500 Days Sober

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My day job is running a business. My night job is teaching communications courses at a local university. And my passion job is building the OYA Community. One of my students recently shared her story with me and I’m sharing it with you today because Nov. 4 is 500 days of sobriety for Kayla Fosse! MWM

Reading Midwestern Mama’s blog post about the three R’s (Recovery, Relapse, and Ready) in regards to addiction definitely hit home for me, as my story includes all three. When I meet new people now, the look on their faces when I tell them I’m in recovery is always one of shock. I’m an attractive, outgoing, responsible 24-year old-woman, and it surprises everyone to learn that I suffered (still suffer) from an addiction to alcohol.

In July 2014 I lost my job because I got drunk and didn’t show up. I was newly 21 and I just wanted to party with my friends.

I brushed it off, used my bubbly personality to get a new job, and kept drinking.

In November 2014 I totaled my car under the influence of alcohol, taking out another car in the process. It was a frigid Tuesday afternoon, and for some reason the cops didn’t suspect anything. There were no consequences, so I kept drinking. In January 2015 I lost that new job because again, I got drunk and didn’t show up. Two days later, after an encounter with an ex-boyfriend, I went on my first (but not last) three-day drinking bender which ended up landing me in my first (again, but not last) detox, with a whopping .33 BAC.

It was a mandatory 72-hour hold, due to the fact that in my blackout state of mind, I threatened suicide.

During those three days I was urged to go directly to an impatient treatment program and start on anti-depressants. Instead, I got out and continued drinking.

In just 8 months I was hired and fired three times. I would shut myself in my basement with a bottle of alcohol and stay there for days. I suffered withdrawals when I stopped drinking; insomnia, night sweats, and brain zaps were becoming normal for me.

I had graduated from drinking and driving to drinking WHILE driving and I had mastered the one-eye-shut technique, always managing to make it home.

Until September anyway, when my actions finally caught up to me and I was charged with DWI in the third degree – having blown .24, three times the legal limit.

I spent two nights in jail before I was released on an at-home alcohol monitor. I thought I could “beat the system” and still drink at certain times. I was wrong, of course, and due to my violation of probation, I got picked up on a warrant. I spent six days in jail before being released. Due to my violation, and my mom’s admission to the judge that I was a severe alcoholic, court didn’t go well and I was given the condition that I couldn’t drink alcohol. I used this excuse as to why I wasn’t drinking, often complaining to people who asked about my “bullshit” probation conditions, making promises to throw a huge party when I got off and was able to get drunk again.

I was angry, at first, but after being sober for a few months I started to see glimpses of my old self again.

I had gotten hired at a new job that I absolutely loved, I was making great money and paying off all of my fines, as well as setting up old debt payments. (A lot of bills pile up when you spend all of your money on alcohol). I was working out regularly.

I was spending more time with family that I had spent a long time shutting out.

The puffiness in my face was gone, my hair was shiny again and my skin wasn’t dry and cracked anymore. This lasted six months exactly, before I decided that I wasn’t on probation’s radar and drinking a few beers here and there wouldn’t hurt.

I thought I could keep it under control.

But, as I’m sure most relapse stories go, I couldn’t keep it under control very long.

A few beers turned into 7. Then I added in hard liquor, and before long I was on another drinking bender. This time it lasted an entire week, resulting in the loss of the job I loved so much. I was ashamed and embarrassed, wondering why I was the way I was. My manager urged me to go to treatment, telling me that if I completed a program he’d give me my job back.

So, on June 22, 2016 I woke up and decided I could never drink again. This time, I was actually ready.

I completed a six-week outpatient treatment program, learning a lot in the process. The room was filled with men and women in their forties and fifties, who all pointed at me and said, “If I had figured this out when I was 23, I wouldn’t be here today.” This was motivation for me. These people had lost their children, freedom, houses, and careers. I didn’t want to be like that. I wasn’t like them. I had a great childhood, a big, supportive family, and plenty of amazing friends. I was ready to stop with the excuses and own my problem.

Now, if people ask why I’m not drinking, I’m honest and say that I can’t control myself when I drink and I’m better off without it.

Honesty is the biggest thing I’ve learned in recovery. Owning your actions, admitting your faults, and asking for forgiveness. I used to lie so much. “I’m just going to a friend’s tonight.” “I’ve only had one beer.” “I won’t be able to make it into work today because my car won’t start.” While I don’t work any type of program, I do follow the “one day at a time” mantra. I lay my head on my pillow every night and thank God that I didn’t drink alcohol that day.

November 4 will be 500 days sober, and while I’m sure my friends and family are proud of me, I’m the most proud.

I love the person that I am today. I went back to school, and I’ll graduate in April 2018. I’m fixing my credit score. I’m healthy. I’ve more than accepted the fact that I’m just someone who can’t drink alcohol, and I’m happy to share my story.

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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#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!

“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

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

Trust – It Grows Day By Day

During recovery, trust returns and grows. Relationships improve. Midwestern Mama is sharing daily examples of trust as her 22-year-old son celebrates eight months of sobriety.

Slowly our son is exhibiting more and more honesty. Since committing to treatment and ongoing recovery last July, we are transitioning from hope to belief. At the core of it, we are trusting him again and he is trusting us. It’s one of the most welcome aspects of this new stage.

We were not quick to give him all our trust at once. We wanted to, but history has proven that trust needs to be earned, not granted, especially when it has been so broken. It hadn’t been so long before that he’d stolen money, run away, lied, and more. Even if he promised never to do it again, we stopped believing because we knew it was the promise of someone who was using drugs, someone with an illness, someone who couldn’t help it. Dishonesty became his way of life.

However, in the eight months since he went to treatment for opiate addiction and has committed to a recovery program, we are delighted to witness remarkable, positive changes. With these acts, we are beginning to trust again. With each act of honesty, we build even greater trust. Day by day.

My goal these days is to identify all the ways my recovering son is rebuilding trust with the family – and with himself. Not so long ago I might have wondered what does trust look and feel like. Now I have some tangible examples:

  • Today, I trust my son to drive my car.
    • In the past, my son abused this privilege and it was taken away. Now, we offer him access to my car for school, work and appointments. He accepts a ride or uses public transportation on days when I need my car. Each time he drives the car, it returns clean, gassed up, and within the expected mileage.
  • Today, I trust my son not to steal money from the family. We can leave out our wallets and purses.
    • Over the addiction years, our son stole thousands of dollars. Sometimes it was change from the change jar. Many times it was his little brother’s wallet or cash from his sister’s or my purse. He even stole money from his friends’ mothers (although a few months ago, he repaid them and wrote them notes of apology).
  • Today, I trust my son will not partake in alcohol if he is present at a gathering where it is present.
    • For example, next week there is an employee party at his workplace – a local restaurant. The employees will be treated to a wonderful meal. His co-workers are age 21-plus, so they might choose to have an alcoholic beverage as part of the celebration. He doesn’t like to call attention to being sober, but he no longer feels like anyone is going to wonder why he chooses not to drink but instead to enjoy a soda.

Stay connected with us this month as I highlight daily examples of trust – weekly on the blog, daily on Twitter and Facebook. @OurYoungAddicts #Recovery #PositiveChange #TrustFeelsGood And, please share your examples with the Our Young Addicts community!

Midwestern Mama

From Addiction to Recovery: The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is …What?

Midwestern Mama updates us on her son’s recovery from opiate addiction and his return to college.

Even if you’re not an expert on Einstein and his many brilliant ideas, chances are you have heard that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. It makes sense. It sounds simple.

You might think that my math-whiz son who considers himself logical and prefers a fast pace to a slow one could embrace the idea and apply it to his life. But life is not a formula and by no means is addiction or recovery.

At best, these are a process, an equation to work at to which we apply knowledge, wisdom and experience – almost never in a straight line, but often as a series of zigs and zags, with plenty of scratch outs and eraser marks.

Subtract Addiction. Add Recovery.

Let’s start by subtracting addiction. That’s my favorite part of this. My son is six months sober. This is the longest period of sobriety he has ever known since starting with marijuana and progressing to heroin not to mention trying just about everything else including meth, ecstasy and more.

Now let’s add in recovery. My other favorite part of the equation. Since wrapping up a high-intensity outpatient program, he continues to take daily doses of Suboxone and to attend bi-weekly counseling appointments. He also sees a mental-health therapist and recently completed an extensive psychiatric evaluation.

He’s living at home and is re-establishing trust with the family. He paid off several tickets, so his driver’s license is no longer suspended, and we diligently found auto insurance (albeit, expensive) that would take him on our policy. He drives with care because he doesn’t want even a tiny mark on his record to jeopardize this privilege.

He is paying off debt that he racked up from some scams he got involved in while desperate for money a few years back. As much as he wants to be financially independent and have freedom to spend on things he wants, he’s putting hard-earned hourly wages and tips from a part-time job toward debt.

Last week, he started back to college, taking eight credits – the maximum allowed while he works his way off of academic probation from the last go around at school. He had to petition the school to let him come back by writing an essay and getting letters of support. He wrote an honest account of the past five or six years, explaining that he’d attended class high, if he attended at all and that now he’s completed treatment – once and for all, he says – and is committed to recovery.

Show Your Work

If there is one thing I do remember about math class: it’s not enough to come up with the answer, you have to show your work. He’s repeating a high-level, complex mathematics course this term – Linear Algebra and Differential Equations, to be exact.

Some of the problems are taking more than a page of writing to work through. He uses a scientific calculator to go out many, many decimals for the answers. (It’s beyond me, but it resonates for him.)

This reminds me of his recovery work. It’s not easy. It’s not neat. It takes time. It’s not making him immediately happy or confident. It’s a struggle. But it’s his choice and his commitment, and it’s what he feels he can do.  I wish he had chosen an easier class or even opted to repeat something from earlier in the math sequence, but he wanted to start back where he left off.

I can witness it. I can sympathize. I can worry, and I do sometimes, because I’m a mom. I can offer resources. But, I can’t help him and I absolutely can’t do it for him. No matter what, he’s the one who has to figure out the shortest (or longest!) distance between the two points in his life, and I have no doubt he will do it. Why? Because he is doing it. Problem by problem. Answer by answer. And it shows!

Midwestern Mama

Wrapping Up 30 Days of Gratitude

Midwestern Mama counts her blessings this Thanksgiving season with “30 Days of Gratitude.” Among her most grateful reflections? Relationships, Community, Family, Friends, and her son’s Sobriety & Recovery. Thank you for joining us in a celebration of #Gratitude2014

Thank you for reading along as I gave great consideration to all that is good, all that I am grateful for this season. What I truly realized it that I am grateful for far more than one thing each day, far more than 30 things in one month. I am blessed to have multitudes of things for which I am eternally grateful. The more I thought about things, the more I realized I could put on the gratitude list.

In sharing some of these thoughts with my husband, he shared a wonderful realization that he’d recently come to: He shared that since our son’s commitment to recovery, he is beginning to think about the future and is no longer dwelling so much in the past.

I, too, find myself better able to look forward. For so many days, months, years, it has been all we could do to just focus on the here and now, taking things one day at a time (sometimes even one minute at a time). We would replay the past. We would long for the good ‘ol days.

Now, we are excited to see what’s next for our son. And, our son is excited, too. He’s working part time with hopes of a promotion and perhaps finding an even better job. He’s registering for spring-semester courses at a local college. He’s appealing academic suspension by writing an honest and sincere account of his young-adult life and showing that he’s ready to be a drug-free, committed student. He’s turning his life around, and we are so happy for him.

Here is a quick recap of Days 21 – 30 of #Gratitude2014.

Day 21: I am grateful for information sharing and gathering. Smarter is better, when it comes to addiction.

Day 22: I am grateful for truth even when it’s difficult.

Day 23: I am grateful.

Day 24: I am grateful my son is alive in spite of so many past situations that could have killed him.

Day 25: I am grateful for how far my son and our family have come since last year – it was getting bleak; now it’s full of hope.

Day 26: I am grateful that family and friends will gather in our home to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow.

Day 27: I am grateful my son is here to help me make the cornbread stuffing for our Thanksgiving meal!

Day 28: I am grateful for leftovers. Today, I am making turkey soup to warm the soul.

Day 29: I am grateful for the upcoming holiday season

Day 30: I am grateful all year round – Thanksgiving is more than a day, more than a month. It is a way of life.

All the best,

Midwestern Mama