The Newest, Most Dangerous Drugs You Need to Know About

apothecary

Stay in the know about emerging drug trends so you can talk to your family and friends about the dangers these present. This week’s guest blogger lists new and emerging drugs and how each is being used.

Illicit drug use is a major health problem in the United States for adolescents and young adults. It’s very helpful to be aware of emerging drug trends, whether you’re a parent, teacher, law enforcement or the medical community. When you know what drugs are available illegally, you can talk to those you love about the dangers.

Although some of these emerging dangerous drugs are only available in specific locations, illegal substances have the tendency to spread quickly into major cities then into rural areas. Don’t think that your town is not vulnerable.

Carfentanil

  • This drug is making its way onto the street scene, even though it was never created for human use. It is easy and cheap to make, but 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Some dealers are passing it off as heroin. Handle carfentanil carefully, because it is easily absorbed through the skin or can be accidentally inhaled. 

Fentanyl

  • A strong opiate, fentanyl is often used in surgery recovery for breakthrough pain. The difference between a therapeutic dose or an overdose is very small. Although fentanyl has been on the market since the 1970s, it’s beginning to be more available on the street. Sometimes, it’s called “China White.” New analogues of fentanyl have been identified and are very dangerous.

Grey Death

  • Authorities are puzzled as to the makeup of Grey Death, but they do know that it can kill in small doses. It looks like concrete mixing powder, but the ingredients change from batch to batch. Metro Atlanta was a major hot spot, but the drug is on the radar of Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania state and local officials.

Counterfeit Oxycodone

  • One of the most recent alerts from NIH is from Iowa authorities, who are seeing a rise of synthetic opioids. This analogue resembles oxycodone, but contains fentanyl and U-47700 which makes it much more dangerous than oxycodone alone.

Bath salts, Bloom, Cloud Nine, Vanilla Sky

  • Bath salts are a synthetic form of cathinone, a stimulant in the khat plant. The chemical makeup of cathinone is similar to amphetamines or Ecstasy, but man-made synthetics are much stronger than the natural product. Bath salts resemble their name and are sometimes mislabeled as plant food or jewelry cleaner to get past law enforcement. Bath salts cause severe intoxication and have dangerous side effects.

U-47700 or Pink

  • This synthetic opioid gets its name from its pinkish color and is deadly and more potent than morphine. Even in small doses, this drug is toxic. Pink has no approved medical use and is highly addictive. It’s available to purchase over the internet, generally from China. Sometimes, it is mislabeled as a research chemical to avoid detection by law enforcement.

Synthetic cannabinoids

  • In 2016, New York officials issued an advisory concerning K2 or Spice as it is commonly known, but it has many different street names, such as Red Giant, Ice Dragon, Kick and more. Fake weed is chemically related to THC, but is often much more powerful. The effects are unpredictable. Many deaths have occurred from overdoses. It is suspected that some of the products might be laced with other dangerous chemicals.

Author Byline

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

 

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.
©2017 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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The Sudden and Real Dangers of Opiate Addiction

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

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

Young People are Vulnerable to Opiate Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

The Cost of Addiction

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

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

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

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

Hidden Dangers of Illegal Opiates

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

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

Ending Addiction

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

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

Seeking Recovery for the Addict and the Family

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Today’s Guest Blogger: Bill Weiss      

                                                                                                          Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.50.08 PM

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

 

If you want to learn more:

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

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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

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

Dear-Mom-and-Dad

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

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

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

1. You didn’t make me an addict.

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

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

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

It’s not your fault.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. I couldn’t stop until I was ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 5. Love yourself and take care of yourself first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

I love you.

Matt

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

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

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!

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

B Minus or A Plus – Grade This Essay

The youngest member of Midwestern Mama’s family writes about his brother’s substance use disorder.

When someone in the family is using drugs, it’s only a matter of time before one person’s problem becomes everyone’s problem. Our youngest son is 15 years old, a freshman in high school, and he recently wrote a “coming of age” essay for his English class where he talked about growing up with an addict brother.

He was nine years old when his brother began using drugs. For a year or two, he likely didn’t notice much, but by fifth grade we couldn’t hide it from him, nor did we want to. It was the year that things started to implode and it was the year that his class would participate in D.A.R.E. We believed it was important that he understood the chaos (in an age-appropriate manner) and to let this experience shape his own future choices, behaviors and attitudes towards drugs.

As we tried to work with our older son to move him toward treatment, we also worked hard at helping his younger brother and older sister process things. We talked openly with them, asked for their impressions and ideas, and we encouraged them to talk with a counselor or attend Ala-non or Ala-teen to put things in perspective. They saw us at our best and at our worst. They saw us for who we are.

One day our youngest was particularly distraught. In his recent essay, he wrote: “My life was ridiculously hard for a fifth grader.”

He knew that I had been working with a therapist to help myself manage the emotional roller coaster of parenting a kid with substance use disorder, so I offered to let the two of them meet and chat. It seemed to help little brother embrace the idea that he didn’t have to go through this alone and that there might be merit in talking with someone other than his family members – someone more objective and trained at these sensitive topics.

The next day, our youngest went to his school counselor. They hit it off, and she shared with him that she had a sibling with a substance use disorder. For the next couple of years, he would talk with her whenever things felt out of control, and through these conversations, a middle-schooler worked his way through some tough, scary, emotional times.

Just how did he feel during fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades? His essay reveals: “D.A.R.E made my problems even worse. I already knew a lot about what drugs did to the body because I had seen what they did to my brother.” He went on to say: “My brother’s problems affected my life in many ways. I (wanted) to be his friend … it was difficult to do so when he constantly was high or on the crash from drugs.”

They essay continued to talk about all the times when his brother had stolen his wallet, when he was homeless and his hygiene deteriorated – “He would smell like rotten apple dipped in crap drizzled in vinegar,” — when he was arrested for underage public intoxication, when he went to treatment but ran away … In just a few pages, my youngest son detailed the many low points he witnessed during his brother’s active addiction.

He concluded his essay by writing: “Knowing all I’ve been through is scary. The purpose of writing this (essay) was to (say) people have crazy family problems. I am outgoing and energetic, but deep inside, I still have problems. The best thing I learned through this experience is to stay strong. Talk to friends and counselors. Don’t let your problems overcome who you truly are. You are allowed to be affected by these tough moments in life, and at times you will feel worthless. Stay strong and it will get better. If life doesn’t have ups and downs, you’re (not really living).”

Little brother’s essay was as heartfelt and honest as anything I’ve ever read. It was also full of insight and perspective. I give it an A-Plus. His teacher, however, because the essay was riddled with typos, punctuation, spelling and grammatical errors, gave it a B-Minus.

Oh, well. I’m glad there’s another writer in the family who is willing to share this story – a story that has impacted each family member and a story that has had dark chapters, and now, over the past seven months of sobriety, is changing to chapters that are becoming increasingly bright.

Midwestern Mama with excerpts from her youngest son.

What Can I Say? Arguments Happen.

Midwestern Mama shares three great sayings that put arguments in perspective.

Bloggers are not just blog writers. We are blog readers, too. One of the blogs I read regularly is written by a mom whose son is eight months sober – you can see why I find this one of interest.

In her last post, she shared an argument that happened over the holidays. It was eating her up as she wondered about the impact of this on her relationship with her son and, of course, on his recovery. She had hesitated to blog about it, but then found value in processing her feelings and gathering input from her readers.

It got me thinking about this blog and our vision to provide honest, real-time posts about our sons, their journeys, and our parenting experiences. Aside from maintaining appropriate anonymity, I hold back nothing; at the same time, I try not to bore you with all the details. If anything, I hope you see us as real people dealing with addiction and recovery in a real way – not always perfect, but always with good intentions, and always willing to share what worked and what didn’t.

We, too, had an argument with our son recently. It scared me. It scared him. Fortunately, it was short-lived and we weathered it. In fact, I think it actually strengthened things. A year ago, I doubt this would have been the case.

This argument was about a laptop computer. It’s been a recurring topic in parenting our young addict.

When my son graduated from high school, we were paying his tuition (minus a wonderful scholarship he’d received) and he was supposed to use some of the money he earned from a part-time job plus graduation-gift money to pay for his college laptop and textbooks. Seemed like a fair deal.

Well, of course, he spent all his money on drugs before classes ever started. Because we desperately wanted him to go to college and hoped that he’d rise to the occasion of a clean start, we bought him a laptop. Within a few weeks of drug-related trouble at college, he sold the laptop. For drugs.

Two years ago, my son won a $1,000 raffle. He immediately went out to purchase a laptop with it. He relished in being able to play online games again instead of being limited to the family computer or the computers at the library. A few months later, I noticed the laptop was missing. He sold it. For drugs.

Now this fall, out of treatment and working on recovery, he took action to return to a local college. Certainly, he would need a laptop computer for homework. With a part-time job, he wanted to buy a laptop. Props to him for wanting to buy a laptop himself and for sharing this decision with us.

The laptop he selected was quite expensive – because it was primarily a gaming computer, one that had more bells and whistles than he legitimately would need for school. And, because his bank account is set up to prevent him from making purchases over $300 due to a history of bad checks and debt, he would need his dad or me to pay for the laptop and then he planned to reimburse us.

That’s where the argument ensued. We had concerns about the amount he was spending when a more affordable laptop would meet his school needs. We had concerns about him spending too much time gaming – contributing to staying up late, engaging in another form of addictive behavior, etc., etc. We also had concerns about him putting this purchase ahead of other debt he needed to pay off and expenses that we are covering while he’s getting his life back together.

Black Friday and Cyber Saturday were feeding his impulsiveness and obsession. He needed this computer and he needed it right now. He felt the deals would never be better. That he had to buy the laptop NOW! We felt he could wait until after the holidays, earn a bit more money. Do a bit more research on which laptop to buy.

He kept pushing the conversation. Kept asking if we’d put it on our credit card. Kept saying he’d pay us back.

I tried to explain our concerns. He did listen, but he had a comeback for each one. Finally, my husband entered the conversation and in his direct, to-the-point style, he asked some hard questions of our son, and laid out our concerns in no uncertain terms. When my son started to explain, my husband interrupted him, and then my son interrupted him, and then each one raised his voice, and then each one started saying what they felt. It was getting ugly.

By this time, my son stood up, grabbed his coat and said he wouldn’t continue the conversation. He was leaving. This is a behavior we’ve witnessed many times in the past, and it never led anywhere good. It was always a setback. He’d always go running to his drug-using buddies. This scared me.

We gave him some time. About an hour. Finally, we exchanged a few text messages. I think I started it with, “The mudroom door is unlocked when you’re ready to come home” He asked if Dad had unlocked the door or if I had. This mattered a lot to him. I lied and said Dad had unlocked the door. About an hour later he came back.

The next day he was scheduled to see his therapist, and following that, he suggested a compromise – he’d look for a less expensive laptop AND he would write a note to Dad explaining that “walking out” was his way of cooling down.

A few days later, he wrote the note, he apologized for raising his voice first and for using expletives. He was sorry and he wanted to move forward. And so we have.

My son found a less expensive computer that met his school needs and would accommodate gaming. He pledged to limit his time on the computer, keep good sleep habits and to be open to feedback from us if we observed otherwise. He says he’ll share his grades with us on a regular basis. He’s going to let his behaviors build trust.

To make things even better, he went to his bank and explained the situation and was able to work out a way to pay for the computer directly from his account. The banker listened as he explained going back to school, working part time and being committed to recovery. They let him make the one-time larger purchase, but have kept the spending limit in place until he reaches and maintains an established minimum balance. That my son did this on his own is incredible. We did not enable, and he empowered himself!

We all learned some things from this argument, and it reminded me of many of the things I’ve learned as a result of our son’s addiction and recovery about relationships and communication.

Support groups are full of good sayings. Sometimes these seem trite but more often than not, these are great reminders of the good old Golden Rule. Who can argue with that? I can think of at least three sayings that resonate with me on the topic of arguments.

One is from my Al-anon group, one is through an online group where Mid Atlantic Mom and I met, and one is a quote from Steven Covey that my son embraced during his treatment program.

“Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.”

“From chaos comes clarity.”

“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviors.”

What can I say? Arguments happen and those three sayings are as great guides for these, sometimes unavoidable, exchanges.

Midwestern Mama

Frazzle Free or at Least Not so Frazzled

Midwestern Mama takes pause to consider the transition from chaos to calm.

Today as I was moving from early-morning family duties to work commitments that included three client meetings and then heading to campus to teach a night course, I realized there is relatively little chaos in my life right now.  Just the normal, more expected things like deadlines and deliverables.  I’m not as frazzled as I had become during the early years of my son’s escalating drug use. Instead, I’m not trying to fulfill my responsibilities to others – let alone myself – while containing and compartmentalizing the out-of-control and truly scary situation that was consuming my young addict and our family.  After all, even though we were dealing with addiction, we still had to live our lives.

This transformation from chaos to calm is attributable to several things:  acceptance, exploration, connection.  It’s also attributable to my son’s engagement in treatment and recovery – sobriety does wonders.

Acceptance came in phases.  Initially, acceptance came from recognizing that there was a problem and stepping up as parents to address it.  At first we couldn’t diagnose the problem but we could pinpoint the existence of our son’s challenges. We could tap the experts like doctors and counselors.  As we came to recognize that drugs were indeed a contributing factor, we moved from suspicion to documentation to action.  Eventually, it came full circle to accepting that the situation simply existed.

Exploration also came in phases.  It has ranged from Google-fests to appointments to prayer and meditation.  We sought to understand.  We sought to solve.  We sought to deal with our feelings, our concerns and our hopes.    Exploration included education as well as a willingness to try different options.  In many ways, exploration was salvation because each new finding, each new piece of knowledge, led to understanding.  It also led to despair and overwhelming thoughts of all the what ifs.  Ultimately, though, exploration provided context and actionable next steps for ourselves and for our son.

Connection, however, was among the most liberating aspect of our lives these past few years.  I think about the many people I talked to on the phone and met with.  I think about attending Al-anon meetings and adapting many of the principles to my life in general.  I think about connecting with MidAtlantic mom and many other parents via online forums.  Each of us seemed to be there for each other at exactly the right time.  We still are.  For that, I am forever grateful.

If through acceptance, exploration and connection nothing else changed, I am confident that I began to build up the emotional reserves to live as the parent of a young addict.  I know that I can go on no matter what.  Amid all the chaos and the most frazzling of situations, I know I am part of a community that cares and that I can contribute to helping others transition from chaos to calm.  Please let us know how we can be there for you and how we can help.

Midwestern Mama