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

Advertisements

Parents: Doing the Best They Can with What They Have

Print

By Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.

Thank you, Sherry, for being part of #fsts16. We are pleased to have you elaborate on many of the points from the panel discussion that took place at From Statistics to Solutions: Addressing the Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Use. MWM

When parents arrive at our Family Program, they are typically experiencing a variety of different emotions.  Some of them arrive feeling desperate, as they are tremendously fearful for the well-being of their child, and are out of ideas about what to do.  Some of them arrive confused, as it makes no sense that they have raised this beautiful child with their best efforts and values, and, yet, the disease of addiction is still present.  Some of them arrive angry, because it’s really frustrating to deal with the behaviors that happen when someone is actively using.  And, some of them are just exhausted, because standing guard over your child’s life is all-consuming.

To say it’s not easy to be a parent of a child who struggles with alcoholism or addiction is an extreme understatement.  When the dreams and aspirations for the person you love are side-tracked by addiction, what is left behind is the stuff most parental nightmares are made of.

Our society doesn’t help with these nightmares.  In fact, someone outside of the situation who hasn’t had firsthand experience with alcoholism or addiction may easily make judgements.  It’s a common belief that if a child is “good” or “bad” it has to do with how they have been parented.  Most people look at alcoholism and addiction as a moral failing, rather than a disease or disorder.  There is much stigma placed on families who are impacted by addiction, even though alcoholism was first declared a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956, and, addiction has been placed in this category, as well.  This information alone doesn’t seem to stop the judgements, or stop a parent from taking their child’s addiction personally.

I know it was something my husband took personally.  Even though he understood the disease of addiction better than most because he is in long-term recovery himself, understanding what to do as two out of three of his children struggled with their own addictions, and the consequences that surrounded them, escaped him.  I took it personally, as well, thinking that if I had a different role in their lives, or maybe if his prior marriage was still intact, something would be different for these two.

Despite the stories we create in our heads about all of this, the facts remain the same.

Good parenting doesn’t stop addiction.  There is no amount of loving someone that can change their physiology or propensity for alcoholism or addiction.  Bad parenting doesn’t create addiction. 

There are many who have survived less than ideal childhoods who have grown up to live happy, productive lives without the cloud of addiction.

And, yet, most of us still want to blame something or someone for this issue.  I was recently involved in a conversation where a question was posed: What are some of the road blocks and challenges that hinder collaboration with working with youth struggling with addiction?  With so many obstacles that stand in the way, I was looking forward to the answers, so we could start addressing them!  I was surprised to hear that one of the people involved believed the major obstacle was parents.

As she explained, I understood her standpoint.  Sometimes parents, in their confusion around the situation, get caught up in denial.  They want to believe that their beloved child would know better.  They want to believe that addiction couldn’t possibly touch their family.  They want to believe that it’s just a phase.  They don’t want to live in the embarrassment and shame associated with alcoholism or addiction, and who can blame them, really?

But, sometimes we still blame.  It’s fairly common in the world today that when something goes “awry” we want answers and to know who is responsible.  If it’s a child, then the parent must be at fault.  Even those of us working in the addiction recovery field we hear the comments about the parents that are more of a problem than their child.  We may have even made those comments.

The truth of the situation is that parents are doing the best they can with the information that they have.  They are doing their very best.  They want the very best for their child.  The assumption should not be that they are to blame.  The assumption should always be that they are loving their child as much as they possibly can.

The question for those of us who work with these parents is: How do we help families from blaming themselves?

In my experience, the best place to start is creating a safe place for them to talk.  Isolation is a key symptom of addiction, and is present on both sides of the disease.  Parents who have a child struggling with addiction often isolate themselves trying to protect their child and their reputation, not realizing this is also blocking them from receiving help.  If a parent starts talking, they will share information on how we can best help them.  They’ll talk about their fears, their confusion, their hopes and their plans.  The best thing anyone can do is listen.

When we listen, we will hear when a parent is ready to learn more.  The next important thing we can do for a parent is help them to really understand addiction.  Education around chemical dependency, how it happens and what it looks like, can help to clear up some of the confusion families have.  Although families typically understand addiction on an intellectual basis, their emotions haven’t always caught up yet, and these emotions add to their underlying reactions.  In my experience, when families have the opportunity to really learn about addiction, and have the questions that they have answered, it helps them to navigate the situation better.

However, as stated earlier, education isn’t enough.  Although it’s extremely helpful, it doesn’t answer the question most parents want answered “So, now what do I do?”  How do I get my loved one into recovery?  How am I supposed to be as they navigate early recovery?  How am I supposed to show up if my loved one relapses?

Typically, parents with a child who is actively using have one major fear: their child will not stop using and won’t be able to find recovery. 

Often times that fear continues after a child is getting help, but it turns to fear that their child may not be able to maintain their recovery.  Although their child may be doing everything they had hoped that they would do, parents may still be having the same reactions as they did when their child was using.  It is imperative families find support for themselves, as well.

A study by Laudet, Morgen, and White, (The Role of Social Supports) states “Support, in particular, recovery-oriented support, is likely to be critical to alcohol and other drug users, especially early on…”  It would stand to reason that recovery-oriented support would be helpful for parents and families, as well.  In fact, John Kelly, Ph.D. and Director of the Recovery Research Institute, was recently quoted to have said “Social support is good, but recovery specific social support is more important.”,  which also can be interpreted that a parent’s love is good, but a parent’s love with the support of recovery is more important.

The greatest gift I’ve received is something that can be passed along to others: the gift of family recovery. 

Recovery is community.  It is the support of other people who know what it’s like to love someone who struggles with addiction.  Recovery offers ideas and resources based on the experience of others.  Recovery offers a common language to talk about addiction, and the communication skills to reconnect with each other.  Recovery offers opportunity for healing.  Recovery offers hope.  The same process that helps our children recover can help other family members, too.  Family recovery offers answers to the question, “So, now what do I do?”

When my husband’s son started his recovery journey from his meth use, we were cautiously optimistic.  He was doing better than we’d seen him do in recent years, but we weren’t sure it would last.  We understand that this disease is chronic and can be fatal.  Through recovery, we also knew that placing our fears on him would not be helpful.  We also knew that the time that he spent in a facility was just the beginning of the journey.  The real work would happen for him in his own recovery community.

Three years later, we get to see the gifts of recovery turn into a full blown miracle.  We’ve watched him walk through the highs and lows of early recovery.  We’ve watched him take ownership.  We’ve watched him make decisions, good and bad.  We’ve watched that he’s let us know what’s going on in his world.  He did it in his own time, with his own support around him.  And, we needed our support around us.

Parents don’t have to do it alone.  Talk to someone.  Learn more about addiction.  Find others who understand addiction who can support you in this process.  And, please, remember that everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have, including you.

About Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

Sherry Gaugler-Stewart is the Director of Family & Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat in Wayzata, Minnesota. She has worked with The Retreat’s Family Program since its inception. Sherry is a certified spiritual director and has been an active participant in Twelve-Step recovery since 1999.  In addition to her work at The Retreat, she has lead spiritual retreats and is a meditation teacher.  She is also involved in the Kids’ Programming at The Retreat, for children aged 7-12 years old who are growing up in families affected by chemical dependency.

Side note: The Retreat offers a generous scholarship program to help defray the cost of participation in its programs.

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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Parenting in Recovery

Print

Thank you to our guest blogger, Rose Lockinger, for another timely and insightful post. Addicted as a young person, she is now a parent in recovery offering an invaluable insider’s perspective. (Don’t you love her name?!)

I’m not sure if I was born an addict or not, but I can certainly look back on my childhood and see that I struggled with impulse control, self-discipline and acting out. I had a knack for spitting out whatever I thought not really thinking through if it was appropriate to say.  As I moved into adolescence, I discovered substances like food and drugs and alcohol.  Eventually I found help in treatment. and found out that life in recovery was possible.

Parenting In Recovery

Most parents worry about their children, and fears around drug and alcohol use are often near the top of the list. We all know that drug and alcohol use can cause a number of very serious issues for teens. For the recovering addict who is also a parent, this is something we are acutely aware of.

Knowing that addiction is often passed down from generation to generation thanks to a combination of genetics and environment doesn’t do much to help the fear.

I think that most recovering addicts understand how important it is to address substance abuse and addiction as early as possible. Many kids begin experimenting as early as elementary school. Not only that, but many of the signs of potential trouble can begin even earlier. What does this mean? Well, kids who abuse drugs are often kids who struggle with low self-esteem, who feel as though they don’t “fit in” and who have experienced trauma or turmoil in their lives. While any kid can develop a drug or alcohol problem, these kids are particularly vulnerable, especially if they have an addicted family member.  Early intervention and treatment is key this usually starts with a drug or alcohol detox program.

Talking To My Kids About Substances And Addiction

Many parents in recovery find that their worst fears are realized when their children go down the same path that they did. My own children are still young and this is not an imminent concern at the moment but I have taken steps to mitigate the potential for problems.

I’ve done my best to educate my children, to model good behavior for them, and to talk to them about substances and addiction when it is age appropriate.   My children are still young so I am careful to make it age appropriate. I talk to them regularly about strategies they can use when they are struggling with powerful emotions and situations. For me, the most important thing is to be sure to have honest, open dialog with my kids. They need to trust me, and I need to be willing to listen. Here are some of the ways that I address this issue in my home.

If you are a parent who struggles with bringing up drugs and alcohol, don’t feel bad! It can be an uncomfortable topic, and kids sometimes get irritated or “weird” when you bring stuff like this up. Even as a recovering addict I sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about it. Practice makes perfect though — this isn’t a talk you are only going to have once! It needs to be brought up and then brought up again. Your kids are likely at their most vulnerable from 10 to 21 years of age, so it warrants more than one or two conversations.

Real Education

Education is also important. “Just say no” isn’t good enough. Kids need to have a working knowledge of drugs, what they do to the body and brain, and how substance abuse can affect them. However, scare tactics are NOT the same as education. Kids know when you are just trying to shock them into steering clear of something. Respect their intelligence. Talk to them when age appropriate about drugs and alcohol, what they are and what they can do. Don’t blow things out of proportion for shock value. Don’t make blanket statements on things like “drugs are bad” and leave it at that. Why are drugs bad? It’s important to be specific.

I’m Honest With Them, And We Talk About The Hard Stuff

They know I am a recovering addict. I am honest and open with them. I also do my best to keep open lines of communication with them, so they can talk to me about anything without fear of judgment. I let them know that I went through some hard things. And no, I don’t tell them every little detail…it’s not necessary, but I also don’t sugar coat the truth. I omit information that I feel either isn’t necessary or would be harmful to them.

Fun is important for kids and grown-ups alike

I live a clean and sober lifestyle, and I have fun! This is part of setting an example. When I was growing up, l quickly learned to associate drinking with having fun. It’s how grown ups would unwind from a day at work, how birthdays and holidays were celebrated, it’s what you did when you went to sporting events and went camping. In other words, alcohol and getting drunk were how you had fun. When I got into recovery, I had no idea how I would ever have a good time without it. I truly believe that showing kids how adults have fun sober is an important way to lead by example.

What If They Become Addicted?

Finally, it’s important to realize that despite your best efforts, your children may still struggle with substance abuse and addiction. With that in mind, it’s helpful to have a plan of action so that you can be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Many parents don’t have a good understanding of addiction. Addiction isn’t a stage, a behavior problem, a moral or character problem or something that will just go away. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so educate yourself.  If anything as parents who have addiction in their past we can be grateful that we have a an awareness of a solution and have lived that example to our children.  They can see firsthand that recovery is possible and life changing by the example we set. Early intervention is key and treatment centers that specialize in youth are available. In the end as parents you cannot control the path your child may or may not take, what you can do is support and love them to the best of your ability through whatever pain they face.

About This Week’s Guest Blogger

Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find Rose Lockinger on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

unnamed

 

 

 

 

 

#TBT – In Hard Times, Siblings Will Ask … And Deserve to Know – Truth about Addiction

There’s no hiding the fact that a sibling is struggling with addiction, so it’s important to include and involve the other siblings. In this 2012 column, Midwestern Mama embraces a #NoMoreStigma approach.

Real Mom_ In hard times, siblings will ask — and deserve to know – Minnmoms

#TBT – Do “All The Right Things” But Kids Can Still Lose Their Way – Addiction Happens

In 2012, Midwestern Mama contemplated the dichotomy of doing “all the right things” but still having a kid who was struggling with addiction. It seemed to run counter to the recovery principles of “you didn’t cause it, you can’t change it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it …” Which is it, she wondered? (And still does wonder.)

A Real Mom 5-7-12 – All the Right Things

To me, this is where parents and professionals need to come together for the sake of family consensus, treatment and recovery – for ourselves and our young addicts.

#TBT – Keeping In Touch No Matter What is What Matters Most

Throughout my son’s addiction, we made every effort to stay in touch and we worked at understanding the complexity of addiction and its grips. In this 2012 column, Midwestern Mama talks about why this is important an even shares an insight from Chicago Bears player Erik Kramer. These strategies made a big difference for our son and our family.

A Real Mom_ Keeping in Touch, No Matter What is What Matters – Minnmoms

So Happy Together!

Recently, Midwestern Mama reflected on the stress that a child’s addiction places on the parent’s marriage. In an article for the Fall issue of In Recovery Magazine, she writes about her experience and offers suggestions for other parents facing a similar situation.

Read the article here: 2015 IRM Fall McKinney-1

Wishing you and your spouse strength during your addiction, treatment and recovery.

Midwestern Mama

#TBT – Travel & The Baggage of Remote Parenting

It always seemed like the few times I was out of town for business would be when the dreaded phone calls would come. The ones about an incident with my chemically dependent son.

Midwestern Mama wrote in 2012 about a recent trip that actually went smoothly.

A Real Mom – Travel and the Baggage of Remote Parenting 3-27-11

What a relief!

#TBT – Not Using is Not the Same as Recovering – Relapse in the Making

In spring 2012, Midwestern Mama’s son was not using, but he wasn’t exactly embracing treatment, sobriety or recovery. Here is a column where she explores the concerning pattern, which repeated itself many times through many relapses.

A Real Mom – Not using isn’t same as recovering 3-19-12

Fortunately, in 2014 and continuing forward, my son has embraced sobriety and recovery in a much more encouraging way. We have transitioned from hope to belief!

#TBT – Making Peace With Patterns – Addiction is a Series of Patterns

Early on, Midwestern Mama relied on her “Mom Radar,” which often revealed patterns of addiction. In this column from 2012, she writes about how patterns emerge and change for her young addict.

Real Mom_ Making Peace with Patterns – 3-13-12

Fast forward to August 2015, I must say, I much prefer the positive patterns of my son’s recovery.

#TBT – No Car, No Way – What My Young Addict Wanted

Having a car was a privilege – until Midwestern Mama’s son began using drugs and driving under the influence. It was a turning point when we finally took away the privilege. In this 2012 column, read about the impact of having, or not having, a car during my son’s addiction.

A Real Mom 3-6-12 No car, no way

Three years later, now sober and in recovery, Midwestern Mama’s son is now in his 20s and has regained driving privileges. He’s saving money from his part-time job to buy his own car in the future.

Guest Blog: The Blame Game by Nadine Herring


Parents, families and professionals - let's end "The Blame Game."
Parents, families and professionals – let’s end “The Blame Game.”

I have a confession to make: I watch Dr. Phil, pretty much on a daily basis. I know, I know…but I like to watch a good train wreck to wind down my day and this show never fails to disappoint.

While there have been some truly cringe worthy episodes that make you wonder why they would even put them on the air, there have also been some good episodes so things tend to balance out.

The Dr. Phil show likes to specialize in shows that deal with family dysfunction: whether that be from divorce, parent-child issues, or its favorite topic – addiction. Now let me start by saying that I think Dr. Phil’s heart is in the right place when he takes on these topics, but I don’t always agree with his methods especially when it comes to dealing with the family members of addicts.

A typical addiction episode of the Dr. Phil show usually involves the family member or friend of the addict reaching out to Dr. Phil for help in dealing with the addict. They usually have tried every option (so they say) and are reaching out to him as their last hope for their loved one. The family member(s) will usually come out first, tell their story and then the addict will be brought on stage to tell their story. Once both parties are on stage, it doesn’t tend to go well and lots of arguing and yelling ensue. Now Dr. Phil can step in and shut this down immediately and facilitate a calm, rationale conversation but that wouldn’t make for good television, so he tends to let them go at it for a while before he cuts to commercial.

Once back from commercial, Dr. Phil will talk with the addict to dig into the story a little deeper and try to find out how and why they got started using. More yelling and name calling is done, and Dr. Phil usually turns to the family member(s) and starts to go in on them, and the blame game begins.

As the sibling and spouse of former addicts, I take great offense to this and usually get so angry watching him insult, patronize, and downright shame the family, that I have to change the channel!

The Blame Game

I’m going to speak from my experience and tell you that my brother and sister’s addiction had NOTHING to do with how they were raised.

My three sisters and I, along with my brother were raised in a very loving, close, two-parent home and there was no dysfunction in our family.

Now my brother was the oldest, so I can’t speak to how his addiction started, but I did notice that he seemed really different to me once he got out of the army. My brother joined right after high school and was stationed overseas for a while in Asia, and I honestly think that’s where his drinking problem began. Though I was very young when he came back, I definitely noticed a change.

As for my sister, we are only 14 months apart and were extremely close, so I was there from the beginning of her addiction. I know exactly how her addiction started, and again it had nothing to do with her family life! My sister started hanging with some very shady friends who got her started with marijuana and it very quickly progressed to harder street drugs. She left home at a young age, but my parents did everything they could to help her, and I would even follow her around to try to make sure she was safe, but her friends and her addiction were more powerful than our love for her. For YEARS she would go in and out of rehabs, in and out of our lives and there was nothing we could do.

So when I see Dr. Phil jumping all over some of these families who have genuinely done everything they know to do and come to him for help and he blames them for their loved one’s addiction, it makes me upset and sad because my family has been there.

We’ve watched our family members sink deep into the abyss of addiction and tried everything we could to help them. We watched as our family was torn apart and relationships were destroyed. My parents watched their only son and I watched my brother who I idolized, slowly drink himself to death, and when he finally got sober, watched him die way too young from cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 49. I watched the pain, devastation and stress of my parents as they wondered where their youngest daughter was and if she was okay. We lived for years dreading a late night phone call because we just knew it would be the police calling to tell us that she was dead. Unless you have lived with and loved an addict, you will NEVER understand how this feels.

Fortunately for my sister and our family, her story has a happy ending and she has been clean for over 10 years now and we are so very proud of her and the strength it took for her to make it through her addiction alive; her story is truly amazing.

I know that my family is not to blame for the addictions of my brother and sister and while I commend Dr. Phil for his efforts in trying to help addicts, he is doing them no favors when he tries to play the blame game with their families.

Nadine Herring is the owner of Virtually Nadine, a virtual assistant company that provides online administrative support to addiction specialists and social service organizations. I specialize in working with this undervalued and overworked field to help them deal with the time consuming process of running an organization.

Connect with me on LinkedInGoogle+TwitterPinterest, or my website

Many thanks, Nadine, for sharing this perspective with us. Let’s work together – parents, families and professionals to end the blame game. MWM

“Let’s just leave it at that.”

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled and so did he.

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

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Sunrise – The Miraculous Transition from Addiction to Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

From Addiction to Recovery

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

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

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

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

The Sun is Shining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Experiences, Resources & Hope for Parents

Happy Monday! If last week is any indication of all the possibilities ahead, then this week is going to rock. Midwestern Mama was out of town last week on a mini vacation, had a fantastic weekend at home with the family, and is excited about what’s next for Our Young Addicts.

Road Trip

Like most of the world, Monday morning has a way of greeting us with a groan, but instead, today I’m smiling as I think about all the opportunities ahead for the Our Young Addicts community. Before I highlight this week, let me tell you about my road trip last week.

Road Trip

My youngest son – our 15-year-old – spent five days at an intensive sports training camp in Missouri. This year, my husband and I drove him there on Sunday and then had several days to take a mini vacation. Although we both did some work each morning in our hotel room, we spent the rest of the day exploring the area. We had some fantastic meals, great conversations and even saw a matinee movie.

Husband and Wife, Dad and Mom

Recently, I wrote an article for In Recovery Magazine, which will run in the September 2015 issue. It’s about the impact of a child’s addiction on the parents’ marriage. While I won’t spoil the article, I will say that our mini vacation was an example of why our marriage – although stressed by our older son’s addiction – has continued to grow stronger. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

Trust Feels Good

What made this even better was that our older son, who is now in recovery, was able to house- and dog sit without any worries whatsoever by my husband and me! That’s a huge step forward for all of us.

The Best Gift Ever

Over the weekend, I wrote a blog post for I Have Will which will run on Friday this week. It focuses on the “best gift ever.” And, again, without spoiling anything – it’s absolutely the gift my husband received for Fathers Day.

Guest Blog on Wednesday and Throw Back Thursday

This week for Our Young Addicts, we’ll continue with a guest blog post on Wednesday and with a #TBT post on Thursday. I think you’ll like both of these and find the content of great value no matter where you and our child are on the continuum of addiction, treatment and recovery.

The guest blog post will be from a substance abuse and mental health professional who shares his personal story and how his experience with addiction prompted him toward helping others. It will be a three-part series interspersed with other guest blogs from parents and young people in recovery. I am grateful for having such a wonderful community willing to share experiences, resources and hope.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts                            All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: A Student Athlete Overcomes Opiate Addiction

PrintA brave, confident young man candidly shares his story of opiate addiction – initiated by using a friend’s prescription pain medication following a sports injury during high school. Now in recovery, he has an important message for parents, coaches, student athletes and more.

It will never go away. The pain, excitement, joy, sadness, fearful, obsessive, happiness, fulfilling, and euphoric feelings I still experience when just hearing someone mention any form of opioid. I can still feel every emotion bundled into one every day of my life. Having experienced the addiction of opioids I am forever lost in its vice grip that will never let go.

It honestly came out of nowhere.  I was the stereotypical high school jock playing two intense contact sports, football and lacrosse. I came from a wealthy, supportive, and loving family with both parents and a younger brother.   I went to a well-respected high school with high academic standards. I grew up with every advantage in the world.

I started drinking my freshman year of high school like many others do. I took my first hit of weed my sophomore year and usually mixed the two on most weekends with several friends. I had access to all the money I ever needed so no amount of anything was out of reach.

My senior year of high school was when I transitioned from a weekend user to an everyday abuser.

I didn’t drink alcohol every day but smoked weed before, during, and after school. Two of my best friends sold large amounts of weed so I never had to worry about getting any and never paid a dime to smoke. I continued to smoke and never considered myself an actual addict of anything. I was still getting high marks in school and still excelling on the sports field. It was one day at lacrosse practice during the spring of my senior year that everything changed.

I suffered a minor knee injury during a practice but thought it would keep me out of upcoming games. Our team was ranked top 3 in the state and I played on the first line so I believed I owed it to my teammates to make sure I stayed on the field. One of my teammates had surgery the previous year and was prescribed 30 oxycodones to help manage his post-surgery pain. I told him about my knee and said he had something that could help me manage my pain and possibly keep me playing.

That day I used opioids for the first time and never looked back. Some people describe their first time using opioids as making them sick, drowsy, or nauseous but not me. It was the most euphoric feeling I ever had.

Smoking a little weed on top of taking that cannot even be described in words. I was HOOKED. I did anything and everything to continue to find them from peers or strangers.

I continued to dabble through the summer after my senior year and into my freshman year of college.

Once I began college, I had cut back considerably for the most part with my usage mainly because I did not know anyone right away who had access to them. I actually stayed clean for the most part during my freshman year and the summer after but my sophomore year at college is when everything changed. I moved into a house with people I knew and some I did not but one thing we had in common is that everyone used opioids and I again had access. I also had met someone who did not go to school there who told me he could get me large amounts of oxycontin for a cheap price. Being they are extremely marked up because the demand is so high (sometimes $1.25 per milligram) I took full advantage. I continued to use this connection for the next year in which I would obtain roughly three hundred 80 milligram brand name oxycontins for half of the street value. My friends and I would pool our money together but buy every single one of them.   I started using them every day again. At one point I would regularly use 80-120 milligrams, smoke an eighth of weed, and drink 10 beers every day. I was completely lost in the addiction and did not even know what would soon come thereafter.

About three years ago is when it went from bad to worse. In an attempt to stop the abuse of oxycontin, manufacturers created a pill that was wax based and people were unable to crush and snort the pill anymore. I saw what happened next coming from a mile away. Because people could no longer get high from the prescription opioids, they began resorting to buying and using heroin. This was exactly how I started. After my sophomore year I had dropped out of college and moved back to my hometown to live with parents.

My hometown was and still is a place where heroin has taken over. I bought my first “foil” of brown heroin and it was 1/10 the price of what I was paying for the prescription drugs. I used that for several months while I lived there before eventually moving to Minneapolis. Once I moved back I connected with a fellow user from college friend who was now using black tar heroin as a result of the oxycontin extinction. I began using this with him every day and was considered now a regular user again.

Over the course of the next year or so I had drained all of my bank accounts and went flat broke. I would call and ask my parents for money weekly to help me get through life. It had taken over me.

It was when I finally met a girl through a mutual friend that finally made me stop. I began hanging out with her more and more and began weaning myself off of the drug.

It took the power of a connected someone through a friendship and eventually a relationship to make myself realize there was still a future for me and I could still get back onto my feet.

I no longer am dating this girl but am forever grateful for the hole she helped me dig myself out of.

I am extremely proud to say that I have been clean for 3 years but still find myself thinking about it every single day.

Our community, teens and especially parents, need to understand the dangers of prescribing synthetic opioids to people to manage pain from sports injuries and injuries in general. The downward spiral that happened to me from managing pain to play a high school sport is something I can never get back and even though I have been clean, I am forever an addict.

©2015 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved

The Road to Recovery – Driving Rules for the Road

During a recent road trip this summer, Midwestern Mama gave some thought to “rules for the road,” as her son drives toward recovery.Now, Tomorrow, Yesterday

In Minnesota, we joke that we only have two seasons: winter and road construction. Our winters are notably terrible – often lasting from November (sometimes even earlier) until (at least) May, and the driving is perilous. Our summers are exceptionally beautiful – provided you can get where you’re going in spite of single lanes, out-of-the-way detours and other nuisances as road construction crews spend the entire season to repair potholes, repaint lines and create roundabouts purported to save lives.

It’s not as simple or as dreadful as it sounds. Since there’s not much anyone can do about weather or road construction for that matter, we can complain or we can joke. Even better, we can accept it and ride it out along with our fellow drivers.

My 20-something son is 11 months into sobriety and recovery, and as I’ve come to realize it has some parallels to winter and road construction – neither of which we can control nor can we change.

He’s behind the wheel navigating the icy spots, avoiding the potholes, taking a few detours, and getting to his destination – not necessarily when he wants to arrive, but when the roadway deems it the right time.

Here are some of my realizations about recovery:

Maps are great but not always reliable.

Whether a tried-and-true printed atlas or a digital GPS system with all the bells and whistles, maps are just that – a map. Nothing about a map guarantees that you’ll get from point A to point B; a map is a guide and it’s up to you to follow it or adapt it as you see fit.. As a driver, you may want to consult several maps and then be ready and willing to make adjustments as road and weather conditions present. There is almost always more than one way to get to your destination and as much as the straight and narrow might seem like the best route, it may not be the route you find yourself on.

Keep your eyes on the road.

One of the cool things about a road trip is the chance to see the world. Some of it is quite beautiful, but not all of it. Some of it can be quite distracting and if your eyes wander, you may risk driving off the road. When you’re in recovery, it’s important to concentrate; one small lane change without signaling can be detrimental.

Detours do happen.

Early in my son’s addiction journey, he did try a few treatment programs. One he arrived at and ran away from nine days later. He was using again almost immediately, and whatever respite he had from using did not drive an interest in sobriety. Midway through a second program, this time an out-patient one, he started using. His interest in sobriety was still a long ways off. A few years later during a successful in-patient stint followed by a halfway house, his sobriety lasted a bit longer and he finally had a bead on the horizon. He wanted to change, but didn’t want to follow the rules of the road … thus, he relapsed and this time its effect was almost immediate – he was once again homeless, jobless and penniless.

Don’t forget to refuel.

Safe driving takes energy and concentration. Just as you need to keep an eye on the fuel gauge and to use the right type of gasoline for your car, it’s imperative that you pay attention to your body’s and mind’s dashboard. Are you eating and resting well? Are you feeding your soul? Are you exploring new ideas?

Stop when you get tired.

Experts say that tired driving is, in fact, impaired driving – as potentially dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Odd as this may sound, I think too much focus on recovery, will wear you out; it’s too intense to take on recovery 24/7/365. Too many meetings, too many counseling appointments, too many forced interactions – it can zap your energy and your ability to see straight. Instead, to help all the positive content sink in, you need to take a rest and do a few other things.

Some of the things my son likes to do include taking the dog for a walk, playing Frisbee golf, going to a movie, visiting his grandma. He doesn’t do these things naturally – he’s more inclined to play hours and hours of video games – so my mom instinct is to remind and encourage him to do something else. I’m hoping he’ll start rollerblading again this summer – something he’s always enjoyed; we got him a new pair about a month ago when he successfully completed a semester of college.

Have a destination in mind.

When my kids were little, we would often take a family drive on Sunday afternoon. My husband always called it, “seeing where the car takes us,” and the kids loved the surprise element. Sometimes we would end up in a small town and find a fun place for burgers and malts. Other times, we might end up on a nature walk or at the beach (after all, Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes).

Rather than a hard and fast geographic destination, the destination we had in mind was “family time,” and we always knew when we arrived. I think this is a key distinction for recovery. Having too specific a vision of where you want to head is the opposite of recovery, which is a time of healing and discovery. You’ll know when you’re on the right road, and if you detour, you trust that you’ll get back headed where you need to go.

Right now, I’d say my son has a loose destination in mind (sobriety, recovery and independence). He has a map (but he’s not clutching it too tightly and is open to the road-trip approach). He detours from time to time (fortunately, not as a relapse these past 11 months), and then he gets right back on the road. The road behind has my son’s destination.

He’ll know it when he gets there and we will, too. For now, he’s driving the car and his eyes are on the road.

Happy trails!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved