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 Meisner 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 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.

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

 

 

 

Partners Make it Possible #FSTS17

On May 11, 2017, Our Young Addicts is hosting its second-annual From Statistics to Solutions conference in partnerships with Know The Truth and Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge. It’s amazing how an idea can come to life when you engage partners and collaborate to make it happen.

Read a news article about it and register to attend.

Midwestern Mama aka Rose McKinney

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Disorders Co-occurring With Addiction Among Teens and Young Adults

When addiction is accompanied by a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self harm, etc., it’s called a co-occuring disorder. These are common at all ages, but are particularly evident within young adults ages 12 to 22. Today’s guest blogger shares insight. MWM

Side note: Join us for the second-annual From Statistics to Solutions conference on May 11, 2017, in Minneapolis, to develop solutions for co-occurring disorders and substance use among young adults.

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Often times addiction comes with other pre-existing, or co-occurring disorders. These issues can exist alongside addiction, exacerbating the substance abuse, or even sometimes lead to its onset. Many times those suffering from these co-occurring disorders are unaware of their existence, and many times they are unaware that the substance abuse that follows is actually a form of self-medicating. They know that when they smoke pot, drink, use prescription pills or other illicit substances they experience a decrease in anxiety or depression, but they do not understand on a conscious level what this truly means. They only see the results and do not see the fact that their substance abuse is merely masking a larger issue that has probably gone undiagnosed for years.

 

Unfortunately, all of this usually comes to a head during the formative teenage years, due to the fact that the brain is still developing, and due to the mounting pressures of teenage life. Many American youth fall into the temptation of drug abuse during this time period and it is often a direct result of some underlying mental health concern.

 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 in 10 people who suffer from addiction also suffer from a mental health disorder. Among teens this number is a little lower, but about 50% of all teens who have a substance abuse disorder also suffer from a mental health concern. This means that 1 in 2 teens who are abusing drugs may be doing so as a way to deal with such issues as depression, anxiety, or any other number of co-occurring disorders.

Luckily, our understanding and our ability to treatment teenage drug abuse and co-occurring disorders has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. We now understand that in order to deal with substance abuse issues in teens that suffer from a co-occurring disorder, we have to first get them free from drugs and other mind and mood altering substances, and then within the treatment protocol for their drug treatment, we also deal with the underlying issues that may have furthered their drug abuse.

So let’s take a look at some of the co-occurring disorders that commonly appear alongside teenage and young adult drug abuse. It is important to note that if you or your teen appears to be suffering from any of the below and a substance abuse problem, professional help should be sought in order to help stave off further issues down the road.

Common Co-Occurring Disorders with Addiction

  • Depression

According to studies approximately 20% of teenagers will experience depression before the age of 18. Besides this the World Health Organization states that depression is one of the leading causes of disability throughout the world. Among teens, depression can cause a number of different issues, but one of the most common co-occurring disorders to arise out of depression is substance abuse. Many teens who suffer from depression and who have not as of yet sought treatment are more apt to drink or use drugs as a means to cope with their depression.

  • Anxiety

Having an anxiety disorder is more than just having the occasional feeling of stress. It is more than just losing sleep before an important event, but rather it is something that can rule over a person’s life. People who have an anxiety disorder will experience an elevated level of stress or anxiety a majority of the time, sometimes even causing them debilitating social issues or panic attacks that can mimic heart attacks. Some people who suffer from anxiety disorders will turn to drugs such as pot or opioids in order to quell their anxiousness, but without dealing with the underlying issue it will always resurface over time.

  • Eating Disorders

Unfortunately many times eating disorders and addiction go hand in hand. Sometimes the eating disorder will predate the addiction, and the addiction is developed either as a means to help with the eating disorder, i.e. weight loss pills or other stimulants, or the addiction can be unrelated to the eating disorder. It is important if you are having an issue with an eating disorder to seek out professional help sooner rather than later, because it can cause a number of health complications and in some cases even result in death.

  • Self-Harm

In a sense addiction is a form of self-harm, although many addicts would not initially view it that way. The reason I say this is because a person who abuses drugs to the point that it is detrimental to their health and life is inflicting an inordinate amount of harm on themselves. For other teens though, self-harm may take on the form of cutting or burning themselves as a way to deal with anxiety, depression, or other confusing emotions. Often times teens that suffer from self-harm will also suffer from substance abuse, as the two both act as a way to cope with life.

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Teens or young adults who are suffering from addiction and some other co-occurring disorder may feel a tremendous amount of shame about their illnesses, to the point where they will not want to discuss them with anyone. They may want to hide the fact that they are abusing drug and depressed, yet neither of these things are anything to be ashamed of.

Many times in our society we place such a negative connotation of drug abuse and mental health issues that people will just pretend that everything is okay at the expense of their own happiness and wellbeing. With that said, if you believe you have an issue with substance abuse or some other mental health concern, reach out for help; even if it is frightening, and even if you think people may judge you for it. Don’t suffer alone and remember that there are millions of people around the world who feel and have felt exactly like you do right now. Give yourself a chance to get better and ask for help.

About Today’s Guest Blogger:

Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

 

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

 

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Parents: Doing the Best They Can with What They Have

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By Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.

Thank you, Sherry, for being part of #fsts16. We are pleased to have you elaborate on many of the points from the panel discussion that took place at From Statistics to Solutions: Addressing the Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Use. MWM

When parents arrive at our Family Program, they are typically experiencing a variety of different emotions.  Some of them arrive feeling desperate, as they are tremendously fearful for the well-being of their child, and are out of ideas about what to do.  Some of them arrive confused, as it makes no sense that they have raised this beautiful child with their best efforts and values, and, yet, the disease of addiction is still present.  Some of them arrive angry, because it’s really frustrating to deal with the behaviors that happen when someone is actively using.  And, some of them are just exhausted, because standing guard over your child’s life is all-consuming.

To say it’s not easy to be a parent of a child who struggles with alcoholism or addiction is an extreme understatement.  When the dreams and aspirations for the person you love are side-tracked by addiction, what is left behind is the stuff most parental nightmares are made of.

Our society doesn’t help with these nightmares.  In fact, someone outside of the situation who hasn’t had firsthand experience with alcoholism or addiction may easily make judgements.  It’s a common belief that if a child is “good” or “bad” it has to do with how they have been parented.  Most people look at alcoholism and addiction as a moral failing, rather than a disease or disorder.  There is much stigma placed on families who are impacted by addiction, even though alcoholism was first declared a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956, and, addiction has been placed in this category, as well.  This information alone doesn’t seem to stop the judgements, or stop a parent from taking their child’s addiction personally.

I know it was something my husband took personally.  Even though he understood the disease of addiction better than most because he is in long-term recovery himself, understanding what to do as two out of three of his children struggled with their own addictions, and the consequences that surrounded them, escaped him.  I took it personally, as well, thinking that if I had a different role in their lives, or maybe if his prior marriage was still intact, something would be different for these two.

Despite the stories we create in our heads about all of this, the facts remain the same.

Good parenting doesn’t stop addiction.  There is no amount of loving someone that can change their physiology or propensity for alcoholism or addiction.  Bad parenting doesn’t create addiction. 

There are many who have survived less than ideal childhoods who have grown up to live happy, productive lives without the cloud of addiction.

And, yet, most of us still want to blame something or someone for this issue.  I was recently involved in a conversation where a question was posed: What are some of the road blocks and challenges that hinder collaboration with working with youth struggling with addiction?  With so many obstacles that stand in the way, I was looking forward to the answers, so we could start addressing them!  I was surprised to hear that one of the people involved believed the major obstacle was parents.

As she explained, I understood her standpoint.  Sometimes parents, in their confusion around the situation, get caught up in denial.  They want to believe that their beloved child would know better.  They want to believe that addiction couldn’t possibly touch their family.  They want to believe that it’s just a phase.  They don’t want to live in the embarrassment and shame associated with alcoholism or addiction, and who can blame them, really?

But, sometimes we still blame.  It’s fairly common in the world today that when something goes “awry” we want answers and to know who is responsible.  If it’s a child, then the parent must be at fault.  Even those of us working in the addiction recovery field we hear the comments about the parents that are more of a problem than their child.  We may have even made those comments.

The truth of the situation is that parents are doing the best they can with the information that they have.  They are doing their very best.  They want the very best for their child.  The assumption should not be that they are to blame.  The assumption should always be that they are loving their child as much as they possibly can.

The question for those of us who work with these parents is: How do we help families from blaming themselves?

In my experience, the best place to start is creating a safe place for them to talk.  Isolation is a key symptom of addiction, and is present on both sides of the disease.  Parents who have a child struggling with addiction often isolate themselves trying to protect their child and their reputation, not realizing this is also blocking them from receiving help.  If a parent starts talking, they will share information on how we can best help them.  They’ll talk about their fears, their confusion, their hopes and their plans.  The best thing anyone can do is listen.

When we listen, we will hear when a parent is ready to learn more.  The next important thing we can do for a parent is help them to really understand addiction.  Education around chemical dependency, how it happens and what it looks like, can help to clear up some of the confusion families have.  Although families typically understand addiction on an intellectual basis, their emotions haven’t always caught up yet, and these emotions add to their underlying reactions.  In my experience, when families have the opportunity to really learn about addiction, and have the questions that they have answered, it helps them to navigate the situation better.

However, as stated earlier, education isn’t enough.  Although it’s extremely helpful, it doesn’t answer the question most parents want answered “So, now what do I do?”  How do I get my loved one into recovery?  How am I supposed to be as they navigate early recovery?  How am I supposed to show up if my loved one relapses?

Typically, parents with a child who is actively using have one major fear: their child will not stop using and won’t be able to find recovery. 

Often times that fear continues after a child is getting help, but it turns to fear that their child may not be able to maintain their recovery.  Although their child may be doing everything they had hoped that they would do, parents may still be having the same reactions as they did when their child was using.  It is imperative families find support for themselves, as well.

A study by Laudet, Morgen, and White, (The Role of Social Supports) states “Support, in particular, recovery-oriented support, is likely to be critical to alcohol and other drug users, especially early on…”  It would stand to reason that recovery-oriented support would be helpful for parents and families, as well.  In fact, John Kelly, Ph.D. and Director of the Recovery Research Institute, was recently quoted to have said “Social support is good, but recovery specific social support is more important.”,  which also can be interpreted that a parent’s love is good, but a parent’s love with the support of recovery is more important.

The greatest gift I’ve received is something that can be passed along to others: the gift of family recovery. 

Recovery is community.  It is the support of other people who know what it’s like to love someone who struggles with addiction.  Recovery offers ideas and resources based on the experience of others.  Recovery offers a common language to talk about addiction, and the communication skills to reconnect with each other.  Recovery offers opportunity for healing.  Recovery offers hope.  The same process that helps our children recover can help other family members, too.  Family recovery offers answers to the question, “So, now what do I do?”

When my husband’s son started his recovery journey from his meth use, we were cautiously optimistic.  He was doing better than we’d seen him do in recent years, but we weren’t sure it would last.  We understand that this disease is chronic and can be fatal.  Through recovery, we also knew that placing our fears on him would not be helpful.  We also knew that the time that he spent in a facility was just the beginning of the journey.  The real work would happen for him in his own recovery community.

Three years later, we get to see the gifts of recovery turn into a full blown miracle.  We’ve watched him walk through the highs and lows of early recovery.  We’ve watched him take ownership.  We’ve watched him make decisions, good and bad.  We’ve watched that he’s let us know what’s going on in his world.  He did it in his own time, with his own support around him.  And, we needed our support around us.

Parents don’t have to do it alone.  Talk to someone.  Learn more about addiction.  Find others who understand addiction who can support you in this process.  And, please, remember that everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have, including you.

About Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

Sherry Gaugler-Stewart is the Director of Family & Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat in Wayzata, Minnesota. She has worked with The Retreat’s Family Program since its inception. Sherry is a certified spiritual director and has been an active participant in Twelve-Step recovery since 1999.  In addition to her work at The Retreat, she has lead spiritual retreats and is a meditation teacher.  She is also involved in the Kids’ Programming at The Retreat, for children aged 7-12 years old who are growing up in families affected by chemical dependency.

Side note: The Retreat offers a generous scholarship program to help defray the cost of participation in its programs.

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.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Student Blog Post – Be the First Voice

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Midwestern Mama is pleased to feature another one of her students’ blog posts. This student worked on a group project to help develop our May 12th conference: From Statistics to Solutions – Addressing the Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Use. Here is her perspective.

Nine out of 10 people with addiction started using substance before the age 18. I find this to be very alarming and it’s important that we help our family, friends, and next generation. You might be thinking that you don’t know anyone that could be at risk or that is currently using. Well I bet you know someone that lived with a parent or guardian who got divorced or separated; Lived with a parent or guardian who died; Lived with a parent or guardian who served time in jail or prison; Lived with anyone who was mentally ill or suicidal, or severely depressed for more than a couple of weeks; Lived with anyone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs; Witnessed a parent, guardian, or other adult in the household behaving violently toward another (e.g., slapping, hitting, kicking, punching, or beating each other up); Was ever the victim of violence or witnessed any violence in his or her neighborhood; and Experienced economic hardship “somewhat often” or “very often” (i.e., the family found it hard to cover costs of food and housing). That was a list of adverse childhood experiences that came from childtrends.org. If you know anyone that is currently in or has been in one of those situations research has proven that they are at high risk of using drugs or alcohol. We need everyone aware to understand that substance use is a problem in our youth today. Help make a change. Did you know that when an adult talks to a teenager regularly about the dangers of drugs and alcohol they lessen the chances of this child using drugs by 42%! However, only 25% of teens report on actually having these conversations.

I am wiring thing blog to inform you that everyone can help change the statistics to solutions and also inform you about a summit that is happening here in the metro area on May 12, 2016.Our Young Addicts along with Know the Truth, the prevention team for Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, have created a conference for social workers, drug and alcohol counselors, professional clinical counselors, nurses, educators, parents, law enforcement professionals and government officials. If you or someone you know is interested I encourage you to attend this FREE summit.In this summit the will be talking about early intervention, identifying needs long before a young person tries drugs, and about moving forward. The keynote speaker is Chris Bailey. Chris provides first-hand tools on how to deal with some of the biggest epidemics of mental health and addiction.   This is the first year this summit it taking place and as you can see we need more solutions because the statistics are alarming.

This topic is very close to my heart I have seen one of my best friends struggle with addiction. She started using marijuana in 9th grade and by her senior year she was addicted to heroin. Seeing my friend completely change because of her addiction to drugs is something so horrifying that I can’t even put it into words. I can remember sitting up all night worrying about her. Being in high school and not knowing how to help her I felt as a friend I wasn’t doing my job to help her get better. Over the years she did get help and is currently in recovery. I am glad to say that I am on the road to getting my friend back. Addiction is very scary and I know if we all work together we can help find more solutions for our youth. You can find more information about this summit by going to this link.(http://www.mntc.org/event/prevention-summit/)

 About the guest blogger:

Sheri Houston is a current student at Metropolitan State University. She will be getting her degree in public relations and plans to find a job within her major when she graduates. Sheri is a mother and realizes her daughter is already at risk for using drugs because of her family situation. Every day she talks about making positive choices and how everything in life is a choice. Sometimes you’re put in a bad situation but how you handle the situation is your choice. She encourages you to talk to your children and be the first voice that they hear about how substance use isn’t a great choice.