Never Too Early: The Draw of #NOverdose to an Elementary-school Parent

A mother of young children recently attended a community event about drug alcohol use among young people. It was hosted by her school district and the local sheriff’s department. Why did she attend? Today’s guest blogger shares her thoughts. I hope more parents will engage early to prevent and address future issues that may lead toward a substance-use disorder. MWM

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I remember watching my three-year-old son Harrison standing on one of the five boulders separating a playground from the parking lot. My friend and I were waiting by our cars for our respective stragglers, when we observed Harrison on the boulder glancing from his feet to the adjacent rock. Calculating the distance. The risk. The wrath.

Knowing that I couldn’t reach him in time, I said, “Harrison, do NOT jump over to the other rock. You’ll hit your head and get a black eye.”

Without a word he turned to face us, and we thought he would just jump forward into the grass. But no. Sure enough, he turned back, jumped toward the adjacent boulder, and missed sticking a top-of-the-rock landing. As predicted, he hit his face. I ran to my sobbing child to comfort him and assess the damage.

The experience left Harrison with a black eye and me with a clear view of my son’s emerging personality. Today, Harrison is eight years old, and just this week we had to coach him down from two different trees in our backyard. And it’s only mid-April.

In addition to his propensity for age-appropriate risk-taking, Harrison loves to make his buddies laugh. Farting? Check. Poop jokes? Check. Singing silly songs? Check. Eating gross kitchen concoctions? Check. At this age, it’s all pretty harmless.

But it won’t always be.

As a parent of three elementary-school-age kids, I want to do everything that I can now to help them develop the tools, skills, healthy habits, and positive relationships to ward off future battles with addiction, knowing full well that I could do everything “right” and still face the struggles confronting many in the Our Young Addicts community.

So when I got the email from Wayzata Public Schools about the March 20 #NOverdose community forum at the high school, I immediately put it on the family calendar.

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Why did I choose to spend two hours on a Monday night hearing harrowing statistics and stories when my biggest safety concern right now is the giant rock at the base of Harrison’s favorite climbing tree?

  1. The statistics scare me. The opioid prescription rates, deaths from heroin overdoses, increased ER visits, and the rise in overall addiction, among other alarming trends, terrify me as a parent and as a community member. I want to do what I can to help reverse these trends.
  1. Drugs today seem more lethal. At my 25th high school reunion this fall, a classmate remarked to me that one of his biggest concerns of living in his wealthy suburb was the rampant heroin use among teenagers. He said, “I did my share of drugs in high school, but nothing that was going to kill me. Kids today are doing heroin, and they’re dying. We never touched that stuff.” When my husband and I warn our kids about the dangers of drugs, we tell them that it only takes one time for a drug to kill you.
  1. Kids are under too much pressure today. Two years ago in the midst of planning my 20th college reunion, my classmates and I were discussing programs that we could contribute to the college’s overall reunion schedule. A friend suggested having a session on what we could do now to better prepare our kids to get into Amherst. I said, “Your son is 10! How about we do a session with a child psychologist on what we’re doing to our kids?” I worry that stress over performance expectations is contributing to the increase in drug addiction.
  1. Personality traits in my kids concern me. Among my three children are a range of traits that are compelling and engaging – and potentially concerning. Stubborn, change averse, indecisive, intense, perfectionist, a need to please others, and self-critical: it’s a list that I personally know all too well, and one that would be familiar to my own mother in raising me! I’ve thought a lot lately about the pride I took in being unique; in middle school I wore a shirt that said, “Why Be Normal?” My kids and I talk a lot about being true to yourself, and not feeling the need to follow everyone else, yet at the same time maintaining high standards for personal conduct and respect. It’s a fine balance.
  1. I wanted to learn what I can do now. Bottom line, I want to know what I can do right now to help my kids grow up to be kind, happy, healthy, resilient, and drug free. I want to learn from the experience of experts and other parents, and then share that knowledge with my parental cohort. I also want to work to create a space where parents in my circle can talk openly about their challenges without fear of being judged or rejected…or having their child judged or rejected.

I attended #NOverdose to determine how I can contribute to the overall community effort to combat opioid and heroin use. Writing this blog is my first step.

Kristen Spargo is a freelance writer and communications consultant who specializes in health care and nonprofits.

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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Disorders Co-occurring With Addiction Among Teens and Young Adults

When addiction is accompanied by a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self harm, etc., it’s called a co-occuring disorder. These are common at all ages, but are particularly evident within young adults ages 12 to 22. Today’s guest blogger shares insight. MWM

Side note: Join us for the second-annual From Statistics to Solutions conference on May 11, 2017, in Minneapolis, to develop solutions for co-occurring disorders and substance use among young adults.

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Often times addiction comes with other pre-existing, or co-occurring disorders. These issues can exist alongside addiction, exacerbating the substance abuse, or even sometimes lead to its onset. Many times those suffering from these co-occurring disorders are unaware of their existence, and many times they are unaware that the substance abuse that follows is actually a form of self-medicating. They know that when they smoke pot, drink, use prescription pills or other illicit substances they experience a decrease in anxiety or depression, but they do not understand on a conscious level what this truly means. They only see the results and do not see the fact that their substance abuse is merely masking a larger issue that has probably gone undiagnosed for years.

 

Unfortunately, all of this usually comes to a head during the formative teenage years, due to the fact that the brain is still developing, and due to the mounting pressures of teenage life. Many American youth fall into the temptation of drug abuse during this time period and it is often a direct result of some underlying mental health concern.

 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 in 10 people who suffer from addiction also suffer from a mental health disorder. Among teens this number is a little lower, but about 50% of all teens who have a substance abuse disorder also suffer from a mental health concern. This means that 1 in 2 teens who are abusing drugs may be doing so as a way to deal with such issues as depression, anxiety, or any other number of co-occurring disorders.

Luckily, our understanding and our ability to treatment teenage drug abuse and co-occurring disorders has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. We now understand that in order to deal with substance abuse issues in teens that suffer from a co-occurring disorder, we have to first get them free from drugs and other mind and mood altering substances, and then within the treatment protocol for their drug treatment, we also deal with the underlying issues that may have furthered their drug abuse.

So let’s take a look at some of the co-occurring disorders that commonly appear alongside teenage and young adult drug abuse. It is important to note that if you or your teen appears to be suffering from any of the below and a substance abuse problem, professional help should be sought in order to help stave off further issues down the road.

Common Co-Occurring Disorders with Addiction

  • Depression

According to studies approximately 20% of teenagers will experience depression before the age of 18. Besides this the World Health Organization states that depression is one of the leading causes of disability throughout the world. Among teens, depression can cause a number of different issues, but one of the most common co-occurring disorders to arise out of depression is substance abuse. Many teens who suffer from depression and who have not as of yet sought treatment are more apt to drink or use drugs as a means to cope with their depression.

  • Anxiety

Having an anxiety disorder is more than just having the occasional feeling of stress. It is more than just losing sleep before an important event, but rather it is something that can rule over a person’s life. People who have an anxiety disorder will experience an elevated level of stress or anxiety a majority of the time, sometimes even causing them debilitating social issues or panic attacks that can mimic heart attacks. Some people who suffer from anxiety disorders will turn to drugs such as pot or opioids in order to quell their anxiousness, but without dealing with the underlying issue it will always resurface over time.

  • Eating Disorders

Unfortunately many times eating disorders and addiction go hand in hand. Sometimes the eating disorder will predate the addiction, and the addiction is developed either as a means to help with the eating disorder, i.e. weight loss pills or other stimulants, or the addiction can be unrelated to the eating disorder. It is important if you are having an issue with an eating disorder to seek out professional help sooner rather than later, because it can cause a number of health complications and in some cases even result in death.

  • Self-Harm

In a sense addiction is a form of self-harm, although many addicts would not initially view it that way. The reason I say this is because a person who abuses drugs to the point that it is detrimental to their health and life is inflicting an inordinate amount of harm on themselves. For other teens though, self-harm may take on the form of cutting or burning themselves as a way to deal with anxiety, depression, or other confusing emotions. Often times teens that suffer from self-harm will also suffer from substance abuse, as the two both act as a way to cope with life.

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Teens or young adults who are suffering from addiction and some other co-occurring disorder may feel a tremendous amount of shame about their illnesses, to the point where they will not want to discuss them with anyone. They may want to hide the fact that they are abusing drug and depressed, yet neither of these things are anything to be ashamed of.

Many times in our society we place such a negative connotation of drug abuse and mental health issues that people will just pretend that everything is okay at the expense of their own happiness and wellbeing. With that said, if you believe you have an issue with substance abuse or some other mental health concern, reach out for help; even if it is frightening, and even if you think people may judge you for it. Don’t suffer alone and remember that there are millions of people around the world who feel and have felt exactly like you do right now. Give yourself a chance to get better and ask for help.

About Today’s Guest Blogger:

Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

 

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

 

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.

Dealing with Your Child’s Addiction – A Father’s Story

It’s nice to get a dad’s perspective on parenting a young addict through to recovery. Today’s guest blogger shares his story. MWM

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Growing up, I experimented with methamphetamine on a few occasions. I was socially pressured into doing it but thankfully, it never took a hold of me. For some reason, the abnormal ecstasy put me off and I stopped after a few tries.

When I became a father and as I watched my kids grow, I was overwhelmed by the crippling fear that my kids may experiment as I did, and I wasn’t sure if they would be as lucky as I was. I tried not to talk to them about drugs or substance abuse because I believed if I avoided it, it would not come up.

My son, Jake started taking drugs at 14. I missed the initial signs and I have never stopped blaming myself. Reading Rose’s post on addiction tell-tale signs, I can’t help but think things might have turned out differently if I had known what to look out for.

How It All Began

Jake was never a gregarious child but he seemed more withdrawn soon after his 14th birthday. His grades also started to drop and we worried he was struggling with some emotional changes as a teenager.

My wife and I tried to talk to him, but he never indicated there was a problem. We tried to be more communicative, did all the fun things he liked, and paid more attention to his study habits. This seemed to work initially as he talked a bit more and got more involved at home. But he was never the same and his grades didn’t see much improvement.

As time passed, Jake started finding more excuses to go out at odd hours, became disrespectful and stopped caring about his appearance. He didn’t do well at school and could care less. He would have mood swings from talkative and animated to withdrawn. He would also get uncharacteristically aggressive on occasions.

Jake was away at school most of the time, so we did not see his condition progress.forward-1276291_1920

It Was Not Very Obvious

When you think of drug abuse, you think of prominent symptoms like dilated pupils and conspicuous, uncontrollable cravings. This wasn’t the case with Jake as far as we could see. Also, he hardly ever asked for money so we were more concerned than suspicious.

The changes in him caused us enough concern to seek help from counsellors. It was suggested that Jake may be dealing with substance abuse. We broached the subject with him but he would always deny the fact. Something was wrong but we were at a loss for what it was.

Discovering the Addiction

A year later, when Jake came home for a summer holiday, he was far gone in his addiction. He was skinny, outright depressed, was very easily agitated, slept a lot and was often tired. He also had a seizure once. It was clear to us by then that he was struggling with substance abuse.

Our first reaction naturally was panic. We wanted to immediately take him to a rehab center but a friend of the family advised us against that. She said any action had to be taken with his consent and after due consultation with him. According to her, taking any actions without first talking it over with Jake was likely to put him in a “me vs them” mentality.

Thanks to her advice, we were able to first:

  • Discuss the situation with Jake – At first, he was defensive. But he eventually acknowledged that his addiction was harming him and that he needed help. He wasn’t very forthcoming with information. He would not tell us why or how he started abusing drugs but we were content to leave that to the specialists.
  • Agree on treatment – We were able to get Jake to agree to professional help. This was tough. As a teenager, he could not face the reality of being a drug addict. The psychological implications of getting help was more profound than we imagined.

Please note that these processes took several days. We did not try to immediately stop him from taking the drugs because we understood stopping cold turkey without professional supervision could be dangerous.

Jake’s Treatment, Recovery and Rehabilitation

After researching our options, we found a rehab centre out of town. Jake wanted to be away from the people that knew him.

The rehab professionals were amazing. It’s hard enough dealing with a teenager that has no addiction problems. The experts were able to get through to Jake in a short time and his outlook changed. I may not be able to go into details, but his treatment involved:

  • Counselling by rehab experts; and
  • Clinical therapy (nutrition, exercise and medication) to manage detox and withdrawal – this helped to soften the withdrawal symptoms like agitation and irritability, anxiety, fatigue and depression.

The terrible thing about substance addiction of any kind is the lasting effects it has on your body even after the addiction. We learned that drug chemicals lodge in fatty issues, which not only exposes the patient to health risks, but can easily trigger relapse. We are sure the detox process went a long way in making his treatment effectual.

Youth Support Group Overseen By Trained Professionals

The rehab centre had a support group for youth where they were made to relate with each other on a broad range of topics other than their addiction. I think this significantly helped Jake because it made him learn to communicate again, to feel like a normal individual with more to him than his addictions.

We were also counselled on how to relate with Jake and provide him with the kind of support he needed to stay strong. We provided him with a warm and loving environment, taking care not to make him the centre of attraction as this could cause him to withdraw.

Notes

Treatment, especially the detox phase, was not easy. Initially, there were times when Jake would ask to come home, promising to stay sober. He would also try to blackmail us into feeling that we had left him alone to suffer at rehab. We remain grateful to the rehab experts for how they handled the situation and for their advice on responding to every scenario.

We were also advised alongside Jake on how to deal with tricky situations such as:

  • Meeting friends from his addiction days.
  • Meeting his old drug dealer(s).
  • Handling romantic relationships from his addiction days.
  • Finding meaning and substance in life through sober eyes.

Jake has been sober for one year now. We all continue to get counseling from the rehab specialists and we believe that Jake is on his way to a fulfilled life.

About Today’s Guest Blogger:

Today’s guest blogger is a father from North-West London in the UK. His son has been clean for a year now but he’s always conscious that problems like these never really go away. He appreciates if you would read the tale of his son Jake and how the family missed the signs of his drug addiction. Just knowing he’s been able to help other families out there with their tale helps immeasurably.

Article Source: addictionhelper.com

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.

 

Red Flags Parents Can Look For When College-Aged Children Come Home For Break

College kids are arriving back home for Thanksgiving, and it can be an eye-opener for families – especially if there is substance use involved. Today’s guest blogger, Rose Lockinger, alerts us to red flags. MWM

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As a parent one thing that I worry about is whether or not my children will do drugs in the future. I worry about whether they will follow the same path that I went down. I wonder if they will be tempted in High School or go off to college and fall into a bad scene, and I sometimes think about what I can, or will able, to do in order to prevent this.

Luckily, my kids are still pretty young so this concern may be a bit preemptive, but with Thanksgiving break just around the corner and college students all around the country returning home for a quick visit, it got me thinking about what parents can look out for to see if their kids are doing drugs.

For the most part your children will never come right out with it and tell you that they have been smoking pot in college or that they tried cocaine, and what’s more is if they suffer from some sort of substance abuse problem, and are not just recreationally experimenting, they will do anything in order to hide their addiction.

The thing that is perhaps most concerning for a parent is that adolescence is a time when they can be especially defenseless against substance abuse.

That being said there are some red flags that you can look out for in order to see if your child is using drugs in college and I have listed a few of them below.

 Red Flags That Your Child May Be Abusing Drugs In College

  •  Their grades begin to drop

This is not always indicative of a substance abuse problem, but often times where there’s smoke there’s fire. Usually during a student’s freshman year their grades will decline compared to what marks they received in High School and this has to do with getting acclimated to the new environment and the higher degree of difficulty that college work brings. But if you notice a decline in grades that appears to be unrelated to anything, or a continued decline in grades then it may mean that your child is having issues with substance abuse.

  •  They continuously ask for money

Many college students are broke and have to rely on their parents for money, but if you notice that the $200 you sent your child just last week is gone because they needed to [insert excuse here], and this is a reoccurring theme, then your children may be having problems with substance abuse. Often times money is the easiest way to find out if your college aged child has a problem with substance abuse, and this is because drugs and drinking excessively takes a great deal of money to do. So if you find that you are giving your child more money than normal, talk to them about what is going on.

  •  You sense a disconnect in them

Once again this is not always a sign that substance abuse is at hand, but as a parent it is fairly easy to tell when something is off with your child. There is a difference between the normal teen discontentment and substance abuse, so if your gut is telling you that they may be using drug, you are probably correct. As much as people who use drugs believe that they do not affect them in a negative way, abusing substances of any kind creates a shift in the personality and it is noticeable to those around the person using. If during Thanksgiving break you notice that your child is acting strangely, ask them about it, and don’t just brush it off.

  • They begin to associate with drug related pop culture

I am going to date myself a bit here, but in the past if someone listened to Phish, The Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, etc., there was a really good possibility that they were using drugs. Children believe that this shift in their cultural tastes goes unnoticed by their parents, but in reality it doesn’t, and while it is completely normal for a kid’s tastes to develop as they move into young adulthood, if you find that their penchant for drug music or drug related movies increases, they may have an issue with substance abuse.

  • You actually find drugs or drug paraphernalia on them

This isn’t really a red flag, but more of a smoking gun, because the reality is, if your child felt the need to bring drugs home with them during a short break from school, this means that they more than likely are using quite often. It could possibly be indicative of a substance abuse problem or it could just be a phase they are going through, but either way it is important to address this with them, so that if there is a problem, it can be dealt with.

I think the best bit of advice I can really give, and one that comes out of my own experience with substance abuse, is that if you think that something is wrong, it more than likely is.

Drug addiction and alcoholism operate in such a way that they attempt to produce confusion and doubt in those closely affected by it.

This means the person addicted and their loved ones have just enough deniability as to its existence that they can turn the other way comfortably. This however does nothing but allow the addiction to grow unimpeded and results in more damage down the road.

So if you think that there is something going on with your kid then address it with them. If you are wrong then great, but if you are right, you may have the possibility out getting out ahead of their addiction and help them to avoid years of pain and trouble.

About Today’s Guest Blogger

Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.rose-lockinger-guest-blogger-2

You can find Rose Lockinger on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Navigating Addiction during the Holidays

With Thanksgiving 2016 one week away, the holiday season kicks off. This can be a particularly challenging time for families whose loved ones are using drugs and alcohol. Today’s guest blogger is Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.  She share first-hand experience as well as professional guidance to help families, and was one of our panel speakers at our conference this past year. Thank you, Sherry, for your blog post!

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Oh, the holidays!  When we think of them, so many thoughts and images pop into our heads!  Snow!  Family!  Food!  Togetherness!  Traditions, old and new!  Excitement is in the air, and we start planning how and when our ideal holiday will come together.  Unfortunately, for those who have a loved one struggling with alcoholism or addiction, an additional level of stress typically accompanies the holidays: worry that our imagined holiday will turn into our worst-case scenario.

When Our Young Addicts asked me to write a blog post on how to navigate the holidays when addiction is present, my first thought was “Yes!  What a great topic!  This will be so helpful!”  As I thought about it more, the task became a little more overwhelming.

As someone who works with family members in the addiction recovery field, as well as being a family member myself, I know there is no right or wrong way to navigate the holidays when addiction is present.  But, there may be a way that’s right for you, which is what I hope to address.

My husband and I live in a different states than our families, and we make it a point to be with them over the holidays.  For a number of years, we would get caught off guard by the ups and downs of addiction.  Each year we would start out with our vision of the holiday and prepare for it.  We’d ask for Christmas lists, and go shopping for the perfect presents.  We’d be in contact with everyone in advance to make sure we could all get together.  We would plan festive menus, and listen to holiday music on our drive across the Midwest.  We wanted to experience what so many of us want to experience: family.  We wanted to be in the midst of the love and connection, and thought if we could just plan far enough in advance that we’d get exactly that.

Unfortunately, the addiction in our family wasn’t playing along.  Although there are a few in our family who have struggled with alcoholism and addiction, when I think about the holidays, I often think of my step-son, who is a meth addict.

We would embark into our greeting-card-worthy vision of the holiday, but addiction would stand in our way.  There would be times when we’d reach out to him, and not hear back.  There would be times when he would come, and show up despondent.  There were other times when he would show up and would be angry at the world.  There were times when he left on an evening saying that he’d be back tomorrow, and we didn’t see him again for the rest of the time that we were there (we once found out later that he ended up in jail for a while).  There were visits that ended in loud arguments.  And, then there were the times that he showed up as his incredibly witty, big-hearted, intelligent self – and the family would try to figure out how we had magically set the stage for this to happen so we could be sure to recreate it again, and again.  Of course, we were always confused when we tried to reenact the situation at another time, only to have a completely different, and often heart-breaking, outcome.

One of the things we needed to do as a family was to know what we were up against.  Sometimes the fact that someone is struggling with addiction becomes apparent during the holidays, especially since we usually see each other more at this time than other times throughout the year.

At times families fall into the trap of thinking that someone who is struggling with addiction is just behaving badly.  It’s helpful to know the signs of addiction and alcoholism.

Both the National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov) and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (www.ncadd.org) have helpful information.   Educating yourself allows you the opportunity to know what you’re dealing with, and will be helpful in understanding what to do next.

As a family member, I have found that getting support for myself has been imperative.

There is no way that you can watch someone become entangled with alcoholism and addiction without being affected.  Family members often feel that if they love someone enough, and say and do the right things, they’ll be able to fix their loved one so they no longer have the struggles that they have.  To be around others who have had a similar experience in their reactions, and who have found a way to cope with it, helps to break the shame and stigma we often carry where addiction is concerned.  The easiest and most accessible way to find support from others who have been there, too, is through Al-Anon (www.al-anon.org) or Nar-Anon (www.nar-anon.org).  So many family members keep the addiction in their family a secret.  Al-Anon and Nar-Anon provide safe places to talk about it.

Talking about the holidays was important for our family, as well.  We needed to decide what we wanted our holiday to look like, and be focused on what was realistic.  If your loved one is actively using, what is realistic may be different than at other times.

Some families decide that they need to set some clear boundaries: that their loved one is only invited if the can be clean and sober during the gathering.  They also need to have a plan in place on how they’ll honor that boundary if it’s not met.

Some find that they want their loved one included in everything regardless, so that they know that they are in a safe place.

Some families decide to change how they will celebrate so that they can all meet at a place where anyone can easily leave from if they feel uncomfortable.

As I stated before, there is no right or wrong in deciding this.  There is only what is best for you and for your family.  These decisions are more easily made with an understanding of addiction, and remembering that the person you love is still the person you love, even though their disease may bring unwanted attitudes or behavior.  These decisions are also more easily made when you have support.

Families have choices, and they get to make them – including during the holiday season.

Our family feels blessed that we have received the gift that so many of us hope and pray for, the gift of my step-son’s recovery.  He’s been clean with the help of Narcotics Anonymous for more than three years, and we love watching his life unfold.  That witty, big-hearted, intelligent guy shows up most of the time, and even when he shows up occasionally as someone who’s going through a difficult time for whatever situation is happening in his life, we trust that he will navigate in whatever way that he needs to with the support of his people in his recovery circle.  And, yet, we may have gotten a little too excited when our first holiday came around and we thought “Finally!  We get to have our ideal holiday!  There will be SO much togetherness!  We’ll be a Norman Rockwell painting!”

We found that going through the holiday in early recovery was going to take some navigation, as well.

My step-son did a great job of talking to us about what he needed, which wasn’t non-stop family time.  For many folks, the holidays can trigger or exacerbate addiction.  My step-son needed to find his own balance.  His primary focus was to continue to build the foundation of recovery, and we needed to honor that.  We listened, and we trusted that he would show up for what was important for him, and that he would do what he needed to support himself when he needed to do so.  And, we stayed focused on taking care of ourselves, and being grateful for the time we got to have with this wonderful, clean, clear-eyed young man.

Even if the gift of recovery hasn’t happened in your family, my hope for each of you is that you’ll find moments of peace and joy.  I believe that they are there and accessible to all of us, even if our loved one is actively struggling.  Remember to learn what you are up against, find support for yourself, talk about it – and listen.  Be gentle with yourself and your loved one.  I believe that we are all doing the best that we can with the tools that we have, and I’m hopeful that these new tools will be helpful to you as you embark on this holiday season.

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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Is The Party at Your House?

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This week’s guest blogger is Teresa Lunt, chairperson of Partnership For Change. I encourage parents and professionals to check out the good work of this coalition and see what might be possible to do within your own communities. Later this week, I am participating in a Town Hall Forum* put on by this organization. MWM
I’ve heard parents say, “It’s safer to have kids drinking in my home then be out driving around.” Or, “I just make sure I take the kids’ keys so they can’t leave drunk.”  And another, “I want to see how they handle alcohol before heading off to college.”
Although well intentioned, it is misguided to think hosting underage drinking in your home is a “safe” alternative.  Even though teen drinking usage rates are on the decline it is still the number one abused substance by youth and young adults.  There are other things to take into consideration.  Do you know if a child is on medication that may contraindicate with alcohol?  A child may have a history of alcoholism in their family; you never know if that first drink is going to be the one that turns to the path of alcoholism.
Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years. Studies show the older the age of onset of that first drink the lower the chances of addiction.
Did you know you or a family member could be held criminally liable for underage drinking on your property?  It’s true!  A Social Host Ordinance makes it unlawful for an individual, despite age, to provide a location where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who provides the alcohol.  It is important to let legal siblings know the law, too.  The potential consequences could be 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Don’t put kids in an uncomfortable and conflicting position.  
My son attended an after prom party at a friend’s home.  We knew the family well.  I talked with the mom at the pre-prom photo session and she assured me there would be no drinking or drugs allowed.  When my son arrived at the party, he was approached by the father of his friend and was told he’d need to put his keys in a basket.  Several of the kids were spending the night; our son was to be home by a 2 am curfew.  He pleaded with the father that he would not be drinking and that he would be leaving in time to be home by curfew.  When he went to ask for his keys, the father made my son promise not to tell us (his parents) what happened.  This is completely unacceptable.  What a horrible position this man put my son in.
I implore parents to keep homecoming, prom, graduation and any other celebration safe, responsible and legal!
Please support safe and healthy settings for youth and help do your part to prevent underage drinking.  We can and must keep our kids safe and social.
For more information on how you can help prevent and reduce youth substance use, visit us at www.partnership4change.org.
Teresa Lunt
Partnership for Change Chairperson

Learn More – November 3, 2016

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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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Study Drugs & Students

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The pressure that is put on students these days is pretty overwhelming. There is a drive to be perfect and competition is incredibly high. They have to get straight A’s, get college credit while in High School, get graduate credit while in undergrad, finish early, and be the best, and if they can’t manage this they are deemed failures. We push and push our children and in the process we create a culture that permits unhealthy habits in order to get a competitive edge.

This culture can be seen on just about every American college campus where students are taking study drugs, such as Ritalin or Adderall, in order to study longer and retain information better. Many of these students are not prescribed these drugs, but rather take them when they need to cram for a test or sit down and write a paper.  Prescription pills rank #5 as the world’s most dangerous drugs and Adderall and Ritalin are prescription drugs to further the concern consider the following information.  One recent study showed that usage of study drugs is so prevalent that 61.8% of college students surveyed had been offered these drugs over the past two years. Of those surveyed 31.0% had actually taken drugs, that they were not prescribed, to study, which means that almost 1 in 3 college students have used narcotics in order to study in the past two years.

The same can be seen in high schools all across the country although the numbers aren’t as high. A 2013 study found that 7.4% of 12th graders had used non-prescribed Adderall within the previous year. While 7.4% may not seem like it is very high, Adderall was the most widely abused prescription drug among this age group, and only marijuana and alcohol were abused at higher rates.

Many of these students are unaware of the addictive properties of these drugs or the effects that they can have on their body, and most feel in the moment that getting a good grade is more important than their general wellbeing.

Adderall and other such drugs are powerful central nervous stimulants. The psychoactive chemical in Adderall is dextroamphetamine, which is very similar to the chemical makeup of methamphetamine. While methamphetamine is widely known to have devastating effects on the body, the effects that Adderall and other study drugs have is not as well known. This is in part because these drugs are legal and widely prescribed, so people believe that they are safe to take, but Adderall and other study drugs can have extremely negative effects on a person. Some of which are:

A suppression of the appetite and unhealthy weight loss

Like their stimulant counterparts, many study drugs are known to suppress the appetite of the person taking them, which over an extended period of time can lead to an unhealthy drop in weight. This occurs because dextroamphetamine and amphetamine increase the amount of dopamine released in the brain, which tells the body that it is satisfied. By doing this the body then is unaware that it is hungry.

Trouble Sleeping

This side effect is partially why college students use Adderall and other such drugs to study. The stimulant effect allows them to stay awake for long periods of time without the need for sleep, but without sleep a person can experience all sorts of negative side effects, such as hallucinations, heightened emotionality, and a breakdown in decision making.

Potential for dangerous cardiac issues

Since study drugs are stimulants they are known to raise blood pressure, body temperature and in certain cases can even result in sudden cardiac arrest. This does not necessarily only come about from extended use but can occur after only one usage. If you are taking a study drug that is not prescribed to you then you may run a higher risk of experiencing one of these side effects since a doctor didn’t perform a check-up before giving you the medication. It is important to understand that these are powerful drugs and so their effects on the body can be dramatic.

A Decreased Ability to Concentrate

One of the side effects of taking study drugs for a prolonged period of time is actually a decrease in ability to focus. This is interesting because many of these drugs are taken so that the person can concentrate for longer, but studies have shown that prolonged usage of these drugs actually have the adverse effect.

Addiction

Like all stimulants study drugs have the potential to lead a person into addiction. No one starts out using drugs believing that they are going to be addicted, but in 2012 116,000 people entered into drug treatment for Adderall addiction. Many people who start using this drug to study are unaware if they are predisposed to drug addiction and even if they are not, they could find themselves physically addicted to the drug before they even know what is happening.

So while the pressures of modern living continue to increase, we have to be conscious of the message that we are sending our children. If that message is that you have to succeed at any and all costs, then the number of students who abuse study drugs will continue to increase. These are powerful drugs and many people are unaware of the effects that they can have on the body, and while there are legitimate medical reasons for their usage, educating the youth on what these drugs can do to them is important. Getting them to understand that staying up all night with the help of narcotics in order to study is not a rite of passage and as a society we shouldn’t be putting this type of pressure on our children.

About Rose Lockinger, guest blogger

Rose Lockinger - Guest Blogger - Parent.jpgRose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

A Generation Found in Recovery High Schools

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An interview with Greg Williams by our ever-popular guest blogger, Rose Lockinger. Learn more about Greg’s newest documentary, Generation Found. MWM

Greg Williams’ new documentary Generation Found opened on Tuesday, with special showings taking place throughout the country. Following the success of his 2013 documentary The Anonymous People Williams once again shines a line on the recovery community, only this time his focus has shifted from away from breaking the stigma of anonymity, to advocating for better treatment solutions for adolescent addicts in the country.  This film does an excellent job of raising awareness to the need for change in the way we approach treatment.  As a documentary, it does an excellent job at bringing to light not only addiction but effective treatment methods.  So often in Hollywood, we see the accurate depictions of addiction but few that shed light on the hope of recovery. It shows a way of living that encourage individuals to live in an unapologetic manner regarding to their recovery.

The film Generation Found focuses particularly on Recovery High Schools in the United States and how their methodology of creating community among teens who want to be sober is offering a new and successful approach to treating adolescent addiction.

For many years it has been known that 9 out of 10 people who suffer from addiction get their start on this path in their teenage years. Yet the treatment options available to these at-risk teens have been limited to traditional adult treatment methods that offer little to no success in helping kids.

Many teens that get in trouble or decide they need to get sober are relegated to residential treatment facilities that offer no real support once they are discharged and then they are returned back to their high schools where their dealers may be and they are surrounded by the people they used with.

If these teens are lucky enough to stay sober for any period of time once they get out of treatment their options for continued support usually consists of 12 Step Meetings where adults are the majority of the population and their ability to relate is almost nonexistent.

This is where Recovery High Schools come into play and they offer a sense of community and continued support that other adolescent treatment options do not currently offer. The film shows that Recovery High Schools are part of a greater pipeline of support for these kids that follows them from their initial treatment all the way through their college years.

The way that this pipeline works is that first, the adolescent addict enters into a residential treatment facility. These treatment facilities are much like that of their adult counterparts with the other difference being that they are specifically for addicts under the age of 18.

Once the teens finish their residential treatment they then have the option of enrolling in a Recovery High School, although there are currently only 36 in the United States. The Recovery High School is almost like a regular high school except that everyone in the school is in recovery. There are random and regular drug tests and there are even classes centered on recovery based ideas.

These schools allow their students to create a vibrant and thriving recovery community, which would have been almost impossible if they had gone back to their regular high schools. Also, since the emphasis is on recovery the students receive extra support that their normal high schools would not have been to give.

This added support includes teachers and administrators who are in recovery themselves and Alternative Peer Groups, or APGs, which act as sort of 12 Step Meetings specifically for kids under the age of 18. These APGs are an important part of the recovery process in these schools because it gives the teens an ability to relate to other teen addicts and see that recovery is, in fact, possible.

Once the students graduate from their Recovery High School many then choose to go on to college, as the film showed that the graduating class from Archway Academy, one of the schools highlighted in the film, had a college acceptance rate of 96% among their graduating seniors.

Transitioning from the recovery community in their high school to that of a normal college campus can be difficult for young people in recovery, as college campuses are known bastions for drugs and alcohol. But with the help of organizations like Association of Recovery in High Education and other support networks, these students are given every opportunity to have support in whatever they need.

The idea of following teens from initial intake to graduation from college is an incredible shift in the way that we think about recovery for teenagers. In the past, the overwhelming thought process, whether admitted or not, was that many of these teens were not yet ready to get sober and so the best that anyone could do was try to mitigate the damage done until they were adults and hit bottom.

By addressing their addiction in their teenage years and then offering the support that is needed for them to actually overcome their addiction, means that programs like Recovery High Schools are giving entire generations of addicts a fighting chance at getting clean and sober a lot earlier.

However, the film does expose one of the flaws in this system and it speaks to a greater schism in our society, that of the haves and have-nots. It was apparent from the film that the children attending the Recovery High School were from families of means and that these opportunities were not available to all children.

At one point in the film, the filmmakers travel a lower income neighborhood in Houston and it is relayed that there are no APGs available for the teens of that community and many are left with only traditional methods of support for recovery. Getting the teens in their community the same treatment options as their wealthier counterparts was the goal of a number of activists in these communities and hopefully, with the exposure offered by Generation Found, they will receive this.

Overall Generation Found was a thought provoking film that made me reevaluate my own stance on teenager recovery. It showed me that there really may be a solution for breaking the cycle of addiction at an earlier age and that with the correct support and enough faith anything truly is possible. The students in the film were a testament to how transformative recovery can be for someone’s life and that anyone, regardless of age, sex, creed, or color can recover.

About This Week’s Guest Blogger – Rose Lockinger

Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

Find Rose Lockinger on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Before, and After: How I learned to support the mother of a young addict

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Mention addiction and almost immediately the world becomes a smaller, more intimately connected place. Everyone knows someone. Everyone has an experience to share … if not now, they will in the future. This past spring a mutual acquaintance connected me to today’s guest blogger, Mandy Meisner, and we’ve now connected in a variety of rewarding ways. Mandy shares an important experience and message of how to support a friend – a lesson for all of us. MWM

When my husband and I were first married, we dreamed of starting a family someday and thought about the kind of parents we’d be.  One of our favorite ways to wonder at, was visiting our friends and family who had paved the way first.  We would spend an evening with them, cooing over babies and small children, smiling at the messy chaotic scenes, listening intently to all the advice given to us for when it would be “our turn”.  We’d wave goodbye, thank them for their candor, then hop in the car and as soon the door shut we’d look at one another and gasp, can you believe …?  Before we had kids, we thought ourselves experts in parenting.  We had all the answers.  We knew exactly how we’d do things. Before.

After we had kids, when we were living the messy chaotic scenes, when we didn’t recognize how cute they were because of sleep deprivation and the bone deep fatigue that comes from trying to reason with unreasonable beings, we realized we would never be an expert in parenting.  We would never have all the answers.  Hell, we would never know exactly how to do anything, save blow our tops.  But we never fully understood our deficiencies until After kids came.

I met Tammi years ago.  She was the sort of person people were instantly attracted to.  Her small frame, long dark hair and megawatt smile kept her timeless and youthful.  She was charismatic, open, and exuded fun and positive energy.  She and I hit it off right away.  Over the ensuing years we would become professional colleagues, and later, good friends.  We racked up countless laughs and dinner dates, strewing empty wine glasses across the north metro.  I would come to learn underneath all the fun, she had a steely center, forged in a past laced with abuse, heartache and self-doubt.  But these things only made her more self-reliant, strong and incredibly kind.

When I learned her two young adult sons were heroin addicts, I was shocked.  I thought of addicts as inner city, homeless, their sinister looks or vacant faces hiding in dark corners.  Outsiders of some kind.  Not middle-class, suburban, articulate, shiny young men.  Adam_Before_AfterOf the two, one of them—Adam—would be the most unbelievable.  He took after his mother in many ways; good looking, charismatic and charming, he made anyone and everyone feel important.  Being in his presence felt like warm sun on your face.

At the time, I was not well versed in addiction and its complications.  Though I presented patience and understanding to Tammi when she shared stories of Adam’s relapse—another job lost, another program failed, another lie discovered—I did not in fact feel patience or understanding.  I felt anger at Adam for throwing his life away, seemingly over and over again.  I felt impatience at Tammi for enabling Adam to keep making bad choices by allowing him to live with her, for constantly running to his aide, for bailing him out of every bad situation his choices brought him.

After a while, I ventured to say things like I applaud you and am amazed at your support and love for Adam, but my love and support is for you.  You need to protect yourself. Show tough love.  And still…even saying and feeling these sentiments, I too held out hope for Adam.  He had heaps of potential, if you only knew him! When he was well, he was magnificent in every way, made more beautiful and humane by his suffering.  Perhaps this time he would change!  Perhaps this time it was truly going to work! Perhaps. Next time.

As his addiction would ebb and flow, I grew more steadfast in my perspective.  You can’t control the choices of other people. You can only control what you allow in your life.  I felt I was there for Tammi as best I could be as a friend, but secretly grew tired of the drama and wished she would too.  I wished she would cut him out to allow peace in her life.  Peace she longed for and deserved.

All of this I felt righteous and confident in.  Before.  When Adam was alive.

Then came After.

After Adam’s death, when I saw the devastation of a mother who found her child dead in her home, when I understood the meaning of the loss of this one life—permanent and untimely—I began to own and see how I had failed her as a friend.

I am a mother myself, and as every mother knows, love for your child is whole, illogical, and will always hold your best wishes for their future.  Children, like all humans, have their limitations and challenges.  As loving parents, we are compelled to aid them as best we can, no matter what.  I forgot this.  I disregarded this fundamental drive as a parent because instead of a car accident, or cancer, or genetic disability, Adam was an addict.  I believed he chose this.  Before.

Ah, but After.  Now that I have the luxury of a neatly tied loose end, now that I see Tammi’s enduring devastation, I know now that an addict may choose that first hit, but no one would ever choose to become an addict. To be an addict goes against the grain of all that it means to be human.  It is to relinquish your sense of self, and all the tremendous things that make up you and your life—for the temporary visit to a beautiful island made of sugar.

After, I realize the way I should have been a friend, was to better empathize an impossibly difficult and complex situation.  To tell her whatever she feels and decides, is OK. That I could not say she is a good mother enough times.  To be the one she can share anything with about her life with addiction and there would be no judgment.  Only love for her.

I was foolish to think “tough love” or cutting Adam out of her life would somehow bring her peace.  It would have only traded one kind of pain for another. Denying our love is seldom a wise choice, let alone possible.

In a horrifically bittersweet way, I have the chance to act on my revelation. Tammi’s second son, Josh, is also an addict.  He continues to struggle—I think with more determination now, to reclaim his being.  He has his own After, finding his brother dead with his mother.  My compassion for Josh fills me up.  I am in his corner until he wins.  And I’m committed to being a better friend and supporter to Tammi.

I am only sorry it took an After to find out how.  But maybe, like many things in life, it’s the only way to truly learn.

About Mandy Meisner

Mandy_3Mandy believes in the power of stories and that we all have important ones to tell. She has been blogging for nearly five years on Fridley Patch and is a nationally published blogger on several different syndications, including Patch (national). Simply, she loves to write and welcomes all opportunities.

Mandy is honored to be a guest blogger for Our Young Addicts, sharing a deeply personal story she hopes will help the many others who are supporting loved ones with addiction. To learn more about Adam, you can read his original blog, Life, Unfinished.

You may connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: A Solution to the Statistics?

A three-part series by Guest Blogger Gloria Englund, MA

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Part III

The availability and use of Suboxone is very different now than when Aaron’s final attempt at recovery took place. Then, health insurance paid for Suboxone only when it was administered through an in-patient treatment facility. It was used mainly as a detox tool, not a recovery treatment tool as it is now. Many addiction specialists now recommend that patients with an opioid addiction may be best served with indefinite MAT therapy.  There were not many treatment centers licensed to dispense it and very few doctors licensed to prescribe it. This continues to be a challenge in the treatment world. Many physicians still choose not to seek licensure to dispense Suboxone because they don’t want to deal with the population of people ill with a substance use disorder. Another way the stigma and discrimination still play into the availability of MAT.

True Recovery

I used to think complete abstinence from methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), or naltrexone used in MAT, was the only marker for true recovery.

Everything I have learned about SUD and recovery since Aaron’s death tells me that I had a very narrow and uneducated view of what may be necessary to keep the person with an opioid use disorder alive so recovery can happen.

The more options available for MAT to those with SUDs who seek recovery, the better are their chances of remission and the more lives we save.

Since Aaron’s death, I have seen and heard many testaments to the effectiveness of all three of these medications when they are used as recovery tools. But the availability, cost and insurance coverage needs to align in support of these life-saving medications that can prevent overdose deaths.

Evidence-Based Treatment

It’s imperative to remember that MAT programs are evidence-based treatment (EBT) protocols. This means there’s scientific research to back up the practice of medication-assisted treatment as a viable treatment option. In general, the research proves that people on MAT have fewer relapses, live longer and stay in recovery longer than those who do not use it. This is especially true for those with opioid use disorder.

We Need More Education & Information

I believe lack of education about addiction being a brain illness and the public not being properly informed about the life saving properties of MAT is what killed Prince along with the additional 128 people who died of a drug overdose on April 21, 2016. Chronic pain might have brought him to where he was with his illness, but in my opinion, ignorance and stigma kept Prince and those close to him from asking for the right kind of the help, at the right time.

This is the third of a three-part series. We are posting the full series in the Resource section of Our Young Addicts.

Saving the lives of those who are ill from this disease will only happen when the general public becomes educated and demands that the people who suffer from these disorders, deserve the same medical treatment and compassion as does anyone suffering from a chronic illness.

About our Guest Blogger: Gloria Englund, founder of Recovering u breaks new ground in the field of addiction recovery and support. As an ally of the recovery community, she honors all pathways of recovery. She is a psychotherapist, who holds a Master of Arts degree in Human Development. As a certified Recovery Coach, she works with individuals and families dealing with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, and relationships. Gloria has personal as well as professional knowledge of addiction and recovery; her oldest son, Aaron, died of a heroin overdose in 2007. As an accomplished public speaker, advocate and published author, Gloria brings a message of hope and recovery to others.

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.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: A Solution to the Statistics?

A three-part series by Guest Blogger Gloria Englund, MA. New Protocols, Addiction as a Progressive Brain Disease.

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Part II

Old-school Perception & Protocol – the 1990s

My history with MAT goes back to the 1990s when most people considered substance use disorders a character flaw, and/or lack of will power and motivation. Although the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized alcoholism as disease in 1956 which allowed it to be viewed as a diagnosable condition for which insurance reimbursement was possible, most treatment focused on it being a psychological/behavior disorder. This was the treatment protocol I learned in graduate school in the early ‘90s.

Addiction Recognized as a Progressive Brain Disease

Aaron died in 2007.  It wasn’t until 2011 that The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) first stated that addiction is a progressive brain disease that is fatal without intervention.

This meant both of us went through our 20-year struggle with his SUD without knowledge of addiction being a brain disease – as I suspect many have. It was a wake-up call for me to learn that this illness is about underlying neurology, not outward actions.

The NIDA soon after stated that addiction is “a chronic relapsing …brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”  It was so hard for me to grasp that my son’s was ill not only with a physical dependence – but also a psychological compulsion that would create drug seeking behavior no matter what the consequences.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in a specific priority. Physiological needs such breathing, food and water are at the bottom the hierarchy. In other words – a human’s first priority is sustaining life. The hierarchy culminates in self-actualization at the top. The compulsion that is characteristic of SUD precludes those basic physiological needs.

This is why many need MAT to get their cravings quelled. If the cravings aren’t under control, they can’t even think about meeting those basic needs of life – so they can go on to recovering their life.

Tapering Off or Long-term Maintenance?

In 2007, most people on MAT methadone programs were encouraged to start tapering off the medication once they had been stabilized for weeks or a few months. The yo-yo effect of trying to taper and failing to find the correct dosage created constant turmoil for Aaron as well as frequent relapses. At that time, both of us attended recovery support groups which promoted that if you were on medication-assisted treatment you weren’t really in recovery because you were still using an opioid medication. And this continues to happen today.

Very few supportive services were offered along with Aaron’s MAT program – which I now know is very important to recovery. You can’t just take a pill or get an injection and recover from this illness. Although behavior and psychological issues may not be a CAUSE of this illness, they do result as we try to SURVIVE the illness.

That’s why MAT needs to be offered along with individual or group therapy, peer recovery support groups, classes on exercise, nutrition – basic life skills – keeping a budget and learning how to seek employment.

Minnesota Recovery Connection, like many other recovery community organizations (RCO) in other states – offer many of these resources on their website and support all pathways to recovery.

Note to readers: Part III will run on Thursday, June 30. We will post the full three-part series in our Resource section.

About our Guest Blogger: Gloria Englund, founder of Recovering u breaks new ground in the field of addiction recovery and support. As an ally of the recovery community, she honors all pathways of recovery. She is a psychotherapist, who holds a Master of Arts degree in Human Development. As a certified Recovery Coach, she works with individuals and families dealing with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, and relationships. Gloria has personal as well as professional knowledge of addiction and recovery; her oldest son, Aaron, died of a heroin overdose in 2007. As an accomplished public speaker, advocate and published author, Gloria brings a message of hope and recovery to others.

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.

When You’re Concerned About Your Kid’s Drug And Alcohol Use

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Guest blogger Rose Lockinger gets right to the heart of things with her take on what parents can do when they become concerned about a kid’s substance use. Thanks for sharing your insights. MWM

There are so many things we worry about as parents. We worry about them getting hurt or sick. We worry about accidents, we worry about their future, about their choices and we worry about them when they are sad and scared. As they get older we worry more, not less. They grow up a little and our hold on them has to loosen as they rely more on their friends for company and start to spread their wings.

One of the top concerns for parents of teens today is substance use and abuse. There are other things, of course. Bullying, gun violence, car accidents. But drugs and alcohol are a pervasive issue that teens face every single day, and often times, many of the other concerns parents have seems to go along with drug and alcohol use.

Do All Kids Experiment?

Not all do, but it’s common enough. While it doesn’t always result in negative consequences, it does warrant close scrutiny. Kids are impulsive and tend to think they are invincible. This creates problems when they get caught up in substance abuse. Most people who become addicted start using in their teens. The earlier drug or alcohol use starts, the greater the chances that the problem will turn into addiction.

What Are Signs That Your Child Has a Problem?

So as a parent what do you need to look for when you suspect that your child is using.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between just being a teenager and possible substance use.

Here’s a list of 6 main things to look for:

  • Changes in physical appearance
  • Extreme changes in emotions
  • Changes in academic performance and attendance
  • Always in search of money and not able to explain where it’s going
  • Significant changes in mood and personality
  • Missing prescription drugs and alcohol around the house
  • A lack of concern in their appearance and personal care.

These are some common ones to start with, although you may run into others that are specific to your individual situation.

What Do You When It’s A Problem?

If you suspect that your teen is struggling with substance abuse, it’s important to address the matter right away.

Things can escalate quickly, and it’s important that you let your teen know you are aware of the behavior.

Because the situation is scary, it’s easy to come from a place of fear and even anger. It’s important to encourage honest and open communication.

 

One of your first steps may be to bring your child to your family doctor so that he or she can be screened for substance abuse disorder and any other issues that may be present.

Substance abuse often goes hand in hand with things like depression, anxiety or trauma, so it’s important that they be screened for these things as well.

It’s Never Too Early For Professional Help

If you’ve addressed the issue through communication, education, a professional evaluation and firm boundaries and consequences and the problem is persisting, it’s time to take the next step. It may be that your teen needs to get help via an adolescent rehab.

 

Teen rehab programs can provide a safe place to recover from substance abuse disorder. Getting away from using friends is helpful, and while they are in rehab they will learn more about addiction and the dangers of substance abuse, they will receive individual counseling to help identify and deal with any underlying issues and they will learn new coping skills that will help them deal with difficult emotions without turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. This is important, because the adolescent years are full of challenges and powerful feelings. Learning how to deal with them in a healthy way can help them make better decisions when things come up.

 

It may feel like you are jumping the gun a bit to put your teen in rehab, but the earlier they get help, the better. Teens and drugs and alcohol are a dangerous mix. Substance use disorder progresses and will only get worse if left unchecked.

 

This is never an easy situation. You’ll feel like it is an uphill battle, and your teen will fight you at every turn. It’s important that the family present a united front and a consistent message for your child so they know that everyone is on the same page.

Remember, your teen is frightened. For the person with substance abuse disorder, the idea of losing their drugs or alcohol is scary. They feel like they have to have it in order to live on a daily basis. Anyone who stands in their way is a threat and possibly an enemy, no matter how much they love them.

 

While some level of confrontation is necessary in order to bring the problem into the open and start the process of getting help, over-the-top, harsh interventions are not only ineffective but can do more damage.

Supporting Your Teen Through Recovery

If you have decided to take the next step in helping your child recover, the most important thing you can do is to continue loving and supporting them. Teens are often consumed with feelings of guilt and shame as a result of using drugs and alcohol as well as their behaviors. It may not look like it from the outside, but on the inside they are hurting. Reassuring them that you aren’t judging them and that you are only getting them the help that they need is crucial.

About Our Guest Blogger:

unnamedRose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

Find our guest blogger, Rose Lockinger, on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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.

 

 

Medication-Assisted Treatment: A Solution to the Statistics?

A three-part series by Guest Blogger Gloria Englund, MA. Suboxone, Naltrexone, Methadone

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Part I

I was very uneducated about medications that are affective for substance use disorder (SUD), especially opioid use disorder when my son, Aaron, was still alive. Although he was familiar with Suboxone and methadone, now I believe both of us could have been better informed about how to use methadone along with other support tools that were needed in order to make the treatment the more effective.

Prince’s death has brought the use of Suboxone, a medication that is used to treat opioid use disorder, and the idea of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders to the forefront of the opioid overdose epidemic. The latest statistic from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is that 129 people are dying every day in the United States from drug overdose; 80 of those deaths involve the use of an opioid.

I believe the stigma and discrimination that accompany substance use disorders, also accompanies the medications that can be used to quell withdrawals symptoms and lesson cravings for those with substance use disorders as they seek recovery.

MAT can greatly reduce the possibility of relapse which often lead to drug overdose that can result in death.

Suboxone

Suboxone, the MAT treatment that didn’t get in Prince’s body soon enough, is one of these medications that is often used to quell withdrawal and cravings for opioids. What exactly is Suboxone? It’s referred to as a partial agonist because it doesn’t bind to the opioid sites as does a full agonist so it produces much fewer endorphins. Because of its “partial” nature, it is much easier to withdraw from than a full agonist like methadone. Suboxone is the commercial name for buprenorphine (partial agonist) combined with naloxone, an opioid antagonist which is very effective at blocking euphoria when combined with the buprenorphine.  Used alone, naloxone (Narcan®) is used to reverse an opioid overdose if administered in a timely manner. Suboxone is also available as a film which is dissolved under the tongue thereby lessening the potential for abuse even more. In May of 2016 the FDA approved a buprenorphine body implant that will dispense medication for up to 6 months but has not stated when in will be available for use.

Methadone

Other readily used medications are methadone (mentioned above) and naltrexone. Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist medication that is very effective in treating heroin and prescription pain medication addiction. It can only be distributed at specifically licensed clinics. Initially it needs to be dispensed every day requiring the user to make daily trips to the clinic. When the specific dose is determined that stabilizes the patient, then patients can begin to lessen their visits by receiving seven days of doses divided between two or three days a week and eventually, only coming in once a week to receive all seven days for the next week. This daily commitment combined with the difficulty many have in tapering off the medication (and its potential abuse as a full agonist that can be sedating) often outweighs, for some, the positives of its effectiveness in quelling withdrawal and cravings. Methadone is also much less costly than Suboxone if the user needs to pay out of pocket.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is another MAT drug, but is an antagonist. This means it blocks any opioids from connecting to the receptor sites and can only be used after a patient has completed detoxification from all opioids and all opioid medications like Suboxone or methadone. If a patient uses it while any opioids are in the body, they will go in the immediate withdrawal. Naltrexone is not addictive or sedating and does not result in physical dependence as does Suboxone or methadone. However, poor patient compliance with the daily tablets has limited its effectiveness. A long-acting form of naltrexone called Vivitrol® is now available in a once per month injection eliminating the need for daily use which improves patient compliance. Unlike methadone or Suboxone, anyone licensed to dispense medications can prescribe naltrexone, but the cost may be prohibitive for many.

Note to readers: Part II will run on Thursday, June23, and Part III will run on Thursday, June 30. We will post the full three-part series in our Resource section.

About our Guest Blogger: Gloria Englund, founder of Recovering u breaks new ground in the field of addiction recovery and support. As an ally of the recovery community, she honors all pathways of recovery. She is a psychotherapist, who holds a Master of Arts degree in Human Development. As a certified Recovery Coach, she works with individuals and families dealing with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, and relationships. Gloria has personal as well as professional knowledge of addiction and recovery; her oldest son, Aaron, died of a heroin overdose in 2007. As an accomplished public speaker, advocate and published author, Gloria brings a message of hope and recovery to others.

The Ride

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With a son currently in treatment for drug addiction, this week’s guest blogger Charma Carpenter shares a story of recovery – in progress. It’s a “ride” many of us are on yet is full of hope that the ride is going in the right direction. MWM.

When my son first started using drugs, I was in denial and believed everything he told me. His eyes were red because he couldn’t sleep; he was acting differently because of his migraines.

Once I opened myself to the fact that my son was an addict, I isolated myself. I had no one to talk to about his addictions, and didn’t know what to say anyway. It’s not easy talking about your son if it isn’t about his accomplishments on the team or in the classroom or at work. I was drowning myself in tears and suffocating in my own isolation.

Once his name became a repeated name on the local radio and in the local newspapers, I put on the badge of humiliation for years. The stigma that attaches itself to “the parent of…” brought about more shame and guilt than I ever knew existed. As I worked through these feelings, I became aware that I held the same stigma. The reason I was feeling guilt was because I too, felt that addicts came from bad families. Add another medal of humility to my daily wardrobe.
Some people avoided me, almost like I was contagious. Others were more nosy than a reporter for a trash magazine. Still others pretended that nothing was different. I had too many other things going on with my other children to address any of it.

I just kept it all inside, while my mind was screaming, “Please, someone ask me about ME! Someone please, just tell me what to do!”

Years went by and I tried to reject the feelings of guilt and shame. They were no longer a part of my daily wardrobe, but I would still drape them over my shoulders every once in a while.

I would receive wedding invitations or baby announcements from young adults that had gone to high school with my eldest son, and the curtain of depression would engulf me.

This is what my son should be doing with his life now! Instead he was couch-surfing and drug seeking and looking worse EVERY time I saw him.

If only we could get him into rehabilitation. If only the time spent in jail would be long enough to take the cravings away. If only he would listen to what we parents were telling him! Guilt and shame were replaced with anger and frustration. I wore those emotions for many years! And those articles of emotions would come out of no where on some days. I would attack anyone who was around when the anger flashed through my mind and erupted.

I finally began to journal my emotions so I could try to gain some control of myself.

I began to read and study the Bible. And yet, the roller coaster continued to take twists and turns I was not ready for. I still worried and stressed, but the more I read the Bible, the more at peace I felt. I began to understand that God was in control, not me. I committed my son to the Lord and slowly began to get involved with activities again.

I broke the silence of my son’s addiction.

I began talking about it with members of my church. I began bringing up the topic at family functions, to avoid the awkwardness other family members were feeling. I opened myself up to the emotions and let the tears fall freely. And I leaned on God even more. I now had people from my church praying for my son and my family. I had a strong support group that realized addiction is a family disease. It affects the entire family.
I joined Nar-anon online and I’m re-learning how to take care of me. I am letting go of my control issues and allowing God to be in control. I am admitting out loud that my son has an addiction, and that does not make him a bad person.
And yet the roller coaster flips upside down again. My son chose to enter rehabilitation on his own. He entered after being in jail for three months, and has been there for four months. He is clean, learning coping skills, and working. But now the stress of graduation is upon him. He is worried about getting a job and a place to live upon graduation. And he is still just a crawler when it comes to handling stress and anxiety without the comfort of drugs. And the helplessness is trying to overtake my wardrobe. It is emotionally challenging to listen to my adult son crying on the phone because he is so stressed out. I continue to encourage and praise and yet my heart finally admits that graduation of rehab will not be the end of the ride.
I did not get on this ride by my choice. I do not like the ride. I am never going to be able to fully unbuckle and step away from this ride. In one way or another, I will be on this ride for the rest of my life. But I have learned to slow it down.

I have learned to embrace the good thrills that are on this ride: The strength in the hugs I get when I visit him; the smile that shines from his eyes when he teases his little brother; and the healthy look that reflects his hard work.

My son chose to use drugs the first time. My son became addicted. My son chose rehab. I chose to enable out of concern. I chose to let go of the control. I chose to take care of me and slow the ride down.

My son and I are both in recovery. And we are learning to take each day one beautiful moment at a time.

The author of the book, Just Commit Me, Charmla Carpenter lives in rural Iowa. She and her husband have three sons in three totally different places in life: One in rehab, one in grad school, and one in elementary school. Charm’s faith keeps her focused on living each day in honor of God. Follow her on Twitter @charmcarp1

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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

Student Blog Post – Be the First Voice

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Midwestern Mama is pleased to feature another one of her students’ blog posts. This student worked on a group project to help develop our May 12th conference: From Statistics to Solutions – Addressing the Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Use. Here is her perspective.

Nine out of 10 people with addiction started using substance before the age 18. I find this to be very alarming and it’s important that we help our family, friends, and next generation. You might be thinking that you don’t know anyone that could be at risk or that is currently using. Well I bet you know someone that lived with a parent or guardian who got divorced or separated; Lived with a parent or guardian who died; Lived with a parent or guardian who served time in jail or prison; Lived with anyone who was mentally ill or suicidal, or severely depressed for more than a couple of weeks; Lived with anyone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs; Witnessed a parent, guardian, or other adult in the household behaving violently toward another (e.g., slapping, hitting, kicking, punching, or beating each other up); Was ever the victim of violence or witnessed any violence in his or her neighborhood; and Experienced economic hardship “somewhat often” or “very often” (i.e., the family found it hard to cover costs of food and housing). That was a list of adverse childhood experiences that came from childtrends.org. If you know anyone that is currently in or has been in one of those situations research has proven that they are at high risk of using drugs or alcohol. We need everyone aware to understand that substance use is a problem in our youth today. Help make a change. Did you know that when an adult talks to a teenager regularly about the dangers of drugs and alcohol they lessen the chances of this child using drugs by 42%! However, only 25% of teens report on actually having these conversations.

I am wiring thing blog to inform you that everyone can help change the statistics to solutions and also inform you about a summit that is happening here in the metro area on May 12, 2016.Our Young Addicts along with Know the Truth, the prevention team for Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, have created a conference for social workers, drug and alcohol counselors, professional clinical counselors, nurses, educators, parents, law enforcement professionals and government officials. If you or someone you know is interested I encourage you to attend this FREE summit.In this summit the will be talking about early intervention, identifying needs long before a young person tries drugs, and about moving forward. The keynote speaker is Chris Bailey. Chris provides first-hand tools on how to deal with some of the biggest epidemics of mental health and addiction.   This is the first year this summit it taking place and as you can see we need more solutions because the statistics are alarming.

This topic is very close to my heart I have seen one of my best friends struggle with addiction. She started using marijuana in 9th grade and by her senior year she was addicted to heroin. Seeing my friend completely change because of her addiction to drugs is something so horrifying that I can’t even put it into words. I can remember sitting up all night worrying about her. Being in high school and not knowing how to help her I felt as a friend I wasn’t doing my job to help her get better. Over the years she did get help and is currently in recovery. I am glad to say that I am on the road to getting my friend back. Addiction is very scary and I know if we all work together we can help find more solutions for our youth. You can find more information about this summit by going to this link.(http://www.mntc.org/event/prevention-summit/)

 About the guest blogger:

Sheri Houston is a current student at Metropolitan State University. She will be getting her degree in public relations and plans to find a job within her major when she graduates. Sheri is a mother and realizes her daughter is already at risk for using drugs because of her family situation. Every day she talks about making positive choices and how everything in life is a choice. Sometimes you’re put in a bad situation but how you handle the situation is your choice. She encourages you to talk to your children and be the first voice that they hear about how substance use isn’t a great choice.

Parenting in Recovery

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Thank you to our guest blogger, Rose Lockinger, for another timely and insightful post. Addicted as a young person, she is now a parent in recovery offering an invaluable insider’s perspective. (Don’t you love her name?!)

I’m not sure if I was born an addict or not, but I can certainly look back on my childhood and see that I struggled with impulse control, self-discipline and acting out. I had a knack for spitting out whatever I thought not really thinking through if it was appropriate to say.  As I moved into adolescence, I discovered substances like food and drugs and alcohol.  Eventually I found help in treatment. and found out that life in recovery was possible.

Parenting In Recovery

Most parents worry about their children, and fears around drug and alcohol use are often near the top of the list. We all know that drug and alcohol use can cause a number of very serious issues for teens. For the recovering addict who is also a parent, this is something we are acutely aware of.

Knowing that addiction is often passed down from generation to generation thanks to a combination of genetics and environment doesn’t do much to help the fear.

I think that most recovering addicts understand how important it is to address substance abuse and addiction as early as possible. Many kids begin experimenting as early as elementary school. Not only that, but many of the signs of potential trouble can begin even earlier. What does this mean? Well, kids who abuse drugs are often kids who struggle with low self-esteem, who feel as though they don’t “fit in” and who have experienced trauma or turmoil in their lives. While any kid can develop a drug or alcohol problem, these kids are particularly vulnerable, especially if they have an addicted family member.  Early intervention and treatment is key this usually starts with a drug or alcohol detox program.

Talking To My Kids About Substances And Addiction

Many parents in recovery find that their worst fears are realized when their children go down the same path that they did. My own children are still young and this is not an imminent concern at the moment but I have taken steps to mitigate the potential for problems.

I’ve done my best to educate my children, to model good behavior for them, and to talk to them about substances and addiction when it is age appropriate.   My children are still young so I am careful to make it age appropriate. I talk to them regularly about strategies they can use when they are struggling with powerful emotions and situations. For me, the most important thing is to be sure to have honest, open dialog with my kids. They need to trust me, and I need to be willing to listen. Here are some of the ways that I address this issue in my home.

If you are a parent who struggles with bringing up drugs and alcohol, don’t feel bad! It can be an uncomfortable topic, and kids sometimes get irritated or “weird” when you bring stuff like this up. Even as a recovering addict I sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about it. Practice makes perfect though — this isn’t a talk you are only going to have once! It needs to be brought up and then brought up again. Your kids are likely at their most vulnerable from 10 to 21 years of age, so it warrants more than one or two conversations.

Real Education

Education is also important. “Just say no” isn’t good enough. Kids need to have a working knowledge of drugs, what they do to the body and brain, and how substance abuse can affect them. However, scare tactics are NOT the same as education. Kids know when you are just trying to shock them into steering clear of something. Respect their intelligence. Talk to them when age appropriate about drugs and alcohol, what they are and what they can do. Don’t blow things out of proportion for shock value. Don’t make blanket statements on things like “drugs are bad” and leave it at that. Why are drugs bad? It’s important to be specific.

I’m Honest With Them, And We Talk About The Hard Stuff

They know I am a recovering addict. I am honest and open with them. I also do my best to keep open lines of communication with them, so they can talk to me about anything without fear of judgment. I let them know that I went through some hard things. And no, I don’t tell them every little detail…it’s not necessary, but I also don’t sugar coat the truth. I omit information that I feel either isn’t necessary or would be harmful to them.

Fun is important for kids and grown-ups alike

I live a clean and sober lifestyle, and I have fun! This is part of setting an example. When I was growing up, l quickly learned to associate drinking with having fun. It’s how grown ups would unwind from a day at work, how birthdays and holidays were celebrated, it’s what you did when you went to sporting events and went camping. In other words, alcohol and getting drunk were how you had fun. When I got into recovery, I had no idea how I would ever have a good time without it. I truly believe that showing kids how adults have fun sober is an important way to lead by example.

What If They Become Addicted?

Finally, it’s important to realize that despite your best efforts, your children may still struggle with substance abuse and addiction. With that in mind, it’s helpful to have a plan of action so that you can be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Many parents don’t have a good understanding of addiction. Addiction isn’t a stage, a behavior problem, a moral or character problem or something that will just go away. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so educate yourself.  If anything as parents who have addiction in their past we can be grateful that we have a an awareness of a solution and have lived that example to our children.  They can see firsthand that recovery is possible and life changing by the example we set. Early intervention is key and treatment centers that specialize in youth are available. In the end as parents you cannot control the path your child may or may not take, what you can do is support and love them to the best of your ability through whatever pain they face.

About This Week’s Guest Blogger

Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find Rose Lockinger on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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A Dad’s Perspective on the Impact of Addiction

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

(Note – this was our first guest blog post in June 2015, but it’s worth reposting!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

I Thought I Was Different, I was Unique

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Guest blogger, Rose Landes, joins us again with another inspiring and insightful blog post. This week, she explores the self perception of feeling different, lonely – especially as a young person struggling with addiction and how that changed to a feeling of belonging through the recovery community. Now a parent, this mom has a unique vantage point on addiction and recovery and the importance of feeling like you belong.

Tree in Water - Rose L - Unique

For so long I felt so alone. I honestly believed no one understood me, even with my family I felt like the black sheep. Initially I attributed this to the fact that I had grown up overseas. It would have been true if my brothers had experienced the same struggles I did. But when I looked at that them, it seemed, they received an instruction manual for life that I did not get.

I always felt different like, I didn’t belong. It wasn’t until I made it to a 12-step meeting that I realized that was feeling was shared by many. I finally felt a sense of belonging.

During my time in active addiction I was consumed by feelings of loneliness, anger, fear, shame, guilt, and helplessness. I always felt like no one understood what I was going through. No one felt the same way I did. And I used this to isolate myself and justify continuing to use. What I was unable to see at that time is, my loved ones knew exactly what I was feeling as they shared similar emotions themselves. Although the circumstances were different the feelings were the same.

Inside I felt consumed by anger at myself and the world in general. I wanted to make intelligent choices and not hurt myself and those I loved, but as my addiction grew, my choices grew poorer and poorer.

I felt like my parents could not possibly know the level of anger, frustration and guilt that I felt. They tried to talk to me, but it always ended up a yelling match. We had nothing in common, and communicating with them was impossible.

Usually when they caught me and I would defend myself by denying it, then scream at them saying they just didn’t understand. My parents felt anger too at a disease that was slowly killing their child and there was nothing they could do about it.

My parents were concerned about me. They told me that they were worried that my current choices were dangerous and would lead to me getting hurt or worse. I responded with anger. I reacted to the fear that deep inside, I knew, I was headed for something terrible.

Looking back I used the anger I felt to hide the fear that consumed me on a regular basis. Anger was so much easier to access and feel. I didn’t know what to do with fear. I see know that my parents were just as fearful as I was. Though the fears themselves were different the emotions were the same.

I continued down my path of self-destruction while those around me watched, helpless to stop me. As helpless as I felt in the face of my addiction, My parents experienced that exact same way. They were powerless to stop me, no matter how many therapists they took me too or drug detox centers they took me too.

All they could do was hope for the best, that one day I would have enough and stop. That I wouldn’t end up dead or in jail. Although I’m sure that they wished for that sometimes. I was so self absorbed that I could not even see that others actually felt the same emotions I did. That my parents shared a lot of similar responses to what this disease was doing to the whole family.

For years I was consumed by shame and guilt from trauma and my addiction. I thought I was alone in that, that no one could relate to me.. Reflecting in recovery from a different perspective I see that my parents and loved one’s felt the same way. They knew what it was to feel guilty I’m sure they asked themselves what they had done wrong.

As a parent, now, I can understand what it must have been like. I know that they felt shame because let’s be honest it’s not something that you will share with others the negative stigma is still so strong. On Facebook I saw a Meme that said it perfectly; There was a picture of an empty dining room table and underneath it said “All the casseroles friends brought when they found out my son was an addict.”

What I couldn’t see in the past is all that shame and guilt I went through in addiction. My parents carried the same stigma and shame initially, no one want’s to talk about it. Thanks to raising of awareness and the rampant spread of the opiate epidemic few families are left untouched.

You want to blame yourself when it’s not really anyone’s fault. I have learned that we all do the best we can with what we have. In the rooms of the 12-step programs I have heard too many stories of children from happy healthy homes who ended up the same place I did. It wasn’t only the trauma that brought me to this place in my life. I had a large genetic component that contributed as well, both of my grandfathers were alcoholics and I have cousins who struggle as well.

As I learned to communicate with my family and loved ones better. With continued sobriety and a clearer head I saw that the reality was I pushed the people I love away.   They tried to reach me in so many different ways I did not want to hear them. The denial was so strong that I shut them out.

I had convinced myself I not like them, I was different. In the end though, I finally came to the conclusion that all of us struggle with painful feelings. We all carry some guilt and shame, as well as anger and frustration. I realized that I was not as unique as I thought.

About Rose Landes

Rose Landes is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

 You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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Amends: The Hardest One, Was To Myself

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This week’s guest blogger, Rose Landes, writes about the importance of making amends. For parents and for their loved ones in recovery, there is a point when each has to make amends to oneself. It’s not easy, but it is an incredible turning point on this journey from addiction to recovery.

As strange as it may sound, I looked forward to Step 9. In a 12-step program this is the step where you attempt to clean your side of the street and accept responsibility for the harm you’ve caused. Amends provide the bridge to help rebuild relationships. Typically people are not fond of this step.

For an addict, the word “sorry” has been an empty promise that we have made too many times. Even though we truly mean it, in that moment, we are unable to keep our word in the face of addiction.

When I sat down with my 12-step sponsor, I was nervous and unsure of myself, questioning if I had done it right ie-(perfectionist)– shocker right!   My sponsor has reminded me over and over, there is no perfect way to do the steps. As I went over my list I felt relief as I could finally let go and move forward from my past. I was making things right.

When I got through my list my sponsor paused, looking at me she said “Do you think you forgot someone?”

What? I panicked I had wracked my brain writing this list, who could I have missed?

She looked at me waiting, and it dawned on me. Who did I hate the most? Who did I punish on a regular basis?

Me—I was filled with self loathing and disgust after years of self destructive behavior. I really did owe an amends to myself.

What was stopping me? Well, the reality is, I was not ready to forgive myself.

An Amends To Myself

Before I even went to treatment, I realized that how I felt, thought, and treated myself usually mirrored how I interacted with those around me. What I mean is that how I treated myself, was how I treated anyone who was in my life.

I had to forgive myself to complete this step.

My sponsor encouraged me to write this amends. I spent a couple of days coming up with excuses why this was not needed in my case. Imagine that, me, thinking I was unique. I’m not an alcoholic, right? I still wanted to punish myself, as if somehow, this would make up for all the pain I had created in the lives of those I loved.

I worked my way through my amends list starting with my family, children and close friends. As I repaired the wreckage in my past I began to feel this sense of peace that I really can’t explain. Other than to say I had a glimpse of what serenity is. My family has encouraged me to continue doing what I am doing. They just want to see me happy. To be a functioning member of society that can contribute to life and not take everything for granted. They all just wanted to see me reach the potential I had wasted for so long. As for my children they just want to see me happy and present.

Their reactions helped me see my value as a person. If they could accept my apology why couldn’t I accept one to myself? And so I began the process of forgiving myself. I say process because it is an ongoing everyday thing. I have to learn a new way of thinking about myself.

Then It Clicked!

I wrote my list: Painful is putting it lightly. It hurt to see on paper the damage I intentionally did to myself. No wonder I hurt those around me. I had no idea how to love myself. I spent years doing things to make sure that I was unlovable and that I lived up to the lies I told myself. In the end, the list gave me an idea of what I needed to work on. I had to make a commitment to myself to not repeat them.

That is the most important part. We are saying that moving forward you will make an effort to change and not repeat your mistakes.

Obviously I don’t always follow through or make the right choice. That’s ok and this is where the cheesy slogans of my 12-step program help me see that what it’s really about. Progress and not perfection.

Once I did this, I had a new awareness of how I treated myself on a daily basis. My sponsor asked me if the way I treated myself was how I would treat a best friend. I really heard that, and it did make a difference.

Why An Amends To Myself Was The Most Important

Making that amends began to change the way I saw and treated myself. When you are treating yourself with respect, you tend to treat others with respect, as well. With this newfound respect for myself. I was now, able to do all those “self” affirmations they teach you in treatment. What followed was beautiful, I no longer was a “taker” in life. Instead I began to see the reward of being a “giver”. The most important effect it had, was I finally set boundaries with myself and others. No longer did I have to tolerate others treating me badly. Without guilt I could be assertive and protect myself.

Making An Amends To Yourself

Do you owe yourself an amends? I think that is an important question you should ask yourself. From my experience if you are struggling with self destructive behaviour, then maybe you should consider this. For me this was a life changing decision. I have a taste of what it means to be content with life and yourself.

Think about how you treat yourself, or how you have treated yourself in the past. Make a living amends by being kind to yourself, and see the difference it makes in your life.

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Rose Landes is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

Find Rose Landes on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: A Foundation for the Future by Bill Rummler

This week’s guest blogger is Bill Rummler from the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation. In this poignant blog post, he share’s his son’s story of pain, addiction and death, and the efforts of the Foundation to prevent future opioid-overdose deaths.

Lexi Reed Holtum, vice president of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, with high school sweetheart and fiance Steve Rummer, September 2010
Lexi Reed Holtum, vice president of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, with high school sweetheart and fiance Steve Rummer, September 2010

Our son Steve Rummler was one of the more than 16,000 people who died from prescription drug overdoses in 2011. He died on July 1 of that year at the age of 43 and we miss him more than you can ever know.

Steve was a very intelligent and highly talented person. He was a deans list college student. He was a competitive athlete, an all-conference soccer player and division-one college prospect. He was a gifted piano, guitar and drum player who wrote many beautiful songs. He was an astute businessman and a top financial advisor in the Twin Cities.

All who knew Steve respected and loved him. He was very caring, loved being with people and was engaged to be married to Lexi, his high school sweetheart. He was in many ways the all around success story that every parent hopes their child will become. He was living the American dream and we were very proud of him.

In 1996, at the age of 28, Steve suffered a severe injury to his spine, which began his tragic story. He sought medical advice from the top doctors in Minnesota and they were never able to find what caused the shock like symptoms that surged up and down his spine every single day. The pain was especially severe at night and he suffered from lack of sleep for the rest of his life. Steve continued to work hard and play music and sports. He even ran a marathon in under four hours. He was able to be quite active during the day, but the nights were intolerable.

The pain and lack of a medical diagnosis caused Steve to become depressed. So, he was prescribed anti-depressants, which were supposed to help his depression and his pain.

He soon began to like the idea of getting help from a pill. This was a major fork in the road of his life. He had chosen pills, rather than other healthier alternatives.

The pain continued and he was then prescribed anti-anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines.

Finally, in 2005, when Steve was 37 years old, he was prescribed opioids by our family doctor. This doctor was well intentioned, but unaware of the potential side effects of these highly addictive pills.

The FDA was calling them safe and effective for treatment of long-term pain. And the pill manufacturers were making huge profits as a result.

This was the beginning of Steve’s end of life struggle. He soon began to show many of the signs of addiction, which included taking more pills than were prescribed to him in order to maintain his high and seemingly “treat” his pain. He had become totally convinced that these heroin-like pills were the only way to solve his pain problem. After he died we found a note in his handwriting: “at first it was a lifeline, now it is a noose around my neck”.

Addiction is a disease of the brain, the most valuable asset we have for dealing with life’s challenges. But, when something adversely affects our brain, it can severely limit our ability to make good choices. Taking a narcotic did not eliminate the cause of Steve’s pain; it simply made him less aware of it. His brain became numb to the pain just as it became numb to most things that matter in life.

We sadly saw this begin to unfold with Steve. Not long after he began taking opioids, we began to notice serious side effects. He lost his enthusiasm for most things in life. He often seemed out of it and would sometimes slur his words. He became less sharp in business and began losing clients. He became more irritable and blamed others for his problems. He stopped paying his taxes on time and was less punctual. He spent most his waking hours sedentary on the couch, stayed up late, slept in late and rarely exercised. He was often sick and would go for days without returning our phone calls. Always honest, he began to lie.  And the pain was still there and likely even worse. So he wanted more opioids. Steve was very sick with an addiction to the very pills that were supposed to help him.

We could see this tragic scenario unfolding, but were powerless to help. Steve had to help himself.

But the drugs numbed his brain and made him unable to do so. We begged and pleaded with him to try any alternative for help with his pain. It was heart wrenching for us.

We thought we had been good parents and now all was unraveling before our very eyes.

It is difficult for anyone to take a single opioid pill without it having some effect on that person’s mind. These drugs are basically a form of heroin that can produce a high that is very difficult to resist. Steve used prescription opioids for over five years, in ever increasing amounts.  In reality, he likely became addicted to them within the first few months.

While opioids are very risky and can lead to death when used to treat chronic pain, they do have a benefit for acute and end of life pain.

In 1995 my sister Peggy was dying from pancreatic cancer and in great pain. Her morphine pump worked wonders for her. She was in a constant state of euphoria from the drugs, but her pain was tolerable until the end. Sadly, Steve became addicted to those very drugs that were so helpful to his Aunt Peggy. For him, with chronic pain, it was a death sentence.

The tragedy of Steve’s untimely death and our resulting grief, have motivated us to work very hard to prevent others from suffering as he did.

The Steve Rummler Hope Foundation (SRHF) was born out of Steve’s death. Its mission is “to heighten awareness of the dilemma of chronic pain and the disease of addiction and to improve the associated care process”. Through its Overdose Prevention and Prescriber Education programs, and through its Advocacy efforts, SRHF saves lives, educates healthcare professionals, and engages the public as well as public-policy-makers in addressing the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. (Opioids include narcotic painkillers and heroin). This public health crisis has been labeled an “epidemic” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is much that needs to be done to help pain patients avoid the risks of addiction and bring this epidemic under control. Our emphasis has been to focus first on the areas in which we can have the greatest immediate impact: stopping overdose deaths and educating physicians about the responsible prescribing of opioids.

At its inception in 2011, SRHF founders explored the nonprofit environment for organizations focused on providing hope for those with chronic pain and addiction. They found that there was a need for this focus and were encouraged to fill the gap. To date, this uniqueness has led to many opportunities for success and many demands from the community for us to do more.

We encourage you to get to know more about the SRHF. Please visit our website at:

http://www.steverummlerhopefoundation.org/

Here you can learn about Steve’s Law, a Minnesota good-Samaritan and Naloxone law, named for our son Steve. The implementation of this law (similar laws are in effect in many other states) has already saved, and will continue to save, many lives. Our website has a wealth of other information, too.

Please consider making a donation to help us continue our life saving work. Anything you can give will be very much appreciated.

Finally, we encourage you to tell others about us and join us in our effort to change and save lives.

Thank you for your interest.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your story with the #OYACommunity. We are grateful for your efforts and accomplishment on behalf of families and friends who are concerned about substance use and addiction.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved