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.

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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. 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.

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

 

 

 

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.

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

#FSTS17 Second-Annual From Statistics to Solutions Conference on May 11, 2017

KTT & OYA Logo FSTS17

 

Prevention Conference Will Address Solutions to Substance Use & Co-occurring Disorders Among Young Adults in Minnesota

The statistics are alarming. According the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), children and adolescents with mental-health conditions are at a higher risk of using drugs than other youth.

WHO: Know the Truth, a program of Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, and Our Young Addicts have partnered up to host From Statistics to Solutions, a prevention conference focused on addressing the underlying issues of youth substance use.

WHAT: From Statistics to Solutions is the 2nd Annual day-long conference focused on creating solutions to the issue of youth substance use through collaboration. This conference will discuss youth as ages 12-22.  Nearly 20 local and national experts will speak at the event in a series of panels throughout the day. Hundreds of professionals, including social workers, licensed alcohol and drug counselors, professional clinical counselors, nurses, educators, law enforcement professionals and government officials, are expected to attend. Last year’s conference had over 400 professionals in attendance.

WHY: The statistics are alarming. According the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), children and adolescents with mental-health conditions are at a higher risk of using drugs than other youth. Additionally, as many as six in 10 substance young people who are using drugs and alcohol are also dealing with a mental-health issue such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, self-harm, eating disorders and more.

Each year, Know the Truth interacts with more than 58,000 Minnesota students. Through this presence in high schools and middle schools, Know the Truth regularly hears first-hand about the causes of and issues surrounding drug and alcohol use among young adults. Our Young Addicts similarly hears accounts of substance use among young adults through concerned parents and professionals. Both Know the Truth and Our Young Addicts emphasize collaboration to help young adults, no matter where they are on the spectrum of prevention, addiction or recovery.

WHEN: Thursday, May 11, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Interviews will be available ahead of and during the conference.

WHERE: Hennepin Technical College, 9000 Brooklyn Blvd., Brooklyn Park, MN 55445 United States

PANELS: Throughout the day, speakers will discuss issues surrounding youth substance use as part of four moderated panels.

  1. What are they thinking? Drug Abuse and the Brain.
  2. Co-Occurring Disorders and Addiction
  3. Treatment and Approaches
  4. Recovery and Re-entry into Society

PARTIAL LIST OF SPEAKERS:

  • Keynote: Carol Falkowski, CEO of Drug Abuse Dialogues (former director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services) – 2017 Drug Abuse Update
  • Rich Stanek – Hennepin County Sheriff
  • Judy Hanson – Chemical Health Coordinator, Wayzata Schools
  • Tim Walsh, MA, LP, DPA – Vice President of Long-term Recovery and Mental Health, Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge
  • John VonEschen, LMFT, Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance
  • Gloria Englund, MA –Psychotherapist & Recovery Coach, Recovering U
  • Saul Selby, MA, LADC – Vice President of Clinical & Transitional Services, Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge
  • Randy Anderson, ADC-T – Second Chances Coalition
  • Michael Borowiak– MSW, LICSW, Traverse Consulting
  • Anthony Zdroik – Juvenile Division Chief, Washington County Attorney’s Office
  • Nita Kumar, PhD, LMFT, LPCC – Mental Health Consultant, Anoka–Hennepin
  • Brenda Servais, PsyD, LP, LADC –Psychologist/Clinical Lead, Melrose Center
  • Mark Rios – Veterans Outreach Coordinator, Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge
  • Heather Gallivan, Psyd, LP – Clinical Director, Melrose Center

About Know the Truth

Know the Truth is a non-religious substance abuse prevention program of Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge that is developed to educate high school and middle school students on addictions and the consequences of their choices and help them tackle their everyday struggles. Each year, Know the Truth presenters conduct more than 1,400 presentations in more than 160 high schools and middle schools, and speak to more than 58,000 students. In 2015-2016, 90 percent of teens surveyed made a commitment not to use drugs in the future after hearing the presentation. To learn more, follow Know the Truth on Twitter and Facebook.

About Our Young Addicts

Our Young Addicts (OYA) is a community of parents and professionals who share experiences, resources, and hopes – no matter where a young adult may be on the spectrum of drug experimentation, recreation, use, abuse, addiction, treatment, relapse or recovery. Rose McKinney created Our Young Addicts when her 20-something son’s addiction was spiraling out of control; today he is in recovery and thriving in his sobriety. To learn more follow #OYACommunity on Twitter and Facebook and follow the blog.

FSTS Logo 2017

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©2017 Our Young Addicts        All Rights Reserved

 

Never Too Early: The Draw of #NOverdose to an Elementary-school Parent

A mother of young children recently attended a community event about drug alcohol use among young people. It was hosted by her school district and the local sheriff’s department. Why did she attend? Today’s guest blogger shares her thoughts. I hope more parents will engage early to prevent and address future issues that may lead toward a substance-use disorder. MWM

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I remember watching my three-year-old son Harrison standing on one of the five boulders separating a playground from the parking lot. My friend and I were waiting by our cars for our respective stragglers, when we observed Harrison on the boulder glancing from his feet to the adjacent rock. Calculating the distance. The risk. The wrath.

Knowing that I couldn’t reach him in time, I said, “Harrison, do NOT jump over to the other rock. You’ll hit your head and get a black eye.”

Without a word he turned to face us, and we thought he would just jump forward into the grass. But no. Sure enough, he turned back, jumped toward the adjacent boulder, and missed sticking a top-of-the-rock landing. As predicted, he hit his face. I ran to my sobbing child to comfort him and assess the damage.

The experience left Harrison with a black eye and me with a clear view of my son’s emerging personality. Today, Harrison is eight years old, and just this week we had to coach him down from two different trees in our backyard. And it’s only mid-April.

In addition to his propensity for age-appropriate risk-taking, Harrison loves to make his buddies laugh. Farting? Check. Poop jokes? Check. Singing silly songs? Check. Eating gross kitchen concoctions? Check. At this age, it’s all pretty harmless.

But it won’t always be.

As a parent of three elementary-school-age kids, I want to do everything that I can now to help them develop the tools, skills, healthy habits, and positive relationships to ward off future battles with addiction, knowing full well that I could do everything “right” and still face the struggles confronting many in the Our Young Addicts community.

So when I got the email from Wayzata Public Schools about the March 20 #NOverdose community forum at the high school, I immediately put it on the family calendar.

NOverdose flyer4 FINAL (1).png

Why did I choose to spend two hours on a Monday night hearing harrowing statistics and stories when my biggest safety concern right now is the giant rock at the base of Harrison’s favorite climbing tree?

  1. The statistics scare me. The opioid prescription rates, deaths from heroin overdoses, increased ER visits, and the rise in overall addiction, among other alarming trends, terrify me as a parent and as a community member. I want to do what I can to help reverse these trends.
  1. Drugs today seem more lethal. At my 25th high school reunion this fall, a classmate remarked to me that one of his biggest concerns of living in his wealthy suburb was the rampant heroin use among teenagers. He said, “I did my share of drugs in high school, but nothing that was going to kill me. Kids today are doing heroin, and they’re dying. We never touched that stuff.” When my husband and I warn our kids about the dangers of drugs, we tell them that it only takes one time for a drug to kill you.
  1. Kids are under too much pressure today. Two years ago in the midst of planning my 20th college reunion, my classmates and I were discussing programs that we could contribute to the college’s overall reunion schedule. A friend suggested having a session on what we could do now to better prepare our kids to get into Amherst. I said, “Your son is 10! How about we do a session with a child psychologist on what we’re doing to our kids?” I worry that stress over performance expectations is contributing to the increase in drug addiction.
  1. Personality traits in my kids concern me. Among my three children are a range of traits that are compelling and engaging – and potentially concerning. Stubborn, change averse, indecisive, intense, perfectionist, a need to please others, and self-critical: it’s a list that I personally know all too well, and one that would be familiar to my own mother in raising me! I’ve thought a lot lately about the pride I took in being unique; in middle school I wore a shirt that said, “Why Be Normal?” My kids and I talk a lot about being true to yourself, and not feeling the need to follow everyone else, yet at the same time maintaining high standards for personal conduct and respect. It’s a fine balance.
  1. I wanted to learn what I can do now. Bottom line, I want to know what I can do right now to help my kids grow up to be kind, happy, healthy, resilient, and drug free. I want to learn from the experience of experts and other parents, and then share that knowledge with my parental cohort. I also want to work to create a space where parents in my circle can talk openly about their challenges without fear of being judged or rejected…or having their child judged or rejected.

I attended #NOverdose to determine how I can contribute to the overall community effort to combat opioid and heroin use. Writing this blog is my first step.

Kristen Spargo is a freelance writer and communications consultant who specializes in health care and nonprofits.

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.

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

5 Tips to Ditching the Shame Game of Addiction and Recovery

Time to stop the shame game. MWM

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Addiction is a very powerful venom, it’s a disease that can very easily destroy a person’s life and that of those around them. Something typically associated with addicted individuals is a social stigma because of the enormous misconception that addiction is just something that can be “shaken-off” or that they simply are not willing to stop consuming. However, this is not true; addiction is a very real and very dangerous disease. Due to these misconceptions there’s an ever present shame associated with situations involving addiction.

Addictive individuals are very fragile and vulnerable people, it doesn’t take much to trigger a feeling or emotion where for them the only solution is to run and do drugs or drink alcohol and shame can potentially be one of the worst triggers there is. It is not only the stench of shame coming from other people, but their internal shame as well. Addicts are usually their hardest judges, ironically that harsh judgement is what turns it into a vicious cycle they find themselves unable to escape: Something happens that compulses the individual to consume, after the high is gone they will absolutely hate themselves for using yet again; unable to bear with the shame they are casting upon themselves they turned once again for their substance of choice and the cycle repeats over and over. Add to this the external shaming coming from other people and society in general and it becomes a recipe for guaranteed disaster.

In order to start beating and leaving that vicious cycle it’s necessary to drop the shame game, here are 5 tips that can help you a lot in doing so.

1. Understanding Addiction as a Disease

The nature of addiction is a very sneaky one. As a disease it doesn’t present itself with traditional symptoms and before the person, or their immediate circle of friends and family notest, it’s typically too late and the person has devolved to some degree into addiction. But just as you wouldn’t blame or shame someone for getting cancer or diabetes, there is also no reason for falling victim to addiction, support, care and professional are the elements that’ll pull the person through.

2. Surround Yourself With Supportive People

Addicts are fragile people, due to this fragility lies the reason why shame can penetrate and hit so hard, specially self inflicted shame. In order to combat that self shaming soldiers must be summoned for the battle. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can be a fantastic source of moral support that can help strengthen those inner walls and fix those crack that allow shame in so easily. This can also be a very good opportunity to reconnect with friends and family if the person has become socially isolated, so long as those circles are not a source of external shame themselves.

3. Make Amends

Addiction carries a lot of consequences, some of the biggest come from the harm addicts cause while under the influence to themselves but specially to others, this is one of the biggest sources of shame. Being honest about one’s mistakes and making amends for it opens the path to a more secure and stable state, it can also open the gates of forgiveness for both the addict and the people they caused harm to and begin to understand that there was never ill intent, just a tragic and terrifying disease at work. Liberation is one of the key elements in getting rid of shame.

4. Brain Growth Activities

Constant and prolonged consumption of drugs and alcohol distort and affect the brain’s chemistry, this is why addicts experience such revolting changes in mood and why in some cases their personality is drastically affected, being aware of this can be a great source of shame because the person doesn’t recognize themselves anymore. To put it in simple words the brain lack will power.

To help overcome; it’s recommended that the person engages in activities that promote healthy growing of the prefrontal cortex section of the brain, which is the section that takes care of the cognitive functions such as social engagement and decision making. Activities such as yoga, meditation, aerobics exercises; even brain teasers and logic problem solving activities can help in this endeavor.

Ditching the Shame Game

Just as it is important to understand addiction as a disease, it’s also important to get a grasp on some of the by products of this. Shame, both internal and external, is one of the more dangerous components that threatens the individual to never escape and recover from the disease.

Only through support and care from family, friends and support groups that can encourage the person to drop the shame and get professional help, will them then start having again any semblance of a normal life through recovery and eventually sobriety.

Do you know someone who is battling addiction? Show this article to them and share your personal experience with everyone else by sounding off in the comments section below!

About today’s guest blogger:

andyAndy was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. He has been sober for 9 years now! Andy spends his time helping others with their recovery.

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.

How Interactions at School can Lead to Teen Addiction

Pay attention to your kid’s school day. It may offer clues to mindset and the unfortunate possibility of substance use. MWM

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Imagine that you are 16 years old and you’re in science class. The class is divided into groups, each focused on a science project. Suddenly a bully in your class throws a spitball at you. It hits you in the back of the neck and it hurts. Your group members see it and they laugh.

Or imagine being in the hallway talking to your girlfriend and you see her make eye contact with another guy.  Or you might imagine that you are in PE class and you are the last one chosen to be on one of the two teams. Your embarrassment grows as everyone else is picked but you.

The point is that all these scenarios trigger feelings. Perhaps you’ve been in a similar situation, and as a result, you’ve felt anger, disappointment, disrespected, embarrassment, or shame. These are difficult feelings for someone to experience, let alone a teen who may not yet have the maturity to hold such strong feelings. To make matters worse, if a teen is experiencing difficulty at home (alcoholic parent, domestic violence, parental divorce, abusive parent, etc.) then the interactions at school may be making already existing feelings worse.

Yet, even without challenging situations at home, a teen can find it hard to be at school. In general, teens tend to experience the following:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Not wanting to be made fun of
  • Not wanting to lose a friend
  • Not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings
  • The desire to appear grown up
  • The desire to appear in control
  • Not having a clear picture of other’s desire
  • Not understanding how to avoid or handle a situation
  • Not knowing how to say no

When a teen feels emotionally uncomfortable and especially if they feel overwhelmed by their feelings, they may be at risk to saying yes to drugs or alcohol. They may give in more easily to peer pressure, or they may even seek out drugs in order to feel better.

Parents and caregivers should keep in mind that strong emotional reactions can interfere with a teen’s ability to concentrate, focus, and use intellect. Logic and reason compared to emotional distress utilize two different parts of the brain. This is another reason teen’s may reach for drugs and alcohol – to help them do better in school if their emotional state continues to interfere with their ability to think clearly. As you might expect, the more that teens choose to use drugs and alcohol, the more they become vulnerable to addiction.

Typical reasons why a teen or young adult may be drawn to drugs include:

  • peer pressure
  • access to substances (even in the school environment)
  • inability to say no
  • inability to manage strong feelings
  • to feel accepted
  • experiment
  • manage the symptoms of a mental illness
  • to do better academically
  • to feel better

Teens spend a large amount of their time at school. The interactions they have with peers, teachers, principals, counselors, and coaches often influence how a teen feels about themselves, particularly because adolescence is a time when teens are so sensitive about who they are and how they fit in. If a teen frequently feels uncomfortable about themselves, they may choose to regularly use drugs or alcohol to feel better.

Unfortunately, the use of substances is often a downward spiral. As a teen continues to use drugs, the more a dependency on them grows. And the stronger the dependency, the harder it will be for a teen to function in school, in relationships, or at work.

If you are a parent or caregiver, consider the following suggestions to support your teen’s emotional stability, and ultimately, the ability to say no to drugs:

  1. Talk to your teen. Let them know you care and that you’re there to provide support. Let them know you’re interested in who they are and what they enjoy. Get to know your teen so that you feel you’re in touch with their life.
  2. Let your teen know you don’t approve of drug or alcohol use. Teens who know their parents disapprove of drug use are less likely to use. When teens get the message that their parents do not care or that their parents approve of their drug use, teens will often experiment and continue to use substances.
  3. Teach your teen how to have fun without substances. One of the biggest influences of substance use among teens is the idea that getting drunk or high creates a fun experience that they otherwise couldn’t have. If a teen knows that there are other exciting experiences available without the use of substances, they are more likely to say no.

These are a few suggestions for keeping your teen away from substances, even when interactions at school become challenging. However, if you find that your teen is experiencing great difficulty, don’t hesitate to seek the support of a mental health professional.

About Guest Blogger: Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D.

jeff-nalin-headshotDr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. Dr. Nalin is the Founder and Clinical Director of Paradigm Malibu and Paradigm San Francisco Adolescent Treatment Centers. He has been a respected leader in the field of emotional health, behavioral health and teen drug treatment for more than 15 years. During that time, Dr. Nalin has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.

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

Valuable Evals

Short of discovering physical evidence of drugs/paraphernalia and alcohol or finding your kid* under the influence, it’s often hard to know for certain if your kid is using – or to know the extent of the situation. Perhaps this is the first time. You may consider it’s just experimentation or partying. Or you may be concerned that it’s out-right addiction. It’s not always easy to tell.

Regardless of what you’re feeling, remember that you are feeling something that’s concerning. That’s ALWAYS something to pay attention to. Why? Because we know that substance use will damage their developing brains, which don’t reach full maturation until age 22 for young women and age 25 for young men.

The fact that you’ve discovered substance use is reason to investigate further.

Keep in mind that “investigate further” does not mean jumping to conclusions or overreacting. It starts with observations, gathering facts, noting concerns, paying attention and keeping track of things – at least for a while.

This is an ideal time to reach out to other adults in your kid’s life to ask if they’ve observed anything of concern.

Ask teachers, coaches, activity leaders. Talk to friends and neighbors. Express concern and then just listen. But, still listen your gut.

It’s also a good time to talk to your kid. No accusations. No judgements. Just open the conversation. Listen instead of lecture. Share your perspective on substance use. Don’t expect the truth and don’t be naïve.

Again, listen to your gut.

If there is even a tiny inkling that there is substance use, now is the time to consider a professional evaluation.

There’s no one right or wrong way to go about this. The important thing is to do something. An evaluation now provides a baseline for the future.

I’m no expert, but there are three primary categories of evaluation. All of these proved valuable for our family in the early days of our son’s substance use. At the end of the blog, and on our website, find resources for the following:

  • Drug Testing. From the drugstore variety to clinical lab tests, these may be helpful in finding out if your kid is using and what they may be using. A word to the wise, however, don’t rely on these. For example, marijuana (THC) stays in the system for up to 30 days; but other drugs including stimulants and opioids may only stay in the system for hours. Random drug testing may express the strength of your concerns and the extent to which you believe drug-free is best for your kid.
  • Chemical Health Assessment. This entails having your kid meet with a licensed professional to complete a comprehensive interview. These pros know that your kid may not be telling the complete truth and this factors into their assessment. The outcome is usually a set of recommendations – everything from “keep an eye on things” to a recommendation for outpatient or in-patient treatment. Usually, this conversation begins to set up a correlation between use and consequences as well as stage of readiness for change. There may be a fee for this assessment or it may be covered by insurance. Many counties offer free or sliding fee options.
  • Mental Health Evaluation (Psych Eval, for short). This entails having your kid meet with a mental health professional. It can rule out psychosis and get a sense of whether there is anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, and other common co-occurring disorders that are prevalent among young adults and substance users. Again, there may be free assessments or insurance-covered options. For our family, this was one of the most telling assessments and ultimately it led to #SoberSon going into drug treatment.

Things to keep in mind:

  • An evaluation is just a starting point.
  • An evaluation is often a baseline and there may be need for future evaluations as your kid’s use continues.
  • An evaluation is not a diagnosis per se, rather offers a set of recommendations for developing a treatment plan which will likely include additional evaluations.
  • If your kid is under the age of 18, you can set up the appointment and insist that they participate.
  • Once your kid is 18 or older, your kid must agree to participate and the “results” are not available to you unless your kids authorizes a release of the findings. This can be a true challenge for concerned parents.

Resources for more information:

Our Young Addicts – links to resources:

https://ouryoungaddicts.com/links/

An overview of screening tools (SAMSHA)

http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/screening-tools

Another overview of tools (NIDA)

https://www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed-medical-health-professionals/tool-resources-your-practice/screening-assessment-drug-testing-resources/chart-evidence-based-screening-tools-adults

Drug Testing Info: Burlington Labs

http://www.burlingtonlabs.com/

In Minnesota, two evaluations sources were particularly good for us. Google your community to find local sources.

Prairie Care

http://prairie-care.com/

Rule 25 – Chemical Assessment

http://www.resource-mn.org/chemical-mental-health/intake-assessment/rule-25/

*Our kids will always be kids no matter their age. However, in these blog posts when I use the word kid, I’m referring to young people ages 12 to 22.

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

5 Ways You Can Support Your Kid in Their Recovery

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Recovery brings new opportunities and challenges for families. Guest blogger, Carl T. , shares five ideas to help support your loved one. MWM

The risk of relapsing after you have recovered from drug addiction, never leaves entirely, however, statistics suggest that it’s more likely to occur within the first few months of recovery. Addicts feel more vulnerable, they are going through many physical and psychological changes, and they feel anxious or stressful this, if not handled properly, could end in relapse.

 

In recovery, you learn to develop coping strategies effective enough to support your sobriety; unfortunately, they take some time to settle, and on the early stages of rehab as a recovering addict there is always the further stress of the lingering withdrawal symptoms. Nevertheless, don’t lose hope, recovery is a struggle but with time it will become easier and the addict’s resolve will strengthen.

To increase the chances of avoiding a relapse, it is always important to have support from your family and loved ones, it is never easy to love an addict, but you are one of the most important keys for them to recover from substance abuse. Here are some ways you can help your loved one during their early stages of recovery:

Learn to recognize the signs of relapse

Being able to recognize the signs of relapse can help you to learn proactive steps that should be taken to avoid the addict’s temptation to go back into their old habits of using. For each person, relapse can be far more dangerous than for others.

A single trigger can send someone back down the path of destruction and it’s important to educate yourself and learn about this topic. Learning how to recognize these warnings and reaching out for support is key to a path of a healthy recovery. Some common signs can include:

  • Easily annoyed or angered
  • Increased feelings of hopelessness or negativity
  • Loss of interest in family, friends and activities that they would usually love.
  • Deliberately putting themselves in risky situations
  • Increased stress levels

Signs can vary according to each person, but if you feel that something is not right your love one, sit down and talk with them, be patient and understanding. Figure out together what their triggers can be and enforce a plan to avoid situations that could cause them to plummet back to step one. The first few months are vital and very fragile to the result of their successful recovery.

Learn to have fun

Learning how to have fun without using will be a difficult step but an incredible valuable one; be persistent and dedicate time, tolerance and as many tries as necessary so you can help your loved one to figure this out. Start simple, go to see a comedy show with your loved one, or take up exercise.  Do they enjoy photography? Encourage them to go outside and take some pictures. Maybe spring-cleaning your house is more therapeutic for your loved one.

If you have the resources, take a trip somewhere relaxing like a natural park and go see some beautiful landscapes to help them get in touch with their spiritual side. While going on a trip is always exciting, remember that it’s important to take the person that’s going through recovery to places appropriate for a recovering addict. For example, going to a beach destination is not recommended due to its high triggers for relapse due to it’s laid back, drinking lifestyle.

Whatever their idea of fun may be, learn to discover new ways that they find relaxing and are positive for their recovery.

Learn to set and complete goals

Sitting down with your loved one to talk about their recovery, their short-term goals and their ambitions after recovery could be very beneficial for both you and for them. Creating short and long-term goals, and making plans to accomplish them fully, will bring the addict motivation and determination, key roles into the path of recovery.

Learn that goal setting is an ongoing process that will continue for the rest of their lives. Focusing clearly on the life that they want to live, free of substances is important. It will push them to work and make an effort to reach the life they want to live. As silly as the goal may seem, learn to take it seriously and give your continuous support.

Learn to be proud of milestones

Support your loved one by acknowledging the progress they have. In the 12-step sober programs, anniversaries and other milestones are a big deal. 24 hours, 30 days, 60 days and 90 days all deserve to be praised for and you can learn to do it from home as well.

A great idea to show your support in a positive way is to attend families support groups, they will guide through the path of encouraging to your loved one in a way that is constructive and makes them feel succeeded.

Learn to be patient

Recovery is a long, complicated process. It is natural for people to make mistakes during their recovery and it’s important for them to know that their family and friends still support them when they slip up. Remember that addiction is an illness and not a choice.

Educate yourself, read books and consult professionals so you can understand what your loved one is going through. If your loved one relapses, know that it’s not because they’re doing it to spite you or because they are ‘weak’, but because they have an illness that needs to be treated and overcome daily.

Whether your loved one is one day or three months into their recovery path, with a bit of patience, love, support and understanding you are helping to contribute to the new healthier version of the person you care about.

Are there any tips that you feel that we left out? Please leave a comment and share them with us below.

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

Writing Through Life’s Problems

Some people write to think. Others think to write. Either way, writing is a way to work your way through whatever is on your mind. Today’s guest blogger, Williams Miko, does just that – explain how and why writing is a helpful way to move from addiction to treatment to recovery. MWM

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If you have a personal inner struggle that you fight within, it may help to start a journal about your process. In an article from PsychologyToday.com, author Gregory Ciotti explains an extensive study that followed recently fired engineers. The study separated the fired engineers into two groups. One group participated in expressive writing about their being fired while the other group did not. The results were that the engineers who participated in expressive writing were more happy and less likely to drink than the other group who did not write. This study and my addiction recovery are both proof positive that writing can help you get through life’s toughest problems.

Writing Through Recovery

Before I went to rehab for my addiction problem I did not write or journal much at all. In all reality, if it weren’t for holistic rehab centers I may not be here writing this today. My counselor insisted I continued to journal about my rehab experience and write something in it every night. It turns out the directors of these holistic rehab centers have the right idea, because it was one of the most therapeutic tasks I had to complete at rehab. I could say things that nobody else had to hear, I could vent my frustrations and talk about my emotions, after I wrote I felt relieved.

I remember after I left rehab the first few months were the worst. The days would go by slow and I had no plan for what I wanted to accomplish with my life, I just knew I couldn’t use drugs anymore.  I decided to continue my journal and that is how I was able to put a plan together for my recovery. I wrote down the things I wanted to accomplish in the short and long term, and put a plan together to get there. For me, when I wrote new goals or plans for my life, I felt inspired and motivated to complete them and remain sober, I also felt more driven and happy after writing.

When I have a bad day in my recovery I go to my journal to read old entries to remind myself how far I have came and what is in store for my future. Also, when I wanted to use I would make new entries in my journal about what I was feeling and why. After writing my emotions down I was able to identify them when they came up again in the future. Lastly, when I wrote things down I was better able to keep track of things I needed to do and complete. Writing helped me organize my entire recovery process and has played a major role in the rest of my life since I became sober.

Just Do It!

You do not have to be a great writer to journal through a difficult problem in your life. We are all not going to be published authors, but we can utilize writing as an effective tactic to deal with life’s problems. Writing paved the way for me to grow into a healthier, happier and well rounded person. The practice of writing can make you more happy as well as provide people you with structure and a positive outlet for expressing your emotions.

 About Today’s Guest Blogger

billWilliam Miko is a writer and researcher in the field of addiction and recovery. While not everyone likes to discuss this topic, it is something that must be talked about in order to solve our problems we face with addiction in society. When not working you may find William at your local basketball court.

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.

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.