Happy Birthday, Dr. Workman. Thank You for being proud of me again…



“Son, you can quit piano lessons if you choose another instrument.”

My dad may have regretted or relished those words when I practiced 7 hours a day or when I got “Best in State” for drumming and then a full-ride scholarship to college to beat the skins.

My dad had his birthday a few days ago. So, if you will please indulge me, allow me to please share one of the kind messages I’ve received lately. This one, in particular, mentions my dad. This is the same dad who supported my drumming, forgave me for breaking into his truck and stealing his wallet, taught me “Wise Love” and ultimately played a key role in getting me off drugs.

I’m not on here for accolades or props, but I do need constant reminders of why I do what I do.

Today’s reminder comes from my adoptive “Mom” — Amy.

Amy has been with me since the start. She doesn’t always agree with me. But I do ALWAYS value her opinion.

Please don’t let this insinuate that the HUNDREDS of other emails and comments I’ve gotten are any less meaningful. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of you. But, I felt strongly I needed to share this because I love the way Amy words things and Dr. Workman doesn’t have enough time to read through everything I write…

Love you, Mom.

To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing this in hopes consideration is given to the great benefit Dan Workman has become to a great number of people.  Dan has been living a selfless life from the moment I met him near 3 months ago.  I met Dan soon after the loss of my son Michael to an accidental overdose.  In fact, Dan’s first sober date was the same day I had to say goodbye to my much beloved son.
He was the first and really the only person who took the time to talk to me about my son and listen to the devastation his loss has brought to me.  He showed interest, compassion, and kindness.  It’s not that other people haven’t been concerned about my grief-state, but Dan seems to have an innate ability to connect with people, not on a level that is comfortable for him, but one where he can reach and help the other person.  I don’t know if this is a trait that is learned or one he was born with, but it is something he decides to do because his has and gives value to other human beings.  I think that’s something very important about Dan, he values others greatly and he is willing to back that up with action.
Dan knew, for me, I needed someone to talk to me about my son…something many people, mistakenly, don’t do feeling they would remind a grieving parent of the pain of loss.  Believe me, we don’t need reminding…we live with that loss every second of the day.  But the idea of our children fading in to the nothingness of death is as devastating as the initial loss.  It’s also uncomfortable for people to see others in that much pain, but Dan takes it in such good stride…absorbing but not internalizing.  He would send me an occasional message and always spoke Mikey’s name…not something sterile or disconnected…always sincere.
Over the last three months or so, I have seen Dan interact with a good number of other Mom’s suffering my same loss.  He talks with them, he comforts them, he laughs with them even in impossible moments of brokeness.  I would hazard to guess, no I’m almost certain, that if you asked Dan about any one of us he would know the names of every one of our children…details of what their likes were, or where they lived and stories of them growing up, why they were so loved.  His head is like a filing cabinet filled with file after file of notes on some of our most important memories.  To no benefit of his own, he strives to be a balm to our pain, if only for that moment.
Dan is selfless in his connections with others.  Addicts, those in recovery, Mother’s of the Lost, other activists seeking to change the dialogue and treatment of addiction.  He gives much time, energy, passion and even joy to it all.  He reaches out and goes out of his way to help as much as he can.  These things are sorely needed in today’s world.
Dan is also voracious in educating himself on his passionate work for others who struggle.  He wants to know everything there is to know about it, the medications, the treatments, the therapies, and the psychology of recovery.  He asks others what works for them and why…what is the most important thing that can be done for healing.  As of late, one of the things he seems most excited about is the conversation around the effect of both dopamine changes in the brain and OCD expressions; and how language and retraining the brain with positive messaging shortens the cycle of the crucial time period in treatment when relapse can occur.  It’s so encouraging to read what he has to say.  He is very smart, very articulate and he’s realistic about every bit of what he has found.
Dan has great balance in life.  I think he has been able to gleen the important things in life and his own importance on how he effects others from the good ‘bones’ his family has given him.  I believe his Dad gives him a great example of what a good, strong and compassionate man is and does; and Dan has chosen to exemplify those examples.  Of course, Dan has learned lessons, some of them very hard lessons…but with eyes wide open to his own missteps and vulnerablities.  For all of it, he is stronger and his life all the richer.  He has great love and thankfulness for his family and especially his two daughters, who are a great respite and joy in his life.  At some point, it seems, he decided to let them be the driving force for him making positive changes for himself and in the world around him…and he is doing just that.
Those in recovery have a saying, “We do survive!”  I think Dan is not only surviving, he has taken on determined service towards others.  In a loose analogy, he is like the soldier that keeps going back to drag others out of the battle…well I guess its not that loose really because that is what he really is doing.
Most of us think to make better changes in over lives, much of the time those things being remanded to the pile of ‘tomorrow’.  That is not the case with Dan.  He gives 110% to everything he’s doing…it’s incredible to watch.  Actually, its quite inspiring.
Dan said to me one time, “I wish I could have met Mikey.”  I wish he had to, I believe he would have saved him.
With thanks and much sincerity,

4 Responses to Happy Birthday, Dr. Workman. Thank You for being proud of me again…

  1. Joyce Greene September 28, 2016 at 3:07 pm #

    Couldn’t describe my own personal thoughts about Dan Workman any better. He is a warrior!!

  2. Amy Witchek September 29, 2016 at 3:55 am #

    Happy Happy Happy Birthday Dr Workman…

    I hope you had a lovely and joyful time celebrating your day. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for being such a wonderful guide to Dan in this life. Dan posted a note you gave to him when he was leaving for his recent journey. It touched my heart both as a mother and a woman who appreciates the importance of the impact a good and loving father brings to the world. I have benefitted from the gifts you have brought to your son’s life, others have…and many more will in the future.

    Thank you for loving Dan so well…he is certainly paying it forward.

    Prayers for a future full of many blessings….

    Amy Witchek

  3. David H. Workman September 30, 2016 at 12:05 am #

    This is Dan’s dad, Dave. Just for the record, I am quite busy, and seldom on the computer or internet, but I do read more of Dan’s stuff than he thinks. It’s wonderful to see him use his tremendous talent with words and thoughts for such a great endeavor! He has one of the best hearts and best minds I have ever known (and I know a lot of fairly impressive people). I told him today that although I realize how challenging the work he and all of you in the recovery world do is, and how discouraging the results often are, that the ripple effect for good in his and your successes is much, much greater than anything I ever do as a physician. So PLEASE keep it up! All of you!

    My real reason for writing is to thank Dan and Amy for your kind words about me. Amy, my heart aches and weeps for you for the loss of your son! I’m sure you know from Dan how close I came to having to suffer the same unimaginable pain…my worst nightmare! I am SO SO sorry! I love it that he calls you “mom”. Dan really is who you think he is. His heart really is as good as it seems. I have never seen him (in an unimpaired state), be unkind to anyone…regardless of their station in life. He is a purely delightful young man! Always has been. People naturally feel at ease with him, despite his imposing size. He has been an adrenaline junkie since about a year old (loved to be thrown as high as I could throw him – probably 12-15 feet above the ground – with usually a 360 twist ((not his mother’s favorite activity for us boys to engage in)) ). Loved having the old man chase his 17 yo butt down a ski slope at full speed hitting every jump he could find until I separated my shoulder failing to land a jump that had kicked off one of my skis at the take-off. Dan has loved music his whole life. I can still see a little 2-3yo toe head walking around the house in his Chuck Taylor high tops singing Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home” at the top of his lungs. And he can still name the band playing the 70’s rock tunes that I weaned him on that come on the radio faster than I can. His drumming is truly something to behold! I have been a musician all of my life, and would not say that if I couldn’t back it up. As a freshman in a liberal arts college he auditioned for and was selected as the drummer for the jazz band and was nick-named “Thunder Dan” on campus. 60+ year old Dr. Williamson told me after their first semester concert that “he’s the best I’ve ever had”. All natural talent, love of it, and hard work. He had a teacher for about 6 months when he started playing in 9th grade, and from then on was just self taught. His teacher moved, but told us “I can’t keep up with him anyway”.

    I have loved my son since before he was born, and obviously I am very proud of him! Never more than right now! If anyone would have told me 6 short months ago that he could be doing and feeling what he is now doing and feeling, I would have thought “impossible”. I have never doubted who he really is, and have yearned and prayed for him to find out and believe about himself what I already knew about him. But I never dreamed it could happen so quickly and so intensely. I do believe in miracles! And I believe in God’s power to change things that we mortals can’t change in those we love so much. Amy, I believe with all my heart that Mikey is very much alive, and very anxious for you to feel the peace of knowing that you will be together again as mother and son, and that he is watching over you, with intense gratitude for your never ending love and work for him. I am so glad that my son is there for you now, and that you are there for him. We are all in this together! And again, I thank God every day that His is a God of miracles. So…keep hoping people!

    • Amy Witchek October 2, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

      My Dear Dear Dr Workman…

      I know you have much to contend with in life and you taking the time to write such a beautiful missive was deeply touching. That you also included myself and my son Michael made it all the more meaningful. I can’t thank you enough, and were I able, I would certainly hug you hugely.

      I read it yesterday but the truth is that so much emotion flooded over me I had to stand back and think how I could ever possibly thank you for your compassion. Well and I cried…a lot. I’ve become a variable puddle. Who knew a person could house so many tears?

      Your letter comes at a poignant time and sharing your feelings about Dan evokes so many of the same feelings and hopes I had for Mikey. I have, these last 4 months and 19 days, had a lot of ebb and flow but, for the most part; I think on some level had convinced myself that it was all temporary…that I would wake up one day and Mikey would call me and I would tell him of this horrible dream I had. I had fleetingly said something about that from the beginning; but in truth, I had pretty well accomplished the deceit. This past week or so the reality of that night has played over and over in my head, blaringly, not allowing me the comfort of denial. Isn’t it odd that there are things that happen and moments in life where you can pray to be able to lie to yourself?

      Michael would chide me often saying, “Mom…the world is not all hearts and flowers.” But I’m a photographer…I spend my time purposefully looking for beautiful, and for the most part it hasn’t been that much of a struggle. People, places, things…there is amazing all around us. Mikey’s active addiction made it a challenge but he never really changed that much…he was always charming and kind…he never sought to hurt anyone, but himself. In his sobriety and always, he was exceptional. I’m afraid these days I am found wallowing in something I just can’t understand and the heavy veil of desperation obscures the world as I once saw it. Only the separation from God could prove more painful then the loss of my son…something my grief tries to threaten me with.

      It all sounds pretty pathetic doesn’t it Dr. Workman? But I have to tell that there are still those expressions of God’s grace that are able to break through the barrier of great pain and shine mercy on a broken heart. Your letter is one such example. That it came when it did and that you even took the time to do it is certain proof that He stands by me still.

      After Dan posted a picture of that letter you wrote him, I jokingly said, “Well now I’m in love with your Dad!” But the truth is that no one has to be kind to anyone else, they do so because they have the heart to recognize a drowning person who needs a hand to pull them above the waves just enough to catch their breath. Dan does that, and for that and other reasons I love him. That you would share the joy of your son, take the time to comfort me, and (more then anything) lift my son’s name before the One who loves us most….well now I’m in love with Dan’s Dad!

      With much thanks of a grateful heart….