Recovery During College

 

Coming to St. Cloud State University was a little nerve racking, says Guest Blogger Thaddeus Rybka in part two of his story.

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I’d be leaving the Twin Cities where I had made a home the last two years, and was nervous about what others were telling me about SCSU’s “party school” reputation. Would I be able to make this program a success in what I perceived to be a hostile environment? Little did I know of all the great work that was being done at SCSU to address the high-risk drinking culture that existed in the past, the measurable changes that occurred, and the incredible administrative support for the new collegiate recovery program. Needless to say, my fears of SCSU were lifted immediately once I arrived on campus and was welcomed into the Husky community.

I quickly connected with the campus. It has a true college feel to it; large but accessible with the mighty Mississippi right next door. I discovered an appreciation for the outdoors especially with the abundance of water nearby. I realized that being by water, especially with a fishing rod in my hand, is where I find my serenity.

Having that accessibility to recharge and meditate really strengthened my recovery and in turn allowed me to do my best work.

We began our collegiate recovery community (CRC) the fall of 2012 with one student.

That first year was unique because here we were, two guys spreading the message that recovery works and fun can be accomplished without the use of substances; challenging the national college drinking subculture glorified by the media. I vividly remember promoting our community in the Atwood Memorial Center (main hub of campus) and initially getting odd looks, but after a while, students began to approach us asking about our community.

The stigma associated with recovery prohibits a lot of us from embracing our identity and seeking out others for support. Our exposure on campus allowed students to come forward and be comfortable sharing their story. “You really have a community for students in recovery?! I thought I was the only one!”

That’s where S.T.A.R.S. was born.

Students Taking Action in Recovery and Service (S.T.A.R.S.) is a student organization I helped create not only for students in our residential-based CRC, but for anyone who wanted to find purpose in their recovery. Not only did I see students in recovery from chemical dependency want to get involved, but also those with mental health challenges, eating disorders, PTSD, sex addiction, as well as supportive allies.

They wanted to be part of a healthy group of students who were working on bettering themselves and overcoming their previous challenges. S.T.A.R.S. offers opportunities to get involved with service work, advocacy initiatives, and fun social events.

Every week we bring an AA meeting to an adolescent treatment center in town and share our experience, strength, and hope with them. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting out in the community and giving back. Service work is crucial! By giving back to those new to recovery we are actually enhancing our own recovery.

Over the past 5 years, we’ve established a campus AA meeting, NA meeting, SMART Recovery meeting, and the first Crystal Meth Anonymous meeting in St. Cloud (started by one of our former CRC students). Also, the St. Cloud Alano Club and its 30 meetings-a-week is right across the river. We are very blessed to have accessible support group options for our students.

After our first year, our CRC started to blossom.

Slowly, our community has started to grow. The next year, we welcomed 8 more students and the next year we welcomed more and so on. Our CRC is located on campus in Coborn Plaza Apartments, where students enjoy fully furnished 4-person apartments with a private bedroom, walk-in closet, and private bathroom.

What’s really neat is that students don’t have to pay extra for the additional support services we provide; in fact, CRC students receive a scholarship of $1,000 each semester if they continue to meet program requirements which include being a full-time student, attending weekly individual and group support meetings, and remaining abstinent from alcohol and other drugs.

We acknowledge our students are busy balancing their recovery with school and work life, so a scholarship is meant to help them out financially.

Our CRC is unique. We offer multiple pathways to a degree by admitting students from either St. Cloud State University or St. Cloud Technical and Community College (SCTCC). So, whether you want to pursue one of the 200+ majors SCSU offers, complete your generals at SCTCC then transfer to SCSU, or pursue a certificate or trade at SCTCC, we have you covered and you can live in our community.

To qualify, prospective students must be accepted into SCSU or SCTCC. The students must then complete our application with references and treatment records, if applicable. After the application is processed, each student is interviewed to assess his or her commitment to sobriety and readiness for academic work in a Recovery Community setting.

When students move in, they are immediately connected to a peer and campus support system designed to help them succeed in their recovery and in their academics. By having a balanced routine and staying busy, our students are able to create positive new habits resulting in better academic performance and strong recovery. In fact, our students achieve a higher GPA than the overall student body, and are more involved with campus life.

If you’re not having fun in recovery, then what’s the point?

Part of that balanced routine is to take a break and have fun! As Coordinator, I facilitate social events and advocacy initiatives for our students to participate in.

For example, every month we co-host a recovery celebration called Recovery Rocks! with students from the Rehabilitation and Addiction Counseling (RAC) program.

The event features live music, milestone recognition, food and sober fun. We designed the event so we can bring the community together to support those in or seeking recovery while encouraging help seeking and reducing stigma.

We go fishing, snow tubing, bowling, and to the movies. Our students also have potluck dinners and simply enjoy hanging out with each other. They ask each other for help, celebrate accomplishments, and hold each other accountable. My goal is for them to have the same college experience as anyone else, just without the use of substances. Maybe sometimes we have too much fun. I’ll give you an example. We started on the 4th floor of Coborn Plaza Apartments and were moved down to the 3rd floor because students below us were complaining we were too loud. The next year, we were moved down to the second floor because below us were offices.

Today, we are a leader in the collegiate recovery movement.

When we started our collegiate recovery community in 2012 there were roughly 40 CRCs in the country. Today, that number exceeds 150. We are honored to have had various institutions visit us to gain insight on how we run our community. Whether it’s a residential-based program or a drop-in center, I strongly believe a CRC should be on every college campus.

According to SAMHSA’S 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15.3% of 18-25 years olds meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.

That is an alarming number and shows the need for resources available on college campuses for this at-risk population. Everyone should be given the opportunity to pursue a higher education!

My time at St. Cloud State as a graduate assistant and now as its Coordinator has been special, to say the least. To have helped lay the foundation for a program that has helped so many students in recovery pursue a college degree has been truly priceless.

Heck, I never thought I’d see the age of 28, but here I am with a master’s degree, my parent’s trust back, genuine friends, and a job that allows me to help others and spread the message that recovery works. It doesn’t get much better than that!

For more information about the Recovery Community visit:

http://www.stcloudstate.edu/reslife/recovery.aspx

Like the Recovery Community on Facebook: https://facebook.com/scsurecovery

Follow SCSU Recovery Community on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SCSU_Recovery

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.

From College Drop-Out to Graduate: The Gift of Collegiate Recovery Communities

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When your kid is using drugs, it may seem like sobriety – let alone college -is impossible. Today’s guest blogger, Teddy Rybka is proof that it’s possible. He’s a young person in long-term recovery and the program director of a popular, growing collegiate recovery community. Enjoy his post. MWM.

I was introduced to recovery at a young age, 18 years old to be exact. I had been an active user since 15 and the summer after high school graduation I decided to reach out for help. Two days later I found myself in inpatient treatment. I immediately regretted fessing up to my parents that I was chemically addicted as it meant I had to miss my first semester of college. What a bummer. I was all set to study business management and play upright bass for the college’s jazz ensemble, and here I was in a facility with other young junkies.

After inpatient treatment and a subsequent outpatient program, I found myself on a college campus. I was so excited about school. Finally, no more living at home with my nagging parents! I remember vividly standing outside my residence hall after my parents dropped me off and screaming at the top of my lungs, FREEDOM!

I was serious about staying clean and sober.

Well, sort of. The clean part, yes, but not the sober part. I could admit drugs were a problem, but I had a hard time grasping being powerless over the alcohol bit. How could I really be an alcoholic? I wasn’t even legal to drink nor had I ever had a drink in a bar. I figured I could control my alcohol use on my own and drink socially. How hard could it be? Little did I know the effort I needed to put into recovery, the support needed, and how recovery was an all or nothing deal. Within a week I started drinking almost every day again and a week after that I was back on my drug of choice. It was so sudden. Within a month of “partying” (in my case isolated drinking and drugging), I knew I needed to give it all up in order to survive in college.

I tried to stay clean AND sober. I realized that drinking led to my drug use and once I picked up that drink there was no telling when I would stop. I sought out help. However, the university I was attending had no support for students in recovery. The counseling support didn’t have any resources besides area AA meetings filled with old people I couldn’t relate to. I tried outpatient treatment again and also hooked up with a therapist who ended up telling my parents that I was a lost cause because of my continuous relapses and excuses based on endless lies.

I managed to complete 3 semesters of college. I got passing grades, but I was a wreck physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I knew I couldn’t go on so I dropped out, and for three years I bounced in and out of treatment centers. I put my parents through the merry-go-round of deceit, lost a lot of friends, and destroyed my self-esteem and motivation.

I never thought college would be possible.

Despite my out-of-control behavior I knew deep down inside that I was better than this; a testament to my parents and their unconditional love and support. A college degree was my dream, but my previous attempt had traumatized me. I thought the temptations around me would be too strong to overcome. How could I find friends who were also clean and sober? How could I have fun? These thoughts almost destroyed any hope of becoming a college graduate.

While at an inpatient treatment center in Minnesota in the fall of 2009, I learned about Augsburg College’s collegiate recovery community called StepUP from a couple of students who came in to share their testimony. A comprehensive program on campus where students in recovery can receive an education while enjoying college life clean and sober?! I was so overwhelmed with hope that I knew right then and there that was where I needed to go to obtain my college degree.

I was sent to California after treatment for after-care which was a great experience. My sober living roommate was a celebrity, we went to meetings in Hollywood, and for the first time I really started to have fun in recovery. Everything was going great until my best friend, and using buddy, was sent to the same place where I was for aftercare. Bad idea.

Within a week of being together we had relapsed and were kicked out of our sober living home. His parents took him back home, but mine would not. To this day my parents say this was the hardest thing they have ever had to do; to stop enabling me and let me go 2,000 miles away from home. I found myself with three options: homeless shelter, the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), or suicide. I chose the Salvation ARC, but soon after getting admitted I contemplated suicide. Here I was, going through withdrawal, the youngest in a facility of 110 men – the majority facing 10+ years of prison time, and stuck working 9 hours a day in a rat-infested warehouse.

That was my rock bottom; but instead of jumping to my death I got on my knees and prayed. I had an overwhelming sense of relief and calmness come over me. I had a spiritual awakening, surrendered to my disease, and have been clean and sober ever since.

I ended up hand writing my application while in the Salvation Army and was accepted to Augsburg College and the StepUP Program. I had never stepped foot on campus, but I knew that’s where I needed to go. I needed 6 months of sobriety so I really immersed myself into my recovery. I went to 4 support group meetings a week, and worked the 12 steps with a sponsor. I really had a goal which made it easier getting through the initial few months of sobriety. I went back to school in the fall of 2010 and immediately hit the ground running.

People in recovery are the most perseverant people in this world.

I am a testament that if you put just 50% of the energy you put into getting your drink or drug into something healthy and positive you can achieve anything. For example, I decided I wanted to get into shape and play the sport I love most again, a sport taken away from me from my addiction. I accomplished that and played baseball collegiately. I wanted to take on a leadership role and become a Residence Assistant and mentor for a group of students in recovery. I got the position and thrived. I wanted to graduate magna cum laude and I needed to get straight A’s my senior year. Success.

Before graduating with my degree in Marketing, I heard that St. Cloud State University was starting a collegiate recovery community and needed a graduate student with residential life experience helping students in recovery. What an opportunity! I could use my experience mentoring students in recovery while the university paid for my master’s degree. I got the position. Little did I know those would be the 3 best years of my life.

To be continued…

About our Guest Blogger:

Thaddeus “Teddy” Rybka has been a person in long-term recovery since February 2, 2010. Hailing from the Chicagoland suburbs, he has lived in Minnesota now for six years. He currently is the Program Coordinator for the Recovery Community at St. Cloud State University. In his free time, Thaddeus enjoys fishing, listening to music, exercising, and spreading the message that recovery works.

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

Crushing the Myths About Drug Rehab

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Anybody who has been to drug rehab will tell you that it wasn’t a planned vacation. There are many ways to end up in rehab, but I guarantee nobody has said “when I grow up I want to take a 30 day trip to California for drug rehab.” Although, some drug/alcohol rehabilitation centers are very much like a vacation rehab a time for recovering. How to help a drug addict with addiction starts with rehab, but drug treatment facilities have a lot of negative stigma behind them, and most are untrue. From a personal perspective of being inside the closed doors of rehab, I am going to explain some of the common myths and truths behind rehab.

Rehab is a Punishment

This is one of those 50/50 scenarios depending on how you look at it. In my case, it was both a punishment and a reward. When I was younger, I was forced into outpatient rehab programs. My parents had a strict rule on substance abuse like many typical parents of teens, yet I never obeyed the rules. If I got caught under the influence, my parents would often threaten rehab and even send me to outpatient programs from time to time. At that moment in my life, it was a punishment. Whenever I got caught with drugs or alcohol it was instantly a trip to a treatment center. But I always relapsed.

However, I reached a point in my addiction when drugs and alcohol completely ruled my world.

Getting high was the only thing on my mind and I would virtually do anything to get my fix. While using, I surrounded myself around bad people, I was constantly in fear of my surroundings and I couldn’t stop getting high.

I was a danger to myself and everyone around me, I needed to be in a safe place. I finally made the decision to take recovery seriously.

It took some time but I finally reached a point of pure surrender. It was at the darkest moment of my life when I finally admitted myself to rehab, but completing recovery treatment  was the most rewarding feeling I have ever experienced. I was finally in a place where I was safe.

You NEED to Hit Rock Bottom

The term “rock bottom” is merely a figurative speech.

In my opinion, hitting “bottom” is when you decide to stop digging.

The addict or alcoholic’s true bottom is a casket. During my using times, there were plenty of times where I thought I hit “bottom,” however, I kept using.

An  alcoholic can often slide by without any serious consequences, then suddenly get smacked with a DUI. That instance may be enough for that person to get sober. On the other hand there are those who can take way more of a beating. For example, five DUIs, suspended licenses for multiple years, maybe a divorce and thousands of dollars in debt from drinking, may seem like a bottom to you, but that person might still not be ready for treatment.

This myth about an alcoholic and addict needing to hit a bottom is simply a myth. If someone has experienced enough pain and suffering from this disease then treatment, followed by, recovery is then possible. If you are waiting to hit your bottom before entering drug rehab you might as well begin digging your own grave.

Treatment for Drug Addiction Should be a One Stop Shop

I can attest to falsely believing this claim. How many times have we heard an addict or alcoholic say, I’ve been to rehab and it didn’t work? For many people, rehab doesn’t keep someone sober past those first crucial30 days. But usually, this first trip to treatment plants a seed. A seed that shifts the concept of getting high and drinking alcohol, in addition to informing that person that sobriety is possible.

There was nothing worse than getting high after rehab knowing that I shouldn’t be getting high. I was in rehab seven times before I was 20 years old. After completing treatment each time, I learned something knew and after every relapse I wish the relapse never happened.

Rehab is a wonderful place if you take it seriously. My two final rehab stays changed my life.

I was ready to learn the concepts of recovery and willing to apply them to my life. After a while, it became second nature to me. Staying sober was possible.

About Today’s Guest Blogger:

Benny Emerling got sober at age 19 and has written about his journey to recovery: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/2016/11/03/what-it-was-like-then-and-what-its-like-now/

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.

5 Reasons This Young Person Decided to Stop Drinking Completely

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 The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb

Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese proverb

Having just written that title, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have called this article “5 Reasons I HAD To Stop Drinking Completely” instead. Maybe that would be more accurate considering the fact that my life at that point simply wasn’t worth living; not to me anyway. However, when it all comes down to it, it was my decision, whatever the reasoning.  I was 14 years old when I first tasted alcohol. I was sitting in the local park with some guys from school, they were drinking either whatever one of them had stolen from their parents’ drinks cabinet or just simply stole from a store. Someone passed me a bottle of bourbon and they rest, as they say, is history.

I was kind of average at school – medium popularity, medium looks, medium grades, medium everything. After that night, they guys I sat with treated me differently – in class, on the basketball court, outside of school. It was like I had been accepted into some secret fraternal gang only the popular kids were part of. It made me feel cool to be like them. It sounds so sad now, but it’s how I felt. It wasn’t long before I was the one stealing alcohol from my parents or the local store.

That was 14 years ago. I’m 28 now and I have been sober for just over 4 years. Basically, I flunked school, ended up in a dead-end job (which I lost pretty quickly) and got married at 18. We were together less time than I have now been sober. My drinking became so out of control so quickly that nobody knew what to do with me. More so, I didn’t know what to do with me. I was in an inescapable hell. I thought that for years and years. But I was wrong. This article isn’t about my recovery, how I ended up in rehab or what it’s like living my life as a sober. It’s why I decided (or had) to stop drinking completely. It all boiled down to the following 5 reasons, which I’d like to share:

#1. Family

From the age of about 16, my family (my parents and my 2 sisters) started to distance themselves from me. I can see that now. Failure at school, constant arguments about where I was going, where I was getting my money from, and the smell of booze at the dinner table. A year later, having had enough and maybe the pressure of self-guilt forced my Dad to kick me out of the house. I lived in the garden for a while, believe it or not, in a tree house he had built for us years before. Soon after, I was crashing in the shabby apartments of other drunks. I didn’t see my family for years. We talk now that I’m sober but I can hear the strain in their voices. They’ve never invited me to stay over, but I do visit during the day sometimes. And we talk.

#2. Friends

Did those guys back in the park stay my friends? Nope, of course not. I was disowned by them just like I was eventually disowned by my family. Any other friends I had soon went the same way. A drunk with no-one to talk at but himself is an even sadder drunk. My inescapable hell.

#3. Relationships

Like I said before, in all the craziness with my obvious alcohol addiction, I got married. What was she thinking? In all the years of my drinking, I never could keep a relationship. Second dates were rarer than free drinks at my local bar… Still, we met, I thought I was in love and we tied the knot. Her parents weren’t impressed and mine didn’t even come to the wedding. My verbal abuse, my moods, my sullenness, and my constant drinking saw her walk out the door about a year and a half later; she tried her best to help me, she was patient and helpful, but I was in no place to be helped.

#4. Health

Alcohol will kill you in time. Its accompanying medical issues will see you in your grave. In all honesty, even though I felt like it many times, I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to wake up different each day but I never did. Withdrawal in rehab was just about bearable – in fact, it was nothing I hadn’t done before as a drunk. Vomiting, shaking, screaming, crying.

#5. Sadness

I have included this because this was simply how I felt every single day of my drinking years. Terrible, terrible sadness. Some may call it self-pity or even depression, but for me it was just plain sadness, all part of my inescapable hell.

Young & Sober

So, that’s why. I have written stuff like this before – in my diaries, my journals, and other notebooks. Writing is part of my new, sober life and my ongoing recovery. Writing I can control and is definitely at the opposite end of the spectrum to my alcohol addiction. Just over 4 years sober and so many things that happened before have come more into my perspective and my understanding. I’m 28 but I often feel like I’ve lived the life of someone far older. So these were (and still are) the 5 reasons I decided to stop drinking completely: family, friends, relationships, health and sadness. If you have decided to quit your drinking for good, what was your main motivation for doing so? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

From one of my favorite songs – “Go easy, step lightly, stay free.”

About Our Guest Blogger:

carl-t-guest-bloggerI’m Carl Towns, a 28-year-old wanna-be writer; I am also a recovering addict in the path of self-discovery. My goal is to learn as many things as possible and to seize every single moment I live, pretty much trying to make up for all that I missed on the years I was lost in drugs and alcohol (among other things). I’m in love with tech, cars and pretty much anything that can be found online.

 

 

 

 

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

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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The first time I ever got drunk was when I was 9 years old from an anise-flavoured drink we call Aguardiente. I come from a Colombian-born family who immigrated to Southern California and naturally, Colombian’s like to party. I was a curious kid and I loved how it made me feel but things escalated. At age 14 I smoked marijuana, at the age of 19 I tried meth and at the age of 23, I ended up arrested in Idaho on drug charges and was given a two-year sentence. I came from a loving family, my parents worked hard to provide for my siblings and I. So when I entered rehab and came out, these are 4 important lifestyle changes that turned my life around to help me stay sober:

I changed my sleeping pattern

Having a healthy sleep pattern helped a big deal to have a much better life. Our bodies require an average of 8 hours of sleep a day and depriving it of this amount can lead to severe consequences in the future. Heart problems and focus problems are some of the many effects that sleeping less than what’s recommended can bring to us.

By having a good sleeping pattern I was able to better concentrate on my daily tasks and my work. I was more focused on my priorities and this allowed me to improve my performance at my job and my own personal life. It also made me feel healthier, awake, motivated and eager to take up on new challenges.

I changed my diet/exercised regularly

Adopting a healthy new lifestyle is what changes your attitude towards life. Eating better and exercising were 2 of the main things that improved everything about me making a huge difference on my everyday. By starting a healthier diet I felt energized and was able to have a much more balanced life-rhythm. Healthier food meant better moods and overall better acceptance of the person I was turning into. Exercise helped me to feel fit, work on my self-esteem and gain more respect towards my mind and my body. Working out has a unique effect on how we perceive life itself. We become more positive and happier, this is due to the fact that by embracing a daily routine, our brains release the same chemicals as when we’re happy or in love, making us feel a lot better about ourselves.

I learned what gratitude was

When I was using, I was self-centered and blamed everyone around me for my problems. Reliving and dwelling on my past was counterproductive but focusing on a new healthier life was what helped me become sober. Becoming grateful for my friends, family, job, lifestyle and all around what is “good” in my life helped me stay on track with my sobriety!

I found new hobbies

By discovering new interests that were both healthy and productive, I got to work on my life as a big project built on milestones that I myself have set. Finding new hobbies meant using my free time in much better and more productive ways.It also allowed me to get passionate about new things and in the same way, learn new things that I’ve found very useful at some points in my life. Growing a passionate interest in an activity allowed me to see that I am capable of things I didn’t think I was, it also taught me that with motivation and dedication I can produce amazing results that made me be proud of what I did and also made me feel happy and useful.

When recovering from addictions, finding out how to properly invest your free time is perhaps one of the most relevant aspects to progress into a new healthy-sober-and-happy life. When combined with a healthy lifestyle that includes a good sleeping pattern and a workout routine, you start immediately feeling a lot better about yourself. Adopting new hobbies allows you to see progress in small projects that you consider important and entertaining. When you invest your time wisely, your priorities fall into place and relapse opportunities and temptations become scarce within time.

If you have any questions or would like to suggest any other lifestyle changes that you consider important to a better life please let us know in the comments below.

About Our Guest Blogger:

andy Hi, I am Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I have been clean for 9 years now! I spend my time helping others with their recovery and growing my online business.

 

 

 

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.

What it Was Like Then, and What It’s Like Now

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Today’s guest blogger, Benny Emerling, got sober at 19. It’s valuable for parents and professionals to have this perspective in mind when working with young people. MWM

As a young kid I always felt like everyone around me was given a golden textbook on life. Mine must have gotten lost in the mail. I was different, but not an outcast, in fact. quite the opposite. I had many friends, a loving family and a decently smart head on my shoulders. However, my idea of fun was different from most of my peers. Misbehaving, stealing and bullying were some of my favorite activities. I was always a happy jokester and had a smile on my face the majority of the time.

Having three older sisters and a younger brother, it was easy to slip through the cracks and get away with murder. In middle school, my behavior got worse and worse. I grew up in a primarily Jewish area, so when I was in seventh grade every weekend we had a bar or bat mitzvah party to go to. Virtually, every weekend there was a different elaborate party to go to. After a couple, I noticed the adults at the parties drinking. Curiosity grew inside me, it looked awesome. It was not long before I tried drinking.

I was 13, one of my friends at the time made me a delicious alcoholic beverage. By delicious, I mean repulsive, it was a combination of anything he could grab off the adult tables. This included wine, beer, a shot and a mix drink. It was the most disgusting beverage I had ever drank but at the same time the best. I felt the buzz of alcohol for the first time in my life and I was instantly ready for more.

Drinking at these parties became the norm for me and a couple of friends. Weirdly enough, none of us ever got caught. Then the summer hit, growing up every year I went to sleep away camp in Northern Michigan. And this year at summer camp was monumental, one of my cabin mates brought weed to camp with him and I smoke it for the first time. Drinking was a blast, but weed was a different type of fun. I finally found the missing piece to my life, and it was drugs. After my first experience getting high, I never wanted to be sober.

I became a huge pothead by ninth grade. I had drug hookups because my sister was older, and I was friends with kids who sold pot, among other drugs. Smoking weed became an everyday habit before school, at lunch, sometimes between classes, and always after school. Weed took over my life. I quit all after school activities I once did because it got in the way of me smoking weed.

Smoking weed is an expensive habit, so how could I afford it? I stole, manipulated, worked little jobs and sold drugs.

My first job was at an elite men’s fashion store that sold thousand dollar suits and top of the line shoes. I couldn’t stop smoke weed and I dabbled a little with taking prescription pills. I didn’t want to get fired, especially because of speculation about me being high at work was on the rise. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant lie: I told my boss who knew my stepmom that I was allergic to wool and that was why my eyes were constantly bloodshot.

I didn’t last long at this job, to say the least. I picked up a caddying job that summer, but no money compared to selling pills. So after a couple of months I made my money exclusively selling prescription pills and little amounts of weed. My supplier? My family. Members of family were prescribed prescription pills for medical reasons. I looked at these pills as dollar signs. My family gained suspicion. They knew I didn’t have a job, but they also knew I had a lot of money. Oh yeah, and all of the pills in the house were missing.

It didn’t take long for my parents to catch me red-handed. I was forced to take my first drug test, which  I failed miserably.

It was then my parents started looking up local rehabilitation centers. When I was 16, I was put into my first outpatient treatment center. I was told I had to stay sober and there would be drug tests once a week. I tried to stay clean for about a month and decided it wasn’t for me.

My high school career could be summed up pretty easily, I got high and partied, then ended up in outpatient treatment. Maintained decent grades and did what I wanted, when I wanted—I thought it was  the greatest time of my life. However, I knew the best years were still to come…college.

I chose to go to the biggest party college I got accepted to. The first couple of weeks were exactly how I wanted them to be. Huge parties every day, drugs whenever I wanted, and unlimited freedom to do whatever I wanted, without any consequences.Or so I thought…

The fun lasted about two months then I hit what most people would consider a bottom. I didn’t sleep, eat, go to class, and barely left my dorm room for five consecutive days. I ended up going insane from all of the Adderall I took, and it wasn’t long before I overdosed and ended up in the psych-ward.

By this time I hadn’t talked to my families in over a month, and everyone assumed I was either dead or in jail. My close friends stopped calling me because I betrayed all of them in one way or another and I was basically alone, miserable and physically and mentally broken.

I remember the exact moment when I realized I needed help and that I needed to get sober.

I was sitting in the psych-ward, I hadn’t slept for two days straight, and then I looked in the mirror. I was 40 pounds underweight, my eyes were sunk into my face and my body was bruised up from trying escape the hospital. At that very moment, I made the decision to get sober.

What’s It Like Now?

This was over six years ago. I was 19 when I admitted myself into treatment. I thought my rehab stay was only going to be three months, but I ended up needing a nine month stay. Rehab was great because I learned how to be a human again. I learned how to maintain relationships, grocery shop and take care of myself. I was taken to AA meetings and I actually learned from them and received hope from them.

I finally started feeling good for the first time in over six years.

After my rehab stay I moved back home. My mom was very skeptical of me living in the house because my teenage years were a disaster. I assured her that no matter what, I will not use, steal or lie to her. She slowly began to trust me again, which I never thought  possible. I started paying back the people I owed money to,  and I kept up with AA meetings. It didn’t take long before I found a friend group,  all young, sober adults.

I realized the more meetings I went to, the more I hung out with my sober friends and the more time I spent helping others, the less I obsessed about myself or getting high. It was an incredible realization, for over five years, every waking moment I thought about my next fix and how I was going to achieve it. But after I came to terms with the fact that I will never be able to use like a normal person, my life was shot into what I call the fourth-dimension.

I got sober when I was 19, I am currently 25 years-old and couldn’t be in a better place.

The disease of addiction took me to the darkest world imaginable, but at the same time blessed me with an amazing one at the same time. Suffering from addiction has made me a better person. I wake up every day knowing that as long as I stay sober, I can accomplish anything.

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.

 

From Rock Bottom to Recovery – A Young Woman’s Story

Our guest blogger this week is Maddie, a remarkably smart young woman in recovery. Through Maddie’s story, parents and licensed professionals might better understand youth substance use – and more importantly, recognize that it is entirely possible to progress from rock bottom to recovery and why family support is key to that. I have known Maddie and her family for many years and am so pleased to share her story with the OYA Community. Thank you, Maddie, for courageously writing this week’s guest post. MWM

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On April 20th, 2012, I hit another bottom. It wasn’t the first bottom I had hit and it wouldn’t be the last.

I had reached the ‘jumping off place’ where I couldn’t live with alcohol and drugs, but I couldn’t live without it. Sometimes, it surprises me that I couldn’t see my addiction sooner, but the compulsions and denial of addiction were incredibly strong.

My addiction escalated slowly enough to be inconspicuous to those around me for a time, but quickly enough for me to hit several serious bottoms before I graduated from college. By the time I turned 22, I was on a consistent, daily rotation between marijuana, Adderall, Klonopin, and alcohol.

Occasionally, I would use cocaine or other drugs I deemed ‘recreational,’ but by the end of my addiction there was nothing ‘recreational’ about my drug use.

In the beginning, I would have considered myself a ‘binge drinker.’ I would only smoke pot, experiment with pills, and drink copious amounts of alcohol on weekends. By 15, cocaine had became an integral part of my problem. I remember ducking in the back of my mother’s BMW X3 as my sister and her boyfriend drove through Cabrini Green and the other Chicago ghettos bathed in blue lights from constant surveillance to pick up cocaine from some low-level drug dealer. I was afraid of getting shot.

This began the constant cycle of tearing down my life and building it back up, ad-nauseum. While I began experiencing the consequences of my addiction immediately, I was unaware of them until my illness had destroyed everything worthwhile in my life: my relationship with my friends and family, my self-worth, my physical safety, my emotional stability, my independence, my sense of humor, my integrity, and the list goes on.

My emotional stability was the first to go.

In November of 2004, I had my first major suicide attempt at age 15. I swallowed an entire bottle of bulk Tylenol P.M. a few days before Thanksgiving. I would have died that night if my sister hadn’t heard me stumbling around upstairs trying to make it to the toilet – dizzy from all the sleep aid. My parents took me to the hospital down the street. In the waiting room with my mom, I had not yet lost consciousness, but I could barely keep my head up.

Once admitted, they tested me for drugs and pregnancy, even though I was not yet sexually active and I had barely kissed a boy. They found cocaine in my system and deep cuts on my left forearm that I had made with a dull pair of scissors and occasionally one of my mother’s gourmet cooking knives.The doctors gave me an IV and forced me to drink charcoal. I slept for over 24 hours and when I woke up, my mom was in the corner sobbing. It’s hard for me to think about the pain I caused her that night and for many nights to come during my active addiction.

I spent most of junior and senior year grounded, which was great for me. I was able to study and take care of myself, get good grades, and find friends outside of the party scene. I spent a lot of time with my parents and their friends during this time; we would go to Steppenwolf or out to dinner. My mom and I would work out together like fiends. Things got better. Without alcohol and drugs, I was able to put my life back together for brief periods of time. Inevitably, I would drink and use again; everything would begin to fall apart again.

To self-medicate during my dry periods,  I started smoking pot. When I smoked, I wasn’t blacking out and falling face first on our stoop or throwing up in the elevator shaft or getting in random cars or going near Cabrini Green to pick up drugs. I was sleeping, reading, watching movies, and studying. It took away that persistent and aching longing I always felt (and sometimes still feel).

When I was accepted to a prestigious liberal arts college in Southern California, I found friends who drank and used just like I did. Often, we went through two or three handles a night between five of us 130-pound girls with the aid of Adderall and cocaine. We were the blackout crew: high all day and incredibly smart. During my freshman year, I went out 6-7 days a week to party and my health suffered. I had Bronchitis over 3 times that year.

In the spring of my Junior year, I was sexually assaulted. While I had been struggling with my depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts for some time, I had never had symptoms this severe. Once I started crying, I would beat myself with my fists or a hammer until I could get myself to stop – often an hour later. I withdrew from all of my friendships and started isolating. I began blaming my friends and family for being unable to save me from myself. Looking back, this was the point where my addiction stopped being a choice: I could either use or kill myself.

Everything after that was a blur. I would have periods of okay-ness (not happiness) where I could get my work done, take care of myself, and was moving forward. Then, about every 3 months everything would come crashing down again and it felt like I had to start completely over.

I remember throughout college I would keep a post-it note on my mirror that said “no smoking before 4 p.m.” Eventually, I crossed out the 4 and wrote 2. I never was able to make it. I remember I would leave my drugs at home while I was studying in the library. About 30 minutes into studying, I would have to drive home – the anxiety so overwhelming I felt like my skin was crawling.

During the spring of my senior year, I was trying desperately to graduate. My mom flew out three or four times that semester to help me pick up the pieces of my disintegrating life and to help me finish my Economics degree. On April 20th, my senior thesis was due and I couldn’t turn it in. I remember people coming to my house to celebrate 420 and sobbing in my room. I kept taking Klonopin to soothe my anxiety, but it stopped working so I kept taking more.

I don’t remember this, but  I called my sister that night and told her I was suicidal. I don’t remember this, but she showed up later that day to find a bottle of Klonopin spilled all over the floor. She panicked and called my mom, who showed up the following day. My roommates found out I was suicidal and kicked me out of the house because they were scared about what I might do. While I worked on finishing the last requirements of my degree, my mom cleaned the bile, piss, shit, and blood of the walls of my room so I could move out. Through sheer luck, they let me graduate.To this day, that entire month is blurry; I was in so much pain and had been ingesting so many drugs that I have lost most of those memories.

Two weeks after graduation, my behavior had become increasingly erratic and my parents kicked me out until I agreed to get help. My relationship with my parents was all I had left and I believe that setting that boundary saved my life.

The next day, I committed myself to a 7-day inpatient treatment center in the next city over. They took my shoelaces and locked-up all of my stuff.

This is where the healing began.

Often, there is a tendency to ‘make sense’ of an addiction by blaming certain people or circumstances for causing this behavior, problem. For me, I blamed my addiction on bullying, sexual assault, depression, being bipolar, or tumultuous family life. In my opinion, I was born an alcoholic. I always drank and used differently than those around me. From my first real drunk, I seemed to drink with a purpose: to get drunk. Each time I drank, I almost always would puke, black-out, or both. Today, I am grateful I only faced some of the consequences associated with addiction and my family has stayed by my side through my sickness and my recovery.

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.

Game On! Athletics, mental health and substance use.

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Student Athletes at Risk of Mental Health and Substance-Use Disorders

Guest Blog Post by Grace McLaughlin, Recovery Brands.

While most students enjoyed a three-month break over the summer, a select group was busy preparing for what might be the most important time in their life. A group whose need to do well in school isn’t just a benefit, but a necessity. A group that is seen as “too tough” for mental health to be an issue. This group is our student athletes.

These students spent their summers participating in two-a-day practices, running countless miles and dreaming of becoming an honorary MVP of their team. They have dreams of graduating high school with a full ride scholarship to college with the chance at the big leagues. However, many people forget these aspirations come with an immense amount of pressure and stress. On top of teaching them to be physically strong and focus on their sport, we should be educating them on the signs and symptoms of mental illness.

Although we have made great strides to break down the stigma associated with mental health, it’s still largely prevalent in 2016. Society has created a certain stereotype associated with student athletes, and it is one where mental illness isn’t allowed. Between the need to excel in school and athletics, it is no surprise that this group of young adults run the risk of developing depression, anxiety, eating disorders and even substance abuse. Student athletes have to show up to practice, no matter what is going on in their personal lives. If their grades are down, they risk being kicked off the team, or worse, losing their scholarship. On top of all this, they only get one day off a week to catch up with friends and be a “normal kid”. When it comes down to it, student athletes never truly get a break.

One group trying to tackle this issue is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). They conducted a study in 2014 that found “…about 30 percent of the 195,000 respondents to a recent American College Health Association (ACHA) survey reported having felt depressed in the last 12 months, and 50 percent reported having felt overwhelming anxiety during the same period.“ To combat this, the NCAA has created guides to help coaches and their athletes manage mental health issues. These guides highlight the fact that, although student athletes main focus is physical health, mental health is just as important. In order to be at your peak physical state, your mind must be healthy as well.

These guides also shed light on the potential for substance abuse among student athletes. Many people turn to substances as an escape from reality. With all this added pressure to young adults, it is no surprise that student athletes may be looking for a way to cope.

There are many steps that people can take to ensure mental health is a priority. Student athletes have an immense amount of added pressure on them, but they also have their coaches and teammates looking out for their best interests. As a coach, it’s imperative to have open communication with athletes and set the precedent that they should never be ashamed to reach out for help. When it comes down to it, seeking help and addressing mental health as a priority reveals an incredible sense of strength and bravery.

The first step to breaking down the stigma and getting people the help they need is by reaching out and discussing it.

About Grace McLaughlin

grace-mclaughlin Grace is a social media specialist at Recovery Brands. Through a portfolio of authoritative web properties such as Rehabs.com and Recovery.org, Recovery Brands helps connect individuals in need of addiction treatment with facilities that can provide care. The company’s sites equip consumers with valuable resources to make informed treatment decisions, and also allow treatment providers to connect with individuals seeking care by showcasing key facility offerings through robust profile listings. Complete with comprehensive online directories, facility ratings and reviews, forums and professional communities, site visitors can more efficiently compare and select the treatment options that best meet their recovery needs. For more information, visit RecoveryBrands.com or follow @RecoveryBrands.

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.

 

 

 

Sober at 17

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One of my former students at Metro State University was especially supportive and informative when we were worried sick about our son’s addiction – because she had firsthand insight. We became fast friends and later colleagues at work. Today, she’s our guest blogger sharing her experience with addiction, sobriety and recovery as a young adult. Please welcome Lisa Grimm! MWM

Six shots of Bacardi Limon, I threw up and fell in love all in the same night. I was 15.

And I would fall truly, madly, deeply in love with alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine over the next two and a half years.

Up until this time my parents, sober alcoholics since before I was born, had said things like, “Don’t drink or do drugs. It won’t mix well with your body chemistry.” My body chemistry? Without further explanation that statement was awkward enough to keep me away, for a time. I was also acutely aware that most of my deceased lineage had died because of the bottle, which legit scared me.

My childhood was difficult for many reasons. Out of respect to my family I won’t air specific grievances. I will say that my parents were battling some significant issues. I was exposed to some very grown up things at a very young age (mental illness, anger management, financial struggles, legal proceedings of epic proportions, and the list goes on) and endured mental, emotional and physical abuse along the way.

My parents divorced when I was four. My dad remarried shortly after. I attended eight schools before high school making it difficult to cultivate meaningful and lasting relationships.

As an only child with emotionally unavailable parents (P.S. I love them so much), I spent a lot of time alone (and lonely) leaning on movies, my imagination and wandering the streets to help me process my surroundings and teach me about the workings of life and the world. While I knew something was deeply wrong, I accumulated survival tools wherever I could find them and carried on. I deflected the hard stuff and became a chameleon of sorts, blending into my surroundings.

When I took that first drink my surroundings expanded far and wide. I had a new group of friends and a full social calendar. It felt like anything was possible.

Those warnings from my parents still had a hold, so I declared almost immediately that I would just drink and never do drugs. Two months later I started smoking pot.

Experimentation continued and within a few years I was smoking pot several times a day had dabbed in hallucinogens which led to ecstasy and cocaine, and boy oh boy what a joy they were.

As Josey Orr says, “The typical progression for many drug addicts goes something like this: 1. Fun 2. Fun with problems 3. Just problems.” Well, the problems began almost immediately with a rapidly plummeting fun quotient. There are so many details I’d like to share with you, but this isn’t a book nor are there pictures so I’ll cut to the chase :).

On November 3, 2000 at the ripe age of 17 I experienced my last of a long list of consequences related to my alcohol and drug use.

I had become careless and sloppy, as evidenced by the sizable bag of pot hanging out of my brand new winter coat as I was leaving the house to go party that Friday night. My stepmom, tired of it all and one to always call the kettle, called me to the living room and along with my dad offered me three choices. I could:

 

  1. Go to the Bloomington Police Station and take a possession charge (she wasn’t kidding), OR
  2. Go to treatment, OR
  3. Go to 90 AA meetings in 90 days

 

I was living with them after being kicked out of my mom’s house for the last time. Despite my family banding together through group therapy and other means to confront my use and problems, by this time I had been arrested twice, kicked out of flight school at University of North Dakota (the day before my solo flight) due to one of those arrests, nearly kicked out of Cretin Derham-Hall High School for disciplinary issues and declining grades, and a slew of other damaging things to my body and mind, and others—namely my family.

As with most addicts, it’s a long and varied list of shittiness.

I knew deep down that I was killing myself. I knew that the young woman I had become was someone not only unrecognizable, but someone I didn’t want to be. But the gravity of the emptiness and pain I felt inside had become so pervasive sedation was the most effective option to deal. So… I chose 90 meetings in 90 days. Not only was it was a far better option than treatment (or spending some time in a cell, even if brief) it was the easiest to manipulate. “Sure” I thought. “I’ll go to these meetings and carry on with my routine and they’ll never know.”

Naturally, I got good and high and went to my first meeting on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at Uptown House on Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minn. I didn’t know these people, they weren’t trying to tell me I had a problem. They were simple sharing what it had been like for them, what happened and what it’s like now. They didn’t look like me or talk like me, but for the first time ever I related to this group of people in the most real and authentic way I knew existed. I saw myself in them and it gave me a lot of hope. It also scared the shit out of me.

After an evening of tears and getting honest with myself, I made the decision that I would go to 90 meetings in 90 days and do what was asked of me. If I didn’t like what I found there I would continue as I had been and write the whole thing off.

I got a Big Book, a sponsor, went to meetings regularly, worked the steps, and found a wonderful group of young sober people to hang with. I told my friends at school that I had to take care of some things for a while and if there were still there when I got back that would be great.

I said the serenity prayer from my car to the door of school every morning and periodically throughout the day, just to make it through.

I showed up at meetings early to set up and clean up. I participated in leadership roles in my home group meeting. I took meetings to women’s treatment centers and detox facilities. When I had thoroughly worked through the steps, I shared my experience, strength and hope with other women. My family supported me, but continued to enforce strong checks and balances until I built up trust.

I’ve been sober ever since. I was a senior in High School a few months shy of my 18th birthday.

My life is better than anything I could have imagined, and it continues to get better. Even the shitty moments in life are better because I have the tools to deal with all of it, like a grown up. I have accomplished so many things because of my recovery, but the most lovely and dearest to me is restored relationships with my family and the relationships and love recovery enables. There is no greater gift in this life than being able to have true intimacy and love with other humans. No amount of money, material, professional or personal accolades will fill your soul like this does, at least this is true for me.

I’m beyond grateful for the people in that room that night, my family for loving me through the good, bad and the ugly, the amazing community of sober pals I have and the friends I have that don’t treat me/act differently because of it.

Cheers to another day!

Bio:

Lisa Grimm (@lulugrimm) is a Minneapolis native who recently relocated to Austin, Texas, where she leads social media for Whole Foods Market. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and American Bulldog, snacking, traveling, watching movies and documentaries, and volunteering at Healing with Horses Ranch.

©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.

 

 

A Sibling Says it Like No One Else Can: Doing Drugs is Helping No One

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A special, sincere and personal thanks to this week’s guest blogger and his mom, who granted me permission to share his recent Facebook post and her response with the OYA Community. Brandon’s older brother Devin overdosed and died earlier this year; he was a friend of my son’s and their family often provided refuge for him during addiction. Today, Brandon is sharing a heartfelt and courageous plea for siblings. Thank you, Brandon and Mom. You write the truth.

A Sibling’s Post & Plea

Me and Devin used to be best friends when I was young. He would take me everywhere and show me everything. He was there for me always.

Then the drugs took over and we distanced. He either got away from me so I wouldn’t have to see him like that. Or I distanced myself from him because I didn’t want to see him like that.

There were points where we didn’t talk to each other for months on end. Purely because I was mad at him for doing drugs. But you know through all of the drugs and everything else I still loved him as my brother and woulda done anything for him. I always borrowed him money and helped him. Like family is family.

And for those out there that are doing drugs. Think about your siblings …you have such a big impact on them. Like you could lose them at any moment or they could lose you. Please, please think about them.

They will never have another “you.”

So please if you get clean for anyone. Please get clean for them. They need you more than anyone else needs you and I can tell you that right now.

Even if you argue and are mad. Drop it. I can tell you from experience it’s not worth it. It really isn’t. Because you could wake up one day and not have them.

Losing a sibling is a terrible, terrible thing, and I wish that upon no one.

Please if you need anything to help you get clean let me know and I promise you I will do anything in my power to get you clean. Just remember you doing drugs is helping no one. Absolutely no one.

Mom’s Proud, Caring Response

Devin, we miss you so much. Your brother especially. 💔 We will never understand why you were taken from us so early in life. It’s not fair. Please watch over us and help us through these difficult days. Brandon, you are a wonderful young man I am proud to call my son. I know with this statement on here that you will be able to help others get help so they don’t have to go through the hell we are going through. Love you so.

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Twelve-Step Rebellion

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This week’s guest blogger is Jay from @OneMindDharma who writes about finding serenity through meditation after years of trying to find it through traditional 12-step programs. It’s important for young people in recovery to find an approach that works for them rather than what works for people quite a bit older. Thank you, Jay, for sharing your experience with the #OYACommunity. MWM

I can give the story of my life quite simply. I was 12 years old when I started to drink. I would show up to punk shows drunk because I felt self conscious about being so young around older kids and hoped that the smell of booze and the forced stumble would make me appear as cooler than I felt. I grew up to be addicted to opiates quite young and found heroin at 22. At 26 I decided to stop using drugs, was hospitalized and stayed in sober living for many months.

One of the things I can relate to with young people is the resistance to a 12 step program, and I congratulate you on this discovery. The fact that anybody has gone to something enough to realize that they like it is extraordinary if you think of the different tasks that acquiring drugs or alcohol entails. We become mindless when we’re going through the motions of getting high, that even a small fire wouldn’t have inconvenienced me much while I was loaded. But sober, the initial resistance is to be expected and deeply encouraged to push through.

The problem however is once you’ve gone to your first few meetings and you see the word, “God,” or you look around the room and there isn’t anybody similar to you. I was 19 at my first meeting and spent many nights in diners with folks who talked about their mortgage or even put on music in the car that made me want to jump out. I understand feeling misplaced, and so I commend you for this observation. This means one is aware, not simply “going through the motions.”

I would estimate that I went to 2,000 twelve step meetings before I turned 25. I tried to force myself to believe that “this would work for me.”

I tried to see drugs as this vacuum that could steal my soul by simply thinking about it– reciting, “brick wall,” for fear of being possessed. I would call my sponsor to ask permission to go on a date or to leave work early to catch a concert I wanted to see. He would ask, “is this Jay’s will or is it God’s will?” The idea was that any decision I was making was most likely harmful and going to lead to me getting loaded or with a needle in my arm. I appreciated this — this was the father figure I longed for for so many years.

Eventually though my life resembled somebody else’s life and I found little joy in my daily activities. The lack of luster I could live without, however I began feeling more and more alone. I started thinking in two different thought patterns– the 19 year old who wanted to be 19 and skip class to skateboard like any other 19 year old versus the 19 year old young man who was focusing on interest rates, responsibility and work ethic.

Neither is worse than the other, but I felt the focus was slipping from not wanting to get high into being a clone of my sponsor and his 40 plus years of life experience. So I began to rebel against his suggestions, and a satisfaction would come when I broke these rules. The same feeling, in fact, as getting high, which eventually led to me getting high.

And so for years this cycle would continue. I would push my drug runs to the brink of death so that I could feel this “bottom,” that they would all tell me I wasn’t finished using until I felt and experienced. The reality is that I was done and I didn’t need to feel ostracized or shamed for being a kid. Instead, I began to search for different methods of getting clean without the help of AA. One of these for me was NA for a short while. I liked the fellowship– it seemed to be a younger crowd. I didn’t like the steps, and I started to realize that that was okay. I believed for myself if I were to tell my deep dark secrets to anybody it should be a therapist, as that was who I felt comfortable telling these to. I didn’t mind paying for it, since my life was on the line.

My therapist eventually would say things like, “You have so much going on up there Jay, have you looked into meditating?” I had not.

And so my journey of meditation began. In the beginning I had candles and incense and would focus on the fronts of my eyelids and my breathing. In time, I found guided meditations and Buddhist principles.

I knew that quieting my mind and observing my thought patterns were both important, but I also wanted to grow as a person. I didn’t want to change who I was, I wanted to become a better version.

I finally met my teacher at a meditation meeting in Hollywood. He seemed to like the same music as me, could identify with my anger and my rebellion, and began to help me implement different principles and practices into my personal life.

One of the big ones was what the Eightfold Path refers to as “Right speech.” This, to me, means not to speak ill of anybody, and unless it’s absolutely necessary not to speak about anyone who isn’t around. Of course people have to be mentioned, but the way I mentioned them became a focal point. Even the way I said things seemed to have an undertone I wasn’t normal aware of. I began thinking before I spoke, and being mindful of the intentions behind my words.

Slowly, I meditated more and more frequently, and I noticed that the urges I had to use and to act out weren’t as prevalent. I also noticed that I started doing things in my free time that I enjoyed again, and surrounding myself with other people my age who didn’t care how I got clean, they just enjoyed the fact that I was myself.

Eventually I started working for my teacher, and am now the outreach director for his meditation company. At 27 years old I have over a year clean from everything, I bought my first car, I have two jobs, and

I’m becoming the version of myself I secretly knew I could be. For the most part I don’t do anything I don’t want to do or am required to do.

I live a life that I choose to live and it no longer feels forced.

We can choose to be who we wish to be in this world and anything truly is possible if the effort is there. So long as you’re trying you have a chance to make the change at anytime that you wish. Rebellion is the catalyst of change and true rebellion begins when you make the effort to change yourself. Meditation helps me, and if you’re struggling with finding your place in AA or any program utilize the wonders of the internet and find different means of recovery. There are meditation websites, there are online recovery communities, and there is meaning if you search for it. You’re too important to give up hope, and your place in this world is out there somewhere. I wish you well and hope you find it on your journey.

About Jay:

Jay is the community outreach director for Www.oneminddharma.com He works on an animal rescue ranch and enjoys playing music in his free time.

How Many Times Can a Son Break His Mom’s Heart?

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This week’s guest blogger is Chris from Sober City USA – the creator of Sober Cards. Now six years in recovery from an addiction that started in his teens, he reflects on one of his most important and valued relationships – the relationship with his mother. Thank you, Chris, for sharing your experience with our readers. MWM.

That question weighed heavy on my mind while I was in treatment.  I guessed I had probably lost count after a hundred and that was before I got into my late twenties.  I am an alcoholic, a drug addict, a child of an alcoholic and drug addict, and a child of an amazingly wonderful woman.  I am also a 39 year old momma’s boy, born a momma’s boy and always will be one.

My mom is the most incredible and amazing woman on the planet.  She would do anything to make you feel special and feel like the most important person in the room. There is not a mean bone in her body and she doesn’t have a mean thing to say about anyone.  She finds the beauty in everyone. So why was it easy for me to break her heart for 15 straight years?  Because I’m an addict, and nothing mattered more to me than my drugs and my alcohol.  I didn’t care who I was hurting, even the most important people (woman) in my life.

I started drinking when I was 17, consistently blacking out by 18 and actively abusing drugs by the age of 23. I guess you could say I was destined to be an alcoholic. My dad is an alcoholic (in recovery), his dad was and his grandfather before that was an alcoholic.  To top it, my mom’s dad was an alcoholic and many of my first cousins are alcoholics (most in recovery now).  Addiction runs thick in our family blood line.

Just so you don’t think I’m a total piece of shit son, I’m going to condense the heartbreak moments to just a few, and save all of us from a drunk log. I do feel it necessary for you to understand the hurt I caused and hopefully after reading this, you can take something positive away from it.

All my mom wanted to do was love me, hold me, tell me everything was going to be OK. She wanted to spend time with me, be my parent, give me advice and tell me life was going to turn out OK.  My mom wanted to know about me, my life, my friends and understand my world and tell me my world was OK.  When I was in active addiction I never let her in.  I always kept her at a distance, because I was hiding a deep dark secret: I was an alcoholic drug addict.

When I would come home from college to visit for long weekends and holidays, my mom would beg me not to stay out late and to be in bed early.  Looking back, it was because she never slept when I was out.  She stayed up all night praying that I would come home in one piece.  She tossed and turned, praying till 8a most mornings!  The nights I did come home, I would wake everyone up in the family, by accident (I was not a pleasant drunk man). Even though at first everyone loved having me home, I quickly wore out my welcome.

My parents hated the idea of me moving to Los Angeles.  They knew I was border lining alcoholism, they just didn’t know how bad it had gotten when I moved to LA.  Yet, they still wanted to spend time with me and visit.  Having them out to visit was hard work.  I was hiding a drug fueled lifestyle that didn’t know any boundaries.  When they would visit, night would come, they would go to bed, and as soon as they were a sleep, my night would start.  Drugs, alcohol, sneaking out to meet friends (like I was in high school) and staying out all night; causing me to either sleep the entire next day or be a total moody asshole running on fumes. My parents spent a ton of money and energy to visit me; I treated them like second class citizens while they were there.  My addiction didn’t care who got treated poorly.

I’ve always lived in a different city than my parents, only a few hours away in distance. There were hundreds of times they came to visit me. I usually lied to them on why they couldn’t stay with me. Truth was, I wanted to party. I could never take just one weekend off of drinking to spend time with them.  I made my parents stay in a hotel and what’s worse, I acted as if I was doing everyone a favor by meeting them out for dinner.

It was a nightmare when my brothers came in town and all 4 of us went out to raise hell.  I was the leader and my brothers always followed me into a drug and alcohol induced weekend every time we got together.  My mom and dad hated it when we went out together!  I was an awful role model and certainly not acting like the ‘good-boy’ son my mom had raised. My addiction only cared about the party, and I bulldozed anyone who stood in my way of that, including my mom.

There was a time my mom came in town to make my favorite dinner because we had been missing each other for months. I stayed out from the night before till about 30 minutes before she showed up.  I was drugged out of my mind and hadn’t slept for 3 days.  As soon as my mom arrived, (she knew something wasn’t right) I showed her to the kitchen, the pots/pans and ingredients and then went right to bed.  She cooked alone for 3 hours hoping her meal would make me feel better.  I never woke up. I slept right through the night and missed her dinner. My addiction did not care about dinner with my mom!

The asshole icing on the cake was on May 31st, my mother’s birthday.  It was a beautiful Sunday, all of my family was having an early evening bbq for her and I didn’t show up.  What’s worse; I didn’t even call her that day to wish her a ‘happy birthday’.  I had been sleeping off a 3-day binge and was nowhere to be found.  She called me later that night to tell me I had missed her birthday, she was crying and very upset.  That was the low of the lows. I was so far gone into drug addiction and alcoholism.  I thought the missing birthday ‘glitch’ was just a temporary feeling. I convinced myself it wasn’t that big of a deal. I thought by saying sorry, all would be good.  Unfortunately, that was the one that really affected our relationship. Addiction was ruining my relationship with my mom.

I literally broke my mother’s heart daily when I was abusing drugs. I broke promises, I was so unreliable, there were hundreds of embarrassing moments, there were times my mom had begged me to stop, only to be made a fool over and over again by my actions.  Unfortunately, heartbreak by her oldest son had become the new normal in our relationship and my addiction did not care.

Unbeknownst to me, my mom was going to church every week to light a candle for me. She knew I was in trouble and could sense things were not going to end well.  She was asking for me to get help, asking for God to watch over me and get me to a place where I could start to  heal and live a clean life.

What’s so amazingly true and perfect about this story: God worked his magic the day I entered treatment.  I hit my limit: I had spent four straight days using and abusing and was rushed to the emergency room.  That next morning, my brothers showed up, they told me they had booked me a room at a residential treatment program and I would be there for the next 30 days.  My mom had not heard the news until later that evening when I called her.  She was actually at church that very morning saying a prayer, lighting a candle and begging God to help me.

While I skidded into rehab, my experience there was very positive.  I spent many days uncovering layers of myself, finding out who I was deep inside, and who I was without the drugs and alcohol. Still a momma’s boy and a grown ass man now with a long-list of amends to make to his mom.

Two weeks into my treatment program, I received a letter stamped from home and in my mom’s handwriting.  I opened it and there were 10 hand written pages, full of every heartbreaking moment that I had caused her because of my addiction.  It highlighted all of the shitty things I did (sort of like a fourth step for moms/Al-Anon if you will) Reading those things, in her words; while I was starting to get my clean mind back was so moving, so crushing and upsetting to me.  It broke me to relive all of those moments and to hear my mom’s heartache.  I was crushed. I had some work to do.

My family came to visit me over Easter Weekend.  After dinner, I asked my mom to go for a walk, just her and I.  We walked around this beautiful lake as the sun was setting and I told her something I had learned while in treatment.  My chaplain talked about Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is My Shepherd.’  He told us that when sheep would walk away from the herd over and over again, shepherds would have to break the back legs of the sheep to prevent them from continuing that and potentially getting killed by prey.  This taught sheep a valuable lesson to not act out and to stay safe inside the herd. (That’s why you see so many biblical images of the Shepherd with a sheep around His neck, nursing them back to health and safety)  My chaplain often asked me – do you feel like your back legs have been broken

I told my mom for the past few years, I was so sick that I didn’t realize the damage and heartbreak I was causing her.  I told her my back legs were broke and how sorry I was for everything I had put her through.  As I started to bring up each instance with her, she embraced me and told me she loved me and that we never have to go back to that. I told her I never wanted to either.  We were both crying and it felt so good to be back in my mom’s arms again, as the ‘good-boy’ she had always wanted.

I am 6 years clean and sober and my relationship with my mother has never been better. That insanely sick time in my life, the ups and downs (mostly downs) with her, has taught me the wonderful meaning of unconditional love.  It has taught me about forgiveness, it has taught me how to treat other people. I have learned so much from my mom and the way she treated me during my active addiction.  She is still the most amazing and wonderful woman and without her love and support, I could not have done this.  Sometimes we hurt the the most, the ones we love the most.  And the ones that love us the most always keep coming back hoping for a different day.  I’m so grateful my mom and I have a different day now!!

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About Chris:
Chris is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with 6 years of sobriety.  He is very active in the recovery community and loves to spend time spreading the great message of recovery.  He created Sober Cards TM, to help people get sober and stay sober.  These came directly from his experience in treatment, where they told him, ‘Idle hands are the devil’s playground’ and recited many more sober slogans.  Thousands of decks have been sold and his hope is that everyone trying to get sober has access to them. Sober City USA was launched in 2015 to show the world that there is this awesome enthusiasm for recovery and an excitement for life on the other side of the drugs and alcohol.

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

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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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 Blogger: What to do if learn your kid is using drugs.

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Today’s guest blogger shares personal experience as a young drug user and how he has used this to help parents talk to their kids. In particular, he addresses marijuana use, which is one of the most popular first drugs for young adults. See what he has to say! MWM

Confronting a child who you believe to be taking drugs can be very difficult to do.

Getting caught by your parents smoking weed is the scariest thing in the world, what’s even worse, is finding out that your children smoke weed.

As a former family/drug counselor and a child of a parent who caught me smoking weed, I would like to inform you on the things I wished my parents would have done differently and what I taught other parents who caught their children smoking weed.

A little self disclosure:

I remember when my mother found my weed stash, she immodestly came out the room crying and screaming. Asking me “what did she do wrong?!” and telling me how I failed.

This was the worst thing she could have done and from my experience as a drug/family counselor, I can promise you there are MUCH better ways to address the issue of smoking weed.

The techniques I used to teach my clients to address their children’s marijuana use and how I personally address clients directly are based on the psychology of Sales and the use of Neural Associative Conditioning.

Let’s start off with applying the psychology of sales to discussing marijuana use with your children.

The most important principle in sales is identifying your prospects objections to the product and answering them before giving your presentation.

What are children’s objections to their parents?

“They just don’t understand”

“They don’t know what they’re talking about”

“They’re crazy! I’m not going to listen to them if they’re always angry and yelling at me!”

“They’re always trying to change them and never let me do what I want”

Don’t view this as your children complaining, rather, use this as useful information that you can use to overcome these objections. Once they are overcome, they will become more perceptive to your suggestions.

Find out what your children’s objections are and find out ways to overcome them. In the following paragraphs, you’ll read some common solutions that usually address most, if not, all of your children’s objections.

 If you find out that your child is smoking weed, the worst thing you can do is immediately judge them and lose control of your emotions.

If you immediately react to the situation, you will lose credibility in your child’s eye and most likely won’t listen to you.

You can’t force them to quit. It may sound counter intuitive, but the truth is that you must allow them to come to the conclusion that smoking weed is bad for THEM. If they feel like you’re trying to force them to decide that weed is bad for them, they may stop for the moment, but they’ll eventually return to smoking weed.

Why is this important? As someone who constantly studies online marketing and psychology, you must allow your prospect think that it was their idea to purchase the item (similar to the movie inception).You’ll lose credibility and in the world of sales nothing loses a customer faster than losing credibility. Having credibility enables your child to listen to you more. Studies have proven that credibility and authority causes people to do things outside of their own morale.

This is done through having them associate pain with smoking weed and pleasure with being sober. This is not something you intellectually convince them of, rather, it’s done through finding ways to allow them to experience and associate pain with smoking. I’ll teach you that towards the end of the article.

Demonstrate to them that you have an open mind to weed and that you are not biased. They must feel and understand that you see both the good and the bad sides of weed. This will give you some form of authority and trust in their eyes and your opinion will have more weight.

Listen. Most parents are so distraught at finding out that their children smoke weed that they don’t’ care about what the child has to say; instead they want the child to listen to them exclusively.

Nothing angers a child more than feeling as though their opinion is not valued. Allow them to speak and explain to you why they smoke without interrupting them. Not that you condone their marijuana use, but that you understand as to why they are smoking weed. For example, if they smoke because they are bored, accept the fact that they use that as their own solution. Don’t condescend them and tell them they are wrong. Simple listen and accept.

Rather than lecturing them and telling them what to do, use the power of stories – particularly stories they can relate to.

For example, rather than telling them, “you can’t smoke weed, it’s not good for you!!” relate to them through telling them a story based on your own personal experience (past drug abuse, or any form of dependence) or through someone else’s account. Why? In sales and even in spiritual scriptures, stories have been used to explain concepts and ideas because the brain finds it more engaging. It’s better than telling them what to do because stories have an emotional element to them.

Make sure that their experience of speaking with you is accompanied with positive emotions, why? Because if they associate pain to opening up with you, their brain will naturally avoid it. So whenever they open up to you, reinforce that behavior through some form of reward. Give them ANY form of reward, but make sure it’s something they truly value it. Like cooking their favorite meal, or genuinely thanking them for opening up.

Most parents indirectly punish the act of opening up because they emotionally react.

Remember what I said earlier, you must remain grounded and centered within yourself. Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you because it can lead to being a painful experience for your child. Make the experience as comfortable as possible.

How is this achieved? Simple, just ask yourself, “how can I make the experience for my child of opening up about their marijuana use the most pleasurable experience for me and him/her?”

Be proactive about your actions rather than being reactive. If you don’t ask yourself those questions, you’ll never come up with the solution.

OK, now let’s discuss what you must do when discussing with your child their drug use.

The techniques we’ll be using will be based on the pain-pleasure principle, which is what drives human behavior is a desire to avoid pain and gain pleasure.

This is why you must understand their perspective because if they feel like you’re not considering and respecting their reasons for smoking weed, they won’t respect what you say.

Why your children smoke weed:

At the basic level, the reason people get addicted to drugs is because they associate pain to being sober and pleasure to being high.

The brain will begin making the connection that if any pain is felt; weed becomes the easiest and fastest solution.

Remember, the brain is always attempting to conserve energy. Moving forward, the brain will request for weed through cravings at any signs of stress because it learned that smoking weed is the fastest way to avoid pain.

So how are we going to use this to help your child stop smoking weed?

Easy, through linking pleasure to the new behavior and pain to smoking weed.

Okay let’s get to what you must do when speaking to your child about their marijuana use.

What to do before having the discussion:

The best outcome my clients experienced was when they remained centered and the discussion was brought up during a moment when everyone was in a good mood.

Don’t bring up the subject while arguing or when you’re mad because it’s going to create resistance.

The next thing you must do is sit down, get a sheet of paper and say something along the lines of, “before I say this, please understand that I’m not mad, I just want to understand where you’re coming from. I found out that you smoke weed and I just want to talk about it I don’t want to lecture you or tell you what to do, I’m just curious as to what are the reasons for smoking”. Simple as that. You are communicating that you are not trying to change them; instead you are trying to understand them.

Once they agree, sit down with them and explain how you found out and that you were concerned for their well-being. Explain that you did your own research and found out that weed isn’t as bad as you thought, but that it also has its cons and that’s why you want to explore with them their reasons.

Once they feel understood rather than being judged, they’ll be more open to your suggestions.

The questions to ask

Notice how the sequence of the questions are tailored, they begin with asking about the pleasures they receive from smoking weed for a two reasons; they are going to feel understood and heart, and you are going to use their answers and attempt to find alternative activities to fulfill the benefits they think they’re getting.

Step 1: What pleasures and benefits do you get from smoking weed? Remember, even though the behavior is bad, it’s important to find out the benefits so that you can find alternative behaviors that give the same kind of pleasures. In addition, this question throws them off the loop because they expected to begin discussing the negatives.

Step 2: What negative consequences do you experience from smoking weed?

Step 3: What will it cost you if you don’t quit smoking weed right now? Have them write them what it will cost them within the next 5 years if they don’t stop smoking weed. Make sure they cover the emotional, social, financial, romantic, and physical consequences of not smoking.

Step 4: What pleasures will you receive if you stop smoking weed right now?

Don’t just include direct pleasures (i.e. more money, happier family), make sure they write down bilateral pleasures such as being able to travel as a result of having more money, being able to use the time they spend on smoking weed on a skill or a sport.

These questions will accomplish the following:

  1. It will shake the legs of the belief they have that “weed is not that bad”. Belief is what drives our decision making. If you believe that smoking weed is good, you’ll be more prone to smoke. And what’s even worse is that your brain will block out any apposing belief. So it’s important to have them experience the pain of not quitting right now so that they can begin linking pain to smoking weed and thus changing their belief system and eventually their decision to smoke.
  2. You are linking pain to not smoking through focusing on the pleasures of quitting. This is something that your brain naturally blocks out because it has adopted the belief that smoking is pleasurable. The brain needs to conserve energy and conflicting belief system causes inner conflict and thus an expenditure of more energy. This is why it blocks out the pleasures of quitting because it wants to have a congruent belief system.

This is how I taught my clients how to approach their children if they were abusing drugs. When my clients followed these instructions, it rarely ended up in fights or arguments and the children either stopped using their drug of choice and/or improved their communication with their parents which is better than using and not communicating.

A few things to remember:

  • Don’t ignore mental health issues. Approximately two-thirds of teenagers abusing marijuana suffer from some form of mental health related problems (i.e. anxiety, depression, bipolar, AD and etc.). Ensure that your child undergoes a mental health evaluation.
  • Open up about your own drug use in the past. Being dishonest about your past relationship with weed only creates more resistance. Parents attempt to display a perfect and ideal image so that their children’s could emulate them at one point in time. But this results in parents at times contradicting themselves, and thus, losing the trust of their children. Nothing opens up a child then a parent opening up about their own past demons. Demonstrate that you understand them without judging them through disclosing your own battles in the past. This will give them permission to open up to you as well.
  • Last, don’t blame yourself. When you ask them “what did I do wrong?” you are making it about you and you are extenuating that something is wrong with them. They have fragile egos and they’ll attempt to defend themselves through disagreeing with everything that you say to them. In addition, being the victim is never productive, no matter how justify it may be. Blaming yourself will only cause you to lose focus from the most important subject at hand, your child.
  • Fifth, being judgmental. The worst thing you can do is judge your child. It’s one thing to be firm then it’s another thing to be judgmental to the point that your child refuses to listen to you.

About the Guest Blogger:

Alex is a life coach and founder of Your Mindful Blog and Quit Smoking Weed. He uses Mindfulness, Neural Linguistic Programming and Neural Associative Conditioning to develop true self esteem and help people quit smoking weed in under an hour. Prior to blogging , Alex worked as a family/drug counselor in Brooklyn, NY.

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

Facing Reality: How One Call Saved My Little Brother

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I will never forget the phone call. I was watching TV at my parents’ house, where I was living at the time after graduating from college earlier that year. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My phone rang, and I saw my little brother’s best friend, Dan, show up on my phone’s caller ID. My brother had left the day before to go back to the University of Colorado, where he was in his first semester of his freshman year. Dan had been my brother’s best friend for almost 10 years, and I doubt anyone in the world knew my brother better. While Dan and I were friendly, someone I considered my friend too, it was rare for us to talk without my brother around, let alone call each other on the phone.

I answered the phone puzzled — wondering why Dan was calling me — asking the expected, “Hey, man. What’s up? How you doing?”

“I think your brother has a drug problem,” Dan said with a combination of confidence and disappointment. My brother had just been back for an entire week for Thanksgiving break, a time when most kids his age return home and reunite with their high school friends whom they have not seen since the summer before they left for school. “He was so barred-out (term for abusing Xanax) this entire week, we couldn’t even get him out of his bed to come hang out with everyone,” Dan said.

I knew for a long time that my brother’s drug use was extreme. His high school years were one big blur of drug use starting with smoking marijuana and including everything from cocaine, mushrooms, MDMA, booze, and I am sure everything in between that I never actually saw him use. Sure, my brother liked to have fun, but what high school kid did not? Who was I to say he had a drug problem? My brother did not have a drug problem; people with drug problems were dirty junkies who were incapable of doing normal, everyday things. That was not my brother, right?

For the next week, I thought about what Dan told me every day. I did not know how to tell my parents or if I even should tell my parents. I viewed rehab as the end. The end of my brother’s normal life, the end of the brother I knew. What if I told my parents this and he really did not have a drug problem? What if I told my parents and he ended up hating me because of it? What if I told my parents and they sent him off to rehab when he really just needed time to figure things out, like most college kids did?

Freshman year is hard, and it is a time of transition. I knew I had taken time to adjust and grow up a little bit when I was a freshman in college; maybe that was all my brother needed, too?

From there, I struggled with whether I should talk to my brother. Would he admit he had a problem if he did, or would he just tell me what I wanted to hear so badly — that he did not have a problem? Like a lot of high school kids, my brother would lie about where he was, who he was hanging out with, and what he was doing when he was out with his friends smoking weed, drinking, or going to concerts and doing molly or other drugs. Could I really trust what he told me was the truth if I did talk to him?

Questions like these swirled in my head as I battled my emotions and tried to come to terms with the most rational course of action to make sure my brother would be okay. He was always an incredibly social kid. He had a ton of friends, and the party usually started when he arrived. I knew he smoked weed, drank, occasionally took a harder drug like cocaine, but binging on Xanax? Popping pills to the point that he became a shell of who he was, to where he could not even interact with friends he had not seen in months? That was not my brother.

By Wednesday, I knew I had to tell my parents. I was terrified. I felt like it would have been easier to tell them I had a drug addiction than to tell them that I thought my brother did. Even though I knew I had to tell my parents, I could not muster the courage to do it until that Sunday night.

It was after our weekly Sunday night family dinner. My dad had the Sunday night NFL game on while my mom finished washing the dinner dishes. Walking down the stairs from my room to where my parents were in the family room felt like a slow walk to the electric chair. The weight of knowing what was happening to my brother was eating me alive. All week, an immovable wave of fear and anxiety that started at my core and tingled out to my fingertips and toes surrounded me like a knight’s suit of armor. The only way to shed the metal suit would be to break the news to my parents that their youngest son had a drug problem.

When I finally told my parents, they did not seem surprised; a part of them must have already known he had a problem. I told them about what Dan said about my brother using Xanax. I told them about the countless times I had seen him snort coke, take molly, and eat mushrooms in high school. I told them about how I struggled all week with whether or not I thought my brother had a drug addiction and that the only conclusion I could come to was that he did and that he needed help.

My mom flew out to Denver the next day to confront my brother about getting help. He admitted immediately to my mom that he was addicted to Xanax and was struggling with other drugs, too. He knew he needed help. Once he knew we were there for him and we were going to get him the help he needed, he never fought or denied it. He wanted to get help; he just never knew how to ask for it.

My brother entered an inpatient treatment center the next week. I would love to tell you that everything was smooth sailing after that but it was not. He stayed sober at first, but a couple months after his first stint in treatment, he relapsed into a cycle of severe drug abuse and hit rock bottom. While treatment was not immediately effective, it was the first step in his road to recovery.

He eventually did get the help he needed. I am thankful every day that Dan called me that Sunday after Thanksgiving. Without him I doubt I would have ever come to the conclusion that my brother needed help on my own. If I had, would it have been too late to help him? That is a question I am happy I never had to answer.

Today, my brother is back at the University of Colorado. He is excelling in the classroom and often receives the highest grades in his class. He has an adorable rescue dog named Ellie who goes with him everywhere. He has a great group of friends who are active outdoorsman; they often go snowboarding, hiking and mountain climbing. He has also been sober for more than a year and a half.

Trey Dyer is a writer for http://www.DrugRehab.com and an advocate for inpatient rehab treatment for individuals with substance use disorders. Trey is passionate about sharing his knowledge and tales about his own family’s struggle with drug addiction to help others overcome the challenges that face substance dependent individuals and their families.

 Contact Trey: tdyer@drugrehab.com

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

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

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

Dear-Mom-and-Dad

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

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

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

1. You didn’t make me an addict.

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

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

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

It’s not your fault.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. I couldn’t stop until I was ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 5. Love yourself and take care of yourself first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

I love you.

Matt

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