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.

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

#TBT – Addiction … Truth for 24 Hours

Three years ago, Midwestern Mama contemplated what it would be like if her son could tell the truth for 24 hours. Here’s a column that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. #TrustFeelsGood #OYACommunity

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You know the saying … we’ve come a long way, baby. And thank goodness for that!

Nothing to Hide

We are a couple of moms creating a community of adults who care and are concerned about the young addicts in our lives. Together, we share our stories. Together, we share our truths. Though experiences, support and information, we are connected. We are together.

With kids born in the late 80s and early 90s, I didn’t jump on the social media train until a few years ago, and of course, it wasn’t even an option when they were little. Thus, they were spared from having baby pictures shared on Instagram. They were spared mommy blogging about spit up and potty training. And, they were spared from having their lives shared with “friends,” “followers” and “fans.”

The absence of social media did not equate with super private lives necessarily. Among friends and family, whether face to face or in letters and phone calls, we certainly shared plenty of details. I remember having daily, hour-long phone conversations with another mother who was part of a volunteer committee. We talked about anything and everything.

At the same time, I like to think I always had good judgment and a healthy respect for family members and family matters about what to share and what to keep within more immediate confines. Maybe that’s my generation. Maybe that’s my set of values. But maybe there’s some real merit in it, too.

When our middle kid, Our Young Addict, began having problems, I was open and honest with just about everyone, especially with teachers, coaches, counselors, neighbors, co-workers and many others. It seemed important to clue them in on our chaos and to share our experience. We had nothing to hide and only the best intentions.

More often than not, we were offered support and concern. Not everyone knew what to say or do, but everyone cared. Some people were grateful to know what was going on. Others had personal or family connections to addiction and recovery. Most were sympathetic if not empathetic.

Sure, there were some people who didn’t understand. Some thought surely I was exaggerating. Some probably were in denial about their kids. Some probably passed judgment on us and on our son. Most certainly, some got tired of getting a truthful response when they asked how we were doing or how our son was doing. They probably wanted to hear that everything was better, that he wasn’t an addict, that he had stopped using drugs, that all of this had just been a phase.

Along the way, I did turn to the internet to find information. Not only did I find volumes and volumes of information (and varying degrees of helpfulness), but I also started to find communities. You’ve read this before – this is how Our Young Addicts started; another mom and I connected as part of an online forum, exchanged our stories, and found value in sharing our experiences. We bolstered each other up. We offered each other the advice we ourselves needed to hear. We supported each other. We didn’t hold back because honesty was the key to success.

We decided that social media would be the best way to create a community with you. That’s way we launched on Twitter, Facebook and WordPress. Our intent is to provide glimpses into our own experiences as encouragement for you to share yours with the rest of the community. In addition, we like to share current news and findings so each of us becomes smarter and more informed.

One of the things that Mid Atlantic Mom and I feel strongly about is finding a balance between honesty, transparency and identity. Our sons are in their twenties now. They are legally adults. They have a right to their privacy and that includes their identities. That is why I do not use my name or my son’s name. It’s out of respect for his past, present and future. But that is also why I tell it like it is what we’re experiencing, what it’s like. The anonymity … It’s not for fear of shame or stigma. It’s not for keeping a secret. It’s for what I call being appropriately anonymous. That’s why we use the monikers – Midwestern Mama and Mid Atlantic Mom.

Our stories, not just mine and Mid Atlantic Mom’s, all of ours collectively, are vitally important. These stories create community regardless of whether the young person you’re concerned about is just trying out drugs or alcohol, is using recreationally, is abusing regularly, is progressing toward addiction and or more substances, is experiencing consequences, is in treatment, is in relapses, is in recovery, is struggling or thriving. Our stories are our truth and our truth is our connection.

Midwestern Mama

A Heartwarming Phone Call on a Cold November Evening

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Midwestern Mama gets an unexpected phone call that warms her heart on a cold November evening; her son is making amends, recovery is in progress!

It may only be November, but winter is already upon us in Minnesota. The snow and freezing cold temps started about a week ago, an earlier and more frigid start than usual even for this part of the country. We’re craving comfort food to warm our souls. We’ve donned down jackets and mittens, and yes, we’ve already had to shovel the driveway – several times. And, yes, we know that this is only the beginning.

At a time when the seasons are in transition and one year begins to wrap up, it seems my son’s addiction and recovery are also in transition. This time, it feels like a new beginning even though it means trudging through snow and navigating slippery roads.

The hard work underway is welcome. The challenging conditions are welcome. This is indeed the time to express gratitude, to celebrate the season upon us. An unexpected phone call last night reinforced that the hard work and challenging conditions are just the right events at the right time.

Usually when the parent of a young addict mentions a phone call, it conjures up scary and unpleasant things. Even for the parent of a son in recovery, a phone call can trigger all kinds of emotions. This phone call, however, was the best kind of surprise – unexpected and heartwarming.

My son had spent the day with one of his childhood, sober friends. This friend has stuck by him all these years and was part of a family intervention about six months ago. They hung out, played video games, had lunch together, talked about their jobs, you know, just regular stuff that’s popular with 22 year olds.

The phone call I received that evening, however, was from the friend’s mother. (She’s been privy to my son’s addiction and has been a supportive family friend. ) That afternoon on her kitchen counter, she found three twenty-dollar bills and a handwritten note of apology from my son. He said he was sorry for stealing from her and was grateful for how wonderful their family had always been to him.   The mom told me the incident had happened a few years ago and she never knew until now that it had been my son, although she’d had her suspicions. In tears, she said she was so proud of him. By this time, I was teary-eyed, too.

My heart was warm. It remains warm. This was such a big step forward. This was such a sign that recovery is taking hold.

Midwestern Mama

A Day-By-Day Gratitude Journal

Midwestern Mama continues 30 days of gratitude, days 7 to 12.  What a delight to find there is something to be grateful for every day! 

Each day as I think about what to post during 30 Days of Gratitude, it is becoming easier and easier to identify the good things.  Even in the depths of my son’s addiction, I would take time each day to give thanks for what was good.  Call it praying, call it meditation, call it whatever you want — pure and simple it is an “attitude of gratitude” that others would tell me about and that I soon discovered as a powerful way to find strength even in trying times.  Now, when I pause to give thanks, I find my list is growing.

Here are some of the recent things for which I am grateful:

Day 7: I am grateful that we continued to set boundaries for our young addict so that he could find his way to treatment and now to recovery. #Gratitude2014

Day 8: I am grateful to other parents who have shared their experiences with me. Through them, I know there is possibility and hope for our young addicts. #Gratitude2014

Day 9: I am grateful my son is alive, has survived addiction and several relapses. For the past 100-plus days, he is choosing sobriety. #Gratitude2014

Day 10: I am grateful for Our Young Addicts on Twitter and Facebook. #Gratitude2014

Day 11: I am grateful for medication-assisted treatment and recovery, especially Suboxone. #Gratitude2014

Day 12: I am grateful that we are rebuilding trust with our son. #Gratitude2014

With gratitude,

Midwestern Mama

The Dog Days … of Recovery

Midwestern Mama is pleased to share an update on her son’s recovery in what she likens to the “dog days.” Find out why and let us know if you can relate!

He’s sober. He’s still sober. Oh, how pleased I am to share that!

Beyond sobriety, I am even more pleased to share that my 22-year-old son is taking a daily dose of Suboxone and faithfully is attending a high-intensity out-patient (HIOP) program – which meets for three hours, three days a week. He even sees a counselor for a one-on-one hour once a week, although the counselor has been out of town the last three weeks … but I digress.

Since mid-July to present, my son, our family dog and I have made trips to the clinic each morning. We head out around 8 a.m. on Monday through Thursday, and at 7:15 on Fridays so he can see his counselor before group, and on Saturday, we get there before the clinic closes at 11 a.m. On Monday, Thursday and Saturday, the dog and I wait in the parking lot five to 30 minutes while we wait for him to dose. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, his group meets until noon, so the dog and I go about our business of errands, work or meetings.

This routine will continue until the middle of October, when he graduates from HIOP and at which time he may be eligible for take-home Suboxone a week at a time and then up to 30 days at a time. Currently, since the clinic is closed on Sundays, all clients take home their Sunday dose on Saturday, in a lock box.

It’s been our routine. A good routine. A routine we hoped, dreamed about and prayed for. A routine for which we are grateful. A routine that we don’t take for granted. Yet a routine that is routine, that is at times mundane, and at times harder than it is easy.

Early on in my son’s addiction, I was very much like my cohort Mid Atlantic Mom in thinking that drug treatment equaled success, equaled putting addiction behind us. I quickly learned through research, networking, reading, counseling, Al-anon, and more, that this might not in fact be the outcome. At least not the immediate outcome.

The underlying situation. The one that existed before the drug use. The one “we didn’t cause, can’t change, can’t control and can cure,” exists whether our young addicts are using, are sober or are recovering.

Without the substance, the reality of their mindset or mental illness is immediately front and center. It’s no longer masked. It exists and it is painful without the relief of substance. It remains to be diagnosed and treated. It is. It is. It is. It is there.

Some days, my son will share. Other days, he is silent but seemingly content. And still, other days, he is irritated, agitated, moody and resistant. We don’t always know how he will feel, how he will be. It often feels it’s all about him. In some ways, it is. Yet, the family must continue on, and for the first time in several years, I think he understands and respects this even if he remains sensitive to it, perhaps even hyper sensitive to it since he’s dealing with it sans chemicals.

It’s almost like the wound is far more open and raw than ever before.

The difference this time – now on his third or fourth experience with treatment and recovery – is that he wants to change and that we are more open and patient about small evidences of change. However, he wants it to go quickly and on his terms. I dare say, we do to.

Through all of this, and I come back to the “dog days” headline, our family dog has been as influential as anything in our son’s recovery progress. I’ll go it one more and say that our family dog has been the motivation and encouragement for him.

Every day, since having our son return home, he has taken great interest and pleasure in our young dog. They take walks together. They take naps together. The more they do together, the more they have bonded, and the more our dog has grown from a frisky puppy into a well mannered adolescent dog.

Our dog has responded exceptionally well to consistent, caring training, not to mention the positive rewards of pats and “good boy.” Our dog, has increased his listening and willingness – even in the face of dog training challenges: distance, duration and distraction — because our son has exhibited kind-hearted, positive discipline. Our dog has learned patience as he awaits clarity and permission. Our son has learned that setting and enforcing expectations works.

Through these “dog days” of recovery, we are all learning albeit at different paces, with differing expectations and with varied perceptions of progress.

Midwestern Mama

The New Normal

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One month into treatment, Midwestern Mama contemplates the new normal for her son and family.

The first time I heard the descriptor “The New Normal,” it was in economic terms referring to how families were faring in 2009. I understand that more recently there was a short-lived television series with this title about gender and families.

Whatever its origin and original intent, it’s an expression that seems to capture our family’s connection to addiction and recovery. Ironically, this coincides with the timing when it first manifested for us. Since then, we’ve accepted and adapted to many new normals. If you’ve been reading this blog or any of my other writings, patterns emerging as the new normal and the next new normal and the next one after that … these have been the mainstay of our family experience.

More recently, we’ve been party to yet another new normal – treatment and recovery. At the end of 2013 and early part of 2014, we got a preview of what this might entail. Then, in a blink, it all unraveled. Our son’s immediate and lower-than-ever-before relapse hit. It hit hard, for all of us.

We met this new normal with the same resolve as times past, yet something was very different, and thankfully so.

So what is it like to parent a young adult who is earnestly participating in treatment and recovery? It’s far from anything we’ve experienced to date. Will it be the be-all, end -all? I can’t answer that, but I do know it is laying the strongest foundation for ongoing and future success than we’ve seen. The experts are just as good as the experts we’ve been fortunate to work with in the past, but this time it seems to be the right experts at the right time.

What’s different? Our son. He truly seems to want this. Not for us, but for himself. It’s not something we could have made him want, although we’ve certainly tried to influence, encourage and support it. I encourage every parent to keep trying, no matter what but to not drive yourself nuts when it doesn’t turn out like you want it to. In due time, in due time.

So what else is different? He is slowly and selectively reconnecting with former friends who are not addicts and who he’s been honest with and that support his efforts without being in his face about it. These friends accept it and applaud him, but not in a way that makes him feel self conscious. Having a social component has given him a positive outlet for his energy and interests. Too much treatment, too much recovery, is an overload. Having an outlet to just be a 22-year-old is extremely important.

What else? Suboxone, a medication that curbs cravings, negates the ability to get high, and offsets withdrawal symptoms for opiate use. It’s not without its downside, but for now the upside seems to be worth it. (Downsides: It’s daily trips to the clinic for at least the first 90 days before he can get take-home doses. This eliminates being able to go out of town for family vacation this summer. It means having transportation available. It causes constipation, which of course, the heroin did too. It initially messed with his sleep pattern. It generally requires a long-term commitment. There’s conflicting research on the benefits and precautions, but overall, it seems to be just what he needs now and is making an immediate and noticeable difference.)

Our new normal impacts the whole family, but it is such a welcome change. We have a long way to go to reestablish trust, communication and to support our son toward independence, but for now I just hope he can stick with it. Each day with it, is a day stronger. For all of us.

We’ve been waiting and praying for The New Normal. Now we are here, embracing this stage and optimistic for the next new normal and the one after that. I guess that’s normal, too.

As parents and families, we are often ready long before our young addicts are ready. In my own exploration and effort to understand addiction, I was encouraged by many of the writings of Buddha. In particular, the blessing of a good guide and for the readiness and willingness to let the guide to their job, while I did mine. Until I was ready, it was going nowhere. When I got ready, WOW!

It seems the same enlightenment is starting to happen for my son.

Midwestern Mama

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Buddha

Not That Far From Home.

Midwestern Mama discovers a community of opiate users in recovery — just miles from her suburban home – as her son begins Suboxone treatment and counseling for Heroin addiction.

Less than five miles from my suburban home is an outpatient treatment center that offers Methodone and Suboxone dosing in addition to individual counseling, group sessions and training. Although it’s close to where I live, it’s not on a road I ordinarily take and even though I’ve driven that road many times over the 20 plus-years that I’ve lived here, it’s not a structure that I ever noticed.

The past two days, however, changed that. I have taken notice and I have spent several hours there. It has been eye opening and I actually look forward to seeing and experiencing more in the days ahead. As part of my son’s journey with addiction, I have yearned for an insider’s perspective to better understand the complexities of substance use disorder – if not his, that of others.

Sitting in the waiting room for several hours yesterday as he met with a physician, had a lab test and met with the intake coordinator, I busied myself with a proposal, client emails and some trade publications. All the while, I engaged in people watching and caught snippets of their conversations with each other.

It was clear that most of the men and women were regulars, although there were definitely some other first-timers and perhaps a few other supportive parents. The regulars were animated in their talk, joking and catching up with each other. Their faces and bodies evidenced difficult times, but their conversation indicated hope and commitment to better times. Many of them carried backpacks stuffed to the gills and I wondered if they were transient. Quite a few had large beverage containers from the convenience store across the street – sodas, chocolate milk, juice. Several of them had small lock-boxes.

One 50-something man, in particular, had an Irish accent, immediately introduced himself as Chillin’ McDillon, and complemented me on my smile telling me that it may him very happy to see. Without prompt or hesitation, he began telling me his life story. My son was signing in at the reception desk or he probably would have had a fit that I was interacting with Chillin’ McDillon

A younger woman used the clinic phone (sign posted above stating a 3-minute limit for calls). She was trying to get a school transcript to enroll in community college and it sounded like she’d been through a number of hoops already. Yet another woman was quite angry and punctuated her account of the last night’s activities with four-letter words to describe her boyfriend’s shortcoming.

In dress pants and a button-down shirt, another man filled out paperwork and checked his mobile device. He kept looking up hoping his was his turn to get called back to the lab.

Meanwhile, staff with lanyard nametags and jangling sets of keys came and went calling names and taking clients back for various appointments. In addition, someone was job shadowing and someone else was there for a site visit. Clinic staff were giving a tour and explaining the programs they offer.

A few years ago, let alone a days ago, I would not have imagined being here. Although we had suspected opiate use, this drug of choice was quite foreign to us. It’s only been recently that I began learning more and more about it and the challenges of overcoming this highly addictive substance. I had heard about Methadone and Suboxone, and more recently about Naltrexone (a medication our son took while inpatient earlier this year). Now, we were in the midst of it and it was not far from home.

After another round of “now you see me, now you don’t,” our son arrived home last Tuesday evening unannounced and coming down from a high. Our family was united in our expectations and the conditions under which he could stay in our home. We were not feeling very tolerant of another breech and initiated a straightforward conversation – with loving intention but resulting in a somewhat ugly verbal exchange.

My husband’s direct and strong voice expressed the message. We were clear, come morning he had to honor our agreement to do something positive and productive every day toward sobriety and it would begin with a call to some treatment places and start a program or he could not stay with us. His choice.

Midway through this ultimatum, and I hate that it was an ultimatum, he zoned out. I don’t think we realized he was coming down from a high or perhaps we would not have started this conversation, but as cognizant as we are of his use we simply didn’t see this.

For the next 30 minutes, he was half asleep but not at all engaged with the rest of us. We just watched. Finally, we said, it’s late and time to go to bed. My son went upstairs and climbed in bed. We tucked in our younger son and my husband and I proceeded to toss and turn the rest of the night.

True to our word, the next morning, I woke my son and handed him a list of places to call before the day was up. Groggy, crabby and feeling dope sick, he begrudgingly got up and spent the day with me. By late afternoon, he’d talked to one place but didn’t think it was the right place for him (a common theme) and left a message for the other. He didn’t want to talk about any of it and seemed resentful. There was lots of silence.

The next morning, I woke him up and he went with me again. I encouraged him to call back the place he’d left the message because sometimes getting through means being persistent. I’ll be darned, but he reached them and they had an opening with the physician for the next morning. Without hesitation, I changed a meeting to be able to take him.

Again, I had to wake him up. He ate a bagel and cream cheese. Without showering or changing out of his baggy PJ bottoms and sweaty t-shirt, we drove to the clinic. Throughout the morning of him meeting one-on-one with their staff, he would return to the waiting room and gradually began filling me in, being more conversational.

That afternoon, my husband and I took him for a haircut and we ate a late lunch together. He was energetic and pleasant. When we got home, he showered and trimmed his beard. He was feeling better and looking better, too.

Then, of course, he made a last-minute departure to hang with friends instead of attending a family birthday dinner. We know for certain he lied about which friends and we were 50-50 on whether he’d let us know his plans let alone whether he’d come home that night. We were unsettled, but decided to let go and accept that we had done all we could to include him in the family. Shortly after 10 p.m., he texted to see if we were home yet as he was on his way back. Didn’t really expect that.

This morning he woke up on his own and ready to get his Suboxone dose at the clinic. He came out with a list of dates for seeing the physician and counseling appointments. He talked about the upcoming group sessions that he’d be attending. He even gave me the sheet of paper to read, which he’s previously stuffed these things in his pocket and resisted letting us see them.

We had a short conversation about honesty and being a support system, but didn’t belabor it. It remains wait-and-see, but I am ever grateful for some positive motion and the possibilities that this could yield for him to get back on the recovery track. As much as he has fled from home in the past, it’s interesting that he’s sticking so close to home these days and that this current endeavor is not that far from home.

Midwestern Mama

20 questions, 0 answers.

Midwestern Mama ponders the many questions she’s asked over the years about addiction and the many more she’d like to ask. The biggest question remains: When will her son embrace sobriety and recovery?

One of the first questions we asked was, “What is going on?” We were observing behaviors and attitudes that were different, out of character for our son. It prompted us to pause and ask him, to ask the doctor, his teachers, coaches, friends and family members.

The more we watched, wondered and asked, the more we started to ask the next couple of questions: “Could it be related to mental health?” and “Could he be using drugs?” Again, we didn’t get a lot of answers – from him or from others who cared and were concerned.

From my perspective, if you’re concerned about your child, don’t hesitate to ask questions and to seek answers. Just like the president of the United States of America or the CEO of a company, parents need to ask their “cabinet” of advisers for input and insight. We can’t possibly know everything there is to know, especially when it comes to things we’re often unfamiliar with such as mental health and substance use.

Finally, our answers began to cam from observations – not only the behaviors but from bits and pieces of evidence, of drugs and paraphernalia. Often these weren’t outright pieces of evidence but by Googling images and scouring the internet, we would learn that paperclips, hollow pens, tin foil, baggies and other seemingly common items had drug connections.

That would lead us to ask our son questions: “What is this?” and “Are you using drugs?” Of course, his answers, if he’d answer at all, were explanations and excuses. Again, we’d have to piece together little bits of information to get a small sense of what was going on.

The questions continued, but the answers didn’t to any great extent. From there, we started asking questions of ourselves: “How can we help him?” and “What can we do?” Through family counseling, therapy sessions, Al-anon, and lots of reading, we learned some answers – ones that were clinical, ones that were evidence-based and many that were centered on the classic mantra of “You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. You can’t cure it.” These helped us better understand our role, but the answers still don’t fully satisfy even if we understand these rationally and emotionally.

For a while, we stopped asking questions. We accepted. We let go. We detached. Except that we still witnessed, experienced and observed the devastation happening in our son’s life. While we had greater understanding and knowledge, we realized we still had questions.

When my son contacts us or comes home, my natural tendency is to start asking him questions. I don’t mean to interrogate him per se, but sometimes the power of my curiosity and concern is overwhelming and my need to know feels so urgent. I’m working hard to know when and what to ask.

There’s a psychology technique called Motivational Interviewing. It’s quite brilliant because it leads a person through a process of questions and answers in a way that allows the person to come to positive conclusions. Admittedly, I’m much better at using this technique in a role-playing scenario instead of in real life with my son.

After several weeks of asking him when he was going to reschedule a dental appointment to get three cavities filled, I changed the question to what’s holding him back from doing so and what if anything I could do to help him. That question wasn’t met with much appreciation either. In fact, he snapped at me quite nastily.

At first, I reeled from his irritable response, and then it came to me that when mental health and addiction own the minds of our loved ones, there are no good questions … and that is why there are no good answers.

Regardless of what question I ask or how I ask it, I realize that what I’m really asking is when is he going to embrace sobriety and recovery. He doesn’t know the answer and my asking him isn’t going to yield an answer that either of us likes nor one that is the least bit helpful. Never the less, it’s still the question that is on my mind, the one that I cling to with hope and one that is rooted in love.

Midwestern Mama

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

It never ceases to amaze me how easily my son slips away. He’ll be home, in regular contact for a few hours, even days. Then, he’ll just be gone for days at a time. We’ve come to accept this as the user’s way of life.

He won’t answer his phone or respond to texts – sometimes because his phone is dead and sometimes because he views our outreach as intrusion. And more and more often we wonder if he might be dead. That’s what family and friends are left to wonder.

When we drop him off somewhere, he’s barely out of the car and is immediately lost in the crowd or turns the corner and we can’t see him anywhere. No matter how hard we try to watch where he goes, in one split second he’s disappeared.

Same thing when he walks out the front door. Instead of staying in view, he darts to the side of the driveway and by the time I can get to the window, he’s nowhere in sight.

Even though he doesn’t have a car anymore, that doesn’t stop him from getting around. In in given day he may cover 75 to 100 miles. He’s adept at using public transportation and bumming rides from others.

Back in high school when he had a car, I started tracking his mileage because he was never where he said he was going to be; the mileage gave me insight into how much he was lying. After a while, all that tracking accomplished nothing beyond continued validation that he was on the run, all the time.

The more I’ve learned about addiction and the more I’ve observed our son’s behavior, it’s all about patterns and routines. I’ve come to call it an ongoing pattern of “now you see me, now you don’t.”

Midwestern Mama

Meterology – Can You Ever Really Predict the Weather?

Parenting our young addict is a bit like being a meteorologist. We can predict the weather with some measure of science, expertise and experience, but in the end, the weather is beyond our control. When we think it’s going to be sunny, it turns out to be stormy and vice versa.

In the span of days let along hours and minutes, everything can change.

It always seems like after a period of niceness, our young addict’s itchiness returns and he heads out the door. Back to the familiar, the comfort of the drug world. Sobriety and recovery – be gone.

There’s always a glimmer of hope – of sunshine and clear skies. It is followed by an easily recognizable shadow of devastation – of stormy weather.

This has been another one of those predictable weeks. It’s gone like this:

A week ago Sunday – He wakes after 16 hours of deep sleep on the floor of our great room. Although he asked to come over for dinner, he slept through it. Although his little brother had a friend sleep over, he didn’t wake up. That morning, he showers and eats a bagel. I’m outside watering the plants as he walks out the door. “Where are you headed?” I ask. “To Dan’s,” he says. (Dan is his drug buddy, who lives at home with his parents.) “Not going to Grandma’s?” I ask. (It’s been a Sunday-afternoon ritual for the six grandchildren for years.) “No, I guess not,” he says.

We didn’t see or hear from him again in spite of sending nice texts asking if he wanted to sleep here or needed any help with anything. Chances are, his phone was dead as the charger was here at our house. Even still, his friends often have a charger for him to use.

Finally on Wednesday, I texted him that the family was planning to have dinner at a local restaurant – would he like to join us? He responded that he’d already eaten, but would stop by later. Then, later, he said he had plans.

Early the next morning, Thursday, as I was heading to work, he calls. “Can I stop home to shower and change clothes?” Years back, earlier in this weathered story of addiction, we would have been reticent to say yes. Today, as fragile as he is, and as hopeful as we are that he will return to treatment and recovery, we say yes.

“I have to leave in 30 minutes,” I say. He shows up, showers and toasts a bagel. Once at my office, he grabs some chair cushions and falls asleep under a desk in an colleague’s office who is out of town.

A few hours later, before heading to a client meeting, I nudge him. He grabs a soda from the office fridge and heads downtown with me. He sits in the car for my first meeting. For the second meeting, I point out the library across the street and he says he will hang there until I’m done.

When I come out of my client meeting, I check my phone to find a text from him. “Took the bus to meet a friend.”

The next day, Friday, around 5 p.m., my husband and I enjoy being home early on a warm and muggy evening. Sitting on the deck, we see our son walking down the street. My husband hops in the car catching up to our son. He’s headed to the local convenience store where a “friend” is picking him up. He accepts a ride.

More than an hour later, we stop at the same convenience store with his younger brother to pick up some sodas and snack for the family. Guess who’s still there? Our young addict. He’s standing with another young man, whom we recognize and a young woman. He won’t look at us or acknowledge us. His eyes are baggy. He is unsteady on his feet.

I buy our picnic and he angrily replies, “Stop stalking me.” Wow. I do not engage with this cold, angry, bitter conversation. We go on about our family evening. Without a doubt, he is stalking his next high.

Well, I would have expected no additional contact for quite a few days, but get a surprise text the next evening. “You home? I’m going to stop by.”

He does. Eats a bagel. (No there’s no balance to his diet, but at least I have what he seems to want.) He falls asleep. The dog manages to wake him up with sniffing and kissing. He takes a shower. Resumes his nap, but is awoken by a phone call. Within minutes, he’s out the door – headed to Dan’s. “See you tomorrow for Grandma’s. What time are we going?”

Just like that, he’s gone again. However, right on time, he reappears today to go to Grandma’s.

After a nice Sunday visit at Grandma’s, he takes off again, but there’s what I never predicted. He – all on his own, before walking out the door – confirms that he has an assessment appointment on Tuesday at the out-patient program we looked at a few weeks ago.

Will he show up for dinner tomorrow night and spend the night? Will he go to the assessment? Will he answer somewhat truthfully? Will he be accepted for the out-patient program? Will they recommend he return for in-patient treatment? Will he accept their recommendations? Will he enroll and engage in either of their programs? I cannot predict.

Why do I share this? Because, I suspect you’re in a similar spot – as a parent, an adult who cares, or a recovering addict. Together, we can recognize the weather patterns and better weather the weather.

Midwestern Mama

The Game of Life

Almost every child has giggled himself silly playing games like Peekaboo and Hide and Seek. There’s the element of surprise. There’s the element of relief. And there’s an element of interaction. Each part of these games involves questions and realizations, and kids and parents learn a great deal from playing types of games together.

As my son nears his 22nd birthday and his childhood friends are graduating from college, I’ve remembered quite a few of the old games drawing connections between these pastimes and current times. Being a Millennial, my son’s playtime started out with more traditional activities – board games like High-Ho Cheerio and building sets like Legos. By grade school, he and his peers were moving toward electronic toys – GameBoy, video games, computer games. Social media took off when he was in high school with Facebook, Instant Messaging and texting.

If you’re a parent in your 40s, 50s or 60s, you probably remember the Game of Life. You moved around a board with a game token that was shaped like a car, and you could make choices about college and careers, buying homes and insurance.

Lately, I’ve thought about addiction as a board game. Please know I’m not making light of it or even being glib, and I am absolutely not implying that it’s a game on purpose or a mind game. No negative intentions or connotations, just a positive and easy to understand metaphor. OK, we’ve got that settled. Thank you and keep reading.

It’s just that parenting a young addict reminds me of a board game that comes with an objective and requires strategies as well as luck (sometimes good luck and sometimes bad luck) in order to move forward. That is the point after all, to move forward, to come out a winner.

Surprise!

Whatever the game, the element of surprise is ever present. It ranges from the anticipated to the unexpected, and leaves the players wondering what will happen next. The inherent intrigue, including the unknown possibilities, creates interest in continuing the game instead of quitting.

For my young addict and for our family, surprise was definitely part of our early experience with addiction. It started off with our surprise that he was using – he was such a good, smart, well-liked kid and we had been good – not perfect – parents. Our son didn’t fit the stereotype of a drug user, let alone an addict. No one would have predicted he would have a substance use disorder. Yet, the signs were there and when we had confirmation that he was using drugs, we really weren’t that surprised.

I think his quick thrust from using to outright addiction certainly surprised our son- he didn’t plan to have a problem – and the consequences of use surprised him even more. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect that his path would diverge so much from his peers’. They went to college. He postponed college and when he started a semester late, he ended up in detox and the ER six days after classes started and was kicked out of school within a month after that. Talk about a fast track that further propelled his use and myriad consequences.

We stood by him, but in a firm yet loving way. Our no-enabling stance definitely took him by surprise as did our loving detachment and relentless encouragement. Our imperfections with parenting a young addict created inconsistencies that set us all back from time to time. (Where are the rules to this game?) Sometimes, it has felt like playing one of those games when you get close to the finish line only to draw the card that sends you all the way back to the beginning so that you have to go through all the dice rolling or spinner spinning again. (How many times did that happen in High-ho Cheerio? It was the game that seemed like it would never be over.)

Relief

Once we knew what was going on – what game we were playing — we immersed ourselves in understanding addiction, treatment and recovery in all its many variations. While we didn’t necessarily have the answer or solution, we certainly embraced knowledge and explored options.

Having an understanding of the game means that now there really are no more surprises from our perspective. Each difficult step has come with realistic, but ever hopeful, understanding. Instead of surprises, we get confirmations of our suspicions and concerns. Instead of surprises, we are better equipped to deal with whatever happens next, or at least we tell ourselves that.

We continue to anticipate a happy surprise. We hope one day he will want to change enough to get maintain a positive attitude that maybe today will be the day. When it isn’t, well, we find relief in a text, sighting or visit. These aren’t always pleasant, but these are tiding us over. We are grateful he’s alive for another day because each day is a day of positive possibility. That is a relief.

Interaction

Each interaction with our son is an opportunity. We can tell if he’s high or coming down. We can tell if he’s had a good day or not. We can tell if he’s receptive to talking about his situation or if it’s better to give it more time. We can tell if he’s had a good night of sleep, a shower or a meal. We can tell when he’s itchy to leave us to go with his friends.

Anymore, our interactions are less and less frequent, but still somewhat predictable. He’ll contact us and ask to come over. He’ll shower and eat. From there, it depends. He might fall asleep – anywhere from a short nap to upwards of 16 hours, no kidding. Or, he might be energetic and play video games with our younger son or even take the dog for a walk.

Then … he’ll hesitate by the kitchen counter and say, “I’m heading out.” We both know what that means. From there, it’s usually days – even a week – before we hear from him again. We’ll reach out to remind him that we’re here, that we care. If he interacts, great; if not, we let him be. Too much interaction on our part seems to drive him further way and it takes longer for him to return.

We’re finally getting good at this game, and we know that the most important winner will be our son!

Midwestern Mama

Never Say Never

Midwestern Mama and her family have been modeling for us what it means to be the loving support system for a family member with a substance use disorder. They keep him close and include him in family activities without enabling or condoning his use. They treat him with dignity and respect, while encouraging him to get the help he needs. This is a very difficult line to walk and it’s easy to step outside the path, but I believe it’s better to make mistakes and keep our loved ones close.

I have always said to both my sons that I am glad God gave them to me. Someday I believe Midwestern Mama’s son will tell his family that he is glad God gave him to them.

Recently Midwestern Mama tweeted “I keep praying that a guardian angel will show up and that my son will trust and have faith in the help this angel offers.” It looks to me that that angel has shown up and it’s guiding this family.

“Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill

Mid Atlantic Mom

Every time I buy more bagels …

Breakfast food is among my favorite. I like bacon and eggs, in particular, just about any time of day. My young addict likes eggs, but not bacon. He doesn’t care much for cereal. He’s usually not hungry until an hour or so after he wakes up. When he was still in high school, his go-to meal was a bagel and cream cheese. We kept these in bulk so he always had quick, easy and nutritious meal available.

Our remaining at-home kiddo is more of a frozen waffle person. He toasts these and eat waffles for breakfast just about every day. So, of course, we keep these in good supply. He likes bagels all right, but with his braces, a bagel is a bit more difficult to bite and chew, so waffles are a better bet.

As a mom, I think about breakfast a lot. That’s what you do as a parent. You make sure there is always a breakfast option so everyone can start the day off with that all-important fortification.

Although our young addict has intermittently lived at home – or spent some nights here — these past several years, his not a regular resident and my grocery-shopping reflects this; I hardly, if ever, load the cart with bagels and cream cheese. And, then he shows up and the refrigerator might as well be bare because there are no bagels, no cream cheese.

Right before he started drug treatment in December, our young addict was staying with us for a few nights. We bought some bagels and cream cheese. The very next day, he got a call from the treatment center that a bed had opened up two weeks earlier than anticipated. That morning, he smeared some cream cheese on a bagel and we made the 40-mile trek to treatment. For the next 50-odd days, the remaining five bagels and opened package of cream cheese sat in my refrigerator … until I decided the freshness date had expired and tossed these out.

Since completing treatment and then starting and then quitting his half-way program against staff recommendation, our young addict was immediately homeless again, back using, and sofa surfing at the homes of his former drug buddies.

Ever concerned, we’ve reached out to him to encourage returning to a treatment and recovery program. As always, he’s denying that he’s using and resisting any help. Even though we know otherwise on the using. Even though we know that staying at home may be a form of enabling.

All the same, we know he needs a safe place and some good food so he can possibly think more clearly. Last Tuesday, we said he could stay the night and that we’d get him to work the next day. We brought up out-patient counseling. He said, “Maybe.”

After a few days, he was better rested, better fed (including bagels and cream cheese) and had a better attitude. We were working together as a team. He said he had a plan. We said we were proud, that we would support that, that he could stay in the interim as he was pursuing a recovery program.

Yet, we knew better, and when his work week wrapped up and he had three days off before his next shift, and headed out the door to hang with his heroin and pot-smoking “friends” that it wasn’t likely that he’d be with us for breakfast the next morning. (My only hope, and this is admittedly grim, is that I hope he will be back because every time he uses, I know that it’s possibly, even increasingly, a fatal outcome. Yes, I am bracing myself for that even as I remain ever hopeful, ever optimistic, ever realistic, ever, ever, ever … believing that one day he will be sober and healthy, instead of intoxicated and dying.)

In fact, we knew he wouldn’t be home that night. We knew he wouldn’t call or text letting us know that he wasn’t coming back. We knew he wouldn’t respond when we reached out. We knew he wasn’t having a phone interview the next day with a sober house; just one of the well-intentioned promises he appeases us with that becomes a well-worn, well rehearsed and routine lie. We knew that he couldn’t meet the sober-house requirements of a minimum of 30 days sober and with a letter of recommendation from his halfway house, another well-intentioned action that he couldn’t act upon.

So, here we are. I’ve got a half-full bag of bagels in the refrigerator and a couple more bags in the freezer; the cream cheese is half gone with a couple more packs in the deli drawer. We are ready for his homecoming. Every time I buy more bagels, anticipating that we’re turning in a positive direction, the cycle begins again.

My prediction is he will call tomorrow because his work clothes are here and he will want to come shower and change. Will we offer him a bed to sleep in when his shift is done? Will he want to stay here that night? I don’t know, but he’ll probably have a bagel and cream cheese if he does show up.

Inspired by my cohort, Mid Atlantic Mom, I’ll wrap up this blog post with a quotation: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.”

Midwestern Mama

Sibling Sleepover

This weekend, we had all three kids at home on Friday night – a real rarity.  Our adult daughter was taking the dog on a charity walk early the next morning, so it made sense for her to stay the night.  Our 14-year-old son, of course, lives at home with us.  And our young addict son has been staying with us the past few nights as he’s once again run out of options and we’re once again encouraging him to go back to treatment.  (If you’ve followed our journey, he’s been homeless due to his drug use and our anti-enabling for much of the past four years … so this letting him back in is a newer strategy that might just be working.)

In the few days our young addict has been home, he’s gone from being a hungover zombie to getting regular sleep, keeping a regular schedule and having regular meals.  We’ve had a reminder of who he is at the core and who he has become at the stronghold of addiction.

For the siblings, every time we can gather them together, it’s healing as well as eye-opening.  Learn more about the impact of drug use on siblings in a recent article that I wrote for Your Teen Magazine: http://yourteenmag.com/  This publication in print and online holds a wealth of resources, perspectives and tips for raising a teen.  Our Young Addicts is pleased to contribute this story.

After a short, but sweet sleepover, Saturday morning came bright and early.  Daughter and puppy dog left for their walk.  Dad and our 14-year-old left for a sports match.  And I repeatedly tried waking our young addict so he could go watch his younger brother play.  Eventually, he did get up yawning for much of the time.

It was a happy day.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

 

Where’s the reset button? It’s time to reboot.

Techie or not, most of us know that when something electronic is not working that hitting the reset button – rebooting – is often the best thing to do.  Amateurs and professionals alike suggest it as a first course of action.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It got me thinking that we have hit the reset button and attempted to reboot many times since addiction started messing with our son’s wiring.  Research on drugs and alcohol continues to show substantial, detrimental impact on the brain – a complex network of wiring and chemicals – even when used recreationally.  So, it seems like the computer analogy applies when a loved one is affected by chronic substance use and its various repercussions.

Within a few days of leaving his recovery program – early, against their recommendations and without a solid plan in place — my son reverted to his previous coping mechanisms and behavior patterns.  It’s now been about five weeks and what I’m observing is not very encouraging.  It’s downright sad.

When a loved one has gone haywire, it feels like it’s time to  is an attempt to do just that: to push the reset button, to reboot. However, the only buttons to which we have access are our own.  Hard as it is, the only reboot button that I can push is my own.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

Absolutely, please share!

Last week I was talking with one of the professionals who has been with us from midway in our son’s journey.  As I was sharing updates, including pride in the progress Mid Atlantic Mom and I are creating with Our Young Addicts on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, the professional asked if he could share these resources with another client.

Absolutely! (By the way – BTW – I never knew an online experience could prove so valuable until I gave it a try. So,we encourage others to see if it can help them.)

I was once just like this client – a parent looking for resources and trying to do the right things for my son and for myself not to mention for my husband and our other children.  Some days, I truly felt like my roles and responsibilities were colliding. I was acting part on gut and part on advice from others. In time, I was acting on a more spiritual, Higher Power  I desperately wanted someone to give me a simple three-step solution to stop my son from abusing drugs, to get him into treatment and recovery, and to get him back on track with a happy, healthy life.  It felt like there should be something like 1) have a direct, caring and honest conversation with him about our concerns, 2) take him to a doctor or counselor who will enroll him in treatment, and 3) go back to college … and BTW, tell your parents you are sorry for all the concern you caused and thank us for all the time, money and emotions they spent trying to help you.

That plan is far from simple and even farther from realistic. No matter what we said or did, these steps didn’t go as hoped or planned.  Every effort was met with resistance, hurdles, and more.

What I’ve learned is by acting on our gut as well as taking professional advice (conventional and alternative), we continue to do “all the right things” even if the outcomes haven’t always been “right.”  I’m grateful that none of those more experienced than I have said something like,  “OMG what were you thinking Midwestern Mama – that’s the worst thing you could do.” I’d have been mortified that I was not doing the best by our son and family.  Yet, sometimes, I wish someone would have spoken up and said otherwise.  Instead, we have a report card of As for effort but results TBD and I so much want an A (or at the very least a passing grade) for results – not for ours but for our son’s.

Neither Mid Atlantic Mom nor I have the answers, but we’ve each hit on a trifecta that works – one part gut (mom radar), one part advice (a mixture of professional, parental and alternative) and one part faithful spirit (Al-anon or similar).  Please share our resource so that it becomes richer with your contributions – be these experience, professional, alternative, parental, spiritual or whatever works.

We will keep sharing.  Please keep letting us know what’s working – or not working – for you.

Here for you,

Midwestern Mama

Let’s Chat

One of our goals at Our Young Addicts is to provide a place where family and friends of young addicts can talk to each other in a relatively anonymous way.  We expect to be able to provide a forum for that kind of interaction on our web site, it’s just that we haven’t developed it yet.  It’s in the works though!

In the meantime we are offering a secret Facebook group to those of you who want to connect in a meaningful way.  To join the group you must first friend our Facebook group Our Young Addicts.  https://www.facebook.com/OurYoungAddicts   After you join, send us a direct message asking us to add you to the group Family and Friends Place and we will  add you.  From there you can chat with us or others in the group.

Your profile WILL be visible to others in the group but the general Facebook public will not see that you are part of the group.

We respect the privacy of you and your young addicts and expect all who join the group to have the same respect for each other.

Looking forward to connecting with you.

Our Young Addicts

Email ouryoungaddicts@gmail.com

Twitter @ouryoungaddicts