Ready or Not

Ready or not, here I come!

“… eight, nine, ten. Ready or not, here I come!” My kids always delighted in the thrill of playing Hide and Seek. They welcomed the anticipation as well as the unexpected nature of the game, and it always concluded with giggles and hugs.

The same cannot be said for the “hide and seek” and “ready or not” aspects of substance use disorder, and yet these are very present throughout each twist and turn of addiction. It’s a game that none of us is prepared to play and that none of us ever wins, but the parallel to a childhood game are helpful in understanding the ever-present unexpected aspects of being on the sidelines of addiction.

I’ll share a few insight from our family’s experience. Perhaps these will seem familiar to what you’re finding in your own family, and hopefully, these will give you insights in how to find your way forward.

Hide and Seek

Although my high school son had been smoking marijuana for quite a few months before we discovered his use, he wasn’t necessarily hiding it. Instead, we just didn’t see it nor were we looking for it.

What we did see were changes in his attitude, mood and behavior. These three clues would guide us on a a hide-and-seek experience that we never anticipated and one that lasted much longer than we expected

Once we found evidence in his car and laid it out on the kitchen counter following senior prom night, there was no more hiding. It prompted us to start a concerted effort to seek out whether there was more going on. There was. And, once we started seeking truth, it was, unfortunately, too easy to see.

The truth was there. Our kid was using drugs and his use was more than casual and experimental. In the weeks, months and years ahead, substance use disorder was part of our life. Addiction thinks it can hide, but it’s never really out of sight – like the young child who thinks they are hiding but are easily spotted behind a chair or under a bed because there is always something in plain view.

Ready or Not

Without hesitation, I can say we were never ready for our son’s addiction. No one is ready for the havoc it creates. No one is ready for the sleepless nights. No one is ready for the worry. No one is ready for the devastation that it brings.

As we would learn, substance use disorders play on all members of the family most especially our loved one. He never meant to go from a first toke to using opioids. He always thought he could handle it, until he couldn’t. He was always trying to feel something other that what he felt.

When we began to realize what was taking hold of our son, we new the object of the game was to get him to treatment. Only that is not at all easy. No one is ready for treatment – at least no one is readily able to see their need, to recognize or embrace what they need to do, and most certainly not ready to stop using.

We would learn that using is about preserving the security of how the drug makes them feel and to protect them from the discomfort of not using.

But this does not mean that getting help has to wait until they are ready. Instead, it means helping them become ready and understanding that readiness is a process. (More on these topics in a future post.)

What’s more, each opportunity to engage in getting help – for your loved one and for YOU – is an opportunity to find a way forward. Each meeting you attend, each counseling session, each conversation, each book or blog you read, each everything is a clue that helps you find what is hiding and what you are seeking.

Ultimately, what most of us are seeking is serenity and all that it encompasses. (Again, that’s a topic for a future post.) There is much to find: not all of it is hidden and it’s all there for the seeking.

When recovery takes hold – and it takes a while – there will be giggles and hugs again. I cherish that the most.

Midwestern Mama aka Rose McKinney


Where to start? Isn’t that always the question? Yep.

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve blogged or added content to the site. While it’s never been far from my mind, I simply got out of the habit and it’s time to start it back up. I hope you’ll join in on the website and on our social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.

In the days, weeks and months ahead, please rejoin our OYA Community of parents and professionals who are concerned about substance use among young people. Together, we will share experiences, resources, and most importantly, hope. Stay tuned for updates on my experiences and on what is in the works for the future. Without a doubt, it’s time to jump START this initiative.

Hugs, Rose aka Midwestern Mama

Smart, Safe, Sober … and Sunscreen

We’ve heard it before. Substance Use Disorder runs in families. For our family this was particularly concerning as our youngest headed to college last year.

While I didn’t have reason to believe it was going to be a problem, his sister’s and brother’s college experiences weighed on my mind. I kept reminding myself that our youngest kid had walked a different path in high school, that he was well aware of the danger and consequences of substance use, that he was a different person and that he would walk his own path.

Still, I was relieved when he called home after the first weekend on campus. Do I think that there wasn’t any alcohol? marijuana? other substances? I’m sure there was. It’s college and these are prevalent on campus, but it didn’t seem to be a focus for our son.

He made his choices and these worked out for him. And following a summer of being back home, I have no suspicions of use. My mom radar is not bleeping. What a relief!

However, I’m super sensitive to drug and alcohol use among young people, so when we dropped him off for sophomore year – on Thursday, with four days and nights until classes would start, well, a mom’s mind starts to wonder. Heck, that’s a lot of down time before the commitment of classes.

Would there be parties over the long weekend? Yes. In fact, they were planning a pool party at one of the off-campus apartments. Would he attend? Yes. Would there be alcohol? Maybe. Drugs? I don’t think so. And if there are, I don’t think it’s a choice he’d even consider.

After meeting some of his friends, I have a positive sense about this group. So, after saying our good byes, I said my usual, “Remember the three S’s (smart, safe, sober) and one more – please wear sunscreen.”

The lesson here is that just because one sibling has a Substance Use Disorder doesn’t mean that all siblings will. It does mean that we talk about it and are mindful of the college culture.

©2019 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Three Words for my College Kiddo

“Three words.” That’s all I have to say and my college kiddo knows exactly what I mean. He tells me he’s heading out on Friday night, and I say, “three words.” He says, “I know, Mama.” And, he does.

I’m the youngest of three sisters, so being “the baby” is a familiar role. Because there are quite a few years separating us (seven and 12, to be exact) , it’s almost like this role is both “youngest” and “only.” It also gives me a special connection to our third kiddo, “the baby” and “youngest” by eight and 12 years to his brother and sister. Perhaps this is why we can talk in three-word code.

By the time I came along and by the time I was in high school and college, my parents had been there and done that. They weren’t going to put up with much, and they didn’t have to. While there are a few things they never knew about those teens and 20s, I was basically a good kid, and I did not have a substance use disorder.

Our college freshman has been through the wringer – with his brother in particular. He’s seen, heard and experienced it all. Substance use and co-occurring mental health set in about 10 years ago. Kiddo No. 3 was in fifth grade while kiddo No. 2 was struggling and we were newbie parents to marijuana, opioids, alcohol and more.

This weekend, he’ll be coming home to Minnesota for spring break – yeah, not the sun and surf spring break he might go on in the future, and not the one I want to think about.

College is off to an excellent start. He’s made friends, adjusted to being 682 miles away, is dating a nice young woman, made the Dean’s List, played intramural sports, and had a chance to visit and get to know Michigan.

Has he been to parties? Yes. Has there been alcohol? Yes. Have there been drugs? Most likely. Has he participated? My hunch is yes to the alcohol and no to the drugs. Have we talked about it? Yes. Have we talked about the risks? Yes. Does he know our concerns? Yes.

My message, and he often repeats it back to me so I know it has resonated with him: Smart, safe and sober. Just knowing that he knows this is my hope and it gives me confidence. Three simple words. For a mom with a kid in recovery and the mom of another kid in college, that’s right up there with the other three words of “I love you.”

Rose McKinney aka Midwestern Mama

©2019 All Right Reserved

Young men struggling with addiction require some extra attention

Youth struggling with addiction face a unique challenge when it comes to getting clean.

Addiction is a disease that can change the way someone thinks and behaves.

These changes run deep, and are fueled by both chemical dependency and bad habits that are hard to break.

Adults who are struggling with addiction are often able to look back at a time when addiction did not rule their lives.

This can give them motivation to get back to that place, or at the very least, it reminds them that it was possible to live sober.

Teens and young adults, on the other hand, don’t have that benefit. Really, they have not yet had any adult habits or routine free from the effects of addiction.

What are the root causes of addiction in teens and young people?

Much of the dialogue around youth and addiction is flat-out wrong.

Discussions tend to focus on aspects like peer pressure or teens going through a rebellious “phase.”

The ugly truth is, teens start doing drugs for the same reasons adults do.

Kids, just like adults, are seeking a reprieve from crushing anxiety or numbing depression or a strong desire to fit in.

Youth are not armored against the stresses of life, like painful relationships, loss, and fear of rejection.

In 2015, the New York Times wrote an article exploring reasons that teens began doing drugs, and what these addicted youths say might have convinced them to stop early or not try drugs in the first place.

David Sheff, who authored “Beautiful Boy,” the story of his son’s addiction, and “Clean,” about treating and preventing drug addiction, noticed that a common factor in youth drug abuse was self-medication.

Sheff told the times:

“It’s pointless to tell our children to ‘make good choices’ about drugs if those drugs offer a reprieve from the darkness they feel, or a connection they so badly crave to other kids. We must work to mitigate rather than add to the stress they experience before drugs present as a solution.”

In many ways, this phenomenon hits young men the hardest, as men are less likely to seek treatment for mental health issues that are the root cause of their drug abuse, and also men in general are more likely than women to use illegal drugs.

There ARE solutions for teens and young adults who have stumbled down this path though.

Young men who struggle with addiction need special attention

When drug abuse is all a young person has ever known, it can seem impossible to get sober, especially since it seems like “everyone is doing it.”

Detox and a support group may not be enough to get them out of the hole that is drug dependency, as their habits under the influence are the only habits they’ve had so far in their adult life.

This is one reason why Alternative Peer Groups, or APGs, can be so beneficial.

Comprehensive rehabilitation facilities recommend CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, as a primary treatment method for many of patients, especially those who are young.

CBT has a strong focus on coping mechanisms to work into your day-to-day routine.

Coping methods can include:

  • Dealing with your problems as they come along. Ignoring them or “stuffing” your feelings is unhealthy, and can often result in depression and relapse.
  • Keeping stress levels low by incorporating hobbies, recreation, physical fitness, and positive people into your life.
  • Planning ahead for difficult and unavoidable situations.
  • Building and maintaining a core group of positive, supportive people who will help you stay sober.

This therapy method also works to identify unhealthy thoughts as they come up, what triggers them, and how to ease them in a positive way, rather than turning to drugs.

CBT is a good resource for anyone with an addiction, but it is especially useful for those who need help learning better mood regulation.

Teens and youngs adults fit squarely into that category of need.

Mood swings and hormonal issues can compound other problems like anxiety and depression that impair a young person’s judgment and drive them to drug abuse.

Youth relapse prevention also poses unique challenges

Drug use relapse is common, almost expected, and usually happens within the first 6 months of recovery.

Returning to “normal life” after detoxing or inpatient treatment is always fraught with triggers, be they old influences, or just a return to the stressful environment that originally motivated the drug use.

Many adults do their best to make a fresh start by changing their environment as much as possible. They move if they can, they try a new job, or at least avoid places they’d been hanging out before.

Teens and young adults usually have less power to make these changes in their lives.

Even if moving is an option (which is out of the question for most teens), young men are less likely to have the savings required to make major life changes.

Parents also often have to re-evaluate their relationships with their children after they come home.

Some may feel the need to clamp down on their kids’ whereabouts and activities in ways they never did before, or conversely, other parents will worry that they were putting too much pressure on their teens before.

Parents have an even closer role than usual in supporting sobriety and preventing relapse for youth in recovery.

For anyone on the lookout for relapse, some common warning signs and triggers are:

  • Emotional or mental health issues that may tempt you to self-medicate
  • Conflict
  • Peer or social pressure, either overt or implied
  • Positive celebrations where alcohol or drugs are present
  • Making unattainable goals that set you up for failure and eventual relapse
  • Illness or pain

What can we do to help young men avoid relapse?

General relapse prevention tips, of course, still apply to young men.

Continued cognitive behavioral therapy, keeping busy, and avoiding previous triggers can help.

Young men however, can overdo it when they try to stay away from previous “bad influences.”

Avoiding the crowd  that a young man did drugs with is important, but it can sometimes lead to near-total social isolation.

Social isolation can be a huge relapse trigger. Finding a support group of sober people is of paramount importance.

This is another reason to try to find an APG in your area.

Parents and family can also play a pivotal role by helping the young man in their life plan ahead for difficult situations.

For example, if a teen used to buy their drugs on the school bus, relatives can step in and drive him to school.

Young people have only just begun to figure out their routine, and logistical help from adults with resources and experience might make or break a recovery.

As you can see, there is no simple solution.

Finding recovery as a teen is fraught with a host of challenges.

A variety of support strategies tailored to an individual teen’s needs, plus integrated care from important people and professionals in the teen’s life are the key to not just obtaining, but also maintaining successful recovery.

It CAN be done.

Derek Wilksen is the Vice President of Serenity Lodge – Lake Arrowhead, a men’s addiction treatment and rehabilitation center in California. He has applied his passion to excellent clinical care for over two decades.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2019 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved.

Talking to Your Teen About Your Past Drug Use

Autumn Cavender

A report provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on adolescent substance abuse in the United States is alarming. The numbers show that 39% of high school students used marijuana at least once, and 33% of them had at least one drink in the 30 days before the survey was taken. The data also revealed that some of the young student subjects also used inhalants, cocaine, and even pain relievers for non-medical reasons.

Substance use among adolescents should be dealt with immediately and accordingly as it can lead to numerous negative consequences such as vehicular accidents and deaths, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, juvenile delinquency, as well as other physical and mental health conditions.  Studies also show that individuals who start abusing drugs early in their lives are more likely to develop serious addiction problems, considering how drugs significantly affect a developing brain.

When it comes to adolescent or teen drug use, parents are the biggest influence in this area. Numerous studies show how the lack of parental supervision and monitoring, and drug use among parents are factors that significantly increases the risk of addiction among teenagers.

The Dilemma of a Parent in Recovery

If you are a parent in recovery, it is understandable that you are anxious about your teen treading the same path as you, given the information above and your own journey. You may be committed to providing parental support, guidance, and information about addiction, but you may be having second thoughts as to whether you should share your past drug use and the time you spent in an inpatient rehab facility.

You may be afraid that your child will look at you differently or that you would lose your moral high ground. A study about this concern, however, suggests that parents in recovery should share their story and tell their children the truth. Here are key findings that may encourage you to share your difficult past:

  • 50% of the teenagers shared that they would less likely use drugs if their parents shared their addiction story to them.
  • 95% of the teenagers who revealed that their parents already shared with them their experiences with drugs and alcohol when they were younger, believed that this kind of honesty was a good thing.
  • 68% of the teenagers whose parents have yet to share their experience with alcohol and drugs, said that they would want their parents to talk to them about it.
  • 90% of the teenagers whose parents shared their past alcohol and drug use considered their parents to be role models.

Points to Consider When Talking to Your Teen About Your Drug Use

Talking about drugs and alcohol is a conversation you should have with your teenage child, whether you are in recovery or not. However, sharing your past drug use with your teenagers can be unnerving, but necessary. Here are some points you should consider delivering the right message across:

  • Choose the right timing and consider your child’s maturity level.

You cannot simply blurt out that you are a recovering addict during breakfast or out of nowhere. The topic should be brought out naturally. You can take advantage of everyday events such as headlines about celebrities who entered rehab because of drug use or other news stories that show the ill effects of addiction, to start the conversation.

As to how you will exactly bring up the topic or how much details you can say would depend largely on the maturity level of your child. While you may be inclined to ask suggestions from family and friends, you should trust your own judgment since you know your child better than anyone around him.

  • Provide the right information.

Do not forget that you intend to share your addiction story not because you just want to be “honest” with your kid. This is more than just the issue of truthfulness. You want this conversation to help your child understand the dangers of substance abuse and to make it clear to him that you do not want them to use drugs or alcohol.

  • Focus on the important things that you learned.

Being honest about your past drug use does not mean you have to share your entire experience. Center your talk on the important lessons you have learned, like how drug use can ruin a promising life of a young person or how it can make you lose yourself. Telling your teen how experimenting on drugs helped you to fit in or how it was simply a mistake can undermine your critical message – you should never do drugs, ever!

  • Stay collected

While you may not know exactly how your child will react after your revelation, there is one important rule you should follow – stay calm. Even if your child starts screaming, venting, or throwing things, you should never lose your temper. If your child stays quiet, ask probing questions like, “What do you think?” or “How do you feel about that?”.

It is difficult for all parents, whether they are in recovery or not, to talk to their children about alcohol and drugs. Consider the tips mentioned above and concentrate on the thought that your past is not the issue, but your child’s future is.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2018 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Parenting A Teenager with Addiction: The Hardest Challenge Of My Life

Ever since my child was little, I always strived to be the best parent I could be.

I wanted my child to have everything he could ever want.

When I was a teenager I was addicted to alcohol, so it was difficult for me to ever think about my child having an addiction.

Then, it happened.

One day he came home and something was different.

I could see it in his eyes.

 He was on drugs.

 How did I not find out sooner?

 Why didn’t I recognize the signs?

 After I thought back for a bit, I realized I just didn’t want to see it.

He had started hanging out with new friends during the summer after his junior year.

He was hanging out with them in the evenings and on weekends.

His grades had been falling during his senior year as well.

I should have known, but as a parent I just didn’t see it until he had already become addicted.

I went through his room that night and found his stash of marijuana and heroin.

When I confronted him that night, he was so angry with me.

He got defensive and slammed his door.

He even said that he never wanted to talk to me again and that he hated me.

I cried for hours.

My son was 18 at the time and he had his whole life in front of him.

What was I going to do?

I would do anything to save him from the addictive lifestyle that I had gone through.

However, as a recovering alcoholic myself, I knew he was the one who had to put the work in.

He would have to overcome the addiction, not me.

I could be there to support and help him, but I couldn’t do it for him.

Getting through to him…

A few days later, I sat my son down and told him I just wanted to talk.

The first thing I did was tell him I understood.

I told him about my own addiction, the struggles I went through, and let him know that nobody was there for me.

I didn’t have family members who understood. 

They all thought I was just having fun when drinking and didn’t really believe in addictions.

They also didn’t believe in getting help to quit drinking.

I told him about everything I had gone through and how much I was grateful for my recovery.

During this talk, I told him how proud I was that he would be graduating this year and asked him to tell me about his hopes and dreams for the future.

He explained that he wanted to be an engineer and all about his hopes of going to college.

I told him how great that was and explained how an addiction could derail that.

I didn’t judge him or tell him what he was doing was wrong.

I just listened, gave him support, and told him I would be there for him if he was ready to go to rehab.

I explained to him what happens in rehab and how supportive they would be with helping him overcome the addiction.

I told him he didn’t have to answer me that night and he could think about it.

Five days later, he came to me after school and told me he was ready to go to rehab. 

I knew he would need inpatient rehab and I talked to his school.

They said as long as he was willing to take summer school to make up the class time and work he would miss, he could still graduate that year.

I was amazed by their support and understanding during this tough time.

The next day my son was enrolled into an inpatient rehab center.

The program would last for 60 days.

Rehab and full support…

In the rehab center my son attended, they had family night every Sunday, and I was there every time.

He went through detox first which lasted 7 days.

I wanted my son to know I was supporting him through all of this.

He had to know there were people on his side and that I loved him no matter what.

The first few weeks were tough and really difficult to see him in the rehab center.

However, I knew I had to hold it together.

I won’t lie.

I cried when I got home, every single time.

After a bit, it got easier.

I could tell he was doing better and wanting to improve his life.

He would tell me about what he learned in therapy and the group sessions.

The final two weeks, I wanted to make sure I had everything ready for him when he came home.

I made sure to clean the house and create a schedule, where we would check in with one another.

Coming home and working the program…

The rehab center my son attended sent him home with an aftercare plan.

It included attending individual therapy once a week and group therapy once a week.

They wanted him to attend NA meetings three times a week as well.

We talked about all of this before he left the rehab center.

When he got home, we went over the schedule and he gave input on things he wanted to change.

We agreed on times we would check-in with each other.

He knew that I was there if he needed to talk, but I wasn’t going to hound him about his recovery.

He had to hold himself accountable and I think that helped him knowing that he had to do it.

The first year was the most difficult because I had a very difficult time trusting that he wasn’t using.

Any time he was away from me or  if he didn’t answer his cell phone on the first ring, I was concerned.

I had to let him be and let him work his program.

He never relapsed.

He attended all of his therapy sessions and NA meetings.

He even attended the summer program and graduated that year.

Now, he is two years clean, and I couldn’t be more proud.

He is my son and I love him with all my heart.

He knows his recovery is a lifelong process and he is still working his program.

 We still check in with each other, as we did since he came home from rehab.

 Written By Charles Watson of Sunshine Behavioral Health

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.


©2018 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

10 Early Warning Signs Of Illicit Drug Use In Teenagers


The teenage years are a time of great change. Many teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol for the first time during this stage in their lives, while at the same time they experience new emotions and feelings about their bodies. A growing teenager may exhibit strange behavior such as mood swings, outbursts, and other aberrant behavior. During this time of great chance, you may wonder what is going through your teenager’s mind, or whether they are possibly hiding something from you. It’s important that you are able to distinguish between the signs of a normal growing teenager and the signs of a drug or alcohol addiction. Here are some of the signs your teen is using illicit substances.

More Secretive Than Usual

Teens are naturally distrusting of their parents. They don’t want parents to be involved or know what they are doing because they long for independence, so it’s not uncommon for them to crave privacy. However, if you notice that they are repeatedly lying about their whereabouts, adamant that you not enter or clean their room, or attempt to sneak in and out of the house, there may be a problem.

Making Excuses and Lying

As stated above, teens generally don’t want their parents to know what they are up to, but if your teen is chronically lying about their whereabouts or who they are hanging out with, there’s a chance they may be purposely hiding something from you. If they’re chronically missing or making excuses to why they’re late, they could be hiding illicit drug use.

Significant Weight Loss or Gain

During teenage years, the body will undergo a lot of changes, but sudden weight loss or gain is never a natural part of life. If your teen experiences rapid weight loss or chronic loss of appetite, they could be amusing stimulants such as methamphetamines, cocaine, or prescription stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin which suppress the appetite. Alternatively, if they seem to be packing on the weight, they could have a problem with binge drinking, which leaves excess carbs in the body, or binge eating following alcohol or marijuana usage.

Loss of Interest in Old Hobbies

If your teen suddenly abandons a long time interest in something such as a hobby or sport with no apparent explanation, they could be developing a drug addiction. It’s not uncommon for teens to grow out of childhood interests, but if they begin to replace the time they used to spend on their hobbies and interests with time spent doing unknown activities, there may be cause for concern. Addiction tends to swallow up other activities in a person’s life, so watch out for this sign.

Poor Academic Performance

Not everyone is an A student. However, by the time they’ve reached their teenage years, it should be apparent what their academic skills are. If your teen experiences a sudden or significant drop in their grades and academic performance, this could be a serious sign that they may be experimenting with or have a full blown addiction to an illicit substance. Look out for signs such as GPA drops, calls from teachers, and serial tardiness.

Unexplained Spending or Extra Cash

Typically, drugs and alcohol do not come free. If your teenager has a job, they may have disposable income that can go towards paying for illicit substances. If your teenager has a job but seems to spend all their money on unknown activities, this could be a sign they are buying drugs. Alternatively, if your teenager seems to always have unexplained cash, they could be buying and selling drugs to other teenagers. This is usually a big red flag to look out for.

Interest in Drug Culture, Drinking Culture

What kind of music and television shows does your teenager consume? Odds are, if they are a fan of certain artists or characters that advocate a certain lifestyle, they could be experimenting with those substance they see depicted on television and in music. Check out their Netflix history or Spotify library to see what they are tuning in to.

Paranoia, Irritability, Anxiety

Some of the side effects of common drugs that teenagers try include anxiety, paranoia, and irritability. For example, marijuana is known for inducing paranoia and even paranoid delusions. Stimulants cause people to feel intense elation and pleasant feelings, but as a downside they always experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and irritability. If your teenager is drinking at night, they may wake up feeling less than rested, leading to extra irritation during the day.

Unexplained Injuries / Accidents

Unexplained bruises or damage to property such as a car could be a sign that your teenager is engaging in unsafe behavior while under the influence of a substance. Binge drinking increases the risk of someone hurting themselves, as does consuming hallucinogenic substances and operating motor vehicles. If your teen seems to appear with new injuries or cuts, or has a dubious explanation for why they wrecked their car, they could be hiding a substance dependency.

Abandoning Old Friends, Suspicious New Friends

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to shed their childhood friend groups, but if your teen is hanging out with shady characters or older teens, there may be a problem. If your teenager starts to hang out with other teens known for smoking, drinking, or doing other drugs, they may also be experimenting with illicit substances.


Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a drug and alcohol recovery center. He has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years with a new emphasis on recovery. Before his ventures into healthcare, Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After Duke Matthew went on to work for Boston Consulting Group before he realized where his true passion lied within Recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment, and intervention.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2018 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.



30 Days of Gratitude – 2018


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday mostly because it’s about gathering together with family and friends – no presents, just our presence. It’s about gratitude and taking time to savor and to reflect.

The first column that I wrote about addiction was published in the Pioneer Press on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2011. Leading up to that, our family had been through the wringer and I had spent the better part of the months leading up to that column processing the journey; as tough as those days were, an attitude of gratitude was my saving grace.

Once the OYA Community formed with social media and blogging, I started celebrating 30 Days of Gratitude with a daily expression on Twitter and Facebook and including a hashtag so others could participate.

Our journey through addiction, treatment and recovery continue and gratitude remains key to it all.

Thus far, for #gratitude2018 these include:

Day 1: Today, I am grateful to learn more about family recovery services at my son’s outpatient treatment program.

Day 2: Today, I am grateful for an afternoon walk in the woods with our family dog.

Duke in the woods

Day 3: Today, I am grateful for not having to wake up with an alarm – sleeping in on Saturday.

Day 4: Today, I am grateful for a quiet day at home before the busy work week ahead.

What are you grateful for? #gratitude2018

©2018 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.


The Drop Off

Each drop off sets me to reflecting on where we’ve been with our kiddo and where we’re heading … or where he’s heading. Last night was no different, and yet it’s as different as it’s ever been.

Let me take this blog post out of the ambiguous and into the specific, and let me catch you up on our family’s journey.

From the time our kids are little, we begin a series of drop offs. Perhaps it includes: Daycare. Preschool. A friend’s house for a sleepover. Camp. College.

Perhaps is the key idea. Perhaps it’s any of the usual, expected places. Perhaps it’s not.

In our case, it’s also included drop offs at treatment for substance use disorder. It’s also included drop offs to nowhere, when our son was homeless or sofa surfing. It’s included additional drop offs at treatment. It’s included drop offs at court for consequences related to use. It’s included drop offs at class and work when he’s had challenges with transportation. It’s included drop offs at his sober living facility.

With each drop off, I’ve embraced the time together catching up, getting a glimpse of where he is these days, and sensing where he’s headed. At 26 years old, he’s not a kid anymore and he’s not a stranger to the challenges of addiction and the possibilities of recovery.

Things are better today than they have been in quite awhile. He’s in recovery, living in a sober home, going to group, attending AA, taking a college class, working part time at a job he enjoys with a mission he embraces, he’s owning up to legal issues that cropped up through an unfortunate series of DUIs, and he’s thinking about his future.

But it’s still a long haul, and each drop off reminds me of the uncertainty ahead. I muster up all my natural positivity and gratitude to realize how far he’s come, how rough the road has been and how much smoother it is now, and yet how much of a road is still before him.

It’s his path. It’s his recovery. It’s his journey. I’m along for some of the ride, but not all of it, and with each ride I cherish our time together. I silently say the Serenity Prayer. And then, with each drop off, I do my best to encourage, to share my love, to hope, to believe.

Rose McKinney aka Midwestern Mama

®2018 Our Young Addicts






It’s been a year

It’s been a year since we got the text.  “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I can’t stop using and I need to go to treatment.”
For 3 years we’d been struggling with the knowledge that J was using.  We had seen the “evidence.”  An empty bed in the middle of the night.  Missing plastic bottles (where did our hair products go?).  Broken pens.  Knives.  Bowls.  Parts of sockets sets that smelled like weed.  And finally the day before, missing jewelry set aside to sell.  The elephant was in the middle of the room and it finally couldn’t be ignored.  Should I be surprised?  After all we had plenty of addiction in our family.  But could this monster really be in my house?   Surprised but not surprised.
And so we began…this cycle of hope and disappointment.  More hope and more disappointment.  And so it goes.
It’s been a year of judgement.  Most harshly from ourselves.  What did we do wrong?  Maybe we should have disciplined more.  Maybe we disciplined too much.  Maybe we shouldn’t have homeschooled.  Maybe we should have homeschooled longer.  Maybe if we would have taken that trip together….Maybe we shouldn’t have let him playing video games so much when he was younger.  Maybe we should have kept him on that ADHD medication.   Maybe we should have tried more therapy sooner.   Judgement from others (real or perceived).   They didn’t teach him to say “no” to himself when he was young.  They were too permissive.  They weren’t consistent enough.  They were too strict.  They should have kept him from “those” friends.  They should have insisted that he hang out more with the “good” kids.  They should have never let him get those earrings.  They should have let him express himself more.  They should put him in this treatment, not that one.  Oh, addiction is a sin matter and should be treated that way.  He was genetically predestined from birth and he really didn’t have a prayer against the monster.
It’s been a year of waiting, wondering and praying.  Waiting for help.  Waiting for insurance.  Waiting for a bed in rehab.  Waiting for J to “decide” if he really wants to recover.  Waiting for him to come home at night.  Wondering if he is going to come home.  Praying that we don’t get a call from the police yet in a weird way praying that we will.  Praying that he’ll have some sort of wake up call.  And mostly waiting on God.  Waiting on him to pierce J’s heart.  Waiting for Him to open doors.  Waiting for Him to show us the next right decision.  Waiting for change.  In J’s life.  In my life.  Waiting.
It’s been a year of learning.  Learning that “you didn’t cause it, you chan’t change it and you can’t control it.”  Learning all the “treatment jargon.”  Detachment with love.  Letting go.  Learning way to much about THC levels, benzo’s, mollies, tar, salts and all the names of the various drugs and pills, what the police can and can’t do, juvenile courts, drug courts, public defenders, county attorney’s and judges.  Learning the in’s and out’s of insurance.   Learning about recovery, enabling and co-dependance. Learning that there are still so many misconceptions about addiction and trying to figure out what is truth and what isn’t.  Learning that’s it’s o.k. some days to sit on the couch and cry and not be able to get off of it.    Learning how to hold my tongue.  Learning that I don’t need to be right all the time.  Learning that I am right sometimes.  Learning how to set boundaries.   Learning that I have my own “stuff” I have to deal with.
Mostly it’s been a year of healing and growing.  Understanding that I can’t support anyone else unless I take care of myself.  Believing that I need to “recover”  and work my own “program.”  Sitting at the Lords feet every day, crying out to Him, sometimes in joy, mostly in desperation.   Listening as he whispers to me words of comfort and truth and power.  Soaking in the presence of my savior and accepting, truly accepting for the first time how much HE loves me.  Seeing others through the eyes of our Savior with love and compassion.  Loving the unloveable.  Forgiving the unforgivable.  And hoping when there is not hope.  Understanding that I am not God and completely and utterly giving up any notion of control to him.   Surrender.  Truly surrendering.  Laying it all at the cross.  My life.  My son’s life.  Because it is all I have to give and I have given it all.
We are here now.  A year down the road.  J is no more recovered then he was 365 days and 6 rehabs ago.   But I have changed.  Transformed really.   Today I have love.  Today I have joy.  And today I have hope.  Not in J’s recovery.  That may or may not come.  But I have hope in the great knowledge that we can grow and we can change and God’s not finished with me yet.
Pam wrote this blog 5 years ago.  Just for today, gratefully, her son is sober and working a program.


Pam Lanhart 


Thrive! Family Support


Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.
©2018 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

Self-care, Satisfaction Guaranteed

Whether your kid is in active addiction or in recovery, ’tis the season for holiday stress. That’s exactly why you need the gift of self care! Here are some of my favorite tips and reminders. MWM

During yesterday’s #CADAChat about finding joy during the holidays, one of the questions was about self-care – the most important gift of all, and often the one we forget about. Midwestern Mama took notes to share.

When it comes to the holidays, several f-words come to mind. No, not that f-word! The ones I’m thinking of are Festive, Frantic, Frenzy, Frazzled …

The only antidote that I can think of is the gift of self-care. What’s more, it’s the gift that keeps giving no matter what time of year. It’s the gift that guarantees satisfaction for yourself as well as the ones who matter most to you.

Addiction takes a toll on the whole family. That’s all the more reason to take care of yourself. I used to feel that it was up to me to hold it altogether to prevent chaos – sometimes that worked, but mostly it frazzled…

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Navigating Addiction during the Holidays

With Thanksgiving and the winter holidays just around the corner, I’m ever grateful Sherry Gaugler-Stewart’s guest blog post: Navigating Addiction During the Holidays. #Gratitude2017 MWM

With Thanksgiving 2016 one week away, the holiday season kicks off. This can be a particularly challenging time for families whose loved ones are using drugs and alcohol. Today’s guest blogger is Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.  She share first-hand experience as well as professional guidance to help families, and was one of our panel speakers at our conference this past year. Thank you, Sherry, for your blog post!


Oh, the holidays!  When we think of them, so many thoughts and images pop into our heads!  Snow!  Family!  Food!  Togetherness!  Traditions, old and new!  Excitement is in the air, and we start planning how and when our ideal holiday will come together.  Unfortunately, for those who have a loved one struggling with alcoholism or addiction, an additional level of stress typically accompanies the holidays: worry that our imagined holiday will turn into…

View original post 1,475 more words

What Parents Can Do If They Notice Signs of a Relapse in Their Recovering Teen


Having a teenager in this day and age is hard work. As a parent, there are so many things to think about as your child begins to move into high school and beyond. You worry about him driving, whether or not he fits in, if he’ll do his homework and how peer pressure will affect him.

Sadly, a lot of teens these days turn to drugs and alcohol at a young age. When your child experiments with drugs and winds up addicted, it can be a very disheartening experience. From there, all you can do is try your best to support him in getting the help he needs.

teen info graphic

If you’re lucky enough to get your teen into treatment and recovery, the next phase is helping him remain sober.

This is no easy task. It takes patience and empathy to support a teenager who has battled addiction.

As parents, it’s important to be as educated as possible about the potential for relapse. Here’s what to look for and how to respond if you suspect your teen has relapsed.

What Are the Signs of Relapse?

The first thing you should understand about relapse is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that builds up over time in three stages: emotional, mental and physical.

Relapse usually begins with emotional states that may be very subtle, yet still very triggering. As it moves into the mental stage, your child may think about using or drinking and become aware of these thoughts. Finally, she gives into her emotions and thoughts, and the actual (physical) relapse occurs.

Relapse signs to watch out for include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger or frustration
  • Mood changes or irritability
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Isolation and not being social with friends
  • Withdrawing and disengaging from family gatherings
  • Verbally romanticizing about using, saying things like she wishes she could take the edge off or it would be nice to escape
  • Demonstrating shaky behaviors, such as being dishonest or wanting to hang out with old friends you’ve identified as bad influences
  • Asking to visit places that may be a trigger, such as concerts, music festivals or house parties
  • Rationalizing or displaying extreme confidence, perhaps saying she’s okay now and “has things under control”

Keep in mind that the stages and signs of relapse are like dominoes that can quickly lead your child into a place where she picks up substances again because she’s built it up in her mind as the right thing to do.

What Should You Do If You Notice Signs of a Relapse in Your Recovering Teen?

First of all, don’t just assume that, once your child enters into recovery or returns from treatment, all is well and the addiction is over.

Recovery is a daily practice and needs ongoing monitoring. This means you need to keep a very close eye on your teen and maintain open lines of communication.

If your child begins to show signs of relapse, it can be frightening and overwhelming, as you may not be sure how to handle it. The best thing to do is remain calm while you work through your valid concerns. Start by realizing that you are not helpless and can head off a relapse before it happens.

Next, take action by speaking candidly to your teenager. Ask him how he feels, what kinds of thoughts he’s having and how you can support him. This step can be tricky, as you don’t want to interrogate him or make him feel like you’re angry with him. Take a non-aggressive approach by initiating a healthy conversation with your teen about what’s going on so you can work together to find a resolution.

It’s also a good idea to involve a therapist trained in recovery aftercare or speak to your teen’s treatment center about aftercare services it offers.

“One of the biggest changes in our lives has been the repairing of relationships within our family.” – Katie D. shares on her daughters recovery journey with Heroes in Recovery.

Often, relapse signs mean your teen may not be integrating back into normal life as easily as he had hoped and may be struggling to find a sense of routine or comfort.

Stay active in encouraging him, and be as compassionate to his needs as possible. Remember, your recovering teen can always get back on track, return to recovery and seek more help if he needs it, as long as you stay vigilant.

Carly Benson, a writer for The Life Challenge
As an avid traveler, yogi & confessed self-help junkie, Carly writes about her adventures in life & sobriety on where she offers inspirational concepts & coaching for recovery, faith & living an intentional life.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Right Reserved

5 Steps Towards Addiction Recovery You Should Know


Strive to learn how to live a life in recovery, says Andy – nine years sober. He shares five key ways to do this. 

The first thing you need to know about addiction is that it never really leaves you. There is no cure for addiction and that’s not what you strive for during recovery. Recovery is about learning how to live your life constantly making the choice to abstain from drugs and alcohol, which have caused so much damage in your life.

I still live with my addiction every day, despite the fact that I’ve been sober for almost a decade now. I know it’s always in the background, waiting for me to relapse, but I’ve grown stronger.

My addiction problems began when I was only 9 years old. I was a very curious kid and I had been wondering about alcohol for a while, but when I asked to have a sip, I got a lecture from my parents. So, one night at a family party, I snuck a bottle while the adults were busy, and a few sips later I was drunk. I had never felt anything like it. I loved it. A cousin of mine found out and made me promise I wouldn’t do it again, and to be honest, it took longer to make that promise than it did to break it.

As a teen, I started experimenting with marijuana, which quickly escalated to other stronger, more horrible substances. My family and friends recognized the signs of my addictive behavior. The problem was I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I used to tell them and myself that I could quit anytime I wanted to, even though deep down I knew it was a lie and they were right. As a result, I ended up alienating myself from them.

Flash forward to 23 and I’m sitting in a prison cell, serving a 2-year sentence for drug-related charges. Those were the hardest years of my life, but it was there where I made the decision to change my life and embarked on the road to recovery.

As soon as I got out of prison I checked into a rehab center. I learned there are 5 essential steps to recovery which need to be taken. Some of them continually repeated in order to ensure you won’t fall into addiction again. Today, I want to share these steps with you:

1) Powerless

The first step towards recovery is admitting you are powerless over your addiction. As I mentioned earlier, I used to lie to myself and those around me saying that I was in control over my substance consumption and that I could stop using anytime I wanted to. If I had kept thinking like this, I would probably still be an addict. In order for a problem to be solved, it needs to be acknowledged and accepted.

Getting to this realization can be a different process for each addict. For me it was through a testimony I heard in prison. It was a middle-aged man who said he had lost his wife, his daughter, and everything he had ever cared about due to his drug problems. I could relate to this, it made me think about my family and how I didn’t want to lose them, which led me towards the path of sobriety.

2) Asking for help
Now that you’ve admitted your problem to yourself, it’s time to admit it to others. Your family, your friends, your doctor… anyone you consider should know in order to help you get better. I told my family first, I told them I wanted to get clean and that I would like them to support me during this process. They were so proud, so happy. They helped me find a great rehabilitation center and they were with me through it all. You are not alone in your recovery, getting help from others is fundamental in order for you to start changing your life for the better.

3) Treatment

The next step is finding the right treatment. It is essential for you to explore the many options there are so you can choose the one that can help you the most according to your condition. There are many services available, such as residential rehab, out-patient treatments, and other medical services and therapy.

There are also meetings, like those provided by Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, in which you can talk and listen to other addicts. Whichever treatment you choose, I would recommend it involves medical assistance and professional counseling and therapy.

4) Commitment

You would think that treatment is the hardest part of recovery. It does implicate a lot of physical discomforts as well as mental and emotional changes, but, the real challenge comes after you’ve finished treatment and are left in the real world again. You need to rebuild your life from scratch, a life of abstinence. It will take a lot of strength, discipline, and willpower.  

The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. I kept attending AA and NA meetings regularly after getting out of rehab, as well as therapy sessions once a week. This really helped me be strong in moments I thought I would relapse -which were a lot-. Creating strong, healthy relationships is fundamental in this step too.

The way I see it, the more people there are that care about you and want to help you stay clean, the more chances you have to succeed.

5) Acknowledgement

As there is no real cure for addiction, there is no ultimate step in recovery. However, acknowledging how far you’ve come and celebrating it is what I consider the last of these 5 steps. Nothing compares to celebrating your first anniversary of sobriety, and each year you become more determined to continue.

Now you know what to expect before starting your journey to get clean. These are the 5 steps I took during my recovery process, which I consider were the key to my success. Admitting my problem, asking the people I loved the most to support me, getting treatment, committing everyday to staying clean and being able to celebrate my achievements are the steps that got me to where I am today.

As I said before, just because I’ve been sober for 9 years doesn’t mean I’m “cured”. Recovery is a lifetime process, and some of these steps will have to be taken every day.

I strongly encourage you to embark upon this journey. It may be hard, but it’s worth it. If you have an experience or a story about recovery you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.

Author Byline:

Hi, I am Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I have been clean for 9 years now! I spend my time helping others with their recovery and growing my online business.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved


Meet Sarah Nielson, author, mom and creator of the Just Keep Going, Parents blog. We often swap blog posts to share and this is one you definitely want to read – it’s about chocolate, after all. Moreover, it adds perspective to the journey by helping us see and define addiction. Thanks, Sarah, for being part of the OYA Community and part of my journey through a loved one’s addiction. MWM


At a listening session on the teenage brain and drug use, Dr. Ken Winters started by asking the audience, “How many of you love chocolate?” Many raise their hands in amusement.  “How many of you would consider yourself a chocoholic — you gotta have it?” he asked playfully as people raised their hands with a smirk.  “How many of you would steal from a convenience store for chocolate?” Silence.  “How many of you would leave your toddlers alone in the house while you went out to find chocolate?” “Would you would go to prison for chocolate?”

We were with some new friends who are dear and know that we have a son in recovery. One said, “I was so spoiled as a kid, it’s a wonder I didn’t take drugs or something.” You know where my mind went instantly, “Our child is a former drug addict because we spoiled him.” It’s my fault. Spoiled people take drugs — (research pending).  I’m not gonna lie — I felt some shame.

This is the birthplace of stigma. It might be why some of us protect ourselves from admitting that we have a problem or someone we love has a problem. We believe it might be our fault and we want to protect ourselves, our image, our parenting, our status; Christian families or good families don’t breed drug addicts and alcoholics. Certainly I was in that belief camp. Then it happened to me.

It’s not all about ego of course. No one on the planet wants a loved one to suffer addiction. Denial, silence, pretending and defending protect our mind from the overwhelming grief and fear and in our case, the also, “and what would we actually DO about it?” question. Our mind sometimes needs protecting, until it doesn’t, and it’s time to face reality.

I learned that people like our kids suffer addiction but people like our kids, us, our grandparents and friends also celebrate recovery.  My friend Sandi Lybert of Your Choice to Live, says that people come up to her and say she doesn’t look like the mom of a former Heroin addict. We thought that was funny. She’d often ask people, “What does the mother of a Heroin addict look like?” Awkward.  She looks like a mom of a son in recovery, whatever that looks like. There’s no stereotype.

I’m not on the bandwagon of addiction stigma because I don’t want you to be uber-careful about what you say in front of me, and playing the semantics game of right terminology so as not to offend, seems silly. If I feel shame, that’s on me. I also am weary of bandwagons at the moment. I’m shining a light on recovery, because it’s true and real and brings hope that is legitimate and deserves attention — a much better use of energy. Addiction defies demographics and thus, so does recovery.

People can and do recover from alcohol and other drug addiction, and they’re the people you and I sit next to in the pew, the theatre, the Bucks vs.Timberwolves game and the company picnic — 23 million of them in America.

I attend an open 12-step meeting where anyone is welcome but only alcoholics participate and speak. If pictures were allowed, which they’re not, I’d love to post the collage:  darling young women and handsome millennial men, middle age dads, fit and fat grandpas, short, white-haired grannies who walk up to the podium in sensible shoes, all of them sharing their experience, strength and hope in recovery to help the newcomer stay sober today.

In that meeting, pregnant suburban wives, and yes, hard-looking characters who might shed a tear or two, thank their sponsors for taking midnight calls when they want to drink or use,  and express gratitude to God for a good life they never thought they’d see. Some are sober 40 plus years, some 40 days, some 40 hours.

At the end of the meeting the room of several hundred stands in a circle, holding hands to say the Lord’s prayer in unison. I confess that I often look up and around with open eyes because it fills my soul. For Thine is the power.

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing this blog post with the OYA Community!




500 Days Sober


My day job is running a business. My night job is teaching communications courses at a local university. And my passion job is building the OYA Community. One of my students recently shared her story with me and I’m sharing it with you today because Nov. 4 is 500 days of sobriety for Kayla Fosse! MWM

Reading Midwestern Mama’s blog post about the three R’s (Recovery, Relapse, and Ready) in regards to addiction definitely hit home for me, as my story includes all three. When I meet new people now, the look on their faces when I tell them I’m in recovery is always one of shock. I’m an attractive, outgoing, responsible 24-year old-woman, and it surprises everyone to learn that I suffered (still suffer) from an addiction to alcohol.

In July 2014 I lost my job because I got drunk and didn’t show up. I was newly 21 and I just wanted to party with my friends.

I brushed it off, used my bubbly personality to get a new job, and kept drinking.

In November 2014 I totaled my car under the influence of alcohol, taking out another car in the process. It was a frigid Tuesday afternoon, and for some reason the cops didn’t suspect anything. There were no consequences, so I kept drinking. In January 2015 I lost that new job because again, I got drunk and didn’t show up. Two days later, after an encounter with an ex-boyfriend, I went on my first (but not last) three-day drinking bender which ended up landing me in my first (again, but not last) detox, with a whopping .33 BAC.

It was a mandatory 72-hour hold, due to the fact that in my blackout state of mind, I threatened suicide.

During those three days I was urged to go directly to an impatient treatment program and start on anti-depressants. Instead, I got out and continued drinking.

In just 8 months I was hired and fired three times. I would shut myself in my basement with a bottle of alcohol and stay there for days. I suffered withdrawals when I stopped drinking; insomnia, night sweats, and brain zaps were becoming normal for me.

I had graduated from drinking and driving to drinking WHILE driving and I had mastered the one-eye-shut technique, always managing to make it home.

Until September anyway, when my actions finally caught up to me and I was charged with DWI in the third degree – having blown .24, three times the legal limit.

I spent two nights in jail before I was released on an at-home alcohol monitor. I thought I could “beat the system” and still drink at certain times. I was wrong, of course, and due to my violation of probation, I got picked up on a warrant. I spent six days in jail before being released. Due to my violation, and my mom’s admission to the judge that I was a severe alcoholic, court didn’t go well and I was given the condition that I couldn’t drink alcohol. I used this excuse as to why I wasn’t drinking, often complaining to people who asked about my “bullshit” probation conditions, making promises to throw a huge party when I got off and was able to get drunk again.

I was angry, at first, but after being sober for a few months I started to see glimpses of my old self again.

I had gotten hired at a new job that I absolutely loved, I was making great money and paying off all of my fines, as well as setting up old debt payments. (A lot of bills pile up when you spend all of your money on alcohol). I was working out regularly.

I was spending more time with family that I had spent a long time shutting out.

The puffiness in my face was gone, my hair was shiny again and my skin wasn’t dry and cracked anymore. This lasted six months exactly, before I decided that I wasn’t on probation’s radar and drinking a few beers here and there wouldn’t hurt.

I thought I could keep it under control.

But, as I’m sure most relapse stories go, I couldn’t keep it under control very long.

A few beers turned into 7. Then I added in hard liquor, and before long I was on another drinking bender. This time it lasted an entire week, resulting in the loss of the job I loved so much. I was ashamed and embarrassed, wondering why I was the way I was. My manager urged me to go to treatment, telling me that if I completed a program he’d give me my job back.

So, on June 22, 2016 I woke up and decided I could never drink again. This time, I was actually ready.

I completed a six-week outpatient treatment program, learning a lot in the process. The room was filled with men and women in their forties and fifties, who all pointed at me and said, “If I had figured this out when I was 23, I wouldn’t be here today.” This was motivation for me. These people had lost their children, freedom, houses, and careers. I didn’t want to be like that. I wasn’t like them. I had a great childhood, a big, supportive family, and plenty of amazing friends. I was ready to stop with the excuses and own my problem.

Now, if people ask why I’m not drinking, I’m honest and say that I can’t control myself when I drink and I’m better off without it.

Honesty is the biggest thing I’ve learned in recovery. Owning your actions, admitting your faults, and asking for forgiveness. I used to lie so much. “I’m just going to a friend’s tonight.” “I’ve only had one beer.” “I won’t be able to make it into work today because my car won’t start.” While I don’t work any type of program, I do follow the “one day at a time” mantra. I lay my head on my pillow every night and thank God that I didn’t drink alcohol that day.

November 4 will be 500 days sober, and while I’m sure my friends and family are proud of me, I’m the most proud.

I love the person that I am today. I went back to school, and I’ll graduate in April 2018. I’m fixing my credit score. I’m healthy. I’ve more than accepted the fact that I’m just someone who can’t drink alcohol, and I’m happy to share my story.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved


Just because we saw it coming, doesn’t mean we could stop it.

We’ve seen our son relapse before. That time, his recovery was short and shaky at best, but he went through the motions. He tried to go too fast in returning to work and he thought he could use marijuana and alcohol recreationally. The relapse was quick and deep rendering him homeless again; however, within a few months it led him to a new treatment program and a period of nearly three-and-a-half years free from opioid use.

This time, the period of sobriety and recovery was steady. He participated in a 12-week, high-intensity out-patient program; began MAT, went in daily at first and graduated to weekly; saw his counselor regularly – the same one for three years; saw a mental-health professional for the first year; got and held a job; got his own insurance; earned tuition; returned to college, got straight A’s, earned his associates degree in mathematics and was accepted for a B.A. program. Moreover, he rebuilt trust with the family. Still, he struggled with social anxiety, depression and developing friendships.

Things started to shift and in spite of our efforts to be supportive, to address things directly but compassionately, a relapse begin. We saw it coming. We wished we could stop it. We did try to the extent that anyone can. Almost 11 months later, he’s lucky to be alive and to once again pursue recovery. What a rocky year, but what a hopeful outcome in the making.

Although I’ve updated the OYA Community from time to time this year, it hasn’t been as real-time or detailed as years past, so today I compiled a list of what we’ve experienced thus far in 2017.

The list that follows reflects just some of the things we observed. On the surface, some of these seem like not big deal or something that you could explain or rationalize. In reality, each represents a change in his sober behavior and that’s what concerned us most.

Right around the first of the year … January 2017

  • Going to bed early – even before 7 p.m.
  • Getting up early – leaving the house by 4:30 a.m. “to go to the gym and study before his 8 a.m. class.”
  • Taking frequent, deep-sleep naps.
  • Retreating to the basement to re-watch episodes of TV series he’d already watched several times.
  • Playing video games at home.
  • Taking extraordinarily long showers.
  • Saying he’s no longer able to study at home.
  • Becoming less and less conversational.
  • Not interacting or participating in family life.
  • Spending less time at home.
  • Air fresheners in the car and leaving the windows cracked open.
  • Finding lighters.
  • Finding wine-bottle openers.
  • Not wanting to travel out of town for spring break.
  • Keeping secret a romantic interest.
  • Falling asleep at the girlfriend’s house and not letting us know he wouldn’t be home.
  • Skipping a day of classes and science labs to hang out with the girl.
  • Not responding to text messages and phone calls from Mom and Dad.
  • Not wanting to talk about “it” let alone “anything.”
  • Spending more and more time with one of his former using buddies.
  • Going shopping and buying expensive clothes and shoes.
  • Arguing about the positive attributes of cannabis.
  • Self-medicating with cannabis including marijuana and cdb oil to combat anxiety and depression.
  • Going out drinking with coworkers.
  • Not communicating his whereabouts or schedule.
  • Not coming home night after night.
  • Finding pipes, a large quantity of marijuana, cbd crystals, wine and vodka bottles in the car.
  • Family meeting with his counselor.
  • Says he’s relieved he no longer has to keep his cannabis use a secret.
  • Blatantly not following the family rules.
  • Going cold turkey off Suboxone without tapering or utilizing the support of his treatment team.
  • Experiencing withdrawal.
  • Admitting he’s spending all day, every day staying high on marijuana.
  • Waking and baking, every day.
  • Not wanting to celebrate his 25th
  • Not opening his cards or presents.
  • Not eating any home-made cake.
  • Ignoring the dog.
  • Continuing to experience PAWS.
  • Getting a prescription for anxiety meds, but quitting these three days later.
  • Dropping out of his college classes and not making arrangements to apply his hard-earned tuition to a future semester.
  • Going on a bender that landed him a two-day stay in detox due to public intoxication with a BAC of .26.
  • Missing work.
  • Losing his job.
  • Not coming home or responding to calls and texts for a whole week.
  • Coming home, handing us his car keys and wallet, asking us to hold onto these for a while.
  • Visiting his cousin at rehab and noting, “he’s in denial and not ready for recovery.”
  • Five days later, going on another bender.
  • Smashing his car into a guard rail.
  • Getting arrested for DWI.
  • Refusing to take a breathalyzer.
  • Staying in jail for 48 hours.
  • Meeting with a DWI attorney.
  • Getting a voluntary chemical health assessment, but not acting on recommendations to go to treatment.
  • Enrolling in the state’s ignition-interlock program.
  • Interviewing and getting offered a new job.
  • Taking an Uber, instead of driving, to hang out with friends.
  • Not coming home that night.
  • Not showing up on the first day of his new job.
  • Drunk dialing and texting people.
  • Walking home 7 miles in the rain because his phone was dead.
  • Ringing the doorbell early on Sunday morning because he lost his keys.
  • Scrapes and scratches on his face.
  • Less than 48 hours later, heading out on another bender.
  • Sitting by the mudroom door the next morning.
  • Losing the spare set of car keys, the extra house key and his phone.
  • No memory whatsoever of where he had been – said he woke up on a park bench not far from home.
  • Agreeing to another chemical health assessment.
  • Not liking but agreeing to inpatient, dual-diagnosis treatment.
  • Waiting, waiting, waiting for a bed to open.
  • Hanging in the basement watching TV and playing video games.
  • Sleeping a lot.
  • Unable to start his car due to it detecting alcohol in his system.

Finally, riding with his dad to treatment two hours from home … October 27, 2017.

Welcoming us on family night … November 1, 2017.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

Family Night at Treatment

Day 2: Today, I am grateful my son is sober, in treatment and on the road to recovery. #Gratitude2017

There are two visiting opportunities each week at my son’s new treatment program – one is an afternoon on the weekend and the other is a weekday evening that includes an hour of group time focused on mental health.

Last night was our first visit. Within seconds of arriving, our son greeted us with a smile, a hug, and moreover, an overall healthy demeanor. Although it’s just been five days, he looked so much better than the days leading up to this.

His explanation was simple: “I’m not hungover.” Amen to that.

The group session started promptly at 6:30. There were about 30 men, all ages and all walks of life. My husband and I were the only family members present. We sat with our son at a table in the back. A gentleman, quite a bit older than our son, asked to join us and we welcomed him.

The mental health professional leading the group brought an inspirational reading about order and disorder. My impression is that its message was a bit deep for most of the participants. Nonetheless, a handful of people shared their takes on it.

The next reading was from Depak Chokra. It was a letter between the mother of an addict and Chokra’s encouragement to detach with love. From there, several more men joined the conversation.

My son isn’t comfortable participating in large groups, and he’d already been exposed to these readings earlier in the day during other group sessions, so he politely listened and let us take it in. Because the second reading was about mothers of people with addiction, I had a few things to say but recognized and respected my son’s preference that I not speak up.

Later, however, he asked what I wanted to say.

Mothers (parents) will always love their kids no matter what.

The session wrapped with some ideas for the participants to embrace. A few that stuck out to me and that I hope will stick for my son:

  • Using drugs and alcohol solves nothing.
  • You can have fun sober.
  • You can, and should, design your own recovery.

Following the group session, the mental health professional stopped by our table and introduced herself. She hadn’t yet had a one-on-one session with our son but said it’s scheduled soon. My husband and I were glad to have a few minutes to chat with her and convey our support and express how important it is that mental health issues be addressed. Hopefully, this provided helpful context for the work they will do together.

Next there was an hour for visiting. By this time, two other families came – one to celebrate a birthday and another bringing a pizza dinner for their son.

We brought our son some things, too – his winter coat, hat and gloves, some prepackaged Rice Krispee and Peanut Butter Chocolate bars, and some Halloween candy.

It was a good evening and we are filled with encouragement. Because we’ve been through this before, we have greater perspective on the recovery process – we can be realistic and hopeful.

We’ll be back this weekend and will certainly attend future family nights.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved



30 Days of Gratitude 2017

Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite holiday. It’s a celebration and recognition of all that is good, and it’s a gathering of family and friends to share a wonderful meal.

Several years ago, in the chaos of our son’s addiction, I decided to start posting one example of gratitude each day during November. The idea took off and the OYA Community began sharing their examples of gratitude on Twitter and Facebook. I hope you will join us this year with the hashtag #Gratitude2017 to share your blessings.

This year, our son is back in treatment. We don’t know yet if he will be out for Thanksgiving or if we will be traveling over the river and through the woods to visit him. What we do know is that he is doing what he needs to do to return to sobriety and recovery. For this, we are grateful.

Day 1 – Today, I am grateful that we are going to visit our son this evening and will attend the family program at his treatment center. We’ve had a couple of brief phone calls since he started last week, but this will be our first in-person visit and I can’t wait to see him, hug him and be with him.  #Gratitude2017

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved