Young men struggling with addiction require some extra attention

Youth struggling with addiction face a unique challenge when it comes to getting clean.

Addiction is a disease that can change the way someone thinks and behaves.

These changes run deep, and are fueled by both chemical dependency and bad habits that are hard to break.

Adults who are struggling with addiction are often able to look back at a time when addiction did not rule their lives.

This can give them motivation to get back to that place, or at the very least, it reminds them that it was possible to live sober.

Teens and young adults, on the other hand, don’t have that benefit. Really, they have not yet had any adult habits or routine free from the effects of addiction.

What are the root causes of addiction in teens and young people?

Much of the dialogue around youth and addiction is flat-out wrong.

Discussions tend to focus on aspects like peer pressure or teens going through a rebellious “phase.”

The ugly truth is, teens start doing drugs for the same reasons adults do.

Kids, just like adults, are seeking a reprieve from crushing anxiety or numbing depression or a strong desire to fit in.

Youth are not armored against the stresses of life, like painful relationships, loss, and fear of rejection.

In 2015, the New York Times wrote an article exploring reasons that teens began doing drugs, and what these addicted youths say might have convinced them to stop early or not try drugs in the first place.

David Sheff, who authored “Beautiful Boy,” the story of his son’s addiction, and “Clean,” about treating and preventing drug addiction, noticed that a common factor in youth drug abuse was self-medication.

Sheff told the times:

“It’s pointless to tell our children to ‘make good choices’ about drugs if those drugs offer a reprieve from the darkness they feel, or a connection they so badly crave to other kids. We must work to mitigate rather than add to the stress they experience before drugs present as a solution.”

In many ways, this phenomenon hits young men the hardest, as men are less likely to seek treatment for mental health issues that are the root cause of their drug abuse, and also men in general are more likely than women to use illegal drugs.

There ARE solutions for teens and young adults who have stumbled down this path though.

Young men who struggle with addiction need special attention

When drug abuse is all a young person has ever known, it can seem impossible to get sober, especially since it seems like “everyone is doing it.”

Detox and a support group may not be enough to get them out of the hole that is drug dependency, as their habits under the influence are the only habits they’ve had so far in their adult life.

This is one reason why Alternative Peer Groups, or APGs, can be so beneficial.

Comprehensive rehabilitation facilities recommend CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, as a primary treatment method for many of patients, especially those who are young.

CBT has a strong focus on coping mechanisms to work into your day-to-day routine.

Coping methods can include:

  • Dealing with your problems as they come along. Ignoring them or “stuffing” your feelings is unhealthy, and can often result in depression and relapse.
  • Keeping stress levels low by incorporating hobbies, recreation, physical fitness, and positive people into your life.
  • Planning ahead for difficult and unavoidable situations.
  • Building and maintaining a core group of positive, supportive people who will help you stay sober.

This therapy method also works to identify unhealthy thoughts as they come up, what triggers them, and how to ease them in a positive way, rather than turning to drugs.

CBT is a good resource for anyone with an addiction, but it is especially useful for those who need help learning better mood regulation.

Teens and youngs adults fit squarely into that category of need.

Mood swings and hormonal issues can compound other problems like anxiety and depression that impair a young person’s judgment and drive them to drug abuse.

Youth relapse prevention also poses unique challenges

Drug use relapse is common, almost expected, and usually happens within the first 6 months of recovery.

Returning to “normal life” after detoxing or inpatient treatment is always fraught with triggers, be they old influences, or just a return to the stressful environment that originally motivated the drug use.

Many adults do their best to make a fresh start by changing their environment as much as possible. They move if they can, they try a new job, or at least avoid places they’d been hanging out before.

Teens and young adults usually have less power to make these changes in their lives.

Even if moving is an option (which is out of the question for most teens), young men are less likely to have the savings required to make major life changes.

Parents also often have to re-evaluate their relationships with their children after they come home.

Some may feel the need to clamp down on their kids’ whereabouts and activities in ways they never did before, or conversely, other parents will worry that they were putting too much pressure on their teens before.

Parents have an even closer role than usual in supporting sobriety and preventing relapse for youth in recovery.

For anyone on the lookout for relapse, some common warning signs and triggers are:

  • Emotional or mental health issues that may tempt you to self-medicate
  • Conflict
  • Peer or social pressure, either overt or implied
  • Positive celebrations where alcohol or drugs are present
  • Making unattainable goals that set you up for failure and eventual relapse
  • Illness or pain

What can we do to help young men avoid relapse?

General relapse prevention tips, of course, still apply to young men.

Continued cognitive behavioral therapy, keeping busy, and avoiding previous triggers can help.

Young men however, can overdo it when they try to stay away from previous “bad influences.”

Avoiding the crowd  that a young man did drugs with is important, but it can sometimes lead to near-total social isolation.

Social isolation can be a huge relapse trigger. Finding a support group of sober people is of paramount importance.

This is another reason to try to find an APG in your area.

Parents and family can also play a pivotal role by helping the young man in their life plan ahead for difficult situations.

For example, if a teen used to buy their drugs on the school bus, relatives can step in and drive him to school.

Young people have only just begun to figure out their routine, and logistical help from adults with resources and experience might make or break a recovery.

As you can see, there is no simple solution.

Finding recovery as a teen is fraught with a host of challenges.

A variety of support strategies tailored to an individual teen’s needs, plus integrated care from important people and professionals in the teen’s life are the key to not just obtaining, but also maintaining successful recovery.

It CAN be done.

Derek Wilksen is the Vice President of Serenity Lodge – Lake Arrowhead, a men’s addiction treatment and rehabilitation center in California. He has applied his passion to excellent clinical care for over two decades.

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.

©2019 Our Young Addicts All Rights Reserved.

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

sfy bannerrrr

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

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

#TBT – Where Will He Sleep Tonight? A Homeless Young Addict

One of the most difficult and saddest aspects of Midwestern Mama’s experience with a young addict was her son’s homelessness. Nothing in this experience broke her heart more.

wanderer-814222_640

As we head into the Independence Day weekend, I remember how chained my son was to his addiction. Just a few years back, my son was homeless. I wrote about this for the Pioneer Press in January 2012.A Real Mom 1-6-12 Where Will He Sleep Tonight?

Each day, I would pray for his freedom from chemical dependency and for his choice to become sober. For me, and I think for him, the homelessness was the most devastating part of the addiction experience. I wish it on no one.

Today, I am grateful that he is sober – one year on July 11, 2015, and successfully living at home with our family.

Midwestern Mama