A Dad’s Perspective on the Impact of Addiction

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.

(Note – this was our first guest blog post in June 2015, but it’s worth reposting!)

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

Spring Break, Part Two: New York State of Mind

A couple of times a year, my business takes me to New York City – a complete departure from my Midwestern roots or my vacation travels with family to the mountains or beach.

 

It’s exciting in the city. Sometimes it’s a new deal, a new connection, a new idea. I always return home and to work with a fresh perspective and commitment. This kind of excitement is energizing.

 

However, sometimes the city stirs up drama-filled excitement. Let me revise that, sometimes when I’ve been in the city, drama ensues on the home front. That, I can do without. That kind of excitement is exasperating.

 

This trip to New York City, my husband and youngest son are accompanying me just as they did five years ago. They have plans to attend a sporting championship while I have business commitments. It works out nicely because it’s our youngest son’s spring break this week, so he gets a little vacation and I get to have loved ones with me in the hotel each evening.

 

When we took this trip five years ago in January, we had no idea the turn of events that was about to take place. Sober Son had just started college the week before. We hadn’t heard from him and he wasn’t responding to calls or texts. My mom radar was pinging. Loudly. Frequently. Something was up.

 

This was the weekend that he passed out from partying, mind you his very first weekend at college. He didn’t just pass out, he passed out in the snow in subzero temperatures and ended up in the ER and detox.From there everything unraveled, and it was hardly held together as it was.

Deep in our hearts we knew his drug use was a problem, but this was one of the most telling incidents and the one that truly changed to an addiction trajectory we never imagined.

 

This was scary for each and every one of us: Dad, mom, big sister, little brother. And for Sober Son who could never have predicted what would happen next. I won’t rehash what led up to this or the unfolding story that became our lives for the next few years, but I will say that I will always, always, always remember this turn of events and the state of mind that accompanied the addiction days.

 

Before the drama revealed itself, we had enjoyed a weekend of shows, meals, shopping and sightseeing. It made a big impression on our youngest, who has always wanted to return to New York City for another go of it. I’m so glad he’s getting that opportunity.

 

Gratefully, life has changed a great deal for our family since that trip to New York City five years ago. Sober Son completed a treatment program (not his first, second or third – it does take time and readiness). He is back in college, working part time and living at home. He’s nearly two-years sober and is successfully embracing recovery. The two of us just enjoyed a wonderful trip to Las Vegas over his spring break last week.

 

Who would have thought that we’d have so much confidence again in his future and so much trust in him? The addiction days were horrific. The trust was nonexistent. The outlook was grim.

 

My prediction for this trip is nothing short of exciting, and by that I mean fun for all. I’m excited to share the New York experience once again with my husband and youngest son, and I’m worry free when it comes to Sober Son who will enjoy the independence and responsibility of taking care of the house and dog while going on about his class and work schedule.

 

My hope for readers of this blog post is that it keeps alive a belief:

  • That sobriety and recovery are possible even when it seems improbable;
  • That sobriety and recovery can find their way to your family even when it has proven elusive to date; and,
  • That sobriety and recovery will re-establish a foundation for the future when the foundation at present may have crumbled beyond recognition.

Admittedly, it’s so hard when you’re stuck in the muck of addiction to realize that better times may well be ahead. Just like the Big Apple itself, it takes a (New York) state of mind to know that anything is possible.

Wishing you the best for a wonderful spring break,

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Sober Son is Still Climbing. Me, too!

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Twelve years ago, on a family vacation to Montana – before addiction arrived in our family – I discovered hiking. It was one of the most unexpected and exhilarating endeavors I had ever experienced.

Almost immediately, I saw parallels between hiking and my professional life. Hiking involved perseverance, focus and stamina. Even more importantly, I discovered that it required carefully staying on a rugged trail, one foot in front of the other, while also requiring that I look ahead to where I was going. And even more important than that, it also brought immense satisfaction when I paused to look back and see how far I’d come.

One hike in particular sticks in my mind. My daughter, Sober Son and I set out with family friends who were experienced hikers. We trusted them and knew they would guide us. We believed we would make it to the pay off – a beautiful mountain-top lake. But first we had to hoof it up a tough elevation (several thousand feet) with seemingly never-ending switchbacks, then wander along a deeply forested path, then cross a wide-open meadow before veering off to our destination. Several hours and miles later, we made it. We were so proud of ourselves. That feeling stays with me to this day.

A few years later, this time with my husband and our youngest son as well as another family, we made the trek again. Another eureka moment hit me: Hiking also paralleled my personal life. At this point, our Sober Son was starting to struggle but we didn’t really know the cause or implications. We think this is about the time he was starting to use marijuana back home with a neighbor kid. This time, I had a new realization:

I realized that life is a hike and even when it’s hard, it can be enjoyable and immensely fulfilling no matter what the trail brings.

Summer after summer, I looked forward to more mountain hikes, clearing my head and taking in life.

During these next years, Sober Son was not with us on family vacation. The hikes were cathartic for me even as I wished he was with us because he’s always been a climber – the two year old on the playground who scaled the monkey bars when other toddlers were content in the safety swing.

I prayed and wished him the return of these healthy feelings on his own terms.

Although the trail of addiction was full of detours for Sober Son and our family, we never stopped hiking our way through it all. Today’s hikes, gratefully, are about sobriety and recovery and about all the new trails ahead.

This really hit me on a mother-son spring break trip last week to Nevada. Sober Son and I hiked new trails. These ones, albeit vastly different terrain from Montana, offered a similar experience in terms of exhilaration and large rocks perfectly formed for climbing, and Sober Son scaled new heights and experienced once again the delight of pursuit and accomplishment, metaphorically, physically and emotionally. I have such faith in his continued journey and am so grateful for the opportunity to climb with him.

Midwestern Mama

 

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

I Thought I Was Different, I was Unique

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Guest blogger, Rose Landes, joins us again with another inspiring and insightful blog post. This week, she explores the self perception of feeling different, lonely – especially as a young person struggling with addiction and how that changed to a feeling of belonging through the recovery community. Now a parent, this mom has a unique vantage point on addiction and recovery and the importance of feeling like you belong.

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For so long I felt so alone. I honestly believed no one understood me, even with my family I felt like the black sheep. Initially I attributed this to the fact that I had grown up overseas. It would have been true if my brothers had experienced the same struggles I did. But when I looked at that them, it seemed, they received an instruction manual for life that I did not get.

I always felt different like, I didn’t belong. It wasn’t until I made it to a 12-step meeting that I realized that was feeling was shared by many. I finally felt a sense of belonging.

During my time in active addiction I was consumed by feelings of loneliness, anger, fear, shame, guilt, and helplessness. I always felt like no one understood what I was going through. No one felt the same way I did. And I used this to isolate myself and justify continuing to use. What I was unable to see at that time is, my loved ones knew exactly what I was feeling as they shared similar emotions themselves. Although the circumstances were different the feelings were the same.

Inside I felt consumed by anger at myself and the world in general. I wanted to make intelligent choices and not hurt myself and those I loved, but as my addiction grew, my choices grew poorer and poorer.

I felt like my parents could not possibly know the level of anger, frustration and guilt that I felt. They tried to talk to me, but it always ended up a yelling match. We had nothing in common, and communicating with them was impossible.

Usually when they caught me and I would defend myself by denying it, then scream at them saying they just didn’t understand. My parents felt anger too at a disease that was slowly killing their child and there was nothing they could do about it.

My parents were concerned about me. They told me that they were worried that my current choices were dangerous and would lead to me getting hurt or worse. I responded with anger. I reacted to the fear that deep inside, I knew, I was headed for something terrible.

Looking back I used the anger I felt to hide the fear that consumed me on a regular basis. Anger was so much easier to access and feel. I didn’t know what to do with fear. I see know that my parents were just as fearful as I was. Though the fears themselves were different the emotions were the same.

I continued down my path of self-destruction while those around me watched, helpless to stop me. As helpless as I felt in the face of my addiction, My parents experienced that exact same way. They were powerless to stop me, no matter how many therapists they took me too or drug detox centers they took me too.

All they could do was hope for the best, that one day I would have enough and stop. That I wouldn’t end up dead or in jail. Although I’m sure that they wished for that sometimes. I was so self absorbed that I could not even see that others actually felt the same emotions I did. That my parents shared a lot of similar responses to what this disease was doing to the whole family.

For years I was consumed by shame and guilt from trauma and my addiction. I thought I was alone in that, that no one could relate to me.. Reflecting in recovery from a different perspective I see that my parents and loved one’s felt the same way. They knew what it was to feel guilty I’m sure they asked themselves what they had done wrong.

As a parent, now, I can understand what it must have been like. I know that they felt shame because let’s be honest it’s not something that you will share with others the negative stigma is still so strong. On Facebook I saw a Meme that said it perfectly; There was a picture of an empty dining room table and underneath it said “All the casseroles friends brought when they found out my son was an addict.”

What I couldn’t see in the past is all that shame and guilt I went through in addiction. My parents carried the same stigma and shame initially, no one want’s to talk about it. Thanks to raising of awareness and the rampant spread of the opiate epidemic few families are left untouched.

You want to blame yourself when it’s not really anyone’s fault. I have learned that we all do the best we can with what we have. In the rooms of the 12-step programs I have heard too many stories of children from happy healthy homes who ended up the same place I did. It wasn’t only the trauma that brought me to this place in my life. I had a large genetic component that contributed as well, both of my grandfathers were alcoholics and I have cousins who struggle as well.

As I learned to communicate with my family and loved ones better. With continued sobriety and a clearer head I saw that the reality was I pushed the people I love away.   They tried to reach me in so many different ways I did not want to hear them. The denial was so strong that I shut them out.

I had convinced myself I not like them, I was different. In the end though, I finally came to the conclusion that all of us struggle with painful feelings. We all carry some guilt and shame, as well as anger and frustration. I realized that I was not as unique as I thought.

About Rose Landes

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.

 You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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Finding Resources

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“Those struggling with addiction, and the people who love them, need access to as many resources as possible,” says a recent article about addiction services. It highlights online resources as being important for family members – with a nice call out for Our Young Addicts.

http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/local/local-addiction-services-could-benefit-from-senate/nqdb3/?nmredir=true

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

Dear Mom and Dad, (rerun)

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Last night, our local school district hosted the second of a three-part series on substance use among teens. Parents and guardians asked many questions and our panel of experts, which included professionals working with students as well as former students now in recovery and parents. Our responses were heartfelt and honest – there was not much sugarcoating, but I do think there was spirit of hope and helpfulness. For all the adults out there concerned about a love one’s use, I am re-posting one of our guest blogs from the summer; it is written as a letter from a young man in recovery to his parents. Click on the link below. I believe you will find wisdom and hope to guide you forward.

https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/alcohol/

Wishing you and your family the best,

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

Let’s Get Local!

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This week, my school district is hosting the second of a three-part series on drug and alcohol prevention and use among teens. I am grateful that local media is helping drive attendance and attention. (The picture above shows the district’s website homepage following our first event.)

http://kstp.com/news/anoka-hennepin-school-district-community-forum-drug-alcohol-prevention/4062141/

http://anokahennepin.schoolwires.net/site/Default.aspx?PageID=2&PageType=17&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=1&EventDateID=11699

The more the story gets out, the more we can address the underlying issues of youth substance use.

What are you doing in your community? If you’d like ideas or resources, please reach out. Together, we can spread the word.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved