Just because we saw it coming, doesn’t mean we could stop it.

We’ve seen our son relapse before. That time, his recovery was short and shaky at best, but he went through the motions. He tried to go too fast in returning to work and he thought he could use marijuana and alcohol recreationally. The relapse was quick and deep rendering him homeless again; however, within a few months it led him to a new treatment program and a period of nearly three-and-a-half years free from opioid use.

This time, the period of sobriety and recovery was steady. He participated in a 12-week, high-intensity out-patient program; began MAT, went in daily at first and graduated to weekly; saw his counselor regularly – the same one for three years; saw a mental-health professional for the first year; got and held a job; got his own insurance; earned tuition; returned to college, got straight A’s, earned his associates degree in mathematics and was accepted for a B.A. program. Moreover, he rebuilt trust with the family. Still, he struggled with social anxiety, depression and developing friendships.

Things started to shift and in spite of our efforts to be supportive, to address things directly but compassionately, a relapse begin. We saw it coming. We wished we could stop it. We did try to the extent that anyone can. Almost 11 months later, he’s lucky to be alive and to once again pursue recovery. What a rocky year, but what a hopeful outcome in the making.

Although I’ve updated the OYA Community from time to time this year, it hasn’t been as real-time or detailed as years past, so today I compiled a list of what we’ve experienced thus far in 2017.

The list that follows reflects just some of the things we observed. On the surface, some of these seem like not big deal or something that you could explain or rationalize. In reality, each represents a change in his sober behavior and that’s what concerned us most.

Right around the first of the year … January 2017

  • Going to bed early – even before 7 p.m.
  • Getting up early – leaving the house by 4:30 a.m. “to go to the gym and study before his 8 a.m. class.”
  • Taking frequent, deep-sleep naps.
  • Retreating to the basement to re-watch episodes of TV series he’d already watched several times.
  • Playing video games at home.
  • Taking extraordinarily long showers.
  • Saying he’s no longer able to study at home.
  • Becoming less and less conversational.
  • Not interacting or participating in family life.
  • Spending less time at home.
  • Air fresheners in the car and leaving the windows cracked open.
  • Finding lighters.
  • Finding wine-bottle openers.
  • Not wanting to travel out of town for spring break.
  • Keeping secret a romantic interest.
  • Falling asleep at the girlfriend’s house and not letting us know he wouldn’t be home.
  • Skipping a day of classes and science labs to hang out with the girl.
  • Not responding to text messages and phone calls from Mom and Dad.
  • Not wanting to talk about “it” let alone “anything.”
  • Spending more and more time with one of his former using buddies.
  • Going shopping and buying expensive clothes and shoes.
  • Arguing about the positive attributes of cannabis.
  • Self-medicating with cannabis including marijuana and cdb oil to combat anxiety and depression.
  • Going out drinking with coworkers.
  • Not communicating his whereabouts or schedule.
  • Not coming home night after night.
  • Finding pipes, a large quantity of marijuana, cbd crystals, wine and vodka bottles in the car.
  • Family meeting with his counselor.
  • Says he’s relieved he no longer has to keep his cannabis use a secret.
  • Blatantly not following the family rules.
  • Going cold turkey off Suboxone without tapering or utilizing the support of his treatment team.
  • Experiencing withdrawal.
  • Admitting he’s spending all day, every day staying high on marijuana.
  • Waking and baking, every day.
  • Not wanting to celebrate his 25th
  • Not opening his cards or presents.
  • Not eating any home-made cake.
  • Ignoring the dog.
  • Continuing to experience PAWS.
  • Getting a prescription for anxiety meds, but quitting these three days later.
  • Dropping out of his college classes and not making arrangements to apply his hard-earned tuition to a future semester.
  • Going on a bender that landed him a two-day stay in detox due to public intoxication with a BAC of .26.
  • Missing work.
  • Losing his job.
  • Not coming home or responding to calls and texts for a whole week.
  • Coming home, handing us his car keys and wallet, asking us to hold onto these for a while.
  • Visiting his cousin at rehab and noting, “he’s in denial and not ready for recovery.”
  • Five days later, going on another bender.
  • Smashing his car into a guard rail.
  • Getting arrested for DWI.
  • Refusing to take a breathalyzer.
  • Staying in jail for 48 hours.
  • Meeting with a DWI attorney.
  • Getting a voluntary chemical health assessment, but not acting on recommendations to go to treatment.
  • Enrolling in the state’s ignition-interlock program.
  • Interviewing and getting offered a new job.
  • Taking an Uber, instead of driving, to hang out with friends.
  • Not coming home that night.
  • Not showing up on the first day of his new job.
  • Drunk dialing and texting people.
  • Walking home 7 miles in the rain because his phone was dead.
  • Ringing the doorbell early on Sunday morning because he lost his keys.
  • Scrapes and scratches on his face.
  • Less than 48 hours later, heading out on another bender.
  • Sitting by the mudroom door the next morning.
  • Losing the spare set of car keys, the extra house key and his phone.
  • No memory whatsoever of where he had been – said he woke up on a park bench not far from home.
  • Agreeing to another chemical health assessment.
  • Not liking but agreeing to inpatient, dual-diagnosis treatment.
  • Waiting, waiting, waiting for a bed to open.
  • Hanging in the basement watching TV and playing video games.
  • Sleeping a lot.
  • Unable to start his car due to it detecting alcohol in his system.

Finally, riding with his dad to treatment two hours from home … October 27, 2017.

Welcoming us on family night … November 1, 2017.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

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The Newest, Most Dangerous Drugs You Need to Know About

apothecary

Stay in the know about emerging drug trends so you can talk to your family and friends about the dangers these present. This week’s guest blogger lists new and emerging drugs and how each is being used.

Illicit drug use is a major health problem in the United States for adolescents and young adults. It’s very helpful to be aware of emerging drug trends, whether you’re a parent, teacher, law enforcement or the medical community. When you know what drugs are available illegally, you can talk to those you love about the dangers.

Although some of these emerging dangerous drugs are only available in specific locations, illegal substances have the tendency to spread quickly into major cities then into rural areas. Don’t think that your town is not vulnerable.

Carfentanil

  • This drug is making its way onto the street scene, even though it was never created for human use. It is easy and cheap to make, but 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Some dealers are passing it off as heroin. Handle carfentanil carefully, because it is easily absorbed through the skin or can be accidentally inhaled. 

Fentanyl

  • A strong opiate, fentanyl is often used in surgery recovery for breakthrough pain. The difference between a therapeutic dose or an overdose is very small. Although fentanyl has been on the market since the 1970s, it’s beginning to be more available on the street. Sometimes, it’s called “China White.” New analogues of fentanyl have been identified and are very dangerous.

Grey Death

  • Authorities are puzzled as to the makeup of Grey Death, but they do know that it can kill in small doses. It looks like concrete mixing powder, but the ingredients change from batch to batch. Metro Atlanta was a major hot spot, but the drug is on the radar of Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania state and local officials.

Counterfeit Oxycodone

  • One of the most recent alerts from NIH is from Iowa authorities, who are seeing a rise of synthetic opioids. This analogue resembles oxycodone, but contains fentanyl and U-47700 which makes it much more dangerous than oxycodone alone.

Bath salts, Bloom, Cloud Nine, Vanilla Sky

  • Bath salts are a synthetic form of cathinone, a stimulant in the khat plant. The chemical makeup of cathinone is similar to amphetamines or Ecstasy, but man-made synthetics are much stronger than the natural product. Bath salts resemble their name and are sometimes mislabeled as plant food or jewelry cleaner to get past law enforcement. Bath salts cause severe intoxication and have dangerous side effects.

U-47700 or Pink

  • This synthetic opioid gets its name from its pinkish color and is deadly and more potent than morphine. Even in small doses, this drug is toxic. Pink has no approved medical use and is highly addictive. It’s available to purchase over the internet, generally from China. Sometimes, it is mislabeled as a research chemical to avoid detection by law enforcement.

Synthetic cannabinoids

  • In 2016, New York officials issued an advisory concerning K2 or Spice as it is commonly known, but it has many different street names, such as Red Giant, Ice Dragon, Kick and more. Fake weed is chemically related to THC, but is often much more powerful. The effects are unpredictable. Many deaths have occurred from overdoses. It is suspected that some of the products might be laced with other dangerous chemicals.

Author Byline

danDan Gellman is the director of  High Focus Centers, a provider of outpatient substance abuse and psychiatric treatment programs in New Jersey.

 

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.

 

 

 

Still Letting Go

Midwestern Mama shares a poem that provides comfort and affirmation as her son begins a new in-patient treatment program.

The first time my son went to treatment, he ran away on day No. 9. It was no surprise, but still it was devastating. Six and a half years later, he’s back at treatment following a relapse after a few years of sobriety and recovery. It’s his third time at an in-patient, residential program. He’s also participated in three high-intensity out-patient programs.

Once again, we are letting go knowing we have brought him to a place that is his to embrace.

In a small book called House Blessings – Prayers, Poems, and Toasts Celebrating Home and Family, I found a poem during those terrifying days of 2011 called, “Letting Go.” It was as relevant then as it is today.

Letting Go by Sandra E. McBride

I’ve brought you to the mountain … the climb is yours.

I’ve brought you to the shore … the sea is yours.

I’ve brought you to the sky … the wings are yours.

I’ve brought you through the shadows … the light is yours.

I’ve brought you to this day … tomorrow yours.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

Thrive – Even in the Midst of a Loved One’s Substance Use

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This week’s guest blogger offers insights and tips for parents about teen drug use. These thoughts can help prevent and/or educate your teens on drug use. Read more below:

Last month, our community was stunned by the tragic loss of a 17-year-old. The definitive cause of death is unknown but according to news reports, this young man was engaging in risky behaviors that involved substance misuse.

I had a parent reach out to me and ask what parents can do to prevent or educate their adolescents regarding drug use. Here are some thoughts:

  •  Don’t minimize the effects of pot use or drinking. When a teen engages in those behaviors they let their guard down and it makes it far easier to take “the next step.”
  •  Say no to painkillers. There is no reason why a young teen needs opiates for things like wisdom teeth or even a simple broken bone. That pain can often be managed with a regimen of Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
  • Opiates are NOT a right of passage. They are not fun and games. Many young adults are now heroin addicts that started with one pill from an injury. You can refuse the prescription or ask to have only 1 or 2 days worth of pills filled. The longer someone takes opiates the greater the chance they will become addicted.
  • KEEP ALL YOUR MEDS AND OUR CHILD’S MEDS LOCKED UP. We can not stress this enough!!!

  • For most parents, the first place they go is to their medical doctor when their children struggle with anxiety, depression or other trauma. Unfortunately, most doctors prescribe medications. For example, anti-anxiety meds had the greatest uptick in overdose deaths in the State of Minnesota last year. It’s far easier to take a pill then it is to do the work of therapy. But our recommendation is to go to therapy first.
  • Remember that kids aren’t just abusing pain meds. The greatest uptick of deaths in the state of Minnesota last year was benzodiazepines. Those are things like Xanax and Ativan which have proved to be the new high school designer drug. Even if you completely trust your child, it’s better to be safe. You may not just be protecting your child, but their friends as well.
  • Stop and listen to your children. Most of the time they just want someone to understand rather than “solve” their problems. Offering that listening ear will often give you insights into what your kids are up to.
  • Pay attention to any kind of trauma they may have experienced. Trauma is the greatest indicator of substance misuse. And that can include things like bullying, a pet dying, another family member in crisis and many other things that we may not consider as trauma. If you suspect any kind of traumatic event, please bring them in for a therapeutic evaluation.
  • Watch out for the signs of drug use. There are many clues in a teens bedroom. Things like broken pens, plastic bowls, lighters, matches, tin foil, an empty bed at night. All of these things are red flags and warnings that there may be a problem. Work with your school counselors or health insurance to find a good counseling option for your teen if you notice any of these things as being “off.”
  • De-stigmatize the idea of therapy in your home. There is nothing wrong with getting help, yet young people see it as “weak” or “silly.” If your family is struggling, start there yourself and set an example for the rest of your family. The more we normalize getting help, the more likely your child will be to take that step.
  • Carry naloxone in your home. We have become aware of many instances where a parent did not even have a clue that their child was using opiates. Having naloxone could save a life.

Finally, remember that no matter what a parent does, 1 in 10 kids who abuse substances end up addicted. And in many cases, the parents did everything right. If that is the case, please seek help for yourself through therapy or a great support group like Thrive!

Questions about Thrive! Family Support?

Contact Pam Lanhart, Director (612) 554- 1644

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 Parents Should Know About Heroin

heroin

Read how fellow OYA guest blogger, Zena Dunn talks about the real-life depictions of heroin use. Learn about substance use and addiction; and how addiction affects you both psychologically and physically. 

The Danger of Heroin Is Not Attractive


The image of heroin has transformed within the past few decades. In the 1990s, the fashion industry fell in love with photographs described as heroin chic or pale, slim, even gaunt models who looked as if they were using drugs such as heroin.

Heroin chic was a new and edgy trend that captured the mainstream’s attention. But there was soon a backlash.  The idea of drug use of being a high-class activity or vogue faced harsh criticism. Hard drugs like cocaine and heroin invite a variety of users. People from all walks of life fall under the spell of substance abuse.

Who Uses Heroin and What Does It Do?

Addiction has captured millions of individuals from various demographics. Now, in the 2010s, the image of heroin has beyond the runways of London. The average person in middle America is now making the drug popular in the media again.

This time, real-life photographs depict the realities of heroin use. The images are not glamorous. And the realities of drug use comes with a tragic lifestyle and bad health.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that heroin users put themselves at risk for “HIV, Hepatitis C, and Hepatitis B, as well as bacterial infections of the skin, bloodstream, and heart.”


Pure heroin has a matte white powder appearance. Dealers often include additives in the heroin that they sell. Additives such as caffeine, rat poison, sugar, or starch sometimes alter the coloring and potency of the drugs, which can have a bitter taste.

Users normally sniff heroin through the nose, inject it using needles, or smoke it. However, most users prefer injecting it to achieve more immediate and potent highs. The U.S. federal government classifies heroin as a controlled substance. The Controlled Substance Act (CSA) labels it a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs and substances are especially dangerous and addictive.

What Are Substance Abuse and Addiction?

Substance abuse is the habit of misusing of alcohol or drugs beyond medical purposes. People who find themselves indulging in addictive substances might develop two types of dependences.

Drug and alcohol dependency and addiction are both psychological and physical. Physical dependency occurs when the body adapts to the chemicals contained in alcohol and drugs. But substance abuse can also take control of people’s brains and create a psychological addiction that compels them to want drugs or alcohol. People can go through withdrawal when they stop supplying their bodies with such substances.

Heroin addiction takes a huge toll on people. The health of the physical body is not the only thing that can become impaired. A person’s mental capabilities can become unstable. Addiction often takes over a person’s train of thought. Life goals, relationships, careers, and day-to-day responsibilities all take second place to the addiction, which rules over all. Heroin addicts also often struggle with decision making and the inability to make correct judgments about normal events.

But even despite such problems, there is hope. Specific programs and facilities can assist teens struggling with heroin abuse, just as executive drug rehab can treat busy professionals. Just like the click of a camera, a drug such as heroin can transform a person’s life in an instant. Recovery programs do just that, they help people recover from such changes.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/index.html

CNN article about heroin chic:

http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9608/02/heroin.chic/

About the Author:

Zena Dunn writes about personal improvement, preventive health, and 12- Steps for everyone. Her knowledge of health-related information spans five years of individual research.  She is a wildlife protection advocate and enjoys reading biographies. Connect with Zena on Twitter- twitter.com/writerzena

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.

A new book for Parents- Parenting the Addicted Teen, a 5-Step Foundational Program

Recently, Midwestern Mama had the chance to meet with author, Barb Neren, MA. Barb has been a youth and parenting advocate for over 35 years. She also coaches parents of teens and young adults who are chemically dependent, or have mental health challenges. Barb has also contributed to OYA by writing a blog this summer, “Dear Parents…” Her new book, “Parenting the Addicted Teen, a 5-Step Foundational Program” is an innovative approach for parents of young adults who are using drugs and alcohol. This step-by-step program teaches parents how to reconnect with the entire family and be in charge again. The program is designed to help parents let go of the addicted-family system and begin parenting with renewed strength and positive power. Barb’s five strategies comes from years of interviewing 300 teens and young adults, asking what they needed from their parents.

Parenting the Addicted Teen, a 5-Step Foundational Program. Barb welcomes your questions or comments at- competentparents.confidentkids@gmail.com

 

 

 

Car Keys

It’s been a long, long week*. A week ago Friday, our son left and we didn’t hear from him until he walked back in the house the following Friday morning.

He was cold and his hands were shaking as he held out his car keys and wallet, asking, “Would you hold onto these for awhile?”.

This was followed by hugs and a brief conversation. Then he took a warm shower, made himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, took the dog for a walk, and settled in for a long nap followed by another walk with the dog.

Here’s hoping this week brings clarity and positive steps forward.

*Read The Third R blog post for details.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

 

 

The Third R

An update from Midwestern Mama on #SoberSon and his recent Return to Use aka Relapse.

Ordinarily when I think R & R, it conjures up the concept of rest and relaxation. However, when it comes to addiction and mental health, the R words that I think of are Relapse and Recovery. Oh, and there’s one more: Ready.

2017 has been a struggle for my son. He’s maintained sobriety from opiate use, but began using cannabis and drinking alcohol again. He thinks of it as self medicating, yet his mental health is suffering, not improving.

It came to a head this summer. To top it off, he decided to stop taking Suboxone – almost cold turkey instead of a slow taper with support from his treatment team. The effect is terrible. He’s irritable and agitated. The cravings are strong. Anxiety and depression are ever present and getting worse.

“I feel great. Everything is good. Never felt better,” he tells us. But we know better, and so does the dog. (Read my recent posts, The Dog Knows and The Birthday Cake.)

Last week he admitted that things aren’t working and that he hadn’t anticipated the impact of going off Suboxone. To his credit, he made an appointment with a mental-health professional and decided to go on an anti-depressant. Of course, they counseled him about the risks of using marijuana and alcohol while taking the medication.

No more than a few days into the new approach, he left one morning and didn’t come home later in the day to get ready for work. He didn’t go to work that evening. He didn’t come home that night. He didn’t respond to text messages or phone calls. The next day, he didn’t show up at home or work, and still wasn’t responding to outreach. His medication was on his dresser. The day after that, he still hadn’t made contact – with us or with any of his friends.

He’s 25 – an adult. We give him space and let him take responsibility for his life and decisions. In years past, he reacted terribly when we intervened claiming we were overreacting – that’s the addiction talking.

In the three years he’s been in recovery from opiate use, he’s never missed work. He’s always kept us posted on his whereabouts and work schedule. He’s always let us know if he was going to stay at friends for the evening.

Given this, you can imagine our concern and worry. This behavior was out of the ordinary. Where was he? Had something tragic happened?

Through the grapevine, we learned he texted a co-worker that he’d been picked up for public intoxication and was being taken to detox. Two days later he texted the co-worker, “I’m out :)”.

It’s concerning, but we are grateful he’s alive. Now, we’re wondering what is next.

It’s now been another 24 hours and he hasn’t come home or responded to our outreach.

In our hearts, we know he’s hurting and we know he’s resistant to help – always wanting to do it “on his own.”

We don’t take it personally. We’re not mad. We’re not going to yell at him or lecture him. We’re simply concerned and want to be supportive. We want to have communication. We want to have him in our lives. We want him to come home.

This all reminds me of the earlier days of his addiction journey, which further reminds me that recovery is possible and available to him, again, when he is ready.

Ready. That’s the third R, and that’s the one I want most for #SoberSonNotRightNow

MWM

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

Author Tim Ryan – From Dope to Hope – Visits Minnesota

Displaying GuestBlogger_Header_937pxwide.jpgThrive Family Support is hosting an evening with author Tim Ryan. He will share a message of hope for individuals and their families who are living with addiction and recovery.  Join the community in The Twin Cities on Friday, September 15, from 7 to 9 p.m., at The Recovery Church – 253 State Street S., St Paul, MN.

Tim Ryan: Recovering Heroin Addict, A&E’s “Dope Man,” and National Thought Leader on Opioid Epidemic

Tim Ryan is no stranger to addiction. Despite a successful business career, Tim found himself in the grips of heroin and, ultimately, was sentenced to seven years in prison for drug-related convictions. Tim got clean and sober behind bars.

Six months after his release, tragedy struck. His son, Nick – for whom Tim had paved the way to use deadly drugs – died tragically from an overdose. Reaching beyond the devastation and heartbreak, Tim used Nick’s death as the inspiration to spread hope, believing that if even one addict or family could be spared the horrors of addiction, he would make a difference. As a result, he founded A Man in Recovery Foundation, a nonprofit that helps anyone find treatment and recovery.

Thrive! Family Support

Questions about Tim Ryan’s bio?

Contact Jocelyn Carbonara (919)732-5549, timspeaks@spirituscommunications.com, or visit http://www.BookTimRyan.comImage result for tim ryan author from dope to hope

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

The Dog Knows

Our family dog is the best-ever LADC (licensed alcohol and drug counselor). This rescue mutt came to us in early 2013. He was 14 weeks old and 19 pounds. 

Little did we know what a prominent role he would play in our family – particularly in our son’s life as he lives through addiction, sobriety, recovery and relapse.

At the time, our son was 19 and he was deep on his addiction path. 

Although I had hope, I realistically knew that tragedy was a distinct possibility.

 He was bouncing between living at home, sofa surfing and being homeless.

He was every bit as much in need of rescue as our sweet puppy.

Watching our son meet and interact with the puppy was pure delight. His heart showed. A smile returned. A tenderness came forth. Although he was struggling, he always had a few minutes to play with the puppy, take him outside to go potty and take him for walks around the neighborhood.

It was a bright spot for all of us to observe the bond and it was a reminder that there was a happier, healthier young man waiting to emerge from addiction.

It didn’t happen right away, of course, and even when he decided to go to treatment about a year later it also included a devastating and rapid relapse that once again reminded us how fragile addiction renders its young adults.

Later that year, he would decide again to pursue treatment, sobriety and recovery. This time it took. Our son was three years free from opiate use in July 2017. During this time, he got a job, earned money to return to college and got straight A’s in his classes.

Through it all, the family dog was his constant companion giving new meaning to the cliche “man’s best friend.”

They spent many hours together. The love between the two warmed our hearts, and each one thrived in many ways.

But then there was a shift. Tiny at first, but unsettling. Then another shift, and then another and another.

Here we are eight months later. Our son’s personality – characterized by attitude, mood and behavior – has changed significantly.

We’re all too familiar with his current state and fear the direction it’s headed.

Exaggeration? No. It’s a pattern we recognize, a pattern we’ve experienced before, a pattern we do not welcome but that we must acknowledge regardless. It’s no longer just mom’s and dad’s radar, it’s the dog’s too.

Without a doubt, the dog knows. He waits by the mudroom door.

When will my guy return he wonders. When are we going for an adventure he wonders. When will we hang out together he wonders. Why is my guy always sleeping when he’s home? Why won’t he talk nicely with Mom and Dad? Why didn’t he celebrate his birthday? Why do I see his car down the street instead of coming home? Why did he come home and go right to his room? Why did he leave in the middle of the night? Will he come back?

The routine has changed, and our dog doesn’t understand. He doesn’t want to eat. He just wants to wait for his guy and get back to the sober, recovery days.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

 

The Birthday Cake

Homemade chocolate cake with caramel frosting. That’s become the family birthday cake of choice. Year after year for all three kids. That’s the cake.

One year our middle son wondered if we could add an ice-cream layer. A tall order, but Mom figured it out. When our daughter became a vegan, Mom even figured out how to adapt the recipe. Gluten-free?  No problem. Cupcakes instead of layer cake? Yep, can do. Whatever the family needed or wanted, our traditional birthday cake has marked each and every birthday.

This year, our middle son is struggling – with depression, with anxiety, with cannabis use (including marijuana and CDB oil) as a means to self medicate, and he’s decided to quickly taper off Suboxone for his opioid-use disorder.

He’s in a mood, and yesterday’s birthday was no exception.

It’s a concerning observation after three years of recovery and getting his life back in order. Sure, it’s summer, so maybe things will come back into routine and alignment once his college classes start up again next week. I fear I am just hoping, pretending, not wanting this to be relapse, a return to use, not wanting this to be the slippery slope.

But this is a slippery slope and it’s one we’ve watched our son go down before. Even though we can see it, we can’t prevent this 25 year old from going near the edge and possibly slipping and sliding.

As I made the cake a day ahead, in preparation for the busy work week, I told my husband I was feeling sad because I knew I was making a cake for someone who didn’t really want a cake this year. We talked about how the cake is not just for the birthday boy, but also for all the family and friends who celebrate his life. The cake is a symbolic reminder of how much we love the person who is part of our lives and how much we look forward to the year ahead.

The birthday morning arrived and our son wandered down the street to his friend’s house where he spent the better part of the day. When he came home around dinner time, he went upstairs, showered and went to bed. A few hours later, he took the dog for a walk, and when he returned we said Happy Birthday.

Thanks, he said. Then he told us we could go on without him. It’s just another day, he said. He didn’t open his cards or presents. He didn’t say another word. He just went back upstairs and went to bed.

There sat the beautiful cake. This year’s version was a slight variation – salted caramel, butter cream frosting. Dad, younger brother and I just sat there and salivated for a piece of cake but with a sudden lack of appetite. Although there were no candles on the cake, it felt like someone blew out the candles before we even began singing Happy Birthday. It just felt empty, sad, lonely.

It felt wrong to cut the cake without the birthday boy.

But it also felt wrong not to. So we did, and yes it was delicious but it was anything but satisfying.

Rationally, we know our son is in pain and suffering.

We know he needs help and needs our support. From experience, we know that we can’t just expect it or control it so our gift to him is unconditional love and support. Just like the birthday cake, it is the gift he gets even if he doesn’t want it right now.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved

 

The Daily Text

Thinking about you.

What’s your horoscope say?

We miss you.

You won’t believe the cute thing the dog did today.

You deserve to be happy and healthy.

During much of my son’s addiction journey, he was homeless or sofa surfing. It broke our hearts, and in many ways I know it broke his.

However, we saw him regularly and took every opportunity to encourage him to get the help he needed. At the time, he did not appreciate our message or efforts to intervene. In fact, it often created more friction but my mom sense compelled me to continue.

One of the things we could never bring ourselves to do was to stop paying for his cell phone. It was a lifeline we didn’t want to let go of. And, we never regretted it.

So I started sending him daily texts to let him know we cared. Sometimes these were that simple and direct. Sometimes I shared updated on the family letting him know that our life was moving forward (and hoping he’d be joining us).

Not all the texts were so serious. I would say silly things. Send part of a song lyric. Tell him about a funny billboard. Ask about his horoscope. Comment on the family dog. I just tried to keep it open so he could choose to reply or not.

Sometimes he wouldd reply. Other times he wouldn’t. Whenever I got a reply, I knew it was a good sign – he was alive – even if his message was brief or if it was irate or belligerent. When he didn’t reply, it usually meant his phone wasn’t charged, he had lost his phone or left it somewhere, or he was sleeping. It might be days before we would hear back from him and sometimes it would propel us to go looking  for him – oh, the horror.

Regardless, the daily texts were our lifeline, and his too.

We believed that when he was ready to stop using drugs, he would reach out.

We’re coming up on three years of my son’s recovery and I know that the daily texts were part of the foundation that helped him forward.

Currently, my teenage nephew is struggling with substance use and mental health issues. He’s not homeless, but he likely feels just as lonely and hopeless. I’ve started a daily-text routine with him and hope it will help him realize that he has a loving family ready to help him forward. So far, he’s only responded once. It’s a start.

We count our blessings that our son is thriving in his recovery and hope the same for my nephew. If you are in the same place with a loved one, know that keeping the lines of communication open can make a difference. At the very least, you will know that you have shared your love even if they are not able to reciprocate for the time being.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts         All Rights  Reserved.

 

 

Overdoses do not have to be Tragic

Too many families and friends are losing loved ones to opioid overdoses. 129 each day is the horrifying statistic that I keep hearing. Not all overdoses result in death – many people can be revived with life-saving naloxone (brand-name Narcan).

If you know someone who uses opiates, including prescription pain medications, fentanyl patches or street heroin, please carry naloxone, and insist that the first responders in your community do, too. Here in my state, Minnesota, organizations like the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation are working hard to provide training and access.

Naloxone saves a life and provides one of the most timely opportunities to encourage a person to seek treatment and recovery from addiction. I once heard a counselor say, “I can’t save dead people.” Spot on – let’s save lives and get people the help they need.

Opioid-use is not just a big-city problem and naloxone isn’t just a big-city solution. This is happening everywhere and this means communities of all sizes need access and training on life-saving naloxone.

Here’s a wonderful story from Montevideo, Minn., about the valiant efforts of local police officers who saved a young woman from a Fentanyl overdose. http://staging.wctrib.com/news/region/4119566-life-saving-act-carrying-narcan-squads-proves-its-worth-montevideo

Naloxone wasn’t readily available when my son was using heroin; it wasn’t even something that treatment professionals or counselors told us about. If it had been, I would have carried it and given a naloxone kit my my son and his friends (several of whom overdosed and died).

Shortly after my son started treatment and recovery in 2014, I learned about naloxone and promptly got a kit and training at Valhalla Place. It was also around this time that I connected with the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation and began helping them share their mission and message with others. I am grateful that I’ve never had to use my naloxone kit, but am so glad to have it available.

We have posted resources and links on the Our Young Addicts website so you can learn more.

Please take this to heart and encourage your first reponders, family and friends to #CarryNaloxoneNow.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

 

 

Resisting the Urge – Parenting a Young Person in Recovery

Helicopter parenting. That’s a term frequently attributed to parents of the millennial generation. It implies that we hovered over our kids as they were growing up, and experts analyze that it didn’t set up our kids for independence.

I’m not sure that I buy into that, and I’m darn sure that it’s not an accurate description of how we parented #SoberSon. After all, he was the toddler that climbed to the top of the jungle gym and swung from the monkey bars to the astonishment of his big sister’s Montessori teacher while we chose not to intervene and simply let him learn by experience. I might add, #SoberSon never fell and never had any broken bones!

That’s not to say we didn’t supervise. That’s not to say we didn’t step in to help him. And, it certainly isn’t to say we didn’t make parenting mistakes. We did, and to a certain extent, I know we still do.

What has changed is we’re not the parents of a toddler or a tween or a teen anymore.

Jungle Gym

From the moment he started using (before we knew it and after we discovered it), our parenting faced unexpected challenges and our perspective was forever changed. Instead of helping him transition from high school to college, we were just hoping he’d graduate. From there, we just hoped he’d go to treatment – and stay the full time to complete a program. After that proved otherwise, we hoped and prayed he wouldn’t overdose and die. When he finally returned and completed a treatment program then relapsed and then entered another program, well, we just hoped this would be the time that he’d truly embrace recovery.

Our hopes met reality. Our hopes became belief.

Each day, the gift of recovery renews itself.

In the early days, weeks and months, I had to resist the urge to hover over #SoberSon and his recovery. I yearned for he success, happiness and health. I wanted to be helpful, but inherently I knew he had to do this on his own

He had to take responsibility. He had to learn how to ask for help and find resources. He had to navigate sobriety. He had to think through triggers. He had to rebuild his life, remove himself from former peers, pay off debts, enroll in college, and so much more. He had to define and design his own recovery, and to make tweaks along the way.

In his own style and at his own pace, he had to climb to the top of the jungle gym and swing on the monkey bars without parental intervention, but absolutely not without loving cheers and support from Mom, Dad, big sister, little brother and other family members and friends.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

It’s been awhile

Without meaning to, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted any personal updates. My intention is always to provide at least one Midwestern Mama post each week – usually on Mondays – but somehow summer distracted me … in a good way.

This summer marks two years of sobriety and recovery for my son. It continues to go well. He spent the summer working and earned enough to pay his college tuition and textbooks for fall semester. He also enjoyed down time that included taking the family dog on adventures (aka long walks), playing frisbee golf, working out at the gym, binge watching a number of popular TV series, and reading favorite books.

I am most grateful for the return of his personality – conversational, curious, a sense of humor, caring, respectful. We so missed these core characteristics during addiction.

Instead of keeping to himself, being irritable, angry or skeptical as he was when he was using drugs, he now initiates conversations and shares his life with us. And, he even makes a point to ask about our lives – what’s going on at work? how was your day? what are your plans? It’s so nice to share.

The return of trust and honesty is another of the wonderful gifts of his recovery.

He lives at home and is a contributing member of the household, takes personal responsibility, participates in family activities whenever he’s free, hangs out with his younger brother and older sister, volunteers to help out his sister and brother in-law with their dogs (letting them out while they are at work), shares the family car, and more.

Throughout the day, he keeps us posted on his coming and going – his plans for the day, if he’s working late, what he needs to do, what’s on his mind. Long gone are the days when we had no idea where he was or what he was up to. Long gone are the days when lies were the main communication.

Things are going so smoothly, that it’s hard to remember the turbulent chaotic times. It truly feels like that was a long-ago chapter. For mothers, it’s almost like childbirth – you experienced it, you know it happened, but once you hold that sweet infant it’s a distant memory and as that little one grows up, the memory fades even more though it never fully disappears.

I look forward to the many chapters ahead with #SoberSon … and sharing these with you.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

Three!!!

Three years ago this week, the Our Young Addicts blog launched with the word “help” followed by an exclamation point.

Help! https://ouryoungaddicts.com/2013/07/

It wasn’t a call for help rather it was an acknowledgement that there were others other there, like me, who might be searching for others who were parenting a young person with a substance-use disorder (a term for addiction that wasn’t really being used in 2013). It was also a realization that we needed to dialogue with addiction/treatment/recovery professionals.

Shortly thereafter, the blog turned into a website with links, resources and more: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and community events.  A community started to grow. It was no longer me, it became us.

While I didn’t know the answers, I sure as heck had amassed a lot of experience and resources, and in my mind, hope always existed even when things seemed hopeless.

Today, Our Young Addicts is a community of parents and professionals who share experience, resources and hope no matter where a young person may be on the spectrum of addiction, treatment and recovery.

So much has changed, for the better, in the three years since this blog launched. It’s a wonderful reminder of what is possible. It’s just the kind of reminder that we need when we’re in the throes of a young person’s addiction – whether we are their parent or an addiction/treatment/recovery professional working with the young person and their family.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! (Three thank you’s because, this week we are three years old.)

Midwestern Mama aka Rose McKinney

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

Three Simple Rules

What boundaries do you set with your young addict? Midwestern Mama reflects on her family’s “Three Simple Rules,” which proved to be anything but easy yet absolutely necessary for peace and well-being during the addiction journey.

After our young addict turned 18, and we had been through significant chaos and a few scares, we needed some boundaries. Our days and nights had turned upside down. He was coming and going as he pleased, and we knew he was up to no good.

When he would come home, I could smell the trouble. Yes, he reeked of marijuana – and the cologne he sprayed to try and mask it. I could see the trouble. His eyes were bloodshot. If I opened his backpack or checked his coat pockets, well, it was easy to know what had been going on and it was a lot more than pot.

Enough was enough.

Our college-age daughter was working full time and going to school full time – she needed to stay focused. Our elementary-age son needed a full night of sleep – and to witness fewer stressful arguments between his brother and mom and dad.

My husband and I had jobs to go to each morning. Our colleagues counted on us to be fresh.

Yep, our son’s lifestyle was dictating ours and it was not healthy for any of us.

We had had enough, but our son hadn’t. He didn’t believe he had a problem – in fact, he felt WE were the problem. (Yeah, I know, you’ve heard that, too!) He didn’t want help. He didn’t want to live at home yet he didn’t have anywhere else to live.

It was time for some clarity on the privilege of living at home and to have some healthy expectations.

We had three simple rules:

1) No drugs or paraphernalia in the house;

2) Keep family hours Sunday night through Friday morning – no coming and going, as pleased, at all hours of the night;

3) Let us know by 8 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends if he wouldn’t be coming home that evening.

More often than not, this meant he chose not to live at home during his addiction – that broke our heart to know that using trumped being at home, that sofa surfing and homeless were his decision, but these were boundaries that protected our family – including his siblings and allowed us to go on about our lives and responsibilities.

To that end, our son was ALWAYS welcome and encouraged to be part of family activities. We wanted him to know his home was there ready when he was, that the family was there for him, that our lives would continue forward and that when he was ready that his would, too.

In time, our son addressed his drug addiction, and in time, he embraced recovery. Today, he is living at home, nearly two years sober. Today our three simple rules are no longer necessary. Instead, common courtesy is the rule and it never needs enforcing because it’s simple they way we live.

No matter where you are on the addiction journey with your young adult, I encourage you to set some simple rules that support peace and well-being in your home. When recovery comes around, I predict that common courtesy will return and there will no longer be need for rules.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Second Chances – Puppy Love Part II

We hear a lot about service as an important part of recovery. Midwestern Mama observes #SoberSon experience the boost in self-esteem that comes from helping others – this time, a rescue puppy who needs a home.

dogs-984015_1280

Just as there is no one-size-fits-all treatment program, the same should be said for recovery. My son floundered in traditional approaches yet has thrived in the past 18 months through a guided, but self-directed program. In addition to counselors and family members, our family dog has been a central part of his recovery, and most recently, a new dog has offered him an opportunity to grow.

Enter a two-year-old pit-bull mix from a local adoption program that works through foster homes instead of shelters. Our daughter and son in law are fostering the puppy until it gets its “forever” home. Because they work overlapping full-time schedules, there are some points during the day when they need someone to let out the dog, take it for walks, and give it some love.

Enter #SoberSon. His spring semester college schedule has him wrapping up classes by early afternoon a couple days each week, so he’s able to take on dog duty those days. Not only is this another example of the growing trust that our family now has in our son – he has a key to their house – it’s an awesome opportunity for him to volunteer his time in exchange for tail wags and dog kisses!

He realizes that he’s saving the dog’s life and helping it heal from whatever past it may have had.

He commented the other day that, “it’s all about giving him a second chance.” My heart melted because, I think he realizes that he, too, got a second chance when he embraced treatment, sobriety and recovery.

In a few weeks, this dog will go to its new home and when it does, it will go with its own renewed sense of trust in people and belief that the world can be an awesome place

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Puppy Love at First Sight

Midwestern Mama celebrates a wedding anniversary, her son’s continued sobriety, and the puppy that has brought incredible healing to the family.

Welcome Home Puppy

Three years ago on our 25th wedding anniversary, a neighbor was taking care of a Golden Retriever puppy and asked if we’d like to meet it. This adorable little fluff ball needed a home. Without hesitation, my husband and I offered to adopt the puppy. Our neighbor was thrilled and said she’d make arrangements with the owner the next day.

We were getting a puppy! Until recently, our family life with school, sports and work schedules did not lend itself to having a puppy. Now, however, we had a bit more flexibility and believed this was an ideal time to add a puppy to the mix.

The next morning, my husband purchased puppy chow and a soft bed. We texted the neighbor and didn’t hear back. We waited. Then we got the call that the owner had already promised the puppy to someone else; our neighbor was sorry to share this message.

We had geared up for this exciting new adventure only to have it end before it even started.

Without hesitation, my husband looked online at puppy adoption through our local animal humane society. There among the puppies was an adorable, 14-week-old with white fur and black markings. So cute, so loving, we knew he would be adopted in a heartbeat.

We arrived at the animal humane society the moment it opened. Upon meeting the puppy, we knew this was the one. There was something extra special about him and we brought him home.

Our 12-year-old son had just gotten back home from a sleepover when we pulled in the driveway with the puppy. Love at first sight.

Later that day, we texted our 20-year-old son hoping to reach him from wherever he might be in whatever state of high he might be in. We didn’t tell him why he should return home, but said we really wanted to see him. A few hours later, he showed up and met the puppy. Love at first sight.

These were the days when our son was working an overnight shift at a local Perkins. He had been living with us again for a few months and was participating in an out-patient treatment program – although his attendance and commitment was anything but engaged. He was using, lying, stealing, and living in a fog. It was one of the many chapters of his devastating drug addiction.

But upon meeting the puppy, we observed a softening. Our son’s caring, compassionate, loving self was visible. Although the turmoil of addiction – including homelessness – continued for another year and a half, having the puppy at home was always a welcome reason for him to stop and see the family. The puppy became a connection point for our family, and our young addict and the puppy developed a strong and special bond. (The puppy even ‘wrote’ a letter to our son and attended an intervention with family and friends.)

When our son moved back home and committed to treatment, sobriety and recovery, the puppy was the best therapist ever. Best friends.

As my husband and I celebrate our 28th anniversary this weekend, and our son’s 18 months of sobriety, we are forever in awe of the role that our puppy has played in healing our family. Love at first sight, indeed.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

Guest Blog: The Real Me by Brook McKenzie

Ever wonder if your kid will overcome addiction and live a life in recovery? Never stop believing that it is possible. Treatment works. Recovery is possible. Today’s guest blogger is a young man who did just that. Meet Brook McKenzie and find hope in his story… MWM

With no tattoos, barely any muscles, and a quiet, sensitive nature, I had very few credentials to suggest I would survive in prison. Yet there I was, orange jumpsuit and a shaved head. At 19 years old, 155 lbs., I was not much to behold.  If anything I was the poster-child for “easy prey.”

How often I wished that I had never taken that first hit of crack-cocaine. How many times I wondered at how different things might have been.

Like many, I grew up in a great family with plenty of opportunity. It would have been much more likely for me to go on to graduate college, embark on a career and start a family than to wind up in prison.  But that was not at all what happened.  For years my parents had been wringing their hands in dismay. They would say things like, “how did this happen?” “why can’t you stop?” “can you quit for us, if not for yourself?” These were questions I sometimes had answers for, but none of them really made sense when set against the backdrop of my family’s life in shambles.

I was fifteen years old when my addiction to crack-cocaine began, a child really – with little idea as to what was in store.

This nightmare of enslavement would continue for me and my family for the next 20 years. There would be late night phone calls, desperate pleas, thefts, bail bonds, disappearances, missing purses, missed holidays, and an assortment of promises always ending in disappointment. As a child I had wanted to go to college and become a dentist. I loved my parents and they loved me. My younger brother was my sidekick.  Together, we would spend our youth exploring the woods, fishing, going on family vacations and making forts and tree-houses. I played baseball every year and enjoyed a host of childhood friends.  From a very young age our parents taught us how to be responsible, courteous, and conscientious young men.

As hard working, middle class young adults, our parents sought to provide for us the best that they could, and all they could.  They did a wonderful job! Still, in my heart, I sense that they felt to blame for what happened to me. But in reality, what happened to me, happened to each of us. Addiction is a family disease and it touches all lives that come into contact with it.

Between the years 1999-2009, I served about 8 years in prison as a result of my drug addiction, and my family served it with me. I remember the look on my mother’s face when she would come to visit. There would be times that I would bring a black eye to the visitation room with me. She would squeeze my hand while recounting all that had happened since I’d been away.  My brother had graduated high school, gone on to college, and earned his bachelor’s degree. He even met the love of his life while traveling abroad.

Sometimes during these visits – when I could muster the courage – I’d look my Mom in the eye and promise her – with all of my heart – that things would be different next time – I had changed. Unbeknownst to me, and certainly to her – none of us had come to a full realization as to the severity of my condition.

Once released from prison, and with every good intention to live my life reformed for the sake of all my family had been through – I would relapse!  Whether it took a few days or a few weeks, I always went back to it, as if asleep and unable to awake.  Similar to a nightmare, I would “come to” in complete shock  – “how did I get here again?” “What happened?”

The horror I felt would consume me. How could I do this to my family? And the thoughts would come:  wouldn’t it be better to kill myself now and let my family begin to heal than to go on causing harm indefinitely? Ashamed, I dared not show my face to anyone. The only way I knew to cover up what I felt was to go on to the bitter end, which for me, always resulted in another arrest.

As my addiction progressed, I found that I would steal for drugs, lie; even prostitute myself…I would walk miles and miles to get my next fix, roaming the streets like a zombie.

Whatever I had to do, I would do, my conscience under siege. The pain I felt inside, the loneliness and sense of isolation was unbearable. During these times I would fall to my knees and pray, “God please help me, please show me another way.”

Then, in 2010, as though an answer to my prayers, I was presented with an opportunity to go to treatment for my addiction. With a small duffel bag of clothes in tow I embarked on a life changing experience that would prove to be the launching pad for a brand new life in recovery. I haven’t been back to prison since. The truths I learned in treatment are the truths I carry with me today and they are the same truths that I share with others, with families and with those similarly afflicted.

…Not too long ago I accepted the position of Outreach Coordinator for a well-known drug and alcohol treatment center in Southern Orange County, California. This role allows me the privilege to interact with other people’s parents and family members on a daily basis. Together, the families and I walk hand in hand towards getting their loved ones the help that they need and deserve. Ironically, and despite it being a big part of what fuels my passion to serve others, my own story rarely comes up any more. As time moves on, there are newer stories to share, with brand new faces and brand new names; stories of hope, and stories of redemption.

Today, when my Mother calls me I answer the phone and we talk. We don’t talk about the things we used to discuss, we talk about our gratitude; we talk about life. My father, same thing. And as for my younger brother, well, we are best of friends again. He now has two young children of his own, two girls, and I get to be an uncle to both of them.  By the Grace of God, my nieces will never know me as a drug addict, a convict or a thief.

They will only know the real me; the one that God intended me to be…

Brook McKenzie serves as Outreach Coordinator and Family Liaison for New Method Wellness treatment center. His passion is working with families to help interrupt the cycle of addiction.