Overdoses do not have to be Tragic

Too many families and friends are losing loved ones to opioid overdoses. 129 each day is the horrifying statistic that I keep hearing. Not all overdoses result in death – many people can be revived with life-saving naloxone (brand-name Narcan).

If you know someone who uses opiates, including prescription pain medications, fentanyl patches or street heroin, please carry naloxone, and insist that the first responders in your community do, too. Here in my state, Minnesota, organizations like the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation are working hard to provide training and access.

Naloxone saves a life and provides one of the most timely opportunities to encourage a person to seek treatment and recovery from addiction. I once heard a counselor say, “I can’t save dead people.” Spot on – let’s save lives and get people the help they need.

Opioid-use is not just a big-city problem and naloxone isn’t just a big-city solution. This is happening everywhere and this means communities of all sizes need access and training on life-saving naloxone.

Here’s a wonderful story from Montevideo, Minn., about the valiant efforts of local police officers who saved a young woman from a Fentanyl overdose. http://staging.wctrib.com/news/region/4119566-life-saving-act-carrying-narcan-squads-proves-its-worth-montevideo

Naloxone wasn’t readily available when my son was using heroin; it wasn’t even something that treatment professionals or counselors told us about. If it had been, I would have carried it and given a naloxone kit my my son and his friends (several of whom overdosed and died).

Shortly after my son started treatment and recovery in 2014, I learned about naloxone and promptly got a kit and training at Valhalla Place. It was also around this time that I connected with the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation and began helping them share their mission and message with others. I am grateful that I’ve never had to use my naloxone kit, but am so glad to have it available.

We have posted resources and links on the Our Young Addicts website so you can learn more.

Please take this to heart and encourage your first reponders, family and friends to #CarryNaloxoneNow.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

 

 

Before, and After: How I learned to support the mother of a young addict

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Mention addiction and almost immediately the world becomes a smaller, more intimately connected place. Everyone knows someone. Everyone has an experience to share … if not now, they will in the future. This past spring a mutual acquaintance connected me to today’s guest blogger, Mandy Meisner, and we’ve now connected in a variety of rewarding ways. Mandy shares an important experience and message of how to support a friend – a lesson for all of us. MWM

When my husband and I were first married, we dreamed of starting a family someday and thought about the kind of parents we’d be.  One of our favorite ways to wonder at, was visiting our friends and family who had paved the way first.  We would spend an evening with them, cooing over babies and small children, smiling at the messy chaotic scenes, listening intently to all the advice given to us for when it would be “our turn”.  We’d wave goodbye, thank them for their candor, then hop in the car and as soon the door shut we’d look at one another and gasp, can you believe …?  Before we had kids, we thought ourselves experts in parenting.  We had all the answers.  We knew exactly how we’d do things. Before.

After we had kids, when we were living the messy chaotic scenes, when we didn’t recognize how cute they were because of sleep deprivation and the bone deep fatigue that comes from trying to reason with unreasonable beings, we realized we would never be an expert in parenting.  We would never have all the answers.  Hell, we would never know exactly how to do anything, save blow our tops.  But we never fully understood our deficiencies until After kids came.

I met Tammi years ago.  She was the sort of person people were instantly attracted to.  Her small frame, long dark hair and megawatt smile kept her timeless and youthful.  She was charismatic, open, and exuded fun and positive energy.  She and I hit it off right away.  Over the ensuing years we would become professional colleagues, and later, good friends.  We racked up countless laughs and dinner dates, strewing empty wine glasses across the north metro.  I would come to learn underneath all the fun, she had a steely center, forged in a past laced with abuse, heartache and self-doubt.  But these things only made her more self-reliant, strong and incredibly kind.

When I learned her two young adult sons were heroin addicts, I was shocked.  I thought of addicts as inner city, homeless, their sinister looks or vacant faces hiding in dark corners.  Outsiders of some kind.  Not middle-class, suburban, articulate, shiny young men.  Adam_Before_AfterOf the two, one of them—Adam—would be the most unbelievable.  He took after his mother in many ways; good looking, charismatic and charming, he made anyone and everyone feel important.  Being in his presence felt like warm sun on your face.

At the time, I was not well versed in addiction and its complications.  Though I presented patience and understanding to Tammi when she shared stories of Adam’s relapse—another job lost, another program failed, another lie discovered—I did not in fact feel patience or understanding.  I felt anger at Adam for throwing his life away, seemingly over and over again.  I felt impatience at Tammi for enabling Adam to keep making bad choices by allowing him to live with her, for constantly running to his aide, for bailing him out of every bad situation his choices brought him.

After a while, I ventured to say things like I applaud you and am amazed at your support and love for Adam, but my love and support is for you.  You need to protect yourself. Show tough love.  And still…even saying and feeling these sentiments, I too held out hope for Adam.  He had heaps of potential, if you only knew him! When he was well, he was magnificent in every way, made more beautiful and humane by his suffering.  Perhaps this time he would change!  Perhaps this time it was truly going to work! Perhaps. Next time.

As his addiction would ebb and flow, I grew more steadfast in my perspective.  You can’t control the choices of other people. You can only control what you allow in your life.  I felt I was there for Tammi as best I could be as a friend, but secretly grew tired of the drama and wished she would too.  I wished she would cut him out to allow peace in her life.  Peace she longed for and deserved.

All of this I felt righteous and confident in.  Before.  When Adam was alive.

Then came After.

After Adam’s death, when I saw the devastation of a mother who found her child dead in her home, when I understood the meaning of the loss of this one life—permanent and untimely—I began to own and see how I had failed her as a friend.

I am a mother myself, and as every mother knows, love for your child is whole, illogical, and will always hold your best wishes for their future.  Children, like all humans, have their limitations and challenges.  As loving parents, we are compelled to aid them as best we can, no matter what.  I forgot this.  I disregarded this fundamental drive as a parent because instead of a car accident, or cancer, or genetic disability, Adam was an addict.  I believed he chose this.  Before.

Ah, but After.  Now that I have the luxury of a neatly tied loose end, now that I see Tammi’s enduring devastation, I know now that an addict may choose that first hit, but no one would ever choose to become an addict. To be an addict goes against the grain of all that it means to be human.  It is to relinquish your sense of self, and all the tremendous things that make up you and your life—for the temporary visit to a beautiful island made of sugar.

After, I realize the way I should have been a friend, was to better empathize an impossibly difficult and complex situation.  To tell her whatever she feels and decides, is OK. That I could not say she is a good mother enough times.  To be the one she can share anything with about her life with addiction and there would be no judgment.  Only love for her.

I was foolish to think “tough love” or cutting Adam out of her life would somehow bring her peace.  It would have only traded one kind of pain for another. Denying our love is seldom a wise choice, let alone possible.

In a horrifically bittersweet way, I have the chance to act on my revelation. Tammi’s second son, Josh, is also an addict.  He continues to struggle—I think with more determination now, to reclaim his being.  He has his own After, finding his brother dead with his mother.  My compassion for Josh fills me up.  I am in his corner until he wins.  And I’m committed to being a better friend and supporter to Tammi.

I am only sorry it took an After to find out how.  But maybe, like many things in life, it’s the only way to truly learn.

About Mandy Meisner

Mandy_3Mandy believes in the power of stories and that we all have important ones to tell. She has been blogging for nearly five years on Fridley Patch and is a nationally published blogger on several different syndications, including Patch (national). Simply, she loves to write and welcomes all opportunities.

Mandy is honored to be a guest blogger for Our Young Addicts, sharing a deeply personal story she hopes will help the many others who are supporting loved ones with addiction. To learn more about Adam, you can read his original blog, Life, Unfinished.

You may connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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.

A Sibling Says it Like No One Else Can: Doing Drugs is Helping No One

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A special, sincere and personal thanks to this week’s guest blogger and his mom, who granted me permission to share his recent Facebook post and her response with the OYA Community. Brandon’s older brother Devin overdosed and died earlier this year; he was a friend of my son’s and their family often provided refuge for him during addiction. Today, Brandon is sharing a heartfelt and courageous plea for siblings. Thank you, Brandon and Mom. You write the truth.

A Sibling’s Post & Plea

Me and Devin used to be best friends when I was young. He would take me everywhere and show me everything. He was there for me always.

Then the drugs took over and we distanced. He either got away from me so I wouldn’t have to see him like that. Or I distanced myself from him because I didn’t want to see him like that.

There were points where we didn’t talk to each other for months on end. Purely because I was mad at him for doing drugs. But you know through all of the drugs and everything else I still loved him as my brother and woulda done anything for him. I always borrowed him money and helped him. Like family is family.

And for those out there that are doing drugs. Think about your siblings …you have such a big impact on them. Like you could lose them at any moment or they could lose you. Please, please think about them.

They will never have another “you.”

So please if you get clean for anyone. Please get clean for them. They need you more than anyone else needs you and I can tell you that right now.

Even if you argue and are mad. Drop it. I can tell you from experience it’s not worth it. It really isn’t. Because you could wake up one day and not have them.

Losing a sibling is a terrible, terrible thing, and I wish that upon no one.

Please if you need anything to help you get clean let me know and I promise you I will do anything in my power to get you clean. Just remember you doing drugs is helping no one. Absolutely no one.

Mom’s Proud, Caring Response

Devin, we miss you so much. Your brother especially. 💔 We will never understand why you were taken from us so early in life. It’s not fair. Please watch over us and help us through these difficult days. Brandon, you are a wonderful young man I am proud to call my son. I know with this statement on here that you will be able to help others get help so they don’t have to go through the hell we are going through. Love you so.

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Life-saving Naloxone

When it looks like rain, half the time it seems like I don’t have an umbrella with me. Invariably, caught unprepared, that’s it when it rains – heavily. Other times, I remember an umbrella and never end up needing it. In fact, bringing an umbrella almost guarantees it won’t rain. Not a bad insurance policy given that you can’t control the weather.

The weather isn’t the only thing you can’t control. As parents, we learn that we can’t control addiction, but we can learn to be prepared for the situations that accompany it. One of those is an opioid overdose.

Before I knew much about addiction, I thought that an overdose meant that someone died. It never occurred to me that someone could survive an overdose, and I never knew that it’s possible to reverse an overdose. Heck, I didn’t even know the signs of an overdose let alone that there was such a thing as naloxone (brand name Narcan®), a drug that can reverse an overdose and save a life.

Today, I carry naloxone and believe that anyone who knows someone who uses opiates, including heroin, should be ready to reverse an overdose. Saving a life with naloxone may be the most relevant action you can take but may represent the most receptive that person will be to consider treatment and recovery.

Signs of an Overdose

According to the Harm Reduction Coalition, sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a person is just very high, or experiencing an overdose. They say, if you’re having a hard time telling the difference, it is best to treat the situation like an overdose – it could save someone’s life. Here is some of the information from their website:

If someone is really high and using downers like heroin, or pills:

  • Pupils will contract and appear small
  • Muscles are slack and droopy
  • They might “nod out”
  • Scratch a lot due to itchy skin
  • Speech may be slurred
  • They might be out of it, but they will respond to outside stimulus like loud noise or a light shake from a concerned friend.

If you are worried that someone is getting too high, it is important that you don’t leave them alone. If the person is still conscious, walk them around, keep them awake, and monitor their breathing.

The following are symptoms of an overdose:

  • Awake, but unable to talk
  • Body is very limp
  • Face is very pale or clammy
  • Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black
  • For lighter skinned people, the skin tone turns bluish purple, for darker skinned people, it turns grayish or ashen.
  • Breathing is very slow and shallow, erratic, or has stopped
  • Pulse (heartbeat) is slow, erratic, or not there at all
  • Choking sounds, or a snore-like gurgling noise (sometimes called the “death rattle”)
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsive to outside stimulus

If someone is making unfamiliar sounds while “sleeping” it is worth trying to wake him or her up. Many loved ones of users think a person was snoring, when in fact the person was overdosing. These situations are a missed opportunity to intervene and save a life.

It is rare for someone to die immediately from an overdose.  When people survive, it’s because someone was there to respond.

The most important thing is to act right away!

Reversing an Overdose

If a person shows signs of an overdose:

  1. Call 911 right away.
  2. Begin rescue breathing, if the person isn’t taking in air.
  3. Give the person naloxone.

Getting Naloxone & Training

Naloxone Kit & InstructionsThroughout the United States many organizations and pharmacies have naloxone available and it does not require a prescription. These same groups offer training on how to administer naloxone. It only takes a few minutes to learn how to use naloxone.

To learn more, I recommend an outstanding organization called the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation. This group has become one of the nation’s go-to experts for overdose prevention, life-saving naloxone including getting it into the hands of first responders and to lay people.

Midwestern Mama

©2006 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved.

The News No One Wants

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Wednesday afternoon, I learned that one of the kids my son used to hang out with (aka use drugs with) has died. He was 22, just a year younger than #SoberSon. I don’t have any of the details and do not know the young man’s parents, yet I feel very connected to them because we have been on parallel paths.

Less than two years ago, before sobriety and recovery, we feared our family might get that horrific news, the news no one wants. That’s just how fragile addiction rendered his life. Hope existed, but it was dwindling. We knew that such a tragedy was a distinct possibility, an unfortunate reality.

Because we knew it could happen – it happens all too often with our young addicts – it makes these lost lives all the more sobering for me. (And for another time, I’ll talk more about my commitment to overdose prevention and why families and friends need to have life-saving naloxone.)

This past fall, my son had asked it if would be OK to drive over to this kid’s house. Word had it the kid was leaving the next day for a treatment program in another state. They hadn’t really been in touch since my son’s recovery, but he wanted to wish him well and offer encouragement that treatment is a smart decision. The kid wasn’t home but my son was able to talk with the dad for a few minutes.

I remember all the hope that families feel when a loved one goes to treatment, and rightly so. Treatment is a positive step forward. It is a move away from addiction toward recovery. It just isn’t always a one-and-done experience as we learned with our son – it can take more than one go until there is a true readiness.

Again, I don’t know the specific circumstances or scenario with this particular kid. I just know that my heart goes out to the kid’s family and friends.

Later this evening, my son will be home from school and working out at the gym. I don’t know if he will have heard the news because he’s truly cut himself off from the old crowd. This is not the first of his friends to die, but it is certainly one too many.

I hug my son every day. I will most certainly be hugging him tonight. Hugs, not drugs. Right? It just seems like the right cliche for this post.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved