Walking on the Wild Side

We are sharing your blog on our site and posting it to our FB page and twitter. This blog is for all of us who love an addict.

A Walk on the Wild Side

800px-Near-Death-Experience_Illustration public domain Near Death Experience Illustration public domain

If someone who is close to you is suffering from drug addiction, you know what I’m talking about.  Addiction, as horrible as it is for addicts, can be terrifying to those who love them as well.  Like it or not, if we choose to be in their lives and support them while they fight this cruel affliction, we’re taking a walk on the wild side, going places emotionally and spiritually, and sometimes even physically, that are dark and scary.

And often we’re alone.

Too often when all hell breaks loose, and the dust settles, one lone family member is left standing to walk this scary path alone with their loved one.  Most others get blown away, or turn away, or run away eventually.  But a mom, a dad, a sister, a lover–hopefully for the addict’s sake, one of us remains behind.  One of us stays by their side all…

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That Dang Elephant Won’t Leave the Room

You’re familiar with the concept of the elephant in the room – the thing we all know is there but that we ignore or pretend it isn’t there.  Sometimes we do this to retain harmony.  Sometimes we do it to avoid conflict.  Sometimes we mention the elephant but then change the topic.  Sometimes, we know it’s an exhausted topic with nothing new to add.  And sometimes, we say to heck with the elephant and just talk about it anyway — it ends up being a one-sided conversation or a two-way disaster.  The elephant for our family is anything related to our son’s addiction, treatment and recovery.

We get along pretty well with our son these days unless we bring up his situation. Goodness knows, if we don’t bring it up, he won’t.  That’s when it gets really uncomfortable because the challenges continue and his choices continue to have undesired consequences.

Our son’s counselor at the recovery program (a halfway house) recommended a 90-day treatment plan.  He’s completed 6o days but wants to be done.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have housing and moving back home is not a good option – in anyone’s opinion.  He made the decision two weeks ago and today is his last day there.  He hasn’t shared this with us directly so it’s really dicey to bring it up.

Without housing, it will be difficult for him to keep his employment.  Without employment, it will be difficult for him to pay for housing.  This cycle has happened several times before.  In the past, it has escalated his drug use.  I know one thing that is driving his desire to be out of the program is he believes he can drink and use recreationally without it leading to abuse.  As much as he dislikes structure and accountability, he withers without it and he’s not all that motivated to go to meetings or counseling – doesn’t find value in it he says.  All this points to an unfortunate truth – he’s still struggling and he’s not ready or open to help from his program, AA, NA, his counselor or from us.

I want to talk to him about it – his feelings, his concerns, his needs, his worries, his hopes, his plans.  I’ve reached out to him with no response until this morning.  The reply was pleasant enough, but it entirely avoided the conversation on any level.

Yes, the elephant is still here.

Midwestern Mama





Absolutely, please share!

Last week I was talking with one of the professionals who has been with us from midway in our son’s journey.  As I was sharing updates, including pride in the progress Mid Atlantic Mom and I are creating with Our Young Addicts on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, the professional asked if he could share these resources with another client.

Absolutely! (By the way – BTW – I never knew an online experience could prove so valuable until I gave it a try. So,we encourage others to see if it can help them.)

I was once just like this client – a parent looking for resources and trying to do the right things for my son and for myself not to mention for my husband and our other children.  Some days, I truly felt like my roles and responsibilities were colliding. I was acting part on gut and part on advice from others. In time, I was acting on a more spiritual, Higher Power  I desperately wanted someone to give me a simple three-step solution to stop my son from abusing drugs, to get him into treatment and recovery, and to get him back on track with a happy, healthy life.  It felt like there should be something like 1) have a direct, caring and honest conversation with him about our concerns, 2) take him to a doctor or counselor who will enroll him in treatment, and 3) go back to college … and BTW, tell your parents you are sorry for all the concern you caused and thank us for all the time, money and emotions they spent trying to help you.

That plan is far from simple and even farther from realistic. No matter what we said or did, these steps didn’t go as hoped or planned.  Every effort was met with resistance, hurdles, and more.

What I’ve learned is by acting on our gut as well as taking professional advice (conventional and alternative), we continue to do “all the right things” even if the outcomes haven’t always been “right.”  I’m grateful that none of those more experienced than I have said something like,  “OMG what were you thinking Midwestern Mama – that’s the worst thing you could do.” I’d have been mortified that I was not doing the best by our son and family.  Yet, sometimes, I wish someone would have spoken up and said otherwise.  Instead, we have a report card of As for effort but results TBD and I so much want an A (or at the very least a passing grade) for results – not for ours but for our son’s.

Neither Mid Atlantic Mom nor I have the answers, but we’ve each hit on a trifecta that works – one part gut (mom radar), one part advice (a mixture of professional, parental and alternative) and one part faithful spirit (Al-anon or similar).  Please share our resource so that it becomes richer with your contributions – be these experience, professional, alternative, parental, spiritual or whatever works.

We will keep sharing.  Please keep letting us know what’s working – or not working – for you.

Here for you,

Midwestern Mama

Same Here, It’s Time to Act by Getting Smart

Mid Atlantic Mom’s post about substance-abuse education echoes so many of the things my family has experienced.  That’s the thing about addiction – as much as there are unique situations, there are also many common aspects.

Similarly, our three children all participated in D.A.R.E. as part of their schools’ fifth grade curriculum — one was even the selected speaker for the D.A.R.E. graduation program.  In our home, we have practiced good role modeling and have had open conversations about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, including honesty about our own experiences as casual drinkers and those of family members who have had substance-abuse problems.

Unfortunately all the education and open conversations had little impact on our two older children.  Our daughter learned a few hard lessons with partying in high school and college. At one point we were quite concerned and asked her to seek a professional evaluation.  It revealed that she was at-risk for developing a problem.  For awhile, she dismissed this and continued until she realized the potential dangers that were looming if she continued.  She educated herself, got counseling and poured herself into school and her career.  Today, she has a much healthier relationship with alcohol and she has an appreciation of the precarious nature of alcohol an drug use.

Our middle son is still learning lessons about drugs and alcohol.  He fits the classic definition of addiction – a progressive condition of continued use inspite of consequences.  Today, he has completed treatment (the first time, he ran away without completing; the second program was outpatient, he completed it but went right back to using; the third time, he tried a different program and completed it).  He is now participating in a recovery program.  He’s itchy to get out and be free of meetings.  He thinks he’s ready to do things on his own.  Time will tell.

Our youngest son starts high school this fall.  He has witnessed the reality of addiction.  Will this be enough to prevent him from experimenting? from becoming an addict?  We don’t know.  We can only continue to educate and talk about it.

As MAM points out, often other parents are aware that the kids are using and they say or do nothing.  Not because they are bad parents but because they don’t realize the harm or don’t recognize the potential of addiction – it’s just kids being kids, right? Maybe not.

We have neighbors whose drug-addict kids still use in their homes and have experienced overdoses, suicide attempts and threats of violence toward other family members.  We have friends of our middle son who knew he was using but didn’t want to say anything to us, even when he was under 18.  I’m not sure if it’s stigma that prevents them from taking action or if it’s fear of their kids hating them.

Overall, when I’ve shared with friends and colleagues about our son’s problems, they have been empathetic and not at all judgmental.

Knowing what to do, what steps to take is so overwhelming because no-one has the perfect answer.  All I do know is we have to keep trying to get our kids the help they need even if it means there’s the potential for negative stigma or for a faltering relationship.  Both can be overcome in time.

For me, becoming more educated about substance abuse and addiction has actually been liberating and energizing.  I am grateful for learning so much and continuing to learn.  That’s why we are here.

Along with MAM, I welcome the conversation.  Let’s chat.

Midwestern Mama

In past columns I’ve written

Let’s Chat

One of our goals at Our Young Addicts is to provide a place where family and friends of young addicts can talk to each other in a relatively anonymous way.  We expect to be able to provide a forum for that kind of interaction on our web site, it’s just that we haven’t developed it yet.  It’s in the works though!

In the meantime we are offering a secret Facebook group to those of you who want to connect in a meaningful way.  To join the group you must first friend our Facebook group Our Young Addicts.  https://www.facebook.com/OurYoungAddicts   After you join, send us a direct message asking us to add you to the group Family and Friends Place and we will  add you.  From there you can chat with us or others in the group.

Your profile WILL be visible to others in the group but the general Facebook public will not see that you are part of the group.

We respect the privacy of you and your young addicts and expect all who join the group to have the same respect for each other.

Looking forward to connecting with you.

Our Young Addicts

Email ouryoungaddicts@gmail.com

Twitter @ouryoungaddicts