Texas Father Collaborates on Book With Drug Addict Son, Highlights Need for More Treatment Options

Dr. Juan Pérez thought his son, Rolando, was going to be an engineer."People used to think he was going to set the world on fire because he was so smart and articulate," the elder Pérez said this week."When he was a kid, he would run around the house with two books, saying, 'This is my dad's dissertation, and this is my dissertation.' And in high school, he was on the academic decathlon team."But in college, while studying on a scholarship, the son began to self-medicate for depression. And his life fell apart.Today, at 41, he's in state prison, serving a sentence of seven years for possession with intent to deliver a narcotic.As of this week, he's also the author of the painful story of his addiction.Over the past three years, he and his father co-wrote the story, An Everlasting Bond: The Story of a Father and His Son. The book, which recounts the son's substance abuse disorder and the emotional toll it took on his parents and siblings, is now in Barnes and Noble bookstores and on amazon.com."It's about how much it cost the family emotionally," the father said. "It hurt us a lot."But writing the book together was therapeutic and cathartic for both of them, the 70-year-old father said."It's the most awesome project I've ever worked on," he said. "I know it will help his self-confidence tremendously. If anything is going to help him, it's something like this."More than 20 million Americans probably know the story of addiction and its impact on families all too well, as a report on alcohol, drugs and health issued last month by the U.S. surgeon general points out. Addiction is now "one of America's most pressing public health concerns," according to the report.And it calls for a "cultural shift" in talking about and treating the issue because 90 percent of those with a substance abuse disorder are not getting any treatment at all.The Pérezes' book is one small step toward changing that focus by showing the human face of a critical public health issue. And economics plays a major role.Dr. Pérez said his son had the same attorney and psychologist as the "affluenza teen" who killed four people while drinking and driving in 2013.Ethan Couch, who was 16 at the time, received probation and was ordered to therapy at the time. The sentence caused an uproar.But Rolando wasn't as fortunate. He ended up going to prison because neither he nor his father, a certified school counselor who works with school districts, could afford the costly treatment for substance abuse. It usually runs into the thousands of dollars."Even now, he's been to prison three times and never had any kind of treatment," the father said. "As long as this happens, he's going to keep going in and out."He agrees with the surgeon general that the focus of dealing with substance abuse must change."Treatment is imperative," he said. "But right now, we've found it very convenient in this state to incarcerate people rather than to treat them."Pérez has seen up close the problems with the current approach. He has served as a parole commissioner for the state of Texas."I voted thousands of times in cases like my son's only to see a lot of them come back because there was no treatment," he said. "Out in the community, there are very few resources available for treatment."And while he credits the act of writing the book with helping him understand the national problem, he acknowledges that he came to understand himself and his son far better than he could have imagined."I've been on this journey with my son every step of the way and seen him incarcerated in 43 jails, prisons, detention centers over the past 16 years," he said."I started out to lead him, and I ended up following him."Twitter: @molivera79  Continue reading...

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