Look Beyond: Reflections on addiction and our community during the second annual From Statistics To Solutions conference.

Today’s guest blogger has attended the annual From Statistics To Solutions conference twice, with the goal of becoming more educated about addiction. Attending FSTS has enabled her to become a more compassionate and knowledgeable ally. MWM

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The day of the second annual From Statistics To Solutions was unseasonably warm.  The sun beat down undisturbed, glinting off a dormant sea of parked cars.  Walking through the lot, I could not help but think of Adam, the young son of a dear friend, who had died just over a year ago because of addiction to opioids.  

His death, even more so his life, was the reason I came to this workshop last year. I longed to make sense of it.  He had struggled and suffered terribly, but I mostly understood this through the struggles and suffering of his mother.  For Adam—a good looking, charismatic guy whose infectious smile hid his addiction with the beauty and fragility of gold leaf overlay—I held a lot of judgement towards rather than understanding because I could not look beyond the misery of my friend, whom I love very much.  I felt ashamed of my short sightedness after his death. A kind of death that is too common in my community.

It [From Statistics To Solutions] was the only seminar of its kind I knew about where multiple organizations of addiction were presented in a public format”

I came to From Statistics To Solutions last year in hopes to learn about an unfair and difficult and impossibly complicated problem. It was the only seminar of its kind I knew about where multiple organizations of addiction were presented in a public format.  I was impressed and thankful for the resource, but frankly, I put most of my energy keeping my composure in public instead of actually listening to the information.

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This year, my mind was a little clearer and I still longed to make sense of Adam’s life, so I gathered with the hundreds of others at the second annual FSTS.  As I checked in and made my way to the auditorium to sit among a throng of smartly dressed men and women, I realized I was an outlier.  I was not there to attain professional credits, nor do I have a background in education, health care, or social work.  I wondered if the content would be purely academic and not relatable to a Regular Jane like me.

From Statistics To Solutions is brilliantly laid out as multiple panel discussions.  These panels are studded with a mix of leaders who (somehow) manage to uplift, engage and inspire around a subject that has bogged down our region with dark shadow for years. The topics are ambitious, ranging from neuroscience discoveries and understanding how the developing brain responds to substance abuse, to the correlation of mental health and its complications, to reentry into society after treatment—often times—after multiple treatments.  

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I did not feel like an outlier, or that the information was beyond my comprehension. I sat on the edge of my seat scribbling notes, enthusiastically nodding my head, and occasionally swallowing hard lumps of compassion and bits of memory.

I was exposed to people and stories and challenges that are very, very different from mine. This allowed me to look beyond my own experience.”

The presenters, strategically curated and highly experienced, were powerful to me not so much because of their credentials, but because of their willingness to be open and honest.  They held their own beliefs about what might work, but any successes they discovered cost them many hard mistakes.  Every panel included a recovering addict and because of their moxie—sharing their most intimate and painful details—I was exposed to people and stories and challenges that are very, very different from mine.  This allowed me to look beyond my own experience.

Panel after panel of diverse professionals combined with the deeply personal stories of addicts themselves, uncovered a relentless and jagged truth, made bearable by a shiny grain at its murky center: there is no clear-cut reason or answer for addiction.  And that no matter how difficult the struggle, no matter how many failed attempts there might have been—and might be still—there is always hope.  

This grain of hope lies within our ability to look beyond our own all-consuming perceptions, judgments and struggles. Substance abuse, particularly in our youth, is not a singular problem—it is a collective one. If I am ever to understand Adam’s life with addiction, I will need to try and understand anyone’s life with addiction.  

From Statistics To Solutions has taught me the best ways I can truly honor Adam and my friend’s unimaginable loss, is not through more tears, but through the continued pursuit to educate myself, be humane to all, and try to be part of the solution beyond my inner circle.  

 

FSTS Logo 2017About FSTS: From Statistics to Solutions is an annual conference that addresses the underlying issues of youth substance use. The conference is co-hosted by Our Young Addicts and Know The Truth, the prevention program for Mn Adult & Teen Challenge. Together, we create community and collaboration among treatment professionals, social workers, law enforcement, educators, coaches, medical professionals, parents and more. We embrace a variety of perspectives and approaches to prevention, addiction, treatment and recovery.  

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 2.50.38 PMAbout the Author: Mandy believes in the power of stories and that we all have important ones to tell. She is a regular blogger on Fridley Patch and is a nationally published on several different syndicates. Mandy is honored to be a guest blogger for Our Young Addicts, sharing a story that she hopes will help the many others who are living with or supporting those with addiction. You can read how she learned how to support a mother of a young addict, in Before and After published last year on Our Young Addicts.

 

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.

The Birthday Cake

Homemade chocolate cake with caramel frosting. That’s become the family birthday cake of choice. Year after year for all three kids. That’s the cake.

One year our middle son wondered if we could add an ice-cream layer. A tall order, but Mom figured it out. When our daughter became a vegan, Mom even figured out how to adapt the recipe. Gluten-free?  No problem. Cupcakes instead of layer cake? Yep, can do. Whatever the family needed or wanted, our traditional birthday cake has marked each and every birthday.

This year, our middle son is struggling – with depression, with anxiety, with cannabis use (including marijuana and CDB oil) as a means to self medicate, and he’s decided to quickly taper off Suboxone for his opioid-use disorder.

He’s in a mood, and yesterday’s birthday was no exception.

It’s a concerning observation after three years of recovery and getting his life back in order. Sure, it’s summer, so maybe things will come back into routine and alignment once his college classes start up again next week. I fear I am just hoping, pretending, not wanting this to be relapse, a return to use, not wanting this to be the slippery slope.

But this is a slippery slope and it’s one we’ve watched our son go down before. Even though we can see it, we can’t prevent this 25 year old from going near the edge and possibly slipping and sliding.

As I made the cake a day ahead, in preparation for the busy work week, I told my husband I was feeling sad because I knew I was making a cake for someone who didn’t really want a cake this year. We talked about how the cake is not just for the birthday boy, but also for all the family and friends who celebrate his life. The cake is a symbolic reminder of how much we love the person who is part of our lives and how much we look forward to the year ahead.

The birthday morning arrived and our son wandered down the street to his friend’s house where he spent the better part of the day. When he came home around dinner time, he went upstairs, showered and went to bed. A few hours later, he took the dog for a walk, and when he returned we said Happy Birthday.

Thanks, he said. Then he told us we could go on without him. It’s just another day, he said. He didn’t open his cards or presents. He didn’t say another word. He just went back upstairs and went to bed.

There sat the beautiful cake. This year’s version was a slight variation – salted caramel, butter cream frosting. Dad, younger brother and I just sat there and salivated for a piece of cake but with a sudden lack of appetite. Although there were no candles on the cake, it felt like someone blew out the candles before we even began singing Happy Birthday. It just felt empty, sad, lonely.

It felt wrong to cut the cake without the birthday boy.

But it also felt wrong not to. So we did, and yes it was delicious but it was anything but satisfying.

Rationally, we know our son is in pain and suffering.

We know he needs help and needs our support. From experience, we know that we can’t just expect it or control it so our gift to him is unconditional love and support. Just like the birthday cake, it is the gift he gets even if he doesn’t want it right now.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved

 

A New Approach to Drug Education

Conversations about drugs and alcohol are nerve-wracking and tricky. These conversations must take place as they can impact further or future usage. Today’s guest blogger takes a fresh approach and give tips on how to approach the tough conversations. MWM

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Some people may agree that traditional drug abuse prevention efforts have missed several opportunities to do what they should do best: educate and provide facts. Why is alcohol dangerous? No idea. Can marijuana cause permanent brain changes? Who knows. Why shouldn’t we steal our parent’s painkillers? What’s the worst that could happen? That’s why ProjectKnow.com, a website dedicated to educating adolescents and their families about substance abuse powered by Recovery Brands, created its first-ever podcast focused entirely on accurate, research-based drug education: Let’s Talk Drugs.

We’ve found that misinformation surrounding drugs is often soaked in myth, without any factual evidence to support it. While many teens and young adults understand that injecting heroin can kill a person, the unfortunate reality is that relatively few recognize the dire health risks of something as common as regular weekend bar nights. Many people don’t understand that alcohol is one of the most prevalent, dangerous, and addictive substances, yet it’s rarely talked about in health classes. This is just one example of countless drug misunderstandings that can have serious consequences.

We wanted to do something about these misconceptions and help create more open conversations around substance use, from taking a critical eye to the many ways that our modern culture glamorizes it, to debunking common myths and explaining in a digestible language how drugs actually affect the brain. Rather than using traditional scare tactics, we wanted to show that it’s okay — and important — to acknowledge the facts about drugs.

The education that surrounds drugs must address both sides of the issue: acknowledging the allure while simultaneously highlighting the risks.”

For the most part, the people who are going to try drugs will do it regardless of efforts and attempts of scaring them away from it. Instead of approaching drug education with “just say no,” we want to see a culture shift that explains why saying “no” is in a person’s best interest.

So instead of saying, “Don’t smoke weed because it’s bad for you” (with the implied “just trust me because I’m an adult” thrown in), let’s say, “There’s never been a recorded case of lethal marijuana overdose and it can help with certain medical conditions, but research has shown that using it regularly can cause long-term functional brain changes that can affect learning, memory, and the ability to control your impulses.”

One of our major goals is to encourage everyone to ask questions about drugs. We want parents, teachers, and even peers to take advantage of the opportunity to talk openly about substance abuse, and we hope to help guide and encourage these conversations with the podcast.

  • Listen with your kids. Listening together as a family can be a bonding experience that shows your kids it’s okay to ask questions about drugs. Creating a safe space to communicate is a vital part of drug education and prevention.
  • Play episodes in school. Educators play a major role in helping to prevent substance abuse. Listening to this form of drug education as a class is a fun break from the normal day-to-day lessons, and it opens the floor to questions and critical discussion afterward.
  • Research together. Sometimes young adults prefer to absorb new information on their own. Listening separately isn’t a bad thing- it gives everyone time to privately absorb the information and organize their thoughts and feelings about the topic. Bring these reactions, along with any other questions that may come up, to a family drug talk where everyone investigates substance facts together.
  • Assign fun homework. Schools — and parents — can assign the podcast for a fun, out-of-the-ordinary homework assignment. Ask students to listen and bring critical questions to a group discussion.
  • Simply listen. Even if you’re unsure about a group or family discussion, encouraging your children, family members, local organizations, and schools to explore new ways to absorb and communicate vital drug information will help provide the substance education kids need.

One of the most important parts of drug education is critical engagement, which is why we cannot shy away from these discussions. I was fortunate enough to have a very open household when it came to substance use discussions. My parents’ message was always, “If you’re going to experiment, make sure you are safe.” They always encouraged me to investigate the available research on drugs that I was curious about so I could identify any potential dangers as well as any long-term effects the drugs may have. We had very open conversations about addiction as well.

 Both sides of my family have a history of alcoholism, so it was always important for my parents to speak frankly with me about the very real risk of developing an alcohol dependence.”

Because of these conversations, I was always extremely cautious with my own substance use, keeping a close eye on my usage patterns and behaviors. When I noticed an unhealthy pattern of drinking in college, I was able to quickly identify it and work to change it. I was extremely fortunate to have a family that was so open and honest about drug talk, but starting that conversation can be intimidating for a lot of parents and educators. Sometimes the fear of indirectly encouraging drug experimentation overpowers the desire to educate, which is where we hope to step in.

Communication is certainly not the only key to dismantling the widespread issue of substance abuse and addiction, but it is a major part of early education and prevention. Teens and young adults are still developing the brain network necessary for action planning and impulse control, and the earlier we can reach them with important drug facts, the better prepared they will be when faced with drug use decisions. There are many parts to this puzzle, and we aim to contribute in our own way.

Let’s Talk Drugs takes a non-judgmental approach to drug talk so we can show that being honest about drug education doesn’t mean encouraging use. We really want teens and young adults to feel safe asking questions about drugs- they’re fascinating substances that inspire a whole lot of curiosity, and that’s awesome!

If we can motivate teens and young adults to take a close look at drug use and the potential consequences that come with it, then they will be equipped with the tools they need to make informed decisions.”

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About the author:

unnamed-1After completing her undergraduate work in perceptual processing, Lauren Brande was awarded a scholarship from the Western Psychological Association. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University in 2014 and found she had a particular interest in the effects that drugs and trauma have on the functioning brain. She’s currently a senior content writer for Recovery Brands, which is a provider of digital addiction treatment resources operating a portfolio of websites such as ProjectKnow.com, Rehabs.com and Recovery.org. Lauren believes all research should be digestible and accessible to everyone. Her passion fuels her desire to share important scientific findings to improve rehabilitation.

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.

I was a young addict.

Today’s guest blogger shares his personal story and struggle as a young addict. And, how he used his weaknesses to propel him forward. MWM.

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I was a young addict. Some would say I still am. Not using for nine and a half years isn’t what makes me an addict. Attending anonymous twelve-step meetings isn’t what makes me an addict. Arrests, institutionalizations, rehab stints are not what have made me an addict. I am an addict because I am hooked on any and all mood-altering substances. I’m hooked on a good deal more too. I just try, today, each and every day, to focus my addiction on healthy outlets: creativity, my work, my family.

Yes, I believe there is no curing my addiction. I also don’t believe in suppressing my dopamine receptors with medication. I choose to live with my addiction as best I can. And I’ve found my disease lends itself in surprisingly advantageous ways to living a wholesome, full, and happy life.

It didn’t seem possible back then.

Back then, I couldn’t see past my next fix. I woke with that insatiable craving in the pit of my stomach—if I woke at all. Often I was up all night. I was a self-prescriber. Mainly street drugs. Some prescriptions. But I believed in the right balance. The perfect mixture of substances in my blood stream that could achieve an elevated stasis—a heightened state of living. I rotated through pills, plants, and powders, believing I could manage them all. It all came crashing down nine and a half years ago.

As a young addict, I craved to stand apart from the crowd. I craved to be so unique that no one could relate to me. So I write this now with the understanding that, if you are a young addict reading this, it does not matter how you came to this resource. It does not matter who said what to get you reading up on the solution to your drug problem. All that matters is that, if you identify with writing like this one, you seek help. There is no fighting this thing alone. It takes fellowship. For me, it took sponsorship. And sponsorship took acceptance. Acceptance that I am an addict and that addicts need help. It does not matter how you got to this post. What matters is what you do from here.

Nine and a half years ago I was admitted into the intensive care unit of a San Diego hospital and diagnosed with a drug-induced psychosis. Rehab came next. And then a stay at a halfway house and an Oxford house.

Today, I am a writer, and a teacher. I am a husband to my wife and a father to two children. We own a home and I pay the bills on time. I show up for the people who expect me to show up.

It’s not a way of life that I have discovered. I’m not trying to pioneer this clean life stuff. It has been done before. People show me how to live today. All I need to do is accept their help, daily, just for today, and not pick up no matter what.

 

 

About the Author: 

unnamed-2Mark David Goodson writes a recovery blog: www.markgoodson.com that he calls “The Miracle of the Mundane.” It celebrates cleaning living, the simple life.  He throws his addictive behavior into his life’s endeavors. When he is not teaching or writing, he can usually be found throwing his children too high in the air or hugging them too hard once he catches them.

 

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.

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.

Sober Houses: Finding the Right Balance between Freedom and Supervision

Sober houses are important to many during the process of recovery. But, sober home owners have a difficult task of maintaining a balance between freedom, supervision, and patients within the home. MWM

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It has been my experience in the 20-plus years I have worked in mental health and chemical dependency, that it is a rare individual indeed who starts out in early recovery saying that they want more supervision than what they have at any given time. When I come across people who say that, they are usually the ones who also ask the question of the professional “what do I do?”, as opposed to “I got this,” or “I know that I have things to learn about myself”, instead of “Of course I know who I am and what makes me tick!” It is typically those individuals, the ones who recognize how little they know, who I would put my money on, even if I could gamble…a-hem… to have a more long-term sustained recovery.

It has also been my experience that pretty much nobody who has any amount of sober time ever looks back in retrospect and complains that they had too much supervision. People typically don’t like that supervision when it’s happening and then love that they had it as they reap the benefits by way of their recovery.

It has also been my experience that pretty much nobody who has any amount of sober time ever looks back in retrospect and companies that they had too much supervision”

It is in that spirit that I believe that a sober house should have restrictions so that a person knows that there are external boundaries placed on them, with an intention of helping them to eventually internalize their own sober boundaries. I believe in a zero tolerance policy inasmuch as it is not only critical that the individual knows that they will be held accountable for using, but also that there is a responsibility that all house members have to those who might still be struggling by not bringing substance, or using behaviors, into their sanctuary, which is how I see a sober house.

Likewise they cannot have guests come over inebriated. In my house I have a rule that states that if a tenant is using in the home I have the right to UA, or breathalyze, and if found to be using they need to leave the house, as in; pack up and have their stuff out as soon as the law allows. If guests are using they are not allowed back to the home. The idea here is that drugs and alcohol, in this home, are the enemy, and I will guard that portal with every ounce of right and might that I have to protect my tenants from that evil. Okay, I get that might come off a bit melodramatic, but it is conceptually accurate. I don’t see drugs and alcohol inherently evil in and of themselves, but to those of us in recovery, oh, buddy, you better believe that they are!

People in recovery should have easy access to bus routes and available jobs within walking distance of bus routes. Exercise is very important to recovery and sometimes people won’t be able to afford a gym membership, so I have an elliptical and weights indoors. I have home entertainment in the form of billiards, Foosball, board games and a deluxe entertainment system. They should have access to meetings and even treatment if things go poorly. I should point out that I would allow a tenant to stay in the home of they came to me and if they said that they used and that they didn’t come home out of respect for the rules, that they are interested in staying and working on their recovery I would not ask them to leave, but now do something different than what they were doing before vis-à-vis their recovery.

It is important to acknowledge that extra people in any environment cause a change in dynamics, which might be detrimental to those who live there”

I think that restrictions around overnight guests are valuable inasmuch as early recovery is not the time to be developing new relationships. Even if the tenant isn’t in early recovery, or is already in a long-term relationship, it is important to acknowledge that extra people in any environment cause a change in dynamics, which might be detrimental to those who live there. Keeping in mind that people, regardless of sobriety status, do have interpersonal relationships which they will develop and cultivate I think that allowances should be made over time when a person has shown stability in their recovery.

Finally I will bring this back around to the beginning inasmuch as I think that it is the responsibility of the home owner, or program owner, to develop and cultivate harmony in the home to the degree that they are able. This is tricky business while keeping in mind that one cannot and should not discriminate. While I have the last word, I always get the input of existing tenants. But what does the owner do if they suspect a new client is still using drugs or drinking alcohol? What if that person seems like they are going to clash with another house member? There are a lot of things to consider and a balance that needs to be, if not attained, then certainly sought after. Even if one does attain balance, given the transitory nature of sober living, one thing is sure, it will change.

 

 

About the Author:Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.42 PM

Dakota Baker is a professional in the mental health and chemical dependency world. He started Dakota Therapy in 2009, and has over 20 years of experience. Recently, he opened a sober house outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

 

 

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.

Dear Parents…

Parents play a vital role in the recovery of addiction in young adults. Our guest blogger today has years of experience with young adults and parents, and advises our readers on how to take back their parenting from addiction. MWM

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Dear Parents,

An epidemic of drug addiction with our kids today is scarier then ever! Every day on national and local news, more and more stories keep pointing to the opiate epidemic, overdoses, and addiction of our young people.  These kids have parents whose hearts are breaking and need ongoing support and strategies to take back their parenting from the addiction of their teens and young adults. I believe no parent ever intentionally wakes up each day and decides to harm their kids.  Yet, with the affects of addiction on their parenting, most of these parents find it difficult to believe that their kids really care about them and they feel overwhelmed and powerless. Many of these teens and young adults have the following in common that parents need to know: (1) remorse for what they have done to their families; (2) loneliness, sadness, rage, fear, and shame; and (3) love for their parents.  How do I know?  I surveyed 300 teens and young adults newly sober from a recovery high school and sober living programs with young adults in recovery during the past 4 years. Their responses were heart felt, wise, and important to share with parents. They want you and need you in their lives even if they show otherwise.

One of the questions asked to the teens and young adults was:

“Dear Parents, I wish you knew this about me-“

 

  • I did my best and tried to be stable, but couldn’t.
  • I wish you knew how much I have suffered.  Sometimes I feel that they only saw my maladaptive behavior as an attack against them rather than a cry for help or an act of desperation.
  • I’m trapped in a vicious cycle of using because I can’t gain trust and I’ve given up.
  • I have really struggled.
  • I deeply regret hurting them.
  • I love them and never wanted to hurt them with my addiction.

 

 

Who are these kids?

Many of these teens and young adults have been through treatment anywhere from one to nine times. Drugs of choice range from alcohol to marijuana to street drugs, prescription drugs, designer drugs, opiates, and heroin. Many of them have been bullied in grade school, middle school, and high school. Quite a few of them have been sexually or physically abused. Developmentally, many experience delays socially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Through the years, I have worked directly and indirectly with thousands of adolescents and young adults all over the country. Their stories are heartfelt and telling. Many are children of addicts, many are in recovery, and many have co-occurring mental health challenges. Most of them don’t know how to step out from active addiction and remain sober. Many of these children have mental health challenges that went untreated or were unsuccessfully treated. These include depression, anxiety, severe mood disorders, and learning disabilities. Many of these children mask untreated mental health issues with addiction to ease their pain. Most of the teenagers and young adults have dual diagnoses of chemical dependency with coexisting mental health challenges.

“How did addiction affect your relationship with your parents?”

 

  • When I was depressed, I totally shut down and blocked my parents out, which caused them to try harder.
  • They lost trust in me, and I’m not sure when it will ever be back
  • They were scared I would kill myself
  • I completely disappointed them

 

Different Children, Similar Messages

No matter where these children come from, no matter their substances of choice, and no matter their ages, the message to their parents is the same:

  • Be present with me physically and emotionally.
  • Build a relationship with me.
  • Console me if I am having a problem.
  • Do absolutely everything to stay together and not get divorced.
  • Don’t let your mental health problems wreck your family’s life.
  • Don’t try to buy me with things or trips.

  • Give me more attention.
  • 
Have family dinners and get to know me.
  • Help me know I’m not a bad person.
  • 
Listen to my point of view. 
Make sure I know that I can tell you anything without judgment.
  • Show me that you love me.
  • Take time to learn how I think and feel.

 

Addiction/mental health challenges often suck the life out of parents due to their enmeshment, and inability to know how to detach and make difficult decisions. To take charge again in their families, parents need support during that first year of recovery when there are so many new challenges.  Family programs only begin the journey. Parents have years of habits of parenting that maintained an addicted family system.  The 5 steps below teach parents how to shift their family, empower their parenting and not let addiction be in charge again. There are very few ongoing programs after treatment that  support parents directly.

From my research and interviews with parents, the following 5 steps of foundational parenting were instrumental in teaching parents to regain their parenting, and restructure their relationships with their kids. Parents who were part of groups, weekend programs, coaching, regained hope and strength to heal their parenting and in turn their families. Identifying concrete action steps or strategies that can be used in their relationship with their kids, gives parents something tangible that can be practiced at home daily.

 

The following 5 steps of Foundational Parenting, teaches parents to:

  • Practice being present with their children
  • Develop emotional attunement
  • Act and respond non judgmentally with their children
  • Create sacred family time and recreate rituals
  • Clarify values, rules and boundaries-natural/logical consequences

Healthy parenting is vital for a child’s continued sobriety. A healthy parenting approach does not allow for a child’s moods or actions to cause reactions that escalate into a destructive situation. The addiction or threat of a relapse is no longer permitted to rule the home, depleting the parents’ energy and power. When parents are clear about their values and expectations and adhere to them, children can push and test, but healthy parenting doesn’t allow this to influence them into bending the rules. In this way, children know that parents “mean what they say and say what they mean.”

One parent so eloquently shared this message after a year of working on these 5 steps, “I can finally own my emotions, our family values and create a family where addiction no longer rules our life.”  Recovering teens and young adults need parents on board to provide a healthy family to help them sustain their recovery and deal more effectively with the ongoing high rate of relapse.  Parents also need support during the first year of their loved ones recovery to help them maintain healthy parenting and healthy family.

 

About the Author:

unnamed-1.jpgBarbara Krovitz-Neren, MA- coaches parents of teens and young adults who are chemically dependent or have mental health challenges and consults with programs to enhance parent involvement in recovery using her foundational parenting model.   She has been a youth and parenting advocate for more than thirty-five years. As a pioneer in the addiction prevention field, she has created dynamic programs that have impacted more than 50,000 youth, adolescents, and young adults around the country. Barbara has trained individuals in school districts, community social service agencies, and parent groups, both nationally and internationally. She was also one of the founding board members of the National Association of Children of Alcoholics. Her work on behalf of children and families has earned her numerous awards over the years. The 5-Step Foundational Parenting Program is the culmination of her life’s work in her new book, “Parenting the Addicted Teen, a 5 Step Foundational Program.” Published by Central Recovery Press.  Release date, July, 2017.

 

 

 

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.

 

These things are leading to the rampant suicide, addiction, and mental health problems of today (Pt. 2)

Continuing our guest blog from last week, Adam writes about his personal journey to receiving help. MWM.

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A Treatise on Human Thought (or thoughts on thinking about it like my twitter handle 🙂.

A friend told me to see a therapist. I mulled the idea over until finally I mustered the courage and went to my dad and said “I think I need to see someone.”

He looked at me lovingly and said “of course, Adam, we love you, we will absolutely get you a therapist, you’re probably going through a phase, but we can certainly get you some help.”

What did I hear though? “you are probably going through a phase” so I kept to it and I abused substances as a way to cope with my pain, lack of feeling, and lack of purpose. Finally, I had a true-rock bottom moment and my parents intervened and I got help.

I looked back on the mental health system and thought, why

Years later, my father and I reconciled this disconnected moment when I came to him in a time of need and I felt he was asking me to toughen up. He explained that the trepidation I sensed was ultimately from his very real fear that he was not providing enough to me as a father. To him, me getting professional help meant he did something wrong or wasn’t a good enough father for me.

That was of course never the case, he gave me everything I could have wanted and more. I was never thinking about him or my mother and their inadequacies as parents, I was wholly consumed with my own negativity, self-hatred, and helplessness.

It was neither of our faults which can be hard for a parent to hear and probably accept”

However, both of our insecurities prevented us from connecting in a constructive way to get me the support I needed at a vulnerable time. It was neither of our faults which can be hard for a parent to hear and probably accept…it’s not your fault. I wish I could communicate that point more strongly…

After I got help, I started to tell my story. That story was one of struggle, dissatisfaction, confusion, isolation, emotional trepidation, fear, and uncertainty. And often times, I couldn’t even get more than two or three sentences in that direction before the other person blurted out how they felt the same!

I realized something was going on here. Something was happening with young people that were causing them to feel these emotions with few constructive ways to address this issue.

So I set out to change that. I developed Marbles, an iOS and android mobile phone app that allows people free 24/7 anonymous mental and emotional health support to be a tool for people to montior their mental and emotional health and reach out for support any time they may need it, 100% troll and stigma free.

suffering,

I’m lucky though. I got help.

However, not every undergraduate student is so lucky. In the United States, there are 1,100 collegiate suicides every year. Half of that group never tell anyone.

I was part of that half.

I struggled reaching out for help because I didn’t know where to go and I didn’t know what was “normal” or real distress that I needed help with vs. what I should just “deal with.”

Rates of mental health diagnoses are rising year over year. College students’ who’ve seriously considered attempting suicide rose to a staggering 33.2 percent, up from 23.8 percent just 5 years ago.

The tendancy to use suicide as an alternative for our mental health struggles

That’s why we created Marbles.

 

 

About the Author:

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Adam is an advocate for youth mental health support and understanding. His passion about mental health awareness led him to develop Marbles Inc., an Android/iPhone app that offers 24/7 peer-to-peer mental health support. 

 

 

 

 

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.

These things are leading to the rampant suicide, addiction, and mental health problems of today (Pt. 1)

Current social, extracurricular, and educational climates are stressful and harmful to our youth. This week’s guest blogger provides a heartfelt and insightful piece. -MWM

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When I was a junior at the University of Minnesota, I struggled with depression and suicide. On the surface, nobody would would have guessed…I was going to school, had some good career prospects, a seemingly fulfilling social life…but I was silently suffering. And every day I contemplated whether or not continuing life was worth it.

It was a slow slip into this hole and I didn’t know what to do, I had never had these thoughts or feelings before, and I had never talked to anyone about them. (watch me explain more here in this TEDx talk)

It took me awhile to get professional help, but when I did, I realized I was not the only one. When telling my friends, I could only get about 2 or 3 sentences into my story before they would blurt out how much they were hurting too (nearly 1 in 3 college students meets the criteria for a diagnosable mental illness). So I started making videos about people sharing their mental health stories (now over 50,000 views!).

I realized there was something going on with young people as I was not the only one who felt this way.

Over the years, I’ve been fighting to de-stigmatize mental health and support by public speaking at high schools, churches, and other youth orgs. I volunteer as a peer-to-peer mental health group support leader for NAMIMN.org, and am developing ways for people to improve their mental and emotional health. Our latest project is called Marbles. It’s an iOS and android app for people to monitor mental health and find anonymous support, 100% troll and stigma-free.

Many of these anonymous posts and conversations have similar themes and come from people of all ages, but we know the average age of our users is around 24 years old.

What’s the bottom line? Overall, a lot of people feel worthless.

And…it’s not anyone’s fault.

It’s only our responsibility to reconcile. Below is a list of some reasons that a person, particularly a millennial young person, could feel worthless. At the end, I give a few tips as to how to overcome that sense of worthlessness:

An overemphasis on outcomes

The grade has become more important than learning how to learn or the score has become more important than how hard we try in the game.

We tie our sense of self-worth to our performance on tests, in games, our careers, relationships, everything. So, when we encounter inevitable failure, it’s crushing to our bubble-wrapped sense of value and self-worth instead of viewed as a learning opportunity from which to make better choices.

Thus, people avoid situations that could lead to failure and personal growth is inhibited. We are protected from failure in many ways by helicopter parents, more rules — across the board, school, politics, relationships, athletics, getting into college — there are just more written and unwritten rules for young people to abide by, and the stakes are way higher than they used to be.

Parents tried their best to help because they saw the stakes were now higher for their children, and like all things, this involvement is also double edged sword.

Too little has consequences and too much has consequences, and there’s never a correct amount. It’s only after someone crosses a line do they realize a line was crossed…and if you or they don’t cross the line, well then nobody knows where the line is! So please, forgive yourself.

The devaluation of hard work

People think it’s cool to be naturally gifted. The American Idol generation grew up celebrating people who seemingly out of nowhere become instant stars. And most American Idols never even amounted to that much! But that’s not what we saw growing up. We observed over the course of a 30 minute feel-good television program how problems arose, somebody apologized, and everybody was happy by 7:28pm.

Grit and resiliency were never celebrated. There was never a story about the person who studied for 2 hours every night for above average grades, it was all about the gifted athletes, socialites, and scholars who naturally rise to the top and overcome a miniscule bout with adversity.

Even “cool” kids in school were the ones who looked like they never did anything. As a high school senior I was embarrassed to say that I studied for my AP calculus 2 test because if I tied my friend’s score, but I admitted to him that I studied, that meant I was dummer…that I was less than him.

Worthy achievement seemed to be a mixture of good looks, perfect parents, supportive friends, and a quirky and inspiring mentor — none of which are actually accessible for an average 15 year old from Omaha!

But in these formative adolescent years, the messages of what it took to be successful, popular, and therefore worthy, were almost the complete antithesis of what it actually takes to have a fulfilling life.

The wrong goal

All this contributes to young people having the wrong goal, and we are still reconciling with this one. Never once did anyone tell me to seek out activities, hopefully one that pays you for it, that fulfill my life. The closest anyone came was “find something that makes you happy.”

Happiness is the wrong goal though because in happiness, there is no room for sadness, struggle, disgust, fear, hopelessness, failure, frustration, confusion, anger, and whatever else that are natural emotions we all feel.

We thought it wasn’t ok to feel bad.

So, we teach ourselves to emotionally inhibit, avoid, and numb ourselves from those emotions. How? Any distraction we can find — drugs (legal and illegal), alcohol, self-harm, suicide, social media, porn, gossip, bullying, achievement, etc.

We learned to push our own emotions, our own feeling interpretations from the world, away in favor of more “desireable ones.”

It’s been the deepest, darkest, and most hopeless times when I’ve realized what’s really inside me, others, and what’s important.

But it’s not a very fun commercial to watch Adam huddled in his room alone, tears streaming down his face, overwhelmed, thinking about dropping out, filled with guilt and shame.

No…meaningful progress and worthiness appears to be beautiful people cheersing outside on a sunny day.

Yes, that certainly can be what success looks like, but it’s about balance. All I’m saying here is we are out of balance. Too much of the aforementioned ingredients. Too much self-interest, not enough compassion.

Too much salt, not enough diversity. We may benefit from a little sweetness…some savory…maybe a hint of spice in our soup of life, our own personal marinade as my friend Kenny calls it.

What can we do about it?

It’s pretty simple, do all the usual stuff, spend time in nature, eat well, exercise, be with family, celebrate one another, forgive. And, get to know yourself.

Figure out what luggage you are bringing to the situation and relationship. Instead of focusing on other people’s luggage, get to know your own.

What’s the best way to recognize your luggage? Spend time with it, just it.

Sit in a quiet room, close your eyes, and listen to your thoughts. Some call it mindfulness, some call it meditation, call it what you want, just listen. Listen to the luggage of your thoughts.

Simply observe what happens. Continuously let go of the thought-creation side of you, just listen to the luggage of your thoughts…listen to which suitcases the thoughts are stored in.

And if you don’t know how to do that…maybe someone on Marbles does.

Thank you,

Adam

Part two of Adam’s blog will air next week. His post will enlighten us about his personal journey towards recovery. 

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About the Author:  

Adam is an advocate for youth mental health support and understanding. His passion about mental health awareness led him to develop Marbles Inc., an Android/iPhone app that offers 24/7 peer-to-peer mental health support.

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.

What Are Sober High Schools & Are They Working?

With only a handful of sober schools across the nation, the general public has little to no knowledge of sober schools. This week’s author highlights the functions and efficacy of sober schools. -MWM

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The journey from addiction to sobriety isn’t a straight line. In fact, every person’s path will curve in unique ways, representative of the multitude of different recovery resources that can be any person’s catalyst toward lasting sobriety. Of course, many of us associate addiction treatment programs with recovery, particularly when the individual is taking the first steps to sobriety; however, many individuals have achieved success in recovery without stepping foot in a clinical rehabilitation facility. Today, there are more and more alternatives to the traditional clinical model of recovery, and these new alternatives are largely a reflection of how the face of addiction has evolved over the decades.

If you look at recent statistics, you’ll see that one of the demographic groups that at extremely high risk of addiction is adolescents, teens, and young adults. For this reason, there’s been a surge of research and development when it comes to recovery solutions that target youths who are either at risk of addiction or developing substance abuse problems. One such solution is a recovery school, also known as a sober school.

What exactly is a “sober school”?

Over the years, youths have proven to be one of the most concerning demographic groups when it comes to risk for alcohol and drug problems. While it may seem like overbearing parental concern is to blame for making teens a risk group, statistics have actually shown that more and more teens have been abusing alcohol, marijuana, prescription painkillers, and a number of other substances over time. As a result, there’s been a push for more recovery resources that are tailored specifically to youths, which is where sober high schools come into play.

These schools allow for the separation of these at-risk teens from public schools.”

The most straightforward explanation of a sober school is a school that’s intended specifically for adolescents recovering from substance abuse problems or who are perceived as being at high risk of developing alcohol or drug problems. The idea behind recovery schools is the fact that school and peers are often at the heart of teens’ risk for substance abuse problems. Basically, these schools allow for the separation of these at-risk teens from public schools where studies have shown there has been increasing rates of substance abuse; this separation essentially minimizes the recovering students’ risk of relapse. And not only do recovery schools provide separation from mainstream public schools but they also incorporate a focus on sobriety and physical health as a major part of the curriculum. There’s a focus on mental health as well as helping the students to find ways to mitigate stress and anxiety that would otherwise put them at risk of relapsing and developing other substance abuse problems.

Does it work?

According to studies that have analyzed the efficacy of sober schools, they have been extremely effective at safeguarding students’ recoveries and helping students avoid alcohol and drugs. In effect, the goal of the recovery school is to replace risk factors with so-called protective factors. Moreover, these schools want to help students who have experienced substance abuse problems to establish firm footing in recovery since the absence of mind-altering substances, which alter mood and cognition, will result in many students needing to adjust to how they experience their environments and the world around them.

As to the specific parameters of recovery schools, they’ve largely be determined according to the factors that have been identified as leading to recidivism among teens with histories of substance abuse. For instance, the highest risk has been associated with students who don’t participate in productive academic activities, return to environments previously associated with alcohol and drug abuse, fail to maintain or establish contact with students who don’t abuse mind-altering substances, aren’t involved or have strong relationships with family members, and have little interest in attending or joining support groups. In short, the main goals of a recovery school is to mitigate these factors, encouraging involvement in productive pastimes, familial involvement, relationship-building with non-using peers, and so on.

Students are provided with the tools needed to thrive both academically and in recovery.”

One of the main concerns that people have regarding recovery schools hinges on the misunderstanding that the recovery focus comes at a sacrifice of traditional academic subjects, but that’s not the case. Students at recovery schools still take the essential academic classes, including mathematics, history, English, natural and applied sciences, and so on; however, the chief difference is that there’s a strong recovery support system built into the curriculum, ensuring that students are provided with the tools needed to thrive both academically and in recovery.

Considering the results of recent studies, we can conclude that recovery schools are an extremely effective means of reinforcing sobriety among teens with histories of substance abuse. Per the study cited above, the rate at which students enrolling in recovery schools met the diagnostic criteria for addiction was 90 percent; however, after a year of being in a recovery school, that figure dropped to an astounding 7 percent, showing that real results are being achieved with recovery schools. Currently, it’s estimated that there are 33 sober high schools in the United States, but considering the success that students attending these schools have experienced, we will likely be seeing more recovery-oriented high schools opening in the immediate future.

 

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About the Author: 

Luke Pool is a grateful member of the Recovery community. He has found his purpose in life by helping those who suffer from the diseases of addiction. He uses blogging and social media to raise awareness about this epidemic, affecting every part of this country. Now working for Stodzy internet marketing, he is able to pursue his passion by informing as many people as possible about addiction. Originally from Austin, Texas he now lives in South Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Minnesota Resource Guide for Young People and Their Families, Friends and Loved Ones

It should be easy, but it’s not. So, let’s change that!

For as many helpful resources as there are, it still remains a quagmire to find programs and services for young people who are using drugs and alcohol. Parents, family members and friends want to help but Google searches often lead to 1-800 job numbers that promise local resources … but don’t really offer these. It’s downright frustrating.

Experience. Resources. Hope.

Our annual From Statistics to Solutions conference is all about connections and collaboration, so we are gathering content to develop a Resource Guide. We will start locally with resources in Minnesota, and we hope to expand it nationally over time.

Be part of our Resource Guide – Join More than 100 Minnesota Resources.

If you offer services for young people and their families in Minnesota, please let us know if you would like to be included. Details are included in our recent e-newsletter.

Categories include but are not limited to:

  • Addiction Treatment
  • Assessment Services
  • Community Coalitions
  • Healthy Eating
  • Housing & Emergency Services
  • Intervention Services
  • Local Statistics
  • Mental Health & Wellbeing
  • Law Enforcement
  • Overdose Prevention (naloxone)
  • Prevention Programs
  • Recovery Coaching
  • Recovery Schools – high schools and collegiate
  • Resources for Friends and Family
  • Resources for Parents
  • Reproductive & Sexual Health

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

5 Morning Routines to Improve Recovery

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This week’s guest blogger enlightens us with helpful tips on how to set the right tone for the day. Mornings are difficult, but developing a routine can make them easier. MWM. 

For most people, their morning mood sets up the rest of their day. The same applies for people in drug addiction recovery. If you want to have a healthy, happy, clean day, the best thing to do is start it right. When you are in recovery, and are trying out new things to replace the bad habits for good habits, it can be difficult to find things that satisfy you.

Motivating a young person to change and embrace positive things can be challenging, however today I would like to share with you 5 specific things I learned in recovery to make sure that my morning routine was the first thing to do for a successful day.

  1. Morning affirmations

Addicts generally don’t have a very high opinion of themselves. In fact, low self-esteem is a big reason that people turn to spice or other substances so that they can somehow feel better. Add in the teenage/young person factor, the self-esteem problems and the constant struggle between addiction and how to look for their loved ones, and you could even end up with a depressed person.

It can be difficult to feel confident and self-assured when going through recovery, especially during the beginning stages, but good self-esteem is a key contributor to successful recovery”

The problem is that the negative consequences of a life of addiction only worsens the already fragile image that young addicts have of themselves, making the problem bigger than it already was. We tend to look to others for compliments and praises, but the most important person whose approval and encouragement we need is ourselves.

It can be difficult to feel confident and self-assured when going through recovery, especially during the beginning stages, but good self-esteem is a key contributor to successful recovery. 

A great way to start injecting your life with positivity, a bigger sense of self-worth, and value is to look in the mirror and say self-affirmations every morning. You can help a young person by saying these affirmations next to them every day. It may seem silly, or like a waste of time, but when you start to think of yourself in a better light and vocalize your hopes and goals in an assuring way, it will slowly help reshape your whole perspective.

  1. Inner peace

Stress and anxiety are two major factors that contribute towards addiction or, at the very least, temptation. A great way to combat these and many other pressures of life is to meditate. Do not let any stigma you move over the word to rob you of the positive effects it can bring to your life. Meditation comes in many shapes and sizes, just like the individuals that practice it. 

You don’t have to sit in the lotus position with your hands holding strange mudras while attempting to clear your mind and focus on your breathing, this is specially boring and unappealing for young people. Instead, teach them meditation through dancing, singing, relaxing music, painting, even taking a walk in a park.

Taking a moment every day to just slow down and focus on your own peace of mind will make a huge impact on your ability to deal with stressful situations or things that could possibly trigger your addiction”

With meditation, you just have to focus on peaceful, beautiful things that make you feel good inside. Taking a moment every day to just slow down and focus on your own peace of mind will make a huge impact on your ability to deal with stressful situations or things that could possibly trigger your addiction.

  1. Get moving

Living with an addiction has a large variety of unhealthy consequences, but the lack of exercise also affects your mental state, your energy levels, and your self-esteem. Take advantage of that inherent energy young people have, especially when they are going through addiction recovery!

When you do physical activity that increases your heart rate up, strengthens your muscles and gets some energy flowing through your body, chemicals released like serotonin and dopamine that improve the way you feel both physically and emotionally. Getting your day started with this kind of boost will help improve the rest of your day.

  1. Planning 

Set some time aside to set some sort of schedule for the rest of your day. In recovery, it is important to build new routines and healthy habits, as far from the things that led you down the path of addiction in the first place. 

You can do this the moment you wake up or while you’re sitting down for breakfast. Your plan doesn’t have to be too detailed or include specific time slots. It could be as simple as a to-do list. 

A set plan and an idea of what’s to come in your day will also help develop a sense of control and purpose to keep your mind from wandering to unwanted things, it is also a life skill that a young person can develop to apply for the rest of their lives.

  1. Bigger than you 

For many people, the sense that they are not alone is the most powerful tool in recovery. 

You don’t have to call it spirituality or religion. This is just the belief in something outside of you that is bigger, more powerful and has your best interest at heart.  For a lot of people, the ability to place their faith in a higher power and believe that everything will be alright takes the pressure of recovery off.

Something like a prayer or a conversation with whatever higher power you believe in when you wake up and at any other point during the day can make your weight feel much lighter. 

Your morning routine has the ability to set your day on the right path, and infuse an extra boost of positive drive into yourself”

Your morning routine has the ability to set your day on the right path, and infuse an extra boost of positive drive into yourself. With the right routine, your addiction recovery will be much easier. 

About Our Guest Blogger:

I’m Carl Towns, a 28-year-old wanna-be writer; I am also a recovering addict in the path of self-discovery. My goal is to learn as many things as possible and to seize every single moment I live, pretty much trying to make up for all that I missed on the years I was lost in drugs and alcohol (among other things). I’m in love with tech, cars and pretty much anything that can be found online.

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

Hiding Drugs: Teenagers Are Smarter Than We Think

Creativity flows out of all children, but as this week’s guest blogger points out, this can mean creative hiding spots for illicit substances. Here are some new places to look, and ways to identify hiding spots. MWM

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The teenage years are when habits start forming, and in the future, this could even include drug abuse. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 percent of 12th graders have used drugs at least once in the past year. These are people that are just 17 or 18, who still have their lives ahead of them. They could be using all kinds of drugs like marijuana or even something more obscure like Suboxone. Addiction is also a possibility.

These teenagers often have a secret hiding place for their drugs. Without the help of parents, these teens might be hiding drugs somewhere. They could be hiding drugs around the house or even in their cars. It’s up to you to discover it and stop their drug abuse before it’s too late.

In bedrooms

This is one of the most obvious places a kid would hide drugs. It’s their personal space and it’s not expected that parents would search it. It’s their own safe space. The most obvious place to look for drugs would be a dresser. Or maybe a sock drawer. Still, there are so many other places a kid could hide drugs.

Diversion safes are actually very common. These safes are disguised as something else, for example, cleaning supplies. We all know kids don’t ACTUALLY clean (I kid). Here is a site with a bunch of crafty products. If you fear your kid might be using a diversion safe to hid drugs, look for something that is always in their room and seems somewhat suspicious. Many of these don’t have locks either, so they’re easy to access.

Kids might try to tape drugs to a ceiling fan, open up a light switch and hide it inside, or they could tape it under their bed. It’s overwhelming, but they might also hide drugs in other areas, such as:

  • Shoe boxes
  • Old shoes
  • Clothes in their closet
  • Inside pillows
  • Hollowed out books
  • Makeup
  • Inside appliances that have a battery socket or other hollow openings
  • Old boxes for already opened products.

Around the house

Some teens will think a step ahead of their parents and hide drugs around the house where a parent is less likely to look. If you take off the back of the toilet and look under the lid, teens might hide drugs in there. There are many crevices around the house that never get checked. Here are a few more places that a kid might hide their drugs:

  • In someone else’s room (a younger sibling)
  • Inside kitchen supplies
  • Drop ceilings
  • Highlighters or pens
  • Appliances throughout the house (old VCR players)

In their car

Some kids think their car is their own personal space, so they can hide drugs in it. Unfortunately, this can lead to legal problems. If you think your kid is abusing drugs, you have every right to look in their car. If not, the school possibly could consider the presence of drugs in a car as on school-property. If a cop finds it before you do, there could be very large fines. Here are a few places teens might try to conceal drugs:

  • Under a seat
  • Inside an air vent
  • Glove box
  • Trunk
  • A compartment that can be removed

Teenagers that get involved in substance abuse can be quite crafty with how they hide their drugs. It isn’t always easy to find these concealed drugs, but it’s important to find and talk to a teenager before something truly bad happens.

About this week’s guest blogger: Josh Drzewicki

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Josh is a variety writer hailing from Detroit. In his free time, he enjoys long walks through the city while listening to NPR podcasts. Josh has relatives and friends who suffered from addiction as early as high school, and writes about substance abuse to help others overcome their struggles with addiction.

Connect with Josh at:

Twitter @joshdrzewicki

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.

The Sudden and Real Dangers of Opiate Addiction

Being an advocate for the addicted involves understanding the costs of addiction. Today’s guest blogger provides an insight into the reality of America’s substance abuse. MWM

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Millions of people across the world, over 300,000 in the U.S. alone, are addicted to the class of drugs derived from the poppy flower made famous in the Wizard of Oz. In 2015, over 33,000 Americans lost their lives due to opiates such as heroin, Vicodin and fentanyl. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has declared an Opiate Epidemic and has organized efforts with other government agencies to intercept the growing supply of illicit street opiates and to curb the dangerous over-prescribing of opiate-based pain pills.

Young People are Vulnerable to Opiate Addiction

One of the greatest dangers associated with opioid drug addiction is the body’s ability to quickly develop a tolerance to the drug and in turn the body’s increased dependence on the drug to function. People who take prescribed opiate-based pain medications like Vicodin and people who use illegal street drugs like heroin have the greatest risk of addiction.

For those taking doctor-ordered pain medication, length of time using the drug, accessibility, low-income and previous alcohol and drug use are high-risk factors. Benzodiazepines, like Valium and Xanax, depress the central nervous system and are often associated with death from opioid overdose.

Astonishingly, young adults aged 18 to 25 are becoming the fastest growing group of addicts”

Illicit opiate addiction is often preceded by other addictions and affects people from all walks of life and ages. Astonishingly, young adults aged 18 to 25 are becoming the fastest growing group of addicts. In the early 2000s young adult addiction rates hovered around five percent. By 2015, though, that number jumped over ten percent.

Perhaps the most frightening part of all is the prescription opioid abuse can lead to heroin addiction. The majority of heroin addicts aged 12 to 21 years old report having first used prescription pills. Without awareness and a certain vigilance in treating our youth for opiate addiction, the addiction can progress into more dangerous drugs.

The Cost of Addiction

In the United States, opiate abuse and addiction are responsible for over $78 billion in healthcare cost, legal costs and lost productivity. More importantly, the high cost of addiction includes tens of thousands of lost lives through overdose, financial ruin and loss of quality of life. Individuals, families and whole communities are negatively affected. The danger of addiction touches the ones closest to those struggling with addiction.

In November, 2016, Niki Hamilton, a Canadian who struggled with years of heroin addiction, lost her life after overdosing on drugs laced with fentanyl. Eight days later, her grieving brother also died of an opiate overdose. Their father, Alex Hamilton who also suffers from an opiate addiction, said he believes his son took his own life or was careless after losing his sister.

Today, deaths from drug overdose is twice that of motor vehicle accidents”

Less than 15 years ago, car accidents were responsible for more than twice as deaths than drug overdoses. Today, deaths from drug overdose is twice that of motor vehicle accidents. Opioid overdoses in particular have increased more that any other class of drugs, with heroin accounting for more than two-thirds of opiate-related fatalities. In 2015, over 33,000 opioid-related deaths compared to over 52,000 total drug overdose deaths.

Hidden Dangers of Illegal Opiates

In 2016, four teenagers overdosed in one rural West Virginian town during a weekend of celebration. Each one ingested drugs they thought was Ecstacy, or MDMA. While expecting the experience of euphoria and energy, the teens went into cardiac arrest and died due to fatal mixture of opiates and synthetic fentanyl. In May, 2016, law enforcement officers in Ohio seized over 500 counterfeit pills that were marked as 30 milligram oxycodone pharmaceuticals but actually turned out to be research chemical U-47700. The chemical, an experimental synthetic opioid, has never been tested in humans and has been responsible for several fatalities in the United States. Increased access to chinese-imported chemicals used in the production of street synthetic opioids is attributed in the huge increase in opiate overdoses. Also, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) attributes more distribution to rural and suburban areas as a large factor in increased opiate use and fatalities.

CDC officials have also directly attributed the dramatic increase of opioid overdose deaths to the increase of illicit fentanyl. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is often mixed or cut with heroin to increase potency. In 2016, the DEA reported “hundreds of thousands of counterfeit pills have been entering the U.S. drug market since 2014, some containing deadly amounts of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.”

Ending Addiction

Overcoming an opioid addiction is a mental and physical battle that can be won. Once the body becomes dependent on opioids, withholding the drug results in extremely uncomfortable and often unbearable withdrawal symptoms. For several days to a week, people may experience severe anxiety, intense cramps, fever, nausea, and diarrhea. Each individual’s degree of withdrawal depends on a lot of factors. Weight, physical health, psychological state, length of time in addiction and frequency of use are only a few of the major issues that affect difficulty with opiate and heroin withdrawal.

Recovery from addiction includes a post-acute withdrawal stage. During this phase, individuals may experience mood disturbed sleep, anger or anxiety. Symptoms may last anywhere from a few weeks to months depending on each case and personal health goals. Risk of suicide is highest during this healing phase as the body’s fluctuating neurochemical levels create extreme mood swings and depression. A strong support network and access to resources facilitates faster recovery and affects each individual’s opiate withdrawal timeline.

Seeking Recovery for the Addict and the Family

Withdrawal symptoms are rough, but they are not the only part of ending an addiction. It is important to surround yourself with support during this time as the psychological ramifications are as detrimental as the physical. The addict will likely need a strong support network that fully understands the process of withdrawal. Without this, relapse is a greater threat as recovery becomes an isolating experience.

The family of the addict must create a support network for recovery, as well. There will be moments during the recovery process that can seem so dark and so hopeless. During those time it is especially important to have access to resources and people that may be able to help pull them through. Addiction affects not only the addict but also everyone within the addict’s network. As such, recovery becomes a group effort with each individual requiring care throughout the process.

While some of the dangers of opiate addiction seem obvious, there are hidden dangers everyone should be aware of. The CDC plans to increase public awareness through education, provide more resources for treatment and early detection of overdose outbreaks. “It is important for the public to understand the present dangers of this epidemic that is claiming an increasing number of lives due to more potent street drugs, misinformation and other long-standing issues we must address within our government and communities.”

Sources:

https://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2016/hq072216.shtml
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/fentanyl-linked-deaths-regina-1.3868767

http://www.asam.org/docs/advocacy/societal-costs-of-prescription-opioid-abuse-dependence-and-misuse-in-the-united-states.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html

https://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2016/hq072216.shtml

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-bad-is-the-opioid-epidemic/

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20161004/risk-of-opioid-addiction-up-37-percent-among-young-us-adults

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/counseling-and-addiction-how-therapy-can-help#1

About Today’s Guest Blogger: Bill Weiss      

                                                                                                          Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.50.08 PM

Bill is an advocate for long-term recovery, as well as being in recovery himself. He feels it is important to share addiction information with the public to educate them about substance abuse.

 

If you want to learn more:

unitingrecovery.com
455 NE 5th ave suite d478, Delray Beach, Florida

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.

What are they thinking? Substance use and the developing brain.

When you spend your days working with parents and kids within a public school district, it helps to know a thing or two about brain development and neuroscience. That’s exactly why we asked Judy Hanson, chemical health coordinator for Wayzata Public Schools and prevention expert, to be part of our From Statistics to Solutions conference. She shared her expertise and experience on a panel that explored how the brain develops and how this correlates with substance use and co-occurring disorders. Thank you, Judy, for being part of our conference and this week’s guest blogger. MWM

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One of the concerns I often hear from parents is how to differentiate between what they might consider normal teen behavior and what we call substance abuse.  There are definite differences but if this is new to parents, they do not have a reference point to substantiate between the two.  I have asked parents what is their gut telling them as they know their child better than anyone else.  They know their nature, personality and what they are like when just hangin’ with the family.  Differences can be subtle or completely out of the norm.

When in doubt, seek immediate help and don’t wait a year to find out.  A year’s time can take experimentation to full blown substance use disorder.

This is a common question I respond to from parents.

I sat recently with a set of parents that firmly believed in allowing their children to experience what it feels like to be intoxicated yet monitored by parents.  I know this is common practice amid the culture of alcohol use in our state and country.  Part of this thinking is to “ready” them for the college experience or post high school plans.  Another part is that they are going to drink anyway, might as well allow it under a parent’s watch.  This is where I beg to explore other perspectives.

Exploring our own expectations around drug/alcohol use first, is an exercise in self-awareness, no matter what the family structure is i.e.  two parent households, single parents, blended and co-parenting situations.  Knowing what it is that you stand for is a building block for parenting.  Next steps include sharing your personal beliefs with your partner, spouse, co-parent to find middle ground if necessary.  The following step is deciding what the expectations are going to be prior to sharing with your child.  This starts at an early age and can help parents avoid “making it up as they go.”  This is not a simple process; not at all.  It takes a lot of conversation, setting the stage of expectations and consistency.

From Statistics to Solutions 2017 – Panel Discussion on Brain Development

FSTS17 Panel 1 with Judy Hanson second from leftThe panel I sat on at the From Statistics to Solutions conference discussed some of the newest brain research and what is happening on a neurological level when substances are introduced to the developing teen brain.  I find myself having this discussion multiple times within a week to students who may or may not choose to listen.  I get it…when their perception is that all their friends are using, it can’t be that bad.  The latest research is fascinating and can serve as a great platform for parents willing to be a student as well.

 

What I do know for sure is that Minnesota has a strong community of prevention, treatment and recovery/maintenance resources and people who “get it.”

Most parents are willing to share their journey as not only does it provide a personal healing aspect it sets the stage to pay it forward to another family.

This tight knit community of parents, professionals and agencies can make all the difference in the world.

HANSOJUD000Respectfully Submitted by:  Judy Hanson, Chemical Health Coordinator, Wayzata Public Schools and conference panel member, 2 years running!

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

Ready for the weekend? Memorial Day kicks off #SoberSummer tips for Prevention-Oriented Parenting

School is winding down and summer break is arriving soon. Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start to summer and this brings changes in routine for families.

While the warmer weather and care-free days may be welcome, these days also present challenges for families. Kids with more free time on their hands and less supervision may experiment with drugs and alcohol. This is the time for POP (Prevention-Oriented Parenting).

Each summer, we put together a #SoberSummer – Resources for OYA Parents – 2017, and from Memorial Day through Labor day we post tips on Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s keep our kids safe and sober this summer!

Midwestern Mama

© 2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved

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

 

 

 

Nightmare or No Big Deal? A Mom’s Perspective on Drug Testing

“I think my kid is using drugs. Should we drug test?”

“Where do we get a drug test?”

“Are drug tests reliable?”

“My kid has to take a drug test and I’m worried it will show drug use.”

“What should I do if the test comes back positive for substance use?”

These are questions and comments I hear more frequently than I ever imagined. Quite frankly, I never anticipated being an information source on anything related to drugs or alcohol, let alone testing for substance use.

The funny thing is before people started asking me these questions, I – again, never expecting to be – was the person asking the same ones. Why? Because when my now 24-year-old son was in high school, we noticed attitude, behavior and mood changes. We were worried he was using drugs.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s to trust your gut.

Drug testing was one of the ways we were able to determine whether there was substance use, but it was not a quick and easy path. In fact, it was a nightmare especially early on in our son’s substance use, which included marijuana, heroin and other opiates, and a host of other drugs over a five-year period.

My husband asked our primary care physician if he would test our son because we were worried. The doctor brushed it off saying, “It’s tough being a kid these days. He seems like a good kid. Maybe some family counseling would help.”

Finally, after calling around trying to find out how we could get our son drug tested, we discovered these were available at our local drug store. There were quick tests to do at home and mail-in tests that went to a lab. The first time we tested our son, it revealed marijuana. No surprise to him or us, although his behavior seemed to indicate other types of drugs.

To us, drug testing conveyed two important messages: 1) We are concerned, and 2) We are serious.

Our concern was multifaceted – concern for why he was using, concern for the dangers of use, concern for the consequences of use. And our seriousness was steeped in acknowledging a problem, in encouraging him to go to treatment and in supporting him in recovery.

Admittedly, after a while, we gave up on the testing. He wasn’t particularly cooperative – imagine that! And, whether positive or negative, the results weren’t always helpful to the cause.

However, at one point he had applied for a job that was contingent on an extensive drug screen conducted at a professional testing facility. The night before, he went out with friends and I knew in my heart that even if he had abstained to use in the few weeks prior that this was going to be a night that would change all that. The next day, he went to the test. The next week, he didn’t get the job. While I don’t for a fact, my hunch is he didn’t pass the drug test, and that was turning point for me in realizing the extent of his addiction – using regardless of consequence.

During each of his treatment experiences, there was always some form of drug testing but because he didn’t want to stop using the testing didn’t really motivate him to recovery until a few years later.

For example, following a successful inpatient program, he was eager to make it on his own and was resistant to support in recovery. This led to a return to use that came on quickly and took him down hard. Honestly, I was preparing to write an obituary because death by overdose was a more-than-likely possibility, and I think he realized it, too. That was another turning point.

In 2014, my son decided it was time to stop using. He no longer wanted to live as he had been: homeless, jobless, penniless. His childhood friends were graduating from college and going on to graduate school or to grown-up careers. He was finally ready for treatment. He was finally ready for recovery. This time, he knew what he wanted and he knew what he needed.

He did his research. For him, this combination included out-patient; medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opiate use disorder – specifically Suboxone (buprenorphine) to eliminate discomfort from withdrawal, decrease cravings and inhibit the ability to get high allowing him to focus on sustainable recovery; mental health support; a health-realization focus, etc. Researching the options and creating a program gave him greater buy in.

As part of his MAT program, he willingly participates in random drug testing and to date, each and every one of these has been negative for substance use!

Today, a random drug test is no longer a nightmare. It’s simply, “No big deal.”

Shortly after he began the program, I asked him why this time was different. He told me it was the first time that he wanted to stop using. In the past, he knew he needed to stop but he just didn’t want to. This shift from need to want remains key to his success and it also offered me some incredible insight that share with other parents.

It doesn’t take parents long to figure out the three C’s of addiction. We didn’t cause it. We can’t control it. And, we can’t change it. However, we have incredible influence through our unconditional love and support, and during recovery it becomes the foundation for rebuilding trust and positive family dynamics.

As one who has “been there and done that,” I understand how frustrating and scary it is to see a loved one’s problem and live with the fact that they deny the problem or resist the help that’s available. I encourage families to get smart about substance use disorders, treatment and recovery; to find support groups – either in their community or online; to share their situation with others without judgement because many have been through addiction and will be eager to help in any way possible; and to set healthy boundaries. No matter how desperate things become, never stop believing that sobriety and recovery are possible – you are not alone and neither is your loved one – as evidenced by more than 23 million people in long-term recovery.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts           All Rights Reserved.

Above & Beyond Awards

Congratulations to Champlin Park High School Principal Mike George for being recognized as one of the 2016-17 Above & Beyond Award winners! Mike has been an active champion of the parent-awareness nights within the Anoka-Hennepin school district to educate on drug and alcohol use among young people.

Read part of the nomination here, including the criteria for selection:

Develops positive relationships with students, families, and/or community.
Mike George’s leadership style is sincere and charismatic, an admirable combination that conveys his genuine care for students, families, teachers, staff and the community at large. At the start of the 2015-2016 school year, another parent and I approached Mike to see if we could host a parent-awareness event to educate about drug and alcohol use.GEORGE_MICHAEL - Principal Champlin Park High School

Demonstrates care and concern for students.

Without hesitation, Mike embraced the idea and helped us approach it from a variety of perspectives including students, families and community.

Within a week, he’d pulled together an initial group of folks within the district who became a dedicated task force. He quickly envisioned more than a single event, but rather a series of events that debuted in 2016.

In every interaction I’ve had, the individuals have the utmost respect and admiration for Mike George and the common sentiment is they recognize how much he cares. And, to make it even better, he has the innate ability to put people at ease – I’ve observed him in interactions with students, faculty, staff, families and community members and everyone is always impressed by his easy-going nature yet decisive, leadership style.

Mike George is the first person to share his “why” for leading the Anoka-Hennepin Schools Drug & Alcohol Awareness program.

He’s not at all shy to explain that addiction has touched his family, and it its this honesty that best conveys how much he cares for students and healthy choices.

Mike knows firsthand the challenges that young people face and the complications that drugs and alcohol present. He’s an advocate for prevention and education, and moreover for helping students and families connect to helpful resources. He calls the school district a family and that means that he cares for each member just as he would his own son or daughter.

Brings together ideas and/or resources and/or people to overcome difficulties or challenges.

Another of Mike’s “above and beyond” strengths is that he is a collaborator and connector. He’s always making new relationships and then bringing the parties together.

He doesn’t see barriers; instead, he sees opportunities. Many administrators would have dismissed parents who wanted to schedule an event let alone something that would address a potentially scary topic such as substance use. Mike, however, say this as being proactive and as a way to enhance the district’s reputation for preparing students for life.

In convening a diverse group of experts as our task force, Mike considers a variety of perspectives, approaches and agendas. He’s able to integrate these into a cohesive message that’s proven invaluable to the community. Event surveys are exceptionally positive about the program, the task force and the content.

Collaborates with outside resources.

In addition to district resources, Mike welcomed “outsiders” from the community to help shape our program and its content. He brought in Allina, Fairview, Know the Truth, Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, Our Young Addicts, Headway, the Anoka-Hennepin Drug Task Force, the school principals from the other high schools and their staff, the district’s Regional Prevention Coordinator, the state’s epidemiologist, and more. As stated above, Mike George is an extraordinary collaborator and I am honored to work alongside him to help families and students.

Rose McKinney aka Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved