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.

Lost & Found – Reconnecting with Those Who have Helped our Family through Addiction

montana-69144_1280

Along our journey through addiction, many professionals have helped our son and our family. From time to time, I reach out to let them know what has happened next – often each professional was just a brief participant.

Last night I texted a private investigator whom we hired in summer 2011 when our son had run away from a wilderness treatment center just nine days into the program, to give him a positive update.

That summer, without a phone or wallet, our son left on foot to escape treatment. He was in denial of his addiction and was not at all ready to stop using drugs. We were devastated to receive the call from his counselor and very concerned about our son’s well-being and whereabouts.

After checking in with area shelters and filing a missing person’s report with the local sheriff’s department, we had fleeting hope of finding our son and getting him back to Minnesota. A day or so later, having heard no word, we hired a private investigator.

Fortunately, this caring, young man tracked our down our son within a day. He told our son how worried we were and how much we wanted to help him. They had dinner together that night and he let him sleep at his home before getting him on board a plane for Minnesota.

While there is more to this story as you may have read in many of the old posts on this site, it was a turning point in more than one way – many of which were even more devastating. I felt compelled to reach back out to the private investigator to let him know that #SoberSon is 14 months sober, living at home, taking college classes, working part time, attending counseling, and more.

Shortly after texting him with the update, I received the nicest note back. I imagine that often people never know what happened next and must wonder if things eventually turned out all right.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts                            All Rights Reserved.

Autumn Blessings & Updates

This year's fall routine is most welcome as #SoberSon continues on the recovery path and Midwestern Mama pursues a series of parent-awareness events.
This year’s fall routine is most welcome as #SoberSon continues on the recovery path and Midwestern Mama pursues a series of parent-awareness events.

Positive routines are such a blessing. Right now, we are in such a great place with our #SoberSon. He’s taking college classes (13 credits), working part time, attending counseling sessions as part of his medication-assisted therapy, seeing a psychologist, living at home, taking part in family activities and loving our family dog.

His outlook is positive and he’s mastering coping skills that help him with stress management, depression, anxiety and more. Each day, we see more and more of the happy, healthy kid we love. Each day, we become more and more confident in the future, and more importantly, he feels confident as well.

After such a long, devastating haul through addiction, this is a welcome routine. Each day, I pause to think about what a blessing it is to have weathered his addiction and to witness his recovery.

As such, it’s also a time for me to reflect on the journey and plot out the future for Our Young Addicts. One of the exciting things underway is a school-district wide series of events for parents in my local community.

A group of parents has met with our local principal and is organizing an upcoming parent-awareness and -education night. We are pleased about the school district’s support and envision the possibility of this being replicated in districts across the state of Minnesota and beyond.

Likewise, we are organizing a spring summit on addiction and young adults. It will be a lot of work to put together, but we have some willing partners and know the outcome will be a conversation that builds awareness, decreases stigma, and creates solutions. This, too, I believe has the potential to replicate beyond Minnesota.

Stay tuned as each of these develops. I welcome your ideas, support and participation.

Midwestern Mama

Hope, Belief and a Team on the Addiction Journey

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama