Recipe For Recovery

Today’s guest blogger was a panelist at the Statistics to Solutions co-hosted by Our Young Addicts and Know the Truth in May 2017. She points out the reality of co-occurring disorders in young adults, such as eating disorders and substance use. MWM

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As a psychologist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders for the past 13 years, we are seeing more and more individuals in eating disorder treatment programs who suffer from both an eating disorder and a substance use disorder. In fact, we know that between 30-50% of individuals with an eating disorder also struggle with a substance use disorder and vice versa. This includes men and women of all ages and backgrounds-eating disorders and substance use disorders don’t discriminate! Often times the substance use disorder and eating disorder are intimately intertwined and if you try to treat one disorder, the other disorder is likely to get worse. This can certainly complicate treatment and it is important to consider this as you navigate your journey to recovery.  

I wrote this piece, “Recipe for Recovery,” a few years ago for eating disorder awareness week. I think it is perfect for not only those struggling with eating disorders but those who may be struggling with a substance use disorder or really any number of mental health disorders. When you see the word eating disorder below, feel free to substitute it with substance use disorder, depression, etc.

When I think about what it takes to recover from an eating disorder, it is really many things working together … it is not just getting treatment, being motivated, or having a good support system.

It actually reminds me more of a recipe. Recipes are something we usually think of when we think about cooking but I would throw out to all of you that we use “recipes” in many areas of our lives. Whether it is getting into college, developing your career, being in a relationship with someone, or parenting a child. These all require several steps or components to be successful.

Webster tells us that the word recipe means:

  1. A set of instructions for making or preparing something
  2. A medical prescription or
  3. A method to attain a desired end

I think this really fits for the journey of recovery, similar to cooking, recovering from an eating disorder takes a cup of this, a dash of that, and a pinch of something else. When you get all of the ingredients in the mix, there is an incredible life of opportunity and experiences waiting for you.

I asked several people that I have worked with over the years about some of their key ingredients to recovery so I could share some of their insights. I wasn’t too surprised to learn that people didn’t feel like it was an isolated thing that got them to recovery but rather several things coming together over time that led them to a life free of their eating disorder.

First, everyone felt like their formal treatment was an important piece. Without that as a foundation, recovery would not have happened.

Another element that people viewed as an important ingredient was willingness. Whether that means trying treatment, doing things that are scary, trying a different treatment approach if things aren’t going well or trying new things in life, willingness played a key role in their recovery. One individual shared: “Maybe you’re not completely 100% on board with getting rid of your eating disorder, and that’s OK, but you have to be willing to learn new things and consider new perspectives on your body, your thoughts, your emotions and the world you live in. I really thought the world was black and white; I either did things wrong or I did them right, and there was only one right way to live your life. Learning about gray areas and the complexities of living life were really beneficial to me.”

Trust was another important item, and it took many different paths. For some it was trusting their treatment providers, for others it was trust in themselves that they could do what they needed to do and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  Others mentioned learning to trust their body-the idea that if we take care of our bodies, our body will take care of itself.

Another significant item that everyone mentioned was trying new things in order to develop a new identity outside of the eating disorder. One individual shared with me “I was a passionless person and didn’t really care about anything except losing weight and doing everything right. When I was physically healthier, it helped me tremendously to care about something outside of myself.”

Related to this, people found that when they developed new interests outside of their eating disorder, it also helped connect them to people, which played a big role in their ability to move beyond the eating disorder.

Patience and priority were two other items. Patience in that getting to recovery often takes people longer than they ever anticipate with twists and turns along the way.  Priority in that we all live in a very busy world with a lot going on but figuring out how to prioritize recovery so that it gets the time and attention it needs rather than trying to fit it in around other things.

So today I would encourage all of you to think about what are your key ingredients to recovery? What do you already have and what might you need to add to the mix? No matter where you are along your journey, everyone has some of the ingredients they need to start to build their recipe for recovery.       

 

About the Author: Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 11.37.21 AM

Heather Gallivan, PsyD, LP, is the Clinical Director at Melrose Center. She joined Melrose in 2004 and has helped eating disorder patients recover and realize their full potential in all levels of care from outpatient to residential treatment. She is a passionate leader and teacher concerning the prevention and treatment of eating disorders, and how societal messages impact our beliefs and attitudes about food, weight, and body image.  You may have seen her passion for education and expertise on display in the local media or as a speaker at a state or national conference for healthcare providers. Prior to joining Melrose Center, Dr. Gallivan served 5 years in the Unites States Navy as an active duty psychologist. In addition, she teaches a course on eating disorders at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies.

Melrose Center heals eating disorders, with locations in St. Louis Park, Maple Grove and St. Paul. Melrose treats all eating disorders in all genders and ages, through outpatient and residential programs. Specialty programming is available for those struggling with an eating disorder and substance abuse. The program includes individual and group programming focused on treating the eating disorder and substance use disorder together by professionals specially trained to work with both conditions. Visit melroseheals.com.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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What a Difference Recovery Makes!

Life with #SoberSon is going pretty well these days.

Three years ago, not so much. Then finally recovery came. For real this time.

Because things were so bleak, it was hard to be hopeful but our family maintained a hopeful outlook even on the darkest days.

In our son’s early recovery, our hopes slowly turned into beliefs as he began to rebuild his life.

  • Moving back home.
  • Attending and graduating from a high-intensity out-patient treatment program focused on addiction to opioids.
  • Passing random UAs.
  • Working through his journey with an amazing LADC.
  • Rebuilding relationships with family and friends.
  • Getting a job and saving money.
  • Returning to college to get an associate’s degree in mathematics – and paying for it himself!
  • Getting straight A’s.
  • Making plans to complete his bachelor’s degree.
  • Thinking about law school in the future.
  • And more!

This partial list is a living, breathing reminder that #SoberSon is making progress. But what makes it all the more rewarding is that he shares his successes with us – and his challenges. That’s not the way it always was when he was using.

Now he’s more of an open book, which in turn means we trust him more and give him even greater privacy and independence. It’s amazing how that works.

In spite of all the positive things going on, life still has its ups and downs but #SoberSon is better equipped to deal with these and it warms my heart when he shares the good and the not so good. He knows we are on his team – just as we always have been. But now he believes it.

Setbacks no longer derail him, and for that I am proud and happy. Yes, recovery works!

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

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Recovery is a lot more than just not using drugs or alcohol. This week’s guest blogger offers a professional’s perspective on the key physical and psychological aspects that help people find success in recovery. MWM

My name is Jesse Sandler, and I am an addiction therapist. In working with people in recovery, I have seen that the ones who do better are those that actively tend to both their physical and mental (psychological) wellbeing.

 

The Physical

Taking care of your body is so important to maintaining your recovery. When you do, you feel better not only physically but emotionally as well. I advise my clients to pay particular attention to four aspects of their physical wellbeing: intake, action, upkeep, and rest.

 

Your intake includes everything you do and don’t put into your body: food, drink, and medicine. If you fuel yourself regularly and nutritiously, you will feel more energized. Staying hydrated makes you feel better too. Further, taking your medications as prescribed can help keep you stabilized and keep you on track.

 

Similarly, regular exercise not only helps you establish healthy routines, but also relieves stress and releases endorphins to keep you feeling your best. If you’re not used to working out, it can be tough to get into the swing of it, but it’s worth it. Try out a variety of workouts until you find something that doesn’t feel so much like work—maybe you’re not a gym person but hiking outside puts a smile on your face. Whatever you do, make sure you move everyday. Both your body and your mind will thank you.

 

In addition to fueling and moving your body well, you also need to rest your body well. Getting on a regular sleep schedule and making sure you get 6-8 hours of sleep per night will give you more energy. Good sleep hygiene also makes it easier to deal with tough times, since getting enough sleep can help you focus more on the positive and fixate less on the negative. Since you’re more likely to relapse when you’re feeling negative, this is especially important for people in recovery. So try to go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning, only use your bed for sleep and sex, and get off that computer or phone screen at least an hour before bedtime.

 

The final aspect of physical wellbeing that I think is particularly important is upkeep. By this, I mean showering regularly, brushing your teeth, and wearing clean clothes each day. This may sound obvious or silly, but I have seen time and time again that my clients tend to feel better when they are clean and wearing fresh clothes. Developing this good habit, like the others discussed above, can make you feel better physically and mentally, and give you the right mindset to face the day.

 

The Psychological

I cannot stress enough how important it is to pay attention not only to what you can see, but also what you can’t. As you probably know, emotional and mental wellbeing are huge components of the recovery process. They work in tandem with the physical to keep you on your path. While there are many components to psychological wellbeing, I advise my clients to focus on a few in particular: staying social and avoiding isolation. While these may sound like the same thing, they are in fact distinct, and each is important in its own right.

 

Stay Social

Human beings are social creatures. We thrive when we feel accepted by and connected to other people. But not just any people. Make sure you surround yourself with people who lift you up, understand you, and support your recovery. Build a strong support network of people committed to a clean lifestyle. Avoid your old toxic “friends,” and your old toxic hangouts. Go to meetings. Find fun activities that don’t involve alcohol, drugs, or whatever your triggers are. Whatever feels good, positive, and helpful for you.

 

Don’t Isolate

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, I literally just read about this point above.” But you’d be wrong. Avoiding isolation does not necessarily mean being social. While having a strong, supportive social network is important, you don’t always need to surround yourself with other people. Alone time can be important for thought and restoration. Just make sure you know the difference between being alone and isolating, and only do the former. Being alone is restorative, calming, and recharging. It doesn’t make you feel lonely. Isolating, on the other hand, is draining and depleting. You likely do it to avoid dealing with upsetting feelings or situations, and when you isolate, you may find yourself ruminating on negative thoughts and feeling lonely. This creates the perfect conditions for relapse: you, your negative thoughts, and no one around to pull you out of them or give you perspective. So make sure that if you are opting to spend time alone, you are doing for the right reasons, and that if you find yourself alone for the wrong ones, you reach out to someone in your support network who can remind you of all the reasons you got clean and want to stay clean.

 

Conclusion

Recovery isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Staying mindful of taking care of yourself, both physically and psychologically, can make the journey a little bit easier.

 

 

Bio:

jesseJesse Sandler is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for people in addiction recovery. He works at a dual-diagnosis intensive outpatient program and has a small private practice in Los Angeles. Most recently, Jesse is working to address another aspect of recovery: people’s living environments. After watching his clients and loved ones struggle and grow frustrated trying to find sober roommates, Jesse and co-founder Emily Churg created www.MySoberRoommate.com, an online community for people committed to living a clean lifestyle to search, match, and message with potential roommates. Jesse believes that through hard work, commitment, and hope, people can and do get better, and he hopes that MySoberRoommate will provide people in recovery with another tool to help them to do just that.

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.

 

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.

 

Peanut Butter & Jelly Recovery

Food, nutrition and eating habits are important to parents. We want to feed our kiddos the things we perceive as the healthy stuff. That’s often influenced by our own upbringing, other parents, the media or even social-media posts that purport the be-all, end-all expertise.

Let’s face it. In infancy, we have control – or choice – over what our children are eating: formula or breast milk. When they are ready for solid foods, we start by spoon feeding rice cereal and then advance to other cereals, fruits, vegetables and perhaps meats. Later come the finger foods: Cheerios, Saltine Crackers, slices of banana … you remember how it goes. That’s the way it’s always been done, so it must be right.

At some point, our kids either become adventurous or picky in their eating, and from that point forward, we have influence but very little control. They are growing, maturing and making decisions on their own.

My son was somewhere in the middle between adventurous and picky. He liked a variety of foods but had his go-to favorites. When he was in high school, he dated a young woman whose family was from Afghanistan. I was amazed at the variety of foods that he tried without hesitation, out of respect for her mom, and ended up finding that he enjoyed these unfamiliar ingredients. At home, he might have turned up his nose if I’d served those same ingredients.

Let me relate this back to addiction and recovery.

During addiction, my son’s appetite and diet changed significantly. Part of this had to do with the change in activity – from playing on a varsity sports team to leading a somewhat sedentary and transient lifestyle. Some of this had to do with periods of homelessness, when he was part of group-living environments, or simply when he had no money. Some of this had to do with choosing or needing the drugs more than food.

From reading this blog, you know that our family reached out to my son daily and that he joined our family every week of so for meals. Ravished, he’d eat just about whatever I had prepared. It made me feel good to fill his tummy with nutritious, home-cooked foods, and as my husband wisely pointed out, it nourished his wounded brain. We hoped it might provide a teeny, tiny spark of possibility that he’d make a wise decision toward help for sobriety and recovery.

In time, yes. Interestingly, as he stopped using drugs – especially constipating opioids – he found that he couldn’t eat everything that he wanted to. Many foods, including lifelong favorites, no longer agreed with him.

Recovery Routine

These days he leads a fairly disciplined and routine lifestyle: college classes, work, going to the gym, taking the family dog on “adventures,” reading and watching TV/playing video games. He still loves a nightly bowl of ice cream or a big ‘ol burrito from Chipotle, but his go-to meal is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As #SoberSon says, “Why mess with what’s working?”

I’ve stopped buying foods he used to like or things I think he might want. Instead, he puts a limited number of things on the list – ingredients for non-dairy fruit smoothies and whole wheat bread, peanut butter and grape jelly. If I buy other foods, these will likely sit untouched; so, I don’t. More often or not, he stops at the grocery store on the way home to pick up the items he needs and takes pride in paying for his own food with hard-earned money from his job.

In many ways, this sums up recovery for parents and twenty-something kids:

  • Support without enabling
  • Provide options without bias or judgement
  • Be open to their choices and preferences
  • Drop preconceived ideas of what’s right or best
  • Love unconditionally
  • Find peace and happiness in “what works”

#SoberSon will soon be two-years sober and in recovery, so Midwestern Mama asks, “Why mess with PB&J?”

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Parenting in Recovery

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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

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Spring Break, Part Two: New York State of Mind

A couple of times a year, my business takes me to New York City – a complete departure from my Midwestern roots or my vacation travels with family to the mountains or beach.

 

It’s exciting in the city. Sometimes it’s a new deal, a new connection, a new idea. I always return home and to work with a fresh perspective and commitment. This kind of excitement is energizing.

 

However, sometimes the city stirs up drama-filled excitement. Let me revise that, sometimes when I’ve been in the city, drama ensues on the home front. That, I can do without. That kind of excitement is exasperating.

 

This trip to New York City, my husband and youngest son are accompanying me just as they did five years ago. They have plans to attend a sporting championship while I have business commitments. It works out nicely because it’s our youngest son’s spring break this week, so he gets a little vacation and I get to have loved ones with me in the hotel each evening.

 

When we took this trip five years ago in January, we had no idea the turn of events that was about to take place. Sober Son had just started college the week before. We hadn’t heard from him and he wasn’t responding to calls or texts. My mom radar was pinging. Loudly. Frequently. Something was up.

 

This was the weekend that he passed out from partying, mind you his very first weekend at college. He didn’t just pass out, he passed out in the snow in subzero temperatures and ended up in the ER and detox.From there everything unraveled, and it was hardly held together as it was.

Deep in our hearts we knew his drug use was a problem, but this was one of the most telling incidents and the one that truly changed to an addiction trajectory we never imagined.

 

This was scary for each and every one of us: Dad, mom, big sister, little brother. And for Sober Son who could never have predicted what would happen next. I won’t rehash what led up to this or the unfolding story that became our lives for the next few years, but I will say that I will always, always, always remember this turn of events and the state of mind that accompanied the addiction days.

 

Before the drama revealed itself, we had enjoyed a weekend of shows, meals, shopping and sightseeing. It made a big impression on our youngest, who has always wanted to return to New York City for another go of it. I’m so glad he’s getting that opportunity.

 

Gratefully, life has changed a great deal for our family since that trip to New York City five years ago. Sober Son completed a treatment program (not his first, second or third – it does take time and readiness). He is back in college, working part time and living at home. He’s nearly two-years sober and is successfully embracing recovery. The two of us just enjoyed a wonderful trip to Las Vegas over his spring break last week.

 

Who would have thought that we’d have so much confidence again in his future and so much trust in him? The addiction days were horrific. The trust was nonexistent. The outlook was grim.

 

My prediction for this trip is nothing short of exciting, and by that I mean fun for all. I’m excited to share the New York experience once again with my husband and youngest son, and I’m worry free when it comes to Sober Son who will enjoy the independence and responsibility of taking care of the house and dog while going on about his class and work schedule.

 

My hope for readers of this blog post is that it keeps alive a belief:

  • That sobriety and recovery are possible even when it seems improbable;
  • That sobriety and recovery can find their way to your family even when it has proven elusive to date; and,
  • That sobriety and recovery will re-establish a foundation for the future when the foundation at present may have crumbled beyond recognition.

Admittedly, it’s so hard when you’re stuck in the muck of addiction to realize that better times may well be ahead. Just like the Big Apple itself, it takes a (New York) state of mind to know that anything is possible.

Wishing you the best for a wonderful spring break,

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.

Guest Blog: Impact of Exercise in Addiction Recovery for Youth

This week’s guest blogger is Fiona Parascandalo of DUO, an Ontario addiction-recovery program focused on youth and the healing value of exercise. For young adults,  in particular, exercise is a key component to recovery. Learn why and how. MWM. #OYACommunity

Exercise is something that is often touted as making people happier and reducing stress, but less commonly discussed is the how the benefits of exercise can be used in the addiction recovery process. Youth especially have a lot to gain by incorporating exercise into their treatment or counseling. Exercise allows youth to take control of their journey towards to recovery, exercise also has significant impacts on the brain in there critical stage of development, and exercise is an easy practice to build into a daily routine.

  1. Exercise promotes active engagement with recovery: It is important for youth to feel in control of their recovery process and be given the opportunity to see the outcomes of their daily choices. In many treatment programs, youth are treated as passive participants and removed from making choices about their recovery or long term treatment plans. This can be damaging to the development of self-identity in a crucial stage of transitioning into adulthood. When youth engage in an exercise program as a focal point of recovery, they are the centre of the recovery process and their physical effort has direct ties to their recovery.

The purpose of exercise is to revitalize and develop the body, mind, and spirit. Initiating a fitness regime at any stage of recovery involves making a change to addiction driven behaviours and engaging in new, mindful behaviors. Exercise is an opportunity to tune out stimulus and cravings, and focus on natural sensations in the body.

As youth are developing into themselves and defining who they are as individuals, exercise provides a means to discover the underlying catalysts of addictive behaviors so that addiction does not become a lifelong issue.

  1.  Exercise stimulates the same areas of the brain as addictive substances: Addiction is created in the brain by the addictive substance (i.e. cocaine, methamphetamines) or behaviour (i.e. sex, video games) continuously stimulating the brain’s reward centre. New pathways are created and the user begins to crave the substance that caused the over stimulation of their reward centre. For youth, this is an especially dangerous neurological dependence as their brains are at an important stage of development.

In terms of brain development, late teen and early adult years mark the time when the prefrontal cortex, involved in the control of impulses and decision-making, is maturing. Involvement in substance abuse can delay or damage this development causing lifelong struggles with reckless and irrational behaviour.

In addition to creating new pathways in the brain, establishing a regular exercise regime as part of a stringent recovery process has been shown to reduce cravings and build resistance to triggers.

This allows the youth to take control of their reliance on a substance or addictive behaviour and engage in an activity that will positively affect their future neurological development as well as overall health.

  1. Exercise can be incorporated into a daily routine: For treatment to have a lasting effect it should be easily integrated into daily life and the practices learned should be simple to recall when facing a trigger. Establishing a daily routine will allow for a disciplined approach to facing triggers that can be utilized anywhere and at any time.

For example, if first thing in the morning is when you typically have your first cigarette, switch this behaviour with a morning run or simple body-weight workout; if after school you typically use with your friends, switch this with an after school team practice or start a regular football game with your friends. While this is a simplified explanation of how exercise can be leaned on when facing triggers or cravings, it does highlight the fact that exercise is a tool that can be used by anyone to assist in the recovery process. As part of a controlled and monitored recovery process small behavioural changes can have lasting impacts.

For teens and young adults the ease of integrating exercise into their daily routines is essential to its impact on their addiction. Between the ages of 15-24 daily activities and commitments are continuously changing, and addiction can be used as a coping mechanism to deal with these changes or as a way to escape the burden of increasing stressors.

Exercise is an affordable and customizable tool that has the capability to replace the feelings of relief and escape caused by substances. Chemicals released in the brain while exercising, endorphins and serotonin, reduce stress and increase happiness.

When facing stressful or overwhelming situations, individuals in recovery can learn to rely on exercise rather than abusing a substance to improve their mood and cope with the situation. Youth have the most to gain from engaging in an exercise focused recovery program as they will learn lifelong skills that can be easily integrated into their busy schedules.

Fiona Parascandelo

DUOaddictionfj@outlook.com

www.duoaddictionsupport.ca

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

#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!

Guest Blog: Substance For You offers 3 Safety Precautions in Early Recovery

PrintThis week’s guest blogger has a familiar online presence: Substance For You. A substance user as a young adult, he offers personal experience, resources and hopes for the #OYACommunity. Today he writes about steps families can take to ensure success in early recovery.

Every parent wants to know two things when they have a child or loved one just getting clean for the first time. They want to know, “What could I have done different?” and the next most asked question is “Where do I go next to help prevent this from happening again?” It is important to know the issues surrounding key aspects of early recovery as you may have someone you love just now getting clean for the first time and not know where to go.

Below is a list of safety precautions one may implement in early recovery for their loved one to help guide the situations surrounding going back to addiction or relapsing. None of us want that to happen to someone we love, but we might be stuck in this very situation and not know where to go. With this comprehensive list of precautions to take in early recovery you can now easily set guidelines, rules, and stipulations that both the loved one and lover(s) can be held accountable for in guiding them to a new found wonderful path of recovery. With this list it will make it easier to understand the dangers surrounding things like money, responsibilities, and making relapse completely inaccessible to the addict, to the very best of your ability.

How do I know these tips will work? Well, this is almost word for word the conversation that my parents and I had when I first decided to come home from rehab after a year long stint with heroin and a previous year long stint with opiate pills like Vicodin and Oxycontin along with benzodiazapem and muscle relaxant abuse. Not to mention I was a chronic alcoholic I had always been spending my money illegally in all of these aspects, considering I got clean by the time I was twenty years of age.

This list is one of the key factors into how I kept my triggers and opportunities extremely low for relapse. With this list of precautions to take in early recovery I could guide myself in reteaching myself the rights and wrongs, the social contract we all live and abide by, and the social norms that were considered to be good instead of my deviant life I was living. This was a pivotal turning point in my recovery and I have one thing to say to the people that implanted it.

 “Thank you mom and dad for NOT being easy on me. Thank you for doing the right thing no matter the lines we had to cross to get there. Without this and your love I don’t know where I’d be. I’m forever grateful and humbled by your poise to implant these tools into my life, and I know now that I couldn’t have done it without you, my support system. Mom: I love you for your emotion and compassion that made me realize it’s time to listen and make a change. Dad: I love you for always butting heads with me but being able to control the impulses yourself, God knows I had enough of them. You were both strong and held your ground. You didn’t enable. You are what guided my recovery, and these tools work if ever you needed affirmation to that! Thank you! I love you momma and pops!”

1. Give Access to Your Money to Someone Trusted- In the first thirty or ninety days or even my first six months I always had a rule: “No Cash.” This meant that I wouldn’t carry any cash on me or have any credit or debit cards that could act as cash for me. If I was going somewhere I knew I would take the specific amounted needed to get the job done, say filling up the gas tank. The reason being for all of this precaution was my urge to splurge. I always wanted to find some new fixation to spend my money on, and it always ended up being something so negative or not appropriate for a clean and healthy lifestyle. If my urge to splurge wasn’t fixated on something negative that you could buy at any convenient shop, I might go to the extreme. If there was nothing to satisfy my urge to splurge with any legal means—although still feeding my reward center in my brain—I would tell myself: “Well you have the money, it’s here and it’s now or never.” My thinking mind would always say to itself that if you have the money and it’s not gone when you get home, and you really don’t want what you intended, why not get some dope? This was a constant battle because in early recovery I always wanted dope more than I wanted something of material possession from say a “JC Penny” or gas from a “Speedway.” This is just something my brain was so accustomed to spending my own money on. It is safer to be on no money and have the urge not there at all than it is to have “Extra spending cash.” Then, if I didn’t come home with all the money spent that was given to me my parents would ask, “Where did the money really go? Show me proof?” And this brings me to my next point: “Receipts.”

2. Parents: Require Receipts from Your Children in Early Recovery- In my early recovery, I know I said only take what you know you will spend. So, what if you do spend all of the money you are given, but you still spend it on dope? How are you held accountable? Well here is how it worked in my family. My parents would give me a certain amount of money—say $20 for gas—and would write down the amount in a “little black book” they kept handy. Then when I got home from getting the gas I would always be required to immediately hand my father the receipt that said $20 on it, and sometimes check my pockets and gas tank (not always for the second two but you can). If the receipt did not say $20 on it and it said $16.84, I would be required to produce $3.16 to them, write it down for reference, and the reason there was change. I know this seems tedious, but it most certainly worked. For starters there was no fooling anyone. Secondly keeping me accountable in my daily actions showed me the way the world really worked, and it wasn’t the way I thought it did when living in my addiction. Everyone is held accountable for his or her actions, good or bad. And thirdly, if I broke the rules and couldn’t produce a receipt, whether it was accidental or not, there were always consequences that were written out in an agreement signed by my parents and me. As my dad always said, “You sign this, it is legally binding. You break my rules then you break the law. You do dope, you won’t have me to answer to this time.” This didn’t just keep me accountable with my parents for my actions, but it put things into perspective if I was to get dope with the money and that is, I’d be going to jail for a felony case. Why would my own parent do this? “Well, son I do this because this is my house and if anyone brings felony drugs and paraphernalia into my house who do you think they will be taking to prison? Me or you? The house owner or tenant?” Now you understand what this written contract does, it doesn’t only protect me from screwing up, it protects my family if I was to actually go and screw up. I would never purposefully hurt my family, but addiction can play crazy tricks on your mind. So for the safety of the household, my mom, dad, and little brother I signed the contract willingly and was on my way to the next part of acceptance.

3. Keep a contract/written rules signed by both parties of actions versus consequences- This is the ultimate ending to parts one and two. With keeping this you know that the money that is being trusted by someone else is being respected. Then, you also know the money they do give you to do responsible things with is being spent within your and their—well thought out—boundaries. Without having an actions versus consequence list, guideline, or rulebook there would be no reason to abide by these rules and this would increase the chance of relapse in early recovery ten fold. We as the addicts have not been able to keep good inventory of ourselves in our addiction and our behavior in early recovery isn’t going to be too much changed to where we would know the differences of our actions. So in consequence of this we trust someone like a parent or mentor with our funds and give them a peace of mind and our own habits safety to their enforced contract. Parents/mentors you must be willing to enforce this contract, and leave enabling to the drugs themselves. Playing into the disease will do no one any good so make sure when you both sign this you are both ready for the consequences. Without keeping that little black book you may lose track and get confused and then make assumptions that could cause the addict to use just because you miscalculated totals, also. So when doing this be tedious and be careful, as it is well deserved and earned at this point once both parties are wanting to help to better not just one person but each other. Be cautious, be safe, but don’t forget it is the love that binds us together in all of these. We don’t do it because we have to; we do it because we don’t want to see the other fail. Simply, we do it because we love them! It’s not a contract of “What ifs” and “Well he/she said.” It’s a contract bonded by love and care for the betterment of each other in early recovery, positive lifestyle living, and beating addictions.

About the Author:

sfy bannerrrr

The owner of www.SubstanceForYou.com wrote and published this post. Substance For You is lifestyle brand providing hope for addictions and recoveries. We share personal stories, scientific and philosophical debates, and stories for betterment encouraging a positive and sober lifestyle. It is a place for someone who has either found recovery or is either looking for recovery and has an array of subjects covered with nearly 200 articles. Substance For You also offers 20+ sobriety and addiction recovery clothing and apparel items in their widely known sobriety shop on the website, that is meant to inspire and create social change in this world that proves, recovery is truly possible. We hope to provide a friendly reminder to anyone who is out there that we are there for them in any part of their journey and encourage sharing on our site with submissions going directly to the owner at SubstanceForYou@gmail.com

We are growing fast on Twitter (@SubstanceForyou) with 21,000 followers, and expanding fast on Facebook.com/SubstanceForYou with 3,000+ followers, and have 8,000+ followers on our Instagram.com/SubstanceForYouIG . Please join us in our movement as the owner will be nearing his 5 years clean of his demons (Alcohol and Heroin/Opiates) on December 25th, yes Christmas! On the blog we are expanding the series The Substance For You Saga into a 20 part series (Yes the size of an addiction recovery book!). Come find out what we are all about and what the owner and www.SubstanceForYou.com stands for! Remember it is possible as long as you stay clean and do the right thing. You can do it! I believe in you!

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.

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

What’s on your mind? Guest bloggers tell all.

This summer, Our Young Addicts kicked off guest blog posts on Wednesdays, and it’s become one of our most popular offerings. I’m so glad, because this is the true spirit of community. We alternate between parents, people in recovery who used as young adults, and professionals who work in addiction, treatment and recovery.

Each post offers something substantial – I know these are making a difference in your lives and mine. Together, we are sharing experiences, offering resources and instilling hope.

Browse the recent posts and archives:

  • A Minnesota dad shared what he has learned through his son’s addiction. An Alabama mom wrote about recognizing her daughter’s meth use and then how she learned to shift from enabling to supporting her through treatment and early recovery.
  • Two young men have shared their stories as well. One became addicted to opiates during high school; he is now in recovery and rebuilding his life through work and college. The other wrote a letter to moms and dads telling us things he wished we knew – like we didn’t cause his addiction and that there was nothing we could have told him to make him stop … until he was ready. That one, in particular, resonated with me.
  • The first two of three parts from Drew Horowitz, our addiction and recovery specialist, has focused on his personal journey with addiction as a young adult and how this has shaped his national practice. He also wrote about how to create a successful, youth-centered intervention. I’m looking forward to his third post, which will run on August 12.

In the coming weeks, we have scheduled some truly fantastic posts. One is from a fellow #OYACommunity friend who writes about the impact of addiction on families. She’s become a passionate advocate and is working to create effective community outreach in her hometown in Connecticut.

I’m also excited to run a guest blog post from an author that helped me through some of my son’s early addiction years. My son attended the same treatment center as the author, so I reached out back in 2011 and he provided great encouragement during a particularly trying time. This author now works as an addiction counselor as part of a mental health program in Georgia.

Those are just a few of the guest blog posts that you’ll find in the coming weeks on Our Young Addicts. If you would like to share what’s on your mind, please see our Writers Guidelines – send me a message to schedule a post.

Meanwhile, I’ll be taking a short break next week for some R&R. See you here when I get back, and thanks for your ongoing support of the the #OYACommunity via this blog, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Midwestern Mama

Registered & Ready – It’s Almost Time to go Back to School

True to his word, Midwestern Mama’s #SoberSon will return to community college this fall, and he’s doing it on his own. Another example of recovery in progress!

Back to the lecture hall for fall classes at community college.
Back to the lecture hall for fall classes at community college.

Fall classes at my son’s community college don’t start until the end of August, but he’s already registered and has earned enough money for tuition and books. This is significant. It’s nothing short of an amazing transformation from addiction to recovery.

Just think, a year ago he had started another treatment program and it really felt different – better – this time. That alone was encouraging for us and empowering for him. We had hope, but in the past the new-car smell would wear off and we’d be left with another broken-down clunker.

As he went through the treatment program and began living in recovery, he started talking about going back to college part time. By December, he had completed the necessary steps including an appeal to override previous academic suspension from his addiction days.

His spring classes were tough, but he dug in and committed to attending and studying – receiving an A in English Composition and a B in Differential Equations and Linear Algebra.

While building his confidence, it also stressed and exhausted him to the point that he decided not to take summer classes.

It's takes hard work to get back in the swing of doing home work and studying for college classes.
It’s takes hard work to get back in the swing of doing home work and studying for college classes.

Amid a more relaxed schedule this summer and a lot of video games, we’ve been hopeful that he would return to community college in the fall. However, we know not to push or hover because that stresses him.

True to his word, however – and this is a new behavior that we are coming to appreciate more and more each day – he just registered for fall classes AND informed us that he’s earned enough from his part-time job to pay tuition and buy books. He’s moving from eight credits up to 12 credits, a nice manageable load, and I’m looking forward to the routine of having him in class and doing homework, but not until we enjoy another month of summer!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

“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

Guest Blog – A Letter to Mom & Dad – 11 Years into Recovery

PrintThis week’s guest blogger is a young man, eleven years into recovery, who shares some truths and encouragement for parents seeking to understand a child’s addiction. Midwestern Mama is touched by his heartfelt words, and he tells me that he plans to share this post with his own parents in hopes that it brings further clarity and healing for their family – I know it will.

Dear-Mom-and-Dad

As a former young addict and now a slightly older recovering addict, I don’t have anything original to contribute other than my own experience. My story isn’t remarkable except for the fact that an absolute miracle happened 11 years ago, and I continue to be blessed everyday with a life that I never could have imagined.

Reflecting on my experience in the context of Our Young Addicts as a place for parents and recovery professionals to gather, I began to think about things I wish my parents would have known when I was a teenager and young adult and a few things I’d like to share with them now.

This list comes from my personal experience with addiction and recovery, but hopefully it will resonate with some readers and provide some insight, comfort, and hope.

1. You didn’t make me an addict.

There wasn’t a lack of parenting or warning signs that you missed. Long before I took my first drink or used my first drug, I started on a path that led me into my addiction.

At least in my experience, no amount of intervention could have prevented me from making the choices I made. I was a deadly combination of naïve, stubborn, foolish, and scared, and I got there on my own.

It’s not because you missed a single opportunity or series of opportunities to “make everything better.” Even if genetics or learned behaviors played a part in my path to addiction, ultimately I am responsible for my choices.

It’s not your fault.

(Honestly, I’m better off for my experiences, so there’s no need for blame.)

 2. No amount of education or warnings could have stopped me from my addiction.

I am a proud graduate of the D.A.R.E. program, class of 1992.

I was well aware that drugs were bad for me before I started using them.

In fact, that was part of the allure. While trying to keep up appearances, I enjoyed secretly engaging in a forbidden activity. I had very little self-respect and didn’t care if I was harming myself.

I already had it in my head that I wasn’t worth much, so it wasn’t a huge leap to actively hurt myself.

I knew there was a family history of alcohol and drug abuse. I knew the risks, and I really didn’t care.

Just like in recovery, reasoning and mental exercises are not very helpful to change the behavior of an addict. I knew logically that drug abuse is not good for us, but all the knowledge in the world couldn’t heal a sickness in my soul.* We could have talked and reasoned through my situation, and it wouldn’t have done any good.

I had to get to a place where I could love myself before I could accept the love and caring of anyone else.

I had to experience a fundamental shift in my belief about mySELF, God, and the Universe before I could really listen to what anyone was saying to me, even those with the best intentions.

3. I couldn’t stop until I was ready.

I went to my first AA meeting a few months after my 21st birthday. I had been using for years, but decided that I wanted to try stopping and realized that I couldn’t stick to any of my plans for abstinence. That was when I really got scared. I didn’t want to use anymore but couldn’t seem to stop.

I’d like to say that was the last time I ever drank or used drugs, but I wasn’t ready to change. I spent the next two years in and out of recovery, rationalizing and experimenting.

I thought, “I’m too young to be addicted.It’s not as big of a deal as I’m making it. Other people I know do it more than I do. I can always quit when I’m older, or maybe I’ll just outgrow it!” These and many other thoughts that I tried my best to drown out kept me from really committing to changing my life one day at a time.

When I went back again to that AA clubhouse on a cool September evening, someone finally said it to me in a way that made sense: “You hit bottom when you stop digging.” It’s probably just another recovery cliché, but that night it really made sense to me. How bad does it have to get? I had been using daily, driving under the influence more times than I can remember, holding everyone at arms length, losing all self-respect, having no direction, and feeling hopelessly stuck. I suppose I could have kept digging, but I decided to stop. Hearing those words didn’t cause me to stop, but for some reason, I was finally open to hearing what I needed to hear.

That was the miracle. I can’t say where that readiness came from, but it was real, and I’ve carried it with me. It was nothing that I did and nothing that you could have done for me.

4. Just because I stopped using, it doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect.

Some of my most difficult days have come since I’ve been in recovery. After removing the drink and the drugs, I was still stuck with myself and my own twisted view of the world. Don’t expect everything to suddenly change. There have been many times while perfectly sober that I have been selfish, dishonest, greedy, insensitive, hurtful, and downright obnoxious. At times I may be seen distant than before. In some ways, the addiction can keep everyone closer. We all play our parts to maintain the status quo. When a big change happens, it shakes up the whole family dynamic.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been told that it was better or I was more fun when I was using. To be blunt, that’s too bad because I’m finally living a happy and fulfilling life! I get it – change is hard and painful, but the rewards are too good to pass up. (Not to mention that change is the only thing that’s certain.)

When someone makes a big change, the hope is that everything will be better, but we can only count on the fact that things will be different.

We’re responsible for our own perception of whether a change is “better” or “worse.”

 5. Love yourself and take care of yourself first.

The last thought that I want to share with you has very little to do with me other than the fact that I learn more from your actions than your words. I know that you want the best for me and care deeply for me, but you can’t give what you don’t already have.

It’s a tremendous gift for you to find your own happiness and peace.

Then you can give from a place of true generosity and selflessness, regardless of the outcome.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which I truly believe:

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

And we’re all in this together, just trying to figure it out – parents and children, addicts and non-addicts. I am grateful for all my experiences and for the life I have today, so to my parents I say,

Thank you.

I love you.

Matt

*I firmly believe that addiction is a sickness of body, mind, and soul. For me, I had to have a fundamental shift on a spiritual level as my primary focus, however I would encourage anyone with physical or mental health concerns to seek out a medical and/or mental health professional as part of their recovery as well.