Talking to children about addiction

During last night’s #AddictionChat on Twitter, we talked about addiction as a family disease. One of our wonderful participants from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence provided a helpful guide for parents:

https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/talking-with-children?utm_content=buffer75cef&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

As I always say, have “the talk” with your kids early and often. And, always, the #OYACommunity is all about sharing experiences, resources and hope.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Collegiate Recovery Communities – #SoberSchoolYear

Sobriety is much easier to maintain when you can plug in with a community of like-minded students. Here’s a list of collegiate recovery communities at schools across the United States.

Collegiate Recovery Communities

If you are a student in recovery, consider writing a guest blog post for Our Young Addicts. Your message will give parents hope that sobriety is possible for their kids, and I’ll bet you have a few things to share with addiction professionals that will help them be even more effective in their work with young adults. Send an email to OurYoungAddicts@gmail.com

Midwestern Mama

 

The News No One Wants

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Wednesday afternoon, I learned that one of the kids my son used to hang out with (aka use drugs with) has died. He was 22, just a year younger than #SoberSon. I don’t have any of the details and do not know the young man’s parents, yet I feel very connected to them because we have been on parallel paths.

Less than two years ago, before sobriety and recovery, we feared our family might get that horrific news, the news no one wants. That’s just how fragile addiction rendered his life. Hope existed, but it was dwindling. We knew that such a tragedy was a distinct possibility, an unfortunate reality.

Because we knew it could happen – it happens all too often with our young addicts – it makes these lost lives all the more sobering for me. (And for another time, I’ll talk more about my commitment to overdose prevention and why families and friends need to have life-saving naloxone.)

This past fall, my son had asked it if would be OK to drive over to this kid’s house. Word had it the kid was leaving the next day for a treatment program in another state. They hadn’t really been in touch since my son’s recovery, but he wanted to wish him well and offer encouragement that treatment is a smart decision. The kid wasn’t home but my son was able to talk with the dad for a few minutes.

I remember all the hope that families feel when a loved one goes to treatment, and rightly so. Treatment is a positive step forward. It is a move away from addiction toward recovery. It just isn’t always a one-and-done experience as we learned with our son – it can take more than one go until there is a true readiness.

Again, I don’t know the specific circumstances or scenario with this particular kid. I just know that my heart goes out to the kid’s family and friends.

Later this evening, my son will be home from school and working out at the gym. I don’t know if he will have heard the news because he’s truly cut himself off from the old crowd. This is not the first of his friends to die, but it is certainly one too many.

I hug my son every day. I will most certainly be hugging him tonight. Hugs, not drugs. Right? It just seems like the right cliche for this post.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

How Can Meditation Help Parents To Cope With Their Child’s Addiction?

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Today’s guest blogger is Marco Sterling, who has provided a comprehensive guide to meditation. When we are caught up in the turmoil of a loved one’s addiction, it’s often hard to embrace the simplicity and empowerment that meditation can bring; yet, meditation is the cornerstone of our own self care, serenity and recovery. Thank you, Marco, for sharing this invaluable information including a variety of links.

A seemingly endless cycle of internal ranting, worrying, and despair often accompanies the parents of addicts in their daily lives, compounding their difficulties, and jeopardizing both health and peace of mind. Restoring balance and peace of mind can be achieved by stepping back from the daily internal struggle of “what if…,” “how come she won’t…,” “why didn’t I…”. The cycle seems uncontrollable, the troubles seem to have no answers, and the questions seem to never cease.

However, the endless cycle of uncontrollable worrying, anxiety, and stress is, in fact, the only thing we have some control over. We can choose to stop the cycle, with the understanding that it is unhealthy – we may have no control over the troubles we are worrying about, but we can take control of our worrying. If hitting the ‘off’ button seems too tough, you can learn to hit the ‘mute’ button for 20 minutes of healthy silence.

In this article, several top scientific studies confirming meditation as a successful strategy for restoring peace of mind are explored. Mindfulness and visualization in meditation are also explored, inspirational tips are provided, and some great video resources are offered to give you a loving and relaxing break from worry, stress, and anxiety.

Article Overview:

  • Part 1: What is Meditation?
    • What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?
    • What are the Different Types of Meditation?
      • Breath Meditation
      • Concentrative/Visualization Meditation
      • Receptive/Mindful Meditation
      • Reflective Meditation
      • Generative Meditation
    • Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?
      • Beginner’s Breath Meditation
      • Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation
      • Easy Walking Meditation

 

Part 1: What is Meditation?

Both an ancient and popular modern practice, meditation is a means of increasing mental concentration and physical relaxation. Although often associated with Eastern and New Age religions, in fact, almost all religions share a strong respect and appreciation for meditating on holy Scriptures as a means of increasing peace and enlightenment. While religion is not a necessary component of meditation, your personal system of beliefs may easily be incorporated into your meditations.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?

Practicing meditation brings relief from worry and stress, promoting a calmer outlook on life. Stanford University neuroscientists report that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation reduces brain activity related to fear and anxiety. Harvard’s Sara Lazar further confirms that mindfulness meditation physically reduces the number of neurons in this same worry-triggering area of the brain.

According to the University of New Hampshire’s Office of Health Education, the benefits of meditation are many, including:

  • Decreased stress
  • Decreased depression
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer cravings for alcohol and tobacco
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased spontaneity
  • Higher levels of energy
  • Increased exercise tolerance
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Better concentration
  • Better relationships with others

What are The Different Types of Meditation?

The following meditations were written and produced by the University of New Hampshire for the Health Services project “Reflections: Meditative Practice for College Students“:

Breath Meditation — Focusing your mind on the rhythm of your breathing becomes a simple and natural meditation. Notice your breathing becoming deeper and slower as you settle into the peacefulness, your mind becoming calm and self-aware.

Concentrative/Visualization Meditation — Many people find it helpful to focus the mind by visualizing images or ideas. Focus on breathing to relax and then engage your imagination, for example, to promote healing energy flowing through your body. A specific image or sound (mantra) may be the focus during this meditation, further helping to quiet your mind. Mantras can be spiritual or other comforting sounds, words, or phrases, which you repeat softly and rhythmically, while you meditate.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDLuip5Bb3o

Receptive/Mindful Meditation — During this form of meditation, your mind becomes attentive, or receptive, to sensations, smells, feelings, thoughts, images, and experiences without judging, reacting, or processing the experience. This helps train the mind to become calm and clear while learning to achieve a non-reactive state of mind.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaEeXsDEwEo

Reflective Meditation — This method of meditation is used for gaining deeper enlightenment by reflecting deeply upon an interesting question, compelling idea, fascinating characteristic, sacred scripture, classic quote, or another inspiring concept.

Generative Meditation — Focusing on a specific quality, such as love, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, patience, etc., this form of meditation is used to consciously cultivate, or generate, that quality within you. Continuing into your daily walk of life, generative meditation encourages you to further nurture this quality while thinking, speaking, and acting, as though this quality is already fully alive in you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM

Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?

In the beginning, meditation may be more easily learned while lying down or sitting somewhere peaceful, quiet, and comfortable. There are no right or wrong ways to meditate, so be compassionate and patient with yourself while you discover your own way. Give yourself time to practice clearing your mind, learning how to relax, and discovering how to just “be”.

Beginner’s Breath Meditation

Learning to focus on your breathing will teach you the oldest and easiest form of meditation.

  1. Sit down somewhere peaceful and comfortable.
  2. Gently close your eyes, close your mouth, and breathe in through your nose.
  3. Breathe in deeply, filling your abdomen with air.
  4. Open your mouth slightly and breathe out peacefully, exhaling until you’ve emptied your lungs.
  5. Continue inhaling and exhaling this way, focusing on your breath. If counting your breaths helps you focus on them, this is fine. The idea is to use this focus to clear the clutter from your head, becoming mindful of only your breathing. Continue for two or three minutes in the beginning and work up to longer periods.

Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation

A common mindful breathing meditation technique involves reciting a relaxing “script,” for example, “Breathing in, I relax. Breathing out, I smile.” Using visualization, or focusing on an object, can also be helpful during mindful breathing meditation. For example, look at the blue sky after sitting down comfortably, and breathe in, saying, “Breathing in, I see the blue sky.” Then, while breathing out, recite, “Breathing out, I smile at the blue sky.” Now your breathing becomes one with the blue sky, the source of your air as well as your mindfulness.

Continue mindful breathing meditation, visualizing yourself relaxing into the experience. Become mindful of your physical state of peace and inner calm.

Easy Walking Meditation

Walking meditation takes the concept of mindfulness with you while you walk. While being aware of every breath you are taking, add to that an awareness of every step. Now you are becoming one with the air you are breathing as well as the contact between you and the earth. Focus on the sensation of each foot as it connects with the ground. Keep your gaze forward and try not to let your attention wander, but return your focus always to your inhaling, exhaling, left foot, right foot, as you experience this peaceful, calming relationship with earth and sky.
(“Meditation” by Moyan Brenn, Flickr)

Learning to Appreciate Your Center

One of the greater benefits of meditation is learning to detach yourself from external forces over which you never had any control. Learning to focus your mind on what actually “is” will allow you to release your mind’s focus on what “is not.” The negative habit of focusing on, or worrying about, troubles you have no control over will become replaced with a new, positive habit of clearing the worries from your mind.

Your new and ever-deepening awareness of yourself and your surroundings can promote a sense of balance, a centeredness which becomes a new foundation from which you will develop new relationships. With regular practice, meditation will help you maintain your center when life’s situations try to throw you off-balance.

And, in those times when you find yourself pulled off-balance by overpowering events and situations, meditation will help return you home, to your quiet, calming peace of mind.

Author Bio Marco Sterling - guest blogger - meditation 2-17-16

I am a former mid-level advertising executive who had the unfortunate experience with drug and alcohol abuse. My experience is similar to others and in going through it I realized how precious life really is. My aim is to help as many people as possible who are going through the same struggle. I currently serve as the Chief Editor for www.PaloRecovery.com and I hope that you will visit and find value in the topics I write about.

 

 

 

Soup on Sunday

Traditions sustain us, even when we’re unable to participate emotionally or physically. Midwestern Mama describes a family tradition of “soup on Sunday” that has endured her son’s addiction and now embraces his recovery.

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Sundays have always been our family days. With our first two children, we’d drive out to the lake to visit their two great grandmas and their great, great grandma. One of my favorite family photos includes the five generations – my two kids, their dad and uncle, their grandpa, their great grandma and their great great grandma. 

While the kids don’t really remember these days, they did come to know that Sundays were for family. When the Greats passed away, we continued family-focused Sundays. This might involve a nature walk, a trip to the zoo or a visit to Camp Snoopy at Mall of America. Sometimes we’d just “see where the car took us.” No matter what, it almost always included a special meal together and a visit with Grandma and Grandpa at their house.

Life got busier and busier as the kids grew older, but even when kid number three arrived we still reserved Sunday for some sort of extended family gathering that often involved aunts, uncles and cousins.

One of the early clues that #SoberSon was struggling was when he didn’t want to participate in family Sundays. His grandpa passed away at the end of junior year in high school and this coincided with a number of attitude and behavior changes. Oh, he’d show up if we insisted – and we did. He’d be nice to the relatives, but resentful toward us for disrupting his plans. We worried about what was going on and had our suspicions.

Interestingly, a few years later when our son’s addiction was in full swing, he started showing up again. Not every Sunday, but for quite a few. The family treated him well – in fact, almost as the honored guest. He’d eat, shower, and sleep before heading out again for days or weeks.

Our Sundays continued with or without #SoberSon. Deep down it was reminder to him, to all of us, that the tradition exists in our family and that it endures no matter the ups and downs that life brings. And endure, it does. Now 19 months in recovery, the Sunday tradition is a priority for #SoberSon and he makes it to as many as he can, work schedule permitting.

Each week, some combination of family members gathers at Grandma’s house on Sunday afternoon to enjoy a bowl of soup (or sometimes take-out Chinese or pizza). The cousins are now 8, 15, 18, 19, 23 and 26, and it just wouldn’t be Sunday without some family time.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Amends: The Hardest One, Was To Myself

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This week’s guest blogger, Rose Landes, writes about the importance of making amends. For parents and for their loved ones in recovery, there is a point when each has to make amends to oneself. It’s not easy, but it is an incredible turning point on this journey from addiction to recovery.

As strange as it may sound, I looked forward to Step 9. In a 12-step program this is the step where you attempt to clean your side of the street and accept responsibility for the harm you’ve caused. Amends provide the bridge to help rebuild relationships. Typically people are not fond of this step.

For an addict, the word “sorry” has been an empty promise that we have made too many times. Even though we truly mean it, in that moment, we are unable to keep our word in the face of addiction.

When I sat down with my 12-step sponsor, I was nervous and unsure of myself, questioning if I had done it right ie-(perfectionist)– shocker right!   My sponsor has reminded me over and over, there is no perfect way to do the steps. As I went over my list I felt relief as I could finally let go and move forward from my past. I was making things right.

When I got through my list my sponsor paused, looking at me she said “Do you think you forgot someone?”

What? I panicked I had wracked my brain writing this list, who could I have missed?

She looked at me waiting, and it dawned on me. Who did I hate the most? Who did I punish on a regular basis?

Me—I was filled with self loathing and disgust after years of self destructive behavior. I really did owe an amends to myself.

What was stopping me? Well, the reality is, I was not ready to forgive myself.

An Amends To Myself

Before I even went to treatment, I realized that how I felt, thought, and treated myself usually mirrored how I interacted with those around me. What I mean is that how I treated myself, was how I treated anyone who was in my life.

I had to forgive myself to complete this step.

My sponsor encouraged me to write this amends. I spent a couple of days coming up with excuses why this was not needed in my case. Imagine that, me, thinking I was unique. I’m not an alcoholic, right? I still wanted to punish myself, as if somehow, this would make up for all the pain I had created in the lives of those I loved.

I worked my way through my amends list starting with my family, children and close friends. As I repaired the wreckage in my past I began to feel this sense of peace that I really can’t explain. Other than to say I had a glimpse of what serenity is. My family has encouraged me to continue doing what I am doing. They just want to see me happy. To be a functioning member of society that can contribute to life and not take everything for granted. They all just wanted to see me reach the potential I had wasted for so long. As for my children they just want to see me happy and present.

Their reactions helped me see my value as a person. If they could accept my apology why couldn’t I accept one to myself? And so I began the process of forgiving myself. I say process because it is an ongoing everyday thing. I have to learn a new way of thinking about myself.

Then It Clicked!

I wrote my list: Painful is putting it lightly. It hurt to see on paper the damage I intentionally did to myself. No wonder I hurt those around me. I had no idea how to love myself. I spent years doing things to make sure that I was unlovable and that I lived up to the lies I told myself. In the end, the list gave me an idea of what I needed to work on. I had to make a commitment to myself to not repeat them.

That is the most important part. We are saying that moving forward you will make an effort to change and not repeat your mistakes.

Obviously I don’t always follow through or make the right choice. That’s ok and this is where the cheesy slogans of my 12-step program help me see that what it’s really about. Progress and not perfection.

Once I did this, I had a new awareness of how I treated myself on a daily basis. My sponsor asked me if the way I treated myself was how I would treat a best friend. I really heard that, and it did make a difference.

Why An Amends To Myself Was The Most Important

Making that amends began to change the way I saw and treated myself. When you are treating yourself with respect, you tend to treat others with respect, as well. With this newfound respect for myself. I was now, able to do all those “self” affirmations they teach you in treatment. What followed was beautiful, I no longer was a “taker” in life. Instead I began to see the reward of being a “giver”. The most important effect it had, was I finally set boundaries with myself and others. No longer did I have to tolerate others treating me badly. Without guilt I could be assertive and protect myself.

Making An Amends To Yourself

Do you owe yourself an amends? I think that is an important question you should ask yourself. From my experience if you are struggling with self destructive behaviour, then maybe you should consider this. For me this was a life changing decision. I have a taste of what it means to be content with life and yourself.

Think about how you treat yourself, or how you have treated yourself in the past. Make a living amends by being kind to yourself, and see the difference it makes in your life.

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Rose Landes is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

Find Rose Landes on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Wednesdays are guest blogger days.

Wednesdays are guest blogger days. Check out the posts from parents, professionals and young people in recovery. Our community has much to share – experiences, resources and hopes. https://ouryoungaddicts.com/blog/

Some of our most popular posts include:

It’s helpful for parents and professionals to learn from young people in recovery: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/guest-blogger-young-person/

It’s also helpful to hear from parents who are going through the addiction journey with their young addicts: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/guest-blogger-parent/

And, it’s insightful to read posts from addiction treatment and recovery professionals who work with parents and young adults: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/guest-blogger-recovery/

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

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Why “Prevention” Doesn’t Sit Well With Me

When we become parents, we have a list of things we hope – and never anticipate – will never happen. Among these things, we hope our kids will never use drugs. If there is addiction in our family, we hope we will be effective in preventing them from experiencing addiction. If there’s no history of addiction, we hope they will never be “stupid enough” to use drugs … as if it’s “stupidity” that underlies it.

Chances are, though, we view underage drinking as a rite of passage; the same with marijuana. As for other “hard” drugs, we shake our heads in disbelief that our kids would even consider use.; after all, we are doing our best to be good parents.

Fast forward to the tween and teen years. Things change.

If your kid is using drugs and alcohol, it’s reason for concern. No bones about it. Whether it’s experimentation or out-right dependency, no use is good use for a developing brain. I think we can all agree, that youth substance use has the potential of leading nowhere good.

We must stop youth substance use. Better yet, we must prevent it in the first place. Heck yes.

Substance-use prevention, in theory, is fine and dandy. It’s predicated on good communication, good relationships, good boundaries. In fact, it’s our obligation as parents and as adults of influence (teachers, coaches, faith leaders, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, et al), to do everything in our power to prevent our youngsters from trying and using drugs and alcohol.

However, if your kid is using, prevention is a thing of the past. It’s too late, and many parents are kicking themselves wondering where they failed.

Reality check. If your kid is using, it is NOT your fault. You did not fail as a parent. You did not fail at prevention. This is not shirking responsibility – in fact, it is the ultimate in acceptance and the foundation for addressing and arresting addiction even as it spirals out of control.

Let’s face it. Addiction can happen. Not to all kids who use, but to some. Even to your kid.

It happened to mine. It might happen to yours. Sorry, it might.

But wait. What if you diligently employ the 35 ways to prevent addiction? What if you do “all the right things”? You’re immune, right? Your kid is safe, right?

Think again.

No kid wants to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. No kid believes they will be. Until they are. Until it’s too late. That’s addiction. It sneaks up and grips. It arrives with little warning, and it stays longer than ever imagined. It creates chaos, drama, trauma and more.

While I wholeheartedly embrace prevention in theory, I realistically acknowledge that it’s a bit of a crock. Yes, it is.

All the dogma about prevention provides a false sense of security. Prevention pundits, without meaning to, shame parents of young addicts because they flaunt all the things we could have, would have and should have done.

Oh, wait. These ARE the things we did … and it still did NOT prevent our kid from trying drugs and alcohol AND it did NOT prevent the kids with a predisposition (known or unknown) to addiction from developing a substance-use disorder.

If anything, these lists of “things to do” to prevent substance use set us up for unfortunate reality checks when experimentation escalates.

Certainly, there are mitigating circumstances – situations that contribute to substance use among young adults; that’s sad and unfortunate. There are underlying issues from self esteem, depression, anxiety, dysfunctional family dynamics, family history with addiction, and more that might lead to trying drugs – to “fit in” and to self medicate.

For the rest of us, the prevention message is somewhat insulting. By no means does this mean we are perfect parents who flawlessly parent in a prevention positive manner, but we are well intentioned and we’ve done our best. Beyond that, our kids sometimes do choose to try a substance and some of our kids are hooked from day one. There’s no way we can predict, and really, there is no way we can prevent.

One of my phrases, “been there, done that,” implies that I can offer you insights to prevent substance use; but really, it’s about connecting with you as a parent who has done your very best and in spite of this finds your kid using.

Instead, you find out your kid has tried drugs and alcohol so you’re now wondering what to do to halt your kid’s use, to reverse the situation. In my mind, this is of infinite value because we can’t control whether our kid will try substance, whether they will abuse them, and whether they will develop an addiction.

But we can intervene early and often. We can parent them through addiction. We can encourage treatment and support recovery. We can accept that we can’t MAKE them stop, but we can set boundaries and we can be there when they are READY. We can weather the treacherous, dangerous path that is addiction. We can face the ugly possibility of the worst, most horrifying potential outcome, More importantly, we can hope, pray and believe that sobriety is possible.

To recap, prevention is admirable and is our obligation as parents and adults of influence; but we must recognize that prevention isn’t always possible. Instead, if we find ourselves as parents of young addicts, we must be ready to meet this head on without guilting ourselves because prevention didn’t work. That is one of the reasons that the Our Young Addicts community exists – to surround and support each other, to embrace parents and professionals in addressing the number of kids trying and becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

I realize this may not be a popular perspective, but from my “been there, done that” experience, it offers liberation and empowerment to move from statistics to solutions.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

I never thought we’d face addiction.

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At a recent community event, I had the opportunity to speak with parents and professionals. My message: I never thought we’d face addiction.

Read highlights from the presentation, here.

http://pressnews.com/2016/01/28/i-never-thought-we-would-face-addiction/

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved