From Rock Bottom to Recovery – A Young Woman’s Story

Our guest blogger this week is Maddie, a remarkably smart young woman in recovery. Through Maddie’s story, parents and licensed professionals might better understand youth substance use – and more importantly, recognize that it is entirely possible to progress from rock bottom to recovery and why family support is key to that. I have known Maddie and her family for many years and am so pleased to share her story with the OYA Community. Thank you, Maddie, for courageously writing this week’s guest post. MWM

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On April 20th, 2012, I hit another bottom. It wasn’t the first bottom I had hit and it wouldn’t be the last.

I had reached the ‘jumping off place’ where I couldn’t live with alcohol and drugs, but I couldn’t live without it. Sometimes, it surprises me that I couldn’t see my addiction sooner, but the compulsions and denial of addiction were incredibly strong.

My addiction escalated slowly enough to be inconspicuous to those around me for a time, but quickly enough for me to hit several serious bottoms before I graduated from college. By the time I turned 22, I was on a consistent, daily rotation between marijuana, Adderall, Klonopin, and alcohol.

Occasionally, I would use cocaine or other drugs I deemed ‘recreational,’ but by the end of my addiction there was nothing ‘recreational’ about my drug use.

In the beginning, I would have considered myself a ‘binge drinker.’ I would only smoke pot, experiment with pills, and drink copious amounts of alcohol on weekends. By 15, cocaine had became an integral part of my problem. I remember ducking in the back of my mother’s BMW X3 as my sister and her boyfriend drove through Cabrini Green and the other Chicago ghettos bathed in blue lights from constant surveillance to pick up cocaine from some low-level drug dealer. I was afraid of getting shot.

This began the constant cycle of tearing down my life and building it back up, ad-nauseum. While I began experiencing the consequences of my addiction immediately, I was unaware of them until my illness had destroyed everything worthwhile in my life: my relationship with my friends and family, my self-worth, my physical safety, my emotional stability, my independence, my sense of humor, my integrity, and the list goes on.

My emotional stability was the first to go.

In November of 2004, I had my first major suicide attempt at age 15. I swallowed an entire bottle of bulk Tylenol P.M. a few days before Thanksgiving. I would have died that night if my sister hadn’t heard me stumbling around upstairs trying to make it to the toilet – dizzy from all the sleep aid. My parents took me to the hospital down the street. In the waiting room with my mom, I had not yet lost consciousness, but I could barely keep my head up.

Once admitted, they tested me for drugs and pregnancy, even though I was not yet sexually active and I had barely kissed a boy. They found cocaine in my system and deep cuts on my left forearm that I had made with a dull pair of scissors and occasionally one of my mother’s gourmet cooking knives.The doctors gave me an IV and forced me to drink charcoal. I slept for over 24 hours and when I woke up, my mom was in the corner sobbing. It’s hard for me to think about the pain I caused her that night and for many nights to come during my active addiction.

I spent most of junior and senior year grounded, which was great for me. I was able to study and take care of myself, get good grades, and find friends outside of the party scene. I spent a lot of time with my parents and their friends during this time; we would go to Steppenwolf or out to dinner. My mom and I would work out together like fiends. Things got better. Without alcohol and drugs, I was able to put my life back together for brief periods of time. Inevitably, I would drink and use again; everything would begin to fall apart again.

To self-medicate during my dry periods,  I started smoking pot. When I smoked, I wasn’t blacking out and falling face first on our stoop or throwing up in the elevator shaft or getting in random cars or going near Cabrini Green to pick up drugs. I was sleeping, reading, watching movies, and studying. It took away that persistent and aching longing I always felt (and sometimes still feel).

When I was accepted to a prestigious liberal arts college in Southern California, I found friends who drank and used just like I did. Often, we went through two or three handles a night between five of us 130-pound girls with the aid of Adderall and cocaine. We were the blackout crew: high all day and incredibly smart. During my freshman year, I went out 6-7 days a week to party and my health suffered. I had Bronchitis over 3 times that year.

In the spring of my Junior year, I was sexually assaulted. While I had been struggling with my depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts for some time, I had never had symptoms this severe. Once I started crying, I would beat myself with my fists or a hammer until I could get myself to stop – often an hour later. I withdrew from all of my friendships and started isolating. I began blaming my friends and family for being unable to save me from myself. Looking back, this was the point where my addiction stopped being a choice: I could either use or kill myself.

Everything after that was a blur. I would have periods of okay-ness (not happiness) where I could get my work done, take care of myself, and was moving forward. Then, about every 3 months everything would come crashing down again and it felt like I had to start completely over.

I remember throughout college I would keep a post-it note on my mirror that said “no smoking before 4 p.m.” Eventually, I crossed out the 4 and wrote 2. I never was able to make it. I remember I would leave my drugs at home while I was studying in the library. About 30 minutes into studying, I would have to drive home – the anxiety so overwhelming I felt like my skin was crawling.

During the spring of my senior year, I was trying desperately to graduate. My mom flew out three or four times that semester to help me pick up the pieces of my disintegrating life and to help me finish my Economics degree. On April 20th, my senior thesis was due and I couldn’t turn it in. I remember people coming to my house to celebrate 420 and sobbing in my room. I kept taking Klonopin to soothe my anxiety, but it stopped working so I kept taking more.

I don’t remember this, but  I called my sister that night and told her I was suicidal. I don’t remember this, but she showed up later that day to find a bottle of Klonopin spilled all over the floor. She panicked and called my mom, who showed up the following day. My roommates found out I was suicidal and kicked me out of the house because they were scared about what I might do. While I worked on finishing the last requirements of my degree, my mom cleaned the bile, piss, shit, and blood of the walls of my room so I could move out. Through sheer luck, they let me graduate.To this day, that entire month is blurry; I was in so much pain and had been ingesting so many drugs that I have lost most of those memories.

Two weeks after graduation, my behavior had become increasingly erratic and my parents kicked me out until I agreed to get help. My relationship with my parents was all I had left and I believe that setting that boundary saved my life.

The next day, I committed myself to a 7-day inpatient treatment center in the next city over. They took my shoelaces and locked-up all of my stuff.

This is where the healing began.

Often, there is a tendency to ‘make sense’ of an addiction by blaming certain people or circumstances for causing this behavior, problem. For me, I blamed my addiction on bullying, sexual assault, depression, being bipolar, or tumultuous family life. In my opinion, I was born an alcoholic. I always drank and used differently than those around me. From my first real drunk, I seemed to drink with a purpose: to get drunk. Each time I drank, I almost always would puke, black-out, or both. Today, I am grateful I only faced some of the consequences associated with addiction and my family has stayed by my side through my sickness and my recovery.

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.

Overdoses do not have to be Tragic

Too many families and friends are losing loved ones to opioid overdoses. 129 each day is the horrifying statistic that I keep hearing. Not all overdoses result in death – many people can be revived with life-saving naloxone (brand-name Narcan).

If you know someone who uses opiates, including prescription pain medications, fentanyl patches or street heroin, please carry naloxone, and insist that the first responders in your community do, too. Here in my state, Minnesota, organizations like the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation are working hard to provide training and access.

Naloxone saves a life and provides one of the most timely opportunities to encourage a person to seek treatment and recovery from addiction. I once heard a counselor say, “I can’t save dead people.” Spot on – let’s save lives and get people the help they need.

Opioid-use is not just a big-city problem and naloxone isn’t just a big-city solution. This is happening everywhere and this means communities of all sizes need access and training on life-saving naloxone.

Here’s a wonderful story from Montevideo, Minn., about the valiant efforts of local police officers who saved a young woman from a Fentanyl overdose. http://staging.wctrib.com/news/region/4119566-life-saving-act-carrying-narcan-squads-proves-its-worth-montevideo

Naloxone wasn’t readily available when my son was using heroin; it wasn’t even something that treatment professionals or counselors told us about. If it had been, I would have carried it and given a naloxone kit my my son and his friends (several of whom overdosed and died).

Shortly after my son started treatment and recovery in 2014, I learned about naloxone and promptly got a kit and training at Valhalla Place. It was also around this time that I connected with the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation and began helping them share their mission and message with others. I am grateful that I’ve never had to use my naloxone kit, but am so glad to have it available.

We have posted resources and links on the Our Young Addicts website so you can learn more.

Please take this to heart and encourage your first reponders, family and friends to #CarryNaloxoneNow.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

 

 

Game On! Athletics, mental health and substance use.

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Student Athletes at Risk of Mental Health and Substance-Use Disorders

Guest Blog Post by Grace McLaughlin, Recovery Brands.

While most students enjoyed a three-month break over the summer, a select group was busy preparing for what might be the most important time in their life. A group whose need to do well in school isn’t just a benefit, but a necessity. A group that is seen as “too tough” for mental health to be an issue. This group is our student athletes.

These students spent their summers participating in two-a-day practices, running countless miles and dreaming of becoming an honorary MVP of their team. They have dreams of graduating high school with a full ride scholarship to college with the chance at the big leagues. However, many people forget these aspirations come with an immense amount of pressure and stress. On top of teaching them to be physically strong and focus on their sport, we should be educating them on the signs and symptoms of mental illness.

Although we have made great strides to break down the stigma associated with mental health, it’s still largely prevalent in 2016. Society has created a certain stereotype associated with student athletes, and it is one where mental illness isn’t allowed. Between the need to excel in school and athletics, it is no surprise that this group of young adults run the risk of developing depression, anxiety, eating disorders and even substance abuse. Student athletes have to show up to practice, no matter what is going on in their personal lives. If their grades are down, they risk being kicked off the team, or worse, losing their scholarship. On top of all this, they only get one day off a week to catch up with friends and be a “normal kid”. When it comes down to it, student athletes never truly get a break.

One group trying to tackle this issue is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). They conducted a study in 2014 that found “…about 30 percent of the 195,000 respondents to a recent American College Health Association (ACHA) survey reported having felt depressed in the last 12 months, and 50 percent reported having felt overwhelming anxiety during the same period.“ To combat this, the NCAA has created guides to help coaches and their athletes manage mental health issues. These guides highlight the fact that, although student athletes main focus is physical health, mental health is just as important. In order to be at your peak physical state, your mind must be healthy as well.

These guides also shed light on the potential for substance abuse among student athletes. Many people turn to substances as an escape from reality. With all this added pressure to young adults, it is no surprise that student athletes may be looking for a way to cope.

There are many steps that people can take to ensure mental health is a priority. Student athletes have an immense amount of added pressure on them, but they also have their coaches and teammates looking out for their best interests. As a coach, it’s imperative to have open communication with athletes and set the precedent that they should never be ashamed to reach out for help. When it comes down to it, seeking help and addressing mental health as a priority reveals an incredible sense of strength and bravery.

The first step to breaking down the stigma and getting people the help they need is by reaching out and discussing it.

About Grace McLaughlin

grace-mclaughlin Grace is a social media specialist at Recovery Brands. Through a portfolio of authoritative web properties such as Rehabs.com and Recovery.org, Recovery Brands helps connect individuals in need of addiction treatment with facilities that can provide care. The company’s sites equip consumers with valuable resources to make informed treatment decisions, and also allow treatment providers to connect with individuals seeking care by showcasing key facility offerings through robust profile listings. Complete with comprehensive online directories, facility ratings and reviews, forums and professional communities, site visitors can more efficiently compare and select the treatment options that best meet their recovery needs. For more information, visit RecoveryBrands.com or follow @RecoveryBrands.

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.

 

 

 

Five Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse in Your Teenager

Substance-use prevention is a year-round necessity, but it’s particularly timely during the first month of kids being back at school. This week’s guest blogger, Allison Walsh, offers tips for parents of teens. MWM

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Let’s make no bones about it: parenting a teenager is tough. If you’re the parent of a teenager, your own adolescence likely didn’t involve cell phones, the internet or Pokemon Go. Today, our kids face a whole new set of challenges and benefits, since they have unprecedented access to information, opportunities, and unfortunately, drugs.

The good news is that you can take tangible steps to steer your child away from substance abuse. Even if it feels like you are the last person your teenager wants to emulate, studies continually show that teens are far less likely to engage in substance abuse if their parents have healthy conversations with them on the matter. Here are some tried and true tips for helping your teen stay sober and healthy:

  1. Don’t Confront, but Converse – There’s a right way and a wrong way to talk to your teenager about drug use. Avoid making accusations — try to open up the lines of communication via a conversation. Ask questions; really listen to what your child is saying. Even if it feels awkward at first, you may want to begin by asking your teen about their opinion on drugs and alcohol. If they admit that they have engaged in substance use, don’t get angry. Instead, keep asking open-ended questions and strive to understand the reasons why they made those choices.
  2. Be Involved in Your Child’s Social Life – No, I don’t mean that you should tag along to the laser tag arena with your 16-year-old and their friends. Rather, simply keep your finger on the pulse of your teen’s social circle. Invite their friends into your home so you can get to know them. This will give you a better understanding of the environment in which your teen is immersed every day. Also, it’s smart to get acquainted with the parents of your child’s friends, who most likely share your goal of keeping your kids safe and sober. After all, it takes a village, right?
  3. Know the Signs of Substance Use – If you can nip it in the bud, substance abuse is less likely to cause major or continuous problems in your teen’s life. Learn about the signs of drug addiction and drug abuse, and keep an eye out for them in your teen.
  4. Talk to Your Teen About the Consequences of Substance Abuse – You don’t have to show a bunch of gruesome images of suffering drug addicts, but you should ensure that your teen understands the effects of drug abuse and the risks associated with using mind-altering substances. Too many times, teens start using because it seems fun, yet they do not consider the long-term physical and emotional consequences.
  5. Lead by Example – Plain and simple, if you or another adult in your home is abusing substances, that sends the message to your teen that this behavior is okay. If you are struggling with substance issues, you need to get help for yourself if you are to set a positive example for your child. Oftentimes, children who witness their parents abuse substances grow up to do the same thing, creating a perpetual cycle.

Parenting teens is not always easy, but your hard work pays off as you watch your child grow into a healthy, happy young adult. Do everything in your power to keep your teen away from drugs and alcohol. For more detailed information on talking to your child about substance abuse and teen drug rehab, check out this resource on talking to your kids about substance abuse. It’s a quick read, and chock full of concrete communicative steps you can take.

If you find that your child is already abusing substances, now is the time to get teen drug rehab. For free, confidential guidance, visit TeenRehabCenter.org.

About Allison Walsh

Allison Walsh - Guest BloggerAllison Walsh has personal experience with professional treatment. During her teenage years, she sought treatment for the life-threatening eating disorders bulimia and anorexia. Treatment saved her life, and she has dedicated her career to helping others receive the professional help that they need. Today, Allison serves as Vice President of Business Development and Branding at Advanced Recovery Systems, a network of substance abuse recovery programs, including free web resources like TeenRehabCenter.org. Check out Teen Rehab Center on Facebook for inspiration, advice and news about teen substance abuse.

[sources]

https://www.dea.gov/pr/multimedia-library/publications/growing-up-drug-free.pdf

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.

 

Trust in Recovery

If there’s one thing that addiction robs from us, it’s trust. For me, no longer trusting our son was one of the most devastating parts of his addiction. We had always had such a strong relationship but though his attitude, behavior and mood changes, his actions – and his words – changed and we could no longer trust him. If you’re living with a loved one who has a substance-use disorder, you know this all too well.

But let me tell you, in recovery the trust returns. Slowly. Over time. And as it comes back, it’s stronger than ever.

More over, it’s two-way trust.

When my son was a child, he trusted us because we were his parents. During addiction, his brain was high jacked by substances that eroded the trust between us and often we were at odds and became skeptical of each other. However, as part of recovery, we are now a team – a team that includes an adult kid, two siblings, two adult parents … and our family dog.

We are a team. We coordinate needs and interests. We share schedules. We help each other out and we support each other. We trust each other.

In recognition of September being national Recovery Month, I hope you and your family will find the return of trust. #TrustFeelsGood

Midwestern Mama

A Generation Found in Recovery High Schools

a-generation-found-school-bus

An interview with Greg Williams by our ever-popular guest blogger, Rose Lockinger. Learn more about Greg’s newest documentary, Generation Found. MWM

Greg Williams’ new documentary Generation Found opened on Tuesday, with special showings taking place throughout the country. Following the success of his 2013 documentary The Anonymous People Williams once again shines a line on the recovery community, only this time his focus has shifted from away from breaking the stigma of anonymity, to advocating for better treatment solutions for adolescent addicts in the country.  This film does an excellent job of raising awareness to the need for change in the way we approach treatment.  As a documentary, it does an excellent job at bringing to light not only addiction but effective treatment methods.  So often in Hollywood, we see the accurate depictions of addiction but few that shed light on the hope of recovery. It shows a way of living that encourage individuals to live in an unapologetic manner regarding to their recovery.

The film Generation Found focuses particularly on Recovery High Schools in the United States and how their methodology of creating community among teens who want to be sober is offering a new and successful approach to treating adolescent addiction.

For many years it has been known that 9 out of 10 people who suffer from addiction get their start on this path in their teenage years. Yet the treatment options available to these at-risk teens have been limited to traditional adult treatment methods that offer little to no success in helping kids.

Many teens that get in trouble or decide they need to get sober are relegated to residential treatment facilities that offer no real support once they are discharged and then they are returned back to their high schools where their dealers may be and they are surrounded by the people they used with.

If these teens are lucky enough to stay sober for any period of time once they get out of treatment their options for continued support usually consists of 12 Step Meetings where adults are the majority of the population and their ability to relate is almost nonexistent.

This is where Recovery High Schools come into play and they offer a sense of community and continued support that other adolescent treatment options do not currently offer. The film shows that Recovery High Schools are part of a greater pipeline of support for these kids that follows them from their initial treatment all the way through their college years.

The way that this pipeline works is that first, the adolescent addict enters into a residential treatment facility. These treatment facilities are much like that of their adult counterparts with the other difference being that they are specifically for addicts under the age of 18.

Once the teens finish their residential treatment they then have the option of enrolling in a Recovery High School, although there are currently only 36 in the United States. The Recovery High School is almost like a regular high school except that everyone in the school is in recovery. There are random and regular drug tests and there are even classes centered on recovery based ideas.

These schools allow their students to create a vibrant and thriving recovery community, which would have been almost impossible if they had gone back to their regular high schools. Also, since the emphasis is on recovery the students receive extra support that their normal high schools would not have been to give.

This added support includes teachers and administrators who are in recovery themselves and Alternative Peer Groups, or APGs, which act as sort of 12 Step Meetings specifically for kids under the age of 18. These APGs are an important part of the recovery process in these schools because it gives the teens an ability to relate to other teen addicts and see that recovery is, in fact, possible.

Once the students graduate from their Recovery High School many then choose to go on to college, as the film showed that the graduating class from Archway Academy, one of the schools highlighted in the film, had a college acceptance rate of 96% among their graduating seniors.

Transitioning from the recovery community in their high school to that of a normal college campus can be difficult for young people in recovery, as college campuses are known bastions for drugs and alcohol. But with the help of organizations like Association of Recovery in High Education and other support networks, these students are given every opportunity to have support in whatever they need.

The idea of following teens from initial intake to graduation from college is an incredible shift in the way that we think about recovery for teenagers. In the past, the overwhelming thought process, whether admitted or not, was that many of these teens were not yet ready to get sober and so the best that anyone could do was try to mitigate the damage done until they were adults and hit bottom.

By addressing their addiction in their teenage years and then offering the support that is needed for them to actually overcome their addiction, means that programs like Recovery High Schools are giving entire generations of addicts a fighting chance at getting clean and sober a lot earlier.

However, the film does expose one of the flaws in this system and it speaks to a greater schism in our society, that of the haves and have-nots. It was apparent from the film that the children attending the Recovery High School were from families of means and that these opportunities were not available to all children.

At one point in the film, the filmmakers travel a lower income neighborhood in Houston and it is relayed that there are no APGs available for the teens of that community and many are left with only traditional methods of support for recovery. Getting the teens in their community the same treatment options as their wealthier counterparts was the goal of a number of activists in these communities and hopefully, with the exposure offered by Generation Found, they will receive this.

Overall Generation Found was a thought provoking film that made me reevaluate my own stance on teenager recovery. It showed me that there really may be a solution for breaking the cycle of addiction at an earlier age and that with the correct support and enough faith anything truly is possible. The students in the film were a testament to how transformative recovery can be for someone’s life and that anyone, regardless of age, sex, creed, or color can recover.

About This Week’s Guest Blogger – Rose Lockinger

Rose Lockinger is a 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 Lockinger on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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.