#TBT – Addiction … Truth for 24 Hours

Three years ago, Midwestern Mama contemplated what it would be like if her son could tell the truth for 24 hours. Here’s a column that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. #TrustFeelsGood #OYACommunity


You know the saying … we’ve come a long way, baby. And thank goodness for that!


#SoberSummer 2015

Click on the Our Young Addicts guide to a Sober Summer#SoberSummer – Resources for OYA Parents – 2015

Or follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #SoberSummer.  Below, we’ve compiled some of our tips:

 OYA_logo_final_reverse_rgb Resources for Parents

Follow @OurYoungAddicts on Twitter for #SoberSummer Tips

Become part of the #OYACommunity

The following resources may be helpful to parents who are concerned about a young person’s substance use. These resources do not imply endorsement by Our Young Addicts or the #OYACommunity.

Updated May 26, 2015

Reality & Statistics

The Courage to Speak Foundation has prepared some important statistics about the prevalence of youth substance use during the summer, and more importantly, some tips.


Weekends tend to be more conducive to kids and substance use, so up the effort to know their plans and whereabouts.

In terms of first-time use of marijuana, more than 4,500 youth start using it on an average day in June and July, as opposed to about 3,000 to 4,000 youths during the other months. http://www.teendrugabuseprevention.com/summer-substance-abuse/

More great resources for #SoberSummer #OYACommunity from @CourageToSpeak http://www.teendrugabuseprevention.com/summer-substance-abuse/


Need ideas on having a healthy, productive conversation? http://www.drugfree.org/resources/8-ways-to-talk-with-your-teen-about-drugs-and-alcohol/

If there are drug/alcohol related stories in the news, use these as opportunities to talk with your kids.

Have the talk early on before kids are confronted with choices about drug/alcohol use.


Touch base with your kids throughout the day and night. Face to face is best. Phone is better than text.

Agree with your kids that they can call you for a ride – no questions asked – if they end up at a gathering with drug/alcohol use.

Don’t ask the siblings to be tattletales, but do know that siblings often spot substance use before parents. Keep lines of communication open.

The Other Parents:

Most parents and professionals agree: Get to know the other parents. Exchange names and phone numbers, and plan to stay in touch throughout the summer.

Get phone numbers for the responsible adult who will be present when your kid is hanging out at someone else’s home. Be sure to meet the adult face to face, if possible.

Speak Up:

Keep an eye on your kid’s friends, and don’t be afraid to let them – or their parents – know if you’re concerned about drug or alcohol use. Don’t just stand by.

If you need to talk to a kid or their parent, don’t accuse or make judgments. Just offer concern and direct them to resources like @Drug-free. http://www.drugfree.org/resources/8-ways-to-talk-with-your-teen-about-drugs-and-alcohol/

Don’t let there be “elephants” in the room.

Have Some Rules:

Enforce a curfew. Be wary of last-minute sleepover requests.

Encourage regular sleep routines during the summer. Not too many sleepovers or all-nighters.

Be wary of last-minute sleepover requests.

Insist that kids keep their bedrooms and closets reasonably picked up. It’s harder to hide substances and paraphernalia when things are neat and orderly.

Car Keys, Please:

If your kid is of driving age, insist and reinforce NO DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE of alcohol or drugs, including pot.

Revisit the “car contract” with your kid regarding impaired driving. Be their safe ride home, if necessary.

Be a Role Model:

Amid your own summer fun, be a role model with responsible alcohol use. If you’re in recovery, role model your sobriety.

If you are in recovery, role model your sobriety.

Alcohol & Drugs:

The teen brain is at great risk from the dangers of substance use. Learn more: http://fcd.org/fcd_teen_brain.html

Are kids showing up with beverages when they come over to your house? Make sure these aren’t spiked with alcohol.

If you have alcohol in your home, keep a mental inventory of how much. Kids may spike drinks and may even replace liquid with water so you won’t know.

Be the host family for summer bonfires instead of your kid going to someone else’s home, and be a responsible host parent – NO DRUGS or ALCOHOL.

Know the Signs of Substance Use:

Keep an eye out for signs of substance use: lighters, Visine, etc.

Hug your kids when they come home – and when you do, take a good smell. Anything odd?

Smell your kid’s clothes. Does it smell like pot or smoke? Does it smell like Fabreeze or cologne to cover up other scents?

Read Midwestern Mama’s blog post: The Nose Knows.

Have eye contact with your kid. Red? Bloodshot? Bags?

Keep Them Occupied:

A part-time job or a volunteer commitment during the summer is a great way to give kids some structure, responsibility and accountability.

Give your kids responsibility and hold them accountable. Chores, anyone?

Remember the days when kids set reading goals for the summer? Find a book you’d both enjoy, and use it as a way to have conversations about their ideas.

Continuing with sports or trying out a new one is another way to keep kids sober – even better if it’s something you can do together.

Be a Family:

Have family meals together as often as possible. Let them plan and prepare some, too

Plan a vacation of staycation that kids can look forward to during the summer. Having a future plan can help them make wise choices about drug/alcohol use.

Include your kids in planning for upcoming summer holidays and gatherings: Fourth of July, family reunions and other traditions. Set expectations that they will be there and participate.

Look at old photos and videos of summers past. Remind kids of the good times.

Kids are less likely to use substances if they are visiting a grandparent, so encourage a visit or so during the summer. Also keep in mind that grandparents are often the more trusted adult of influence in a kid’s life.

Crazy idea! Spend time with your kids this summer:)

Summer Survival Guide from Your Teen Magazine for Parents:


In addition to many great topics, Your Teen Magazine for Parents includes a section on Drugs & Alcohol, and it has prepared a Summer Survival Guide for parents of teens.


We have also included a link to the guide in our Resources section.

Talk About Money:

Have a money check in with kids throughout the summer. How much are they earning and spending? Substances aren’t free, so a spending pattern may be a clue.

Keep track of your own wallet and even the family change jar. Kids who are spending on drugs/alcohol may “help themselves.”

Seek Professional Help:

Don’t go it alone, if you’re concerned about your kid’s substance you – find an addiction professional to talk about assessments and options. Develop a plan.

Schools get great information on substance-use prevention and as parents we can tap these resources. https://www.nais.org/Articles/Documents/FCD%20Prevention%20Source%20e-Journal.pdf

Take action if you’re concerned about your kid using substances – insist on an assessment with a professional and get a drug test.

Treatment & Recovery

Drug and alcohol use is dangerous for young adults, but not every kid has addiction or needs treatment. Seek professional guidance.

If your kid does have a problem with substances, act quickly but prudently to find a qualified program that meets their needs and offers evidence-based programs.

If your kid is in recovery, encourage them to check out Facebook and other social media e.g., Young People in Recovery for ideas and activities.

School’s Out for Summer – Overcoming Addiction

After a successful return to college, Midwestern Mama’s son is taking a break from classes this summer with plans to return in the fall. Without the structure and routine of classes, homework and studying, how will he spend his time this summer?

School's Out for Summer

Three things have undermined my son’s experience with overcoming addiction: time on his hands, boredom and money. When one or more of these has been present, his drug use would take control. Now, 10 months sober he is learning to work through these- even though summer without college classes could present a challenge.

During Addiction:

Time: When very little interests you, even amid commitments like school, sports and a part-time job, you end up with a lot of time on your hands. When you no longer have to go to school and you don’t have sports or a job, then you sit around a lot. Sitting around leads to boredom.

Boredom: More than anything, my son has been living with boredom most of his life. Before drugs, he would easily get bored even with seemingly exciting things to engage his interest. No matter what, I can’t solve this for him. Even in his sobriety, not much interests him. He craves excitement, yet nothing ever seems to capture his attention for long.

He cites boredom as one of the main reasons he was curious to try marijuana as a teenager. It wasn’t peer pressure or wanting to fit it; it was curiosity. For a while, it certainly seemed that marijuana was his interest, his obsession really. Until, it wasn’t and then he was on to other drugs like opiates. Until, it was addiction and consequences, which controlled his ability or ambition to stop.

Money: From the time he was a little kid, money burned a hole in his pocket. At first, it was altruistically – putting all his birthday money in the donation jar at the zoo. Later, it was impulsively for instant gratification – buying a game or toy immediately and discovering it wasn’t as much fun as he thought it was going to be.

During addiction, having money from a part-time job meant he could fund his habit instead of saving for college (even though that wasn’t the agreement). Getting a tax refund meant, spending it on drugs. Getting gift cards meant selling these for drugs.

During Sobriety & Recovery:

Since going through treatment last summer and committing to sobriety and recovery during the past 10 months, he’s successfully addressed two out of three of these items – time on his hands and money.

Time: The treatment program plus part-time college classes and part-time job have filled his time while still allowing him the downtime that he needs to get through each day. However, with school out, he now has four days a week where he doesn’t have a time commitment. He’d like to increase his work schedule to cover the available hours and to earn more money for things like tuition in the fall and buying a car.

Money: The part-time job has helped him pay off debts incurred during addiction and has given him spending cash to buy some new clothes, get presents for family members on their birthdays, go to a movie, etc. Because he has set some goals such as school in the fall and getting a car, he seems more committed to saving money instead of spending it as impulsively as in the past.

Boredom: This remains the kicker. He still goes through the motions without a lot of zest or interest – save for the family dog. He doesn’t have much of a social life. This is the piece that’s been on my mind. At least with school schedule over the past semester, he had built in commitment and now he’s just got the part-time job …which means could have time on this hands and money … which means????

Time will tell. We’ve had a few conversations about the new routine. In the past, these conversations would have gone nowhere, and although I don’t have a sense what what’s going to happen I am more confident than ever before that he’s aware of the triggers and will come through with a plan that works for him. Silly me, I just wish I knew what it was! #SoberSummer

Midwestern Mama

P.S. Just as we headed into the Memorial Day weekend, my son completed an application to transfer from community college to a bachelor’s degree program at a local university. In doing so, he had to secure a transcript (albeit a blank one) from the college he briefly attended after high school; there was a hold on his account due to a fine for underage drinking and for possession of marijuana in the dorms – one of the pivotal lows of his addiction and the one that got him kicked out. Now four and a half years later, he paid this and signed up for extra hours at work to cover the expense. How far he’s come this year!

#TBT – The First Four Columns on Parenting a Young Addict

Midwestern Mama started writing about her son’s addiction in November 2011. Even in the throes of chaos, she wanted to share experiences, resources and hopes for parents and professionals. #TBT will feature past columns.

Throw Back Thursday or #TBT is an online phenomenon. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past, and hopefully gain perspective on the present. I’ve decided to post some of the early columns that I wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press that chronicle our family’s experience with parenting a young person addicted to drugs.

PioneerPress Minn Moms – First Four Columns

#SoberSummer – With School Coming to a Close, Schedules & Mindsets are Soon to Change

It’s almost summer and without the structure of school it may trigger substance use. Join #OYACommunity for tips on a #SoberSummer for our kids.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer. Kids may have a few weeks left in school, but a major shift in mindset and in schedules is about to take place, and it can trigger substance use. Now is the time for parents and other adults of influence to help our kids have a #SoberSummer.

Over the next few weeks, let’s share tips and resources. Check out #OYACommnity on Twitter, Facebook and here on the blog for ideas. One of the many fantastic resources is The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. In addition to the FREE help line for parents (below), the website is full of resources including conversation guides.

If you’re concerned about your child, do not hesitate to call The Parents Toll-Free Helpline – 1-855-DRUGFREE – (1-855-378-4373) Mon.-Fri. – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST. If you are in need of immediate or emergency services, call 911 or a 24-hour crisis hotline.

Our middle kid tells us that his first use was marijuana during the summer between junior and senior years of high school. It was with a kid a year older who lived down the street. Although we had our hunches – Mom Radar as I call it — it wasn’t for about another six months before we definitively discovered his drug use and it was a lot more than pot.

He went from experimenting to abusing to addiction in a relatively short period of time and it has taken years of consequences for him to get on the path to recovery. That is why I advocate becoming aware of the signs of substance use and then taking action.

With summer upon us, let’s join together to make this a #SoberSummer for our kids.

Midwestern Mama

Hope, Belief and a Team on the Addiction Journey

Midwestern Mama recently participated in a podcast with 100 Pedals that highlights the origins of Our Young Addicts and formation of the #OYA Community.

For your listening pleasure and some key takeaways for parents and professionals:


Midwestern Mama

Making the Grade – From Addiction to Academic Achievement

Whoo-hoo! Midwestern Mama’s son has successfully completed a semester of college – sober and with good grades.

Until this week, my son had taken college classes here and there. A few he took as part of our school district’s PSEO (post secondary education option) program – mostly because he’s gifted in math and had taken all the courses available at high school. A few he took after high school graduation, but these he either didn’t complete or didn’t meet minimum grade requirements to continue.

When he graduated (just barely) from high school in 2010, his addiction was full on and he had no interest in going to college in spite of a wonderful scholarship and opportunity to play on the men’s tennis team. Instead, he enrolled in community college and then proceeded to skip classes and within a month or so dropped out without paying the balance of his tuition.

In 2011, he decided the college opportunity was better than what he was doing at the time, so he gratefully thought he’d get his act together and start up for spring semester. That didn’t go so well. Readers of this blog know that the first weekend on campus landed him in the ER and detox, and soon after in getting kicked off the tennis team and out of campus housing.

A year later, one of the treatment programs he attended encouraged us, and him, to go back to community college. Same old, same old. He was using drugs, didn’t do assignments, didn’t go to class. While he technically completed two classes, his grades reflected his lack of commitment and the college placed him on academic probation.

Fast forward, at age 22, as his childhood friends were graduating and getting “big-boy” jobs, he embraced sobriety and recovery. He decided to go back to college for spring semester 2015.

With hopeful trepidation, he addressed academic probation with a heartfelt letter of appeal and asked for admission. It was granted and he signed up for the maximum number of credits allowed as part of academic probation – 8 credits, two classes.

He took the placement exam and scored well but it indicated that he should go back a course or two in math. Stubborn as always, he decided proceed with the next course anyway – differential equations and linear algebra. Tough classes regardless of having completed the prerequisites … even tougher when that was five years ago.

The first week, he realized he was in over his head. It’s like taking a language but not speaking it for five years and then thinking you can pick up right where you left off. Instead of dropping the class, he put in long hours and took out a highlighter as he used “Calculus for Dummies” to reacquaint himself with the topic. Night after night, he struggled.

Social anxiety precluded him from connecting with the teacher or other students, and he failed the first test miserably. At this point it was too late to drop the class, and being on academic probation from his addiction days meant that he might not get off it if he didn’t get a B or better in the class.

Of course, I went into problem-solving mode. (Old habits, right?) My son said he was well aware of his options, including getting tutor. (Old communications style, right?) Being aware of options and taking action are two different things, so he continued to struggle.

Shortly thereafter, another mom on Twitter turned me on to tutoring source, so I signed up and found local options for my son. My husband and I said, this is our gift to you – here are names, contact info and we’ll pay the fee. To our surprise and delight, he took us up on the offer.

The first tutor he met with was a dud. I encouraged him to try another. He did, and this one turned out to be, “awesome.” They have worked together several times now and my son’s grade and confidence have soared.

He continued to put forth significant effort – hours and hours each day to mastering the material. The final exam is today, and while we don’t know what grade he will receive, we do know that he’s learned something of infinite value and we are confident that he will be off academic probation.

Never in 22 years have I seen my son put forth such effort and discipline. I am proud. More importantly, I know he is proud, too!

Denial Leads to Enabling Young Addicts

Friendships among neighbors often go awry when kids are using drugs and alcohol, and especially when there is denial and enabling behavior. Midwestern Mama respectfully and sadly shakes her head at the continuing chaos down the street.

Just a few houses down the street from us lives a young addict. At 24-years old, he’s been using, and abusing, drugs and alcohol since sophomore or junior year of high school.

When my son was curious and wanted to try marijuana, this was the kid he sought out. Although they had been acquaintances, it wasn’t until they started using together that they became friends, if you can even call it friendship. From there, a tumultuous relationship ensued, and our relationship with the parents went awry.

At first we tried to engage with the parents. They had become our friends over the years. We were open about our son’s situation and our concerns. Interestingly, they would share this with their son, who would share it with our son, and just like the game of telephone, the message was always messed up. This became detrimental to our relationship with our son and toward efforts to encourage him to get help.

We never blamed our neighbor’s son or passed judgment on him or on them. We realized he had his own challenges and consequences just as our son had his.

From time to time, the other parents would tell us of the horrors happening in their house, including overdoses and violent threats toward their family members. Each time they would say, “Whatcha gonna do?”

What are you going to do? Stop denying the problem! Stop enabling the situation!

It sounds so simple, but admittedly it’s far from easy … until the day when parents realize that we have to do something. That moment came early for us, and it was not easy nor was it always clear how to distinguish loving support from enabling. The more we worked at it, however, the clearer it became.

Yesterday, I was reminded of the dangers of denial and enabling young addicts.

The neighbor’s future daughter in-law (she’s with their younger son) said the user had threatened her and the parents did nothing. She moved out saying enough is enough, enough of the enabling.

In time, our son – after many, many consequences and heart-wrenching experiences including relapse – did successfully complete a treatment program. Today, he is almost 10 months sober, is back in college part time, has a part-time job. He is living at home, continues to see an addiction counselor and a mental health therapist.

We are so grateful for our son’s efforts and recovery. We are healing, too.

Meanwhile, the chaos and dysfunction of addiction continues down the street, and I only hope it ends before it’s too late.

From Addiction to #OYACommunity

Sunday night reflection.  Our Young Addicts all started with a single word: Addiction. It has grown into a word that means many, together: #OYACommunity

In what seems like eons, but in reality spans 2009 – 2015, I’ve penned at least IMG_54751,000,000 words;  as of today, nearly 7,000 tweets;  well over 1,000 pages of draft copy, 100-plus blog posts. Additionally, for a few years, I wrote a bi-weekly newspaper column that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and I continue to write for a feature article here and there for magazines.

How did it all start? It started with concerns about my teen-age son. Thing were happening so quickly that it was hard to keep track of everything, so I began taking notes in simple, black-and-white composition books. From there, I would type up the notes to maintain a chronology of professionals we consulted, of my son’s behavior, words and actions, and of the maze of solutions we pursued.  Later, the notebooks became my journal that I took to Ala-non meetings and to sessions with a therapist to work through feelings, concerns and hopes.

All together, these hand-written pages were the foundation for Our Young Addicts, a concept that is evolving from addiction to community, and I could not be prouder or more excited about the future.

Midwestern Mama