127) First Client

Greetings new reader!

I am glad you are here.

Have you ever wanted more control over your work situation?

For a lot of people, owning a business provides the opportunity to exercise that control.

In the spring of 2010 I formed a partnership with an internet marketing “wizard” named Larry. I met Larry at an association in Northern Colorado. Larry was presenting various strategies for helping start-ups identify, select and offer products using the internet as the primary marketing venue. At that particular time search engine marketing (local search) was the core focus.

Larry didn’t have a lot of academic training in business. What Larry had was a ton of experience helping Mom and Pops get their website found through local search through the process of keyword (profitable search terms) discovery.

Larry also could code HTML and possessed a natural affinity for learning whatever scripting and programming that was driving small business development.

At these two activities, Larry’s acumen was impressive.

I guess Larry liked me and after spending a few hours at his favorite coffee shop in Fort Collins, I confided in him that I had a potential client that had been developing a mobile scanning device. The scanner had some regional exposure but needed an online marketing presence to offer it nationally.  Some venture capital funding was in place and more ongoing.

After meeting the client, learning more about the scanner and identifying his goals and concerns, Larry and I spent the next few days drafting a formal internet marketing proposal.

The clients’ product development and traditional (offline) marketing team consisted of approximately eight individuals, who from early conversations had virtually no online marketing experience; although they had hired a focus group consultant who had completed one or two studies. The documents produced from the focus groups had identified some strengths and weakness of the product concept and along with our meetings provided a starting point for our internet marketing proposal.

Our client accepted our proposal to begin his online marketing in phases, as his financing became available.

In a way, I was riding on the coat tails of Larry’s previous work with some small clients in Northern Colorado.

As for my end, I had delivered our first client.

We were in business.

We were internet marketing consultants calling ourselves Stanley and Braun.

No more smokey hallways at my “smoke-free” room at Extended Stay America, no more apologies for being the new contractor on a learning curve, no more waivers for needlessly complicated design rule checks, no more suspicious facilities security teams, no more numb fingers (and wrist and arm) from 25 years of using a mouse, no more twitchy eyes from approximately 50,000 hours of staring at a computer display, and no more trips away from Nadine.

I was no longer a Mask Design Contractor.

126) My Big, New, Important Career!

Greetings new readers!

So glad you are here!

In my last post you read about my son Stevie getting back on track to resume a life of a normal 23-year-old guy, living in America. Pain and drug free.

In this post I swing back to my life at age 60 – fresh out of graduate school and full of spunk.

After two business meltdowns, you are thinking, I would’ve learned my lesson, right?

But after winning “top honors” from my graduate program in Internet Marketing at Full Sail University in 2010, I was ready to let things rip.

I was aware of course that an advanced degree in business offered no guarantee of success.

But I had accomplished what I set out to do in business school – find out exactly about the inner workings of Internet Marketing and how practitioners used it to achieve the objectives of their businesses.

And since I was looking into working from home, basically I had three independent paths to follow with my freshly minted Internet Marketing Master of Science (IMMS) diploma:

  1. I could offer a product or service and carry out my own marketing,
  2. get a job in a functional area of marketing like SEO, public relations, or web analytics.
  3. open a consulting company to support the marketing efforts of other organizations.

It should be mentioned that without the stability of Nadine’s career at the university, none of this would have been possible – no work at home businesses, no graduate school and no extended time between design contracts.

I was healthy and living in America.  I had every chance in the world to succeed. If I failed, I had only myself to blame.

That is the still the standard by which I hold myself accountable, as I write this today, in the year 2013.

Next – First Client

125) Respect

Greetings new reader!

I am glad you are here.

In the last post I shared how I got started with my writing.

In this post you will read about Barb Wade, a Life Coach that found a weakened and cautious young warrior named Stevie and helped him understand he really was in control of his life if only he would take some small steps to move himself forward.

Barb’s work with Stevie was just between them, but as Stevie’s father I can tell you the stakes were life and death. Because at  any time while Barb was helping him, he could easily have slipped back into a cycle of hopeless addiction.

What does a life coach do?

A life coach helps you:

  • Get crystal clear on what you really what in your life
  • Uncover what’s holding you back from achieving your vision for yourself
  • Take action steps to achieve your vision by supporting you and keeping you accountable

Just out of Mountain Crest a couple of weeks earlier, Stevie unloaded boxes in the tiny apartment we had rented for him in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“Barb helped me write a resume and find a job at the cafeteria and I start Saturday morning,” Stevie chirped, sounding cheerful.

Stevie didn’t do cheerful. So I had a reason to believe whatever Barb was doing, whatever affects the suboxone were having on him, were really working.

Stevie had found a sliver of hope.

Nadine and I had not observed Stevie having any hope since just after his abdominal surgery in 1999. when he had been pain-free (although not drug-free) for a few weeks.

“Awesome, Steve,” I responded. “I know this apartment isn’t much but its a good first step. What time should I pick you up for work on Saturday morning?”

“Have to be there at 5:45,” Stevie said.

I picked Stevie up the next morning, dropped him off at work and got him home again dozens of times that summer of 2009.

On most mornings Stevie was barely awake. There was usually a tense silence in the car.

At the end of each of Stevie’s shifts, working in the cafeteria – sometimes setting places, sometimes folding napkins, sometimes cleaning up after group banquets and sometimes serving coffee – he would climb into the car sweaty and exhausted.

Like me, Stevie hated hot weather. And I could see he was really struggling to get up at 4:30 and work around the cafeteria in the sometimes hot conditions, only to go back to his hot apartment and sweat some more.

But each shift that Stevie completed that summer in the cafeteria, my respect for him grew.

I was beginning to see that Stevie possessed a tremendous work ethic.

Stevie and I had done a lot of stuff together, including; movies, playing basketball, Stevie’s martial arts, football, golf, car races, chess, fishing, boating, scouting, on my motorcycle, and hiking.

We had both tried hard to bond but we didn’t always see “things” the same way.

But seeing him this way – his sweat-drenched shirt clinging to his body – really opened my eyes.

At 23, Stevie was becoming a man.

At the time, we didn’t know how we were going to pay for Barb Wade’s Life Coaching. It was certainly not cheap.

Looking back, it was worth every penny.

Stevie was building a platform.

Maybe there was a way out of this.

124) 50 Interviews

Welcome new reader!

I am glad you are here!

In the last  few posts I have shared some details about our son’s journey through a painful chronic illness and drug addiction.

In this post I’ll introduce you to a man I met, while I was completing my Master’s program at Full Sail University. His name is Brian Schwartz. He founded an organization called  50 Interviews in Fort Collins, Colorado.

First, let me back up a few steps, if you don’t mind.

As a requirement for completing the graduate school program, our class was asked to write a thesis – the Master’s Thesis, if you will.

After deciding on a topic for the paper, I decided to combine it with a book, accomplishing both objectives simultaneously.

I approached a local author who had written some titles on the topic of Career Development (a strong interest of mine given my difficulty in deciding on one). She declined to participate with me on the book project but instead introduced me to Brian, who, she said he recently founded an author’s group called 50 Interviews.

Bear with me while I develop this concept, if you will.

Brian’s story is an interesting one.

A few years back while working for IBM, as one of their key marketing staff representatives,  he decided to resign and start a business. His wife said, “I’ll make you a deal, go out and talk to 50 entrepreneurs first.” “If you still have the passion after that, then go ahead.”

Brian did exactly that and wrote his first title “50 Interviews with Entrepreneurs” based off of these interviews.

Making this story short, Brian then began collaborating with other aspiring writers and entered into business arrangements with them for each to write a book based on interviews with 50 experts.  Under the agreements with each “author”, Brian would transcribe the interview and arrange for the editing, layout, publishing and marketing of each new book title.

This is how I was able to publish my two titles (unnamed for now).

In summary, it’s quite appropriate to say that without Brian’s vision and initiative, dozens of folks like me would never have the opportunity to become published authors!

Thank you Brian for creating 50 Interviews!

123) Dr. Phil

“Dad, who do you think you are, Dr. Phil?” Stevie once said to me.

Okay, I just realized my son was under the impression I was practicing on him. Practicing some sort of therapy where he was my patient and I was presuming to know all the answers to his present circumstances.

I had no formal training in psychology and frankly didn’t know if we could help Stevie. I just knew that I had to try.

At the age of 23, Stevie had been chronically ill and addicted to pain medication for most of his life.

From time to time, just as any concerned father would do, I tried to encourage him by reminding him that as long as he was alive, there was a chance he could someday resume a normal life.

Yeah, there was always a chance.

HOW things might change for Stevie was the difficult part.

So far, cognitive therapy, acupuncture, nerve blocks and massive doses of dilaudid, demerol and oxycodone hadn’t worked.

Stevie’s pain persisted and he stubbornly clung to a very pessimistic, gloomy outlook on life.

All of my training around human potential – and indeed I had seen this in my own life – like  Napoleon Hill, said that “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve“.

And this was the message I was trying desperately to communicate to Stevie.

It just wasn’t working.

I  guess I knew that children often reject the values and paradigms of their parents.

But in my desperation to help Stevie I held on to the selfish idea that if Stevie could see what I had done with my own life, it would be impossible for him NOT to reach the conclusion that his life could also change.

There were multiple flaws in this reasoning.

  • Stevie was too self-absorbed to notice anyone else could serve as an example,
  • as his relatively healthy father, I hadn’t walked in his shoes; but far more importantly
  • Stevie had lost all hope.

Here is the critical mistake I was making with Stevie:

I was working at very superficial level of support and “coaching” with Stevie.

What Stevie needed was HOPE.

I remained confident that Nadine and I, with the help of his medical and behavioral teams from Poudre Valley Hospital and Mountain Crest Behavioral Health Care Center could supply the hope that was missing from Stevie’s life.

What we didn’t know was that, as a father who loved his son,  this was yet another example of me continuing to “wander in the dark”.

I had been well-intentioned but superficial and very misguided.

Stevie would have to find hope for himself.  No one had the power to give it to him.

Next – Baby Steps

122) In the Tunnel

Our son Stevie had slashed his wrists badly but didn’t lose enough blood to put his life in jeopardy.

Nadine and I had rushed him to the ER at Poudre Valley Hospital, where they stitched him up and stabilized his condition before releasing him three days later to Mountain Crest Behavioral Healthcare Center in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Psychologically, Stevie didn’t express any desire to make another attempt on his own life but we were all concerned that the conditions that led Stevie to make the decision to injury himself had not substantially changed.

That is, he had lost all hope that his life would ever be normal.

On the topic of  hope, I considered myself somewhat of an expert – savant even.

Our immediate concern was his withdrawal from opiates. For this, after a few days, he was prescribed suboxone. This is a narcotic that is used to control chronic pain and sometimes head off opiate dependencies such as dilaudid and oxycodone, each of which Stevie had been abusing for quite a while.

The intensive behavioral and physical treatment Stevie was receiving while at Mountain Crest was only short-term. Any longer term programs were both difficult to  find and, due to limited funding in Larimer County, necessarily self-funded, so really expensive. This became another issue for Nadine and I as attempted to bring  a team together to support his rehabilitation, if Stevie’s condition would hold together long enough for a plan to be put in place.

Still only a few days away from his attempt of suicide, this was anything but certain.

After discovering we were not able to afford the most prominent local substance abuse treatment programs, Nadine, Jenna and I decided to subsidize an apartment for Stevie and initiate regular visits for him to The Larimer Center for Mental Health. In addition he would see a psychiatrist with experience in cognitive therapy and later, a life coach – if our plan proceeded as we intended.

If someone you know – this  is especially true if its your son or daughter – has tried to commit suicide, you don’t consider statistics. In hindsight, I can fit Stevie’s cry for help in the larger context of drug addiction and the hopelessness that sometimes accompanies chronic pancreatitis.

In 2009, according to suicidology.org, 922,275 attempts were recorded.

Here are some others statistics: http://www.suicidology.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=248&name=DLFE-540.pdf

Stevie’s bad health and drug addiction drained him of hope. And nothing Nadine or I could say to him seemed to help.

In the next post I will share with you a critical mistake I was making during the years of Stevie’s drug addiction, why I thought I was helping him, and why I kept repeating it.

121) Rushing Around

When Stevie had opened his bedroom door at 2:15 in the morning, I discovered he had slashed his wrists.

Very much in character with his methodical nature, he was catching most of the dripping blood with a green towel – and that is where my eyes were drawn.

Nadine was still reclined on the couch in the living room. We had been up all night, sick with worry and apprehension.

He had finally done it.

“Oh God, Stevie. What have you done?” I asked.

“Nadine, Stevie has cut himself,” I hollered to her as I rushed back into the living room.

From what I had seen under the green towel, Stevie had sliced open both forearms, several inches each. The cuts looked substantial. And quite a lot of the blood had made it onto the floor.

The severity of his injuries and the fact that Stevie had locked his bedroom door, gave every indication he meant to end it all tonight. If I had not knocked on his door, he would have bled-out.

Stevie was now using the towel to stem the flow of blood as he sat on the couch waiting for us to dress.

We could save him, if we could get him to the hospital on time.

“How had our lives come to this?” I asked myself.

As we raced towards the Poudre Valley Hospital emergency room, the thought occurred to me that if we could make it through tonight – Stevie’s final solution – there was a better chance things might change for him, in a good way.

Through the horror of this event all of our lives had been changed forever.

Surely this was not the way my son’s life was supposed to end.

Next – In the Tunnel

120) Final Solution

Standing at the door to my sons room there in our darkened house, I would quickly discover what he had taken from my tool box in the middle of the night.

No sounds had come from his room for several minutes. No television, no pacing, not even turning of pages in books. Nothing.

This was creepy.

But strangely, I knew what I would see when I asked Stevie to open his bedroom door.

Nadine, Stevie and I had been up all night. We all had a sense of what might happen that night. In fact Nadine and I wondered why it hadn’t happened sooner.

Everything had been leading up to this moment.

Stevie had been addicted to opioids since that age of 9 or so, trying to deal with pain from chronic pancreatitis.

During the last two years things had gotten out of control. We couldn’t fill his prescriptions fast enough.

And tonight Stevie’s body had started the process of withdrawing. He had taken his last dose of Dilaudid at 9:30 pm.

“Stevie, unlock your door!” I bellowed.

Even though I “knew” what I would see, I didn’t know what steps to take, or if I could take them in time.

After all, it was the middle of the night.

Stevie opened the door, quite slowly, and with great resignation.

He had cut both wrists, length-wise.

He had used an X Acto knife – the one he had taken from my tool  box.

Next – Rushing Around

119) Waiting

“Stevie, what are you doing?” I asked, as I approached his position in the hallway, that connected the back entrance of the house to the kitchen.

“Nothing. Just go back to bed, Dad,” he barked.

Something was up.

But I couldn’t have known the hell Stevie was going through.

I thought I did, but no.

This was not Steve but someone else. Someone so secretive and purposeful that he had a shield around him. A shield not even a Dad and Mom could penetrate. A Dad and Mom who were desperate to help him – make it until morning.

Our position was one of helplessness.

The air in the house thick with despair.

Soon after I returned to bed, we heard Stevie return to his room.

At that point, the three of us in the house immediately sensed that no one would sleep that night.

No, we wouldn’t sleep.

As was sometimes our habit, Nadine and  I got up to watch TV in the living room. It was about 1:00 am.

Stevie came out of his room again for another session of pacing – this time a full-blown panic attack, or what seemed like one.

“I don’t know what to do,” Stevie said. Strange admission for someone so self-contained. So in control.

“In a few hours we can get you some pills,” I added, weakly. “In the meantime, take deep breaths. You can do this Stevie.”

No response.

Nadine, Stevie and I had done this dance a hundred times. It was all about getting Stevie through the next few hours until the pills could rescue him.

And these days, he was burning through his scripts at a pace that was beyond his control. Stevie didn’t want to use more and more to squash the cravings. But it had been happening, just the same. And the refill intervals were already at minimum. So we would take Stevie to the ER to get more pills between the refill dates. Not just the ER of ONE local hospital but TWO. These visits were occurring at least twice a month. And sometimes more.

This had been going on for years. And we were all exhausted. Utterly.

On an eerie hunch that Stevie had grabbed something sinister from my tool box, I knocked on his door. It was 2:15 am.

Next – Final Solution

118) Beginning of the End

“I hate to have to ask but can I have another dose of Dilaudid?” Stevie asked as he slithered into the darkened living room of our house about 8:30 in the evening, in November of 2008.

We had been living in the house after putting our newly  built house in Loveland, Colorado up for sale earlier that year.

Jenna, our daughter had already moved out, finished college and married her sweetheart. In fact Nadine and I stayed with Jenna and her husband a short time just after quit making payments on our house.

“I can’t give you any more pain meds until 11:00PM Stevie,” I told him. “If we do, you will run out before morning,” I added.

Nadine and I kept his meds in a cheap lock box we bought at Office Depot, just as Stevie’s family physician had recommended. We had hidden the lock box behind my sweaters within a cubby in our bedroom.

By now we were on to him.

Stevie had been addicted to pain meds for chronic pancreatitis for several years.

The last three years, Stevie always seemed to run out of medications too soon to get them refilled. We were all stressed already but this added pressure turned the screws a little more.

Stevie had been abusing his prescriptions and doing anything to get them for as long as we could remember. But because of his illness and surgeries, we didn’t want to believe what had become obvious to the medical professionals that we approached for his pain medications: he had been numbing his body and mind since the age of seven.

Tonight, at our little rented house in Fort Collins, was going to be a night neither Nadine, Stevie or myself would ever forget.

The next time we checked the box containing the pills, right before we turned in around 11:00 pm, we saw the lock had been broken. Things had really gotten bad for Stevie, apparently, and he had taken what he needed.

But he was now completely out of meds and there would be no way to get them until morning. Even then we would have to beg the pharmacist to accept a prescription that said it was not time to refill.

Nadine and I slept between Stevie’s doses of Dilaudid or Demerol in those days and since, we had nothing to give him, we knew that night would be a long one.

At 22 years of age, Stevie was about 6 feet 1 inches tall, with light brown hair, like Nadine’s and blue eyes, like mine. Meat was sparsely distributed on his slender frame in those days, mostly from years of abusing any oral pain medications he could talk the doctors into prescribing for him. Stevie didn’t talk much. Highly intelligent, with a well-developed (although sometimes cynical) sense of humor, we had seen glimpses of his potential every now and then since the age of 7.

He had earned his black belt in martial arts at an early age when we lived back east and had tested nearly off the charts in mathematics.

But these days he spent most of his life watching tv or playing video in his room.

Tonight Stevie was very focused, like Nadine and I were, on just making it through the night, until we could find a way to get more pills in the morning.

From our bed, we noticed the flicker of light under our bedroom door; the same light we saw every night. The one we knew came from Stevie’s room about 14 feet down the hallway.

An hour passed as we set ourselves to the task of falling asleep under the whir of our dusty, wooden ceiling fan.

Occasionally, in the middle of the night, when Stevie became so anxious about his lack of pills he could no longer stay in his room, he would walk back and forth across the living room in total darkness.

This was creepy, but his wanderings no longer surprised us. Tonight would be one of those nights.

We heard his bedroom door open slowly as not to wake us, and his steps down the hallway. But instead of the sounds of the wooden floors in the living room creaking, he must have walked into the kitchen.

Another few minutes passed, as we anticipated that he would go back to bed.

Instead, I heard Stevie open my toolbox. I recognized the noises as those of someone who was sorting through the tools and moving several of them around as to find just the right one.

Next – Final Solution