The epitome of the OYA Community is having parents and professionals come together to share experiences, offer resources and provide hope. This is what that looks like in my home-town community. What’s happening in your community? Let’s collaborate and share content to address the issue of substance use among young people.
We hear a lot about service as an important part of recovery. Midwestern Mama observes #SoberSon experience the boost in self-esteem that comes from helping others – this time, a rescue puppy who needs a home.
Just as there is no one-size-fits-all treatment program, the same should be said for recovery. My son floundered in traditional approaches yet has thrived in the past 18 months through a guided, but self-directed program. In addition to counselors and family members, our family dog has been a central part of his recovery, and most recently, a new dog has offered him an opportunity to grow.
Enter a two-year-old pit-bull mix from a local adoption program that works through foster homes instead of shelters. Our daughter and son in law are fostering the puppy until it gets its “forever” home. Because they work overlapping full-time schedules, there are some points during the day when they need someone to let out the dog, take it for walks, and give it some love.
Enter #SoberSon. His spring semester college schedule has him wrapping up classes by early afternoon a couple days each week, so he’s able to take on dog duty those days. Not only is this another example of the growing trust that our family now has in our son – he has a key to their house – it’s an awesome opportunity for him to volunteer his time in exchange for tail wags and dog kisses!
He realizes that he’s saving the dog’s life and helping it heal from whatever past it may have had.
He commented the other day that, “it’s all about giving him a second chance.” My heart melted because, I think he realizes that he, too, got a second chance when he embraced treatment, sobriety and recovery.
In a few weeks, this dog will go to its new home and when it does, it will go with its own renewed sense of trust in people and belief that the world can be an awesome place
©2016 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved
Midwestern Mama celebrates a wedding anniversary, her son’s continued sobriety, and the puppy that has brought incredible healing to the family.
Three years ago on our 25th wedding anniversary, a neighbor was taking care of a Golden Retriever puppy and asked if we’d like to meet it. This adorable little fluff ball needed a home. Without hesitation, my husband and I offered to adopt the puppy. Our neighbor was thrilled and said she’d make arrangements with the owner the next day.
We were getting a puppy! Until recently, our family life with school, sports and work schedules did not lend itself to having a puppy. Now, however, we had a bit more flexibility and believed this was an ideal time to add a puppy to the mix.
The next morning, my husband purchased puppy chow and a soft bed. We texted the neighbor and didn’t hear back. We waited. Then we got the call that the owner had already promised the puppy to someone else; our neighbor was sorry to share this message.
We had geared up for this exciting new adventure only to have it end before it even started.
Without hesitation, my husband looked online at puppy adoption through our local animal humane society. There among the puppies was an adorable, 14-week-old with white fur and black markings. So cute, so loving, we knew he would be adopted in a heartbeat.
We arrived at the animal humane society the moment it opened. Upon meeting the puppy, we knew this was the one. There was something extra special about him and we brought him home.
Our 12-year-old son had just gotten back home from a sleepover when we pulled in the driveway with the puppy. Love at first sight.
Later that day, we texted our 20-year-old son hoping to reach him from wherever he might be in whatever state of high he might be in. We didn’t tell him why he should return home, but said we really wanted to see him. A few hours later, he showed up and met the puppy. Love at first sight.
These were the days when our son was working an overnight shift at a local Perkins. He had been living with us again for a few months and was participating in an out-patient treatment program – although his attendance and commitment was anything but engaged. He was using, lying, stealing, and living in a fog. It was one of the many chapters of his devastating drug addiction.
But upon meeting the puppy, we observed a softening. Our son’s caring, compassionate, loving self was visible. Although the turmoil of addiction – including homelessness – continued for another year and a half, having the puppy at home was always a welcome reason for him to stop and see the family. The puppy became a connection point for our family, and our young addict and the puppy developed a strong and special bond. (The puppy even ‘wrote’ a letter to our son and attended an intervention with family and friends.)
When our son moved back home and committed to treatment, sobriety and recovery, the puppy was the best therapist ever. Best friends.
As my husband and I celebrate our 28th anniversary this weekend, and our son’s 18 months of sobriety, we are forever in awe of the role that our puppy has played in healing our family. Love at first sight, indeed.
©2016 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved.
Last night we kicked off a series of parent-awareness events in our local school district. Here’s a short TV story that ran: http://www.fox9.com/news/77438951-story
Tonight, you have done one of the most important things that you can do. You have connected with parents and resources within the Anoka-Hennepin school district to learn more about substance use among young adults.
When my son – now 18 months sober and embracing recovery – was using drugs, it was a quagmire of situations and decisions that impacted our family and friends. There was nothing easy about the journey except for the wonderful people who supported us and tried to help.
That’s why I began sharing the journey, and why I created Our Young Addicts as a community for parents and professionals who are concerned about substance use among adults.
During the presentations tonight, you heard from Know the Truth, a substance-use prevention program that goes into schools throughout Minnesota. This organization has an excellent pulse on what young people are feeling and experiencing. They offer incredible insights into the mindsets of our students.
We also had data provided and interpreted by an epidemiologist, Melissa Adolfson, from Substance Use in Minnesota. She highlighted perceptions vs reality as reported in the most recent Minnesota Student Survey findings and broken down for us specific to the Anoka-Hennepin Schools.
Thank you for coming to the Our Young Addicts website. Here you will find our blog, with regular posts from parents and professionals as well as posts from me. You will also find resources and links to helpful organizations.
Please return for future events on March 3 and April 12.
Midwestern Mama aka Rose McKinney
Today’s guest blogger shares personal experience as a young drug user and how he has used this to help parents talk to their kids. In particular, he addresses marijuana use, which is one of the most popular first drugs for young adults. See what he has to say! MWM
Confronting a child who you believe to be taking drugs can be very difficult to do.
Getting caught by your parents smoking weed is the scariest thing in the world, what’s even worse, is finding out that your children smoke weed.
As a former family/drug counselor and a child of a parent who caught me smoking weed, I would like to inform you on the things I wished my parents would have done differently and what I taught other parents who caught their children smoking weed.
A little self disclosure:
I remember when my mother found my weed stash, she immodestly came out the room crying and screaming. Asking me “what did she do wrong?!” and telling me how I failed.
This was the worst thing she could have done and from my experience as a drug/family counselor, I can promise you there are MUCH better ways to address the issue of smoking weed.
The techniques I used to teach my clients to address their children’s marijuana use and how I personally address clients directly are based on the psychology of Sales and the use of Neural Associative Conditioning.
Let’s start off with applying the psychology of sales to discussing marijuana use with your children.
The most important principle in sales is identifying your prospects objections to the product and answering them before giving your presentation.
What are children’s objections to their parents?
“They just don’t understand”
“They don’t know what they’re talking about”
“They’re crazy! I’m not going to listen to them if they’re always angry and yelling at me!”
“They’re always trying to change them and never let me do what I want”
Don’t view this as your children complaining, rather, use this as useful information that you can use to overcome these objections. Once they are overcome, they will become more perceptive to your suggestions.
Find out what your children’s objections are and find out ways to overcome them. In the following paragraphs, you’ll read some common solutions that usually address most, if not, all of your children’s objections.
If you find out that your child is smoking weed, the worst thing you can do is immediately judge them and lose control of your emotions.
If you immediately react to the situation, you will lose credibility in your child’s eye and most likely won’t listen to you.
You can’t force them to quit. It may sound counter intuitive, but the truth is that you must allow them to come to the conclusion that smoking weed is bad for THEM. If they feel like you’re trying to force them to decide that weed is bad for them, they may stop for the moment, but they’ll eventually return to smoking weed.
Why is this important? As someone who constantly studies online marketing and psychology, you must allow your prospect think that it was their idea to purchase the item (similar to the movie inception).You’ll lose credibility and in the world of sales nothing loses a customer faster than losing credibility. Having credibility enables your child to listen to you more. Studies have proven that credibility and authority causes people to do things outside of their own morale.
This is done through having them associate pain with smoking weed and pleasure with being sober. This is not something you intellectually convince them of, rather, it’s done through finding ways to allow them to experience and associate pain with smoking. I’ll teach you that towards the end of the article.
Demonstrate to them that you have an open mind to weed and that you are not biased. They must feel and understand that you see both the good and the bad sides of weed. This will give you some form of authority and trust in their eyes and your opinion will have more weight.
Listen. Most parents are so distraught at finding out that their children smoke weed that they don’t’ care about what the child has to say; instead they want the child to listen to them exclusively.
Nothing angers a child more than feeling as though their opinion is not valued. Allow them to speak and explain to you why they smoke without interrupting them. Not that you condone their marijuana use, but that you understand as to why they are smoking weed. For example, if they smoke because they are bored, accept the fact that they use that as their own solution. Don’t condescend them and tell them they are wrong. Simple listen and accept.
Rather than lecturing them and telling them what to do, use the power of stories – particularly stories they can relate to.
For example, rather than telling them, “you can’t smoke weed, it’s not good for you!!” relate to them through telling them a story based on your own personal experience (past drug abuse, or any form of dependence) or through someone else’s account. Why? In sales and even in spiritual scriptures, stories have been used to explain concepts and ideas because the brain finds it more engaging. It’s better than telling them what to do because stories have an emotional element to them.
Make sure that their experience of speaking with you is accompanied with positive emotions, why? Because if they associate pain to opening up with you, their brain will naturally avoid it. So whenever they open up to you, reinforce that behavior through some form of reward. Give them ANY form of reward, but make sure it’s something they truly value it. Like cooking their favorite meal, or genuinely thanking them for opening up.
Most parents indirectly punish the act of opening up because they emotionally react.
Remember what I said earlier, you must remain grounded and centered within yourself. Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you because it can lead to being a painful experience for your child. Make the experience as comfortable as possible.
How is this achieved? Simple, just ask yourself, “how can I make the experience for my child of opening up about their marijuana use the most pleasurable experience for me and him/her?”
Be proactive about your actions rather than being reactive. If you don’t ask yourself those questions, you’ll never come up with the solution.
OK, now let’s discuss what you must do when discussing with your child their drug use.
The techniques we’ll be using will be based on the pain-pleasure principle, which is what drives human behavior is a desire to avoid pain and gain pleasure.
This is why you must understand their perspective because if they feel like you’re not considering and respecting their reasons for smoking weed, they won’t respect what you say.
Why your children smoke weed:
At the basic level, the reason people get addicted to drugs is because they associate pain to being sober and pleasure to being high.
The brain will begin making the connection that if any pain is felt; weed becomes the easiest and fastest solution.
Remember, the brain is always attempting to conserve energy. Moving forward, the brain will request for weed through cravings at any signs of stress because it learned that smoking weed is the fastest way to avoid pain.
So how are we going to use this to help your child stop smoking weed?
Easy, through linking pleasure to the new behavior and pain to smoking weed.
Okay let’s get to what you must do when speaking to your child about their marijuana use.
What to do before having the discussion:
The best outcome my clients experienced was when they remained centered and the discussion was brought up during a moment when everyone was in a good mood.
Don’t bring up the subject while arguing or when you’re mad because it’s going to create resistance.
The next thing you must do is sit down, get a sheet of paper and say something along the lines of, “before I say this, please understand that I’m not mad, I just want to understand where you’re coming from. I found out that you smoke weed and I just want to talk about it I don’t want to lecture you or tell you what to do, I’m just curious as to what are the reasons for smoking”. Simple as that. You are communicating that you are not trying to change them; instead you are trying to understand them.
Once they agree, sit down with them and explain how you found out and that you were concerned for their well-being. Explain that you did your own research and found out that weed isn’t as bad as you thought, but that it also has its cons and that’s why you want to explore with them their reasons.
Once they feel understood rather than being judged, they’ll be more open to your suggestions.
The questions to ask
Notice how the sequence of the questions are tailored, they begin with asking about the pleasures they receive from smoking weed for a two reasons; they are going to feel understood and heart, and you are going to use their answers and attempt to find alternative activities to fulfill the benefits they think they’re getting.
Step 1: What pleasures and benefits do you get from smoking weed? Remember, even though the behavior is bad, it’s important to find out the benefits so that you can find alternative behaviors that give the same kind of pleasures. In addition, this question throws them off the loop because they expected to begin discussing the negatives.
Step 2: What negative consequences do you experience from smoking weed?
Step 3: What will it cost you if you don’t quit smoking weed right now? Have them write them what it will cost them within the next 5 years if they don’t stop smoking weed. Make sure they cover the emotional, social, financial, romantic, and physical consequences of not smoking.
Step 4: What pleasures will you receive if you stop smoking weed right now?
Don’t just include direct pleasures (i.e. more money, happier family), make sure they write down bilateral pleasures such as being able to travel as a result of having more money, being able to use the time they spend on smoking weed on a skill or a sport.
These questions will accomplish the following:
- It will shake the legs of the belief they have that “weed is not that bad”. Belief is what drives our decision making. If you believe that smoking weed is good, you’ll be more prone to smoke. And what’s even worse is that your brain will block out any apposing belief. So it’s important to have them experience the pain of not quitting right now so that they can begin linking pain to smoking weed and thus changing their belief system and eventually their decision to smoke.
- You are linking pain to not smoking through focusing on the pleasures of quitting. This is something that your brain naturally blocks out because it has adopted the belief that smoking is pleasurable. The brain needs to conserve energy and conflicting belief system causes inner conflict and thus an expenditure of more energy. This is why it blocks out the pleasures of quitting because it wants to have a congruent belief system.
This is how I taught my clients how to approach their children if they were abusing drugs. When my clients followed these instructions, it rarely ended up in fights or arguments and the children either stopped using their drug of choice and/or improved their communication with their parents which is better than using and not communicating.
A few things to remember:
- Don’t ignore mental health issues. Approximately two-thirds of teenagers abusing marijuana suffer from some form of mental health related problems (i.e. anxiety, depression, bipolar, AD and etc.). Ensure that your child undergoes a mental health evaluation.
- Open up about your own drug use in the past. Being dishonest about your past relationship with weed only creates more resistance. Parents attempt to display a perfect and ideal image so that their children’s could emulate them at one point in time. But this results in parents at times contradicting themselves, and thus, losing the trust of their children. Nothing opens up a child then a parent opening up about their own past demons. Demonstrate that you understand them without judging them through disclosing your own battles in the past. This will give them permission to open up to you as well.
- Last, don’t blame yourself. When you ask them “what did I do wrong?” you are making it about you and you are extenuating that something is wrong with them. They have fragile egos and they’ll attempt to defend themselves through disagreeing with everything that you say to them. In addition, being the victim is never productive, no matter how justify it may be. Blaming yourself will only cause you to lose focus from the most important subject at hand, your child.
- Fifth, being judgmental. The worst thing you can do is judge your child. It’s one thing to be firm then it’s another thing to be judgmental to the point that your child refuses to listen to you.
About the Guest Blogger:
Alex is a life coach and founder of Your Mindful Blog and Quit Smoking Weed. He uses Mindfulness, Neural Linguistic Programming and Neural Associative Conditioning to develop true self esteem and help people quit smoking weed in under an hour. Prior to blogging , Alex worked as a family/drug counselor in Brooklyn, NY.
©2016 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved.
Many times, as they shrug their shoulders in dismissive way, I hear adults of influence say the following: “At least it’s only marijuana – not hard drugs.” They go on to say they smoked weed in their teens and 20s and turned out OK, or that cannabis is no different from alcohol.
Perhaps this is an attempt to put their past use in perspective. More likely, however, it is a disbelief that there is any real concern – that casual use of marijuana is a problem, that it can be a gateway to other substances, or that regular use can lead to addiction.
Recently, this article ran in the the Boston Globe asking: Can We Please Stop Pretending Marijuana Is Harmless? https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2015/10/08/can-please-stop-pretending-marijuana-harmless/MneQebFPWg79ifTAXc1PkM/story.html
Believe me, my husband and I have heard all the arguments and been presented with mountains of evidence. Our son was exceptionally passionate in his beliefs. We used to tell him – even though we disagreed – that he should go work for one of the pro-marijuana groups because at least then he’d be putting action toward his beliefs rather than just arguing for his own use. Of course, he never did.
Research tells us that marijuana and alcohol remain the starting point for additional substance use in later years. For most kids (under 18), it stays at an experimentation phase or it may progress to more frequent use but not necessarily to addiction.
For many, it never becomes more than “just “ marijuana or alcohol, and with maturity and adult responsibilities, their use moderates.
But, for one in nine people, marijuana use is problematic. It may show up as missing school or work and not completing assignments. It may show up in apathetic attitudes and the inability to follow through with goals. It may put your kids in situations where other drugs are being sold or used.
Think about this. If your kid is smoking marijuana and driving a car, they are impaired and any passengers are at risk. As the parent, you are liable for this, too. States like Colorado are feeling the effect of impaired driving as more and more motorists are using cannabis products.
From a neuro-science perspective, marijuana is particularly dangerous for developing brains, and it has lasting impact on IQ not to mention mental and emotional health as well as decision making.
Without a doubt, marijuana use clouds their judgement.
Today, kids have far greater access to substances, which means they may not start with the usual suspects of marijuana or alcohol. They may try prescription pills – think pain pills or things like ADHD medication. They may try synthetic drugs like K2/Spice (bath salts) or Molly (MDMA/Ecstasy) or others.
If a kid is susceptible to addiction, particularly if there is a family predisposition or if they are struggling with any mental health symptoms, we need to be particularly vigilant and cognizant of what they are thinking, doing and feeling.
Often teenage emotions can lead to “wanting to escape” or “wanting to fit in.” At first, alcohol or marijuana may ease anxiety or depression; in other words, they self medicate. In time, this stops working and they may progress to other substances.
Sometimes, kids are curious or even bored, and marijuana seems like a safe experiment – until it gets out of control and leads to progressively more dangerous things.
One of the statistics that really sticks with me is that 90 percent of adults with a substance-use disorder (aka addiction) experienced their first substance use under the age of 18 – regardless of whether that was alcohol, marijuana, pills or other drugs. The time to do something about addiction is when they are still kids – our kids. When we still can. When we are still obligated to parent them.
If your kid is using drugs, they are not bad kids and it is not the result of bad parenting.
It’s simply a scary reality that requires unconditional love and a commitment to discovering, understanding and solving the use as well as the underlying situation.
That’s a bold, big undertaking, but as parents we are not alone in this challenge. The most important things we can do is to connect with other parents, to tap professional resources, to learn as much as we can, to take care of ourselves, and to take on this challenge. This is the essence of the Our Young Addicts community, and it is what drives us to participate. Join us and we will help each other.
©2016 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved
I will never forget the phone call. I was watching TV at my parents’ house, where I was living at the time after graduating from college earlier that year. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My phone rang, and I saw my little brother’s best friend, Dan, show up on my phone’s caller ID. My brother had left the day before to go back to the University of Colorado, where he was in his first semester of his freshman year. Dan had been my brother’s best friend for almost 10 years, and I doubt anyone in the world knew my brother better. While Dan and I were friendly, someone I considered my friend too, it was rare for us to talk without my brother around, let alone call each other on the phone.
I answered the phone puzzled — wondering why Dan was calling me — asking the expected, “Hey, man. What’s up? How you doing?”
“I think your brother has a drug problem,” Dan said with a combination of confidence and disappointment. My brother had just been back for an entire week for Thanksgiving break, a time when most kids his age return home and reunite with their high school friends whom they have not seen since the summer before they left for school. “He was so barred-out (term for abusing Xanax) this entire week, we couldn’t even get him out of his bed to come hang out with everyone,” Dan said.
I knew for a long time that my brother’s drug use was extreme. His high school years were one big blur of drug use starting with smoking marijuana and including everything from cocaine, mushrooms, MDMA, booze, and I am sure everything in between that I never actually saw him use. Sure, my brother liked to have fun, but what high school kid did not? Who was I to say he had a drug problem? My brother did not have a drug problem; people with drug problems were dirty junkies who were incapable of doing normal, everyday things. That was not my brother, right?
For the next week, I thought about what Dan told me every day. I did not know how to tell my parents or if I even should tell my parents. I viewed rehab as the end. The end of my brother’s normal life, the end of the brother I knew. What if I told my parents this and he really did not have a drug problem? What if I told my parents and he ended up hating me because of it? What if I told my parents and they sent him off to rehab when he really just needed time to figure things out, like most college kids did?
Freshman year is hard, and it is a time of transition. I knew I had taken time to adjust and grow up a little bit when I was a freshman in college; maybe that was all my brother needed, too?
From there, I struggled with whether I should talk to my brother. Would he admit he had a problem if he did, or would he just tell me what I wanted to hear so badly — that he did not have a problem? Like a lot of high school kids, my brother would lie about where he was, who he was hanging out with, and what he was doing when he was out with his friends smoking weed, drinking, or going to concerts and doing molly or other drugs. Could I really trust what he told me was the truth if I did talk to him?
Questions like these swirled in my head as I battled my emotions and tried to come to terms with the most rational course of action to make sure my brother would be okay. He was always an incredibly social kid. He had a ton of friends, and the party usually started when he arrived. I knew he smoked weed, drank, occasionally took a harder drug like cocaine, but binging on Xanax? Popping pills to the point that he became a shell of who he was, to where he could not even interact with friends he had not seen in months? That was not my brother.
By Wednesday, I knew I had to tell my parents. I was terrified. I felt like it would have been easier to tell them I had a drug addiction than to tell them that I thought my brother did. Even though I knew I had to tell my parents, I could not muster the courage to do it until that Sunday night.
It was after our weekly Sunday night family dinner. My dad had the Sunday night NFL game on while my mom finished washing the dinner dishes. Walking down the stairs from my room to where my parents were in the family room felt like a slow walk to the electric chair. The weight of knowing what was happening to my brother was eating me alive. All week, an immovable wave of fear and anxiety that started at my core and tingled out to my fingertips and toes surrounded me like a knight’s suit of armor. The only way to shed the metal suit would be to break the news to my parents that their youngest son had a drug problem.
When I finally told my parents, they did not seem surprised; a part of them must have already known he had a problem. I told them about what Dan said about my brother using Xanax. I told them about the countless times I had seen him snort coke, take molly, and eat mushrooms in high school. I told them about how I struggled all week with whether or not I thought my brother had a drug addiction and that the only conclusion I could come to was that he did and that he needed help.
My mom flew out to Denver the next day to confront my brother about getting help. He admitted immediately to my mom that he was addicted to Xanax and was struggling with other drugs, too. He knew he needed help. Once he knew we were there for him and we were going to get him the help he needed, he never fought or denied it. He wanted to get help; he just never knew how to ask for it.
My brother entered an inpatient treatment center the next week. I would love to tell you that everything was smooth sailing after that but it was not. He stayed sober at first, but a couple months after his first stint in treatment, he relapsed into a cycle of severe drug abuse and hit rock bottom. While treatment was not immediately effective, it was the first step in his road to recovery.
He eventually did get the help he needed. I am thankful every day that Dan called me that Sunday after Thanksgiving. Without him I doubt I would have ever come to the conclusion that my brother needed help on my own. If I had, would it have been too late to help him? That is a question I am happy I never had to answer.
Today, my brother is back at the University of Colorado. He is excelling in the classroom and often receives the highest grades in his class. He has an adorable rescue dog named Ellie who goes with him everywhere. He has a great group of friends who are active outdoorsman; they often go snowboarding, hiking and mountain climbing. He has also been sober for more than a year and a half.
Trey Dyer is a writer for http://www.DrugRehab.com and an advocate for inpatient rehab treatment for individuals with substance use disorders. Trey is passionate about sharing his knowledge and tales about his own family’s struggle with drug addiction to help others overcome the challenges that face substance dependent individuals and their families.
Contact Trey: firstname.lastname@example.org
©2016 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved.