a serious matter.

On a sidenote....Nice to see Josh is UGA man. 

Good Luck.

DrPhill
DrPhill

One of the better books on substance abuse is "Night of the Gun" by former investigative reporter and NY Times writer, David Carr, I wish continued recovery for Jeff's son.

Atlanta Man's Peachtree
Atlanta Man's Peachtree

As a person in recovery for 25 years, I applaud your son for taking the difficult steps to recovery and wish him all the best. 


But,  also as a person in recovery I am shocked at something else. Recovery is fragile, especially early on, so this needs to be about your son. I am truly saddened and disappointed you are finding a way to make his journey about you. 

jschultz
jschultz moderator

@Atlanta Man's Peachtree The objective was to illustrate the parallel roads of recovery and to promote RECOVERY, not US. Josh and I believe we achieved that.

DawgNole
DawgNole

Seldom do readers get such a "personal" look at writers and columnists they may have followed literally for decades.

Takes real courage to open up like this, in my opinion, and I believe your and Josh's hope of helping "just one addict, one parent or anybody who has been touched by addiction and mental illness" will be realized many times over by your revelation here.

Best wishes for continued success in Josh's recovery!

RangeRover
RangeRover

Jeff,

You may also have read or heard that "anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all of our principles, every reminding us to place principle before personalities."

While I applaud your son's recovery, sacrificing his anonymity could yield him a lifetime of challenges while also creating a resentment by those in his recovery program who appreciate the value--and perhaps critical necessity--of honoring the 12th tradition.

I once had a sister who put a bullet in her brain because of getting hooked on narcotics and then losing her husband so I do understand.

And as I'm sure you learned as did I, we are servants; we are not saviors.

I'm proud of your son and for you and your family for sticking with him...I'd give anything to have had the opportunity to speak to my sister before she pulled that trigger...I live with this every day.

Best wishes and good luck.

RR


HotDawg
HotDawg

@RangeRover

In one of the first sentences of the article, Jeff said he wrote a Personal Journey WITH his son.

So, Josh appears to courageously give up his anonymity voluntarily.

jschultz
jschultz moderator

@RangeRover The recovery group that you may be referencing here is not mentioned in the story. Anybody can step forward and say, "I'm an alcoholic." Bill W. did it and spoke on Capitol Hill.

ShowMeYurTDs
ShowMeYurTDs

Thanks for sharing, one day at a time  .  Good luck, I love you,  your column and tweets.

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

You get there when you get there.

Thanks for sharing your personal journey Mr. Schultz.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

Jeff - Wow!

Good luck to you and your family.

The Mommy Psychologist
The Mommy Psychologist

I'm glad they are sharing their story. I'm a psychologist and believe one of the best ways to combat addiction is by sharing our stories. I recently read a powerful memoir that offers the an amazing first hand account. I've been recommending it to individuals who struggle with addiction. Here's the link for anyone who might be interested:


http://www.amazon.com/Wounds-Father-Story-Betrayal-Redemption/dp/069237874X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434742576&sr=1-1&keywords=wounds+of+the+father

Gary Smith
Gary Smith

Jeff,  Wow what a refreshing story to read! Thanks for having the courage to share.  Continue to focus on the solution and not the problem.  Prayers for you and your family!

GeorgeStein
GeorgeStein

Good stuff, Jeff.   I hope your son and your family continue to find peace and sobriety.  

Born2Buzz
Born2Buzz

JS, very brave for sharing.  But I guess it was just another step in the process and you had no problem with doing so.  Thank you.

While I am fortunate that I have not had to experience directly with my children what you did, it's an all too familiar story that several close friends have had to go through, some still struggling with it today.  

Keep on keeping on and all the best.

BlueRidgeDawg
BlueRidgeDawg

Great article Jeff. Often the best out comes originate in some pretty dark places. I'm happy for Josh and your entire family. Continue jour journey, onward and upward, one day at a time.

Ellison
Ellison

Looking forward to reading it...CONGRATULATIONS!!

stephenson1958
stephenson1958

Incredible courage.  You will change lives and save lives because of your actions.  

WSP
WSP

thanks jeff. pretty unbelievable how easy it is for kids to get hooked on the opiates these days. the lack of regulations is maddening. its easier to get opiates than marijuana. 

Kramerica Industries
Kramerica Industries

I'm looking forward to reading this article. Thanks for having the courage to share this personal journey with us.

Redding
Redding

Thanks, Jeff.  This is a real gift to your readers.

wkirspel
wkirspel

Good luck to you and your family!