Three Simple Rules

What boundaries do you set with your young addict? Midwestern Mama reflects on her family’s “Three Simple Rules,” which proved to be anything but easy yet absolutely necessary for peace and well-being during the addiction journey.

After our young addict turned 18, and we had been through significant chaos and a few scares, we needed some boundaries. Our days and nights had turned upside down. He was coming and going as he pleased, and we knew he was up to no good.

When he would come home, I could smell the trouble. Yes, he reeked of marijuana – and the cologne he sprayed to try and mask it. I could see the trouble. His eyes were bloodshot. If I opened his backpack or checked his coat pockets, well, it was easy to know what had been going on and it was a lot more than pot.

Enough was enough.

Our college-age daughter was working full time and going to school full time – she needed to stay focused. Our elementary-age son needed a full night of sleep – and to witness fewer stressful arguments between his brother and mom and dad.

My husband and I had jobs to go to each morning. Our colleagues counted on us to be fresh.

Yep, our son’s lifestyle was dictating ours and it was not healthy for any of us.

We had had enough, but our son hadn’t. He didn’t believe he had a problem – in fact, he felt WE were the problem. (Yeah, I know, you’ve heard that, too!) He didn’t want help. He didn’t want to live at home yet he didn’t have anywhere else to live.

It was time for some clarity on the privilege of living at home and to have some healthy expectations.

We had three simple rules:

1) No drugs or paraphernalia in the house;

2) Keep family hours Sunday night through Friday morning – no coming and going, as pleased, at all hours of the night;

3) Let us know by 8 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends if he wouldn’t be coming home that evening.

More often than not, this meant he chose not to live at home during his addiction – that broke our heart to know that using trumped being at home, that sofa surfing and homeless were his decision, but these were boundaries that protected our family – including his siblings and allowed us to go on about our lives and responsibilities.

To that end, our son was ALWAYS welcome and encouraged to be part of family activities. We wanted him to know his home was there ready when he was, that the family was there for him, that our lives would continue forward and that when he was ready that his would, too.

In time, our son addressed his drug addiction, and in time, he embraced recovery. Today, he is living at home, nearly two years sober. Today our three simple rules are no longer necessary. Instead, common courtesy is the rule and it never needs enforcing because it’s simple they way we live.

No matter where you are on the addiction journey with your young adult, I encourage you to set some simple rules that support peace and well-being in your home. When recovery comes around, I predict that common courtesy will return and there will no longer be need for rules.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Parents & Professionals Working Together

The epitome of the OYA Community is having parents and professionals come together to share experiences, offer resources and provide hope. This is what that looks like in my home-town community. What’s happening in your community? Let’s collaborate and share content to address the issue of substance use among young people.

Puppy Love at First Sight

Midwestern Mama celebrates a wedding anniversary, her son’s continued sobriety, and the puppy that has brought incredible healing to the family.

Welcome Home Puppy

Three years ago on our 25th wedding anniversary, a neighbor was taking care of a Golden Retriever puppy and asked if we’d like to meet it. This adorable little fluff ball needed a home. Without hesitation, my husband and I offered to adopt the puppy. Our neighbor was thrilled and said she’d make arrangements with the owner the next day.

We were getting a puppy! Until recently, our family life with school, sports and work schedules did not lend itself to having a puppy. Now, however, we had a bit more flexibility and believed this was an ideal time to add a puppy to the mix.

The next morning, my husband purchased puppy chow and a soft bed. We texted the neighbor and didn’t hear back. We waited. Then we got the call that the owner had already promised the puppy to someone else; our neighbor was sorry to share this message.

We had geared up for this exciting new adventure only to have it end before it even started.

Without hesitation, my husband looked online at puppy adoption through our local animal humane society. There among the puppies was an adorable, 14-week-old with white fur and black markings. So cute, so loving, we knew he would be adopted in a heartbeat.

We arrived at the animal humane society the moment it opened. Upon meeting the puppy, we knew this was the one. There was something extra special about him and we brought him home.

Our 12-year-old son had just gotten back home from a sleepover when we pulled in the driveway with the puppy. Love at first sight.

Later that day, we texted our 20-year-old son hoping to reach him from wherever he might be in whatever state of high he might be in. We didn’t tell him why he should return home, but said we really wanted to see him. A few hours later, he showed up and met the puppy. Love at first sight.

These were the days when our son was working an overnight shift at a local Perkins. He had been living with us again for a few months and was participating in an out-patient treatment program – although his attendance and commitment was anything but engaged. He was using, lying, stealing, and living in a fog. It was one of the many chapters of his devastating drug addiction.

But upon meeting the puppy, we observed a softening. Our son’s caring, compassionate, loving self was visible. Although the turmoil of addiction – including homelessness – continued for another year and a half, having the puppy at home was always a welcome reason for him to stop and see the family. The puppy became a connection point for our family, and our young addict and the puppy developed a strong and special bond. (The puppy even ‘wrote’ a letter to our son and attended an intervention with family and friends.)

When our son moved back home and committed to treatment, sobriety and recovery, the puppy was the best therapist ever. Best friends.

As my husband and I celebrate our 28th anniversary this weekend, and our son’s 18 months of sobriety, we are forever in awe of the role that our puppy has played in healing our family. Love at first sight, indeed.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

What are you going to do?

Early in our son’s addiction journey, I was having a conversation with the parents of another kid who was using drugs with our kid. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “What are you going to do?” In essence, she resigned herself to believing there was NOTHING she could do to stop her son’s use and its devastating effects.

I was flabbergasted the first time she said this. A few years later, she said it again. Oh my.

On the flip side, my husband and I were proactive and vigilant from day one – from the day we noticed he was struggling (and not yet using). To the day we discovered he was using. To the day we got him to treatment (the first time). To the day he ran away and relapsed. To the day … To the day … To the day …

We were committed to understanding and helping him from the first day and every day after that until he ultimately chose sobriety and committed to recovery. It was not an easy path for him or for us – addiction never is, and it impacts each and every family member and friend.

Some days, I wished I could stop thinking about the situation, and I’m sure there were lots of days that family and friends wished I would stop talking about our son’s addiction. Come on, get over it, right? Nope.

Instead, we interpreted and lived by the ever-famous Serenity Prayer, with our own family-friendly practice of it.

Why? Because I was resolute in believing that NOTHING was not an option. That SOMETHING would work. That there was PLENTY that we could do.

Years later, that mom is still convinced there is nothing she can do. Her son is still struggling with addiction and mental health, and she and the rest of her family are suffering from co-dependency.

So what can a parent do? Here are some thoughts on how you might answer the question: “What are you going to do?”

Talk about it. Addiction is a heavy subject, so keeping a loved one’s addiction to yourself will take its toll. As soon as you share with someone what you’re dealing with, you’re likely to find out that you are not alone and that they have experienced something similar. That’s just how widespread and rampant addiction is – just about everyone knows someone who has struggled with it. So open up and see where the conversation goes. Chances are you’ll feel better, and as soon as you start feeling better then everyone connected to you – including your young addict – will reap the benefits.

Learn about it. As you talk about addiction, you’ll start learning more. The conversation will probably lead you to resources – places to call, websites to check out, programs to visit, books to read. There is no shortage of information out there about addiction. Most of it’s good, solid information. Take in as much as you can and you’ll begin to figure out what’s true and helpful for you and your situation. All this knowledge will empower you to make better decisions as you continue to experience your loved one’s addiction. It will never hurt to be a bit smarter about something as complex as addiction.

Collect resources. Through all this talking and learning, you will find many resources. Explore each one. Sometimes it may seem that a resource has little to offer you, but in the months and years ahead, the situation may change and an initial resource may become just the thing you need. I kept a notebook with me at all times to write down names, numbers, organizations, URLs and more. It was helpful to have these resources available during our journey, and often in future conversations I would be able to pass along details to others who needed the information. I also plugged a lot of information into the notes application on my phone so that I always had the info I needed at my fingertips. Let me tell you, this saved us many times when chaos and crisis ensued.

Pay attention. Addiction is progressive. That means that things continue to change. Sometimes the changes are subtle, barely noticeable, but keep your five senses alert. What do you see? Smell? Hear? Feel? Taste? And do not forget about the sixth sense, what I refer to as Mom Radar – what do you feel in your gut? These are the clues that keep us tuned into what is happening with our young addict, and are the ones that keep us ready for whatever happens next. (See a blog post about The Five Senses: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/2015/04/07/the-nose-knows-a-common-sense-guide-to-recognizing-drug-and-alcohol-use-among-young-adults/)

Take notes. Because so much happens so quickly, write it down or you will forget it. Also, our young addicts are often manipulative, lying and stealing. Sorry, yes, this is what addiction does to them. To keep my own sanity, I would write things down. Dates. Details. Conversations. Etc. It’s amazing how addiction days and nights all start to run together, so having notes helped me when we were talking with counselors and treatment professionals – this way I had context and facts instead of fuzzy, emotionally-laden recollections.

Set boundaries. All of the tips above may have you thinking that you have to be immersed in your kid’s addiction 24/7/365. In a way, yes; in many ways, no. You’ve no doubt heard about setting boundaries, and let me say, this is 100 PERCENT NECESSARY. Determine what is best for you, your marriage, your family, your kid, your situation and set clear boundaries. These may change from time to time, and that’s OK, but always be clear about what you’re willing to accept and do or not do.

For our family, it was three simple things: 1) No drugs or paraphernalia allowed in our home, which also meant not being high at home 2) Keep family hours and sleep at home on weeknights – home by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. 3) Let us know by 10 p.m. on weekends if you’re not coming home. Your boundaries may be different, but given a younger child in the household plus two parents with job commitments, this is what we needed. Other boundaries had to do with what we would and wouldn’t pay for, no longer allowing our son to have a key to the house, and revoking his driving privileges. See, things changed along the addiction path.

Practice self-care. Likely, you’ve also heard about self care. Because addiction is 24/7/365, it is absolutely critical that you take care of yourself. Live your life. Find an outlet – something like Al-anon, a support group or therapist. And, by all means, pursue your interests – reading, exercise, a hobby, etc. These are refreshing and energizing. (See two blog posts about self care: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/self-care/)

Stay in touch, keep reaching out. Sometimes it’s hard to stay in touch with a loved one who is using. Perhaps they have moved out. Perhaps they don’t come home all that often. It’s incredibly hard to know if and when you’re going to see or talk to them. No matter what, staying in touch to the extent that you can is important. It lets your loved one know you are there and ready … when they are. Whether a post-it note on their bedroom door, a text message, a voicemail or stopping by some place that they hang out, always make an effort to connect with your young addict.

During one of the more intense periods in our son’s addiction, when he was exceptionally angry with us and in utter denial about his addiction, I decided the best thing I could do was text him his horoscope from the newspaper each morning! It was a benign message from mom. Sometimes he’d respond – and I’d know he was alive. Sometimes he’d tell me to knock it off – and I’d know I’d reached him even if he wasn’t receptive. Sometimes, and this was hard, he wouldn’t respond and I know I needed to prepare for the worst. Usually, however, he’d surface within a few days and I’d have a sigh of relief.

More importantly, we continued to reach out and include our son in family activities even if he chose not to participate. It let him know we cared and considered him a vital part of our family. (This seemed to be a key strength when he finally chose sobriety and committed to recovery – today, his family ties are as strong if not stronger than ever!)

Connect with others. Parenting a young addict is overwhelming, lonely, scary, intense … you name it. But you are not alone. Way too many of us have been on this path. Together, we can help each other forward. Find us in your neighborhood, your school, your church. Find us online with Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We are out there and if you ask, we will IMMEDIATELY embrace you because we know what it’s like.

Share your experience. Each day in, which seems like an eon, you’re a day wiser and a day stronger. Through your experience, you now have something to offer the next parent going through their kid’s addiction, so please, please, please, share your experience. Together, we can and will make a difference.

What are you going to do? PLENTY, that’s what!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

#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.