How Full is Your Glass?

You know the  question about whether you see the glass half full or half empty; in may ways, this is an appropriate model for parents of young addicts. It refers to your mindset and point of view. Either vision is accurate, it’s a matter of attitude and perspective.

Even in the depths of my son’s struggles with addiction and mental health, I always had hope. In time, that hope became belief.

At first, my hope (the glass half full), was fueled by thinking and wishing that that he would stop using drugs, get help (treatment) and return to a happy, healthy life (recovery). To me, this made sense. It was a logical progression.

During his many bottoms, and yes there were MANY, there were times that others would sweat the glass was half full, if not empty. I refused to believe this. It was not denial; absolutely not. It was reality, however, that the more he used, the more he suffered, the more our family’s hope would diminish.

We worried. We wondered if he was going to make it, if he could turn things around, if he would ask and or get help. If anything, it was his denial of a problem not ours.

While we could not predict the future or will it into being, we never lost hope. The glass remained half full, if not three quarters full!

Do you see the glass half full or half empty? Midwestern Mama - always a positive thinker - sees it as three quarters full!
Do you see the glass half full or half empty? Midwestern Mama – always a positive thinker – sees it as three quarters full!

This perspective sustained me and helped out family believe in the possibility of our son’s recovery.

I am a naturally positive person, some might even call me Polly Anna, but without a doubt my attitude and perspective pulled me – if not my son – through. I hope it will you, too.

I learned that hope precedes belief, and to me, this it the process that shifts perspective from a glass half empty to half full to three quarters full. Wishing you and yours the same.

Midwestern Mama

“Let’s just leave it at that.”

This past weekend marked one year of sobriety and recovery for Midwestern Mama’s son. They celebrated the occasion with Saturday morning breakfast at a local diner. No hoopla, but plenty of pride and a healthy side of confidence.

Three hundred and sixty seven days ago, my son stopped using opiates and other drugs. It has been his longest period of sobriety and his most sincere. Unlike past encounters with treatment and recovery, the past year has filled me with great confidence about this time is indeed different.

It makes me want to do my Mom dance! (Only I know how much that embarrasses my kids.) Without a doubt, I want to shower him with accolades. But he’s not a “loud and proud” kind of person. Instead, he’s quieter and more introspective these days. In many ways, his struggles with anxiety, depression and addiction transformed him from extroverted to introverted, and I have to recognize and respect that.

He is proud of himself and he knows the family is, too. He has worked hard this past year and is continuing to do the hard work to rebuild his life and transition to self sufficiency in due time. He is taking it slower, not rushing things – in the past, not approaching it this way triggered a terrible relapse that set him back even further than ever before.

The menu at our breakfast diner offered many enticing items and he was eager to sample several. Over Huevos Rancheros, French toast, sausage links and chocolate milk, I told him I wouldn’t make a big deal out of the occasion … but I did want to commemorate it. He looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s just leave it at that.”

I smiled and so did he.

Celebrating One Year of Sobriety for Midwestern Mama's Son!
Celebrating One Year of Sobriety for Midwestern Mama’s Son!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

#TBT – Maybe Today Will Be The Day

In today’s #TBT column, Midwestern Mama writes about the guiding, calling HOPE that “Maybe today will be the day,” that her son would choose sobriety and recovery.

Every parent of a young addict hopes and prays that TODAY will be the day that addiction ends and sobriety and recovery begins. None of is knows how long the journey will go on. All along though, we must maintain hope – for ourselves and for our young addicts.

A Real Mom – Maybe today will be the day 1-31-12

Several years after writing this column, after lots and lots of hoping (and other things), that day came. My son made that choice on July 11, 2014, and I’ve never been so grateful.

Midwestern Mama

Sunrise – The Miraculous Transition from Addiction to Recovery

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” It’s something my mother used to tell me, and as I grew older I thankfully learned she was right.

Shining light on recovery in Minneapolis.
Shining light on recovery in Minneapolis.

Throughout my son’s addiction, when not only the nights seemed dark but the days as well, our family always looked for the bright spots – the bright spots we hoped would be ahead. Sometimes, we would get a small bit of sunlight and it would make us hopeful for more. Then it would dim and darkness returned.

As his days became darker and the light was less and less, our family learned to move forward. There remained a shadow of his addiction no matter what we did, but we found our own guiding lights and the hope that each new day would bring – if not for him, for ourselves.

Addiction is a time warp for the addict as well as their family and friends. We wonder when it will end with the hopes that it becomes a transition to recovery as opposed to the unthinkable end to end all ends.

From Addiction to Recovery

The pivot from addiction toward recovery often comes on unexpectedly but no less gratefully. When night turns into day, it is a miracle of sorts.

One year ago today, our son was in the depths of his addiction. He had been to treatment several times. He had recently relapsed horrifically just a few months after an in-patient program and halfway house transitional program. I feared we were coming to the end – not the good kind of end. I could not believe how bad it had become.

It was as dark as it had ever been … and then, he was ready to stop being an addict and was ready to change. His recovery began on July 11, 2014, and continues forward. We are so happy for him.

And, we are immensely proud of him, too – we are learning that recovery is hard work. Recovery, while the opposite of addiction, is not necessarily all joy either. It too has dark days and nights. It takes an effort to see the light, and some days are easier than others.

The Sun is Shining

Most recently, I’ve witnessed some of the brightest days of our son’s recovery and it fills my heart with joy because not only is he sober, his personality is transforming in such a positive way.

Just last week, for example, he asked if he could go downtown with me over the noon hour. I had a client lunch and he thought he’d shop for his sister’s birthday present. I said, of course, however, I was leaving shortly. He doesn’t like to be rushed, so he hemmed and hawed about whether he’d be ready. Then he was concerned about how long the family dog might have to be home alone. I nudged him to make a decision one way or the other neither choice being right or wrong. Ultimately, he decided to come with me, but was non talkative during the ride as if he weren’t so sure he was glad to be going.

Now in the past, this might have been one of those get a ride with mom and then disappear for days at a time doing you know what. We’ve come a long way since then. Not only is there trust, he no longer yearns for the rush of scoring drugs and using, and he no longer wants that transient, lonely lifestyle. Phew – such a relief.

After my lunch, and to my surprise, he told me he’d run into one of his old tennis buddies from high school. They were grabbing lunch from one of the food trucks AND he invited me to come join them as they caught up. NEVER, in a very long time, has he encouraged me to participate in conversations with friends. Today, he was including me.

A couple of blocks up, I joined these young men as they chatted. We laughed, talking about the tennis days, and shared news of their siblings. My son was animated, smiling, laughing, conversational … he was happy.

Not only had he made the effort to go downtown, he got the unexpected positive reward of reconnecting with a former friend, and the chance to share updates of his own about going back to college, having a part-time job, and being sober.

Last week, the sun rose and shined as brightly as I’ve seen it in a long, long time. At many points over this first year in recovery, I have sensed the positive transition from addiction; each one has been amazing and this latest one was as affirming as any of them – my son is recovering!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Hope, Belief and a Team on the Addiction Journey

Midwestern Mama recently participated in a podcast with 100 Pedals that highlights the origins of Our Young Addicts and formation of the #OYA Community.

For your listening pleasure and some key takeaways for parents and professionals:

http://www.100pedals.com/it-takes-hope-belief-and-a-team-to-get-through-the-addiction-journey/

Midwestern Mama

From Addiction to #OYACommunity

Sunday night reflection.  Our Young Addicts all started with a single word: Addiction. It has grown into a word that means many, together: #OYACommunity

In what seems like eons, but in reality spans 2009 – 2015, I’ve penned at least IMG_54751,000,000 words;  as of today, nearly 7,000 tweets;  well over 1,000 pages of draft copy, 100-plus blog posts. Additionally, for a few years, I wrote a bi-weekly newspaper column that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and I continue to write for a feature article here and there for magazines.

How did it all start? It started with concerns about my teen-age son. Thing were happening so quickly that it was hard to keep track of everything, so I began taking notes in simple, black-and-white composition books. From there, I would type up the notes to maintain a chronology of professionals we consulted, of my son’s behavior, words and actions, and of the maze of solutions we pursued.  Later, the notebooks became my journal that I took to Ala-non meetings and to sessions with a therapist to work through feelings, concerns and hopes.

All together, these hand-written pages were the foundation for Our Young Addicts, a concept that is evolving from addiction to community, and I could not be prouder or more excited about the future.

Midwestern Mama

My Child Has a Problem with Drugs

Here’s a post I wish had been around when our son started using drugs. This is informative and realistic. In particular, check out the questions for parents and the suggestions it offers. One of the hardest things for us was that we recognized our son’s drug problem long before anyone else did and long before he was ready to admit it let alone accept help. In time, however, he successfully completed treatment (not the first couple of times) and has embraced sobriety and recovery.

800 Recovery Hub Blog

As a parent, it is your role to take care of your child. But, when your teen or adult child is addicted to drugs, most likely the best you can do is to guide them to a solution.  If your loved one wants to get clean and sober, then help them get into a rehab. But what if you are not sure they are addicted to drugs …or what if they don’t want help…

If your teen or adult child starts behaving differently for no apparent reason––such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile—it could be a sign he or she is developing a drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of the growing up process.

Through scientific advances, we know more than ever before about how drugs work in the brain. We also know that addiction can be successfully…

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Nothing to Hide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

B Minus or A Plus – Grade This Essay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama with excerpts from her youngest son.

Let #Gratitude2014 Continue!

Midwestern Mama recaps the past week of #Gratitude2014 posts. 

At this time last year, our son was in desperate shape, and it was getting worse.  At age 21, he was several years into drug addiction, and he was homeless, penniless and jobless.  He was, however, softening to the idea of treating his depression and anxiety, and a wise, young counselor directed him toward in-patient dual-diagnosis treatment as the first course of action. Fortunately, when funding became available and a bed opened up, our son went and this time he stuck it out for the recommended time.  While a terrible relapse occurred a few months after that, he got back to treatment and recovery this summer.  As you can imagine, the transformation and positive possibilities ahead fill us with gratitude.

Here are some of the things I’ve identified this past week as part of Our Young Addicts “30 Days of Gratitude.”

Day 13: I am grateful that my son is starting to open up with us about his feelings and experiences.

Day 14: I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story with you.

Day 15: I am grateful that my son has nutritious food, a warm bed, a clean shower and fresh clothes these days.

Day 16: I am grateful that we recognized our son’s struggle and did everything we could to get him help, even though he resisted.

Day 17: I am grateful that my son’s siblings are a strong support system for him.

Day 18: I am grateful that my son is building a sober network of friends even though social anxiety makes it difficult.

Day 19: I am grateful that we are part of our son’s recovery, now and forever.

Day 20: I am grateful for all the stories that others have shared with me and the encouragement offered.

Please join us in looking for gratitude even in the darkest days.  Keep hoping and praying, and know that there is a community that cares.

Midwestern Mama