The Avocado Won, This Time

avocado-pit-eat-health-usesI’ll be taking on the world one handed this week. It’s not by choice rather by accident.

It’s a good reminder that you never know what the day will bring, and that is absolutely a lesson that my son’s addiction and recovery has taught us.

Saturday morning I was preparing an avocado and went to remove the pit, as I routinely do by piercing it with the tip of a steak knife and giving it a gentle twist. Oops, the knife slipped and lacerated the underside of my left thumb and nicked the tendon. My thumb is now loosely stitched and fully immobilized until I see the hand specialist on Tuesday to find out what’s next for healing.

That means I’ll be tweeting and blogging one handed, and I anticipate even more typos than usual:) Thank goodness I had already submitted my blog for I Have Will so that’s one less piece to pull together.

Enough about my hand. Let me refocus this on addiction and recovery. When we were trying to figure out what was going on with our son, each day was full of ups, downs, twists and turns. At first we couldn’t anticipate what was going to happen next. In time, we learned to anticipate “something,” and “nothing” ever surprised us.

We became adept at going with whatever came our way – we had to. And, this we did not do alone. We had each other, husband and wife. We had professionals who guided us individually and as a family. We had friends and neighbors who always inquired how it was going and offered to help in any way they could. We had family – two other kids who needed us – plus grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and cousins, who rallied along with us. In short, we had a community to support “our young addict.”

We said the Serenity Prayer with renewed appreciation giving consideration to things we could and couldn’t change. It saved my sanity more than once and I still rely on its infinite wisdom to guide me.

We found blessings in “it could have been worse,” when each of my son’s steps and consequences challenged that notion. I am forever grateful that he is alive and has survived some of the worst-of-the-worst situations that a young person, let along a young addict, can face.

With hindsight, there is nothing we could have done to prevent our son from trying marijuana and progressing to opiates. We educated, communicated honestly, and supported him and more. We did “all the right things,” and still when he had the choice to use or not, he was curious to try. Although he did not set out to become an addict, his brain chemistry is such that it was not his choice; he was hooked from day one.

Just as we can’t go back and change the last seven years, I can’t go back and change Saturday morning and my run in with the avocado … however, I am confident that next time, the avocado will not win – there will be guacamole and my thumb will be intact.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: Becoming a Professional with a Focus on Helping Young Men – Part 1 of 3

Print

Today’s guest blog post is by Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, a Twin Cities-based substance use and mental health professional. Welcome to the #OYACommunity, and thank you for sharing a three-part series with our readers.

As a professional in the field of addiction, I have the privilege of helping individuals and families navigate the road to recovery. I feel grateful everyday to carry the message of hope. In my first post I will be sharing my story of recovery and how my addiction took me from the depths of despair to a place of strength and freedom. It was my experience as an addict that launched me into a place of passion to educate, prevent and treat the disease of addiction.

Experiencing Addiction

I have seen addiction from several different perspectives. As an adolescent and teenager I watched my mother lose herself to addiction. I spent many nights carrying her to bed and endless days cleaning up the aftermath of her substance use.

The disease of addiction robbed my life as a kid.

In 2003 my mother lost her battle with substances and died an, “accidental death.”

The combination of grieving the loss of my mother and the pressures of young adulthood left me open minded to methods of relief. In the process, I discovered drugs, particularly cocaine, and found the affects to be incredibly pleasurable. The relief I found in using cocaine was amazing.

In a short period of time I was using it daily. I had no idea that in the next several years my life would become empty.

Breakthrough

On January 9, 2008, I sat on the floor of my NYC studio apartment. I stared blankly at the ground and questioned the benefits of taking my own life. At 26 years old, I was a broken young man. My apartment was silent, messy and smelled of stale smoke. Beer cans and cigarette butts littered the floor. I had been heavily abusing illicit drugs, alcohol and prescription pills. In just two years, I had lost 33lbs, become addicted to 4 different substances and blown through every last dollar I had. I had isolated myself into a 400 square foot room and often times did not leave for days on end.

My relationships with friends and family were non-existent. My ability to function as a human being had vanished.

The only thing keeping me alive was my 3-year-old Boston terrier named Emma. By now, Emma looked at me with disbelief and disgust.

Reaching out to my Dad

As the hopelessness grew and the thoughts of suicide increased, I felt the presence of my father.

I recall him telling me that when I was ready, he would be there. I made the call that changed my life.

Two days later I was admitted to Hazelden in Center City, Minn., for treatment.

Within a short amount of time, I would learn how to live a sober life with unimaginable happiness. I would have relationships and feel a sense of belonging.

My purpose for living would change and I would know what it’s like to help other people.

For the first time ever, I felt like the person I wanted to be.

The Desire to Help Other People

Within a few months of being sober, I knew I wanted to help people. I was hungry to work in the human services field and felt highly motivated to support people in their recovery. After nearly 10 rejections for employment, I was offered a very entry-level position at a company called Supportive Living Services, in Brooklyn Park, Minn. With no training or education on addiction, Supportive Living Services took a chance and created an opportunity for me.

My sole purpose was designed to tell their existing clients about my experience with mental health and substance abuse and how I found a new way of living. They called this role a “peer support specialist.”

Sharing My Story

For the next 4 years I worked diligently throughout the metropolitan area, sharing my story and helping individuals get the help they needed. It was ideal, enjoyable and rewarding. I was slowly promoted to a more clinical role, however never lost my title as peer support specialist. No matter what type of position I was advanced to, I still told my story to clients to give them hope.

During my 3rd year at Supportive Living Services, I enrolled at The Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies. I spent two years educating myself about addiction and learning about the illness from an entirely new perspective – a professional perspective. I grew as a professional, but even more as a person. Having the personal experience in conjunction with the master’s level education provided me an opportunity to maximize my ability to help people. After nearly 5 years of working with Supportive Living Services, I knew it was time to move on. If I were to grow, I would need to challenge myself and continue learning.

Recognizing the Unique Needs of Young Men with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Needs

I saw a serious need for education, prevention, mentorship and guidance for young men struggling with addiction and mental health. I saw young men living with parents at age 25 after dropping out of college.

I saw these same young men turn to substances as the method to cope with anxiety and depression.

I saw young men losing hope in their selves because they could not live up to their parent’s expectations. But most of all, I saw myself. I saw lost boys living in a young man’s body.

A sizable portion of young men and women face mental health and addiction problems. The percentage of addicted young adults seeking treatment has risen steadily.

Many have been in treatment before and relapsed. Too many leave treatment against medical advice, usually driven by an addiction to opiates or a sense of overconfidence.

Families despair that their children will be lost before they can really begin to live.

The Boomerang Generation

Often dubbed the “boomerang generation” or part of a “failure to launch” epidemic, these young men often are part of the 29 percent of young adults who have moved back in with their parents and the 22 percent of young adults who report current illicit drug use.

In particular, young males are at greater risk for mental health disorders and addiction. At a critical period of their lives, they face extreme pressure from society, peers, families and themselves to “have a plan.”

These young men often struggle to establish their own identity and can occur as a result of “feeling caught” developmentally between adolescence and young adulthood.

Many do not have the tools needed to cope or deal with the pressures they face. As a result, many young men find themselves battling mental health disorders and addiction.

This group represents unique challenges for their families as well as mental health and addiction professionals. Successful treatment requires a different approach that addresses not only the addiction but also the underlying mental health issues. Additionally, treatment needs to be individualized and custom to the person receiving care. Too often, the incoming patient becomes a “number” as opposed a “person”. Lastly, the person needs to have a voice in their treatment. The young adult already feels a sense of worthlessness and lack of autonomy will increase the chances of a relapse.

The Decision to Focus my Practice

For these reasons, in August of 2014, I started my company, Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health. Our philosophy and approach is built on a person-centered, individualized and strength-based model, which builds on people positive attributes as opposed to weakness. We strongly believe that people recover and seek the help they need once a relationship is formed and trust is established between a practitioner and client. Change is only made once the client realizes that their goals do not align with the way they are living their life. People who are sick respond better with empathy and support versus confrontation and punishment. We help individuals and family navigate the rocky road of recovery.

My professional practice follows a specific guideline that I believe is instrumental to helping this struggling population. My personal story of recovery gives me the strength to fight for each patient and never lose hope in his ability to recover.

Upcoming Guest Blog Posts

In my next two posts I will discuss intervention and treatment and how these stages relate to the young adult male. Can intervention be done in a less aggressive and person-centered approach? Or do we need to use leverage as an alternative to getting young men into treatment? And, how do we alter treatment with this vulnerable population? What type of treatment provides best outcomes? All questions I will explain over the next several weeks.

Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, has a vast range of experiences working with addiction and mental health. He gained a wealth of knowledge through his own recovery coupled with extensive training: a master’s level education from the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction and an undergraduate degree in psychology and human development from Hofstra University. Following a career with several substance abuse and mental health organizations, he formed Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health.

Contact Drew:

http://drewhorowitzassociates.com/

horowitzassociates@gmail.com

651-698-7358

Experiences, Resources & Hope for Parents

Happy Monday! If last week is any indication of all the possibilities ahead, then this week is going to rock. Midwestern Mama was out of town last week on a mini vacation, had a fantastic weekend at home with the family, and is excited about what’s next for Our Young Addicts.

Road Trip

Like most of the world, Monday morning has a way of greeting us with a groan, but instead, today I’m smiling as I think about all the opportunities ahead for the Our Young Addicts community. Before I highlight this week, let me tell you about my road trip last week.

Road Trip

My youngest son – our 15-year-old – spent five days at an intensive sports training camp in Missouri. This year, my husband and I drove him there on Sunday and then had several days to take a mini vacation. Although we both did some work each morning in our hotel room, we spent the rest of the day exploring the area. We had some fantastic meals, great conversations and even saw a matinee movie.

Husband and Wife, Dad and Mom

Recently, I wrote an article for In Recovery Magazine, which will run in the September 2015 issue. It’s about the impact of a child’s addiction on the parents’ marriage. While I won’t spoil the article, I will say that our mini vacation was an example of why our marriage – although stressed by our older son’s addiction – has continued to grow stronger. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

Trust Feels Good

What made this even better was that our older son, who is now in recovery, was able to house- and dog sit without any worries whatsoever by my husband and me! That’s a huge step forward for all of us.

The Best Gift Ever

Over the weekend, I wrote a blog post for I Have Will which will run on Friday this week. It focuses on the “best gift ever.” And, again, without spoiling anything – it’s absolutely the gift my husband received for Fathers Day.

Guest Blog on Wednesday and Throw Back Thursday

This week for Our Young Addicts, we’ll continue with a guest blog post on Wednesday and with a #TBT post on Thursday. I think you’ll like both of these and find the content of great value no matter where you and our child are on the continuum of addiction, treatment and recovery.

The guest blog post will be from a substance abuse and mental health professional who shares his personal story and how his experience with addiction prompted him toward helping others. It will be a three-part series interspersed with other guest blogs from parents and young people in recovery. I am grateful for having such a wonderful community willing to share experiences, resources and hope.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts                            All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: A Student Athlete Overcomes Opiate Addiction

PrintA brave, confident young man candidly shares his story of opiate addiction – initiated by using a friend’s prescription pain medication following a sports injury during high school. Now in recovery, he has an important message for parents, coaches, student athletes and more.

It will never go away. The pain, excitement, joy, sadness, fearful, obsessive, happiness, fulfilling, and euphoric feelings I still experience when just hearing someone mention any form of opioid. I can still feel every emotion bundled into one every day of my life. Having experienced the addiction of opioids I am forever lost in its vice grip that will never let go.

It honestly came out of nowhere.  I was the stereotypical high school jock playing two intense contact sports, football and lacrosse. I came from a wealthy, supportive, and loving family with both parents and a younger brother.   I went to a well-respected high school with high academic standards. I grew up with every advantage in the world.

I started drinking my freshman year of high school like many others do. I took my first hit of weed my sophomore year and usually mixed the two on most weekends with several friends. I had access to all the money I ever needed so no amount of anything was out of reach.

My senior year of high school was when I transitioned from a weekend user to an everyday abuser.

I didn’t drink alcohol every day but smoked weed before, during, and after school. Two of my best friends sold large amounts of weed so I never had to worry about getting any and never paid a dime to smoke. I continued to smoke and never considered myself an actual addict of anything. I was still getting high marks in school and still excelling on the sports field. It was one day at lacrosse practice during the spring of my senior year that everything changed.

I suffered a minor knee injury during a practice but thought it would keep me out of upcoming games. Our team was ranked top 3 in the state and I played on the first line so I believed I owed it to my teammates to make sure I stayed on the field. One of my teammates had surgery the previous year and was prescribed 30 oxycodones to help manage his post-surgery pain. I told him about my knee and said he had something that could help me manage my pain and possibly keep me playing.

That day I used opioids for the first time and never looked back. Some people describe their first time using opioids as making them sick, drowsy, or nauseous but not me. It was the most euphoric feeling I ever had.

Smoking a little weed on top of taking that cannot even be described in words. I was HOOKED. I did anything and everything to continue to find them from peers or strangers.

I continued to dabble through the summer after my senior year and into my freshman year of college.

Once I began college, I had cut back considerably for the most part with my usage mainly because I did not know anyone right away who had access to them. I actually stayed clean for the most part during my freshman year and the summer after but my sophomore year at college is when everything changed. I moved into a house with people I knew and some I did not but one thing we had in common is that everyone used opioids and I again had access. I also had met someone who did not go to school there who told me he could get me large amounts of oxycontin for a cheap price. Being they are extremely marked up because the demand is so high (sometimes $1.25 per milligram) I took full advantage. I continued to use this connection for the next year in which I would obtain roughly three hundred 80 milligram brand name oxycontins for half of the street value. My friends and I would pool our money together but buy every single one of them.   I started using them every day again. At one point I would regularly use 80-120 milligrams, smoke an eighth of weed, and drink 10 beers every day. I was completely lost in the addiction and did not even know what would soon come thereafter.

About three years ago is when it went from bad to worse. In an attempt to stop the abuse of oxycontin, manufacturers created a pill that was wax based and people were unable to crush and snort the pill anymore. I saw what happened next coming from a mile away. Because people could no longer get high from the prescription opioids, they began resorting to buying and using heroin. This was exactly how I started. After my sophomore year I had dropped out of college and moved back to my hometown to live with parents.

My hometown was and still is a place where heroin has taken over. I bought my first “foil” of brown heroin and it was 1/10 the price of what I was paying for the prescription drugs. I used that for several months while I lived there before eventually moving to Minneapolis. Once I moved back I connected with a fellow user from college friend who was now using black tar heroin as a result of the oxycontin extinction. I began using this with him every day and was considered now a regular user again.

Over the course of the next year or so I had drained all of my bank accounts and went flat broke. I would call and ask my parents for money weekly to help me get through life. It had taken over me.

It was when I finally met a girl through a mutual friend that finally made me stop. I began hanging out with her more and more and began weaning myself off of the drug.

It took the power of a connected someone through a friendship and eventually a relationship to make myself realize there was still a future for me and I could still get back onto my feet.

I no longer am dating this girl but am forever grateful for the hole she helped me dig myself out of.

I am extremely proud to say that I have been clean for 3 years but still find myself thinking about it every single day.

Our community, teens and especially parents, need to understand the dangers of prescribing synthetic opioids to people to manage pain from sports injuries and injuries in general. The downward spiral that happened to me from managing pain to play a high school sport is something I can never get back and even though I have been clean, I am forever an addict.

©2015 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved

The Road to Recovery – Driving Rules for the Road

During a recent road trip this summer, Midwestern Mama gave some thought to “rules for the road,” as her son drives toward recovery.Now, Tomorrow, Yesterday

In Minnesota, we joke that we only have two seasons: winter and road construction. Our winters are notably terrible – often lasting from November (sometimes even earlier) until (at least) May, and the driving is perilous. Our summers are exceptionally beautiful – provided you can get where you’re going in spite of single lanes, out-of-the-way detours and other nuisances as road construction crews spend the entire season to repair potholes, repaint lines and create roundabouts purported to save lives.

It’s not as simple or as dreadful as it sounds. Since there’s not much anyone can do about weather or road construction for that matter, we can complain or we can joke. Even better, we can accept it and ride it out along with our fellow drivers.

My 20-something son is 11 months into sobriety and recovery, and as I’ve come to realize it has some parallels to winter and road construction – neither of which we can control nor can we change.

He’s behind the wheel navigating the icy spots, avoiding the potholes, taking a few detours, and getting to his destination – not necessarily when he wants to arrive, but when the roadway deems it the right time.

Here are some of my realizations about recovery:

Maps are great but not always reliable.

Whether a tried-and-true printed atlas or a digital GPS system with all the bells and whistles, maps are just that – a map. Nothing about a map guarantees that you’ll get from point A to point B; a map is a guide and it’s up to you to follow it or adapt it as you see fit.. As a driver, you may want to consult several maps and then be ready and willing to make adjustments as road and weather conditions present. There is almost always more than one way to get to your destination and as much as the straight and narrow might seem like the best route, it may not be the route you find yourself on.

Keep your eyes on the road.

One of the cool things about a road trip is the chance to see the world. Some of it is quite beautiful, but not all of it. Some of it can be quite distracting and if your eyes wander, you may risk driving off the road. When you’re in recovery, it’s important to concentrate; one small lane change without signaling can be detrimental.

Detours do happen.

Early in my son’s addiction journey, he did try a few treatment programs. One he arrived at and ran away from nine days later. He was using again almost immediately, and whatever respite he had from using did not drive an interest in sobriety. Midway through a second program, this time an out-patient one, he started using. His interest in sobriety was still a long ways off. A few years later during a successful in-patient stint followed by a halfway house, his sobriety lasted a bit longer and he finally had a bead on the horizon. He wanted to change, but didn’t want to follow the rules of the road … thus, he relapsed and this time its effect was almost immediate – he was once again homeless, jobless and penniless.

Don’t forget to refuel.

Safe driving takes energy and concentration. Just as you need to keep an eye on the fuel gauge and to use the right type of gasoline for your car, it’s imperative that you pay attention to your body’s and mind’s dashboard. Are you eating and resting well? Are you feeding your soul? Are you exploring new ideas?

Stop when you get tired.

Experts say that tired driving is, in fact, impaired driving – as potentially dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Odd as this may sound, I think too much focus on recovery, will wear you out; it’s too intense to take on recovery 24/7/365. Too many meetings, too many counseling appointments, too many forced interactions – it can zap your energy and your ability to see straight. Instead, to help all the positive content sink in, you need to take a rest and do a few other things.

Some of the things my son likes to do include taking the dog for a walk, playing Frisbee golf, going to a movie, visiting his grandma. He doesn’t do these things naturally – he’s more inclined to play hours and hours of video games – so my mom instinct is to remind and encourage him to do something else. I’m hoping he’ll start rollerblading again this summer – something he’s always enjoyed; we got him a new pair about a month ago when he successfully completed a semester of college.

Have a destination in mind.

When my kids were little, we would often take a family drive on Sunday afternoon. My husband always called it, “seeing where the car takes us,” and the kids loved the surprise element. Sometimes we would end up in a small town and find a fun place for burgers and malts. Other times, we might end up on a nature walk or at the beach (after all, Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes).

Rather than a hard and fast geographic destination, the destination we had in mind was “family time,” and we always knew when we arrived. I think this is a key distinction for recovery. Having too specific a vision of where you want to head is the opposite of recovery, which is a time of healing and discovery. You’ll know when you’re on the right road, and if you detour, you trust that you’ll get back headed where you need to go.

Right now, I’d say my son has a loose destination in mind (sobriety, recovery and independence). He has a map (but he’s not clutching it too tightly and is open to the road-trip approach). He detours from time to time (fortunately, not as a relapse these past 11 months), and then he gets right back on the road. The road behind has my son’s destination.

He’ll know it when he gets there and we will, too. For now, he’s driving the car and his eyes are on the road.

Happy trails!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: The Courage to Change … Ourselves – A Dad’s Perspective on Our Young Addicts

 OYA_logo_final_reverse_rgb

GUEST BLOGGER

A community of parents and professionals concerned about the rising number of young people becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Experience. Resources. Hope.

#OYACommunity

A number of years back, Midwestern Mama called a business colleague to reschedule a meeting – her son was headed to treatment and things were a bit hectic. Without hesitation, the colleague identified himself as the dad of a young addict. Since then, they’ve connected on many things related to addiction and recovery. Read this dad’s guest blog post on myriad things he has learned though his son’s addiction journey.

The pain came spontaneously and naturally. Once confronted with the fact my teenage child was an addict, I moved fluently, and often without warning, among a myriad of emotions…anger, fear, confusion, sadness, hopelessness and grieving.

Healing, on the other hand, did not come naturally for me. It took time, hard work and caring people. (Nope, I couldn’t “Google” my way through this problem.)

At the advice of a trusted friend, I decided to seek out an Al-Anon meeting. The second group I visited was specifically for parents of children who were caught in the grip of this terrible disease.* This room of strangers quickly became very close to me and played a critical role in my recovery to happiness and wholeness.

One of the first things I learned in my journey was that I did not have the power to change others, but could instead, focus on what I could change…me. I’d like to share a few of the ways I have changed with the hope they may give hope to readers of this blog who, today, find themselves in a pit of despair.

You’ll notice the sentences below state, “I have become more ______” because I am a work in progress. I have not mastered any of these things, but have practiced them enough to reap real benefits and live a much happier life.

1) I have become more patient. Recovery for my child was going to happen in his time, not mine. Instead of praying for his sobriety, I began praying for patience, and that made all the difference.

2) I have become more compassionate to others. To steal a lyric from R.E.M., everybody hurts. Pain is not limited to the parents of addicted children or the addicts themselves. I began to interact with my family, clients, co-workers, neighbors, friends, and the woman at the checkout counter with the assumption they are doing the best they can, and that made all the difference.

3) I have become more truthful. Let’s face it, life has tons of grey areas and I for one, have used this countless times for my own benefit. But instead of covering my butt when I made a mistake or when my actions were a little south of honest, I began admitting my shortcomings and asking for forgiveness, and that made all the difference.

4) I strive to be more humble. I’ve had an amazing career and have enjoyed a fair amount of success. Acknowledging that these gifts are from God, and turning my energies away from my selfish desires to focus more on the needs of others has made all the difference.

5) I have become more grateful. There was a time when it seemed “everyone” else had what I wanted… a better job, a bigger house… and most importantly, healthy and happy children. Then I stopped comparing, and that made all the difference.

The lessons I have learned have helped me through many issues in the past few years, from dealing with my addicted child**, to losing my business*** to receiving a diagnosis of cancer.**** Someone once told me that God never wastes pain. I hope this blog serves as evidence to this truth and you discover how hard work, patience and trusted friends can make all the difference.

* I was the only male at the first support group I visited. That group was comprised of about 15 women who spent the entire hour ripping apart their husbands and boyfriends. I was tempted to sneak back and swap out the “Welcome to Al-Anon” sign posted outside room 102 in the church basement to read, “Welcome to the What’s Wrong With Men meeting”.

** Today my son is happily married and runs his own business. And as far as I know, sober.

*** The day I closed the doors to my business was tremendously sad. But since then, all of my employees have landed great jobs and I have successfully re-invented my professional self.

**** I am so fortunate that, because of modern medicine (not symptoms) my cancer was discovered. And because of my amazing doctors I have been cancer-free for over a year and feeling great!

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

New Content Debuts – The week ahead on Our Young Addicts

We’re getting exceptional feedback about Our Young Addicts, and it has spurred Midwestern Mama to create and curate additional content for parents and professionals who care and are concerned about young people in their lives who are using drugs and alcohol.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s coming up this week, and in the weeks ahead, for Our Young Addicts on the blog and on Twitter.

Mondays or Tuesdays will generally feature an update from Midwestern Mama

I’ll continue to share with you what’s going on in our family as our son nears his 11th month of sobriety and recovery.

Wednesdays will now feature Guest Blog posts

On Wednesday, we will kick off a weekly series of Guest Blog posts from parents, addiction professionals and young people in recovery.

  • Wednesday, June 10: Our first guest blogger is a dad with a son in recovery. He’ll share what he’s learned through this experience and the changes he learned to make as part of it.
  • Wednesday, June 17: Next up, our guest blogger is a young man in recovery from opiate addiction that started as a result of  a high school sports injury. Now, this young man is back in college and has a job he enjoys.
  • Wednesday, June 24: We’ll start a three-part series with a professional who works with families through their kids’ treatment and recovery.

Thursdays are #TBT – Throw Back Thursday

Thursdays, we’ll continue with #TBT – Throw Back Thursday – featuring a previous column from the St. Paul Pioneer Press or from this blog. There is merit in looking back and realizing the extent of this journey, including its ups and downs. It really provides perspective on where we are today and what’s possible tomorrow.

 #SoberSummer Continues Daily on Twitter

On Twitter, we’ll continue our #SoberSummer tips, and I encourage you to share some tips of your own as well as checking out our Resource pages. Click around on the site to find resources for parents and professionals on a growing number of topics.

Thanks for reading, commenting and most importantly for being part of the #OYACommunity.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

3 Reasons to Share Good News – Reaching out to Younger Brother’s School Guidance Counselor

Our youngest son’s school guidance counselor was a Godsend during the darkest days of our older son’s addiction. Midwestern Mama reached out to Ms. K with good news.

During middle school, our youngest son was doing well by all accounts – getting good grades, making friends and participating in school activities; however, he carried an emotional burden that could have negatively affected his learning and well-being. As you know, our older son was addicted to drugs and was resistant to treatment so our youngest son witnessed and experienced some of the darkest days of his older brother’s substance use disorder.

Always honest with him about what was happening, we tried to shield him from some of the chaos but he could still sense that it was going on and needed a positive outlet to process his emotions.

Real Mom_ In hard times, siblings will ask — and deserve to know – Minnmoms

We were very lucky to have an approachable and knowledgeable school guidance counselor, Ms. K, who worked with younger brother during sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Together, they talked about his brother’s drug use, addiction, homelessness, attempts at treatment, lying, stealing, relapses, and more.

Younger brother and Ms. K met regularly. She helped him sort through and separate himself from some very scary issues. She helped him open up about his feelings and find his strength to be successful and happy during some very trying times.

This Godsend built trust and respect with our son, maintaining his confidentiality while also keeping in touch with our family. Together, we could provide the necessary heads up whenever there was a new twist or turn regarding his older brother’s drug addiction. As a mom, I felt comfortable sharing what was going on and was confident that she would address it directly with our kiddo in an age-appropriate way, and more importantly in a way that gave him the confidence and hope that might otherwise have been absent.

Without a doubt, Ms.K demonstrated care and concern throughout his three years in middle school. Further, she set him up for success to transition to high school for 2014-2015.

Teen Gets High, Impacts Sibling

Ms. K developed a special rapport with our son by sharing personal understanding of having a family member struggling with addiction – this showed him he was not alone. It helped him better understand the complexities of addiction and mental illness such as depression and anxiety.

 3 Reasons to Share Good News

  • People appreciate progress reports instead of wondering what’s going on.

  • It’s nice to keep in touch from time to time with people who have touched your life.

  • It creates new opportunities to share experiences, resources and hopes with others who might be going through a similar situation.

During middle school, students undergo a significant transition from childhood to young adulthood. When a sibling is witnessing devastation and experiencing a wide range of emotions, it has the potential to refocus attention and ability. Instead, this counselor was a guide who helped him excel in his own right – as a student, a friend and an athlete. He did well in his classes, made friends and became a student-orientation leader, and participated on athletic teams, where he garnered peer and coaching-staff recognition for perseverance and achievement and for demonstrating a commendable attitude.

Ms. K was a rock for him – a true role model who inspired him to be himself and to do his best no matter what. We are forever grateful for the positive presence she had in our youngest son’s life during sixth, seventh and eighth grades; it made a lasting impression on him and on the whole family.

As ninth grade wraps up, I reflected on our younger son’s path and its parallel with his older brother’s, who is now nearly 11 month sober. It occurred to me that Ms. K might like an update, so I picked up the phone for a chat.

In addition to updates on the boys, I shared with Ms. K the creation and evolution of Our Young Addicts. Next school year, I hope to expand the #OYACommunity within our local middle and high schools, and with Ms. K’s support, I’m confident there will be an open door for this opportunity!

Midwestern Mama

Side Note: Our youngest son and I nominated Ms. K for an “Above and Beyond” award for our school district. Although she was not selected as one of the recipients, it was our way of recognizing her amazing efforts. Touched, she said it was the first time anyone had ever nominated her for the award.