These things are leading to the rampant suicide, addiction, and mental health problems of today (Pt. 1)

Current social, extracurricular, and educational climates are stressful and harmful to our youth. This week’s guest blogger provides a heartfelt and insightful piece. -MWM

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When I was a junior at the University of Minnesota, I struggled with depression and suicide. On the surface, nobody would would have guessed…I was going to school, had some good career prospects, a seemingly fulfilling social life…but I was silently suffering. And every day I contemplated whether or not continuing life was worth it.

It was a slow slip into this hole and I didn’t know what to do, I had never had these thoughts or feelings before, and I had never talked to anyone about them. (watch me explain more here in this TEDx talk)

It took me awhile to get professional help, but when I did, I realized I was not the only one. When telling my friends, I could only get about 2 or 3 sentences into my story before they would blurt out how much they were hurting too (nearly 1 in 3 college students meets the criteria for a diagnosable mental illness). So I started making videos about people sharing their mental health stories (now over 50,000 views!).

I realized there was something going on with young people as I was not the only one who felt this way.

Over the years, I’ve been fighting to de-stigmatize mental health and support by public speaking at high schools, churches, and other youth orgs. I volunteer as a peer-to-peer mental health group support leader for NAMIMN.org, and am developing ways for people to improve their mental and emotional health. Our latest project is called Marbles. It’s an iOS and android app for people to monitor mental health and find anonymous support, 100% troll and stigma-free.

Many of these anonymous posts and conversations have similar themes and come from people of all ages, but we know the average age of our users is around 24 years old.

What’s the bottom line? Overall, a lot of people feel worthless.

And…it’s not anyone’s fault.

It’s only our responsibility to reconcile. Below is a list of some reasons that a person, particularly a millennial young person, could feel worthless. At the end, I give a few tips as to how to overcome that sense of worthlessness:

An overemphasis on outcomes

The grade has become more important than learning how to learn or the score has become more important than how hard we try in the game.

We tie our sense of self-worth to our performance on tests, in games, our careers, relationships, everything. So, when we encounter inevitable failure, it’s crushing to our bubble-wrapped sense of value and self-worth instead of viewed as a learning opportunity from which to make better choices.

Thus, people avoid situations that could lead to failure and personal growth is inhibited. We are protected from failure in many ways by helicopter parents, more rules — across the board, school, politics, relationships, athletics, getting into college — there are just more written and unwritten rules for young people to abide by, and the stakes are way higher than they used to be.

Parents tried their best to help because they saw the stakes were now higher for their children, and like all things, this involvement is also double edged sword.

Too little has consequences and too much has consequences, and there’s never a correct amount. It’s only after someone crosses a line do they realize a line was crossed…and if you or they don’t cross the line, well then nobody knows where the line is! So please, forgive yourself.

The devaluation of hard work

People think it’s cool to be naturally gifted. The American Idol generation grew up celebrating people who seemingly out of nowhere become instant stars. And most American Idols never even amounted to that much! But that’s not what we saw growing up. We observed over the course of a 30 minute feel-good television program how problems arose, somebody apologized, and everybody was happy by 7:28pm.

Grit and resiliency were never celebrated. There was never a story about the person who studied for 2 hours every night for above average grades, it was all about the gifted athletes, socialites, and scholars who naturally rise to the top and overcome a miniscule bout with adversity.

Even “cool” kids in school were the ones who looked like they never did anything. As a high school senior I was embarrassed to say that I studied for my AP calculus 2 test because if I tied my friend’s score, but I admitted to him that I studied, that meant I was dummer…that I was less than him.

Worthy achievement seemed to be a mixture of good looks, perfect parents, supportive friends, and a quirky and inspiring mentor — none of which are actually accessible for an average 15 year old from Omaha!

But in these formative adolescent years, the messages of what it took to be successful, popular, and therefore worthy, were almost the complete antithesis of what it actually takes to have a fulfilling life.

The wrong goal

All this contributes to young people having the wrong goal, and we are still reconciling with this one. Never once did anyone tell me to seek out activities, hopefully one that pays you for it, that fulfill my life. The closest anyone came was “find something that makes you happy.”

Happiness is the wrong goal though because in happiness, there is no room for sadness, struggle, disgust, fear, hopelessness, failure, frustration, confusion, anger, and whatever else that are natural emotions we all feel.

We thought it wasn’t ok to feel bad.

So, we teach ourselves to emotionally inhibit, avoid, and numb ourselves from those emotions. How? Any distraction we can find — drugs (legal and illegal), alcohol, self-harm, suicide, social media, porn, gossip, bullying, achievement, etc.

We learned to push our own emotions, our own feeling interpretations from the world, away in favor of more “desireable ones.”

It’s been the deepest, darkest, and most hopeless times when I’ve realized what’s really inside me, others, and what’s important.

But it’s not a very fun commercial to watch Adam huddled in his room alone, tears streaming down his face, overwhelmed, thinking about dropping out, filled with guilt and shame.

No…meaningful progress and worthiness appears to be beautiful people cheersing outside on a sunny day.

Yes, that certainly can be what success looks like, but it’s about balance. All I’m saying here is we are out of balance. Too much of the aforementioned ingredients. Too much self-interest, not enough compassion.

Too much salt, not enough diversity. We may benefit from a little sweetness…some savory…maybe a hint of spice in our soup of life, our own personal marinade as my friend Kenny calls it.

What can we do about it?

It’s pretty simple, do all the usual stuff, spend time in nature, eat well, exercise, be with family, celebrate one another, forgive. And, get to know yourself.

Figure out what luggage you are bringing to the situation and relationship. Instead of focusing on other people’s luggage, get to know your own.

What’s the best way to recognize your luggage? Spend time with it, just it.

Sit in a quiet room, close your eyes, and listen to your thoughts. Some call it mindfulness, some call it meditation, call it what you want, just listen. Listen to the luggage of your thoughts.

Simply observe what happens. Continuously let go of the thought-creation side of you, just listen to the luggage of your thoughts…listen to which suitcases the thoughts are stored in.

And if you don’t know how to do that…maybe someone on Marbles does.

Thank you,

Adam

Part two of Adam’s blog will air next week. His post will enlighten us about his personal journey towards recovery. 

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About the Author:  

Adam is an advocate for youth mental health support and understanding. His passion about mental health awareness led him to develop Marbles Inc., an Android/iPhone app that offers 24/7 peer-to-peer mental health support.

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 Nose Knows – a common-sense guide to recognizing drug and alcohol use among young adults.

Midwestern Mama is convinced that the signs of drug and alcohol use are right before us. You can see it, smell it, feel it, taste it and hear it. Let the “Mom (or Dad) Radar” guide you in identifying use before it gets out of hand.

It was April 2010 that we first confirmed our son’s drug use. He was a senior in high school and we had suspected drug use but he denied it and we hadn’t found actual evidence. He later confirmed he started with marijuana in summer 2009.

For a full year prior, his behavior and attitude started to change and although we addressed these head on with a visit to the doctor to rule out anything physical followed by family counseling and individual sessions to identify the emotional and mental needs. He always flat-out denied drug use, and stupid as it sounds, we didn’t know how to drug test him.

We later learned that you can get inexpensive marijuana and other drug tests at places like Wal-greens; while not the most thorough, these can be a starting place. There are also a variety of other places to purchase Urine Analysis drug tests. We thought you had to go to a hospital or doctor’s office – we just didn’t know and it was nearly impossible to find answers even among professionals or online. Crazy, I know. Live and learn.)

Some of our observations included changes in sleep patterns, changes in friends, lying, poor attitude toward family activities, not turning in homework, skipping class, and more. Our first thought was some kind of depression and because bi-polar runs in the family, it was a natural concern. However, it was more than mood, it was agitated, angst and other exhibits that really concerned us and gave us reason to suspect drugs.

The timing of our realizations is key here. April. Spring. Spring fever. Kids being kids? Right of passage? NO WAY. Yet, kids get tired of school and sports routines. They feel their oats, as it were. It’s spring break, it’s prom season, it’s graduation coming soon, it’s all kinds of feelings and situations where we trust them because we’ve had all the right conversations, and yet, they make choices that sometimes lead places they never imaging – like experimentation, recreational use, substance abuse, addiction, consequence, and worse.

So what’s a parent to do? I’m big on trust and communication. However, because of our experience with our son, I’m also big on the five senses.

  •  Eyes: Keep an eye out. Become an observer. Take notes. Watch for patterns and changes. Open your eyes to the possibilities – even the unthinkable ones. Drug and alcohol use is often right in front of us, yet we miss it.
  •  Ears: Listen. You know the expression, God gave us two ears and one mouth. Resist the urge to lecture, yell, tell, etc., even though it’s OK and important for our kids to know how strongly we feel about the negative impact of drug and alcohol use among young adults. Listen in your conversations – hear their tone and think about its meaning (intended or just teenage-ease). Without being an overt eavesdropper, pay attention to their interactions with other people – on the phone, in person, etc. Are they talking in code?
  •  Mouth: Above, I addressed talking, so here I want to talk about taste. No, not actual tasting – that could be nasty and dangerous! However, there’s taste as in does this interaction, observation, etc. leave a bad taste in my mouth? There’s also a sense of is their action, behavior and communication in good taste? For example, my son stopped wanting to receive gifts from family members – even Grandma! – and definitively didn’t believe he should have to say thank you for gifts he didn’t ask for or want. Whoa! This was not the polite son we had known. This was a bitter, negative person and it left a really bad taste in our mouths.
  •  Touch: Sometimes there’s a point when our kids don’t want to be touched, even hugged. I get that and as they mature, they become loving again. But let’s think about touch – if they recoil, they may be hiding something. Also, you never know what you might feel. I would feel my son’s jacket and backpack – sort of like a pat down at the airport – and from there, I started to find all kinds of things: lighters, matches, Visine, hollow tubes used to snort, empty baggies with oregano-looking flecks (marijuana), and more. One day, his backpack was particularly heavy and I gave it a gentle kick with my foot. Ouch! There was something large and hard inside – an expensive, gigantic glass bong.
  •  Nose: That same backpack smelled horrible. There was a wet towel drenched with filthy bong water. Yuck. Also pay attention to smells to mask drug use – body spray to cover up smoking and other chemical smells that are related to drugs; strong mints to cover up alcohol use or smoking; Febreze or Lysol sprayed in the car. The smell of marijuana itself. And more.

There are so many clues that may indicate drug and alcohol use, and as parents we have to rely on our five senses and our gut – what I fondly refer to as Mom (or Dad) Radar. Without a doubt, we know what is going on and we must address it before it’s too late.

Midwestern Mama

Quiz-of-the-day: What One Word Describes … ?

Midwestern Mama observes the fragile nature of her son’s recovery.

It seems today there is a quiz for just about everything. Some are quite fun and lighthearted, and others get at deeper findings … albeit in nine simple, multiple-choice questions with the option to share the results on Facebook.

Admittedly, I’ve taken my share of these and generally agree with the assessments, but that’s just it – these quizzes are easy, occasionally even insightful, and I enjoy the feedback. If there were a nine-question quiz that would sum up my son’s outlook, I think the finding would be: Fragile.

Ever since I started keeping notes, logging observations, and blogging about addiction and recovery, I’ve believed that situations resolve eventually, that there is potential for improvement, for transformation, for better days ahead. That’s my orientation to life. For my son, it’s another orientation altogether.

I started writing real-time accounts about my son’s addiction and our family’s experience because it seemed that there were really only two narratives out there: 1) the horrific, after-the fact story of the addict who died; and 2) the heroic, full-on, recovery story. What was missing was the story that is far more common, the story that’s still unfolding – either of addiction in progress or of recovery in progress.

Our story is still in progress. There are still many chapters to go. We don’t know what will happen next, and so I continue to write about what is going on now, and share it with you in hopes that it resonates in some way with your own experiences, and that together, we will be less fragile and grow in strength.

I am pleased that my son is six months sober. It is his longest time of sobriety yet, and even more importantly, it is one that he embraces. Thanks , in part to Suboxone, the sobriety aspect has the easiest part of recovery. Now, without drugs, he’s facing the realities and aftermath of the past five or six years: debt, academic probation, tickets, deteriorated friendships, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and more.

Everything he does takes extreme effort and the result is exhaustion. Nothing is easy. But he’s plugging away at it. We are supporting him, but it’s not easy to watch him struggle.

A few tips that are helping, include:

Keep repeating the Serenity Prayer, and it really does help.Think about each part of it.

Ask open-ended questions and share personal experiences, feelings to see if he wants to talk – usually not.

Listen without offering advice.

Help with somethings – simply being nice (do unto others type of things) but try not to enable.

Give him space.

However, I’m as concerned today about his mental health as I ever was about his addiction.  Recently, he completed a series of psychological evaluations and is working with a therapist on mental health, including depression and social anxiety. The evaluation confirmed several things, validated others, and raised our awareness that he is still at risk. In short, he’s fragile, and it’s going to take time and effort to build up his strength from the inside out.

Midwestern Mama

A Day-By-Day Gratitude Journal

Midwestern Mama continues 30 days of gratitude, days 7 to 12.  What a delight to find there is something to be grateful for every day! 

Each day as I think about what to post during 30 Days of Gratitude, it is becoming easier and easier to identify the good things.  Even in the depths of my son’s addiction, I would take time each day to give thanks for what was good.  Call it praying, call it meditation, call it whatever you want — pure and simple it is an “attitude of gratitude” that others would tell me about and that I soon discovered as a powerful way to find strength even in trying times.  Now, when I pause to give thanks, I find my list is growing.

Here are some of the recent things for which I am grateful:

Day 7: I am grateful that we continued to set boundaries for our young addict so that he could find his way to treatment and now to recovery. #Gratitude2014

Day 8: I am grateful to other parents who have shared their experiences with me. Through them, I know there is possibility and hope for our young addicts. #Gratitude2014

Day 9: I am grateful my son is alive, has survived addiction and several relapses. For the past 100-plus days, he is choosing sobriety. #Gratitude2014

Day 10: I am grateful for Our Young Addicts on Twitter and Facebook. #Gratitude2014

Day 11: I am grateful for medication-assisted treatment and recovery, especially Suboxone. #Gratitude2014

Day 12: I am grateful that we are rebuilding trust with our son. #Gratitude2014

With gratitude,

Midwestern Mama

The Dog Days … of Recovery

Midwestern Mama is pleased to share an update on her son’s recovery in what she likens to the “dog days.” Find out why and let us know if you can relate!

He’s sober. He’s still sober. Oh, how pleased I am to share that!

Beyond sobriety, I am even more pleased to share that my 22-year-old son is taking a daily dose of Suboxone and faithfully is attending a high-intensity out-patient (HIOP) program – which meets for three hours, three days a week. He even sees a counselor for a one-on-one hour once a week, although the counselor has been out of town the last three weeks … but I digress.

Since mid-July to present, my son, our family dog and I have made trips to the clinic each morning. We head out around 8 a.m. on Monday through Thursday, and at 7:15 on Fridays so he can see his counselor before group, and on Saturday, we get there before the clinic closes at 11 a.m. On Monday, Thursday and Saturday, the dog and I wait in the parking lot five to 30 minutes while we wait for him to dose. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, his group meets until noon, so the dog and I go about our business of errands, work or meetings.

This routine will continue until the middle of October, when he graduates from HIOP and at which time he may be eligible for take-home Suboxone a week at a time and then up to 30 days at a time. Currently, since the clinic is closed on Sundays, all clients take home their Sunday dose on Saturday, in a lock box.

It’s been our routine. A good routine. A routine we hoped, dreamed about and prayed for. A routine for which we are grateful. A routine that we don’t take for granted. Yet a routine that is routine, that is at times mundane, and at times harder than it is easy.

Early on in my son’s addiction, I was very much like my cohort Mid Atlantic Mom in thinking that drug treatment equaled success, equaled putting addiction behind us. I quickly learned through research, networking, reading, counseling, Al-anon, and more, that this might not in fact be the outcome. At least not the immediate outcome.

The underlying situation. The one that existed before the drug use. The one “we didn’t cause, can’t change, can’t control and can cure,” exists whether our young addicts are using, are sober or are recovering.

Without the substance, the reality of their mindset or mental illness is immediately front and center. It’s no longer masked. It exists and it is painful without the relief of substance. It remains to be diagnosed and treated. It is. It is. It is. It is there.

Some days, my son will share. Other days, he is silent but seemingly content. And still, other days, he is irritated, agitated, moody and resistant. We don’t always know how he will feel, how he will be. It often feels it’s all about him. In some ways, it is. Yet, the family must continue on, and for the first time in several years, I think he understands and respects this even if he remains sensitive to it, perhaps even hyper sensitive to it since he’s dealing with it sans chemicals.

It’s almost like the wound is far more open and raw than ever before.

The difference this time – now on his third or fourth experience with treatment and recovery – is that he wants to change and that we are more open and patient about small evidences of change. However, he wants it to go quickly and on his terms. I dare say, we do to.

Through all of this, and I come back to the “dog days” headline, our family dog has been as influential as anything in our son’s recovery progress. I’ll go it one more and say that our family dog has been the motivation and encouragement for him.

Every day, since having our son return home, he has taken great interest and pleasure in our young dog. They take walks together. They take naps together. The more they do together, the more they have bonded, and the more our dog has grown from a frisky puppy into a well mannered adolescent dog.

Our dog has responded exceptionally well to consistent, caring training, not to mention the positive rewards of pats and “good boy.” Our dog, has increased his listening and willingness – even in the face of dog training challenges: distance, duration and distraction — because our son has exhibited kind-hearted, positive discipline. Our dog has learned patience as he awaits clarity and permission. Our son has learned that setting and enforcing expectations works.

Through these “dog days” of recovery, we are all learning albeit at different paces, with differing expectations and with varied perceptions of progress.

Midwestern Mama

20 questions, 0 answers.

Midwestern Mama ponders the many questions she’s asked over the years about addiction and the many more she’d like to ask. The biggest question remains: When will her son embrace sobriety and recovery?

One of the first questions we asked was, “What is going on?” We were observing behaviors and attitudes that were different, out of character for our son. It prompted us to pause and ask him, to ask the doctor, his teachers, coaches, friends and family members.

The more we watched, wondered and asked, the more we started to ask the next couple of questions: “Could it be related to mental health?” and “Could he be using drugs?” Again, we didn’t get a lot of answers – from him or from others who cared and were concerned.

From my perspective, if you’re concerned about your child, don’t hesitate to ask questions and to seek answers. Just like the president of the United States of America or the CEO of a company, parents need to ask their “cabinet” of advisers for input and insight. We can’t possibly know everything there is to know, especially when it comes to things we’re often unfamiliar with such as mental health and substance use.

Finally, our answers began to cam from observations – not only the behaviors but from bits and pieces of evidence, of drugs and paraphernalia. Often these weren’t outright pieces of evidence but by Googling images and scouring the internet, we would learn that paperclips, hollow pens, tin foil, baggies and other seemingly common items had drug connections.

That would lead us to ask our son questions: “What is this?” and “Are you using drugs?” Of course, his answers, if he’d answer at all, were explanations and excuses. Again, we’d have to piece together little bits of information to get a small sense of what was going on.

The questions continued, but the answers didn’t to any great extent. From there, we started asking questions of ourselves: “How can we help him?” and “What can we do?” Through family counseling, therapy sessions, Al-anon, and lots of reading, we learned some answers – ones that were clinical, ones that were evidence-based and many that were centered on the classic mantra of “You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. You can’t cure it.” These helped us better understand our role, but the answers still don’t fully satisfy even if we understand these rationally and emotionally.

For a while, we stopped asking questions. We accepted. We let go. We detached. Except that we still witnessed, experienced and observed the devastation happening in our son’s life. While we had greater understanding and knowledge, we realized we still had questions.

When my son contacts us or comes home, my natural tendency is to start asking him questions. I don’t mean to interrogate him per se, but sometimes the power of my curiosity and concern is overwhelming and my need to know feels so urgent. I’m working hard to know when and what to ask.

There’s a psychology technique called Motivational Interviewing. It’s quite brilliant because it leads a person through a process of questions and answers in a way that allows the person to come to positive conclusions. Admittedly, I’m much better at using this technique in a role-playing scenario instead of in real life with my son.

After several weeks of asking him when he was going to reschedule a dental appointment to get three cavities filled, I changed the question to what’s holding him back from doing so and what if anything I could do to help him. That question wasn’t met with much appreciation either. In fact, he snapped at me quite nastily.

At first, I reeled from his irritable response, and then it came to me that when mental health and addiction own the minds of our loved ones, there are no good questions … and that is why there are no good answers.

Regardless of what question I ask or how I ask it, I realize that what I’m really asking is when is he going to embrace sobriety and recovery. He doesn’t know the answer and my asking him isn’t going to yield an answer that either of us likes nor one that is the least bit helpful. Never the less, it’s still the question that is on my mind, the one that I cling to with hope and one that is rooted in love.

Midwestern Mama

Where’s the reset button? It’s time to reboot.

Techie or not, most of us know that when something electronic is not working that hitting the reset button – rebooting – is often the best thing to do.  Amateurs and professionals alike suggest it as a first course of action.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It got me thinking that we have hit the reset button and attempted to reboot many times since addiction started messing with our son’s wiring.  Research on drugs and alcohol continues to show substantial, detrimental impact on the brain – a complex network of wiring and chemicals – even when used recreationally.  So, it seems like the computer analogy applies when a loved one is affected by chronic substance use and its various repercussions.

Within a few days of leaving his recovery program – early, against their recommendations and without a solid plan in place — my son reverted to his previous coping mechanisms and behavior patterns.  It’s now been about five weeks and what I’m observing is not very encouraging.  It’s downright sad.

When a loved one has gone haywire, it feels like it’s time to  is an attempt to do just that: to push the reset button, to reboot. However, the only buttons to which we have access are our own.  Hard as it is, the only reboot button that I can push is my own.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

Normal Teen-Age Behavior or Could it be Mental Health and Substance Abuse? One Mom’s Observations

Over the weekend, Mid Atlantic Mom (MAM) and I had a long overdue phone conversation.  Although we’ve never met face to face, we are quite close and we always amaze each other with parallel thinking on trending topics such as her post on mental health relative to suicide and substance abuse.

With my son in recovery, my attention is less geared toward the day-to-day things he’s doing as I’m letting go and letting him live his life.  Instead, my thoughts are divided between future and past.  I think about his future possibilities as he contemplates returning to college.  Similarly, I’m remembering the genesis of his drug use in high school and our concern about his mental health.

Our first inclination that something was going on had to do with changes we observed in our son’s behavior.  He was sleeping a lot, was irritable.  He had less and less interest in family and was gone more and more – often anywhere but where he said he was.  He would wake up in the night and go downstairs to play computer or video games, to talk with friends on Facebook.

In many ways, these seemed like normal teenage behavior.  Other parents said their kids did the same types of things.  But we knew it was something more.  Even he knew something wasn’t quite right but in his immaturity, he expressed outrage.

Finally we decided it was time for a visit to the doctor.  We wondered what was going on.  His physical health was fine.  The doctor didn’t screen for drugs or do a urine analysis.  We were surprised and asked if that might be a good idea.  The doctor simply said, “He’s a good kid.  It’s tough being a teen these days.  Maybe consider some family counseling.”

During family counseling, our charming and intelligent son said things were fine and claimed he didn’t use drugs.  The counselor didn’t really think he was depressed either, just going through teen-age-itis.  It was very frustrating because we knew in our gut something wasn’t right and felt the professionals were too cautious with their way-and-see attitudes

In time we discovered that our son was doing drugs, primarily pot.  A lot of pot.  Like getting high multiple times a day, every day.  Spending hundreds and then thousands of dollars.  That’s when we started testing him (Wal-green’s pee test – about $19 – well worth it, fast and accurate).  FYI: Marijuana stays in the system for 30 days or longer, while other drugs may only be present for a few days.

And in later years, he learned that he was depressed and having anxiety.  Pot was self-medicating, or so he thought, and so were opiates like Heroin and Oxycontin.

I’m taking a long time to get at a list of signs, but here’s a start of what we saw.  Please add to it with your experience.  In doing so, we can offer other parents and caring adults some valuable ideas and things to consider as young-adult addiction is often masked in adolescent behavior.

  • Changes in sleep patterns – more sleep, less sleep, interrupted sleep
  • Changes in friends – always hanging with different people
  • Changes in plans – never where he says he’s going to be, always has an excuse
  • Mileage on the car – more miles than it should be for where he said he was going
  • Fast-food receipts – for places outside of the neighborhood, at times he should have been at school or sports practice, in the middle of the night when spending the night at a friends
  • Lighters even though he didn’t smoke cigarettes (at the time)
  • Visine – to cover up red eyes
  • Cologne – to mask smells
  • Fabreeze – to mask smells
  • Dryer sheets – to smoke through
  • Tin foil – to smoke heroin (small rectangular pieces with burned black splotches on it)
  • Paper clips, unfolded with black tar on the end – to clean pipes
  • Broken ball-point pens – just the hollow tube for snorting
  • Punch cards for a local “head shop” where he bought rolling papers and other paraphernalia
  • Diminishing bank balances
  • Incorrect change when we gave him money e.g., $20 for a $12 purchase with only $5 in change
  • Leaving early and coming home late from work

For many of these there could be an explanation and our ace debater could talk us in circles to protect himself and guilt us about accusing him of something.  Such is the back and forth of a young adult user and his parents.

If you are concerned, even a tiny bit, act.  Act now.  Don’t wait.  Don’t worry about offending your kid.  Don’t worry about looking silly with professionals.  It’s so much easier to halt the disasters that mental illness and drug abuse bring by addressing it as early as possible.  We were never in denial, but always counseled to not be so quick to jump to conclusions.  In hind sight, I wish we’d pursued this even more vigilantly -especially before he turned 18, because that’s a turning point that changes the parental role forever.

Go forth and be strong, parents.  We believe in you and your young addicts.  There is a better life ahead.

Midwestern Mama