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A family secret for the ohana

By Staff | Nov 27, 2014

Conor took ukulele lessons from Lahaina Music during a visit here last summer.

LAHAINA – When you write a column for eight years, your readers become a kind of ohana. For valued members of my ohana – who, when they see me, often say they like the column – it is time to reveal a family “secret.”

A few of you know our son Conor and still ask about him, even though he has made just a couple trips here the last few years.

Recently, he wrote something he would not have the motivation to produce just two years ago: “We are punks, poets, musicians, artists, professionals and intellectuals. We are also truck drivers, fast food workers and sales clerks. We are manics who are drunks, do drugs and are deeply depressed. We have faced up to suicide. But now, we are stable and sober.”

Conor was diagnosed bipolar eight years ago. Three years ago, he became a dual diagnosis bipolar, meaning he supplemented his cocktail of drugs prescribed for the condition with copious amounts of alcohol, becoming a bipolar alcoholic.

Suspecting the alcohol problem and trying to understand it, we went to an open meeting in Lahaina of a local Alcoholics Anonymous group even before his arrival for a visit over Christmas 2011. The meeting was an eye-opener.

One helpful member volunteered to meet with Conor and did. Conor gave no report on what was said.

In January 2012, I hopped two Alaska Airlines flights to Chicago, and in a surprise visit, knocked on his front door. There would be an intervention, a series of family meetings partly by phone with my wife on Maui and his psychiatrist in New York, and a superb specialist in interventions to lead the discussions.

At the last session, Conor finally agreed on his own to go to a Hazelden treatment center nearby. The intervention was a success, and our son has come a long way back to returning to his real self.

By our demeaner, Sara and I have looked fine as we wrote or helped modernize the Lahaina Library or listened to music at Leilani’s on the Beach on Saturday afternoons. But at home, we were in pain, perplexed, frustrated, and angry trying to figure out what to do.

When Conor joined MTV News after a promising start editing a full-color enterainment section for Iowa State Daily, a summer internship with Rolling Stone, a stint at AOL and as a producer for MTV News, there was no inkling of what was to come.

He would lose seven years of his promising life, but now – with tremendous progress in recovery – he has written a fabulous book called “The Eccentrics” about himself and a dozen others he has profiled. He has a book agent and is trying to find a publisher.

Conor had taken as many as 20 trips to Maui since when we visited over the years. Two weeks before the intervention, he almost took his last trip – to a Chicago hospital to have his stomach pumped after a suicide attempt with his pills. We would learn this only many months later.

Conor calls bipolar addicts “eccentrics” because of their uncommon, often creative abilities, and unconventional behavior that makes them different from most people. They include Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Frank Sinatra and quite likely, Robin Williams.

Conor’s struggle to end his droopy, drowsy, lethargic and unmotivated days to become his old self again has also been our struggle. It left us perplexed and frustrated.

In Conor’s seven years of lost life, he joined the unemployed and used up his benefits, walked around in a daze after sleeping an excessive amount of hours, lost his Brooklyn apartment, had to abandon his cherished New York, and finally ended the embrace of alcohol before making his comeback.

Today, he is well on the way back after alcoholism treatment and has kept his personal commitment, remaining sober for 29 months now.

The point of writing about this is not a request for sympathy. Conor could use a little help from the ohana. To demonstrate interest in the topic to present to a publisher, he has established a special Facebook page with the goal of getting 15,000 followers, assisted by a social media company. He also has opened a bipolar alocholic blog website, in which he writes about the travails of bipolar sufferers like Amy Winehouse and Edgar Allan Poe.

You are invited to go to his Facebook page at http://facebook/conorbezane and click on “Like.” And you can become a follower of his blog by going to biopolaraddict.com.

At the least, you will read some fascinating stories. And at the most, you might share this with someone you know who has the condition.

If there is one lesson to be learned here, it is don’t delay in giving loved ones you know support. It could be fatal. Many bipolars, out of dispair, end their lives with a gun, a rope, or pills. Thankfully, not Conor.