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

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#TBT – A “PC” Approach to Parenting a Young Addict

It’s not what you think! Midwestern Mama hit on a “PC” approach to parenting a young addict. It’s highlighted in a column from a few years back when her son was really struggling.

A Real Mom_ A PC Approach – Minnmoms 1-16-12

Guest Blog: Becoming a Professional with a Focus on Helping Young Men – Part 1 of 3

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Today’s guest blog post is by Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, a Twin Cities-based substance use and mental health professional. Welcome to the #OYACommunity, and thank you for sharing a three-part series with our readers.

As a professional in the field of addiction, I have the privilege of helping individuals and families navigate the road to recovery. I feel grateful everyday to carry the message of hope. In my first post I will be sharing my story of recovery and how my addiction took me from the depths of despair to a place of strength and freedom. It was my experience as an addict that launched me into a place of passion to educate, prevent and treat the disease of addiction.

Experiencing Addiction

I have seen addiction from several different perspectives. As an adolescent and teenager I watched my mother lose herself to addiction. I spent many nights carrying her to bed and endless days cleaning up the aftermath of her substance use.

The disease of addiction robbed my life as a kid.

In 2003 my mother lost her battle with substances and died an, “accidental death.”

The combination of grieving the loss of my mother and the pressures of young adulthood left me open minded to methods of relief. In the process, I discovered drugs, particularly cocaine, and found the affects to be incredibly pleasurable. The relief I found in using cocaine was amazing.

In a short period of time I was using it daily. I had no idea that in the next several years my life would become empty.

Breakthrough

On January 9, 2008, I sat on the floor of my NYC studio apartment. I stared blankly at the ground and questioned the benefits of taking my own life. At 26 years old, I was a broken young man. My apartment was silent, messy and smelled of stale smoke. Beer cans and cigarette butts littered the floor. I had been heavily abusing illicit drugs, alcohol and prescription pills. In just two years, I had lost 33lbs, become addicted to 4 different substances and blown through every last dollar I had. I had isolated myself into a 400 square foot room and often times did not leave for days on end.

My relationships with friends and family were non-existent. My ability to function as a human being had vanished.

The only thing keeping me alive was my 3-year-old Boston terrier named Emma. By now, Emma looked at me with disbelief and disgust.

Reaching out to my Dad

As the hopelessness grew and the thoughts of suicide increased, I felt the presence of my father.

I recall him telling me that when I was ready, he would be there. I made the call that changed my life.

Two days later I was admitted to Hazelden in Center City, Minn., for treatment.

Within a short amount of time, I would learn how to live a sober life with unimaginable happiness. I would have relationships and feel a sense of belonging.

My purpose for living would change and I would know what it’s like to help other people.

For the first time ever, I felt like the person I wanted to be.

The Desire to Help Other People

Within a few months of being sober, I knew I wanted to help people. I was hungry to work in the human services field and felt highly motivated to support people in their recovery. After nearly 10 rejections for employment, I was offered a very entry-level position at a company called Supportive Living Services, in Brooklyn Park, Minn. With no training or education on addiction, Supportive Living Services took a chance and created an opportunity for me.

My sole purpose was designed to tell their existing clients about my experience with mental health and substance abuse and how I found a new way of living. They called this role a “peer support specialist.”

Sharing My Story

For the next 4 years I worked diligently throughout the metropolitan area, sharing my story and helping individuals get the help they needed. It was ideal, enjoyable and rewarding. I was slowly promoted to a more clinical role, however never lost my title as peer support specialist. No matter what type of position I was advanced to, I still told my story to clients to give them hope.

During my 3rd year at Supportive Living Services, I enrolled at The Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies. I spent two years educating myself about addiction and learning about the illness from an entirely new perspective – a professional perspective. I grew as a professional, but even more as a person. Having the personal experience in conjunction with the master’s level education provided me an opportunity to maximize my ability to help people. After nearly 5 years of working with Supportive Living Services, I knew it was time to move on. If I were to grow, I would need to challenge myself and continue learning.

Recognizing the Unique Needs of Young Men with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Needs

I saw a serious need for education, prevention, mentorship and guidance for young men struggling with addiction and mental health. I saw young men living with parents at age 25 after dropping out of college.

I saw these same young men turn to substances as the method to cope with anxiety and depression.

I saw young men losing hope in their selves because they could not live up to their parent’s expectations. But most of all, I saw myself. I saw lost boys living in a young man’s body.

A sizable portion of young men and women face mental health and addiction problems. The percentage of addicted young adults seeking treatment has risen steadily.

Many have been in treatment before and relapsed. Too many leave treatment against medical advice, usually driven by an addiction to opiates or a sense of overconfidence.

Families despair that their children will be lost before they can really begin to live.

The Boomerang Generation

Often dubbed the “boomerang generation” or part of a “failure to launch” epidemic, these young men often are part of the 29 percent of young adults who have moved back in with their parents and the 22 percent of young adults who report current illicit drug use.

In particular, young males are at greater risk for mental health disorders and addiction. At a critical period of their lives, they face extreme pressure from society, peers, families and themselves to “have a plan.”

These young men often struggle to establish their own identity and can occur as a result of “feeling caught” developmentally between adolescence and young adulthood.

Many do not have the tools needed to cope or deal with the pressures they face. As a result, many young men find themselves battling mental health disorders and addiction.

This group represents unique challenges for their families as well as mental health and addiction professionals. Successful treatment requires a different approach that addresses not only the addiction but also the underlying mental health issues. Additionally, treatment needs to be individualized and custom to the person receiving care. Too often, the incoming patient becomes a “number” as opposed a “person”. Lastly, the person needs to have a voice in their treatment. The young adult already feels a sense of worthlessness and lack of autonomy will increase the chances of a relapse.

The Decision to Focus my Practice

For these reasons, in August of 2014, I started my company, Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health. Our philosophy and approach is built on a person-centered, individualized and strength-based model, which builds on people positive attributes as opposed to weakness. We strongly believe that people recover and seek the help they need once a relationship is formed and trust is established between a practitioner and client. Change is only made once the client realizes that their goals do not align with the way they are living their life. People who are sick respond better with empathy and support versus confrontation and punishment. We help individuals and family navigate the rocky road of recovery.

My professional practice follows a specific guideline that I believe is instrumental to helping this struggling population. My personal story of recovery gives me the strength to fight for each patient and never lose hope in his ability to recover.

Upcoming Guest Blog Posts

In my next two posts I will discuss intervention and treatment and how these stages relate to the young adult male. Can intervention be done in a less aggressive and person-centered approach? Or do we need to use leverage as an alternative to getting young men into treatment? And, how do we alter treatment with this vulnerable population? What type of treatment provides best outcomes? All questions I will explain over the next several weeks.

Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, has a vast range of experiences working with addiction and mental health. He gained a wealth of knowledge through his own recovery coupled with extensive training: a master’s level education from the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction and an undergraduate degree in psychology and human development from Hofstra University. Following a career with several substance abuse and mental health organizations, he formed Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health.

Contact Drew:

http://drewhorowitzassociates.com/

horowitzassociates@gmail.com

651-698-7358

Experiences, Resources & Hope for Parents

Happy Monday! If last week is any indication of all the possibilities ahead, then this week is going to rock. Midwestern Mama was out of town last week on a mini vacation, had a fantastic weekend at home with the family, and is excited about what’s next for Our Young Addicts.

Road Trip

Like most of the world, Monday morning has a way of greeting us with a groan, but instead, today I’m smiling as I think about all the opportunities ahead for the Our Young Addicts community. Before I highlight this week, let me tell you about my road trip last week.

Road Trip

My youngest son – our 15-year-old – spent five days at an intensive sports training camp in Missouri. This year, my husband and I drove him there on Sunday and then had several days to take a mini vacation. Although we both did some work each morning in our hotel room, we spent the rest of the day exploring the area. We had some fantastic meals, great conversations and even saw a matinee movie.

Husband and Wife, Dad and Mom

Recently, I wrote an article for In Recovery Magazine, which will run in the September 2015 issue. It’s about the impact of a child’s addiction on the parents’ marriage. While I won’t spoil the article, I will say that our mini vacation was an example of why our marriage – although stressed by our older son’s addiction – has continued to grow stronger. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

Trust Feels Good

What made this even better was that our older son, who is now in recovery, was able to house- and dog sit without any worries whatsoever by my husband and me! That’s a huge step forward for all of us.

The Best Gift Ever

Over the weekend, I wrote a blog post for I Have Will which will run on Friday this week. It focuses on the “best gift ever.” And, again, without spoiling anything – it’s absolutely the gift my husband received for Fathers Day.

Guest Blog on Wednesday and Throw Back Thursday

This week for Our Young Addicts, we’ll continue with a guest blog post on Wednesday and with a #TBT post on Thursday. I think you’ll like both of these and find the content of great value no matter where you and our child are on the continuum of addiction, treatment and recovery.

The guest blog post will be from a substance abuse and mental health professional who shares his personal story and how his experience with addiction prompted him toward helping others. It will be a three-part series interspersed with other guest blogs from parents and young people in recovery. I am grateful for having such a wonderful community willing to share experiences, resources and hope.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts                            All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: The Courage to Change … Ourselves – A Dad’s Perspective on Our Young Addicts

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GUEST BLOGGER

A community of parents and professionals concerned about the rising number of young people becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Experience. Resources. Hope.

#OYACommunity

A number of years back, Midwestern Mama called a business colleague to reschedule a meeting – her son was headed to treatment and things were a bit hectic. Without hesitation, the colleague identified himself as the dad of a young addict. Since then, they’ve connected on many things related to addiction and recovery. Read this dad’s guest blog post on myriad things he has learned though his son’s addiction journey.

The pain came spontaneously and naturally. Once confronted with the fact my teenage child was an addict, I moved fluently, and often without warning, among a myriad of emotions…anger, fear, confusion, sadness, hopelessness and grieving.

Healing, on the other hand, did not come naturally for me. It took time, hard work and caring people. (Nope, I couldn’t “Google” my way through this problem.)

At the advice of a trusted friend, I decided to seek out an Al-Anon meeting. The second group I visited was specifically for parents of children who were caught in the grip of this terrible disease.* This room of strangers quickly became very close to me and played a critical role in my recovery to happiness and wholeness.

One of the first things I learned in my journey was that I did not have the power to change others, but could instead, focus on what I could change…me. I’d like to share a few of the ways I have changed with the hope they may give hope to readers of this blog who, today, find themselves in a pit of despair.

You’ll notice the sentences below state, “I have become more ______” because I am a work in progress. I have not mastered any of these things, but have practiced them enough to reap real benefits and live a much happier life.

1) I have become more patient. Recovery for my child was going to happen in his time, not mine. Instead of praying for his sobriety, I began praying for patience, and that made all the difference.

2) I have become more compassionate to others. To steal a lyric from R.E.M., everybody hurts. Pain is not limited to the parents of addicted children or the addicts themselves. I began to interact with my family, clients, co-workers, neighbors, friends, and the woman at the checkout counter with the assumption they are doing the best they can, and that made all the difference.

3) I have become more truthful. Let’s face it, life has tons of grey areas and I for one, have used this countless times for my own benefit. But instead of covering my butt when I made a mistake or when my actions were a little south of honest, I began admitting my shortcomings and asking for forgiveness, and that made all the difference.

4) I strive to be more humble. I’ve had an amazing career and have enjoyed a fair amount of success. Acknowledging that these gifts are from God, and turning my energies away from my selfish desires to focus more on the needs of others has made all the difference.

5) I have become more grateful. There was a time when it seemed “everyone” else had what I wanted… a better job, a bigger house… and most importantly, healthy and happy children. Then I stopped comparing, and that made all the difference.

The lessons I have learned have helped me through many issues in the past few years, from dealing with my addicted child**, to losing my business*** to receiving a diagnosis of cancer.**** Someone once told me that God never wastes pain. I hope this blog serves as evidence to this truth and you discover how hard work, patience and trusted friends can make all the difference.

* I was the only male at the first support group I visited. That group was comprised of about 15 women who spent the entire hour ripping apart their husbands and boyfriends. I was tempted to sneak back and swap out the “Welcome to Al-Anon” sign posted outside room 102 in the church basement to read, “Welcome to the What’s Wrong With Men meeting”.

** Today my son is happily married and runs his own business. And as far as I know, sober.

*** The day I closed the doors to my business was tremendously sad. But since then, all of my employees have landed great jobs and I have successfully re-invented my professional self.

**** I am so fortunate that, because of modern medicine (not symptoms) my cancer was discovered. And because of my amazing doctors I have been cancer-free for over a year and feeling great!

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

3 Reasons to Share Good News – Reaching out to Younger Brother’s School Guidance Counselor

Our youngest son’s school guidance counselor was a Godsend during the darkest days of our older son’s addiction. Midwestern Mama reached out to Ms. K with good news.

During middle school, our youngest son was doing well by all accounts – getting good grades, making friends and participating in school activities; however, he carried an emotional burden that could have negatively affected his learning and well-being. As you know, our older son was addicted to drugs and was resistant to treatment so our youngest son witnessed and experienced some of the darkest days of his older brother’s substance use disorder.

Always honest with him about what was happening, we tried to shield him from some of the chaos but he could still sense that it was going on and needed a positive outlet to process his emotions.

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

We were very lucky to have an approachable and knowledgeable school guidance counselor, Ms. K, who worked with younger brother during sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Together, they talked about his brother’s drug use, addiction, homelessness, attempts at treatment, lying, stealing, relapses, and more.

Younger brother and Ms. K met regularly. She helped him sort through and separate himself from some very scary issues. She helped him open up about his feelings and find his strength to be successful and happy during some very trying times.

This Godsend built trust and respect with our son, maintaining his confidentiality while also keeping in touch with our family. Together, we could provide the necessary heads up whenever there was a new twist or turn regarding his older brother’s drug addiction. As a mom, I felt comfortable sharing what was going on and was confident that she would address it directly with our kiddo in an age-appropriate way, and more importantly in a way that gave him the confidence and hope that might otherwise have been absent.

Without a doubt, Ms.K demonstrated care and concern throughout his three years in middle school. Further, she set him up for success to transition to high school for 2014-2015.

Teen Gets High, Impacts Sibling

Ms. K developed a special rapport with our son by sharing personal understanding of having a family member struggling with addiction – this showed him he was not alone. It helped him better understand the complexities of addiction and mental illness such as depression and anxiety.

 3 Reasons to Share Good News

  • People appreciate progress reports instead of wondering what’s going on.

  • It’s nice to keep in touch from time to time with people who have touched your life.

  • It creates new opportunities to share experiences, resources and hopes with others who might be going through a similar situation.

During middle school, students undergo a significant transition from childhood to young adulthood. When a sibling is witnessing devastation and experiencing a wide range of emotions, it has the potential to refocus attention and ability. Instead, this counselor was a guide who helped him excel in his own right – as a student, a friend and an athlete. He did well in his classes, made friends and became a student-orientation leader, and participated on athletic teams, where he garnered peer and coaching-staff recognition for perseverance and achievement and for demonstrating a commendable attitude.

Ms. K was a rock for him – a true role model who inspired him to be himself and to do his best no matter what. We are forever grateful for the positive presence she had in our youngest son’s life during sixth, seventh and eighth grades; it made a lasting impression on him and on the whole family.

As ninth grade wraps up, I reflected on our younger son’s path and its parallel with his older brother’s, who is now nearly 11 month sober. It occurred to me that Ms. K might like an update, so I picked up the phone for a chat.

In addition to updates on the boys, I shared with Ms. K the creation and evolution of Our Young Addicts. Next school year, I hope to expand the #OYACommunity within our local middle and high schools, and with Ms. K’s support, I’m confident there will be an open door for this opportunity!

Midwestern Mama

Side Note: Our youngest son and I nominated Ms. K for an “Above and Beyond” award for our school district. Although she was not selected as one of the recipients, it was our way of recognizing her amazing efforts. Touched, she said it was the first time anyone had ever nominated her for the award.

School’s Out for Summer – Overcoming Addiction

After a successful return to college, Midwestern Mama’s son is taking a break from classes this summer with plans to return in the fall. Without the structure and routine of classes, homework and studying, how will he spend his time this summer?

School's Out for Summer

Three things have undermined my son’s experience with overcoming addiction: time on his hands, boredom and money. When one or more of these has been present, his drug use would take control. Now, 10 months sober he is learning to work through these- even though summer without college classes could present a challenge.

During Addiction:

Time: When very little interests you, even amid commitments like school, sports and a part-time job, you end up with a lot of time on your hands. When you no longer have to go to school and you don’t have sports or a job, then you sit around a lot. Sitting around leads to boredom.

Boredom: More than anything, my son has been living with boredom most of his life. Before drugs, he would easily get bored even with seemingly exciting things to engage his interest. No matter what, I can’t solve this for him. Even in his sobriety, not much interests him. He craves excitement, yet nothing ever seems to capture his attention for long.

He cites boredom as one of the main reasons he was curious to try marijuana as a teenager. It wasn’t peer pressure or wanting to fit it; it was curiosity. For a while, it certainly seemed that marijuana was his interest, his obsession really. Until, it wasn’t and then he was on to other drugs like opiates. Until, it was addiction and consequences, which controlled his ability or ambition to stop.

Money: From the time he was a little kid, money burned a hole in his pocket. At first, it was altruistically – putting all his birthday money in the donation jar at the zoo. Later, it was impulsively for instant gratification – buying a game or toy immediately and discovering it wasn’t as much fun as he thought it was going to be.

During addiction, having money from a part-time job meant he could fund his habit instead of saving for college (even though that wasn’t the agreement). Getting a tax refund meant, spending it on drugs. Getting gift cards meant selling these for drugs.

During Sobriety & Recovery:

Since going through treatment last summer and committing to sobriety and recovery during the past 10 months, he’s successfully addressed two out of three of these items – time on his hands and money.

Time: The treatment program plus part-time college classes and part-time job have filled his time while still allowing him the downtime that he needs to get through each day. However, with school out, he now has four days a week where he doesn’t have a time commitment. He’d like to increase his work schedule to cover the available hours and to earn more money for things like tuition in the fall and buying a car.

Money: The part-time job has helped him pay off debts incurred during addiction and has given him spending cash to buy some new clothes, get presents for family members on their birthdays, go to a movie, etc. Because he has set some goals such as school in the fall and getting a car, he seems more committed to saving money instead of spending it as impulsively as in the past.

Boredom: This remains the kicker. He still goes through the motions without a lot of zest or interest – save for the family dog. He doesn’t have much of a social life. This is the piece that’s been on my mind. At least with school schedule over the past semester, he had built in commitment and now he’s just got the part-time job …which means could have time on this hands and money … which means????

Time will tell. We’ve had a few conversations about the new routine. In the past, these conversations would have gone nowhere, and although I don’t have a sense what what’s going to happen I am more confident than ever before that he’s aware of the triggers and will come through with a plan that works for him. Silly me, I just wish I knew what it was! #SoberSummer

Midwestern Mama

P.S. Just as we headed into the Memorial Day weekend, my son completed an application to transfer from community college to a bachelor’s degree program at a local university. In doing so, he had to secure a transcript (albeit a blank one) from the college he briefly attended after high school; there was a hold on his account due to a fine for underage drinking and for possession of marijuana in the dorms – one of the pivotal lows of his addiction and the one that got him kicked out. Now four and a half years later, he paid this and signed up for extra hours at work to cover the expense. How far he’s come this year!

#SoberSummer – With School Coming to a Close, Schedules & Mindsets are Soon to Change

It’s almost summer and without the structure of school it may trigger substance use. Join #OYACommunity for tips on a #SoberSummer for our kids.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer. Kids may have a few weeks left in school, but a major shift in mindset and in schedules is about to take place, and it can trigger substance use. Now is the time for parents and other adults of influence to help our kids have a #SoberSummer.

Over the next few weeks, let’s share tips and resources. Check out #OYACommnity on Twitter, Facebook and here on the blog for ideas. One of the many fantastic resources is The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. In addition to the FREE help line for parents (below), the website is full of resources including conversation guides.

If you’re concerned about your child, do not hesitate to call The Parents Toll-Free Helpline – 1-855-DRUGFREE – (1-855-378-4373) Mon.-Fri. – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST. If you are in need of immediate or emergency services, call 911 or a 24-hour crisis hotline.

Our middle kid tells us that his first use was marijuana during the summer between junior and senior years of high school. It was with a kid a year older who lived down the street. Although we had our hunches – Mom Radar as I call it — it wasn’t for about another six months before we definitively discovered his drug use and it was a lot more than pot.

He went from experimenting to abusing to addiction in a relatively short period of time and it has taken years of consequences for him to get on the path to recovery. That is why I advocate becoming aware of the signs of substance use and then taking action.

With summer upon us, let’s join together to make this a #SoberSummer for our kids.

Midwestern Mama

Hope, Belief and a Team on the Addiction Journey

Midwestern Mama recently participated in a podcast with 100 Pedals that highlights the origins of Our Young Addicts and formation of the #OYA Community.

For your listening pleasure and some key takeaways for parents and professionals:

http://www.100pedals.com/it-takes-hope-belief-and-a-team-to-get-through-the-addiction-journey/

Midwestern Mama

Making the Grade – From Addiction to Academic Achievement

Whoo-hoo! Midwestern Mama’s son has successfully completed a semester of college – sober and with good grades.

Until this week, my son had taken college classes here and there. A few he took as part of our school district’s PSEO (post secondary education option) program – mostly because he’s gifted in math and had taken all the courses available at high school. A few he took after high school graduation, but these he either didn’t complete or didn’t meet minimum grade requirements to continue.

When he graduated (just barely) from high school in 2010, his addiction was full on and he had no interest in going to college in spite of a wonderful scholarship and opportunity to play on the men’s tennis team. Instead, he enrolled in community college and then proceeded to skip classes and within a month or so dropped out without paying the balance of his tuition.

In 2011, he decided the college opportunity was better than what he was doing at the time, so he gratefully thought he’d get his act together and start up for spring semester. That didn’t go so well. Readers of this blog know that the first weekend on campus landed him in the ER and detox, and soon after in getting kicked off the tennis team and out of campus housing.

A year later, one of the treatment programs he attended encouraged us, and him, to go back to community college. Same old, same old. He was using drugs, didn’t do assignments, didn’t go to class. While he technically completed two classes, his grades reflected his lack of commitment and the college placed him on academic probation.

Fast forward, at age 22, as his childhood friends were graduating and getting “big-boy” jobs, he embraced sobriety and recovery. He decided to go back to college for spring semester 2015.

With hopeful trepidation, he addressed academic probation with a heartfelt letter of appeal and asked for admission. It was granted and he signed up for the maximum number of credits allowed as part of academic probation – 8 credits, two classes.

He took the placement exam and scored well but it indicated that he should go back a course or two in math. Stubborn as always, he decided proceed with the next course anyway – differential equations and linear algebra. Tough classes regardless of having completed the prerequisites … even tougher when that was five years ago.

The first week, he realized he was in over his head. It’s like taking a language but not speaking it for five years and then thinking you can pick up right where you left off. Instead of dropping the class, he put in long hours and took out a highlighter as he used “Calculus for Dummies” to reacquaint himself with the topic. Night after night, he struggled.

Social anxiety precluded him from connecting with the teacher or other students, and he failed the first test miserably. At this point it was too late to drop the class, and being on academic probation from his addiction days meant that he might not get off it if he didn’t get a B or better in the class.

Of course, I went into problem-solving mode. (Old habits, right?) My son said he was well aware of his options, including getting tutor. (Old communications style, right?) Being aware of options and taking action are two different things, so he continued to struggle.

Shortly thereafter, another mom on Twitter turned me on to tutoring source, so I signed up and found local options for my son. My husband and I said, this is our gift to you – here are names, contact info and we’ll pay the fee. To our surprise and delight, he took us up on the offer.

The first tutor he met with was a dud. I encouraged him to try another. He did, and this one turned out to be, “awesome.” They have worked together several times now and my son’s grade and confidence have soared.

He continued to put forth significant effort – hours and hours each day to mastering the material. The final exam is today, and while we don’t know what grade he will receive, we do know that he’s learned something of infinite value and we are confident that he will be off academic probation.

Never in 22 years have I seen my son put forth such effort and discipline. I am proud. More importantly, I know he is proud, too!

From Addiction to #OYACommunity

Sunday night reflection.  Our Young Addicts all started with a single word: Addiction. It has grown into a word that means many, together: #OYACommunity

In what seems like eons, but in reality spans 2009 – 2015, I’ve penned at least IMG_54751,000,000 words;  as of today, nearly 7,000 tweets;  well over 1,000 pages of draft copy, 100-plus blog posts. Additionally, for a few years, I wrote a bi-weekly newspaper column that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and I continue to write for a feature article here and there for magazines.

How did it all start? It started with concerns about my teen-age son. Thing were happening so quickly that it was hard to keep track of everything, so I began taking notes in simple, black-and-white composition books. From there, I would type up the notes to maintain a chronology of professionals we consulted, of my son’s behavior, words and actions, and of the maze of solutions we pursued.  Later, the notebooks became my journal that I took to Ala-non meetings and to sessions with a therapist to work through feelings, concerns and hopes.

All together, these hand-written pages were the foundation for Our Young Addicts, a concept that is evolving from addiction to community, and I could not be prouder or more excited about the future.

Midwestern Mama

Too Many Young Addicts – No Statistics Needed

The stats are startling. Each one that I read is riveting on its own. Together, it’s downright overwhelming. But stats don’t tell the story, and stats don’t solve the problem. That’s why I’m glad you’re part of the #OYACommunity – we need you, and we need your stories to personalize the stats, and hopefully to see these diminish.

A recent survey revealed that parents are more concerned about teens mental health than substance use: http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/mental-health-greater-worry-substance-abuse-parents-teens-survey-finds/?utm_source=Stay+Informed+-+latest+tips%2C+resources+and+news&utm_campaign=35bd1152ce-_JT_Daily_News_Controversial_Bud_Light&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_34168a2307-35bd1152ce-223036473

Another source offers 20 stats about teen substance use:

http://www.teendrugabuse.us/statistics-on-teenage-drug-use/

I’m not anti stats, and I don’t want to stop reading these – I just want to do more. I want our #OYACommunity to share experiences, resources and hopes, and the best way to begin by being informed. So, I’ll keep seeking and sharing the stats … as if any of us need convincing that there are way too many young people becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Midwestern Mama

Siblings Deserve a College Scholarship

Without a doubt, siblings are impacted by their brother’s or sister’s addiction. Dean Dauphinais​, a father with a son in long-term recovery, has created a special scholarship to help siblings. Fantastic idea.  Check out this great opportunity and please spread the word.  http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/2015/04/my-life-as-3d-scholarship-essay-contest.html

I remember the day we dropped my son off at college. It had been a tumultuous couple of years with an addiction that we were just beginning to understand. He thought he was ready. We were hopeful that a new crowd, a tennis coach that truly believed in his talents, and a clean slate might just be the best-ever opportunity.

As we said our goodbye’s, my son said, “Mom, I promise I won’t F- this up.”

His little brother, 10 years old, at the time, was no stranger to the promises and excuses of an addicted sibling.

Six days later, big brother passed out from drugging and drinking. Someone found him in a snow bank in sub-zero temperatures. He was taken by ambulance to the ER and later sent to detox. The downward spiral spiraled faster than ever.

Fast forward four years, big brother is sober and in recovery (nine months!), and little brother is a freshman in high school.  College is in the near future for him.

Addiction costs so much, tangibly and intangibly, financially and emotionally. For every member of the family.

I do not know Dean Dauphinais​ directly but am familiar with his blog and social-media presence. My impression is he’s a good dad who is an excellent advocate for our young addicts and their families. He seems to have the respect of parents and professionals, and I am only too happy to help spread the word about the college scholarship he’s put together.

See what you think.

Midwestern Mama

Chit Chat is Good for The Cause

Whether face-to-face or online, good things happen when we talk – and listen – to each other. Midwestern Mama shares a quick reflection on a recent #AddictionChat and encourages others to participate.

When parents and professionals talk, and more importantly when they listen to each other, we make great strides on the challenges of young-adult substance use. Last night, another online mom and I co-hosted #AddictionChat on Twitter. It was thoughtful, insightful and informative. Participants included parents, young people in recovery, therapists and other professionals, as well as association representatives. Not only did we share a variety of perspectives, we had a chance to understand each other.

Before starting Our Young Addicts, I was hesitant to share much online. Now, I understand why it’s a highly engaging and helpful way to communicate. I have learned so much from listening to others and have found short- and long-term strategies for helping my son, my family and myself. And, I truly believe it helps others. #OYACommunity

If you’d like to join these chats, it’s on Twitter each Wednesday night at 8 p.m. CST. There is a different moderator/co-host each week, and the topics rotate.  The next #AddictionChat on parenting will take place on May 27.

Midwestern Mama

Coming Together as a Community

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We’re gearing up for lots of activity among the Our Young Addicts community with writing and speaking opportunities. To that end, check out our new logo which now brands our Facebook, Twitter and WordPress Blog. Midwestern Mama invites parents and professionals to be part of our community to share experience, resources and hope. #OYACommunity

When I started writing about our family’s experience with addiction, it was just that – writing, more often than not it was therapeutic stream of consciousness with the hope that it might help other parents and families facing addiction. Quickly, however, the writing became a calling and a gathering of perspectives. We became a community of parents and professionals.

Without a doubt, we have a mission, vision and core values for Our Young Addicts. And, today, we have a logo that begins to convey what we are all about and what we hope to accomplish. I’m looking forward to an active calendar of writing and speaking and other ways to spread the Our Young Addicts message.

The logo is a teal blue box with reverse type that says Our Young Addicts.

In large, capital letters, is the word OUR. This word stretches over the words YOUNG ADDICTS, indicating that this is our community, that we are coming together because we care and are concerned, and that helping young people with a substance use disorder is OUR shared responsibility. Not one of us can do this alone, and fortunately, within a community, we don’t have to be alone.

The word YOUNG is bolded in orange to call out the distinct needs of this age group – the age group when 90 percent of addiction begins.

For the time being, we are still using the word addicts because it is familiar and less cumbersome than saying “people with a substance use disorder.” We also hope that we can role model and de-stigmatize that the word by demonstrating our care and concern for them.

Thank you for being part of the Our Young Addicts community. I am forever grateful that parents and professionals are coming together to share experience, resources and hope.

Midwestern Mama

High Hopes for Our 15 Year Old

On her youngest son’s 15th birthday, Midwestern Mama has high hopes that he’ll make positive choices when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

This morning on the radio, my youngest son (15 years old today!) and I heard radio DJs talking about Pot, The Movie. It’s the plight of a Minnesota family who gave their son medical marijuana, and the filmmaker’s support of medicinal and recreational use.

Without hesitation, my son initiated commentary on this highly charged story. He has a soft heart and is understanding of parents who want the best for a sick child who is suffering. He has a hardened soul, however, when it comes to marijuana – its recreational use and likely potential as a gateway drug.

He bases this on what he has learned and witnessed with his older brother who began smoking marijuana during high school at just about the age that he is now. Until nine months ago, my youngest son knew his brother as someone suffering from substance use disorder that included marijuana and a full gamut of street drugs including addiction to heroin.

His brother’s drug use was a rapid foray into full-on destruction, and for a little brother it was a reality show, a nightmare, and a life lesson with lasting impact. He’s confident he will choose a different path, and we have high hopes for that as well. Without a doubt, he knows the series of events that can happen when drugs are part of one’s life and he knows the consequences that occur. These have firmly established his own perceptions and opinions.

Today as we celebrate his 15th birthday, he is applauding his brother’s nine months of sobriety and commitment to recovery. It is the best present of all!

Midwestern Mama

The Nose Knows – a common-sense guide to recognizing drug and alcohol use among young adults.

Midwestern Mama is convinced that the signs of drug and alcohol use are right before us. You can see it, smell it, feel it, taste it and hear it. Let the “Mom (or Dad) Radar” guide you in identifying use before it gets out of hand.

It was April 2010 that we first confirmed our son’s drug use. He was a senior in high school and we had suspected drug use but he denied it and we hadn’t found actual evidence. He later confirmed he started with marijuana in summer 2009.

For a full year prior, his behavior and attitude started to change and although we addressed these head on with a visit to the doctor to rule out anything physical followed by family counseling and individual sessions to identify the emotional and mental needs. He always flat-out denied drug use, and stupid as it sounds, we didn’t know how to drug test him.

We later learned that you can get inexpensive marijuana and other drug tests at places like Wal-greens; while not the most thorough, these can be a starting place. There are also a variety of other places to purchase Urine Analysis drug tests. We thought you had to go to a hospital or doctor’s office – we just didn’t know and it was nearly impossible to find answers even among professionals or online. Crazy, I know. Live and learn.)

Some of our observations included changes in sleep patterns, changes in friends, lying, poor attitude toward family activities, not turning in homework, skipping class, and more. Our first thought was some kind of depression and because bi-polar runs in the family, it was a natural concern. However, it was more than mood, it was agitated, angst and other exhibits that really concerned us and gave us reason to suspect drugs.

The timing of our realizations is key here. April. Spring. Spring fever. Kids being kids? Right of passage? NO WAY. Yet, kids get tired of school and sports routines. They feel their oats, as it were. It’s spring break, it’s prom season, it’s graduation coming soon, it’s all kinds of feelings and situations where we trust them because we’ve had all the right conversations, and yet, they make choices that sometimes lead places they never imaging – like experimentation, recreational use, substance abuse, addiction, consequence, and worse.

So what’s a parent to do? I’m big on trust and communication. However, because of our experience with our son, I’m also big on the five senses.

  •  Eyes: Keep an eye out. Become an observer. Take notes. Watch for patterns and changes. Open your eyes to the possibilities – even the unthinkable ones. Drug and alcohol use is often right in front of us, yet we miss it.
  •  Ears: Listen. You know the expression, God gave us two ears and one mouth. Resist the urge to lecture, yell, tell, etc., even though it’s OK and important for our kids to know how strongly we feel about the negative impact of drug and alcohol use among young adults. Listen in your conversations – hear their tone and think about its meaning (intended or just teenage-ease). Without being an overt eavesdropper, pay attention to their interactions with other people – on the phone, in person, etc. Are they talking in code?
  •  Mouth: Above, I addressed talking, so here I want to talk about taste. No, not actual tasting – that could be nasty and dangerous! However, there’s taste as in does this interaction, observation, etc. leave a bad taste in my mouth? There’s also a sense of is their action, behavior and communication in good taste? For example, my son stopped wanting to receive gifts from family members – even Grandma! – and definitively didn’t believe he should have to say thank you for gifts he didn’t ask for or want. Whoa! This was not the polite son we had known. This was a bitter, negative person and it left a really bad taste in our mouths.
  •  Touch: Sometimes there’s a point when our kids don’t want to be touched, even hugged. I get that and as they mature, they become loving again. But let’s think about touch – if they recoil, they may be hiding something. Also, you never know what you might feel. I would feel my son’s jacket and backpack – sort of like a pat down at the airport – and from there, I started to find all kinds of things: lighters, matches, Visine, hollow tubes used to snort, empty baggies with oregano-looking flecks (marijuana), and more. One day, his backpack was particularly heavy and I gave it a gentle kick with my foot. Ouch! There was something large and hard inside – an expensive, gigantic glass bong.
  •  Nose: That same backpack smelled horrible. There was a wet towel drenched with filthy bong water. Yuck. Also pay attention to smells to mask drug use – body spray to cover up smoking and other chemical smells that are related to drugs; strong mints to cover up alcohol use or smoking; Febreze or Lysol sprayed in the car. The smell of marijuana itself. And more.

There are so many clues that may indicate drug and alcohol use, and as parents we have to rely on our five senses and our gut – what I fondly refer to as Mom (or Dad) Radar. Without a doubt, we know what is going on and we must address it before it’s too late.

Midwestern Mama

Trust is Possible

When trust is lost during addiction, it takes time to rebuild during recovery – sometimes it seems like forever – but Midwestern Mama is discovering that trust is possible. She’s coming up with more and more examples of the growing trust that’s taking place with her son.

Trust is possible.  A few months ago, I would have been skeptical of that statement.  A few years ago, I would have thought it was impossible.Today, I know it is not only possible, it is true.

Already, I have noted at least 13 examples of trust that I now have in my son.  Each day this month, I am capturing example after example.  Check out our twitter @OurYoungAddicts and Facebook for these updates.  I will share more examples here, too.  When I look at all of these together, I am filled with amazement and I am filled with excitement.

We still take things day by day; however, with each act of honesty, the trust gets stronger.

Yes, trust is possible!

Midwestern Mama