What are you going to do?

Early in our son’s addiction journey, I was having a conversation with the parents of another kid who was using drugs with our kid. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “What are you going to do?” In essence, she resigned herself to believing there was NOTHING she could do to stop her son’s use and its devastating effects.

I was flabbergasted the first time she said this. A few years later, she said it again. Oh my.

On the flip side, my husband and I were proactive and vigilant from day one – from the day we noticed he was struggling (and not yet using). To the day we discovered he was using. To the day we got him to treatment (the first time). To the day he ran away and relapsed. To the day … To the day … To the day …

We were committed to understanding and helping him from the first day and every day after that until he ultimately chose sobriety and committed to recovery. It was not an easy path for him or for us – addiction never is, and it impacts each and every family member and friend.

Some days, I wished I could stop thinking about the situation, and I’m sure there were lots of days that family and friends wished I would stop talking about our son’s addiction. Come on, get over it, right? Nope.

Instead, we interpreted and lived by the ever-famous Serenity Prayer, with our own family-friendly practice of it.

Why? Because I was resolute in believing that NOTHING was not an option. That SOMETHING would work. That there was PLENTY that we could do.

Years later, that mom is still convinced there is nothing she can do. Her son is still struggling with addiction and mental health, and she and the rest of her family are suffering from co-dependency.

So what can a parent do? Here are some thoughts on how you might answer the question: “What are you going to do?”

Talk about it. Addiction is a heavy subject, so keeping a loved one’s addiction to yourself will take its toll. As soon as you share with someone what you’re dealing with, you’re likely to find out that you are not alone and that they have experienced something similar. That’s just how widespread and rampant addiction is – just about everyone knows someone who has struggled with it. So open up and see where the conversation goes. Chances are you’ll feel better, and as soon as you start feeling better then everyone connected to you – including your young addict – will reap the benefits.

Learn about it. As you talk about addiction, you’ll start learning more. The conversation will probably lead you to resources – places to call, websites to check out, programs to visit, books to read. There is no shortage of information out there about addiction. Most of it’s good, solid information. Take in as much as you can and you’ll begin to figure out what’s true and helpful for you and your situation. All this knowledge will empower you to make better decisions as you continue to experience your loved one’s addiction. It will never hurt to be a bit smarter about something as complex as addiction.

Collect resources. Through all this talking and learning, you will find many resources. Explore each one. Sometimes it may seem that a resource has little to offer you, but in the months and years ahead, the situation may change and an initial resource may become just the thing you need. I kept a notebook with me at all times to write down names, numbers, organizations, URLs and more. It was helpful to have these resources available during our journey, and often in future conversations I would be able to pass along details to others who needed the information. I also plugged a lot of information into the notes application on my phone so that I always had the info I needed at my fingertips. Let me tell you, this saved us many times when chaos and crisis ensued.

Pay attention. Addiction is progressive. That means that things continue to change. Sometimes the changes are subtle, barely noticeable, but keep your five senses alert. What do you see? Smell? Hear? Feel? Taste? And do not forget about the sixth sense, what I refer to as Mom Radar – what do you feel in your gut? These are the clues that keep us tuned into what is happening with our young addict, and are the ones that keep us ready for whatever happens next. (See a blog post about The Five Senses: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/2015/04/07/the-nose-knows-a-common-sense-guide-to-recognizing-drug-and-alcohol-use-among-young-adults/)

Take notes. Because so much happens so quickly, write it down or you will forget it. Also, our young addicts are often manipulative, lying and stealing. Sorry, yes, this is what addiction does to them. To keep my own sanity, I would write things down. Dates. Details. Conversations. Etc. It’s amazing how addiction days and nights all start to run together, so having notes helped me when we were talking with counselors and treatment professionals – this way I had context and facts instead of fuzzy, emotionally-laden recollections.

Set boundaries. All of the tips above may have you thinking that you have to be immersed in your kid’s addiction 24/7/365. In a way, yes; in many ways, no. You’ve no doubt heard about setting boundaries, and let me say, this is 100 PERCENT NECESSARY. Determine what is best for you, your marriage, your family, your kid, your situation and set clear boundaries. These may change from time to time, and that’s OK, but always be clear about what you’re willing to accept and do or not do.

For our family, it was three simple things: 1) No drugs or paraphernalia allowed in our home, which also meant not being high at home 2) Keep family hours and sleep at home on weeknights – home by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. 3) Let us know by 10 p.m. on weekends if you’re not coming home. Your boundaries may be different, but given a younger child in the household plus two parents with job commitments, this is what we needed. Other boundaries had to do with what we would and wouldn’t pay for, no longer allowing our son to have a key to the house, and revoking his driving privileges. See, things changed along the addiction path.

Practice self-care. Likely, you’ve also heard about self care. Because addiction is 24/7/365, it is absolutely critical that you take care of yourself. Live your life. Find an outlet – something like Al-anon, a support group or therapist. And, by all means, pursue your interests – reading, exercise, a hobby, etc. These are refreshing and energizing. (See two blog posts about self care: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/self-care/)

Stay in touch, keep reaching out. Sometimes it’s hard to stay in touch with a loved one who is using. Perhaps they have moved out. Perhaps they don’t come home all that often. It’s incredibly hard to know if and when you’re going to see or talk to them. No matter what, staying in touch to the extent that you can is important. It lets your loved one know you are there and ready … when they are. Whether a post-it note on their bedroom door, a text message, a voicemail or stopping by some place that they hang out, always make an effort to connect with your young addict.

During one of the more intense periods in our son’s addiction, when he was exceptionally angry with us and in utter denial about his addiction, I decided the best thing I could do was text him his horoscope from the newspaper each morning! It was a benign message from mom. Sometimes he’d respond – and I’d know he was alive. Sometimes he’d tell me to knock it off – and I’d know I’d reached him even if he wasn’t receptive. Sometimes, and this was hard, he wouldn’t respond and I know I needed to prepare for the worst. Usually, however, he’d surface within a few days and I’d have a sigh of relief.

More importantly, we continued to reach out and include our son in family activities even if he chose not to participate. It let him know we cared and considered him a vital part of our family. (This seemed to be a key strength when he finally chose sobriety and committed to recovery – today, his family ties are as strong if not stronger than ever!)

Connect with others. Parenting a young addict is overwhelming, lonely, scary, intense … you name it. But you are not alone. Way too many of us have been on this path. Together, we can help each other forward. Find us in your neighborhood, your school, your church. Find us online with Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We are out there and if you ask, we will IMMEDIATELY embrace you because we know what it’s like.

Share your experience. Each day in, which seems like an eon, you’re a day wiser and a day stronger. Through your experience, you now have something to offer the next parent going through their kid’s addiction, so please, please, please, share your experience. Together, we can and will make a difference.

What are you going to do? PLENTY, that’s what!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

Self-care, Satisfaction Guaranteed

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 me even more than the chaos itself.

Some of the ideas that we talked about during yesterday’s #CADAChat included the following:

  • Time Out! Take a break away from the hubbub. When the crowd is gathered to celebrate the holidays and the conversations are just too much, step away for a few minutes. Find a quiet space to decompress before returning to the festivities. Thanks @Virtual_Nadine for that great tip.
  • Buy It! While you’re out shopping for others, find a small gift for yourself – something small that you always pass on because you don’t really need it. Recently, I picked up a pack of felt-tip pens for grading my students’ papers instead of using the same old ball-point; it made it that much more rewarding to score their final projects.
  • Do It! Is there an opening at the local nail salon? Just walk right in and get a pedicure. Thanks @JamieArmin for that suggestion! Sometimes, you just have to seize the moment to do something for yourself. Don’t even think twice.
  • Move It! Getting some exercise works wonders. @DrugAbuse mentioned looking forward to a run – that sounds ambitious to me; I’m more inclined to bundle up and take the dog for a walk – good for both of us.
  • Sip It! There’s nothing like a cup of hot tea or cocoa to help us slow down. It’s impossible to down it right away. You have to let it cool, and while it does, the almost ritualistic act of blowing on the hot liquid let’s you anticipate the soothing beverage.
  • Eat It! Amid all those calorie-laden treats, make sure you eat some healthy, energy-building meals as well. Good food nourishes and when we eat the good (healthy) stuff first, we can enjoy the “really good” stuff without going into a sugar coma. (Do peanut butter chocolate balls count as healthy?!)
  • Schedule It! This time of year gets so busy with invitations and places you need to be. Our calendars are filled almost beyond capacity. Instead think forward and schedule a few coffee dates with friends for January and February. It’s nice to have something to look forward to when the winter blahs set in, and you’ll have more time to actually chat and catch up when you’re not rushing during the holidays.

Here’s wishing you the gift of self-care this holiday season!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

98.6 and Feeling Good

Final exam grades are starting to post, and Midwestern Mama’s son studied hard – especially for his college chemistry course.

Our son is smart. School was never a challenge for him. He could read something once and remember it. He could listen to the lesson the teacher was giving and remember it. And, his grades and test scores reflected this – until he was a junior in high school.

That’s when everything changed. His attitude, his behavior. Everything. And, it didn’t take long for us to learn that he was using drugs. From there, it all fell apart. He was lucky to graduate, but that’s another story.

We always hoped that he would one day return to school, but realized that he had a long way to go through addiction, treatment, relapse, treatment, and ultimately commitment to recovery.

That day arrived last year when he signed up for spring semester courses at the local community college. Although he was on academic probation from previous attempts at college, he appealed and registered, and throughout the semester, he worked his tail off to earn an A in English and a B in Differential Equations and Linear Algebra. He’d never worked or studied so hard in his life. Not only did he learn the subjects, he learned that he had discipline and tenacity to succeed.

Exhausted, he took the summer off from school. Again, we were hopeful he’d return for fall semester, and he did. This time, he signed up for a full load of courses, and continued to amaze us with his perseverance – everything from earning the money for tuition and books to putting forth significant study time.

It’s paid off. This week is the final week of fall semester and he’s already received an A in chemistry with a 98.6 percent on the final exam. Other projects and exams continue, but without hesitation, he opened up the online grading portal and shared his progress with us throughout the semester. (The sharing part is not only heartwarming, but a true sign of progress and recovery.)

He’s registered again for spring semester 2016 and after a few weeks of holiday break, he’ll be ready to hit the books again.

From a rough end of high school to a life-threatening start to college in 2011, #SoberSon is exhibiting the transformation of recovery and we couldn’t be more proud.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

R & R – Rehab for the Holidays

Just like the holidays themselves, treatment at this time of year brings mixed feelings. Midwestern Mama recalls the emotional energy that surrounded her son’s treatment program a few years back.

Many of you know the frustration and devastation that a kid’s addiction brings. There is concern, offers for help, arguments, lying and stealing, manipulation, sleepless nights, worry, and more.

If only our loved one would go to treatment. If only they would stay at treatment. If only they would engage with the treatment program. If only they would embrace recovery. If only.

We hope with all our might that they will choose treatment. I know I did. It’s what my family wanted most for our son’s Christmas in 2013 (and 2012, and 2011, and 2010 …).

In 2013, my son realized it was time to go back to treatment – note, “go back,” as he’d been to several before. He realized that he couldn’t continue living with addiction and the consequences it was creating in his life.

He went through the process to get funding and find a program that met his needs; for example, he was opposed to 12-step or faith-based programs, and these tend to be the most prevalent ones available. During the couple of weeks that he worked with the county, he sofa surfed and used; however, we told him if he was working toward treatment and giving it good effort that he could stay at our house and most nights he did.

Finally, the first week of December, a bed opened for him but the center could not reach my son. He had given them my name and number as back up and I engaged in an all-out search to find my son and get that bed, which they could only hold until the next morning – less than 24 hours.

Miracles of miracles, he was down the street at a buddy’s house and had been out cold sleeping off his high from the day before. He was surprised that a bed had opened so quickly and was acting hesitant about taking it. He did not want to go there that night or the next morning for that matter. He did not want to miss the holidays. He was stalling.

Nooooooooo.

He did call them back. He did say he’d go in the morning. He did pack that night. He did ride there with me – in a Minnesota blizzard – the next morning. He did stay. He did not run away.

That night and for the next 30 nights, I slept well. The best I had slept in years. I experienced R&R, respite and relief. I knew he was safe, warm, cared for and was beginning, in greater earnest than ever before, his recovery.

Spoiler Alert, and I only share this because it’s true and part of the journey: He did complete the program and started after care, although, he relapsed. But it was a start. A real start. It was the foundation for what today is 16 months of sobriety and recovery with all the promise and potential of being long-term.

Yes, it was different to have my son at rehab over the holidays, but it was oh so wonderful in may ways. Rehab anytime of year is a gift, but for the holidays, it was far better than we ever hoped.

Here’s hoping your loved one finds the way to treatment and recovery this holiday season.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Treatment

If your loved one is in treatment this season, read about some of the ways we found joy and check out some of our archived blog posts. December 2013, my son decided to go to treatment. Although he was bummed about “missing the holidays,” it was the best decision he could have made and it turned out to be one of our best-ever Christmases. Perhaps, this will help you have a happier experience as well. MWM

Our drive to treatment took place during a blizzard. My son slept and I white-knuckled the slippery roadways. Although he’d been to other treatment programs, this was the first time he made most of the arrangements. He wasn’t excited about it, but he accepted that it was what he needed to do.

That alone was a present, a holiday miracle. I encourage you to recognize the generosity of your loved one’s decision to go to treatment.

In our initial phone calls and contact with our son, he said things were OK but that he was bored and that time passed very slowly. He complained that the group had to put up Christmas decorations, and that it was a stupid, pointless way to spend time.

Although I could understand his frustration and although I felt he was being unfair with his attitude, I just let it go. Instead, I looked forward to our upcoming visit and seeing the decorations.

Just the other day, I had a meeting at a local treatment program (not the one my son attended), and program participants were in the process of putting up Christmas decorations. They were jovial and seeming to enjoy the experience. It made me think of my son’s experience, and my hunch is that he enjoyed it more than he let on.

That brings me to my next piece of wisdom. Don’t let your loved one make you think it’s so miserable. It just takes time for them to get in the swing of treatment and to find hope (if not immediate happiness) in the positive changes underway. That’s not to say it’s all fun and games; treatment is hard work and emotionally draining. Know in your heart that they are in the right place, doing exactly what they need to be doing. That is a true gift.

During our weekly family visits, I brought commercially prepared treats (homemade wasn’t allowed) and lots of games – board games, cards, dominoes, etc. My son wasn’t ready to be conversational, so playing games was an easier way to connect and share our support. Other residents joined in, too.

My son truly likes our holiday treats – fudge, peanut butter balls, frosted sugar cookies – so I made extra and put these in a decorated tin in the freezer so that he could enjoy these when he completed treatment. He very much appreciated that!

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fell outside of normal family visiting days, so the treatment center designated a special time. It was on Christmas Day from  1 to 3 p.m., if I remember. I had hoped to bring a deep-dish pizza, but our son’s favorite place was closed on Christmas Day. Instead, I brought a variety of snack items (chips, pretzels, crackers) and individual containers of ice cream – a treat he was really missing.

Keep in mind that treatment food gets boring and is very basic. Working within the Center’s guidelines, we were able to bring special treats.

Again, on Christmas Day, we brought games and had family rounds of all sorts of favorites including the card game UNO. None of us missed the “usual” gathering at Grandma’s that year because we were so glad to be with our son who was sober and starting recovery. (Now, the next year … and this year … well, we are blessed to return to our favorite traditions at home. )

We will never forget the year my son spent Christmas at treatment!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.