The News No One Wants

friendship-1081843_1920

Wednesday afternoon, I learned that one of the kids my son used to hang out with (aka use drugs with) has died. He was 22, just a year younger than #SoberSon. I don’t have any of the details and do not know the young man’s parents, yet I feel very connected to them because we have been on parallel paths.

Less than two years ago, before sobriety and recovery, we feared our family might get that horrific news, the news no one wants. That’s just how fragile addiction rendered his life. Hope existed, but it was dwindling. We knew that such a tragedy was a distinct possibility, an unfortunate reality.

Because we knew it could happen – it happens all too often with our young addicts – it makes these lost lives all the more sobering for me. (And for another time, I’ll talk more about my commitment to overdose prevention and why families and friends need to have life-saving naloxone.)

This past fall, my son had asked it if would be OK to drive over to this kid’s house. Word had it the kid was leaving the next day for a treatment program in another state. They hadn’t really been in touch since my son’s recovery, but he wanted to wish him well and offer encouragement that treatment is a smart decision. The kid wasn’t home but my son was able to talk with the dad for a few minutes.

I remember all the hope that families feel when a loved one goes to treatment, and rightly so. Treatment is a positive step forward. It is a move away from addiction toward recovery. It just isn’t always a one-and-done experience as we learned with our son – it can take more than one go until there is a true readiness.

Again, I don’t know the specific circumstances or scenario with this particular kid. I just know that my heart goes out to the kid’s family and friends.

Later this evening, my son will be home from school and working out at the gym. I don’t know if he will have heard the news because he’s truly cut himself off from the old crowd. This is not the first of his friends to die, but it is certainly one too many.

I hug my son every day. I will most certainly be hugging him tonight. Hugs, not drugs. Right? It just seems like the right cliche for this post.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

I never thought we’d face addiction.

classroom-824120_1280-1

At a recent community event, I had the opportunity to speak with parents and professionals. My message: I never thought we’d face addiction.

Read highlights from the presentation, here.

http://pressnews.com/2016/01/28/i-never-thought-we-would-face-addiction/

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Parents & Professionals Working Together

The epitome of the OYA Community is having parents and professionals come together to share experiences, offer resources and provide hope. This is what that looks like in my home-town community. What’s happening in your community? Let’s collaborate and share content to address the issue of substance use among young people.

Guest Blog: A Foundation for the Future by Bill Rummler

This week’s guest blogger is Bill Rummler from the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation. In this poignant blog post, he share’s his son’s story of pain, addiction and death, and the efforts of the Foundation to prevent future opioid-overdose deaths.

Lexi Reed Holtum, vice president of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, with high school sweetheart and fiance Steve Rummer, September 2010
Lexi Reed Holtum, vice president of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, with high school sweetheart and fiance Steve Rummer, September 2010

Our son Steve Rummler was one of the more than 16,000 people who died from prescription drug overdoses in 2011. He died on July 1 of that year at the age of 43 and we miss him more than you can ever know.

Steve was a very intelligent and highly talented person. He was a deans list college student. He was a competitive athlete, an all-conference soccer player and division-one college prospect. He was a gifted piano, guitar and drum player who wrote many beautiful songs. He was an astute businessman and a top financial advisor in the Twin Cities.

All who knew Steve respected and loved him. He was very caring, loved being with people and was engaged to be married to Lexi, his high school sweetheart. He was in many ways the all around success story that every parent hopes their child will become. He was living the American dream and we were very proud of him.

In 1996, at the age of 28, Steve suffered a severe injury to his spine, which began his tragic story. He sought medical advice from the top doctors in Minnesota and they were never able to find what caused the shock like symptoms that surged up and down his spine every single day. The pain was especially severe at night and he suffered from lack of sleep for the rest of his life. Steve continued to work hard and play music and sports. He even ran a marathon in under four hours. He was able to be quite active during the day, but the nights were intolerable.

The pain and lack of a medical diagnosis caused Steve to become depressed. So, he was prescribed anti-depressants, which were supposed to help his depression and his pain.

He soon began to like the idea of getting help from a pill. This was a major fork in the road of his life. He had chosen pills, rather than other healthier alternatives.

The pain continued and he was then prescribed anti-anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines.

Finally, in 2005, when Steve was 37 years old, he was prescribed opioids by our family doctor. This doctor was well intentioned, but unaware of the potential side effects of these highly addictive pills.

The FDA was calling them safe and effective for treatment of long-term pain. And the pill manufacturers were making huge profits as a result.

This was the beginning of Steve’s end of life struggle. He soon began to show many of the signs of addiction, which included taking more pills than were prescribed to him in order to maintain his high and seemingly “treat” his pain. He had become totally convinced that these heroin-like pills were the only way to solve his pain problem. After he died we found a note in his handwriting: “at first it was a lifeline, now it is a noose around my neck”.

Addiction is a disease of the brain, the most valuable asset we have for dealing with life’s challenges. But, when something adversely affects our brain, it can severely limit our ability to make good choices. Taking a narcotic did not eliminate the cause of Steve’s pain; it simply made him less aware of it. His brain became numb to the pain just as it became numb to most things that matter in life.

We sadly saw this begin to unfold with Steve. Not long after he began taking opioids, we began to notice serious side effects. He lost his enthusiasm for most things in life. He often seemed out of it and would sometimes slur his words. He became less sharp in business and began losing clients. He became more irritable and blamed others for his problems. He stopped paying his taxes on time and was less punctual. He spent most his waking hours sedentary on the couch, stayed up late, slept in late and rarely exercised. He was often sick and would go for days without returning our phone calls. Always honest, he began to lie.  And the pain was still there and likely even worse. So he wanted more opioids. Steve was very sick with an addiction to the very pills that were supposed to help him.

We could see this tragic scenario unfolding, but were powerless to help. Steve had to help himself.

But the drugs numbed his brain and made him unable to do so. We begged and pleaded with him to try any alternative for help with his pain. It was heart wrenching for us.

We thought we had been good parents and now all was unraveling before our very eyes.

It is difficult for anyone to take a single opioid pill without it having some effect on that person’s mind. These drugs are basically a form of heroin that can produce a high that is very difficult to resist. Steve used prescription opioids for over five years, in ever increasing amounts.  In reality, he likely became addicted to them within the first few months.

While opioids are very risky and can lead to death when used to treat chronic pain, they do have a benefit for acute and end of life pain.

In 1995 my sister Peggy was dying from pancreatic cancer and in great pain. Her morphine pump worked wonders for her. She was in a constant state of euphoria from the drugs, but her pain was tolerable until the end. Sadly, Steve became addicted to those very drugs that were so helpful to his Aunt Peggy. For him, with chronic pain, it was a death sentence.

The tragedy of Steve’s untimely death and our resulting grief, have motivated us to work very hard to prevent others from suffering as he did.

The Steve Rummler Hope Foundation (SRHF) was born out of Steve’s death. Its mission is “to heighten awareness of the dilemma of chronic pain and the disease of addiction and to improve the associated care process”. Through its Overdose Prevention and Prescriber Education programs, and through its Advocacy efforts, SRHF saves lives, educates healthcare professionals, and engages the public as well as public-policy-makers in addressing the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. (Opioids include narcotic painkillers and heroin). This public health crisis has been labeled an “epidemic” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is much that needs to be done to help pain patients avoid the risks of addiction and bring this epidemic under control. Our emphasis has been to focus first on the areas in which we can have the greatest immediate impact: stopping overdose deaths and educating physicians about the responsible prescribing of opioids.

At its inception in 2011, SRHF founders explored the nonprofit environment for organizations focused on providing hope for those with chronic pain and addiction. They found that there was a need for this focus and were encouraged to fill the gap. To date, this uniqueness has led to many opportunities for success and many demands from the community for us to do more.

We encourage you to get to know more about the SRHF. Please visit our website at:

http://www.steverummlerhopefoundation.org/

Here you can learn about Steve’s Law, a Minnesota good-Samaritan and Naloxone law, named for our son Steve. The implementation of this law (similar laws are in effect in many other states) has already saved, and will continue to save, many lives. Our website has a wealth of other information, too.

Please consider making a donation to help us continue our life saving work. Anything you can give will be very much appreciated.

Finally, we encourage you to tell others about us and join us in our effort to change and save lives.

Thank you for your interest.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your story with the #OYACommunity. We are grateful for your efforts and accomplishment on behalf of families and friends who are concerned about substance use and addiction.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: The Process of Recovery

When Midwestern Mama’s son first went to treatment in 2011, she found online news articles about a young man who had attended the same program and had recently published a memoir about his experience. She emailed him and was pleasantly surprised to get a response. In the long years ahead, Midwestern Mama and Chad Hepler stayed in contact – ever grateful for his insights, support and encouragement all from a young man’s perspective. Today, Chad Hepler is a certified addiction counselor serving adolescents and their parents. Read what he has to say about the process of recovery.

Addiction and recovery is a process. A person does not become a rock bottom drug user overnight. It takes time. Just like the process of recovery.

This “process” is best explained by Prochaska & DiClemente’s five stages of change. In this article, I will examine the first two stages, precontemplation and contemplation, and how they relate to the teenage drug user. I will also discuss how parents survive this “process” of recovery.

The precontemplation stage is essentially denial. During this stage, the user does not believe there is a problem.

They are not considering change and generally do not care what you have to say in regards to their substance use.

A large percentage of users fall into this stage even when their life seems to be crumbling around them. This is the reason, insanity, is paired with addiction.

From an outsider’s perspective, it is painfully obvious the drug use is the problem, but the user just keeps on pushing.

There is no logical answer as to why a person continues to use, it’s simply insane. It’s doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Or as one of my patients said, “It’s doing the same thing over and over, knowing damn well, nothing will change.”

As an adolescent addiction counselor, I am faced everyday with the teenage drug user in the precontemplation stage. My goal is to move them from precontemplation to contemplation.

If I can help the teen reconsider their drug use, then I have succeeded. Nothing will mess up a good buzz more than a mindset of ambivalence.

Like they say in the rooms of AA, there’s nothing worse than a stomach full of booze and a mind full of AA. Sure, I would love to say my goal is long term recovery without a relapse, but quite frankly, that would be insane.

So how do the non-users maintain their sanity, while the drug user goes through this “process?” They work on themselves. They attend a self-help group, such as Alanon, Alateen, Naranon, and Families Anonymous. They get a sponsor, they work the steps, and they love and support their user’s recovery, not their addiction.

Chad Hepler is a Certified Addiction Counselor, working with adolescents for the last five years in a psychiatric hospital setting. He is also the author of two memoirs of his own addiction and recovery, Intervention: Anything But My Own Skin and Beyond Intervention: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery.

#TBT – Addiction … Truth for 24 Hours

Three years ago, Midwestern Mama contemplated what it would be like if her son could tell the truth for 24 hours. Here’s a column that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. #TrustFeelsGood #OYACommunity

Real_Mom__What_if_we_had_the_truth__for_24_hours_

You know the saying … we’ve come a long way, baby. And thank goodness for that!

#TBT – The First Four Columns on Parenting a Young Addict

Midwestern Mama started writing about her son’s addiction in November 2011. Even in the throes of chaos, she wanted to share experiences, resources and hopes for parents and professionals. #TBT will feature past columns.

Throw Back Thursday or #TBT is an online phenomenon. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past, and hopefully gain perspective on the present. I’ve decided to post some of the early columns that I wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press that chronicle our family’s experience with parenting a young person addicted to drugs.

PioneerPress Minn Moms – First Four Columns

Too Many Young Addicts – No Statistics Needed

The stats are startling. Each one that I read is riveting on its own. Together, it’s downright overwhelming. But stats don’t tell the story, and stats don’t solve the problem. That’s why I’m glad you’re part of the #OYACommunity – we need you, and we need your stories to personalize the stats, and hopefully to see these diminish.

A recent survey revealed that parents are more concerned about teens mental health than substance use: http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/mental-health-greater-worry-substance-abuse-parents-teens-survey-finds/?utm_source=Stay+Informed+-+latest+tips%2C+resources+and+news&utm_campaign=35bd1152ce-_JT_Daily_News_Controversial_Bud_Light&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_34168a2307-35bd1152ce-223036473

Another source offers 20 stats about teen substance use:

http://www.teendrugabuse.us/statistics-on-teenage-drug-use/

I’m not anti stats, and I don’t want to stop reading these – I just want to do more. I want our #OYACommunity to share experiences, resources and hopes, and the best way to begin by being informed. So, I’ll keep seeking and sharing the stats … as if any of us need convincing that there are way too many young people becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Midwestern Mama