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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Red Flags That Your Child May Be Abusing Drugs In College

  •  Their grades begin to drop

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

  •  They continuously ask for money

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

  •  You sense a disconnect in them

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

  • They begin to associate with drug related pop culture

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

  • You actually find drugs or drug paraphernalia on them

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

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

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

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

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

About Today’s Guest Blogger

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

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

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

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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Navigating Addiction during the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Self-care, Satisfaction Guaranteed

During yesterday’s #CADAChat about finding joy during the holidays, one of the questions was about self-care – the most important gift of all, and often the one we forget about. Midwestern Mama took notes to share.

When it comes to the holidays, several f-words come to mind. No, not that f-word! The ones I’m thinking of are Festive, Frantic, Frenzy, Frazzled …

The only antidote that I can think of is the gift of self-care. What’s more, it’s the gift that keeps giving no matter what time of year. It’s the gift that guarantees satisfaction for yourself as well as the ones who matter most to you.

Addiction takes a toll on the whole family. That’s all the more reason to take care of yourself. I used to feel that it was up to me to hold it altogether to prevent chaos – sometimes that worked, but mostly it frazzled me even more than the chaos itself.

Some of the ideas that we talked about during yesterday’s #CADAChat included the following:

  • Time Out! Take a break away from the hubbub. When the crowd is gathered to celebrate the holidays and the conversations are just too much, step away for a few minutes. Find a quiet space to decompress before returning to the festivities. Thanks @Virtual_Nadine for that great tip.
  • Buy It! While you’re out shopping for others, find a small gift for yourself – something small that you always pass on because you don’t really need it. Recently, I picked up a pack of felt-tip pens for grading my students’ papers instead of using the same old ball-point; it made it that much more rewarding to score their final projects.
  • Do It! Is there an opening at the local nail salon? Just walk right in and get a pedicure. Thanks @JamieArmin for that suggestion! Sometimes, you just have to seize the moment to do something for yourself. Don’t even think twice.
  • Move It! Getting some exercise works wonders. @DrugAbuse mentioned looking forward to a run – that sounds ambitious to me; I’m more inclined to bundle up and take the dog for a walk – good for both of us.
  • Sip It! There’s nothing like a cup of hot tea or cocoa to help us slow down. It’s impossible to down it right away. You have to let it cool, and while it does, the almost ritualistic act of blowing on the hot liquid let’s you anticipate the soothing beverage.
  • Eat It! Amid all those calorie-laden treats, make sure you eat some healthy, energy-building meals as well. Good food nourishes and when we eat the good (healthy) stuff first, we can enjoy the “really good” stuff without going into a sugar coma. (Do peanut butter chocolate balls count as healthy?!)
  • Schedule It! This time of year gets so busy with invitations and places you need to be. Our calendars are filled almost beyond capacity. Instead think forward and schedule a few coffee dates with friends for January and February. It’s nice to have something to look forward to when the winter blahs set in, and you’ll have more time to actually chat and catch up when you’re not rushing during the holidays.

Here’s wishing you the gift of self-care this holiday season!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

R & R – Rehab for the Holidays

Just like the holidays themselves, treatment at this time of year brings mixed feelings. Midwestern Mama recalls the emotional energy that surrounded her son’s treatment program a few years back.

Many of you know the frustration and devastation that a kid’s addiction brings. There is concern, offers for help, arguments, lying and stealing, manipulation, sleepless nights, worry, and more.

If only our loved one would go to treatment. If only they would stay at treatment. If only they would engage with the treatment program. If only they would embrace recovery. If only.

We hope with all our might that they will choose treatment. I know I did. It’s what my family wanted most for our son’s Christmas in 2013 (and 2012, and 2011, and 2010 …).

In 2013, my son realized it was time to go back to treatment – note, “go back,” as he’d been to several before. He realized that he couldn’t continue living with addiction and the consequences it was creating in his life.

He went through the process to get funding and find a program that met his needs; for example, he was opposed to 12-step or faith-based programs, and these tend to be the most prevalent ones available. During the couple of weeks that he worked with the county, he sofa surfed and used; however, we told him if he was working toward treatment and giving it good effort that he could stay at our house and most nights he did.

Finally, the first week of December, a bed opened for him but the center could not reach my son. He had given them my name and number as back up and I engaged in an all-out search to find my son and get that bed, which they could only hold until the next morning – less than 24 hours.

Miracles of miracles, he was down the street at a buddy’s house and had been out cold sleeping off his high from the day before. He was surprised that a bed had opened so quickly and was acting hesitant about taking it. He did not want to go there that night or the next morning for that matter. He did not want to miss the holidays. He was stalling.

Nooooooooo.

He did call them back. He did say he’d go in the morning. He did pack that night. He did ride there with me – in a Minnesota blizzard – the next morning. He did stay. He did not run away.

That night and for the next 30 nights, I slept well. The best I had slept in years. I experienced R&R, respite and relief. I knew he was safe, warm, cared for and was beginning, in greater earnest than ever before, his recovery.

Spoiler Alert, and I only share this because it’s true and part of the journey: He did complete the program and started after care, although, he relapsed. But it was a start. A real start. It was the foundation for what today is 16 months of sobriety and recovery with all the promise and potential of being long-term.

Yes, it was different to have my son at rehab over the holidays, but it was oh so wonderful in may ways. Rehab anytime of year is a gift, but for the holidays, it was far better than we ever hoped.

Here’s hoping your loved one finds the way to treatment and recovery this holiday season.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#TBT – Sappy Greeting Cards – For & From Our Young Addict

Throughout our son’s addiction, we made every effort to remain in contact with him and to celebrate family holidays. Often, greeting cards expressed the ideas that we had a hard time saying directly. Midwestern Mama wrote a column in 2012 about some of these cards and the heartwarming, encouraging messages that we exchanged with our son during his addiction.

A Real Mom – Sappy Greetig Cards 2-29-12