Look Beyond: Reflections on addiction and our community during the second annual From Statistics To Solutions conference.

Today’s guest blogger has attended the annual From Statistics To Solutions conference twice, with the goal of becoming more educated about addiction. Attending FSTS has enabled her to become a more compassionate and knowledgeable ally. MWM

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The day of the second annual From Statistics To Solutions was unseasonably warm.  The sun beat down undisturbed, glinting off a dormant sea of parked cars.  Walking through the lot, I could not help but think of Adam, the young son of a dear friend, who had died just over a year ago because of addiction to opioids.  

His death, even more so his life, was the reason I came to this workshop last year. I longed to make sense of it.  He had struggled and suffered terribly, but I mostly understood this through the struggles and suffering of his mother.  For Adam—a good looking, charismatic guy whose infectious smile hid his addiction with the beauty and fragility of gold leaf overlay—I held a lot of judgement towards rather than understanding because I could not look beyond the misery of my friend, whom I love very much.  I felt ashamed of my short sightedness after his death. A kind of death that is too common in my community.

It [From Statistics To Solutions] was the only seminar of its kind I knew about where multiple organizations of addiction were presented in a public format”

I came to From Statistics To Solutions last year in hopes to learn about an unfair and difficult and impossibly complicated problem. It was the only seminar of its kind I knew about where multiple organizations of addiction were presented in a public format.  I was impressed and thankful for the resource, but frankly, I put most of my energy keeping my composure in public instead of actually listening to the information.

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This year, my mind was a little clearer and I still longed to make sense of Adam’s life, so I gathered with the hundreds of others at the second annual FSTS.  As I checked in and made my way to the auditorium to sit among a throng of smartly dressed men and women, I realized I was an outlier.  I was not there to attain professional credits, nor do I have a background in education, health care, or social work.  I wondered if the content would be purely academic and not relatable to a Regular Jane like me.

From Statistics To Solutions is brilliantly laid out as multiple panel discussions.  These panels are studded with a mix of leaders who (somehow) manage to uplift, engage and inspire around a subject that has bogged down our region with dark shadow for years. The topics are ambitious, ranging from neuroscience discoveries and understanding how the developing brain responds to substance abuse, to the correlation of mental health and its complications, to reentry into society after treatment—often times—after multiple treatments.  

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I did not feel like an outlier, or that the information was beyond my comprehension. I sat on the edge of my seat scribbling notes, enthusiastically nodding my head, and occasionally swallowing hard lumps of compassion and bits of memory.

I was exposed to people and stories and challenges that are very, very different from mine. This allowed me to look beyond my own experience.”

The presenters, strategically curated and highly experienced, were powerful to me not so much because of their credentials, but because of their willingness to be open and honest.  They held their own beliefs about what might work, but any successes they discovered cost them many hard mistakes.  Every panel included a recovering addict and because of their moxie—sharing their most intimate and painful details—I was exposed to people and stories and challenges that are very, very different from mine.  This allowed me to look beyond my own experience.

Panel after panel of diverse professionals combined with the deeply personal stories of addicts themselves, uncovered a relentless and jagged truth, made bearable by a shiny grain at its murky center: there is no clear-cut reason or answer for addiction.  And that no matter how difficult the struggle, no matter how many failed attempts there might have been—and might be still—there is always hope.  

This grain of hope lies within our ability to look beyond our own all-consuming perceptions, judgments and struggles. Substance abuse, particularly in our youth, is not a singular problem—it is a collective one. If I am ever to understand Adam’s life with addiction, I will need to try and understand anyone’s life with addiction.  

From Statistics To Solutions has taught me the best ways I can truly honor Adam and my friend’s unimaginable loss, is not through more tears, but through the continued pursuit to educate myself, be humane to all, and try to be part of the solution beyond my inner circle.  

 

FSTS Logo 2017About FSTS: From Statistics to Solutions is an annual conference that addresses the underlying issues of youth substance use. The conference is co-hosted by Our Young Addicts and Know The Truth, the prevention program for Mn Adult & Teen Challenge. Together, we create community and collaboration among treatment professionals, social workers, law enforcement, educators, coaches, medical professionals, parents and more. We embrace a variety of perspectives and approaches to prevention, addiction, treatment and recovery.  

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 2.50.38 PMAbout the Author: Mandy believes in the power of stories and that we all have important ones to tell. She is a regular blogger on Fridley Patch and is a nationally published on several different syndicates. Mandy is honored to be a guest blogger for Our Young Addicts, sharing a story that she hopes will help the many others who are living with or supporting those with addiction. You can read how she learned how to support a mother of a young addict, in Before and After published last year on Our Young Addicts.

 

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.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

The Birthday Cake

Homemade chocolate cake with caramel frosting. That’s become the family birthday cake of choice. Year after year for all three kids. That’s the cake.

One year our middle son wondered if we could add an ice-cream layer. A tall order, but Mom figured it out. When our daughter became a vegan, Mom even figured out how to adapt the recipe. Gluten-free?  No problem. Cupcakes instead of layer cake? Yep, can do. Whatever the family needed or wanted, our traditional birthday cake has marked each and every birthday.

This year, our middle son is struggling – with depression, with anxiety, with cannabis use (including marijuana and CDB oil) as a means to self medicate, and he’s decided to quickly taper off Suboxone for his opioid-use disorder.

He’s in a mood, and yesterday’s birthday was no exception.

It’s a concerning observation after three years of recovery and getting his life back in order. Sure, it’s summer, so maybe things will come back into routine and alignment once his college classes start up again next week. I fear I am just hoping, pretending, not wanting this to be relapse, a return to use, not wanting this to be the slippery slope.

But this is a slippery slope and it’s one we’ve watched our son go down before. Even though we can see it, we can’t prevent this 25 year old from going near the edge and possibly slipping and sliding.

As I made the cake a day ahead, in preparation for the busy work week, I told my husband I was feeling sad because I knew I was making a cake for someone who didn’t really want a cake this year. We talked about how the cake is not just for the birthday boy, but also for all the family and friends who celebrate his life. The cake is a symbolic reminder of how much we love the person who is part of our lives and how much we look forward to the year ahead.

The birthday morning arrived and our son wandered down the street to his friend’s house where he spent the better part of the day. When he came home around dinner time, he went upstairs, showered and went to bed. A few hours later, he took the dog for a walk, and when he returned we said Happy Birthday.

Thanks, he said. Then he told us we could go on without him. It’s just another day, he said. He didn’t open his cards or presents. He didn’t say another word. He just went back upstairs and went to bed.

There sat the beautiful cake. This year’s version was a slight variation – salted caramel, butter cream frosting. Dad, younger brother and I just sat there and salivated for a piece of cake but with a sudden lack of appetite. Although there were no candles on the cake, it felt like someone blew out the candles before we even began singing Happy Birthday. It just felt empty, sad, lonely.

It felt wrong to cut the cake without the birthday boy.

But it also felt wrong not to. So we did, and yes it was delicious but it was anything but satisfying.

Rationally, we know our son is in pain and suffering.

We know he needs help and needs our support. From experience, we know that we can’t just expect it or control it so our gift to him is unconditional love and support. Just like the birthday cake, it is the gift he gets even if he doesn’t want it right now.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved

 

A New Approach to Drug Education

Conversations about drugs and alcohol are nerve-wracking and tricky. These conversations must take place as they can impact further or future usage. Today’s guest blogger takes a fresh approach and give tips on how to approach the tough conversations. MWM

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Some people may agree that traditional drug abuse prevention efforts have missed several opportunities to do what they should do best: educate and provide facts. Why is alcohol dangerous? No idea. Can marijuana cause permanent brain changes? Who knows. Why shouldn’t we steal our parent’s painkillers? What’s the worst that could happen? That’s why ProjectKnow.com, a website dedicated to educating adolescents and their families about substance abuse powered by Recovery Brands, created its first-ever podcast focused entirely on accurate, research-based drug education: Let’s Talk Drugs.

We’ve found that misinformation surrounding drugs is often soaked in myth, without any factual evidence to support it. While many teens and young adults understand that injecting heroin can kill a person, the unfortunate reality is that relatively few recognize the dire health risks of something as common as regular weekend bar nights. Many people don’t understand that alcohol is one of the most prevalent, dangerous, and addictive substances, yet it’s rarely talked about in health classes. This is just one example of countless drug misunderstandings that can have serious consequences.

We wanted to do something about these misconceptions and help create more open conversations around substance use, from taking a critical eye to the many ways that our modern culture glamorizes it, to debunking common myths and explaining in a digestible language how drugs actually affect the brain. Rather than using traditional scare tactics, we wanted to show that it’s okay — and important — to acknowledge the facts about drugs.

The education that surrounds drugs must address both sides of the issue: acknowledging the allure while simultaneously highlighting the risks.”

For the most part, the people who are going to try drugs will do it regardless of efforts and attempts of scaring them away from it. Instead of approaching drug education with “just say no,” we want to see a culture shift that explains why saying “no” is in a person’s best interest.

So instead of saying, “Don’t smoke weed because it’s bad for you” (with the implied “just trust me because I’m an adult” thrown in), let’s say, “There’s never been a recorded case of lethal marijuana overdose and it can help with certain medical conditions, but research has shown that using it regularly can cause long-term functional brain changes that can affect learning, memory, and the ability to control your impulses.”

One of our major goals is to encourage everyone to ask questions about drugs. We want parents, teachers, and even peers to take advantage of the opportunity to talk openly about substance abuse, and we hope to help guide and encourage these conversations with the podcast.

  • Listen with your kids. Listening together as a family can be a bonding experience that shows your kids it’s okay to ask questions about drugs. Creating a safe space to communicate is a vital part of drug education and prevention.
  • Play episodes in school. Educators play a major role in helping to prevent substance abuse. Listening to this form of drug education as a class is a fun break from the normal day-to-day lessons, and it opens the floor to questions and critical discussion afterward.
  • Research together. Sometimes young adults prefer to absorb new information on their own. Listening separately isn’t a bad thing- it gives everyone time to privately absorb the information and organize their thoughts and feelings about the topic. Bring these reactions, along with any other questions that may come up, to a family drug talk where everyone investigates substance facts together.
  • Assign fun homework. Schools — and parents — can assign the podcast for a fun, out-of-the-ordinary homework assignment. Ask students to listen and bring critical questions to a group discussion.
  • Simply listen. Even if you’re unsure about a group or family discussion, encouraging your children, family members, local organizations, and schools to explore new ways to absorb and communicate vital drug information will help provide the substance education kids need.

One of the most important parts of drug education is critical engagement, which is why we cannot shy away from these discussions. I was fortunate enough to have a very open household when it came to substance use discussions. My parents’ message was always, “If you’re going to experiment, make sure you are safe.” They always encouraged me to investigate the available research on drugs that I was curious about so I could identify any potential dangers as well as any long-term effects the drugs may have. We had very open conversations about addiction as well.

 Both sides of my family have a history of alcoholism, so it was always important for my parents to speak frankly with me about the very real risk of developing an alcohol dependence.”

Because of these conversations, I was always extremely cautious with my own substance use, keeping a close eye on my usage patterns and behaviors. When I noticed an unhealthy pattern of drinking in college, I was able to quickly identify it and work to change it. I was extremely fortunate to have a family that was so open and honest about drug talk, but starting that conversation can be intimidating for a lot of parents and educators. Sometimes the fear of indirectly encouraging drug experimentation overpowers the desire to educate, which is where we hope to step in.

Communication is certainly not the only key to dismantling the widespread issue of substance abuse and addiction, but it is a major part of early education and prevention. Teens and young adults are still developing the brain network necessary for action planning and impulse control, and the earlier we can reach them with important drug facts, the better prepared they will be when faced with drug use decisions. There are many parts to this puzzle, and we aim to contribute in our own way.

Let’s Talk Drugs takes a non-judgmental approach to drug talk so we can show that being honest about drug education doesn’t mean encouraging use. We really want teens and young adults to feel safe asking questions about drugs- they’re fascinating substances that inspire a whole lot of curiosity, and that’s awesome!

If we can motivate teens and young adults to take a close look at drug use and the potential consequences that come with it, then they will be equipped with the tools they need to make informed decisions.”

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About the author:

unnamed-1After completing her undergraduate work in perceptual processing, Lauren Brande was awarded a scholarship from the Western Psychological Association. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University in 2014 and found she had a particular interest in the effects that drugs and trauma have on the functioning brain. She’s currently a senior content writer for Recovery Brands, which is a provider of digital addiction treatment resources operating a portfolio of websites such as ProjectKnow.com, Rehabs.com and Recovery.org. Lauren believes all research should be digestible and accessible to everyone. Her passion fuels her desire to share important scientific findings to improve rehabilitation.

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.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

I was a young addict.

Today’s guest blogger shares his personal story and struggle as a young addict. And, how he used his weaknesses to propel him forward. MWM.

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I was a young addict. Some would say I still am. Not using for nine and a half years isn’t what makes me an addict. Attending anonymous twelve-step meetings isn’t what makes me an addict. Arrests, institutionalizations, rehab stints are not what have made me an addict. I am an addict because I am hooked on any and all mood-altering substances. I’m hooked on a good deal more too. I just try, today, each and every day, to focus my addiction on healthy outlets: creativity, my work, my family.

Yes, I believe there is no curing my addiction. I also don’t believe in suppressing my dopamine receptors with medication. I choose to live with my addiction as best I can. And I’ve found my disease lends itself in surprisingly advantageous ways to living a wholesome, full, and happy life.

It didn’t seem possible back then.

Back then, I couldn’t see past my next fix. I woke with that insatiable craving in the pit of my stomach—if I woke at all. Often I was up all night. I was a self-prescriber. Mainly street drugs. Some prescriptions. But I believed in the right balance. The perfect mixture of substances in my blood stream that could achieve an elevated stasis—a heightened state of living. I rotated through pills, plants, and powders, believing I could manage them all. It all came crashing down nine and a half years ago.

As a young addict, I craved to stand apart from the crowd. I craved to be so unique that no one could relate to me. So I write this now with the understanding that, if you are a young addict reading this, it does not matter how you came to this resource. It does not matter who said what to get you reading up on the solution to your drug problem. All that matters is that, if you identify with writing like this one, you seek help. There is no fighting this thing alone. It takes fellowship. For me, it took sponsorship. And sponsorship took acceptance. Acceptance that I am an addict and that addicts need help. It does not matter how you got to this post. What matters is what you do from here.

Nine and a half years ago I was admitted into the intensive care unit of a San Diego hospital and diagnosed with a drug-induced psychosis. Rehab came next. And then a stay at a halfway house and an Oxford house.

Today, I am a writer, and a teacher. I am a husband to my wife and a father to two children. We own a home and I pay the bills on time. I show up for the people who expect me to show up.

It’s not a way of life that I have discovered. I’m not trying to pioneer this clean life stuff. It has been done before. People show me how to live today. All I need to do is accept their help, daily, just for today, and not pick up no matter what.

 

 

About the Author: 

unnamed-2Mark David Goodson writes a recovery blog: www.markgoodson.com that he calls “The Miracle of the Mundane.” It celebrates cleaning living, the simple life.  He throws his addictive behavior into his life’s endeavors. When he is not teaching or writing, he can usually be found throwing his children too high in the air or hugging them too hard once he catches them.

 

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.

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Recipe For Recovery

Today’s guest blogger was a panelist at the Statistics to Solutions co-hosted by Our Young Addicts and Know the Truth in May 2017. She points out the reality of co-occurring disorders in young adults, such as eating disorders and substance use. MWM

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As a psychologist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders for the past 13 years, we are seeing more and more individuals in eating disorder treatment programs who suffer from both an eating disorder and a substance use disorder. In fact, we know that between 30-50% of individuals with an eating disorder also struggle with a substance use disorder and vice versa. This includes men and women of all ages and backgrounds-eating disorders and substance use disorders don’t discriminate! Often times the substance use disorder and eating disorder are intimately intertwined and if you try to treat one disorder, the other disorder is likely to get worse. This can certainly complicate treatment and it is important to consider this as you navigate your journey to recovery.  

I wrote this piece, “Recipe for Recovery,” a few years ago for eating disorder awareness week. I think it is perfect for not only those struggling with eating disorders but those who may be struggling with a substance use disorder or really any number of mental health disorders. When you see the word eating disorder below, feel free to substitute it with substance use disorder, depression, etc.

When I think about what it takes to recover from an eating disorder, it is really many things working together … it is not just getting treatment, being motivated, or having a good support system.

It actually reminds me more of a recipe. Recipes are something we usually think of when we think about cooking but I would throw out to all of you that we use “recipes” in many areas of our lives. Whether it is getting into college, developing your career, being in a relationship with someone, or parenting a child. These all require several steps or components to be successful.

Webster tells us that the word recipe means:

  1. A set of instructions for making or preparing something
  2. A medical prescription or
  3. A method to attain a desired end

I think this really fits for the journey of recovery, similar to cooking, recovering from an eating disorder takes a cup of this, a dash of that, and a pinch of something else. When you get all of the ingredients in the mix, there is an incredible life of opportunity and experiences waiting for you.

I asked several people that I have worked with over the years about some of their key ingredients to recovery so I could share some of their insights. I wasn’t too surprised to learn that people didn’t feel like it was an isolated thing that got them to recovery but rather several things coming together over time that led them to a life free of their eating disorder.

First, everyone felt like their formal treatment was an important piece. Without that as a foundation, recovery would not have happened.

Another element that people viewed as an important ingredient was willingness. Whether that means trying treatment, doing things that are scary, trying a different treatment approach if things aren’t going well or trying new things in life, willingness played a key role in their recovery. One individual shared: “Maybe you’re not completely 100% on board with getting rid of your eating disorder, and that’s OK, but you have to be willing to learn new things and consider new perspectives on your body, your thoughts, your emotions and the world you live in. I really thought the world was black and white; I either did things wrong or I did them right, and there was only one right way to live your life. Learning about gray areas and the complexities of living life were really beneficial to me.”

Trust was another important item, and it took many different paths. For some it was trusting their treatment providers, for others it was trust in themselves that they could do what they needed to do and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  Others mentioned learning to trust their body-the idea that if we take care of our bodies, our body will take care of itself.

Another significant item that everyone mentioned was trying new things in order to develop a new identity outside of the eating disorder. One individual shared with me “I was a passionless person and didn’t really care about anything except losing weight and doing everything right. When I was physically healthier, it helped me tremendously to care about something outside of myself.”

Related to this, people found that when they developed new interests outside of their eating disorder, it also helped connect them to people, which played a big role in their ability to move beyond the eating disorder.

Patience and priority were two other items. Patience in that getting to recovery often takes people longer than they ever anticipate with twists and turns along the way.  Priority in that we all live in a very busy world with a lot going on but figuring out how to prioritize recovery so that it gets the time and attention it needs rather than trying to fit it in around other things.

So today I would encourage all of you to think about what are your key ingredients to recovery? What do you already have and what might you need to add to the mix? No matter where you are along your journey, everyone has some of the ingredients they need to start to build their recipe for recovery.       

 

About the Author: Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 11.37.21 AM

Heather Gallivan, PsyD, LP, is the Clinical Director at Melrose Center. She joined Melrose in 2004 and has helped eating disorder patients recover and realize their full potential in all levels of care from outpatient to residential treatment. She is a passionate leader and teacher concerning the prevention and treatment of eating disorders, and how societal messages impact our beliefs and attitudes about food, weight, and body image.  You may have seen her passion for education and expertise on display in the local media or as a speaker at a state or national conference for healthcare providers. Prior to joining Melrose Center, Dr. Gallivan served 5 years in the Unites States Navy as an active duty psychologist. In addition, she teaches a course on eating disorders at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies.

Melrose Center heals eating disorders, with locations in St. Louis Park, Maple Grove and St. Paul. Melrose treats all eating disorders in all genders and ages, through outpatient and residential programs. Specialty programming is available for those struggling with an eating disorder and substance abuse. The program includes individual and group programming focused on treating the eating disorder and substance use disorder together by professionals specially trained to work with both conditions. Visit melroseheals.com.

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.

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.