Tradition and Transition – Christmas in Rehab

Traditions are the mainstay of holidays.  We all look forward to certain activities, foods, friends and family.  We hold to these and honor the way we’ve always done things but sometimes changes come along.  Like some many things in life, we can view change as challenge or opportunity.

This year, our Christmas celebration will be different and although that brings nostalgia and a certain discomfort with the prospect of changing tradition, it also comes with hope.  One big part of our changed tradition this year will be that our son is in rehab; he will miss being part of our traditional gathering and activity, and he is understandably a bit sad about this.  In sober times and high times, he’s always been a key personality in our holidays.

Instead, his treatment center is holding visiting hours on Christmas Day from 12:30 to 4 p.m.  Ordinarily, this is the time we would be preparing and enjoying a feast at his grandmother’s house.  The choice of where to be and what to do is obvious for us.  We will be heading over the river and through the woods to the treatment center – mom, dad, big sister and little brother.  We’ll be bringing commercially-prepared treats (my homemade cookies, fudge and peanut butter balls are stashed in the freezer for him to enjoy upon his release in the new year).  We’ll be bringing a bag full of toys (games, actually) to enjoy as a family — UNO, Cribbage, Yahtzee and others.  While it will be a different Christmas Day celebration, it will be no less of a celebration, and one we are all looking forward to.

All that positivity aside, I speak the truth when I know how odd it will feel when he’s not at our dining room table on Christmas Eve for our family’s dinner, and it will be awfully quiet on Christmas morning when he’s not there to discover what Santa left in his stocking or open presents.  At the same time, he’s a young adult and would be transitioning to new holiday routines anyway at some point, so sobriety and recovery are an excellent way to make the transition.

Happy holidays, all!

Midwestern Mama


Progress is Progres – an Update on Rehab and Recovery

Tomorrow marks two weeks in at rehab.  We attended a family session with our son’s counselor over the weekend.  Many of our suspicions were confirmed as he came clean on more details of the recent years.  Their approach is Health Realization, which seems a good fit for him.  They’ve got him on Wellbutrin for depression and Naltrexone for his Heroin/opiate use (one of those confirmed suspicions – he’s more than a Pothead as we always figured).  He’ll wrap up there the first week of January and then do 90 days at a MICD halfway house followed by up to six months at a sober-living house.  We are so proud of him for starting this and hopeful he will stick with it; I believe he has a long and difficult recovery ahead for himself.  We knew he was in pain, and he is, but it’s lifting and his spirits are good. 

There will be a visiting day on Christmas Eve.  Although I’m sad that he will not be with us for our family activities at home, I know he’s where he needs to be and that we are all receiving the gift of recovery.

Throughout this journey of addiction, I have continued to seek information and support.  Learning has helped keep things in perspective.  Communing with others has helped us feel less alone.  Some of the things we have learned have been hard and ugly, but knowledge is empowering.  Many of the relationships we have formed have been the difference between our own sanity and serenity.  We are grateful and know we will progress along with our son on the difficult path ahead.

Wishing you all guidance and support on the path along with Our Young Addicts.

Midwestern Mama


Gifts for Young Addicts – Pioneer Press (December 2011)

I find it helpful and healing to look back at past columns and journal entries.  Here’s one from a couple of years ago that ties in with the holiday season. 

A Real Mom: What gifts can you give a child with addiction?
MinnMoms columnist Press
Posted:12/04/2011 05:33:03 PM CST
Without hesitating, parents are natural givers. It starts with the miraculous gift of life and continues with gifts of protection, encouragement,
sustenance, love, praise, boundaries, hope, strength and more.
We give our best without expectation for anything in return. All the while, we’re prone to questioning if we could do better or do more. It is
the unwritten code of parenting, the natural order, the way it is. Our parenting report card may not be perfect, but it’s all A’s for effort. It is
our heart that tells us if we’ve given well, if it’s good enough.
When our son was little, it was easy to give gifts that absolutely delighted him emotionally and materially. It showed in his face and in his
During this season of giving, I’m at a loss what to give our 19-year-old son. Certainly there are things he needs – things we’d ordinarily give
him if he was not living a transient, unemployed, addicted lifestyle further exacerbated by deceit and denial. It’s far more complicated
because material gifts (clothes, food, money and housing) fall within the taboo category of enabling, the major no-no of addiction.
Instead, we give him our prayers daily – actually, multiple times day and night when I wake up at 3 a.m. and wonder if he’s warm and safe.
We give him our love. We give him our commitment to help. We give him our best wishes. We give him all we’ve got and we keep trying to
come up with something more, something better, something of affirmation and value.
We’re learning to give him the freedom and respect to live with the outcomes of addiction and mental health, to own his problems,
challenges and choices. This is the gift I understand in my mind but find difficult to reconcile with my heart.
There are other things we have given him that I wish we hadn’t, at least not for as long as we did. We gave him benefit of the doubt way too
many times. We gave him chances to change, only to be shortchanged by more of the same. We gave him a clean slate more times than
he’s aware, including paying off substantial debts with the idea that we don’t want a poor credit record to hurt him once he gets his life
We also forgave him for all we went through the past few years because we finally realized that he didn’t do these things on purpose or to
us. A combination of drugs and mental health issues has influenced his actions and choices beyond his control.
We’ve made amends, too, by realizing he is emotionally starved for the comfort and joy that home and family represent. And while we can’t
give him our trust these days to live in our home, we do welcome him to visit, to curl up in a blanket by the fireplace, to play with his little
brother and to hold hands around the table in grace before sharing a home-cooked meal.
Emotional gifts are sustaining but often aren’t noticed or appreciated unless these are absent. Material gifts, however, can be just as
important because these are physical reminders, even symbols. And this is the season of material gifts, things wrapped up in paper with
ribbons and small notions that Santa puts in stockings.
I suggested he put together a Christmas list, so we’ll see if he does and whether there are items we can give with good conscience – items
we don’t think he’d sell or leave unused. The last couple of years, his opened presents would stay unused in a pile on his bedroom floor.
The idyllic mother image in my mind compels me to pile gifts under the tree that will magically trigger a transformation in him from despair to
delight, from pessimism to optimism, from stubborn to open minded, from addiction to recovery.
During the gift-opening frenzy, sadly, I know that we’ll keep an eye on any cash that his siblings or cousins receive from relatives because
our son has had sticky fingers. (Three times in the past year he stole his little brother’s wallet full of allowance he’d been saving for an iPod;
his older sister has had cash taken from her purse; and, this summer he stole money that his grandmother gave to his cousin for doing
chores around her house. Parents of addicts nod their heads, yep, it’s part and parcel.)
Any ideas what we should wrap up for him? I know we’ll give the gifts that keep on giving – love, commitment, hope – and probably some
socks, underwear, gloves, books and favorite candies.
With no job at present, he said he won’t be able to give presents this year. It’s nice that he wants to give, but we don’t expect anything nor
do we want something he picked up at the store.
The gift we want is a gift he’ll give himself – the gift of help, of sobriety and recovery, of health and happiness.
R.M. is a Twin Cities mother who will chronicle her family’s experiences with her son’s drug addiction as a guest columnist here.

Thanks for reading,

Midwestern Mama

Tis the season of giving.

I enjoy giving gifts but admit that I’m not that confident or creative when it comes to picking out that perfect something.  Over the past several years, I’ve been particularly challenged by what to give Our Young Addict. 

Later on I will post a column I wrote on this topic a few years back.  Meanwhile, here’s a link with some ideas.

What will you give Your Young Addict?  If only we could give them the gifts of sobriety and recovery, but that is a gift we can only give ourselves.

Midwestern Mama

So far, so good

Yesterday I visited my son at treatment – what a positive experience.  First off, he looked the best I’ve seen him in a very long time.  He was smiling, his eyes sparkled and he even seemed to be standing a bit taller.  A warm bed, sleep, and regular meals all seem to be agreeing with him.  He spoke about the Health Realization model that this center takes for mental health and addiction.  He was hopeful and grateful.

It could be the new-car smell, but for now that’s OK.  It’s the best foundation for the hard work ahead.  As some point this week, my husband and I will meet with our son and his counselor to learn more about the treatment plan.

Midwestern Mama

Rehab in Progress: Relief for the Parents

It’s only Day 3 but I’m feeling encouraged by our son’s treatment.  I called the front desk the first night and got a curt response — they couldn’t tell me anything, but said I could leave a message. 

However, last night, my son called from the dorms.  In the scheme of things he sounded OK although he reported that it was all very boring and pointless, a pretty typical response from him.  However, he said, “I guess I’ll stick it out.” 

One item he didn’t think to bring were shower slippers, so I said we would figure out how to get some to him.  And we did.  He has a cousin and great aunt and uncle who live near the treatment center. They kindly ran to Target and got a pair to drop off later that evening.  While he’s not yet permitted visitors, I feel good knowing that he received the shower slippers so quickly and perhaps will draw the conclusion that we truly care.

This afternoon, I got a call from the Center.  My heart stopped, but it was a good call.  Our son had signed information release forms for us and added us to the list for visitation in the upcoming weeks.  His counselor will let us know if and when we should visit.  There is also some sort of family participation program that we can attend.  More info to come.

These may seem like small things, but given that a few years ago our son ran away from a wilderness treatment program in Montana after just nine days we know we can expect him to bolt from a program he doesn’t feel is good for him (even if it really is).

It’s hard to stick with something that challenges your habits and beliefs, but that’s a big part of treatment and the much needed element for our son to begin recovery. 

I am grateful for each day that he sticks with it.  It’s a relief even if just for today!

Midwestern Mama


The Journey Continues – Treatment Day 2

Yesterday morning my son entered a 28-day residential treatment program for dual diagnosis – MICD (mental illness & chemical dependency). He was deemed “highly appropriate ” for the program. We hope he will embrace this gift of time to commit to understanding his challenges, feelings, actions and addiction. We pray he is ready and willing for recovery.

Although he is not happy about going to treatment, he realized he no longer has any other options.  He did not put up nearly as much fight as he has previously.  Perhaps his resign will rally as relief once he begins the hard, but insightful work ahead.

Midwestern Mama