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Atwater: “Charlie” came from family money.

“Charlie” came from family money. His dad had been very successful in business as had his father before him, so “Charlie” and his brothers were expected to follow in those footsteps.

The problem was the money had inadvertently produced a generation of young men who didn’t understand the painful process that had come before them. They saw only what they had and wanted more; they felt entitled. “Charlie” and his brothers weren’t well-acquainted with discomfort, physical or emotional.

“Charlie” was a private boarding school kid from age 12. By the time he reached the first school, he was a regular pot smoker with access to unlimited quantities. “Charlie” didn’t do too well academically, but he sure was popular. By high school, he was using other, more expensive and dangerous, drugs. He also was a good athlete and had figured out the academic game.

He was tossed from the school for drug related-problems but his parents hushed it up and moved him to another school. The lesson for “Charlie” was that he was untouchable because of his father’s power and money. He thought that to be true before, but now he was sure.

The second school was pretty much one big party for “Charlie,” although his dad figured out how to coerce the school to “graduate” him. His dad would alternately lecture, criticize and demean “Charlie” for his behavior, but still stepped up when the heat was on bail him out “one last time.”

By this time the entitlement had opened the door to chemical dependency, but neither “Charlie” nor his dad understood that. After graduation, “Charlie” was expected to attend a good university, and once again, money and influence plopped “Charlie” down in one of the best business schools in the country.

It took six months for drugs and alcohol to assist in his complete failure, and this time there was no buying his way back in. “Charlie” landed in his first of six treatment programs. He always had the secret thought: “I’ll just do what I have to to get through this one, and then I’ll be able to do what I want.”

“Charlie” had been bailed out so many times he couldn’t even conceive of not being rescued. Each time he was discharged, sometimes against medical advice, the alcoholism and drug addiction got worse. He burned through his inheritance despite his family’s attempts to stop him. He was using high-end prescription narcotics and smoking cocaine, lost all contact with his family and was living with another in a long series of young women who loved him for his drugs and who, despite his obvious deterioration, believed he would be OK.

His father hadn’t been idle. In the meantime, he learned he was doing “Charlie” no good, and that he had to accept “Charlie’s” imminent demise. He wrote a heartfelt and touching letter detailing his mistakes and his deep love for his son and had it delivered to “Charlie’s” motel room. When “Charlie” read it, he knew it was a goodbye letter.

“Charlie” continued to use for another year, overdosed and landed in another detox. This time, he entered treatment with a new attitude. He would tell you today that his father’s letter probably saved his life.

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