Prevention, Perceptions, and…Puppies – Oh my!

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Prevention is an important public health initiative and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Minnesota’s Regional Prevention Coordinator Lindsey Smith this past year. She’s been key to our events with Anoka-Hennepin Schools and was a panelist for our conference, From Statistics to Solutions. As this week’s guest blogger, Lindsey offers distinctions between reality and perception when it comes to young people and substance use … along with effective actions we can take to curtail this.

“Isn’t it inevitable that youth will use alcohol and drugs in high school?” “If only we could do a better job of educating everyone about the dangers.” These are things I hear on a regular basis in my work as a substance use prevention specialist. My response to both is: not quite.

(Mis)Perception of Youth Use

Perception is our reality, as the familiar saying goes. What we believe to be true is influenced by a number of factors. The way information is reported to us through the media and by word of mouth are great examples. Both communication vehicles look for compelling stories to tell, which often emphasize extremes. Gossip isn’t interesting if it is about a mundane trip to the grocery store. It is interesting if a car went crashing through the front door though. I should expect to see a car in the produce section the next time I stop at Cub, right?

The more unusual, extreme, or concerning something is, the more likely we are to hear widespread conversation about it. This also happens with youth substance use. Students who used over the weekend tend to talk about it more than students who spent their time babysitting or watching movies. Media coverage of substance use related stories tend to focus on teen use, not on teens who choose to abstain. We are inundated with messages about teens using substances, so it is not surprising the common perception of youth substance use is it’s “typical” and, thus, a somewhat acceptable norm.

Here lies the difficulty: our perceptions are inaccurate. The majority of youth are making positive, healthy choices about substance use. For instance:

  • According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 34.7 percent of 15-year-olds report they have had at least 1 drink in their lives. By default, this statistic also means 3 percent of 15 year olds surveyed report having never consumed alcohol.
  • The NSDUH also found 22.8 percent of 12-20 year olds reported drinking alcohol in the past month. This also means2 percent did not drink alcohol in the past month.

The use rates shared above are nothing to ignore. The concern over this information should not overshadow the hope we find in the other side of each statistic, however. We need to do a better job of highlighting the truly typical choices our youth are making. Let’s remind young people, parents, and community members that it is not abnormal to choose health and safety. Everyone looks for opportunities to feel connected and a part of a common experience. Let’s not allow misperception of what that experience is to fool us into a mindset which is both inaccurate and detrimental.

A Community View of Prevention

Breaking down misperceptions about substance use to fuel new community norms is one example of a prevention strategy. Educating youth, parents, and other caring adults about the harms of substance use is another, but is often mistaken as the only option. Prevention strategies can also include a change in business practice such as checking IDs or community policies which limit youth access and exposure to substances.

Whether you think of these as system changes, environmental strategies, or work that takes a really long time, you may wonder why public health professionals bother with them. I think the answer is best understood through analogy, a dog analogy to be specific.

In my household, the family member most often at the doctor is our dog, Brooks. This poor guy has had quite the battle with allergies, torn ACLs, etc. These issues do not stop him from being a young dog who wants to play and run though! After his first ACL surgery, the vet told us he should not run, jump, or fuss with the wound on his knee (which is like telling a fish not to swim). How did my husband and I try to prevent these things from happening? At first we focused our energy on scolding him each time he tried to jump on the couch or started licking his wound. I’m convinced Brooks started to think we changed his name to “No” because we used the word so often.

After a couple of days, we got smarter. Brooks loves to jump on our bed, so we shut the door to our room anytime we were away. We had Brooks wear a cone to make his wound inaccessible. We even went so far as to leash him every time we went outside so he wouldn’t chase after rabbits. Instead of continuing to tell Brooks to change his behavior, we created environments for him which prevented the risky behavior from happening at all.

This is what we do in public health. We work to create environments which inherently promote health and prevent risky behavior from happening. Rather than relying solely on education to stop youth from using alcohol and drugs, we use strategies that impact the entire community in which youth live.

Concepts into Action

What might you do to put these concepts into action? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Think critically. Question information you receive that suggests it is normal for youth to use alcohol and drugs. Know that you have the majority on your side.
  • Talk to youth about misperceptions. What do they believe the norm is? Why? Remember that youth do care about what their parents think, even if they try to convince you otherwise. Find talking points and conversation starters at samhsa.gov/underage-drinking or www.drugfree.org.
  • Ask the same of adults. What do they believe is normal and why? Empower parents and caring adults to express their concerns about substance use for the young people in their lives.
  • Find confidence in your healthy choices. It can be uncomfortable for both youth and adults to be open about their belief youth substance use is unhealthy. Be an example of the majority who believes this too. Find inspiration from others who already have at myonereason.com and www.abovetheinfluence.com.
  • Find local data to learn what this looks like in your community. For those in Minnesota, sumn.org is a wonderful resource to locate this information.
  • Get involved! Join a neighborhood group, a community coalition, or another effort working to promote youth health. Community collaboration has shown to be one of the most successful ways to change the environment and reduce substance use. For more information, visit cadca.org or www.rpcmn.org.

Bio

Lindsey Smith Lindsey Smith is the Regional Alcohol, Tobacco, & Other Drug Prevention Coordinator, serving Minnesota’s seven county metro area. In this role, she supports local communities working to prevent substance abuse by providing resources, training, assistance, and consultation. By engaging multiple sectors of the community and using public health principles as a guide, she assists community collaboratives in reaching their goals.

http://www.rpcmn.org

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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Savoring Summer & Sobriety

Growing up, my mother used to sing “Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” With her Southern drawl – she was from Georgia; it was nearly 40 years before she relocated to Iowa, where I was born — the lyrics, melody and beat transposed this Midwestern kid to another time and place.

That same song used to get my three kiddos laughing and hamming it up when it came on the oldies station. #SoberSon, in particular around age six to 10, used to get a real kick out of it. Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face, a memory of truly good times.

Since embracing sobriety during summer 2014, #SoberSon has made such progress in recovery. He successfully completed a treatment program and continues to see his counselor regularly. He enrolled in college classes and earns tuition and books with his part-time job.

The first semester (spring 2015) that he started at the community college, he did so with a sense of responsibility but it took an inordinate amount of time and energy to take placement tests, write an appeal letter, register for classes, meet with his academic advisor, order textbooks and get ready for class. But, come the first day of classes, he was ready and he dug in to studying, earned excellent grades and committed to taking classes again for fall semester 2015.

During that first summer without classes, I worried about him having time on his hands, but he managed it quite well and was rested and ready for fall semester. By this time, he knew the ropes and truly committed himself as a student. Ditto for spring 2016. Excellent study habits paid off with excellent grades … and exhaustion – welcome summer break 2016.

This summer is so pleasant. He isn’t sleeping in all day. He isn’t playing video games all day. In addition to his part-time job, he’s been reading books, catching up on some television series, taking the dog on adventures, helping his sister ad brother in-law out with their dog, and sharing the family car with his younger brother. He’s also had a bit more social life this summer catching up with old friends.

In other words, he’s savoring summer and we are all thoroughly enjoying the routine. But, he’s also looking forward to the school year ahead. Before the end of June, he’d outlined his fall semester classes and completed registration in July. What’s more, he had already earned the tuition. And, just this weekend, several of his fall textbooks arrived. Last night, he even shopped for school supplies.

Sobriety and recovery continue to evolve for #SoberSon. Being able to savor today while looking forward to tomorrow is clearly an encouraging sign. The “Summertime” tune is stuck in my head as I do a little mom dance just thinking about his sobriety!

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Parents: Doing the Best They Can with What They Have

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By Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.

Thank you, Sherry, for being part of #fsts16. We are pleased to have you elaborate on many of the points from the panel discussion that took place at From Statistics to Solutions: Addressing the Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Use. MWM

When parents arrive at our Family Program, they are typically experiencing a variety of different emotions.  Some of them arrive feeling desperate, as they are tremendously fearful for the well-being of their child, and are out of ideas about what to do.  Some of them arrive confused, as it makes no sense that they have raised this beautiful child with their best efforts and values, and, yet, the disease of addiction is still present.  Some of them arrive angry, because it’s really frustrating to deal with the behaviors that happen when someone is actively using.  And, some of them are just exhausted, because standing guard over your child’s life is all-consuming.

To say it’s not easy to be a parent of a child who struggles with alcoholism or addiction is an extreme understatement.  When the dreams and aspirations for the person you love are side-tracked by addiction, what is left behind is the stuff most parental nightmares are made of.

Our society doesn’t help with these nightmares.  In fact, someone outside of the situation who hasn’t had firsthand experience with alcoholism or addiction may easily make judgements.  It’s a common belief that if a child is “good” or “bad” it has to do with how they have been parented.  Most people look at alcoholism and addiction as a moral failing, rather than a disease or disorder.  There is much stigma placed on families who are impacted by addiction, even though alcoholism was first declared a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956, and, addiction has been placed in this category, as well.  This information alone doesn’t seem to stop the judgements, or stop a parent from taking their child’s addiction personally.

I know it was something my husband took personally.  Even though he understood the disease of addiction better than most because he is in long-term recovery himself, understanding what to do as two out of three of his children struggled with their own addictions, and the consequences that surrounded them, escaped him.  I took it personally, as well, thinking that if I had a different role in their lives, or maybe if his prior marriage was still intact, something would be different for these two.

Despite the stories we create in our heads about all of this, the facts remain the same.

Good parenting doesn’t stop addiction.  There is no amount of loving someone that can change their physiology or propensity for alcoholism or addiction.  Bad parenting doesn’t create addiction. 

There are many who have survived less than ideal childhoods who have grown up to live happy, productive lives without the cloud of addiction.

And, yet, most of us still want to blame something or someone for this issue.  I was recently involved in a conversation where a question was posed: What are some of the road blocks and challenges that hinder collaboration with working with youth struggling with addiction?  With so many obstacles that stand in the way, I was looking forward to the answers, so we could start addressing them!  I was surprised to hear that one of the people involved believed the major obstacle was parents.

As she explained, I understood her standpoint.  Sometimes parents, in their confusion around the situation, get caught up in denial.  They want to believe that their beloved child would know better.  They want to believe that addiction couldn’t possibly touch their family.  They want to believe that it’s just a phase.  They don’t want to live in the embarrassment and shame associated with alcoholism or addiction, and who can blame them, really?

But, sometimes we still blame.  It’s fairly common in the world today that when something goes “awry” we want answers and to know who is responsible.  If it’s a child, then the parent must be at fault.  Even those of us working in the addiction recovery field we hear the comments about the parents that are more of a problem than their child.  We may have even made those comments.

The truth of the situation is that parents are doing the best they can with the information that they have.  They are doing their very best.  They want the very best for their child.  The assumption should not be that they are to blame.  The assumption should always be that they are loving their child as much as they possibly can.

The question for those of us who work with these parents is: How do we help families from blaming themselves?

In my experience, the best place to start is creating a safe place for them to talk.  Isolation is a key symptom of addiction, and is present on both sides of the disease.  Parents who have a child struggling with addiction often isolate themselves trying to protect their child and their reputation, not realizing this is also blocking them from receiving help.  If a parent starts talking, they will share information on how we can best help them.  They’ll talk about their fears, their confusion, their hopes and their plans.  The best thing anyone can do is listen.

When we listen, we will hear when a parent is ready to learn more.  The next important thing we can do for a parent is help them to really understand addiction.  Education around chemical dependency, how it happens and what it looks like, can help to clear up some of the confusion families have.  Although families typically understand addiction on an intellectual basis, their emotions haven’t always caught up yet, and these emotions add to their underlying reactions.  In my experience, when families have the opportunity to really learn about addiction, and have the questions that they have answered, it helps them to navigate the situation better.

However, as stated earlier, education isn’t enough.  Although it’s extremely helpful, it doesn’t answer the question most parents want answered “So, now what do I do?”  How do I get my loved one into recovery?  How am I supposed to be as they navigate early recovery?  How am I supposed to show up if my loved one relapses?

Typically, parents with a child who is actively using have one major fear: their child will not stop using and won’t be able to find recovery. 

Often times that fear continues after a child is getting help, but it turns to fear that their child may not be able to maintain their recovery.  Although their child may be doing everything they had hoped that they would do, parents may still be having the same reactions as they did when their child was using.  It is imperative families find support for themselves, as well.

A study by Laudet, Morgen, and White, (The Role of Social Supports) states “Support, in particular, recovery-oriented support, is likely to be critical to alcohol and other drug users, especially early on…”  It would stand to reason that recovery-oriented support would be helpful for parents and families, as well.  In fact, John Kelly, Ph.D. and Director of the Recovery Research Institute, was recently quoted to have said “Social support is good, but recovery specific social support is more important.”,  which also can be interpreted that a parent’s love is good, but a parent’s love with the support of recovery is more important.

The greatest gift I’ve received is something that can be passed along to others: the gift of family recovery. 

Recovery is community.  It is the support of other people who know what it’s like to love someone who struggles with addiction.  Recovery offers ideas and resources based on the experience of others.  Recovery offers a common language to talk about addiction, and the communication skills to reconnect with each other.  Recovery offers opportunity for healing.  Recovery offers hope.  The same process that helps our children recover can help other family members, too.  Family recovery offers answers to the question, “So, now what do I do?”

When my husband’s son started his recovery journey from his meth use, we were cautiously optimistic.  He was doing better than we’d seen him do in recent years, but we weren’t sure it would last.  We understand that this disease is chronic and can be fatal.  Through recovery, we also knew that placing our fears on him would not be helpful.  We also knew that the time that he spent in a facility was just the beginning of the journey.  The real work would happen for him in his own recovery community.

Three years later, we get to see the gifts of recovery turn into a full blown miracle.  We’ve watched him walk through the highs and lows of early recovery.  We’ve watched him take ownership.  We’ve watched him make decisions, good and bad.  We’ve watched that he’s let us know what’s going on in his world.  He did it in his own time, with his own support around him.  And, we needed our support around us.

Parents don’t have to do it alone.  Talk to someone.  Learn more about addiction.  Find others who understand addiction who can support you in this process.  And, please, remember that everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have, including you.

About Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

Sherry Gaugler-Stewart is the Director of Family & Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat in Wayzata, Minnesota. She has worked with The Retreat’s Family Program since its inception. Sherry is a certified spiritual director and has been an active participant in Twelve-Step recovery since 1999.  In addition to her work at The Retreat, she has lead spiritual retreats and is a meditation teacher.  She is also involved in the Kids’ Programming at The Retreat, for children aged 7-12 years old who are growing up in families affected by chemical dependency.

Side note: The Retreat offers a generous scholarship program to help defray the cost of participation in its programs.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Sober at 17

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One of my former students at Metro State University was especially supportive and informative when we were worried sick about our son’s addiction – because she had firsthand insight. We became fast friends and later colleagues at work. Today, she’s our guest blogger sharing her experience with addiction, sobriety and recovery as a young adult. Please welcome Lisa Grimm! MWM

Six shots of Bacardi Limon, I threw up and fell in love all in the same night. I was 15.

And I would fall truly, madly, deeply in love with alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine over the next two and a half years.

Up until this time my parents, sober alcoholics since before I was born, had said things like, “Don’t drink or do drugs. It won’t mix well with your body chemistry.” My body chemistry? Without further explanation that statement was awkward enough to keep me away, for a time. I was also acutely aware that most of my deceased lineage had died because of the bottle, which legit scared me.

My childhood was difficult for many reasons. Out of respect to my family I won’t air specific grievances. I will say that my parents were battling some significant issues. I was exposed to some very grown up things at a very young age (mental illness, anger management, financial struggles, legal proceedings of epic proportions, and the list goes on) and endured mental, emotional and physical abuse along the way.

My parents divorced when I was four. My dad remarried shortly after. I attended eight schools before high school making it difficult to cultivate meaningful and lasting relationships.

As an only child with emotionally unavailable parents (P.S. I love them so much), I spent a lot of time alone (and lonely) leaning on movies, my imagination and wandering the streets to help me process my surroundings and teach me about the workings of life and the world. While I knew something was deeply wrong, I accumulated survival tools wherever I could find them and carried on. I deflected the hard stuff and became a chameleon of sorts, blending into my surroundings.

When I took that first drink my surroundings expanded far and wide. I had a new group of friends and a full social calendar. It felt like anything was possible.

Those warnings from my parents still had a hold, so I declared almost immediately that I would just drink and never do drugs. Two months later I started smoking pot.

Experimentation continued and within a few years I was smoking pot several times a day had dabbed in hallucinogens which led to ecstasy and cocaine, and boy oh boy what a joy they were.

As Josey Orr says, “The typical progression for many drug addicts goes something like this: 1. Fun 2. Fun with problems 3. Just problems.” Well, the problems began almost immediately with a rapidly plummeting fun quotient. There are so many details I’d like to share with you, but this isn’t a book nor are there pictures so I’ll cut to the chase :).

On November 3, 2000 at the ripe age of 17 I experienced my last of a long list of consequences related to my alcohol and drug use.

I had become careless and sloppy, as evidenced by the sizable bag of pot hanging out of my brand new winter coat as I was leaving the house to go party that Friday night. My stepmom, tired of it all and one to always call the kettle, called me to the living room and along with my dad offered me three choices. I could:

 

  1. Go to the Bloomington Police Station and take a possession charge (she wasn’t kidding), OR
  2. Go to treatment, OR
  3. Go to 90 AA meetings in 90 days

 

I was living with them after being kicked out of my mom’s house for the last time. Despite my family banding together through group therapy and other means to confront my use and problems, by this time I had been arrested twice, kicked out of flight school at University of North Dakota (the day before my solo flight) due to one of those arrests, nearly kicked out of Cretin Derham-Hall High School for disciplinary issues and declining grades, and a slew of other damaging things to my body and mind, and others—namely my family.

As with most addicts, it’s a long and varied list of shittiness.

I knew deep down that I was killing myself. I knew that the young woman I had become was someone not only unrecognizable, but someone I didn’t want to be. But the gravity of the emptiness and pain I felt inside had become so pervasive sedation was the most effective option to deal. So… I chose 90 meetings in 90 days. Not only was it was a far better option than treatment (or spending some time in a cell, even if brief) it was the easiest to manipulate. “Sure” I thought. “I’ll go to these meetings and carry on with my routine and they’ll never know.”

Naturally, I got good and high and went to my first meeting on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at Uptown House on Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minn. I didn’t know these people, they weren’t trying to tell me I had a problem. They were simple sharing what it had been like for them, what happened and what it’s like now. They didn’t look like me or talk like me, but for the first time ever I related to this group of people in the most real and authentic way I knew existed. I saw myself in them and it gave me a lot of hope. It also scared the shit out of me.

After an evening of tears and getting honest with myself, I made the decision that I would go to 90 meetings in 90 days and do what was asked of me. If I didn’t like what I found there I would continue as I had been and write the whole thing off.

I got a Big Book, a sponsor, went to meetings regularly, worked the steps, and found a wonderful group of young sober people to hang with. I told my friends at school that I had to take care of some things for a while and if there were still there when I got back that would be great.

I said the serenity prayer from my car to the door of school every morning and periodically throughout the day, just to make it through.

I showed up at meetings early to set up and clean up. I participated in leadership roles in my home group meeting. I took meetings to women’s treatment centers and detox facilities. When I had thoroughly worked through the steps, I shared my experience, strength and hope with other women. My family supported me, but continued to enforce strong checks and balances until I built up trust.

I’ve been sober ever since. I was a senior in High School a few months shy of my 18th birthday.

My life is better than anything I could have imagined, and it continues to get better. Even the shitty moments in life are better because I have the tools to deal with all of it, like a grown up. I have accomplished so many things because of my recovery, but the most lovely and dearest to me is restored relationships with my family and the relationships and love recovery enables. There is no greater gift in this life than being able to have true intimacy and love with other humans. No amount of money, material, professional or personal accolades will fill your soul like this does, at least this is true for me.

I’m beyond grateful for the people in that room that night, my family for loving me through the good, bad and the ugly, the amazing community of sober pals I have and the friends I have that don’t treat me/act differently because of it.

Cheers to another day!

Bio:

Lisa Grimm (@lulugrimm) is a Minneapolis native who recently relocated to Austin, Texas, where she leads social media for Whole Foods Market. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and American Bulldog, snacking, traveling, watching movies and documentaries, and volunteering at Healing with Horses Ranch.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 

 

Taking an AND instead of OR perspective: The Minnesota Model 2.0

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Melrose Center, an eating-disorder specialty clinic in the Twin Cities, was a generous sponsor for our addiction-prevention conference in May 2016. Today’s guest blogger is Jason Reed, one of our panel experts who addressed solutions to co-occurring disorders, which are common among young people with addiction.He’s prepared an encouraging and thought-provoking perspective on why we need to find the best approaches to treatment rather than being pressured into a rigid acceptance of just one way. MWM

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and some would say, the land of 10,000 substance abuse treatment centers. The actual number of treatment centers is actually more like 500. Regardless, Minnesota put addiction treatment on the map by developing the very first formal treatment approach for alcoholism and other substance use disorders. It’s called The Minnesota Model and has been replicated across the world and has helped millions of people. The 12-step philosophy of AA and NA is an integral component of the Minnesota Model.

As a psychologist working primarily in the area of addiction, I often hear 12-step programs pitted against evidence based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

It’s as if as a clinician, I have to somehow choose a side, and then stick to it. It’s 12-steps or CBT.

At this point in my career, I’ve grown weary of the word or. In CBT the tendency to think in either/or terms is called “black and white” or “dichotomous” thinking. This can lead to a lot of mental and emotional suffering. Modern American society is full of examples of headline-driven questions that make us feel forced to chose a side: do guns kill or do people kill? Are you a Republican or Democrat? We get put in an either/or dilemma.

Most rational and reasonable people would likely concede that when trying to understand a phenomenon, it’s best to take an approach that can account for multiple variables and potential influences. However, we as humans seem to have a natural tendency or desire to align ourselves with a particular side or “camp”.

In the field of psychology, our camps are based on different theories of the mind and human behavior. Theories are useful and necessary, and serve as a framework for trying to understand these things.

However, holding onto a particular theory too tightly can sometimes cause us to miss the forest for the trees.

The field of psychology has also at times fallen victim to dichotomous thinking when trying to understand the origins and treatment of human suffering. This has led to questions such as: is it nature or nurture? is early attachment or temperament more important? Are mental health problems best described in categories of symptoms or better understood on a continuum? Is it the technique or the skill level of the clinician that produces change? The list goes on and on. Intuitively we know the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but we still feel pressure to cling to one particular camp.

 

During graduate school I felt pressure, mostly from myself, to come up with my own unique theory of human behavior and treating mental health disorders. And I thought I had it figured out by the end of my training. Now over a decade into my career, I’m realizing that I know much less now than I did back then. My theory is much less clear. And I think that’s a good thing.

I now teach at the school I graduated from. For one of the courses I teach, Counseling and Personality Theories, I intentionally start the semester off by discussing some of the existing research that indicates the theoretical principle you pick makes less difference than other variables such as the therapeutic relationship and client factors.This forces students to sit with the frustration of not having a simple, clear answer, and to instead appreciate the complexity of human behavior and the process of change.

Addiction, and in particular the behaviors that arise from addictions, are among the most complex and confusing of all human phenomenon.

The addiction field has to grapple with some of its own often befuddling questions:

Is addiction a chronic, progressive disease that requires intervention or do most people get better on their own, without treatment?

Are substance use disorders caused by genetic factors (biomedical model) or are they the result of trying to cope with difficulties in life (self-medication model)

Is complete abstinence necessary for full recovery or can people live a quality life while still using substances?

Should family members detach and protect themselves as not to enable the addiction, or can they influence the behavior of their addicted loved one?

Do you need a personal history of struggling with addiction to be able to understand and treat it, or do you need a high degree of training and professional licensure?

We have some big questions facing the addiction field and how we are going to evolve our understanding, prevention and treatment of addiction. Perhaps the least helpful response to this profound conundrum would be to fall back into black and white thinking and look for simple answers and then divide into camps.

In many ways there is still a lot we don’t understand about addiction. Most experts can’t even agree on a shared definition of addiction. And there are many, many different pathways to addiction.

One of the greatest advances in behavior therapy over the last several decades has been Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Created by Marsha Linehan and now disseminated and used all over the world, DBT has been shown to be effective for a variety of difficult to treat conditions. The philosophy of the approach is based largely on the idea of a “dialectic”, which assumes everything has its contradictions or opposing forces. In essence it involves the art of holding two opposing ideas in mind; specifically with DBT, balancing change with acceptance. Approaches like DBT have taught us the importance of balance, and the power of the word and.

The ultimate dialectic in addiction treatment may be that you need to treat the addiction as a primary disorder and the underlying factors that drive it to keep going. When we can’t prevent it, people suffering from addiction deserve the best possible treatment we have available. And we will only arrive at the most effective treatments by bringing everyone together from all the various camps and disciplines.

It may be time to take a step back from what we think we know about addiction, and come together to better understand it.

We will need to have some difficult conversations and we will need to bring people together who have very different ideas about addiction and how to treat it. Going through this process will be a good thing for the addiction field, but more importantly, for the individuals and families at risk for, or currently struggling with addiction. We owe it to future generations to put in this difficult, messy work, so we can come out with something even better.

Then, from our combined efforts, we can build a truly integrated treatment approach and we can call it The Minnesota Model 2.0.

Dr. Jason Reed is an Addiction Psychologist, Adjunct Professor and founder of the Minnesota Integrative Treatment and Recovery Enterprise (MinCARE). MinCARE is a consulting, training and advocacy organization committed to improving the quality of care and outcomes for all individuals struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders in the state of Minnesota.

www.mincare.com

info@mincare.com

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

#SoberSon is Two Years Sober Today

For every person in recovery, there is a day when they last used. For my son, that day was July 11, 2014. There was something profoundly different that day – from the other times he’d started a treatment program. It was more than a hopeful feeling, it was a belief – his belief – that this time he would find success.

Several years prior when we knew he had a problem with drugs and were desperately trying to get him to go to treatment for the first time, I remember him telling me that if he ever went through treatment that he’d never relapse. I don’t think he used the word relapse; it wasn’t yet a word in his vocabulary or mine.

That was such a bold statement. Curious, I asked him why. His response had something to do with resolution and choice. He wasn’t talking about willpower. He was talking about his own ability to succeed. He was intimating that successful recovery – another word that wasn’t yet part of our lexicon – requires willingness, readiness and commitment.

He basically implied that for him there was no reason to go to treatment unless he believed he would be successful.

As parents, we recognize the problem and the solution long before our young addicts. In our heads, we acknowledge the commitment piece. If only they’d put their minds toward this, right? We hear the words willingness and readiness, but don’t understand why that isn’t NOW and why we can’t convince our loved ones to do what we know they need to do.

We believe in their ability to succeed because parents are champions.

When you’re stuck in the muck of a loved one’s addiction, all we want is for them to stop using and to start living in recovery. We don’t want them to die, and yet we know that’s a very real possibility. We have a lot of hope. Quite a few years back, I wrote a piece called, “Maybe Today Will Be The Day.” https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/young-addicts/

Of course, we would come to learn, it’s not easy to succeed in getting your young one to acknowledge that they have a problem or that treatment and sobriety are the answers And, it’s not easy to succeed in recovery if you don’t want to be in recovery in the first place. Goodness knows, he had more than one go of it.

In retrospect, whether #SoberSon or I knew it at the time he made that bold statement about success in recovery, he was on to something insightful– the idea that recovery happens when you have a belief in your own potential to succeed. It helps if your parents believe in you, but ultimately, it has to do with whether our kids believe in themselves. By continuing to show them love and compassion even in the depths of their addiction, we are contributing to a foundation for their future success.

Shortly after he’d been in his last treatment program, I asked him why it was working this time. He told me that the other programs had been, “OK,” but, “this was the first time that I didn’t want to go back (to a using life).”

In other words, it was the first time he wanted to succeed in recovery.

Today, without a doubt, #SoberSon believes in himself and slowly but surely he is thriving in his sobriety and recovery. I am so grateful that this was the day that #SoberSon truly started his recovery, and I am proud of his continued success.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            Our Young Addicts

A Sibling Says it Like No One Else Can: Doing Drugs is Helping No One

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A special, sincere and personal thanks to this week’s guest blogger and his mom, who granted me permission to share his recent Facebook post and her response with the OYA Community. Brandon’s older brother Devin overdosed and died earlier this year; he was a friend of my son’s and their family often provided refuge for him during addiction. Today, Brandon is sharing a heartfelt and courageous plea for siblings. Thank you, Brandon and Mom. You write the truth.

A Sibling’s Post & Plea

Me and Devin used to be best friends when I was young. He would take me everywhere and show me everything. He was there for me always.

Then the drugs took over and we distanced. He either got away from me so I wouldn’t have to see him like that. Or I distanced myself from him because I didn’t want to see him like that.

There were points where we didn’t talk to each other for months on end. Purely because I was mad at him for doing drugs. But you know through all of the drugs and everything else I still loved him as my brother and woulda done anything for him. I always borrowed him money and helped him. Like family is family.

And for those out there that are doing drugs. Think about your siblings …you have such a big impact on them. Like you could lose them at any moment or they could lose you. Please, please think about them.

They will never have another “you.”

So please if you get clean for anyone. Please get clean for them. They need you more than anyone else needs you and I can tell you that right now.

Even if you argue and are mad. Drop it. I can tell you from experience it’s not worth it. It really isn’t. Because you could wake up one day and not have them.

Losing a sibling is a terrible, terrible thing, and I wish that upon no one.

Please if you need anything to help you get clean let me know and I promise you I will do anything in my power to get you clean. Just remember you doing drugs is helping no one. Absolutely no one.

Mom’s Proud, Caring Response

Devin, we miss you so much. Your brother especially. 💔 We will never understand why you were taken from us so early in life. It’s not fair. Please watch over us and help us through these difficult days. Brandon, you are a wonderful young man I am proud to call my son. I know with this statement on here that you will be able to help others get help so they don’t have to go through the hell we are going through. Love you so.

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Three!!!

Three years ago this week, the Our Young Addicts blog launched with the word “help” followed by an exclamation point.

Help! https://ouryoungaddicts.com/2013/07/

It wasn’t a call for help rather it was an acknowledgement that there were others other there, like me, who might be searching for others who were parenting a young person with a substance-use disorder (a term for addiction that wasn’t really being used in 2013). It was also a realization that we needed to dialogue with addiction/treatment/recovery professionals.

Shortly thereafter, the blog turned into a website with links, resources and more: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and community events.  A community started to grow. It was no longer me, it became us.

While I didn’t know the answers, I sure as heck had amassed a lot of experience and resources, and in my mind, hope always existed even when things seemed hopeless.

Today, Our Young Addicts is a community of parents and professionals who share experience, resources and hope no matter where a young person may be on the spectrum of addiction, treatment and recovery.

So much has changed, for the better, in the three years since this blog launched. It’s a wonderful reminder of what is possible. It’s just the kind of reminder that we need when we’re in the throes of a young person’s addiction – whether we are their parent or an addiction/treatment/recovery professional working with the young person and their family.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! (Three thank you’s because, this week we are three years old.)

Midwestern Mama aka Rose McKinney

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

Social Media – A Place to Connect

Sobriety & Social Media – this link explores the positive possibilities and highlights several sources for parents and professionals, including the #OYACommunity

Media Age: Sobriety and Social Media

Wishing you a wonderful Fourth of July holiday weekend!

Midwestern Mama

P.S. Here’s a social media guide for parents, which was put together by the West Virginia State Police. Lots of helpful, current information on the social channels that young people are using. parent-advice-on-social-mediaapps_final-4152016-read-only