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.

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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.

The Sudden and Real Dangers of Opiate Addiction

Being an advocate for the addicted involves understanding the costs of addiction. Today’s guest blogger provides an insight into the reality of America’s substance abuse. MWM

Print

Millions of people across the world, over 300,000 in the U.S. alone, are addicted to the class of drugs derived from the poppy flower made famous in the Wizard of Oz. In 2015, over 33,000 Americans lost their lives due to opiates such as heroin, Vicodin and fentanyl. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has declared an Opiate Epidemic and has organized efforts with other government agencies to intercept the growing supply of illicit street opiates and to curb the dangerous over-prescribing of opiate-based pain pills.

Young People are Vulnerable to Opiate Addiction

One of the greatest dangers associated with opioid drug addiction is the body’s ability to quickly develop a tolerance to the drug and in turn the body’s increased dependence on the drug to function. People who take prescribed opiate-based pain medications like Vicodin and people who use illegal street drugs like heroin have the greatest risk of addiction.

For those taking doctor-ordered pain medication, length of time using the drug, accessibility, low-income and previous alcohol and drug use are high-risk factors. Benzodiazepines, like Valium and Xanax, depress the central nervous system and are often associated with death from opioid overdose.

Astonishingly, young adults aged 18 to 25 are becoming the fastest growing group of addicts”

Illicit opiate addiction is often preceded by other addictions and affects people from all walks of life and ages. Astonishingly, young adults aged 18 to 25 are becoming the fastest growing group of addicts. In the early 2000s young adult addiction rates hovered around five percent. By 2015, though, that number jumped over ten percent.

Perhaps the most frightening part of all is the prescription opioid abuse can lead to heroin addiction. The majority of heroin addicts aged 12 to 21 years old report having first used prescription pills. Without awareness and a certain vigilance in treating our youth for opiate addiction, the addiction can progress into more dangerous drugs.

The Cost of Addiction

In the United States, opiate abuse and addiction are responsible for over $78 billion in healthcare cost, legal costs and lost productivity. More importantly, the high cost of addiction includes tens of thousands of lost lives through overdose, financial ruin and loss of quality of life. Individuals, families and whole communities are negatively affected. The danger of addiction touches the ones closest to those struggling with addiction.

In November, 2016, Niki Hamilton, a Canadian who struggled with years of heroin addiction, lost her life after overdosing on drugs laced with fentanyl. Eight days later, her grieving brother also died of an opiate overdose. Their father, Alex Hamilton who also suffers from an opiate addiction, said he believes his son took his own life or was careless after losing his sister.

Today, deaths from drug overdose is twice that of motor vehicle accidents”

Less than 15 years ago, car accidents were responsible for more than twice as deaths than drug overdoses. Today, deaths from drug overdose is twice that of motor vehicle accidents. Opioid overdoses in particular have increased more that any other class of drugs, with heroin accounting for more than two-thirds of opiate-related fatalities. In 2015, over 33,000 opioid-related deaths compared to over 52,000 total drug overdose deaths.

Hidden Dangers of Illegal Opiates

In 2016, four teenagers overdosed in one rural West Virginian town during a weekend of celebration. Each one ingested drugs they thought was Ecstacy, or MDMA. While expecting the experience of euphoria and energy, the teens went into cardiac arrest and died due to fatal mixture of opiates and synthetic fentanyl. In May, 2016, law enforcement officers in Ohio seized over 500 counterfeit pills that were marked as 30 milligram oxycodone pharmaceuticals but actually turned out to be research chemical U-47700. The chemical, an experimental synthetic opioid, has never been tested in humans and has been responsible for several fatalities in the United States. Increased access to chinese-imported chemicals used in the production of street synthetic opioids is attributed in the huge increase in opiate overdoses. Also, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) attributes more distribution to rural and suburban areas as a large factor in increased opiate use and fatalities.

CDC officials have also directly attributed the dramatic increase of opioid overdose deaths to the increase of illicit fentanyl. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is often mixed or cut with heroin to increase potency. In 2016, the DEA reported “hundreds of thousands of counterfeit pills have been entering the U.S. drug market since 2014, some containing deadly amounts of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.”

Ending Addiction

Overcoming an opioid addiction is a mental and physical battle that can be won. Once the body becomes dependent on opioids, withholding the drug results in extremely uncomfortable and often unbearable withdrawal symptoms. For several days to a week, people may experience severe anxiety, intense cramps, fever, nausea, and diarrhea. Each individual’s degree of withdrawal depends on a lot of factors. Weight, physical health, psychological state, length of time in addiction and frequency of use are only a few of the major issues that affect difficulty with opiate and heroin withdrawal.

Recovery from addiction includes a post-acute withdrawal stage. During this phase, individuals may experience mood disturbed sleep, anger or anxiety. Symptoms may last anywhere from a few weeks to months depending on each case and personal health goals. Risk of suicide is highest during this healing phase as the body’s fluctuating neurochemical levels create extreme mood swings and depression. A strong support network and access to resources facilitates faster recovery and affects each individual’s opiate withdrawal timeline.

Seeking Recovery for the Addict and the Family

Withdrawal symptoms are rough, but they are not the only part of ending an addiction. It is important to surround yourself with support during this time as the psychological ramifications are as detrimental as the physical. The addict will likely need a strong support network that fully understands the process of withdrawal. Without this, relapse is a greater threat as recovery becomes an isolating experience.

The family of the addict must create a support network for recovery, as well. There will be moments during the recovery process that can seem so dark and so hopeless. During those time it is especially important to have access to resources and people that may be able to help pull them through. Addiction affects not only the addict but also everyone within the addict’s network. As such, recovery becomes a group effort with each individual requiring care throughout the process.

While some of the dangers of opiate addiction seem obvious, there are hidden dangers everyone should be aware of. The CDC plans to increase public awareness through education, provide more resources for treatment and early detection of overdose outbreaks. “It is important for the public to understand the present dangers of this epidemic that is claiming an increasing number of lives due to more potent street drugs, misinformation and other long-standing issues we must address within our government and communities.”

Sources:

https://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2016/hq072216.shtml
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/fentanyl-linked-deaths-regina-1.3868767

http://www.asam.org/docs/advocacy/societal-costs-of-prescription-opioid-abuse-dependence-and-misuse-in-the-united-states.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html

https://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2016/hq072216.shtml

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-bad-is-the-opioid-epidemic/

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20161004/risk-of-opioid-addiction-up-37-percent-among-young-us-adults

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/counseling-and-addiction-how-therapy-can-help#1

About Today’s Guest Blogger: Bill Weiss      

                                                                                                          Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.50.08 PM

Bill is an advocate for long-term recovery, as well as being in recovery himself. He feels it is important to share addiction information with the public to educate them about substance abuse.

 

If you want to learn more:

unitingrecovery.com
455 NE 5th ave suite d478, Delray Beach, 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.

Guest Blog: The Real Me by Brook McKenzie

Ever wonder if your kid will overcome addiction and live a life in recovery? Never stop believing that it is possible. Treatment works. Recovery is possible. Today’s guest blogger is a young man who did just that. Meet Brook McKenzie and find hope in his story… MWM

With no tattoos, barely any muscles, and a quiet, sensitive nature, I had very few credentials to suggest I would survive in prison. Yet there I was, orange jumpsuit and a shaved head. At 19 years old, 155 lbs., I was not much to behold.  If anything I was the poster-child for “easy prey.”

How often I wished that I had never taken that first hit of crack-cocaine. How many times I wondered at how different things might have been.

Like many, I grew up in a great family with plenty of opportunity. It would have been much more likely for me to go on to graduate college, embark on a career and start a family than to wind up in prison.  But that was not at all what happened.  For years my parents had been wringing their hands in dismay. They would say things like, “how did this happen?” “why can’t you stop?” “can you quit for us, if not for yourself?” These were questions I sometimes had answers for, but none of them really made sense when set against the backdrop of my family’s life in shambles.

I was fifteen years old when my addiction to crack-cocaine began, a child really – with little idea as to what was in store.

This nightmare of enslavement would continue for me and my family for the next 20 years. There would be late night phone calls, desperate pleas, thefts, bail bonds, disappearances, missing purses, missed holidays, and an assortment of promises always ending in disappointment. As a child I had wanted to go to college and become a dentist. I loved my parents and they loved me. My younger brother was my sidekick.  Together, we would spend our youth exploring the woods, fishing, going on family vacations and making forts and tree-houses. I played baseball every year and enjoyed a host of childhood friends.  From a very young age our parents taught us how to be responsible, courteous, and conscientious young men.

As hard working, middle class young adults, our parents sought to provide for us the best that they could, and all they could.  They did a wonderful job! Still, in my heart, I sense that they felt to blame for what happened to me. But in reality, what happened to me, happened to each of us. Addiction is a family disease and it touches all lives that come into contact with it.

Between the years 1999-2009, I served about 8 years in prison as a result of my drug addiction, and my family served it with me. I remember the look on my mother’s face when she would come to visit. There would be times that I would bring a black eye to the visitation room with me. She would squeeze my hand while recounting all that had happened since I’d been away.  My brother had graduated high school, gone on to college, and earned his bachelor’s degree. He even met the love of his life while traveling abroad.

Sometimes during these visits – when I could muster the courage – I’d look my Mom in the eye and promise her – with all of my heart – that things would be different next time – I had changed. Unbeknownst to me, and certainly to her – none of us had come to a full realization as to the severity of my condition.

Once released from prison, and with every good intention to live my life reformed for the sake of all my family had been through – I would relapse!  Whether it took a few days or a few weeks, I always went back to it, as if asleep and unable to awake.  Similar to a nightmare, I would “come to” in complete shock  – “how did I get here again?” “What happened?”

The horror I felt would consume me. How could I do this to my family? And the thoughts would come:  wouldn’t it be better to kill myself now and let my family begin to heal than to go on causing harm indefinitely? Ashamed, I dared not show my face to anyone. The only way I knew to cover up what I felt was to go on to the bitter end, which for me, always resulted in another arrest.

As my addiction progressed, I found that I would steal for drugs, lie; even prostitute myself…I would walk miles and miles to get my next fix, roaming the streets like a zombie.

Whatever I had to do, I would do, my conscience under siege. The pain I felt inside, the loneliness and sense of isolation was unbearable. During these times I would fall to my knees and pray, “God please help me, please show me another way.”

Then, in 2010, as though an answer to my prayers, I was presented with an opportunity to go to treatment for my addiction. With a small duffel bag of clothes in tow I embarked on a life changing experience that would prove to be the launching pad for a brand new life in recovery. I haven’t been back to prison since. The truths I learned in treatment are the truths I carry with me today and they are the same truths that I share with others, with families and with those similarly afflicted.

…Not too long ago I accepted the position of Outreach Coordinator for a well-known drug and alcohol treatment center in Southern Orange County, California. This role allows me the privilege to interact with other people’s parents and family members on a daily basis. Together, the families and I walk hand in hand towards getting their loved ones the help that they need and deserve. Ironically, and despite it being a big part of what fuels my passion to serve others, my own story rarely comes up any more. As time moves on, there are newer stories to share, with brand new faces and brand new names; stories of hope, and stories of redemption.

Today, when my Mother calls me I answer the phone and we talk. We don’t talk about the things we used to discuss, we talk about our gratitude; we talk about life. My father, same thing. And as for my younger brother, well, we are best of friends again. He now has two young children of his own, two girls, and I get to be an uncle to both of them.  By the Grace of God, my nieces will never know me as a drug addict, a convict or a thief.

They will only know the real me; the one that God intended me to be…

Brook McKenzie serves as Outreach Coordinator and Family Liaison for New Method Wellness treatment center. His passion is working with families to help interrupt the cycle of addiction.

Making Sense of Signals

How do we know that another person is parenting a young addict? What signals do we give? Midwestern Mama explores the subtle ways we communicate and the important connections we make when we share that we know addiction.

Confession: As a high school student in the early ‘80s, I tried marijuana. It’s entirely possible but I may be the only person on earth to say I did not like it in the least. I actually tried to like it, but after a couple months of trying I gave it up declaring it just wasn’t for me.

That’s not say I didn’t continue to hang around high school friends who used marijuana regularly. It’s also not so say that I didn’t engage in some teenage and college drinking; for whatever reason, my “experimentation” was just that and it didn’t manifest as addiction in any sense.

Decades later, with a high school kid of my own, experimentation with drugs and alcohol went in a vastly different direction. My teenager became an addict almost immediately, and I gained a whole new understanding of substance use … addiction … mental health … treatment … relapse … recovery, and a whole lot more in between.

As much as I have learned, there remains so much I do not know – in general as well as specific to my son’s experience. Most of the unknowns I have accepted. The past is the past. I do, however, have curiosity and I have to remind myself whether that knowledge has any great purpose. I also realize, that the missing pieces may reveal themselves at some point in the future, if my son chooses to share and if it’s meant to be.

Even still, I have questions. For example, even for the extent to which I experienced drugs, personally and vicariously through my son, one thing I never figured out is the communication style that drug users use. How do they determine if someone else is a user? How do they find out if someone has something to share or sell? What is the language and what are the signals that that they use?

I may never know these things and I’m OK with that. It’s interesting, but not particularly useful. Save for sharing knowledge with other parents and as my son continues in recovery, I hope I never need to know the language or signals.

It occurs to me, however, that parents of young addicts also develop a language and set of signals.

Just the other day, I met a former colleague for coffee. As we caught up on careers, she mentioned that her 17-year-old son had given them some “challenges” the past few years. That’s an ambiguous statement. It doesn’t specify anything yet neither does it invite nor discourage any follow-up questions – unless you are a completely nosy person or a parent who has experienced your own ambiguous “challenges.” Instead, the ambiguity either goes without notice or it hangs there waiting to see if the other parent will pick up on something.

Acknowledging that we’d had challenges with our son in recent years, I gently asked if she cared to share what kind of challenges.

Quietly but without hesitation, she said, “Addiction.”

And, without hesitation, I said, “Oh my goodness, my son, too,” adding – to give her hope, “he’s now one year sober.”

You can imagine the rest of the conversation as we shared our experiences. It was refreshing to connect with another parent who understood what it’s like to have a young addict in the family. We listened to each others stories, empathized and validated feelings, and we exchanged ideas on what had worked and what hadn’t. All of a sudden, we had a new appreciation for each other and a renewed sense of our parenting roles not to mention additional hope and belief in the possibility of recovery for our sons.

What’s interesting about this scenario is that it is increasingly common. It seems I’m having this conversation more and more often. A part of me is glad that we are talking about our kids’ addiction and connecting rather than going it alone. At the same time, a part of me is sad that there is a seemingly rising number of families dealing with young adults substance use – too many kids are using and becoming addicted.

It got me wondering about what is the language and what are the signals that someone is parenting a young addict? I always used the phrase, “our son is taking a detour right now.” This was a nice way of saying, he was not doing what other kids his age were doing ,i.e., he’s not in college, he’s homeless, he’s addicted to drugs including heroin, he lies and steals, he sells his plasma to get money for food and drugs.

Yuck, who wants to say those things even if they are true? Instead, we test the waters with a catch phrase. Some people don’t pick up on the ambiguity and the conversation proceeds without addressing it. Other people do pick up on it, and it’s an opportunity for them to choose whether to engage.

The language and signals may be invisible to most people, but to parents who have been there or are still there with their kids, these are an opportunity to connect.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

#TBT – In Hard Times, Siblings Will Ask … And Deserve to Know – Truth about Addiction

There’s no hiding the fact that a sibling is struggling with addiction, so it’s important to include and involve the other siblings. In this 2012 column, Midwestern Mama embraces a #NoMoreStigma approach.

Real Mom_ In hard times, siblings will ask — and deserve to know – Minnmoms

#TBT – Do “All The Right Things” But Kids Can Still Lose Their Way – Addiction Happens

In 2012, Midwestern Mama contemplated the dichotomy of doing “all the right things” but still having a kid who was struggling with addiction. It seemed to run counter to the recovery principles of “you didn’t cause it, you can’t change it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it …” Which is it, she wondered? (And still does wonder.)

A Real Mom 5-7-12 – All the Right Things

To me, this is where parents and professionals need to come together for the sake of family consensus, treatment and recovery – for ourselves and our young addicts.

#TBT – Keeping In Touch No Matter What is What Matters Most

Throughout my son’s addiction, we made every effort to stay in touch and we worked at understanding the complexity of addiction and its grips. In this 2012 column, Midwestern Mama talks about why this is important an even shares an insight from Chicago Bears player Erik Kramer. These strategies made a big difference for our son and our family.

A Real Mom_ Keeping in Touch, No Matter What is What Matters – Minnmoms

#TBT – Travel & The Baggage of Remote Parenting

It always seemed like the few times I was out of town for business would be when the dreaded phone calls would come. The ones about an incident with my chemically dependent son.

Midwestern Mama wrote in 2012 about a recent trip that actually went smoothly.

A Real Mom – Travel and the Baggage of Remote Parenting 3-27-11

What a relief!

#TBT – Not Using is Not the Same as Recovering – Relapse in the Making

In spring 2012, Midwestern Mama’s son was not using, but he wasn’t exactly embracing treatment, sobriety or recovery. Here is a column where she explores the concerning pattern, which repeated itself many times through many relapses.

A Real Mom – Not using isn’t same as recovering 3-19-12

Fortunately, in 2014 and continuing forward, my son has embraced sobriety and recovery in a much more encouraging way. We have transitioned from hope to belief!

#TBT – Making Peace With Patterns – Addiction is a Series of Patterns

Early on, Midwestern Mama relied on her “Mom Radar,” which often revealed patterns of addiction. In this column from 2012, she writes about how patterns emerge and change for her young addict.

Real Mom_ Making Peace with Patterns – 3-13-12

Fast forward to August 2015, I must say, I much prefer the positive patterns of my son’s recovery.

#TBT – No Car, No Way – What My Young Addict Wanted

Having a car was a privilege – until Midwestern Mama’s son began using drugs and driving under the influence. It was a turning point when we finally took away the privilege. In this 2012 column, read about the impact of having, or not having, a car during my son’s addiction.

A Real Mom 3-6-12 No car, no way

Three years later, now sober and in recovery, Midwestern Mama’s son is now in his 20s and has regained driving privileges. He’s saving money from his part-time job to buy his own car in the future.

Guest Blog: The Blame Game by Nadine Herring


Parents, families and professionals - let's end "The Blame Game."
Parents, families and professionals – let’s end “The Blame Game.”

I have a confession to make: I watch Dr. Phil, pretty much on a daily basis. I know, I know…but I like to watch a good train wreck to wind down my day and this show never fails to disappoint.

While there have been some truly cringe worthy episodes that make you wonder why they would even put them on the air, there have also been some good episodes so things tend to balance out.

The Dr. Phil show likes to specialize in shows that deal with family dysfunction: whether that be from divorce, parent-child issues, or its favorite topic – addiction. Now let me start by saying that I think Dr. Phil’s heart is in the right place when he takes on these topics, but I don’t always agree with his methods especially when it comes to dealing with the family members of addicts.

A typical addiction episode of the Dr. Phil show usually involves the family member or friend of the addict reaching out to Dr. Phil for help in dealing with the addict. They usually have tried every option (so they say) and are reaching out to him as their last hope for their loved one. The family member(s) will usually come out first, tell their story and then the addict will be brought on stage to tell their story. Once both parties are on stage, it doesn’t tend to go well and lots of arguing and yelling ensue. Now Dr. Phil can step in and shut this down immediately and facilitate a calm, rationale conversation but that wouldn’t make for good television, so he tends to let them go at it for a while before he cuts to commercial.

Once back from commercial, Dr. Phil will talk with the addict to dig into the story a little deeper and try to find out how and why they got started using. More yelling and name calling is done, and Dr. Phil usually turns to the family member(s) and starts to go in on them, and the blame game begins.

As the sibling and spouse of former addicts, I take great offense to this and usually get so angry watching him insult, patronize, and downright shame the family, that I have to change the channel!

The Blame Game

I’m going to speak from my experience and tell you that my brother and sister’s addiction had NOTHING to do with how they were raised.

My three sisters and I, along with my brother were raised in a very loving, close, two-parent home and there was no dysfunction in our family.

Now my brother was the oldest, so I can’t speak to how his addiction started, but I did notice that he seemed really different to me once he got out of the army. My brother joined right after high school and was stationed overseas for a while in Asia, and I honestly think that’s where his drinking problem began. Though I was very young when he came back, I definitely noticed a change.

As for my sister, we are only 14 months apart and were extremely close, so I was there from the beginning of her addiction. I know exactly how her addiction started, and again it had nothing to do with her family life! My sister started hanging with some very shady friends who got her started with marijuana and it very quickly progressed to harder street drugs. She left home at a young age, but my parents did everything they could to help her, and I would even follow her around to try to make sure she was safe, but her friends and her addiction were more powerful than our love for her. For YEARS she would go in and out of rehabs, in and out of our lives and there was nothing we could do.

So when I see Dr. Phil jumping all over some of these families who have genuinely done everything they know to do and come to him for help and he blames them for their loved one’s addiction, it makes me upset and sad because my family has been there.

We’ve watched our family members sink deep into the abyss of addiction and tried everything we could to help them. We watched as our family was torn apart and relationships were destroyed. My parents watched their only son and I watched my brother who I idolized, slowly drink himself to death, and when he finally got sober, watched him die way too young from cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 49. I watched the pain, devastation and stress of my parents as they wondered where their youngest daughter was and if she was okay. We lived for years dreading a late night phone call because we just knew it would be the police calling to tell us that she was dead. Unless you have lived with and loved an addict, you will NEVER understand how this feels.

Fortunately for my sister and our family, her story has a happy ending and she has been clean for over 10 years now and we are so very proud of her and the strength it took for her to make it through her addiction alive; her story is truly amazing.

I know that my family is not to blame for the addictions of my brother and sister and while I commend Dr. Phil for his efforts in trying to help addicts, he is doing them no favors when he tries to play the blame game with their families.

Nadine Herring is the owner of Virtually Nadine, a virtual assistant company that provides online administrative support to addiction specialists and social service organizations. I specialize in working with this undervalued and overworked field to help them deal with the time consuming process of running an organization.

Connect with me on LinkedInGoogle+TwitterPinterest, or my website

Many thanks, Nadine, for sharing this perspective with us. Let’s work together – parents, families and professionals to end the blame game. MWM

How Full is Your Glass?

You know the  question about whether you see the glass half full or half empty; in may ways, this is an appropriate model for parents of young addicts. It refers to your mindset and point of view. Either vision is accurate, it’s a matter of attitude and perspective.

Even in the depths of my son’s struggles with addiction and mental health, I always had hope. In time, that hope became belief.

At first, my hope (the glass half full), was fueled by thinking and wishing that that he would stop using drugs, get help (treatment) and return to a happy, healthy life (recovery). To me, this made sense. It was a logical progression.

During his many bottoms, and yes there were MANY, there were times that others would sweat the glass was half full, if not empty. I refused to believe this. It was not denial; absolutely not. It was reality, however, that the more he used, the more he suffered, the more our family’s hope would diminish.

We worried. We wondered if he was going to make it, if he could turn things around, if he would ask and or get help. If anything, it was his denial of a problem not ours.

While we could not predict the future or will it into being, we never lost hope. The glass remained half full, if not three quarters full!

Do you see the glass half full or half empty? Midwestern Mama - always a positive thinker - sees it as three quarters full!
Do you see the glass half full or half empty? Midwestern Mama – always a positive thinker – sees it as three quarters full!

This perspective sustained me and helped out family believe in the possibility of our son’s recovery.

I am a naturally positive person, some might even call me Polly Anna, but without a doubt my attitude and perspective pulled me – if not my son – through. I hope it will you, too.

I learned that hope precedes belief, and to me, this it the process that shifts perspective from a glass half empty to half full to three quarters full. Wishing you and yours the same.

Midwestern Mama

What’s on your mind? Guest bloggers tell all.

This summer, Our Young Addicts kicked off guest blog posts on Wednesdays, and it’s become one of our most popular offerings. I’m so glad, because this is the true spirit of community. We alternate between parents, people in recovery who used as young adults, and professionals who work in addiction, treatment and recovery.

Each post offers something substantial – I know these are making a difference in your lives and mine. Together, we are sharing experiences, offering resources and instilling hope.

Browse the recent posts and archives:

  • A Minnesota dad shared what he has learned through his son’s addiction. An Alabama mom wrote about recognizing her daughter’s meth use and then how she learned to shift from enabling to supporting her through treatment and early recovery.
  • Two young men have shared their stories as well. One became addicted to opiates during high school; he is now in recovery and rebuilding his life through work and college. The other wrote a letter to moms and dads telling us things he wished we knew – like we didn’t cause his addiction and that there was nothing we could have told him to make him stop … until he was ready. That one, in particular, resonated with me.
  • The first two of three parts from Drew Horowitz, our addiction and recovery specialist, has focused on his personal journey with addiction as a young adult and how this has shaped his national practice. He also wrote about how to create a successful, youth-centered intervention. I’m looking forward to his third post, which will run on August 12.

In the coming weeks, we have scheduled some truly fantastic posts. One is from a fellow #OYACommunity friend who writes about the impact of addiction on families. She’s become a passionate advocate and is working to create effective community outreach in her hometown in Connecticut.

I’m also excited to run a guest blog post from an author that helped me through some of my son’s early addiction years. My son attended the same treatment center as the author, so I reached out back in 2011 and he provided great encouragement during a particularly trying time. This author now works as an addiction counselor as part of a mental health program in Georgia.

Those are just a few of the guest blog posts that you’ll find in the coming weeks on Our Young Addicts. If you would like to share what’s on your mind, please see our Writers Guidelines – send me a message to schedule a post.

Meanwhile, I’ll be taking a short break next week for some R&R. See you here when I get back, and thanks for your ongoing support of the the #OYACommunity via this blog, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Midwestern Mama

Guest Blog – A Letter to Mom & Dad – 11 Years into Recovery

PrintThis week’s guest blogger is a young man, eleven years into recovery, who shares some truths and encouragement for parents seeking to understand a child’s addiction. Midwestern Mama is touched by his heartfelt words, and he tells me that he plans to share this post with his own parents in hopes that it brings further clarity and healing for their family – I know it will.

Dear-Mom-and-Dad

As a former young addict and now a slightly older recovering addict, I don’t have anything original to contribute other than my own experience. My story isn’t remarkable except for the fact that an absolute miracle happened 11 years ago, and I continue to be blessed everyday with a life that I never could have imagined.

Reflecting on my experience in the context of Our Young Addicts as a place for parents and recovery professionals to gather, I began to think about things I wish my parents would have known when I was a teenager and young adult and a few things I’d like to share with them now.

This list comes from my personal experience with addiction and recovery, but hopefully it will resonate with some readers and provide some insight, comfort, and hope.

1. You didn’t make me an addict.

There wasn’t a lack of parenting or warning signs that you missed. Long before I took my first drink or used my first drug, I started on a path that led me into my addiction.

At least in my experience, no amount of intervention could have prevented me from making the choices I made. I was a deadly combination of naïve, stubborn, foolish, and scared, and I got there on my own.

It’s not because you missed a single opportunity or series of opportunities to “make everything better.” Even if genetics or learned behaviors played a part in my path to addiction, ultimately I am responsible for my choices.

It’s not your fault.

(Honestly, I’m better off for my experiences, so there’s no need for blame.)

 2. No amount of education or warnings could have stopped me from my addiction.

I am a proud graduate of the D.A.R.E. program, class of 1992.

I was well aware that drugs were bad for me before I started using them.

In fact, that was part of the allure. While trying to keep up appearances, I enjoyed secretly engaging in a forbidden activity. I had very little self-respect and didn’t care if I was harming myself.

I already had it in my head that I wasn’t worth much, so it wasn’t a huge leap to actively hurt myself.

I knew there was a family history of alcohol and drug abuse. I knew the risks, and I really didn’t care.

Just like in recovery, reasoning and mental exercises are not very helpful to change the behavior of an addict. I knew logically that drug abuse is not good for us, but all the knowledge in the world couldn’t heal a sickness in my soul.* We could have talked and reasoned through my situation, and it wouldn’t have done any good.

I had to get to a place where I could love myself before I could accept the love and caring of anyone else.

I had to experience a fundamental shift in my belief about mySELF, God, and the Universe before I could really listen to what anyone was saying to me, even those with the best intentions.

3. I couldn’t stop until I was ready.

I went to my first AA meeting a few months after my 21st birthday. I had been using for years, but decided that I wanted to try stopping and realized that I couldn’t stick to any of my plans for abstinence. That was when I really got scared. I didn’t want to use anymore but couldn’t seem to stop.

I’d like to say that was the last time I ever drank or used drugs, but I wasn’t ready to change. I spent the next two years in and out of recovery, rationalizing and experimenting.

I thought, “I’m too young to be addicted.It’s not as big of a deal as I’m making it. Other people I know do it more than I do. I can always quit when I’m older, or maybe I’ll just outgrow it!” These and many other thoughts that I tried my best to drown out kept me from really committing to changing my life one day at a time.

When I went back again to that AA clubhouse on a cool September evening, someone finally said it to me in a way that made sense: “You hit bottom when you stop digging.” It’s probably just another recovery cliché, but that night it really made sense to me. How bad does it have to get? I had been using daily, driving under the influence more times than I can remember, holding everyone at arms length, losing all self-respect, having no direction, and feeling hopelessly stuck. I suppose I could have kept digging, but I decided to stop. Hearing those words didn’t cause me to stop, but for some reason, I was finally open to hearing what I needed to hear.

That was the miracle. I can’t say where that readiness came from, but it was real, and I’ve carried it with me. It was nothing that I did and nothing that you could have done for me.

4. Just because I stopped using, it doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect.

Some of my most difficult days have come since I’ve been in recovery. After removing the drink and the drugs, I was still stuck with myself and my own twisted view of the world. Don’t expect everything to suddenly change. There have been many times while perfectly sober that I have been selfish, dishonest, greedy, insensitive, hurtful, and downright obnoxious. At times I may be seen distant than before. In some ways, the addiction can keep everyone closer. We all play our parts to maintain the status quo. When a big change happens, it shakes up the whole family dynamic.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been told that it was better or I was more fun when I was using. To be blunt, that’s too bad because I’m finally living a happy and fulfilling life! I get it – change is hard and painful, but the rewards are too good to pass up. (Not to mention that change is the only thing that’s certain.)

When someone makes a big change, the hope is that everything will be better, but we can only count on the fact that things will be different.

We’re responsible for our own perception of whether a change is “better” or “worse.”

 5. Love yourself and take care of yourself first.

The last thought that I want to share with you has very little to do with me other than the fact that I learn more from your actions than your words. I know that you want the best for me and care deeply for me, but you can’t give what you don’t already have.

It’s a tremendous gift for you to find your own happiness and peace.

Then you can give from a place of true generosity and selflessness, regardless of the outcome.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which I truly believe:

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

And we’re all in this together, just trying to figure it out – parents and children, addicts and non-addicts. I am grateful for all my experiences and for the life I have today, so to my parents I say,

Thank you.

I love you.

Matt

*I firmly believe that addiction is a sickness of body, mind, and soul. For me, I had to have a fundamental shift on a spiritual level as my primary focus, however I would encourage anyone with physical or mental health concerns to seek out a medical and/or mental health professional as part of their recovery as well.

Sunrise – The Miraculous Transition from Addiction to Recovery

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” It’s something my mother used to tell me, and as I grew older I thankfully learned she was right.

Shining light on recovery in Minneapolis.
Shining light on recovery in Minneapolis.

Throughout my son’s addiction, when not only the nights seemed dark but the days as well, our family always looked for the bright spots – the bright spots we hoped would be ahead. Sometimes, we would get a small bit of sunlight and it would make us hopeful for more. Then it would dim and darkness returned.

As his days became darker and the light was less and less, our family learned to move forward. There remained a shadow of his addiction no matter what we did, but we found our own guiding lights and the hope that each new day would bring – if not for him, for ourselves.

Addiction is a time warp for the addict as well as their family and friends. We wonder when it will end with the hopes that it becomes a transition to recovery as opposed to the unthinkable end to end all ends.

From Addiction to Recovery

The pivot from addiction toward recovery often comes on unexpectedly but no less gratefully. When night turns into day, it is a miracle of sorts.

One year ago today, our son was in the depths of his addiction. He had been to treatment several times. He had recently relapsed horrifically just a few months after an in-patient program and halfway house transitional program. I feared we were coming to the end – not the good kind of end. I could not believe how bad it had become.

It was as dark as it had ever been … and then, he was ready to stop being an addict and was ready to change. His recovery began on July 11, 2014, and continues forward. We are so happy for him.

And, we are immensely proud of him, too – we are learning that recovery is hard work. Recovery, while the opposite of addiction, is not necessarily all joy either. It too has dark days and nights. It takes an effort to see the light, and some days are easier than others.

The Sun is Shining

Most recently, I’ve witnessed some of the brightest days of our son’s recovery and it fills my heart with joy because not only is he sober, his personality is transforming in such a positive way.

Just last week, for example, he asked if he could go downtown with me over the noon hour. I had a client lunch and he thought he’d shop for his sister’s birthday present. I said, of course, however, I was leaving shortly. He doesn’t like to be rushed, so he hemmed and hawed about whether he’d be ready. Then he was concerned about how long the family dog might have to be home alone. I nudged him to make a decision one way or the other neither choice being right or wrong. Ultimately, he decided to come with me, but was non talkative during the ride as if he weren’t so sure he was glad to be going.

Now in the past, this might have been one of those get a ride with mom and then disappear for days at a time doing you know what. We’ve come a long way since then. Not only is there trust, he no longer yearns for the rush of scoring drugs and using, and he no longer wants that transient, lonely lifestyle. Phew – such a relief.

After my lunch, and to my surprise, he told me he’d run into one of his old tennis buddies from high school. They were grabbing lunch from one of the food trucks AND he invited me to come join them as they caught up. NEVER, in a very long time, has he encouraged me to participate in conversations with friends. Today, he was including me.

A couple of blocks up, I joined these young men as they chatted. We laughed, talking about the tennis days, and shared news of their siblings. My son was animated, smiling, laughing, conversational … he was happy.

Not only had he made the effort to go downtown, he got the unexpected positive reward of reconnecting with a former friend, and the chance to share updates of his own about going back to college, having a part-time job, and being sober.

Last week, the sun rose and shined as brightly as I’ve seen it in a long, long time. At many points over this first year in recovery, I have sensed the positive transition from addiction; each one has been amazing and this latest one was as affirming as any of them – my son is recovering!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: A Mom Stops Enabling and Starts Supporting Her Daughter in Recovery from Meth Addiction

Print

One of the most rewarding aspects of the #OYACommunity is connecting with other parents who are on the addiction and recovery path with their children. Together, we share experiences with the hopes that it helps other families facing a similar situation.

Today’s guest blogger is the Jennifer Jinks Yates, the mom of a young woman who is overcoming Methamphetamine addiction. She writes about recognizing the signs, to getting her daughter into treatment and now supporting her in early recovery. We wish Jennifer and her daughter Abby the best as their journey continues. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JYTS68

I realized very quickly I had no idea who my child was. About a year ago I knew something was going on; the violent outbursts, the weight loss, hallucinations.

Of course, she looked at me right in the eyes and lied; “I swear I’m not on drugs.” I believed her.

I even took her to a gastroenterologist because of her vomiting and diarrhea episodes. I later learned she was actually just what they call “dope sick.”

One night last fall she called me in the middle of the night hysterically crying. “He beat me up bad, mom. Come get me.” I met her at a gas station, dried blood on her face and windshield busted out.

I asked again, “…are you on drugs?” “Yes, mom. Yes!” she yelled. I’d love to say I was in shock but I already knew in my heart.

She told me she had been using drugs, mainly methamphetamine, for over years. Smoking it, snorting it, and within the last year, injecting it. I look back and that is when my instincts kicked in. Prior to that, I truly had no idea.

Back to the night I met her at the gas station, how broken and tiny she looked in her car. I brought her home and called her father.

We had her in treatment within 72 hours. I felt peace for the first time in a while.

I drove her to the treatment center three hours from home. Leaving her there was the hardest thing I’ve done since burying my mother at the age of twenty-five. I cried the whole way home. I cried almost every day for a while, uncontrollably at times.

Thinking back and wondering, “How did I not know? Did I ever really know her at all?”

Two weeks in she convinced me she learned her lesson and was ready to come home. I reluctantly went and got her.

I was the queen of enabling at that time.

Three days in and she was at it again. Her abusive boyfriend brought drugs to my home while I was working two jobs. I previously told her if she relapsed she could not live in my house. Two weeks before Christmas she moved out. I prayed and prayed for her. A few weeks later she asked me to come get her again. I told her I would only if she would agree to return to treatment, and she did. That was early January, 2015.

Immediately she was a different person. She stayed in rehab until the staff said she was ready for sober living. She will graduate from sober living in a few weeks. While I am nervous about her returning home, I have to give her a chance. She has done all she has been asked to do.

I have had several people who knew her the first rehab visit say she is a totally different young lady. Our battle is far from over. She feels like sober living is a bubble protecting her from the scary real world.

What I got out of all this was strength I never knew I had. The enabling stopped after I took her to rehab the second time.

It is unimaginably difficult and breaks your heart, but in the end it will save their lives.

Enabling kills, it is that simple. By doing drugs these addicts are killing themselves anyway. Enabling helps that process.

Addicts do not have a soul. They are empty shells doing whatever it takes to get the next high. Once they are so deep into addiction, they are no longer in control. Enabling the addict will get you nowhere. They aren’t themselves.

Letting the addict to hit rock bottom quickly makes them see they have no other option but to seek treatment.

I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know my daughter. She has my eyes and sense of humor. She is very well liked where she is. She is excelling in her job, earning employee of the month for the last three months. I have been so blessed by this experience. She could have easily overdosed and died. I also would like to mention the show “Intervention” helped me become a better parent. I learned a lot from other parents going through the same thing as well. I am very appreciative and honored to be asked to write and share my experiences.

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your wisdom with us. We are glad to have you as part of the #OYACommunity.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

The Avocado Won, This Time

avocado-pit-eat-health-usesI’ll be taking on the world one handed this week. It’s not by choice rather by accident.

It’s a good reminder that you never know what the day will bring, and that is absolutely a lesson that my son’s addiction and recovery has taught us.

Saturday morning I was preparing an avocado and went to remove the pit, as I routinely do by piercing it with the tip of a steak knife and giving it a gentle twist. Oops, the knife slipped and lacerated the underside of my left thumb and nicked the tendon. My thumb is now loosely stitched and fully immobilized until I see the hand specialist on Tuesday to find out what’s next for healing.

That means I’ll be tweeting and blogging one handed, and I anticipate even more typos than usual:) Thank goodness I had already submitted my blog for I Have Will so that’s one less piece to pull together.

Enough about my hand. Let me refocus this on addiction and recovery. When we were trying to figure out what was going on with our son, each day was full of ups, downs, twists and turns. At first we couldn’t anticipate what was going to happen next. In time, we learned to anticipate “something,” and “nothing” ever surprised us.

We became adept at going with whatever came our way – we had to. And, this we did not do alone. We had each other, husband and wife. We had professionals who guided us individually and as a family. We had friends and neighbors who always inquired how it was going and offered to help in any way they could. We had family – two other kids who needed us – plus grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and cousins, who rallied along with us. In short, we had a community to support “our young addict.”

We said the Serenity Prayer with renewed appreciation giving consideration to things we could and couldn’t change. It saved my sanity more than once and I still rely on its infinite wisdom to guide me.

We found blessings in “it could have been worse,” when each of my son’s steps and consequences challenged that notion. I am forever grateful that he is alive and has survived some of the worst-of-the-worst situations that a young person, let along a young addict, can face.

With hindsight, there is nothing we could have done to prevent our son from trying marijuana and progressing to opiates. We educated, communicated honestly, and supported him and more. We did “all the right things,” and still when he had the choice to use or not, he was curious to try. Although he did not set out to become an addict, his brain chemistry is such that it was not his choice; he was hooked from day one.

Just as we can’t go back and change the last seven years, I can’t go back and change Saturday morning and my run in with the avocado … however, I am confident that next time, the avocado will not win – there will be guacamole and my thumb will be intact.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved