Smart, Safe, Sober … and Sunscreen

We’ve heard it before. Substance Use Disorder runs in families. For our family this was particularly concerning as our youngest headed to college last year.

While I didn’t have reason to believe it was going to be a problem, his sister’s and brother’s college experiences weighed on my mind. I kept reminding myself that our youngest kid had walked a different path in high school, that he was well aware of the danger and consequences of substance use, that he was a different person and that he would walk his own path.

Still, I was relieved when he called home after the first weekend on campus. Do I think that there wasn’t any alcohol? marijuana? other substances? I’m sure there was. It’s college and these are prevalent on campus, but it didn’t seem to be a focus for our son.

He made his choices and these worked out for him. And following a summer of being back home, I have no suspicions of use. My mom radar is not bleeping. What a relief!

However, I’m super sensitive to drug and alcohol use among young people, so when we dropped him off for sophomore year – on Thursday, with four days and nights until classes would start, well, a mom’s mind starts to wonder. Heck, that’s a lot of down time before the commitment of classes.

Would there be parties over the long weekend? Yes. In fact, they were planning a pool party at one of the off-campus apartments. Would he attend? Yes. Would there be alcohol? Maybe. Drugs? I don’t think so. And if there are, I don’t think it’s a choice he’d even consider.

After meeting some of his friends, I have a positive sense about this group. So, after saying our good byes, I said my usual, “Remember the three S’s (smart, safe, sober) and one more – please wear sunscreen.”

The lesson here is that just because one sibling has a Substance Use Disorder doesn’t mean that all siblings will. It does mean that we talk about it and are mindful of the college culture.

©2019 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

#TBT – Do “All The Right Things” But Kids Can Still Lose Their Way – Addiction Happens

In 2012, Midwestern Mama contemplated the dichotomy of doing “all the right things” but still having a kid who was struggling with addiction. It seemed to run counter to the recovery principles of “you didn’t cause it, you can’t change it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it …” Which is it, she wondered? (And still does wonder.)

A Real Mom 5-7-12 – All the Right Things

To me, this is where parents and professionals need to come together for the sake of family consensus, treatment and recovery – for ourselves and our young addicts.

Defining & Demonstrating Trust

Trust is one of the greatest gifts of recovery. During March, Midwestern Mama contemplates the meaning of trust and highlights daily examples of the trust that is growing in her family.

Whenever the word trust comes up, most people mention things like honesty, integrity and confidence. We also tend to talk about trust as something that is earned. And, boy oh boy, if trust is broken, that’s a major no-no – for certain, that’s when rebuilding trust takes time to earn back.

One of the first signs we noticed when my son was struggling during high school was that we could no longer trust him. He’d say one thing and do another. He’d never be where he said he was going to be including places like work or school. (Amazingly, he almost always was at sports practice – it was more a matter of what he did or where he went before and after!) This dishonesty also encompassed stealing and outright lying.

Who was this young man? Why was he breaking our trust? As we would find out, trust and honesty disappeared as his drug use escalated. He had never given us reason to not trust him. It was devastating.

With kids, sure trust is earned; but is earned as they grow up. I think we have a different set of standards for our children than we have for strangers or even acquaintances. Of course we trust family, right? Perhaps, that’s part of why it’s doubly difficult to rebuild broken trust.

In early recovery, it’s easy to trust too soon. Before they are ready for that responsibility and accountability. Before our wounds are healed. We think by granting them trust again that it will give them confidence. Instead, it can back fire especially with relapses. That’s even more devastating.

However, when trust is demonstrated, well, that’s when we begin to believe. That’s when trust grows!

Recently, here are some of the examples of trust that we’ve experienced:

  • Today, I trust my son is saving money and paying off debts incurred from his years of addiction.
  • Today, I trust my son will take his Suboxone as prescribed.
  • Today, I trust my son has a job and will be at work.
  • Today, I trust my son has the tools and desire to remain sober and resist relapse.
  • Today, I trust my son will be home each night unless he’s made other arrangements.
  • Today, I trust my son will stay sober when he experiences disappointments or tough times.

The growing trust that we are experiencing with our son is truly encouraging and energizing. Each of the examples above was something that even a few months ago, especially a year or more ago, was no longer a given in our family. Now, these things are possible. #Recovery #PositiveChange #TrustFeelsGood

Share with us the examples of trust you have right now with the young adults in your life – whether in active addiction or in the glory of recovery.

Midwestern Mama

B Minus or A Plus – Grade This Essay

The youngest member of Midwestern Mama’s family writes about his brother’s substance use disorder.

When someone in the family is using drugs, it’s only a matter of time before one person’s problem becomes everyone’s problem. Our youngest son is 15 years old, a freshman in high school, and he recently wrote a “coming of age” essay for his English class where he talked about growing up with an addict brother.

He was nine years old when his brother began using drugs. For a year or two, he likely didn’t notice much, but by fifth grade we couldn’t hide it from him, nor did we want to. It was the year that things started to implode and it was the year that his class would participate in D.A.R.E. We believed it was important that he understood the chaos (in an age-appropriate manner) and to let this experience shape his own future choices, behaviors and attitudes towards drugs.

As we tried to work with our older son to move him toward treatment, we also worked hard at helping his younger brother and older sister process things. We talked openly with them, asked for their impressions and ideas, and we encouraged them to talk with a counselor or attend Ala-non or Ala-teen to put things in perspective. They saw us at our best and at our worst. They saw us for who we are.

One day our youngest was particularly distraught. In his recent essay, he wrote: “My life was ridiculously hard for a fifth grader.”

He knew that I had been working with a therapist to help myself manage the emotional roller coaster of parenting a kid with substance use disorder, so I offered to let the two of them meet and chat. It seemed to help little brother embrace the idea that he didn’t have to go through this alone and that there might be merit in talking with someone other than his family members – someone more objective and trained at these sensitive topics.

The next day, our youngest went to his school counselor. They hit it off, and she shared with him that she had a sibling with a substance use disorder. For the next couple of years, he would talk with her whenever things felt out of control, and through these conversations, a middle-schooler worked his way through some tough, scary, emotional times.

Just how did he feel during fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades? His essay reveals: “D.A.R.E made my problems even worse. I already knew a lot about what drugs did to the body because I had seen what they did to my brother.” He went on to say: “My brother’s problems affected my life in many ways. I (wanted) to be his friend … it was difficult to do so when he constantly was high or on the crash from drugs.”

They essay continued to talk about all the times when his brother had stolen his wallet, when he was homeless and his hygiene deteriorated – “He would smell like rotten apple dipped in crap drizzled in vinegar,” — when he was arrested for underage public intoxication, when he went to treatment but ran away … In just a few pages, my youngest son detailed the many low points he witnessed during his brother’s active addiction.

He concluded his essay by writing: “Knowing all I’ve been through is scary. The purpose of writing this (essay) was to (say) people have crazy family problems. I am outgoing and energetic, but deep inside, I still have problems. The best thing I learned through this experience is to stay strong. Talk to friends and counselors. Don’t let your problems overcome who you truly are. You are allowed to be affected by these tough moments in life, and at times you will feel worthless. Stay strong and it will get better. If life doesn’t have ups and downs, you’re (not really living).”

Little brother’s essay was as heartfelt and honest as anything I’ve ever read. It was also full of insight and perspective. I give it an A-Plus. His teacher, however, because the essay was riddled with typos, punctuation, spelling and grammatical errors, gave it a B-Minus.

Oh, well. I’m glad there’s another writer in the family who is willing to share this story – a story that has impacted each family member and a story that has had dark chapters, and now, over the past seven months of sobriety, is changing to chapters that are becoming increasingly bright.

Midwestern Mama with excerpts from her youngest son.

Where’s the reset button? It’s time to reboot.

Techie or not, most of us know that when something electronic is not working that hitting the reset button – rebooting – is often the best thing to do.  Amateurs and professionals alike suggest it as a first course of action.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It got me thinking that we have hit the reset button and attempted to reboot many times since addiction started messing with our son’s wiring.  Research on drugs and alcohol continues to show substantial, detrimental impact on the brain – a complex network of wiring and chemicals – even when used recreationally.  So, it seems like the computer analogy applies when a loved one is affected by chronic substance use and its various repercussions.

Within a few days of leaving his recovery program – early, against their recommendations and without a solid plan in place — my son reverted to his previous coping mechanisms and behavior patterns.  It’s now been about five weeks and what I’m observing is not very encouraging.  It’s downright sad.

When a loved one has gone haywire, it feels like it’s time to  is an attempt to do just that: to push the reset button, to reboot. However, the only buttons to which we have access are our own.  Hard as it is, the only reboot button that I can push is my own.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

Let’s Chat

One of our goals at Our Young Addicts is to provide a place where family and friends of young addicts can talk to each other in a relatively anonymous way.  We expect to be able to provide a forum for that kind of interaction on our web site, it’s just that we haven’t developed it yet.  It’s in the works though!

In the meantime we are offering a secret Facebook group to those of you who want to connect in a meaningful way.  To join the group you must first friend our Facebook group Our Young Addicts.  https://www.facebook.com/OurYoungAddicts   After you join, send us a direct message asking us to add you to the group Family and Friends Place and we will  add you.  From there you can chat with us or others in the group.

Your profile WILL be visible to others in the group but the general Facebook public will not see that you are part of the group.

We respect the privacy of you and your young addicts and expect all who join the group to have the same respect for each other.

Looking forward to connecting with you.

Our Young Addicts

Email ouryoungaddicts@gmail.com

Twitter @ouryoungaddicts