When You’re Concerned About Your Kid’s Drug And Alcohol Use

Print

Guest blogger Rose Lockinger gets right to the heart of things with her take on what parents can do when they become concerned about a kid’s substance use. Thanks for sharing your insights. MWM

There are so many things we worry about as parents. We worry about them getting hurt or sick. We worry about accidents, we worry about their future, about their choices and we worry about them when they are sad and scared. As they get older we worry more, not less. They grow up a little and our hold on them has to loosen as they rely more on their friends for company and start to spread their wings.

One of the top concerns for parents of teens today is substance use and abuse. There are other things, of course. Bullying, gun violence, car accidents. But drugs and alcohol are a pervasive issue that teens face every single day, and often times, many of the other concerns parents have seems to go along with drug and alcohol use.

Do All Kids Experiment?

Not all do, but it’s common enough. While it doesn’t always result in negative consequences, it does warrant close scrutiny. Kids are impulsive and tend to think they are invincible. This creates problems when they get caught up in substance abuse. Most people who become addicted start using in their teens. The earlier drug or alcohol use starts, the greater the chances that the problem will turn into addiction.

What Are Signs That Your Child Has a Problem?

So as a parent what do you need to look for when you suspect that your child is using.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between just being a teenager and possible substance use.

Here’s a list of 6 main things to look for:

  • Changes in physical appearance
  • Extreme changes in emotions
  • Changes in academic performance and attendance
  • Always in search of money and not able to explain where it’s going
  • Significant changes in mood and personality
  • Missing prescription drugs and alcohol around the house
  • A lack of concern in their appearance and personal care.

These are some common ones to start with, although you may run into others that are specific to your individual situation.

What Do You When It’s A Problem?

If you suspect that your teen is struggling with substance abuse, it’s important to address the matter right away.

Things can escalate quickly, and it’s important that you let your teen know you are aware of the behavior.

Because the situation is scary, it’s easy to come from a place of fear and even anger. It’s important to encourage honest and open communication.

 

One of your first steps may be to bring your child to your family doctor so that he or she can be screened for substance abuse disorder and any other issues that may be present.

Substance abuse often goes hand in hand with things like depression, anxiety or trauma, so it’s important that they be screened for these things as well.

It’s Never Too Early For Professional Help

If you’ve addressed the issue through communication, education, a professional evaluation and firm boundaries and consequences and the problem is persisting, it’s time to take the next step. It may be that your teen needs to get help via an adolescent rehab.

 

Teen rehab programs can provide a safe place to recover from substance abuse disorder. Getting away from using friends is helpful, and while they are in rehab they will learn more about addiction and the dangers of substance abuse, they will receive individual counseling to help identify and deal with any underlying issues and they will learn new coping skills that will help them deal with difficult emotions without turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. This is important, because the adolescent years are full of challenges and powerful feelings. Learning how to deal with them in a healthy way can help them make better decisions when things come up.

 

It may feel like you are jumping the gun a bit to put your teen in rehab, but the earlier they get help, the better. Teens and drugs and alcohol are a dangerous mix. Substance use disorder progresses and will only get worse if left unchecked.

 

This is never an easy situation. You’ll feel like it is an uphill battle, and your teen will fight you at every turn. It’s important that the family present a united front and a consistent message for your child so they know that everyone is on the same page.

Remember, your teen is frightened. For the person with substance abuse disorder, the idea of losing their drugs or alcohol is scary. They feel like they have to have it in order to live on a daily basis. Anyone who stands in their way is a threat and possibly an enemy, no matter how much they love them.

 

While some level of confrontation is necessary in order to bring the problem into the open and start the process of getting help, over-the-top, harsh interventions are not only ineffective but can do more damage.

Supporting Your Teen Through Recovery

If you have decided to take the next step in helping your child recover, the most important thing you can do is to continue loving and supporting them. Teens are often consumed with feelings of guilt and shame as a result of using drugs and alcohol as well as their behaviors. It may not look like it from the outside, but on the inside they are hurting. Reassuring them that you aren’t judging them and that you are only getting them the help that they need is crucial.

About Our Guest Blogger:

unnamedRose 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.

Find our guest blogger, Rose Lockinger, on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Guest Blog: Becoming a Professional with a Focus on Helping Young Men – Part 1 of 3

Print

Today’s guest blog post is by Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, a Twin Cities-based substance use and mental health professional. Welcome to the #OYACommunity, and thank you for sharing a three-part series with our readers.

As a professional in the field of addiction, I have the privilege of helping individuals and families navigate the road to recovery. I feel grateful everyday to carry the message of hope. In my first post I will be sharing my story of recovery and how my addiction took me from the depths of despair to a place of strength and freedom. It was my experience as an addict that launched me into a place of passion to educate, prevent and treat the disease of addiction.

Experiencing Addiction

I have seen addiction from several different perspectives. As an adolescent and teenager I watched my mother lose herself to addiction. I spent many nights carrying her to bed and endless days cleaning up the aftermath of her substance use.

The disease of addiction robbed my life as a kid.

In 2003 my mother lost her battle with substances and died an, “accidental death.”

The combination of grieving the loss of my mother and the pressures of young adulthood left me open minded to methods of relief. In the process, I discovered drugs, particularly cocaine, and found the affects to be incredibly pleasurable. The relief I found in using cocaine was amazing.

In a short period of time I was using it daily. I had no idea that in the next several years my life would become empty.

Breakthrough

On January 9, 2008, I sat on the floor of my NYC studio apartment. I stared blankly at the ground and questioned the benefits of taking my own life. At 26 years old, I was a broken young man. My apartment was silent, messy and smelled of stale smoke. Beer cans and cigarette butts littered the floor. I had been heavily abusing illicit drugs, alcohol and prescription pills. In just two years, I had lost 33lbs, become addicted to 4 different substances and blown through every last dollar I had. I had isolated myself into a 400 square foot room and often times did not leave for days on end.

My relationships with friends and family were non-existent. My ability to function as a human being had vanished.

The only thing keeping me alive was my 3-year-old Boston terrier named Emma. By now, Emma looked at me with disbelief and disgust.

Reaching out to my Dad

As the hopelessness grew and the thoughts of suicide increased, I felt the presence of my father.

I recall him telling me that when I was ready, he would be there. I made the call that changed my life.

Two days later I was admitted to Hazelden in Center City, Minn., for treatment.

Within a short amount of time, I would learn how to live a sober life with unimaginable happiness. I would have relationships and feel a sense of belonging.

My purpose for living would change and I would know what it’s like to help other people.

For the first time ever, I felt like the person I wanted to be.

The Desire to Help Other People

Within a few months of being sober, I knew I wanted to help people. I was hungry to work in the human services field and felt highly motivated to support people in their recovery. After nearly 10 rejections for employment, I was offered a very entry-level position at a company called Supportive Living Services, in Brooklyn Park, Minn. With no training or education on addiction, Supportive Living Services took a chance and created an opportunity for me.

My sole purpose was designed to tell their existing clients about my experience with mental health and substance abuse and how I found a new way of living. They called this role a “peer support specialist.”

Sharing My Story

For the next 4 years I worked diligently throughout the metropolitan area, sharing my story and helping individuals get the help they needed. It was ideal, enjoyable and rewarding. I was slowly promoted to a more clinical role, however never lost my title as peer support specialist. No matter what type of position I was advanced to, I still told my story to clients to give them hope.

During my 3rd year at Supportive Living Services, I enrolled at The Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies. I spent two years educating myself about addiction and learning about the illness from an entirely new perspective – a professional perspective. I grew as a professional, but even more as a person. Having the personal experience in conjunction with the master’s level education provided me an opportunity to maximize my ability to help people. After nearly 5 years of working with Supportive Living Services, I knew it was time to move on. If I were to grow, I would need to challenge myself and continue learning.

Recognizing the Unique Needs of Young Men with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Needs

I saw a serious need for education, prevention, mentorship and guidance for young men struggling with addiction and mental health. I saw young men living with parents at age 25 after dropping out of college.

I saw these same young men turn to substances as the method to cope with anxiety and depression.

I saw young men losing hope in their selves because they could not live up to their parent’s expectations. But most of all, I saw myself. I saw lost boys living in a young man’s body.

A sizable portion of young men and women face mental health and addiction problems. The percentage of addicted young adults seeking treatment has risen steadily.

Many have been in treatment before and relapsed. Too many leave treatment against medical advice, usually driven by an addiction to opiates or a sense of overconfidence.

Families despair that their children will be lost before they can really begin to live.

The Boomerang Generation

Often dubbed the “boomerang generation” or part of a “failure to launch” epidemic, these young men often are part of the 29 percent of young adults who have moved back in with their parents and the 22 percent of young adults who report current illicit drug use.

In particular, young males are at greater risk for mental health disorders and addiction. At a critical period of their lives, they face extreme pressure from society, peers, families and themselves to “have a plan.”

These young men often struggle to establish their own identity and can occur as a result of “feeling caught” developmentally between adolescence and young adulthood.

Many do not have the tools needed to cope or deal with the pressures they face. As a result, many young men find themselves battling mental health disorders and addiction.

This group represents unique challenges for their families as well as mental health and addiction professionals. Successful treatment requires a different approach that addresses not only the addiction but also the underlying mental health issues. Additionally, treatment needs to be individualized and custom to the person receiving care. Too often, the incoming patient becomes a “number” as opposed a “person”. Lastly, the person needs to have a voice in their treatment. The young adult already feels a sense of worthlessness and lack of autonomy will increase the chances of a relapse.

The Decision to Focus my Practice

For these reasons, in August of 2014, I started my company, Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health. Our philosophy and approach is built on a person-centered, individualized and strength-based model, which builds on people positive attributes as opposed to weakness. We strongly believe that people recover and seek the help they need once a relationship is formed and trust is established between a practitioner and client. Change is only made once the client realizes that their goals do not align with the way they are living their life. People who are sick respond better with empathy and support versus confrontation and punishment. We help individuals and family navigate the rocky road of recovery.

My professional practice follows a specific guideline that I believe is instrumental to helping this struggling population. My personal story of recovery gives me the strength to fight for each patient and never lose hope in his ability to recover.

Upcoming Guest Blog Posts

In my next two posts I will discuss intervention and treatment and how these stages relate to the young adult male. Can intervention be done in a less aggressive and person-centered approach? Or do we need to use leverage as an alternative to getting young men into treatment? And, how do we alter treatment with this vulnerable population? What type of treatment provides best outcomes? All questions I will explain over the next several weeks.

Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, has a vast range of experiences working with addiction and mental health. He gained a wealth of knowledge through his own recovery coupled with extensive training: a master’s level education from the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction and an undergraduate degree in psychology and human development from Hofstra University. Following a career with several substance abuse and mental health organizations, he formed Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health.

Contact Drew:

http://drewhorowitzassociates.com/

horowitzassociates@gmail.com

651-698-7358

#TBT – Addiction … Truth for 24 Hours

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

Real_Mom__What_if_we_had_the_truth__for_24_hours_

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

Siblings Deserve a College Scholarship

Without a doubt, siblings are impacted by their brother’s or sister’s addiction. Dean Dauphinais​, a father with a son in long-term recovery, has created a special scholarship to help siblings. Fantastic idea.  Check out this great opportunity and please spread the word.  http://mylifeas3d.blogspot.com/2015/04/my-life-as-3d-scholarship-essay-contest.html

I remember the day we dropped my son off at college. It had been a tumultuous couple of years with an addiction that we were just beginning to understand. He thought he was ready. We were hopeful that a new crowd, a tennis coach that truly believed in his talents, and a clean slate might just be the best-ever opportunity.

As we said our goodbye’s, my son said, “Mom, I promise I won’t F- this up.”

His little brother, 10 years old, at the time, was no stranger to the promises and excuses of an addicted sibling.

Six days later, big brother passed out from drugging and drinking. Someone found him in a snow bank in sub-zero temperatures. He was taken by ambulance to the ER and later sent to detox. The downward spiral spiraled faster than ever.

Fast forward four years, big brother is sober and in recovery (nine months!), and little brother is a freshman in high school.  College is in the near future for him.

Addiction costs so much, tangibly and intangibly, financially and emotionally. For every member of the family.

I do not know Dean Dauphinais​ directly but am familiar with his blog and social-media presence. My impression is he’s a good dad who is an excellent advocate for our young addicts and their families. He seems to have the respect of parents and professionals, and I am only too happy to help spread the word about the college scholarship he’s put together.

See what you think.

Midwestern Mama

Coming Together as a Community

OYA_logo_final_reverse_rgbOYA_logo_final_rgb

We’re gearing up for lots of activity among the Our Young Addicts community with writing and speaking opportunities. To that end, check out our new logo which now brands our Facebook, Twitter and WordPress Blog. Midwestern Mama invites parents and professionals to be part of our community to share experience, resources and hope. #OYACommunity

When I started writing about our family’s experience with addiction, it was just that – writing, more often than not it was therapeutic stream of consciousness with the hope that it might help other parents and families facing addiction. Quickly, however, the writing became a calling and a gathering of perspectives. We became a community of parents and professionals.

Without a doubt, we have a mission, vision and core values for Our Young Addicts. And, today, we have a logo that begins to convey what we are all about and what we hope to accomplish. I’m looking forward to an active calendar of writing and speaking and other ways to spread the Our Young Addicts message.

The logo is a teal blue box with reverse type that says Our Young Addicts.

In large, capital letters, is the word OUR. This word stretches over the words YOUNG ADDICTS, indicating that this is our community, that we are coming together because we care and are concerned, and that helping young people with a substance use disorder is OUR shared responsibility. Not one of us can do this alone, and fortunately, within a community, we don’t have to be alone.

The word YOUNG is bolded in orange to call out the distinct needs of this age group – the age group when 90 percent of addiction begins.

For the time being, we are still using the word addicts because it is familiar and less cumbersome than saying “people with a substance use disorder.” We also hope that we can role model and de-stigmatize that the word by demonstrating our care and concern for them.

Thank you for being part of the Our Young Addicts community. I am forever grateful that parents and professionals are coming together to share experience, resources and hope.

Midwestern Mama

My Child Has a Problem with Drugs

Here’s a post I wish had been around when our son started using drugs. This is informative and realistic. In particular, check out the questions for parents and the suggestions it offers. One of the hardest things for us was that we recognized our son’s drug problem long before anyone else did and long before he was ready to admit it let alone accept help. In time, however, he successfully completed treatment (not the first couple of times) and has embraced sobriety and recovery.

800 Recovery Hub Blog

As a parent, it is your role to take care of your child. But, when your teen or adult child is addicted to drugs, most likely the best you can do is to guide them to a solution.  If your loved one wants to get clean and sober, then help them get into a rehab. But what if you are not sure they are addicted to drugs …or what if they don’t want help…

If your teen or adult child starts behaving differently for no apparent reason––such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile—it could be a sign he or she is developing a drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of the growing up process.

Through scientific advances, we know more than ever before about how drugs work in the brain. We also know that addiction can be successfully…

View original post 826 more words

High Hopes for Our 15 Year Old

On her youngest son’s 15th birthday, Midwestern Mama has high hopes that he’ll make positive choices when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

This morning on the radio, my youngest son (15 years old today!) and I heard radio DJs talking about Pot, The Movie. It’s the plight of a Minnesota family who gave their son medical marijuana, and the filmmaker’s support of medicinal and recreational use.

Without hesitation, my son initiated commentary on this highly charged story. He has a soft heart and is understanding of parents who want the best for a sick child who is suffering. He has a hardened soul, however, when it comes to marijuana – its recreational use and likely potential as a gateway drug.

He bases this on what he has learned and witnessed with his older brother who began smoking marijuana during high school at just about the age that he is now. Until nine months ago, my youngest son knew his brother as someone suffering from substance use disorder that included marijuana and a full gamut of street drugs including addiction to heroin.

His brother’s drug use was a rapid foray into full-on destruction, and for a little brother it was a reality show, a nightmare, and a life lesson with lasting impact. He’s confident he will choose a different path, and we have high hopes for that as well. Without a doubt, he knows the series of events that can happen when drugs are part of one’s life and he knows the consequences that occur. These have firmly established his own perceptions and opinions.

Today as we celebrate his 15th birthday, he is applauding his brother’s nine months of sobriety and commitment to recovery. It is the best present of all!

Midwestern Mama

Trust is Possible

When trust is lost during addiction, it takes time to rebuild during recovery – sometimes it seems like forever – but Midwestern Mama is discovering that trust is possible. She’s coming up with more and more examples of the growing trust that’s taking place with her son.

Trust is possible.  A few months ago, I would have been skeptical of that statement.  A few years ago, I would have thought it was impossible.Today, I know it is not only possible, it is true.

Already, I have noted at least 13 examples of trust that I now have in my son.  Each day this month, I am capturing example after example.  Check out our twitter @OurYoungAddicts and Facebook for these updates.  I will share more examples here, too.  When I look at all of these together, I am filled with amazement and I am filled with excitement.

We still take things day by day; however, with each act of honesty, the trust gets stronger.

Yes, trust is possible!

Midwestern Mama

Positive Change is in the Air!

Today is eight months sober for Midwestern Mama’s son! Not only is trust growing, she is trusting herself more and seeing the #PositiveChange that come from trusting that things will turn out as they are meant to be.

Encouragement is one of the best things we can offer each other, especially for those of us who are parenting young addicts – in active use or in recovery. It’s often the most uncharted territory we’ve ever experienced, so that’s why encouragement is important; but I’d say that’s where unvarnished truth is paramount as well. We need to hear the good and the bad because the truth in neither good or bad – it is simply the way it is currently and it gives us an opportunity to see the possibilities ahead.

In each of my interactions with the Our Young Addicts community, I offer been-there-done-that perspective. I’m a naturally upbeat, positive person but don’t confuse this for being naive or oblivious to the challenges that addiction and recovery bring.

When we discover substance use and then begin to experience addiction, we focus on “if they would just go to treatment” or “if they would just stop using.” Sometimes they do. Sometimes that happens right away. Quite often, it takes time – lots of time and consequences – before they are ready. During this process many mantras surface, including the familiar “letting go” where you and a higher power connect.

Then, one day, recovery begins. With that comes a whole new slew of hopes and expectations. Once again, the “letting go” mantra surfaces. This time, letting go is about three-way trust – you, your higher power and your loved one. This third component – your loved one – is so much stronger than you ever imagined.

Trusting my son means trusting myself and also trusting that things will work out as they are meant to. Whoa! What a difference.

As I write about the many positive changes taking place for my son and our family, it’s also had its challenges and concerns. Recovery is not easy for any one of us, but trust me we much prefer this stage.

In particular, my son has a good deal of social anxiety. He pulls it together for school and work, but frankly, it exhausts him and overwhelms him.

Initially, he reconnected with some of his high school friends (now in their early 20s and having moved on with their lives) but has sense withdrawn from them. He has very little social life – and mom, dad and little brother day in and day out are a poor substitute for the fun and interaction that a 22-year-old craves.

Because he doesn’t embrace 12-steps, there are fewer options for support meetings. And, because he doesn’t like groups in general, he doesn’t want to attend alternatives such as Health Realization or SMART Recovery or Sober Meet Ups. It’s frustrating to live in what’s affectionately known as the Recovery Mecca or Land of 10,000 Rehabs (Minnesota!) and that he doesn’t want to be part of this community.

At work, he’s convinced that no one likes him and that his coworkers conspire against him. He’s certain that’s why he doesn’t get the good shifts. Likely it’s not true, but it feels miserable all the same.

All this pessimism worries me. It feels like an anxiety attack or depressive strike in the making. It feels like a relapse could trigger. Sometimes, I realize that it could be even worse – suicide or overdose. Honestly, I don’t sense this is eminent or I would be taking extremely proactive steps. I do, however, know that I have to be aware and that I have to trust myself to intervene or to let go. I pray a lot. And as you know, I write and reach out to others. I am blessed with a wonderful support network and this community. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

With all that aside, let me share with you a recent positive change, however, and I am crediting it all to the growing trust that we’re experiencing!

The other day, my son begrudgingly went to his workplace party – a Monday evening dinner with games and prizes. All on his own, he styled up in a sharp sports coat, button-down shirt and leather dress shoes. (Most days, it’s sweat pants and a hoodie.) Not only did he enjoy the meal, he played cards and even won one of the raffles, and he got to meet and chat with the owner of the company. He stayed the whole evening and was in an upbeat, chatty mood when he got home.

The next day, he worked a lunch shift (since he’s on spring break from school and had extra hours available). He was tipped well and again came home in a positive mood.

That evening, he ran some errands with the family and we went out for burgers at a new restaurant. Often in the past, we’d ask if he wanted to join us and he’d say, “No, don’t feel like it.”

Today, he took the dog out for a walk – something that subzero temps have precluded. The sunshine and mild temperatures spoke to him. I can only believe that some Vitamin D will do him some additional good!

And, he shared with me that one of his friends is turning 24 today and that he had reached out to say happy birthday. I was so proud of him for doing that. Further, the friend lives a couple of hours away and my son asked if it might be possible to borrow the car to go visit him sometime. Absolutely!

It’s funny because a week ago I had said to my husband that I’d probably trust our son to drive to visit his friend and stay the night. We agreed we could trust him, but I was hesitant to suggest it. Instead, he came up with the idea on his own – thus, he likes the idea! This really encourages me. This is a friend who stuck by him through his worst days and who is himself a positive role model.

I’m encouraged and trust this is a turning point.

Midwestern Mama

Past, Present, Future

Midwestern Mama recognizes that she and her family have come a long way!

Our past, our present and our future all deserve contemplation. Today, I am taking pause to think about how far we — yes, we – my son, our family, and me — have come through addiction, and more recently, recovery.

We’ve been a team through all of it. At times, as individual players. At other times, as collaborators. At times, a dysfunctional team and at other times a functional one.

When your kid is actively using and abusing substances, whether alcohol or drugs, things get rather tense. Our kid’s addiction wraps us up in the present – the immediate crisis, chaos and turmoil. It also gets us thinking about the past – either the good old days or trying to figure out whatever it was that happened to cause this problem … until we figure out and accept that we may never know the cause, and that we most certainly were not the cause.

During active addiction, it may feel impossible to think about the future – at least not in positive terms because we’re so worried about consequences like them not graduating or getting in trouble with the law and about horrible, scary outcomes like overdose and death.

Past, present and future, over and over again. It’s a relentless cycle until we decide to stop it. But that’s not easy and it’s something we have to learn how to do. It takes practice. It takes commitment. And it takes support – support from the whole team.

That brings us to today. Where are we today? Where have we been? Where might we be headed? These questions are not nagging or guilt laden at present. Today, these questions are cause for celebration, so I decided to capture some of the past, present, future. The common denominator is honesty and truth, and I expect that the future will also encompass enhanced self esteem, confidence, independence and richer relationships. All in all, no matter whether we are talking past, present or future tense, these days it’s a whole lot less tense for our family!

A Car, Driving & Transportation
Past Present Future
Finding drugs and paraphernalia in my son’s car. Speeding.   Going places he wasn’t supposed to go. Random, unexplained dents. Frequent flat tires. Taking away his car. Sharing the family car so he could go to work. Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Taking away his driving privileges altogether. Possession charge. Accident in friend’s car. Court dates. Driver’s license suspension. Past-due fines and late-fees. Warrant for arrest. License reinstated. He’s insured. He drives the speed limit and doesn’t tailgate. He’s nearly 8 months sober. He keeps a mileage log of driving the family car to work, school and appointments. He’s pleasant about sharing the car and accepts a ride or willingly takes the bus when I need the car. He willingly drops his little brother at school and picks him up from sports practice as well as runs family errands … with a smile. His driving record will clear itself and he’ll have more insurance options along with lower premiums. He may have his own car. He’ll take on responsibility of gas, insurance, maintenance and repairs. He’ll be able to come and go as he wants.
School
Past Present Future
Cutting classes. Not doing homework. Not studying. Relying on skimming text books before a test. Being high in class. Dropping out. Trying again. Repeat. Academic probation. Successfully appealed academic probation. Registered for college classes (8 credits maximum allowed on probation). Doing homework. Studying. Attending each class. Taking notes. Met with his academic advisor. Achieves GPA to get off academic probation. Registers for summer and fall classes. Finds an academic interest and declares a major. Connects with other students and teachers. Gets involved on campus. Completes an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Living at Home
Past Present Future
Knew the rules about no drugs in the house and keeping family hours, but repeatedly broke these and left to sofa surf. Left his house key at home. When he did visit to shower and eat, often stole money. We changed the garage code so he couldn’t get in the house if we were not home. Was unable to pay rent to friends. Ended up homeless on multiple occasions. Lived at a shelter for several months, but broke their rules and after three warnings had to leave. Went to treatment, ran away. Went to treatment and lived at home – continued to use and ran away. Went to treatment and stuck it out. Went to halfway house and quit. Homeless again. Came home, went to treatment.   Could not leave him home alone. Living at home and sober since July 2014. Keeps bedroom and bathroom tidy. Does his laundry. Keeps family hours. Keeps us apprised of his plans including work schedule and occasional social outings. Interacts pleasantly with the family and loves taking care of the dog. Has a closet with clean, newer better-fitting clothes. No money has gone missing. He has a key to get in if we are not home. Will continue to live at home while saving money, working part time and going to school part time. Eventually will be able to move out, but will be welcome at home.
Money & Finances
Past Present Future
Always spent every dime he earned or was given. Stole merchandise and food from stores. Stole money from wallets and purses. Ran up debt – ambulance ride to ER, unpaid tuition, un-returned text books, unpaid fines and tickets. Participated in scams. Lost several banking accounts due to writing bad checks. Overall broke and bad credit. Did odd jobs over the summer to pay off tickets and get back his driver’s license. Got a part-time job and is earning and saving money. Told Mom and Dad the truth about some of his financial consequences. Made payment arrangements with debt collectors. Still spends “too much” on things he doesn’t “need” and buys gifts for others. Eats out instead of taking a lunch to school. Shares a weekly update with Mom. Will continue to work from a budget and to save. Will be debt free and build a better credit rating. Will have and use credit responsibly. Will have savings for emergency needs. Will be able to do “fun” things and get things he “wants.”

Quiz-of-the-day: What One Word Describes … ?

Midwestern Mama observes the fragile nature of her son’s recovery.

It seems today there is a quiz for just about everything. Some are quite fun and lighthearted, and others get at deeper findings … albeit in nine simple, multiple-choice questions with the option to share the results on Facebook.

Admittedly, I’ve taken my share of these and generally agree with the assessments, but that’s just it – these quizzes are easy, occasionally even insightful, and I enjoy the feedback. If there were a nine-question quiz that would sum up my son’s outlook, I think the finding would be: Fragile.

Ever since I started keeping notes, logging observations, and blogging about addiction and recovery, I’ve believed that situations resolve eventually, that there is potential for improvement, for transformation, for better days ahead. That’s my orientation to life. For my son, it’s another orientation altogether.

I started writing real-time accounts about my son’s addiction and our family’s experience because it seemed that there were really only two narratives out there: 1) the horrific, after-the fact story of the addict who died; and 2) the heroic, full-on, recovery story. What was missing was the story that is far more common, the story that’s still unfolding – either of addiction in progress or of recovery in progress.

Our story is still in progress. There are still many chapters to go. We don’t know what will happen next, and so I continue to write about what is going on now, and share it with you in hopes that it resonates in some way with your own experiences, and that together, we will be less fragile and grow in strength.

I am pleased that my son is six months sober. It is his longest time of sobriety yet, and even more importantly, it is one that he embraces. Thanks , in part to Suboxone, the sobriety aspect has the easiest part of recovery. Now, without drugs, he’s facing the realities and aftermath of the past five or six years: debt, academic probation, tickets, deteriorated friendships, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and more.

Everything he does takes extreme effort and the result is exhaustion. Nothing is easy. But he’s plugging away at it. We are supporting him, but it’s not easy to watch him struggle.

A few tips that are helping, include:

Keep repeating the Serenity Prayer, and it really does help.Think about each part of it.

Ask open-ended questions and share personal experiences, feelings to see if he wants to talk – usually not.

Listen without offering advice.

Help with somethings – simply being nice (do unto others type of things) but try not to enable.

Give him space.

However, I’m as concerned today about his mental health as I ever was about his addiction.  Recently, he completed a series of psychological evaluations and is working with a therapist on mental health, including depression and social anxiety. The evaluation confirmed several things, validated others, and raised our awareness that he is still at risk. In short, he’s fragile, and it’s going to take time and effort to build up his strength from the inside out.

Midwestern Mama

The Dog Days … of Recovery

Midwestern Mama is pleased to share an update on her son’s recovery in what she likens to the “dog days.” Find out why and let us know if you can relate!

He’s sober. He’s still sober. Oh, how pleased I am to share that!

Beyond sobriety, I am even more pleased to share that my 22-year-old son is taking a daily dose of Suboxone and faithfully is attending a high-intensity out-patient (HIOP) program – which meets for three hours, three days a week. He even sees a counselor for a one-on-one hour once a week, although the counselor has been out of town the last three weeks … but I digress.

Since mid-July to present, my son, our family dog and I have made trips to the clinic each morning. We head out around 8 a.m. on Monday through Thursday, and at 7:15 on Fridays so he can see his counselor before group, and on Saturday, we get there before the clinic closes at 11 a.m. On Monday, Thursday and Saturday, the dog and I wait in the parking lot five to 30 minutes while we wait for him to dose. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, his group meets until noon, so the dog and I go about our business of errands, work or meetings.

This routine will continue until the middle of October, when he graduates from HIOP and at which time he may be eligible for take-home Suboxone a week at a time and then up to 30 days at a time. Currently, since the clinic is closed on Sundays, all clients take home their Sunday dose on Saturday, in a lock box.

It’s been our routine. A good routine. A routine we hoped, dreamed about and prayed for. A routine for which we are grateful. A routine that we don’t take for granted. Yet a routine that is routine, that is at times mundane, and at times harder than it is easy.

Early on in my son’s addiction, I was very much like my cohort Mid Atlantic Mom in thinking that drug treatment equaled success, equaled putting addiction behind us. I quickly learned through research, networking, reading, counseling, Al-anon, and more, that this might not in fact be the outcome. At least not the immediate outcome.

The underlying situation. The one that existed before the drug use. The one “we didn’t cause, can’t change, can’t control and can cure,” exists whether our young addicts are using, are sober or are recovering.

Without the substance, the reality of their mindset or mental illness is immediately front and center. It’s no longer masked. It exists and it is painful without the relief of substance. It remains to be diagnosed and treated. It is. It is. It is. It is there.

Some days, my son will share. Other days, he is silent but seemingly content. And still, other days, he is irritated, agitated, moody and resistant. We don’t always know how he will feel, how he will be. It often feels it’s all about him. In some ways, it is. Yet, the family must continue on, and for the first time in several years, I think he understands and respects this even if he remains sensitive to it, perhaps even hyper sensitive to it since he’s dealing with it sans chemicals.

It’s almost like the wound is far more open and raw than ever before.

The difference this time – now on his third or fourth experience with treatment and recovery – is that he wants to change and that we are more open and patient about small evidences of change. However, he wants it to go quickly and on his terms. I dare say, we do to.

Through all of this, and I come back to the “dog days” headline, our family dog has been as influential as anything in our son’s recovery progress. I’ll go it one more and say that our family dog has been the motivation and encouragement for him.

Every day, since having our son return home, he has taken great interest and pleasure in our young dog. They take walks together. They take naps together. The more they do together, the more they have bonded, and the more our dog has grown from a frisky puppy into a well mannered adolescent dog.

Our dog has responded exceptionally well to consistent, caring training, not to mention the positive rewards of pats and “good boy.” Our dog, has increased his listening and willingness – even in the face of dog training challenges: distance, duration and distraction — because our son has exhibited kind-hearted, positive discipline. Our dog has learned patience as he awaits clarity and permission. Our son has learned that setting and enforcing expectations works.

Through these “dog days” of recovery, we are all learning albeit at different paces, with differing expectations and with varied perceptions of progress.

Midwestern Mama

The New Normal

index

One month into treatment, Midwestern Mama contemplates the new normal for her son and family.

The first time I heard the descriptor “The New Normal,” it was in economic terms referring to how families were faring in 2009. I understand that more recently there was a short-lived television series with this title about gender and families.

Whatever its origin and original intent, it’s an expression that seems to capture our family’s connection to addiction and recovery. Ironically, this coincides with the timing when it first manifested for us. Since then, we’ve accepted and adapted to many new normals. If you’ve been reading this blog or any of my other writings, patterns emerging as the new normal and the next new normal and the next one after that … these have been the mainstay of our family experience.

More recently, we’ve been party to yet another new normal – treatment and recovery. At the end of 2013 and early part of 2014, we got a preview of what this might entail. Then, in a blink, it all unraveled. Our son’s immediate and lower-than-ever-before relapse hit. It hit hard, for all of us.

We met this new normal with the same resolve as times past, yet something was very different, and thankfully so.

So what is it like to parent a young adult who is earnestly participating in treatment and recovery? It’s far from anything we’ve experienced to date. Will it be the be-all, end -all? I can’t answer that, but I do know it is laying the strongest foundation for ongoing and future success than we’ve seen. The experts are just as good as the experts we’ve been fortunate to work with in the past, but this time it seems to be the right experts at the right time.

What’s different? Our son. He truly seems to want this. Not for us, but for himself. It’s not something we could have made him want, although we’ve certainly tried to influence, encourage and support it. I encourage every parent to keep trying, no matter what but to not drive yourself nuts when it doesn’t turn out like you want it to. In due time, in due time.

So what else is different? He is slowly and selectively reconnecting with former friends who are not addicts and who he’s been honest with and that support his efforts without being in his face about it. These friends accept it and applaud him, but not in a way that makes him feel self conscious. Having a social component has given him a positive outlet for his energy and interests. Too much treatment, too much recovery, is an overload. Having an outlet to just be a 22-year-old is extremely important.

What else? Suboxone, a medication that curbs cravings, negates the ability to get high, and offsets withdrawal symptoms for opiate use. It’s not without its downside, but for now the upside seems to be worth it. (Downsides: It’s daily trips to the clinic for at least the first 90 days before he can get take-home doses. This eliminates being able to go out of town for family vacation this summer. It means having transportation available. It causes constipation, which of course, the heroin did too. It initially messed with his sleep pattern. It generally requires a long-term commitment. There’s conflicting research on the benefits and precautions, but overall, it seems to be just what he needs now and is making an immediate and noticeable difference.)

Our new normal impacts the whole family, but it is such a welcome change. We have a long way to go to reestablish trust, communication and to support our son toward independence, but for now I just hope he can stick with it. Each day with it, is a day stronger. For all of us.

We’ve been waiting and praying for The New Normal. Now we are here, embracing this stage and optimistic for the next new normal and the one after that. I guess that’s normal, too.

As parents and families, we are often ready long before our young addicts are ready. In my own exploration and effort to understand addiction, I was encouraged by many of the writings of Buddha. In particular, the blessing of a good guide and for the readiness and willingness to let the guide to their job, while I did mine. Until I was ready, it was going nowhere. When I got ready, WOW!

It seems the same enlightenment is starting to happen for my son.

Midwestern Mama

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Buddha

Not That Far From Home.

Midwestern Mama discovers a community of opiate users in recovery — just miles from her suburban home – as her son begins Suboxone treatment and counseling for Heroin addiction.

Less than five miles from my suburban home is an outpatient treatment center that offers Methodone and Suboxone dosing in addition to individual counseling, group sessions and training. Although it’s close to where I live, it’s not on a road I ordinarily take and even though I’ve driven that road many times over the 20 plus-years that I’ve lived here, it’s not a structure that I ever noticed.

The past two days, however, changed that. I have taken notice and I have spent several hours there. It has been eye opening and I actually look forward to seeing and experiencing more in the days ahead. As part of my son’s journey with addiction, I have yearned for an insider’s perspective to better understand the complexities of substance use disorder – if not his, that of others.

Sitting in the waiting room for several hours yesterday as he met with a physician, had a lab test and met with the intake coordinator, I busied myself with a proposal, client emails and some trade publications. All the while, I engaged in people watching and caught snippets of their conversations with each other.

It was clear that most of the men and women were regulars, although there were definitely some other first-timers and perhaps a few other supportive parents. The regulars were animated in their talk, joking and catching up with each other. Their faces and bodies evidenced difficult times, but their conversation indicated hope and commitment to better times. Many of them carried backpacks stuffed to the gills and I wondered if they were transient. Quite a few had large beverage containers from the convenience store across the street – sodas, chocolate milk, juice. Several of them had small lock-boxes.

One 50-something man, in particular, had an Irish accent, immediately introduced himself as Chillin’ McDillon, and complemented me on my smile telling me that it may him very happy to see. Without prompt or hesitation, he began telling me his life story. My son was signing in at the reception desk or he probably would have had a fit that I was interacting with Chillin’ McDillon

A younger woman used the clinic phone (sign posted above stating a 3-minute limit for calls). She was trying to get a school transcript to enroll in community college and it sounded like she’d been through a number of hoops already. Yet another woman was quite angry and punctuated her account of the last night’s activities with four-letter words to describe her boyfriend’s shortcoming.

In dress pants and a button-down shirt, another man filled out paperwork and checked his mobile device. He kept looking up hoping his was his turn to get called back to the lab.

Meanwhile, staff with lanyard nametags and jangling sets of keys came and went calling names and taking clients back for various appointments. In addition, someone was job shadowing and someone else was there for a site visit. Clinic staff were giving a tour and explaining the programs they offer.

A few years ago, let alone a days ago, I would not have imagined being here. Although we had suspected opiate use, this drug of choice was quite foreign to us. It’s only been recently that I began learning more and more about it and the challenges of overcoming this highly addictive substance. I had heard about Methadone and Suboxone, and more recently about Naltrexone (a medication our son took while inpatient earlier this year). Now, we were in the midst of it and it was not far from home.

After another round of “now you see me, now you don’t,” our son arrived home last Tuesday evening unannounced and coming down from a high. Our family was united in our expectations and the conditions under which he could stay in our home. We were not feeling very tolerant of another breech and initiated a straightforward conversation – with loving intention but resulting in a somewhat ugly verbal exchange.

My husband’s direct and strong voice expressed the message. We were clear, come morning he had to honor our agreement to do something positive and productive every day toward sobriety and it would begin with a call to some treatment places and start a program or he could not stay with us. His choice.

Midway through this ultimatum, and I hate that it was an ultimatum, he zoned out. I don’t think we realized he was coming down from a high or perhaps we would not have started this conversation, but as cognizant as we are of his use we simply didn’t see this.

For the next 30 minutes, he was half asleep but not at all engaged with the rest of us. We just watched. Finally, we said, it’s late and time to go to bed. My son went upstairs and climbed in bed. We tucked in our younger son and my husband and I proceeded to toss and turn the rest of the night.

True to our word, the next morning, I woke my son and handed him a list of places to call before the day was up. Groggy, crabby and feeling dope sick, he begrudgingly got up and spent the day with me. By late afternoon, he’d talked to one place but didn’t think it was the right place for him (a common theme) and left a message for the other. He didn’t want to talk about any of it and seemed resentful. There was lots of silence.

The next morning, I woke him up and he went with me again. I encouraged him to call back the place he’d left the message because sometimes getting through means being persistent. I’ll be darned, but he reached them and they had an opening with the physician for the next morning. Without hesitation, I changed a meeting to be able to take him.

Again, I had to wake him up. He ate a bagel and cream cheese. Without showering or changing out of his baggy PJ bottoms and sweaty t-shirt, we drove to the clinic. Throughout the morning of him meeting one-on-one with their staff, he would return to the waiting room and gradually began filling me in, being more conversational.

That afternoon, my husband and I took him for a haircut and we ate a late lunch together. He was energetic and pleasant. When we got home, he showered and trimmed his beard. He was feeling better and looking better, too.

Then, of course, he made a last-minute departure to hang with friends instead of attending a family birthday dinner. We know for certain he lied about which friends and we were 50-50 on whether he’d let us know his plans let alone whether he’d come home that night. We were unsettled, but decided to let go and accept that we had done all we could to include him in the family. Shortly after 10 p.m., he texted to see if we were home yet as he was on his way back. Didn’t really expect that.

This morning he woke up on his own and ready to get his Suboxone dose at the clinic. He came out with a list of dates for seeing the physician and counseling appointments. He talked about the upcoming group sessions that he’d be attending. He even gave me the sheet of paper to read, which he’s previously stuffed these things in his pocket and resisted letting us see them.

We had a short conversation about honesty and being a support system, but didn’t belabor it. It remains wait-and-see, but I am ever grateful for some positive motion and the possibilities that this could yield for him to get back on the recovery track. As much as he has fled from home in the past, it’s interesting that he’s sticking so close to home these days and that this current endeavor is not that far from home.

Midwestern Mama

20 questions, 0 answers.

Midwestern Mama ponders the many questions she’s asked over the years about addiction and the many more she’d like to ask. The biggest question remains: When will her son embrace sobriety and recovery?

One of the first questions we asked was, “What is going on?” We were observing behaviors and attitudes that were different, out of character for our son. It prompted us to pause and ask him, to ask the doctor, his teachers, coaches, friends and family members.

The more we watched, wondered and asked, the more we started to ask the next couple of questions: “Could it be related to mental health?” and “Could he be using drugs?” Again, we didn’t get a lot of answers – from him or from others who cared and were concerned.

From my perspective, if you’re concerned about your child, don’t hesitate to ask questions and to seek answers. Just like the president of the United States of America or the CEO of a company, parents need to ask their “cabinet” of advisers for input and insight. We can’t possibly know everything there is to know, especially when it comes to things we’re often unfamiliar with such as mental health and substance use.

Finally, our answers began to cam from observations – not only the behaviors but from bits and pieces of evidence, of drugs and paraphernalia. Often these weren’t outright pieces of evidence but by Googling images and scouring the internet, we would learn that paperclips, hollow pens, tin foil, baggies and other seemingly common items had drug connections.

That would lead us to ask our son questions: “What is this?” and “Are you using drugs?” Of course, his answers, if he’d answer at all, were explanations and excuses. Again, we’d have to piece together little bits of information to get a small sense of what was going on.

The questions continued, but the answers didn’t to any great extent. From there, we started asking questions of ourselves: “How can we help him?” and “What can we do?” Through family counseling, therapy sessions, Al-anon, and lots of reading, we learned some answers – ones that were clinical, ones that were evidence-based and many that were centered on the classic mantra of “You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. You can’t cure it.” These helped us better understand our role, but the answers still don’t fully satisfy even if we understand these rationally and emotionally.

For a while, we stopped asking questions. We accepted. We let go. We detached. Except that we still witnessed, experienced and observed the devastation happening in our son’s life. While we had greater understanding and knowledge, we realized we still had questions.

When my son contacts us or comes home, my natural tendency is to start asking him questions. I don’t mean to interrogate him per se, but sometimes the power of my curiosity and concern is overwhelming and my need to know feels so urgent. I’m working hard to know when and what to ask.

There’s a psychology technique called Motivational Interviewing. It’s quite brilliant because it leads a person through a process of questions and answers in a way that allows the person to come to positive conclusions. Admittedly, I’m much better at using this technique in a role-playing scenario instead of in real life with my son.

After several weeks of asking him when he was going to reschedule a dental appointment to get three cavities filled, I changed the question to what’s holding him back from doing so and what if anything I could do to help him. That question wasn’t met with much appreciation either. In fact, he snapped at me quite nastily.

At first, I reeled from his irritable response, and then it came to me that when mental health and addiction own the minds of our loved ones, there are no good questions … and that is why there are no good answers.

Regardless of what question I ask or how I ask it, I realize that what I’m really asking is when is he going to embrace sobriety and recovery. He doesn’t know the answer and my asking him isn’t going to yield an answer that either of us likes nor one that is the least bit helpful. Never the less, it’s still the question that is on my mind, the one that I cling to with hope and one that is rooted in love.

Midwestern Mama

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

It never ceases to amaze me how easily my son slips away. He’ll be home, in regular contact for a few hours, even days. Then, he’ll just be gone for days at a time. We’ve come to accept this as the user’s way of life.

He won’t answer his phone or respond to texts – sometimes because his phone is dead and sometimes because he views our outreach as intrusion. And more and more often we wonder if he might be dead. That’s what family and friends are left to wonder.

When we drop him off somewhere, he’s barely out of the car and is immediately lost in the crowd or turns the corner and we can’t see him anywhere. No matter how hard we try to watch where he goes, in one split second he’s disappeared.

Same thing when he walks out the front door. Instead of staying in view, he darts to the side of the driveway and by the time I can get to the window, he’s nowhere in sight.

Even though he doesn’t have a car anymore, that doesn’t stop him from getting around. In in given day he may cover 75 to 100 miles. He’s adept at using public transportation and bumming rides from others.

Back in high school when he had a car, I started tracking his mileage because he was never where he said he was going to be; the mileage gave me insight into how much he was lying. After a while, all that tracking accomplished nothing beyond continued validation that he was on the run, all the time.

The more I’ve learned about addiction and the more I’ve observed our son’s behavior, it’s all about patterns and routines. I’ve come to call it an ongoing pattern of “now you see me, now you don’t.”

Midwestern Mama