The Third R

An update from Midwestern Mama on #SoberSon and his recent Return to Use aka Relapse.

Ordinarily when I think R & R, it conjures up the concept of rest and relaxation. However, when it comes to addiction and mental health, the R words that I think of are Relapse and Recovery. Oh, and there’s one more: Ready.

2017 has been a struggle for my son. He’s maintained sobriety from opiate use, but began using cannabis and drinking alcohol again. He thinks of it as self medicating, yet his mental health is suffering, not improving.

It came to a head this summer. To top it off, he decided to stop taking Suboxone – almost cold turkey instead of a slow taper with support from his treatment team. The effect is terrible. He’s irritable and agitated. The cravings are strong. Anxiety and depression are ever present and getting worse.

“I feel great. Everything is good. Never felt better,” he tells us. But we know better, and so does the dog. (Read my recent posts, The Dog Knows and The Birthday Cake.)

Last week he admitted that things aren’t working and that he hadn’t anticipated the impact of going off Suboxone. To his credit, he made an appointment with a mental-health professional and decided to go on an anti-depressant. Of course, they counseled him about the risks of using marijuana and alcohol while taking the medication.

No more than a few days into the new approach, he left one morning and didn’t come home later in the day to get ready for work. He didn’t go to work that evening. He didn’t come home that night. He didn’t respond to text messages or phone calls. The next day, he didn’t show up at home or work, and still wasn’t responding to outreach. His medication was on his dresser. The day after that, he still hadn’t made contact – with us or with any of his friends.

He’s 25 – an adult. We give him space and let him take responsibility for his life and decisions. In years past, he reacted terribly when we intervened claiming we were overreacting – that’s the addiction talking.

In the three years he’s been in recovery from opiate use, he’s never missed work. He’s always kept us posted on his whereabouts and work schedule. He’s always let us know if he was going to stay at friends for the evening.

Given this, you can imagine our concern and worry. This behavior was out of the ordinary. Where was he? Had something tragic happened?

Through the grapevine, we learned he texted a co-worker that he’d been picked up for public intoxication and was being taken to detox. Two days later he texted the co-worker, “I’m out :)”.

It’s concerning, but we are grateful he’s alive. Now, we’re wondering what is next.

It’s now been another 24 hours and he hasn’t come home or responded to our outreach.

In our hearts, we know he’s hurting and we know he’s resistant to help – always wanting to do it “on his own.”

We don’t take it personally. We’re not mad. We’re not going to yell at him or lecture him. We’re simply concerned and want to be supportive. We want to have communication. We want to have him in our lives. We want him to come home.

This all reminds me of the earlier days of his addiction journey, which further reminds me that recovery is possible and available to him, again, when he is ready.

Ready. That’s the third R, and that’s the one I want most for #SoberSonNotRightNow

MWM

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

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Author Tim Ryan – From Dope to Hope – Visits Minnesota

Displaying GuestBlogger_Header_937pxwide.jpgThrive Family Support is hosting an evening with author Tim Ryan. He will share a message of hope for individuals and their families who are living with addiction and recovery.  Join the community in The Twin Cities on Friday, September 15, from 7 to 9 p.m., at The Recovery Church – 253 State Street S., St Paul, MN.

Tim Ryan: Recovering Heroin Addict, A&E’s “Dope Man,” and National Thought Leader on Opioid Epidemic

Tim Ryan is no stranger to addiction. Despite a successful business career, Tim found himself in the grips of heroin and, ultimately, was sentenced to seven years in prison for drug-related convictions. Tim got clean and sober behind bars.

Six months after his release, tragedy struck. His son, Nick – for whom Tim had paved the way to use deadly drugs – died tragically from an overdose. Reaching beyond the devastation and heartbreak, Tim used Nick’s death as the inspiration to spread hope, believing that if even one addict or family could be spared the horrors of addiction, he would make a difference. As a result, he founded A Man in Recovery Foundation, a nonprofit that helps anyone find treatment and recovery.

Thrive! Family Support

Questions about Tim Ryan’s bio?

Contact Jocelyn Carbonara (919)732-5549, timspeaks@spirituscommunications.com, or visit http://www.BookTimRyan.comImage result for tim ryan author from dope to hope

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

3 Signs Your Child May be Struggling with Addiction

Adults aren’t the only ones who suffer from substance addiction; many children suffer as well. Are you a parent concerned about your child’s sudden change in behavior? Our guest blogger below offers insight on ways to communicate, help and signs to watch out for with your child.

Drug addiction is a serious problem in the United States. It’s not limited to adults; many children have a substance addiction. Sometimes, the signs that a child is struggling with substance abuse mimic the symptoms of mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety, or even the signs of puberty. It can be easy to overlook the symptoms, because it’s very difficult to admit that your child may have a problem. The best step you can take is to get professional help if you notice changes in your child’s behavior for which there isn’t another reason.

Watch for these signs:

  1. Problems in school, missing classes, a decline in academic performance or a loss of interest in school
  2. Trouble with the law
  3. Changes in relationships with friends and family, acting withdrawn or hostile

Your child may also have changes in grooming habits, eating and sleeping. When the patterns change for more than a week, you may need to look at the underlying causes. Grief can mimic the signs of substance abuse. You don’t want to rush to judgment, but you do need to take control of the situation.

3 Ways You Can Help

When someone is struggling with addiction, he or she may become deceitful and react negatively to any suggestions of help. You have to be assertive, but not confrontational. What can parents do?

  1.  Strengthen your relationship with your child. Ask open-ended questions about what’s going on in your child’s life. Open-ended questions cannot be answered with a yes or no answer. You want more communication with your child. Ask questions that let him or her express their concerns and struggles. Focus on what’s good and be understanding.
  2. Create and reinforce guidelines. Setting boundaries with a teenager is difficult when there is no addiction problem, but when you have the added pressure of substance abuse, you will have to be strong. Work with your child to create consistent rules that are enforceable. If a certain behavior occurs, then this will be the response. You may not be able to cover every contingency, but you can certainly establish rules and consequences for the most common issues. This lowers the emotionally-fueled reaction that isn’t productive.
  3. Encourage positive behaviors. You will need to help your child learn new healthy coping skills and build better relationships through the healing process. You have to be a cheerleader that encourages your child to change. You cannot solve each of the problems created by drug abuse, but you can focus on positive messages.

You can do it.
You can be successful.
You are important in my life.
What can I do to help?

Many substance abusing teens will be reluctant to enter treatment unless compelled by the court system or their family. An intervention is not always the best method to get a child struggling with substance abuse into a program. Instead, you should encourage your child to talk to a professional about the problem to address their concerns and to find the best solution. Take care of yourself as you care your child’s needs. You don’t need to deal with burnout, stress and depression when your child needs you at your best.

Author Byline

Daniel Gellman

Dan Gellman is the Director for High Focus Centers, a provider of outpatient substance abuse and psychiatric treatment programs in New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Save the Date: From Statistics to Solutions 2018

Save the Date: May 10, 2018

We welcome adults of influence including LADCs, social workers, teachers, nurses, law enforcement officers, coaches, parents and community members.

Different ages. Different learning styles and attention spans. Different life experiences. These are just a few of the reasons that young people in their tweens, teens and twenties are less likely to succeed in traditional treatment programs. Their brains are less developed than adults, so they respond to new and different protocols. This year’s conference will explore the ever-evolving ways to treat young people with substance-use disorders.

We have four important announcements to share:

  1. Save the Date – The third-annual From Statistics to Solutions conference will take place on Thursday, May 10, 2018, at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
  2. Call for Panelists & Keynote Speaker – This year, we are inviting you to apply as a panel participant or keynote speaker. Deadline for application is November 7. Details to come.
  3. Early Bird Registration is now open with a discount if you register before December 31 and include CEUs (five) or lunch-only options.
  4. Sponsors & Exhibitors – Thanks to generous support from sponsors and exhibitors, we are able to offer value-packed conference for professionals and parents. Connect with 400 attendees at this year’s annual conference via a sponsorship or by being an exhibitor.

Thank you for being of the annual From Statistics to Solutions conference. Together, we are helping youth, families and the addiction treatment and recovery communities.

Experience. Resources. Hope.

Our Young Addicts is a community of parents and professionals who are concerned about the number of young people using drugs and alcohol. Together, we share experience, resources and hope – no matter where a young person may be on the spectrum of experimentation, use, abuse, treatment, relapse or recovery.

Know The Truth

Know the Truth is the Substance Use Prevention Program of Mn Adult & Teen Challenge.  Know the Truth partners with parents, educators, and other community members to decrease teenage substance abuse through a consistent and compatible prevention message.  Last year KTT worked with more than 160 schools and community organizations, reaching over 55,000 students.  Since the inception of KTT in 2006, we have educated and trained more than 10,000 parents and educators throughout Minnesota.

#FSTS18

From Statistics to Solutions is an annual conference focused on positive, productive conversation among professionals and parents who are concerned about the number of young people using drugs and alcohol. It is a collaboration of Know the Truth and Our Young Addicts.

The Dog Knows

Our family dog is the best-ever LADC (licensed alcohol and drug counselor). This rescue mutt came to us in early 2013. He was 14 weeks old and 19 pounds. 

Little did we know what a prominent role he would play in our family – particularly in our son’s life as he lives through addiction, sobriety, recovery and relapse.

At the time, our son was 19 and he was deep on his addiction path. 

Although I had hope, I realistically knew that tragedy was a distinct possibility.

 He was bouncing between living at home, sofa surfing and being homeless.

He was every bit as much in need of rescue as our sweet puppy.

Watching our son meet and interact with the puppy was pure delight. His heart showed. A smile returned. A tenderness came forth. Although he was struggling, he always had a few minutes to play with the puppy, take him outside to go potty and take him for walks around the neighborhood.

It was a bright spot for all of us to observe the bond and it was a reminder that there was a happier, healthier young man waiting to emerge from addiction.

It didn’t happen right away, of course, and even when he decided to go to treatment about a year later it also included a devastating and rapid relapse that once again reminded us how fragile addiction renders its young adults.

Later that year, he would decide again to pursue treatment, sobriety and recovery. This time it took. Our son was three years free from opiate use in July 2017. During this time, he got a job, earned money to return to college and got straight A’s in his classes.

Through it all, the family dog was his constant companion giving new meaning to the cliche “man’s best friend.”

They spent many hours together. The love between the two warmed our hearts, and each one thrived in many ways.

But then there was a shift. Tiny at first, but unsettling. Then another shift, and then another and another.

Here we are eight months later. Our son’s personality – characterized by attitude, mood and behavior – has changed significantly.

We’re all too familiar with his current state and fear the direction it’s headed.

Exaggeration? No. It’s a pattern we recognize, a pattern we’ve experienced before, a pattern we do not welcome but that we must acknowledge regardless. It’s no longer just mom’s and dad’s radar, it’s the dog’s too.

Without a doubt, the dog knows. He waits by the mudroom door.

When will my guy return he wonders. When are we going for an adventure he wonders. When will we hang out together he wonders. Why is my guy always sleeping when he’s home? Why won’t he talk nicely with Mom and Dad? Why didn’t he celebrate his birthday? Why do I see his car down the street instead of coming home? Why did he come home and go right to his room? Why did he leave in the middle of the night? Will he come back?

The routine has changed, and our dog doesn’t understand. He doesn’t want to eat. He just wants to wait for his guy and get back to the sober, recovery days.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

 

5 Essential Tips To Protect Your Teenager From Drug Abuse

Concerned about approaching your teen about the consequences of illicit substances? Our guest blogger provides advice on how to approach this tricky topic in a loving and cautious manner. MWM. 

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Every parent worries about their child, especially when it comes to those tricky teenage years. Alcohol and drug abuse remain a serious issue in our society today in both adults and an alarming number of youths.

Statistics shockingly reveal that by the time kids reach the 8th grade 28% of them have consumed alcohol, 15% have smoked cigarettes, and 16.5% have used marijuana. Even more worrying, approximately 50% of high school seniors do not think it’s harmful to try crack or cocaine and 40% believe it’s not harmful to use heroin once or twice.

It is understandable that as a parent you are highly concerned and finding out if your child is using drugs is a delicate situation and a difficult one to confirm. If you suspect your teenager may be at risk of alcohol or drug abuse or you have already discovered your child is experimenting and is heading towards addiction, there are many ways you can help prevent that from spiraling out of control.

The aim of this article is to look at 5 ways in which you, as a parent can educate and support your teenager to avoid the serious health and mental risks associated with drug abuse and addiction.

1. Give them unconditional support

Every parent wants their child to be successful in life but sometimes it is difficult to understand the kinds of pressure they are exposed to these days. Supporting your teenager with positive reinforcement is a way to make them feel they are doing things right and may help them avoid suffering from stress too much.

Some of the main reasons teens turn to alcohol and/or drug abuse is because of stress, anxiety and a fear of failure. If you discover your teen is using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism for stress, instead of punishing them help them understand the dangers of substance abuse and help them get through the tough times with other means like exercise or encouraging healthy hobbies.

2. Help them understand negative consequences without demonizing their actions

The first response of many parents is to blame their child for being irresponsible or giving into peer pressure. The typical course of action is to punish them which can only fuel the cause of their want to abuse drugs and push them further towards addiction. Instead, try to understand what might be the reason behind their drug use and show them how the consequences of addiction can be harmful not only to themselves but to the family too.

Reaching a delicate balance between being strict and supportive can be tricky but it is best to deal with the situation with a cool head and an objective approach. Your child might think twice before doing it again if they know their family will be affected too.   

3. Learn real facts about drug types and how to identify drug abuse

Education is key and you should be the first person to research and find out what drugs are out there, what effects they have and what are the signs of a teen abusing drugs or alcohol. Your teenager probably has a lot of questions about drug use and addiction but will most likely feel you are not the person to ask.

If you educate yourself you will be able to handle the questions your child may have about drug use and therefore be a vital aid in preventing the situation getting out of control.

4. Addiction does not discriminate

How many parents have said, “That would never happen to my child” only to find out the dark secrets and experiences their children are living. Addiction can happen to any person regardless of age, race, social or economic status and upbringing. You can’t presume that addiction only happens in certain environments or is a result of bad parenting.

Each unique case is different and in many instances, drug abuse can begin from simple curiosity or a trigger such as bullying. Never presume your child is immune to the temptations of drug abuse rather stay aware of the signs and changes in behavior in your teen to determine if the cause may be addiction related.

 

5. Not all drug abuse comes from illicit substances

Most likely when you imagine drug abuse you immediately think of illegal and illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana or pills like MDMA but you might be surprised to know that 60% of teens abuse prescription drugs such as Vicodin a narcotic pain killer, Oxycontin another high dose painkiller and the ADHD drug Adderall which is a psychostimulant designed to enhance focus and relieve stress.

Dealing with your own child in this situation can be terrifying and daunting as a parent but the best way you can help prevent your child from becoming another victim of drug abuse is by communicating and showing support.

Your teenager may be going through a difficult time and needs all your support to help direct them to make the right choices. Listen to them when they need to be heard and look out for the tell-tale signs they might be in trouble.

We love to hear from our readers. Do you have any advice for parents out there who suspect their child might be involved in drug abuse or on the verge of addiction? Leave us your comments below.

 

About the Author: 

andyHi, I am Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia but raised in Los Angeles, California. I have been clean for 9 years now! I spend my time helping others wit their recovery and growing my online business.

 

 

 

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 Road to Finding Higher Power and Myself

Today’s guest blogger tells the story of his road to sobriety– one of hardship and struggle, but ultimately of long-term success and determination. MWM.

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My first attempt at college didn’t go so well. It started off fun, then become fun with some consequences, then by my 7th year of school it was just all consequence. I had been to detoxes, I was failing courses, going to classes I wasn’t even registered for, and drinking myself into oblivion. Life was getting bad and drinking was my only solution. I don’t mean to gloss over my first few treatment experiences but I want the focus of this to be on the importance of staying plugged in to my program.

Life was getting bad and drinking was my only solution.”

I went to a state school in southern Minnesota along the Mississippi river. I don’t know what other people’s experience was like with their freshmen year, but I thoroughly enjoyed mine with minimum consequences. I partied a lot, didn’t study much, and explored and discovered aspects of life that I had been missing. I became pretty popular, and seemed to be the life of the party. Wherever I went, we had a good time and we played and partied hard. The experience seemed normal, and the people I had surrounded myself with were doing the same things I was, so nothing seemed wrong or out of place yet. The real confusion came towards the end of four years, a typical length of time to be in college. All of my friends were starting to get internships, study for tests, and look ahead to graduation all the while still partying.

Due to a mini intervention from my parents and some concerned friends I found myself at 25 entering treatment for drugs and alcohol. I spent 28 days thinking it would get people off my back and quickly returned to drinking after leaving. After a summer of misery and trouble I admitted to myself that I was an alcoholic and needed help. From the Twin Cities my parents drove me to a treatment center in St. Louis Missouri where I stayed for 7 months.  

After my 7 months in St. Louis I moved back to the Twin Cities and was living in a sober house in St. Paul pondering what to do next? By a chance meeting I found myself packing my bags and moving to Duluth Minnesota, to go back to school. The College of Saint Scholastica was starting a collegiate recovery program and I had the opportunity to help get it off the ground and enroll as student number 1. I love Duluth, I loved my time being a part of the recovery community in Duluth. For the two years I lived there I experienced, and was part of some amazing things that furthered my recovery. I helped start a young adults 12 step meeting, managed a sober house and attended school with some really great people. I had established myself in a program of recovery and the promises were coming true.

It had been over 6 months since I had been to a meeting and I was placing a priority on everything else in my life except my sobriety.”

After graduating, moving back to the Twin Cities, getting a job, and getting married my alcoholic mind started to think that I had this figured out. It had been over 6 months since I had been to a meeting and I was placing a priority on everything else in my life except my sobriety. Maybe I could drink normally? Maybe I really was fixed? I first got sober so I could get all these things, and now that I had them, drinking seemed like the next right thing to add back to my life. I remember in a job interview I was asked why I had been involved in collegiate recovery and why had I help start a sober house, both of these things I was proud of and were on my resume. This was a pivotal moment for me, I knew I could tell the truth or tell a lie leaving the possibility of one day drinking open in the future. This being a sales job, I knew drinking would be part of the culture of my work. I wish I was stronger, I wish I had stayed connected to my friends in the program, but I had been away from working any sort of 12 Step program for too long and my natural instinct was to lie. I told myself, “I will just drink normally.” Which of course meant hiding it from my wife and my family. Looking back it amazes me how quickly I went back to leading a double life. I was acting one way around co-workers and clients, while attempting to live a complete lie around my wife and family.

I was a mess, lying to everyone and trying to keep track of my lies.”

This “normal” drinking I was struggling with quickly led to, drinking alone, sneaking drinks, drinking before client dinners, drinking during client dinners, and drinking alone in my hotel after client dinners. I was a mess, lying to everyone and trying to keep track of my lies. It was mentally exhausting. This couldn’t go on forever and I was begging to be caught, to be found out, to not have to live a lie anymore. I was finally ready to surrender. The final push came one night when my wife came home found me I passed out on the couch with an empty bottle. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for her to come home and find the man she married, the man she thought was sober passed out in a puddle of his own piss. It didn’t take long to convince me I needed help. I needed to get plugged back into the program I thought I had accomplished and no longer needed. The next day I found myself walking into The Retreat, in Wayzata Minnesota ready and excited to find myself and to find my Higher Power again.

I am an alcoholic. I am a slow learner. During my 30 days at The Retreat I learned how to live in the solution, I learned how to engage and find support in the fellowship, and I learned that I never have to do this alone. I learned that this is something I get to do for the rest of my life, each and every day when I wake up, I have a program of recovery that I can follow. Today, 4 years later, I talk to another alcoholic every day, I pray, I meditate, and do my best to live in the 12 steps.

About the Author: 

Jake Lewis is active in the recovery community and currently serves as marketing coordinator for The Retreat.

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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.

12 Steps for a New and Improved You

It’s time to ask yourself how each of these 12-steps can be applied in your life. Time for self-reflection is important during the recovery process. This week’s guest blogger believes there are new ways to apply a 12-step program to your everyday life. MWM

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Everyone is searching for useful solutions to improve their daily lives. These solutions could include taking self-improvement steps to become a better daughter or leading a better life by eating healthier. Another source for lifestyle change advice are the 12 steps for everyone to help cope with alcohol and drug addiction.

 

12 step programs are programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These programs require people to participate in a series of steps to address their alcohol or drug abuse or certain behaviors, such as overeating or compulsive gambling. The powerful meaning behind the principles of AA can help bring positivity into your life.

 

The original mission behind Alcoholics Anonymous was to offer 12 steps for everyone struggling with alcohol abuse. In the past, people thought that alcoholism was a personal flaw. The originator of AA, Bill Wilson, wanted to attach morals and values to alcoholism recovery. Addiction recovery professionals find that the group therapy offered by such programs as Alcoholics Anonymous can help monitor, encourage, and stabilize the lives of their participants, creating better lifestyles without alcohol.

 

PsychCentral gives a great summary of the general purpose of the AA 12 steps for everyone looking to improve their lifestyle. Recognizing the problems you want to change is the first step in the road of self-improvement. This might be the easiest step for most people. However, acknowledging your problem might come with surrendering the idea that you can fix the issue you are facing. With addiction, sufferers cope with their problems by thinking substance abuse will control their feelings. These feelings are often feelings of hopelessness, anger, fear, anxiety, emptiness, or other emotions.

 

The surrendering phase can lead to a natural building of a person’s self-esteem. There is a level of self-awareness that takes place when people surrender themselves and take personal inventories of their lives.

 

Later steps are also crucial. Self-acceptance is the final key to making a valuable change. Therapists and lifestyle coaches agree that self-acceptance of personal limitations can give way to brainstorming achievable goals.

 

Below is a list of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. How do you think you can use the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps to improve your lifestyle?

 

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

 

 

About the Author: 
Zena Dunn writes about personal improvement, preventive health, and 12 steps for everyone. Her knowledge of health related information spans five years of individual research.  She is a wildlife protection advocate and enjoys reading biographies. Connect with Zena on Twitter twitter.com/writerzena

 

 

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.

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.

FSTS_2017-5

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.  

FSTS_2017-2

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 Meisner 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 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.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 2.13.39 PM

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.

Sober Houses: Finding the Right Balance between Freedom and Supervision

Sober houses are important to many during the process of recovery. But, sober home owners have a difficult task of maintaining a balance between freedom, supervision, and patients within the home. MWM

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It has been my experience in the 20-plus years I have worked in mental health and chemical dependency, that it is a rare individual indeed who starts out in early recovery saying that they want more supervision than what they have at any given time. When I come across people who say that, they are usually the ones who also ask the question of the professional “what do I do?”, as opposed to “I got this,” or “I know that I have things to learn about myself”, instead of “Of course I know who I am and what makes me tick!” It is typically those individuals, the ones who recognize how little they know, who I would put my money on, even if I could gamble…a-hem… to have a more long-term sustained recovery.

It has also been my experience that pretty much nobody who has any amount of sober time ever looks back in retrospect and complains that they had too much supervision. People typically don’t like that supervision when it’s happening and then love that they had it as they reap the benefits by way of their recovery.

It has also been my experience that pretty much nobody who has any amount of sober time ever looks back in retrospect and companies that they had too much supervision”

It is in that spirit that I believe that a sober house should have restrictions so that a person knows that there are external boundaries placed on them, with an intention of helping them to eventually internalize their own sober boundaries. I believe in a zero tolerance policy inasmuch as it is not only critical that the individual knows that they will be held accountable for using, but also that there is a responsibility that all house members have to those who might still be struggling by not bringing substance, or using behaviors, into their sanctuary, which is how I see a sober house.

Likewise they cannot have guests come over inebriated. In my house I have a rule that states that if a tenant is using in the home I have the right to UA, or breathalyze, and if found to be using they need to leave the house, as in; pack up and have their stuff out as soon as the law allows. If guests are using they are not allowed back to the home. The idea here is that drugs and alcohol, in this home, are the enemy, and I will guard that portal with every ounce of right and might that I have to protect my tenants from that evil. Okay, I get that might come off a bit melodramatic, but it is conceptually accurate. I don’t see drugs and alcohol inherently evil in and of themselves, but to those of us in recovery, oh, buddy, you better believe that they are!

People in recovery should have easy access to bus routes and available jobs within walking distance of bus routes. Exercise is very important to recovery and sometimes people won’t be able to afford a gym membership, so I have an elliptical and weights indoors. I have home entertainment in the form of billiards, Foosball, board games and a deluxe entertainment system. They should have access to meetings and even treatment if things go poorly. I should point out that I would allow a tenant to stay in the home of they came to me and if they said that they used and that they didn’t come home out of respect for the rules, that they are interested in staying and working on their recovery I would not ask them to leave, but now do something different than what they were doing before vis-à-vis their recovery.

It is important to acknowledge that extra people in any environment cause a change in dynamics, which might be detrimental to those who live there”

I think that restrictions around overnight guests are valuable inasmuch as early recovery is not the time to be developing new relationships. Even if the tenant isn’t in early recovery, or is already in a long-term relationship, it is important to acknowledge that extra people in any environment cause a change in dynamics, which might be detrimental to those who live there. Keeping in mind that people, regardless of sobriety status, do have interpersonal relationships which they will develop and cultivate I think that allowances should be made over time when a person has shown stability in their recovery.

Finally I will bring this back around to the beginning inasmuch as I think that it is the responsibility of the home owner, or program owner, to develop and cultivate harmony in the home to the degree that they are able. This is tricky business while keeping in mind that one cannot and should not discriminate. While I have the last word, I always get the input of existing tenants. But what does the owner do if they suspect a new client is still using drugs or drinking alcohol? What if that person seems like they are going to clash with another house member? There are a lot of things to consider and a balance that needs to be, if not attained, then certainly sought after. Even if one does attain balance, given the transitory nature of sober living, one thing is sure, it will change.

 

 

About the Author:Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.42 PM

Dakota Baker is a professional in the mental health and chemical dependency world. He started Dakota Therapy in 2009, and has over 20 years of experience. Recently, he opened a sober house outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

 

 

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.

Dear Parents…

Parents play a vital role in the recovery of addiction in young adults. Our guest blogger today has years of experience with young adults and parents, and advises our readers on how to take back their parenting from addiction. MWM

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Dear Parents,

An epidemic of drug addiction with our kids today is scarier then ever! Every day on national and local news, more and more stories keep pointing to the opiate epidemic, overdoses, and addiction of our young people.  These kids have parents whose hearts are breaking and need ongoing support and strategies to take back their parenting from the addiction of their teens and young adults. I believe no parent ever intentionally wakes up each day and decides to harm their kids.  Yet, with the affects of addiction on their parenting, most of these parents find it difficult to believe that their kids really care about them and they feel overwhelmed and powerless. Many of these teens and young adults have the following in common that parents need to know: (1) remorse for what they have done to their families; (2) loneliness, sadness, rage, fear, and shame; and (3) love for their parents.  How do I know?  I surveyed 300 teens and young adults newly sober from a recovery high school and sober living programs with young adults in recovery during the past 4 years. Their responses were heart felt, wise, and important to share with parents. They want you and need you in their lives even if they show otherwise.

One of the questions asked to the teens and young adults was:

“Dear Parents, I wish you knew this about me-“

 

  • I did my best and tried to be stable, but couldn’t.
  • I wish you knew how much I have suffered.  Sometimes I feel that they only saw my maladaptive behavior as an attack against them rather than a cry for help or an act of desperation.
  • I’m trapped in a vicious cycle of using because I can’t gain trust and I’ve given up.
  • I have really struggled.
  • I deeply regret hurting them.
  • I love them and never wanted to hurt them with my addiction.

 

 

Who are these kids?

Many of these teens and young adults have been through treatment anywhere from one to nine times. Drugs of choice range from alcohol to marijuana to street drugs, prescription drugs, designer drugs, opiates, and heroin. Many of them have been bullied in grade school, middle school, and high school. Quite a few of them have been sexually or physically abused. Developmentally, many experience delays socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Through the years, I have worked directly and indirectly with thousands of adolescents and young adults all over the country. Their stories are heartfelt and telling. Many are children of addicts, many are in recovery, and many have co-occurring mental health challenges. Most of them don’t know how to step out from active addiction and remain sober. Many of these children have mental health challenges that went untreated or were unsuccessfully treated. These include depression, anxiety, severe mood disorders, and learning disabilities. Many of these children mask untreated mental health issues with addiction to ease their pain. Most of the teenagers and young adults have dual diagnoses of chemical dependency with coexisting mental health challenges.

“How did addiction affect your relationship with your parents?”

 

  • When I was depressed, I totally shut down and blocked my parents out, which caused them to try harder.
  • They lost trust in me, and I’m not sure when it will ever be back
  • They were scared I would kill myself
  • I completely disappointed them

 

Different Children, Similar Messages

No matter where these children come from, no matter their substances of choice, and no matter their ages, the message to their parents is the same:

  • Be present with me physically and emotionally.
  • Build a relationship with me.
  • Console me if I am having a problem.
  • Do absolutely everything to stay together and not get divorced.
  • Don’t let your mental health problems wreck your family’s life.
  • Don’t try to buy me with things or trips.

  • Give me more attention.
  • 
Have family dinners and get to know me.
  • Help me know I’m not a bad person.
  • 
Listen to my point of view. 
Make sure I know that I can tell you anything without judgment.
  • Show me that you love me.
  • Take time to learn how I think and feel.

 

Addiction/mental health challenges often suck the life out of parents due to their enmeshment, and inability to know how to detach and make difficult decisions. To take charge again in their families, parents need support during that first year of recovery when there are so many new challenges.  Family programs only begin the journey. Parents have years of habits of parenting that maintained an addicted family system.  The 5 steps below teach parents how to shift their family, empower their parenting and not let addiction be in charge again. There are very few ongoing programs after treatment that  support parents directly.

From my research and interviews with parents, the following 5 steps of foundational parenting were instrumental in teaching parents to regain their parenting, and restructure their relationships with their kids. Parents who were part of groups, weekend programs, coaching, regained hope and strength to heal their parenting and in turn their families. Identifying concrete action steps or strategies that can be used in their relationship with their kids, gives parents something tangible that can be practiced at home daily.

 

The following 5 steps of Foundational Parenting, teaches parents to:

  • Practice being present with their children
  • Develop emotional attunement
  • Act and respond non judgmentally with their children
  • Create sacred family time and recreate rituals
  • Clarify values, rules and boundaries-natural/logical consequences

Healthy parenting is vital for a child’s continued sobriety. A healthy parenting approach does not allow for a child’s moods or actions to cause reactions that escalate into a destructive situation. The addiction or threat of a relapse is no longer permitted to rule the home, depleting the parents’ energy and power. When parents are clear about their values and expectations and adhere to them, children can push and test, but healthy parenting doesn’t allow this to influence them into bending the rules. In this way, children know that parents “mean what they say and say what they mean.”

One parent so eloquently shared this message after a year of working on these 5 steps, “I can finally own my emotions, our family values and create a family where addiction no longer rules our life.”  Recovering teens and young adults need parents on board to provide a healthy family to help them sustain their recovery and deal more effectively with the ongoing high rate of relapse.  Parents also need support during the first year of their loved ones recovery to help them maintain healthy parenting and healthy family.

 

About the Author:

unnamed-1.jpgBarbara Krovitz-Neren, MA- coaches parents of teens and young adults who are chemically dependent or have mental health challenges and consults with programs to enhance parent involvement in recovery using her foundational parenting model.   She has been a youth and parenting advocate for more than thirty-five years. As a pioneer in the addiction prevention field, she has created dynamic programs that have impacted more than 50,000 youth, adolescents, and young adults around the country. Barbara has trained individuals in school districts, community social service agencies, and parent groups, both nationally and internationally. She was also one of the founding board members of the National Association of Children of Alcoholics. Her work on behalf of children and families has earned her numerous awards over the years. The 5-Step Foundational Parenting Program is the culmination of her life’s work in her new book, “Parenting the Addicted Teen, a 5 Step Foundational Program.” Published by Central Recovery Press.  Release date, July, 2017.

 

 

 

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.

 

These things are leading to the rampant suicide, addiction, and mental health problems of today (Pt. 2)

Continuing our guest blog from last week, Adam writes about his personal journey to receiving help. MWM.

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A Treatise on Human Thought (or thoughts on thinking about it like my twitter handle 🙂.

A friend told me to see a therapist. I mulled the idea over until finally I mustered the courage and went to my dad and said “I think I need to see someone.”

He looked at me lovingly and said “of course, Adam, we love you, we will absolutely get you a therapist, you’re probably going through a phase, but we can certainly get you some help.”

What did I hear though? “you are probably going through a phase” so I kept to it and I abused substances as a way to cope with my pain, lack of feeling, and lack of purpose. Finally, I had a true-rock bottom moment and my parents intervened and I got help.

I looked back on the mental health system and thought, why

Years later, my father and I reconciled this disconnected moment when I came to him in a time of need and I felt he was asking me to toughen up. He explained that the trepidation I sensed was ultimately from his very real fear that he was not providing enough to me as a father. To him, me getting professional help meant he did something wrong or wasn’t a good enough father for me.

That was of course never the case, he gave me everything I could have wanted and more. I was never thinking about him or my mother and their inadequacies as parents, I was wholly consumed with my own negativity, self-hatred, and helplessness.

It was neither of our faults which can be hard for a parent to hear and probably accept”

However, both of our insecurities prevented us from connecting in a constructive way to get me the support I needed at a vulnerable time. It was neither of our faults which can be hard for a parent to hear and probably accept…it’s not your fault. I wish I could communicate that point more strongly…

After I got help, I started to tell my story. That story was one of struggle, dissatisfaction, confusion, isolation, emotional trepidation, fear, and uncertainty. And often times, I couldn’t even get more than two or three sentences in that direction before the other person blurted out how they felt the same!

I realized something was going on here. Something was happening with young people that were causing them to feel these emotions with few constructive ways to address this issue.

So I set out to change that. I developed Marbles, an iOS and android mobile phone app that allows people free 24/7 anonymous mental and emotional health support to be a tool for people to montior their mental and emotional health and reach out for support any time they may need it, 100% troll and stigma free.

suffering,

I’m lucky though. I got help.

However, not every undergraduate student is so lucky. In the United States, there are 1,100 collegiate suicides every year. Half of that group never tell anyone.

I was part of that half.

I struggled reaching out for help because I didn’t know where to go and I didn’t know what was “normal” or real distress that I needed help with vs. what I should just “deal with.”

Rates of mental health diagnoses are rising year over year. College students’ who’ve seriously considered attempting suicide rose to a staggering 33.2 percent, up from 23.8 percent just 5 years ago.

The tendancy to use suicide as an alternative for our mental health struggles

That’s why we created Marbles.

 

 

About the Author:

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Adam is an advocate for youth mental health support and understanding. His passion about mental health awareness led him to develop Marbles Inc., an Android/iPhone app that offers 24/7 peer-to-peer mental health support. 

 

 

 

 

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.

These things are leading to the rampant suicide, addiction, and mental health problems of today (Pt. 1)

Current social, extracurricular, and educational climates are stressful and harmful to our youth. This week’s guest blogger provides a heartfelt and insightful piece. -MWM

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When I was a junior at the University of Minnesota, I struggled with depression and suicide. On the surface, nobody would would have guessed…I was going to school, had some good career prospects, a seemingly fulfilling social life…but I was silently suffering. And every day I contemplated whether or not continuing life was worth it.

It was a slow slip into this hole and I didn’t know what to do, I had never had these thoughts or feelings before, and I had never talked to anyone about them. (watch me explain more here in this TEDx talk)

It took me awhile to get professional help, but when I did, I realized I was not the only one. When telling my friends, I could only get about 2 or 3 sentences into my story before they would blurt out how much they were hurting too (nearly 1 in 3 college students meets the criteria for a diagnosable mental illness). So I started making videos about people sharing their mental health stories (now over 50,000 views!).

I realized there was something going on with young people as I was not the only one who felt this way.

Over the years, I’ve been fighting to de-stigmatize mental health and support by public speaking at high schools, churches, and other youth orgs. I volunteer as a peer-to-peer mental health group support leader for NAMIMN.org, and am developing ways for people to improve their mental and emotional health. Our latest project is called Marbles. It’s an iOS and android app for people to monitor mental health and find anonymous support, 100% troll and stigma-free.

Many of these anonymous posts and conversations have similar themes and come from people of all ages, but we know the average age of our users is around 24 years old.

What’s the bottom line? Overall, a lot of people feel worthless.

And…it’s not anyone’s fault.

It’s only our responsibility to reconcile. Below is a list of some reasons that a person, particularly a millennial young person, could feel worthless. At the end, I give a few tips as to how to overcome that sense of worthlessness:

An overemphasis on outcomes

The grade has become more important than learning how to learn or the score has become more important than how hard we try in the game.

We tie our sense of self-worth to our performance on tests, in games, our careers, relationships, everything. So, when we encounter inevitable failure, it’s crushing to our bubble-wrapped sense of value and self-worth instead of viewed as a learning opportunity from which to make better choices.

Thus, people avoid situations that could lead to failure and personal growth is inhibited. We are protected from failure in many ways by helicopter parents, more rules — across the board, school, politics, relationships, athletics, getting into college — there are just more written and unwritten rules for young people to abide by, and the stakes are way higher than they used to be.

Parents tried their best to help because they saw the stakes were now higher for their children, and like all things, this involvement is also double edged sword.

Too little has consequences and too much has consequences, and there’s never a correct amount. It’s only after someone crosses a line do they realize a line was crossed…and if you or they don’t cross the line, well then nobody knows where the line is! So please, forgive yourself.

The devaluation of hard work

People think it’s cool to be naturally gifted. The American Idol generation grew up celebrating people who seemingly out of nowhere become instant stars. And most American Idols never even amounted to that much! But that’s not what we saw growing up. We observed over the course of a 30 minute feel-good television program how problems arose, somebody apologized, and everybody was happy by 7:28pm.

Grit and resiliency were never celebrated. There was never a story about the person who studied for 2 hours every night for above average grades, it was all about the gifted athletes, socialites, and scholars who naturally rise to the top and overcome a miniscule bout with adversity.

Even “cool” kids in school were the ones who looked like they never did anything. As a high school senior I was embarrassed to say that I studied for my AP calculus 2 test because if I tied my friend’s score, but I admitted to him that I studied, that meant I was dummer…that I was less than him.

Worthy achievement seemed to be a mixture of good looks, perfect parents, supportive friends, and a quirky and inspiring mentor — none of which are actually accessible for an average 15 year old from Omaha!

But in these formative adolescent years, the messages of what it took to be successful, popular, and therefore worthy, were almost the complete antithesis of what it actually takes to have a fulfilling life.

The wrong goal

All this contributes to young people having the wrong goal, and we are still reconciling with this one. Never once did anyone tell me to seek out activities, hopefully one that pays you for it, that fulfill my life. The closest anyone came was “find something that makes you happy.”

Happiness is the wrong goal though because in happiness, there is no room for sadness, struggle, disgust, fear, hopelessness, failure, frustration, confusion, anger, and whatever else that are natural emotions we all feel.

We thought it wasn’t ok to feel bad.

So, we teach ourselves to emotionally inhibit, avoid, and numb ourselves from those emotions. How? Any distraction we can find — drugs (legal and illegal), alcohol, self-harm, suicide, social media, porn, gossip, bullying, achievement, etc.

We learned to push our own emotions, our own feeling interpretations from the world, away in favor of more “desireable ones.”

It’s been the deepest, darkest, and most hopeless times when I’ve realized what’s really inside me, others, and what’s important.

But it’s not a very fun commercial to watch Adam huddled in his room alone, tears streaming down his face, overwhelmed, thinking about dropping out, filled with guilt and shame.

No…meaningful progress and worthiness appears to be beautiful people cheersing outside on a sunny day.

Yes, that certainly can be what success looks like, but it’s about balance. All I’m saying here is we are out of balance. Too much of the aforementioned ingredients. Too much self-interest, not enough compassion.

Too much salt, not enough diversity. We may benefit from a little sweetness…some savory…maybe a hint of spice in our soup of life, our own personal marinade as my friend Kenny calls it.

What can we do about it?

It’s pretty simple, do all the usual stuff, spend time in nature, eat well, exercise, be with family, celebrate one another, forgive. And, get to know yourself.

Figure out what luggage you are bringing to the situation and relationship. Instead of focusing on other people’s luggage, get to know your own.

What’s the best way to recognize your luggage? Spend time with it, just it.

Sit in a quiet room, close your eyes, and listen to your thoughts. Some call it mindfulness, some call it meditation, call it what you want, just listen. Listen to the luggage of your thoughts.

Simply observe what happens. Continuously let go of the thought-creation side of you, just listen to the luggage of your thoughts…listen to which suitcases the thoughts are stored in.

And if you don’t know how to do that…maybe someone on Marbles does.

Thank you,

Adam

Part two of Adam’s blog will air next week. His post will enlighten us about his personal journey towards recovery. 

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About the Author:  

Adam is an advocate for youth mental health support and understanding. His passion about mental health awareness led him to develop Marbles Inc., an Android/iPhone app that offers 24/7 peer-to-peer mental health support.

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.

What Are Sober High Schools & Are They Working?

With only a handful of sober schools across the nation, the general public has little to no knowledge of sober schools. This week’s author highlights the functions and efficacy of sober schools. -MWM

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The journey from addiction to sobriety isn’t a straight line. In fact, every person’s path will curve in unique ways, representative of the multitude of different recovery resources that can be any person’s catalyst toward lasting sobriety. Of course, many of us associate addiction treatment programs with recovery, particularly when the individual is taking the first steps to sobriety; however, many individuals have achieved success in recovery without stepping foot in a clinical rehabilitation facility. Today, there are more and more alternatives to the traditional clinical model of recovery, and these new alternatives are largely a reflection of how the face of addiction has evolved over the decades.

If you look at recent statistics, you’ll see that one of the demographic groups that at extremely high risk of addiction is adolescents, teens, and young adults. For this reason, there’s been a surge of research and development when it comes to recovery solutions that target youths who are either at risk of addiction or developing substance abuse problems. One such solution is a recovery school, also known as a sober school.

What exactly is a “sober school”?

Over the years, youths have proven to be one of the most concerning demographic groups when it comes to risk for alcohol and drug problems. While it may seem like overbearing parental concern is to blame for making teens a risk group, statistics have actually shown that more and more teens have been abusing alcohol, marijuana, prescription painkillers, and a number of other substances over time. As a result, there’s been a push for more recovery resources that are tailored specifically to youths, which is where sober high schools come into play.

These schools allow for the separation of these at-risk teens from public schools.”

The most straightforward explanation of a sober school is a school that’s intended specifically for adolescents recovering from substance abuse problems or who are perceived as being at high risk of developing alcohol or drug problems. The idea behind recovery schools is the fact that school and peers are often at the heart of teens’ risk for substance abuse problems. Basically, these schools allow for the separation of these at-risk teens from public schools where studies have shown there has been increasing rates of substance abuse; this separation essentially minimizes the recovering students’ risk of relapse. And not only do recovery schools provide separation from mainstream public schools but they also incorporate a focus on sobriety and physical health as a major part of the curriculum. There’s a focus on mental health as well as helping the students to find ways to mitigate stress and anxiety that would otherwise put them at risk of relapsing and developing other substance abuse problems.

Does it work?

According to studies that have analyzed the efficacy of sober schools, they have been extremely effective at safeguarding students’ recoveries and helping students avoid alcohol and drugs. In effect, the goal of the recovery school is to replace risk factors with so-called protective factors. Moreover, these schools want to help students who have experienced substance abuse problems to establish firm footing in recovery since the absence of mind-altering substances, which alter mood and cognition, will result in many students needing to adjust to how they experience their environments and the world around them.

As to the specific parameters of recovery schools, they’ve largely be determined according to the factors that have been identified as leading to recidivism among teens with histories of substance abuse. For instance, the highest risk has been associated with students who don’t participate in productive academic activities, return to environments previously associated with alcohol and drug abuse, fail to maintain or establish contact with students who don’t abuse mind-altering substances, aren’t involved or have strong relationships with family members, and have little interest in attending or joining support groups. In short, the main goals of a recovery school is to mitigate these factors, encouraging involvement in productive pastimes, familial involvement, relationship-building with non-using peers, and so on.

Students are provided with the tools needed to thrive both academically and in recovery.”

One of the main concerns that people have regarding recovery schools hinges on the misunderstanding that the recovery focus comes at a sacrifice of traditional academic subjects, but that’s not the case. Students at recovery schools still take the essential academic classes, including mathematics, history, English, natural and applied sciences, and so on; however, the chief difference is that there’s a strong recovery support system built into the curriculum, ensuring that students are provided with the tools needed to thrive both academically and in recovery.

Considering the results of recent studies, we can conclude that recovery schools are an extremely effective means of reinforcing sobriety among teens with histories of substance abuse. Per the study cited above, the rate at which students enrolling in recovery schools met the diagnostic criteria for addiction was 90 percent; however, after a year of being in a recovery school, that figure dropped to an astounding 7 percent, showing that real results are being achieved with recovery schools. Currently, it’s estimated that there are 33 sober high schools in the United States, but considering the success that students attending these schools have experienced, we will likely be seeing more recovery-oriented high schools opening in the immediate future.

 

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About the Author: 

Luke Pool is a grateful member of the Recovery community. He has found his purpose in life by helping those who suffer from the diseases of addiction. He uses blogging and social media to raise awareness about this epidemic, affecting every part of this country. Now working for Stodzy internet marketing, he is able to pursue his passion by informing as many people as possible about addiction. Originally from Austin, Texas he now lives in South Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Minnesota Resource Guide for Young People and Their Families, Friends and Loved Ones

It should be easy, but it’s not. So, let’s change that!

For as many helpful resources as there are, it still remains a quagmire to find programs and services for young people who are using drugs and alcohol. Parents, family members and friends want to help but Google searches often lead to 1-800 job numbers that promise local resources … but don’t really offer these. It’s downright frustrating.

Experience. Resources. Hope.

Our annual From Statistics to Solutions conference is all about connections and collaboration, so we are gathering content to develop a Resource Guide. We will start locally with resources in Minnesota, and we hope to expand it nationally over time.

Be part of our Resource Guide – Join More than 100 Minnesota Resources.

If you offer services for young people and their families in Minnesota, please let us know if you would like to be included. Details are included in our recent e-newsletter.

Categories include but are not limited to:

  • Addiction Treatment
  • Assessment Services
  • Community Coalitions
  • Healthy Eating
  • Housing & Emergency Services
  • Intervention Services
  • Local Statistics
  • Mental Health & Wellbeing
  • Law Enforcement
  • Overdose Prevention (naloxone)
  • Prevention Programs
  • Recovery Coaching
  • Recovery Schools – high schools and collegiate
  • Resources for Friends and Family
  • Resources for Parents
  • Reproductive & Sexual Health

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved