Learn from my regrets

Posted by Anne Browning, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Robby's Voice, Support, Talking to kids,


I was listening to my iPod the other day, and “My Way” by Frank Sinatra played. This verse always grabbed me;regretwoman

“regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention…”

I always wanted to live life that way – going for it. Maybe I swung and missed a few times, but no regrets.  I’d rather swing and miss than not swing at all.  I know Robby lived life that way and his favorite phrase, Carpe Diem, was tattooed from armpit to hip.  He lived his way with very few regrets.  In his short 20 years, he did so much. More importantly, with this short time, he lived his dream which was to be a United States soldier.

Unfortunately, as a parent that has lost a child to an overdose, I am not able to live without regret. Regret is now sewn into the fabric of my life, and as my mind wanders back over the years, I think of every time that I was not the best Dad I could be, and it hurts.  How did I make him feel in that moment?  Did that contribute to his need to use?  Why did I act that way?

As he battled his addiction, I remember those frustrations and times when anger overtook me and things were said. Did that push him to use?  Did that trigger a relapse?  These memories just seem to pop up every now and then, and when they do, they are so hard to shake.

Things that trigger regret many parents understand

There are triggers as well (not exclusive to addicts). There is the bus station where he parked his motorcycle when the engine froze from lack of oil.  Where I let my anger deal with it in a way that was less than how I, as his Dad, should have handled it.  There was the day when we dealt with relapse and I was frustrated and he looked at me and said “don’t give up on me Dad…”  How could I have made him feel like that?  There was the day we spent at Padua this year speaking.  Robby wanted to look at Padua for school, but we discounted that based on a lot of things that as parents you have to consider.  What if he went there?  Would he have avoided the addiction?  Would he still be with us today?  WHY DID WE NOT LET HIM GO THERE?

These are the things that run through my head constantly. These are the inescapable thoughts driven by guilt and loss that cloud my mind constantly.  These are the fears that this disease preys upon when parents are faced with this disease and the difficult decisions that come with the journey through addiction; decisions that are counterintuitive for parents, decisions that hurt us more than they hurt them.

ROBBY’S VOICE exists, in part, because we do not want any parent to live with “this.” It is the ultimate groundhogs day, repeating itself as vividly as it was when it happened.  Only now, there is loss tied to it; a consequence if you will that can’t ever be rectified.  “I’m sorry” is not enough because forgiveness is trumped by the questions and the permanency of death.

The only advice I can give

If you have lost a child, and you struggle with these same thoughts, I have no answers. Just know that you are either not crazy, or we are both crazy, but we can be crazy together.  If you have a child struggling with addiction, don’t hide from it. Face it.  Use every tool there is because there are no guarantees.  Every decision may be right or wrong and that is the quandary.  Find a strong family group and surround yourself with those that will understand and will stand with you.  If you have a child not addicted, learn, be aware, know this can happen in any home, and talk to your kids early, often and right.

REGRETS,  yes, I’ve had a few, and that few are too long to list. My son passed away. We lost him. I use these words because I can’t say the words “my son is dead.”  For some reason, that phrase is a gut punch that covers me in darkness when I even think it.  For me, passed and lost are not as final. They shield me a bit from the reality that my son is dead and I did not do what needed to be done to protect him, to save him.

You don’t want to live with that and all that comes with it. So do something, today.

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Talk early, talk often, talk right, talk with your eyes

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Robby's Voice, Talking to kids, Tags: , , ,

talk-to-kidsWe say it all the time. Talk early, often, right; but what do we mean?

Talk early, and we don’t mean in the morning

No age is too early to have age appropriate discussions.  Get into the habit of having open conversations with your kids about sensitive subjects starting when they’re young. Four or five years old is not too young, if done right.  Remember, our kids go to other kids’ homes.  What will they see in the house, in sibling rooms or in the medicine cabinet? We don’t know what could be lying around the house or what they may be exposed to while there. Education starts young.  We help them understand right and wrong and just as important is teaching good and bad and the importance of talking to Mom and Dad (yes, they can break the silence!!!)

  • The average age of the first time pill abuse is 14 years old
  • The average age of the first time marijuana use is 12 years old


Look for opportunities to talk often

Think about this. How important is any subject if it is never talked about?  Exactly, not very and our kids know it.  There are opportunities presented regularly to engage in conversations with our kids.  The media, sports, Hollywood and school events never seem to provide a shortage of topics.  When we talk often, we create open dialogue with our kids about sensitive subjects which helps them come to us with the troubling issues…if we talk right.


The right talk track

The biggest mistake I made as a parent was talking to my kids about drugs as opposed to talking with them.  I am guilty of the “drugs are for losers” comments, never realizing that if my kids were ever in trouble, why would they want me to think they were losers?  I was wrong and that may have had an impact on Robby.

How do we talk right?  Here are a few suggestions;

  • Talk with our kids, not at our kids. Encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings about things. We may uncover fears they have or perceptions that need to be addressed.
  • Ask questions and let them talk. Invite their opinions. It shows them a different level of respect, and by asking questions we allow are able to dig deeper into what they know, what they have seen and what they have experienced. Even when we want to reach out and give them the preverbal smack to the back of the head for what they are saying, let them talk. We as parents learn, and if we get in the habit of cutting them off, we lose the opportunity to learn now and in future discussions.
  • Listen with our eyes. Watching their body language when we ask questions can tell us as much as listening with our ears. It allows us the opportunity to encourage further explanations, and allows us to uncover things they may be hiding.


We must not be afraid of learning what we may not want to know. Nobody wants to have this issue in their home, and we certainly are not prepared for it.  Talking early, often and right not only enhances prevention, but helps us uncover issues our kids are facing earlier, when help can prevent bigger issues.

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Continuing the conversation doesn’t always require a conversation

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Announcements, Talking to kids, Tags:

Part of BREAKING THE SILENNCE and talking “EARLY, OFTEN and RIGHT,” is our non-verbal communication. The things we do versus the things we say. We need to face the reality of what we have created. We tell our kids not to do drugs, but what do kids watchingwe show them?

Less people greater usage

In the United States, we account for less than 5% of the world’s population.

  • We use over 65% of the world’s illegal drug
  • We use over 80% of the world’s prescription medication
  • We use over 99% of the world’s Vicodin supply

On one hand, we say “DON’T DO DRUGS,” and on the other we envelope our kids in a world surrounded with drugs.

It doesn’t stop there; think about the messaging of the TV shows, movies, music and video games. The message is that it is OK, have fun, party on, yet none of them are talking about the next day or consequences.  Again, the message is simple; it is OK.

In our own homes, most of us are a product of the “take a pill – feel better” generation and as a result we show our kids one thing while we say another. How often do we casually talk about needing a pill for a headache or back pain?  How often do we casually say “Oh, I need a drink” or come home and immediately get a drink or more…

Kids are always watching

These are the behaviors our kids see and the visual is way more influential than the verbal.

Certainly we are not saying don’t have a drink or avoid medicines for ailments, but we have a problem. We, as adults,  have helped create this problem. We have a responsibility to our kids to teach by our actions as well as our words.  We have a responsibility to be part of the solution.  Think about the message we send and more important the message they receive.

BREAKING THE SILENCE takes many forms. There is an opportunity to break it by our words and our actions. What little measures could you do at home to help model the behavior we want in our children?

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A Lesson in Conversation from Dr. Doolitte

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Talking to kids, Tags: , , ,

mother-child-talking-rexWouldn’t it be great if we had the same engaged conversations with our kids as Dr. Doolittle had with the animals? We always promote talk early, often and right, but what does that mean exactly?

I had an opportunity to really think about that as I was having a conversation with a mom about how we are “drugging” our kids from the time they are little. Now, I am not saying no to Tylenol, but I do think we miss golden opportunities to talk to our kids.

Imagine the scene:

  • Your three year old has a fever and they are hanging all over you and you give them two teaspoons of Tylenol, something to drink, and a kiss on the forehead. What have they learned; Mommy loves me (so does Daddy), and take medicine (translate when older to”take a pill and feel better”).
  • Now, let’s change the picture. As we prepare the medicine, we sit down with them and take one minute and say “let’s read the directions.”  “This is for fever and kids your age can take one teaspoon to help the fever go away, but we can only take it for two days, and we have to make sure to drink a lot of water and…”

The same goes for you and me!

This exercise applies to us as well. Kids need to see us reading the directions, locking medicines away, and respecting the power of whatever pill we are taking.  They are watching and they will learn more from what we do than what we say.

As they get a bit older, have them read the indications and directions and warnings out loud to you. Help them take ownership of the information as we continue to reinforce the importance of not embracing the “take a pill, feel better mentality.

You get the picture. They dynamic changed and we have started to teach, at a young age, understanding and respect for medicine as well as other healthy habits, and we carry that right through.  These are the little things we have to do to stem the tide and to make sure the next child isn’t yours.

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