Peanut Butter & Jelly Recovery

Food, nutrition and eating habits are important to parents. We want to feed our kiddos the things we perceive as the healthy stuff. That’s often influenced by our own upbringing, other parents, the media or even social-media posts that purport the be-all, end-all expertise.

Let’s face it. In infancy, we have control – or choice – over what our children are eating: formula or breast milk. When they are ready for solid foods, we start by spoon feeding rice cereal and then advance to other cereals, fruits, vegetables and perhaps meats. Later come the finger foods: Cheerios, Saltine Crackers, slices of banana … you remember how it goes. That’s the way it’s always been done, so it must be right.

At some point, our kids either become adventurous or picky in their eating, and from that point forward, we have influence but very little control. They are growing, maturing and making decisions on their own.

My son was somewhere in the middle between adventurous and picky. He liked a variety of foods but had his go-to favorites. When he was in high school, he dated a young woman whose family was from Afghanistan. I was amazed at the variety of foods that he tried without hesitation, out of respect for her mom, and ended up finding that he enjoyed these unfamiliar ingredients. At home, he might have turned up his nose if I’d served those same ingredients.

Let me relate this back to addiction and recovery.

During addiction, my son’s appetite and diet changed significantly. Part of this had to do with the change in activity – from playing on a varsity sports team to leading a somewhat sedentary and transient lifestyle. Some of this had to do with periods of homelessness, when he was part of group-living environments, or simply when he had no money. Some of this had to do with choosing or needing the drugs more than food.

From reading this blog, you know that our family reached out to my son daily and that he joined our family every week of so for meals. Ravished, he’d eat just about whatever I had prepared. It made me feel good to fill his tummy with nutritious, home-cooked foods, and as my husband wisely pointed out, it nourished his wounded brain. We hoped it might provide a teeny, tiny spark of possibility that he’d make a wise decision toward help for sobriety and recovery.

In time, yes. Interestingly, as he stopped using drugs – especially constipating opioids – he found that he couldn’t eat everything that he wanted to. Many foods, including lifelong favorites, no longer agreed with him.

Recovery Routine

These days he leads a fairly disciplined and routine lifestyle: college classes, work, going to the gym, taking the family dog on “adventures,” reading and watching TV/playing video games. He still loves a nightly bowl of ice cream or a big ‘ol burrito from Chipotle, but his go-to meal is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As #SoberSon says, “Why mess with what’s working?”

I’ve stopped buying foods he used to like or things I think he might want. Instead, he puts a limited number of things on the list – ingredients for non-dairy fruit smoothies and whole wheat bread, peanut butter and grape jelly. If I buy other foods, these will likely sit untouched; so, I don’t. More often or not, he stops at the grocery store on the way home to pick up the items he needs and takes pride in paying for his own food with hard-earned money from his job.

In many ways, this sums up recovery for parents and twenty-something kids:

  • Support without enabling
  • Provide options without bias or judgement
  • Be open to their choices and preferences
  • Drop preconceived ideas of what’s right or best
  • Love unconditionally
  • Find peace and happiness in “what works”

#SoberSon will soon be two-years sober and in recovery, so Midwestern Mama asks, “Why mess with PB&J?”

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

The Ride

Print

With a son currently in treatment for drug addiction, this week’s guest blogger Charma Carpenter shares a story of recovery – in progress. It’s a “ride” many of us are on yet is full of hope that the ride is going in the right direction. MWM.

When my son first started using drugs, I was in denial and believed everything he told me. His eyes were red because he couldn’t sleep; he was acting differently because of his migraines.

Once I opened myself to the fact that my son was an addict, I isolated myself. I had no one to talk to about his addictions, and didn’t know what to say anyway. It’s not easy talking about your son if it isn’t about his accomplishments on the team or in the classroom or at work. I was drowning myself in tears and suffocating in my own isolation.

Once his name became a repeated name on the local radio and in the local newspapers, I put on the badge of humiliation for years. The stigma that attaches itself to “the parent of…” brought about more shame and guilt than I ever knew existed. As I worked through these feelings, I became aware that I held the same stigma. The reason I was feeling guilt was because I too, felt that addicts came from bad families. Add another medal of humility to my daily wardrobe.
Some people avoided me, almost like I was contagious. Others were more nosy than a reporter for a trash magazine. Still others pretended that nothing was different. I had too many other things going on with my other children to address any of it.

I just kept it all inside, while my mind was screaming, “Please, someone ask me about ME! Someone please, just tell me what to do!”

Years went by and I tried to reject the feelings of guilt and shame. They were no longer a part of my daily wardrobe, but I would still drape them over my shoulders every once in a while.

I would receive wedding invitations or baby announcements from young adults that had gone to high school with my eldest son, and the curtain of depression would engulf me.

This is what my son should be doing with his life now! Instead he was couch-surfing and drug seeking and looking worse EVERY time I saw him.

If only we could get him into rehabilitation. If only the time spent in jail would be long enough to take the cravings away. If only he would listen to what we parents were telling him! Guilt and shame were replaced with anger and frustration. I wore those emotions for many years! And those articles of emotions would come out of no where on some days. I would attack anyone who was around when the anger flashed through my mind and erupted.

I finally began to journal my emotions so I could try to gain some control of myself.

I began to read and study the Bible. And yet, the roller coaster continued to take twists and turns I was not ready for. I still worried and stressed, but the more I read the Bible, the more at peace I felt. I began to understand that God was in control, not me. I committed my son to the Lord and slowly began to get involved with activities again.

I broke the silence of my son’s addiction.

I began talking about it with members of my church. I began bringing up the topic at family functions, to avoid the awkwardness other family members were feeling. I opened myself up to the emotions and let the tears fall freely. And I leaned on God even more. I now had people from my church praying for my son and my family. I had a strong support group that realized addiction is a family disease. It affects the entire family.
I joined Nar-anon online and I’m re-learning how to take care of me. I am letting go of my control issues and allowing God to be in control. I am admitting out loud that my son has an addiction, and that does not make him a bad person.
And yet the roller coaster flips upside down again. My son chose to enter rehabilitation on his own. He entered after being in jail for three months, and has been there for four months. He is clean, learning coping skills, and working. But now the stress of graduation is upon him. He is worried about getting a job and a place to live upon graduation. And he is still just a crawler when it comes to handling stress and anxiety without the comfort of drugs. And the helplessness is trying to overtake my wardrobe. It is emotionally challenging to listen to my adult son crying on the phone because he is so stressed out. I continue to encourage and praise and yet my heart finally admits that graduation of rehab will not be the end of the ride.
I did not get on this ride by my choice. I do not like the ride. I am never going to be able to fully unbuckle and step away from this ride. In one way or another, I will be on this ride for the rest of my life. But I have learned to slow it down.

I have learned to embrace the good thrills that are on this ride: The strength in the hugs I get when I visit him; the smile that shines from his eyes when he teases his little brother; and the healthy look that reflects his hard work.

My son chose to use drugs the first time. My son became addicted. My son chose rehab. I chose to enable out of concern. I chose to let go of the control. I chose to take care of me and slow the ride down.

My son and I are both in recovery. And we are learning to take each day one beautiful moment at a time.

The author of the book, Just Commit Me, Charmla Carpenter lives in rural Iowa. She and her husband have three sons in three totally different places in life: One in rehab, one in grad school, and one in elementary school. Charm’s faith keeps her focused on living each day in honor of God. Follow her on Twitter @charmcarp1

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.

 

Serenity Summer

Parenting a young addict is exhausting – emotionally and physically. Serenity is the solution, but achieving that takes some effort. Midwestern Mama shares a summer approach to finding serenity amid chaos.

Summer conjures up leisure time and taking a break from routine.

A few summers back, I was exhausted. The past few years had been a whirlwind with our teenage son’s addiction.

There had been broken curfews and late nights trying to figure out where he was (which was never where he said he’d be). There had been sleepless nights when he didn’t return at all. There had been morning alarm clocks that reminded us that we still had a younger son to wake up for school and for us to get ready for work. There had been unexpected but no longer surprising phone calls from the high school telling us our son had skipped classes and that he was at risk for not graduating –and a last-ditch (and successful) effort that allowed him to graduate.

As the chaos continued and the drug problem prevailed, there was more arguing and even more energy-draining efforts to convince him he needed help.

He finally decided to go to college in January that year to escape the stupid rules at home, which included being drug free and not bringing drugs or paraphernalia into the house. The very first weekend at college, he took pills, smoked weed and drank alcohol to the extent that he passed out in the snow. This landed him in the ER and detox. Everything spiraled from here and we were at our wits end.

It’s not that we couldn’t keep on doing what we’d been doing – it’s that we declared that we wouldn’t keep on doing it. I had been holding it all together trying to address the problem while trying to fulfill my other obligations. It was time to get some help – for me, and in turn for the rest of the family.

In searching a database of therapists on Psychology Today, I found an exceptionally good fit – someone who had experienced addiction and recovery first hand. Through conversations, some of which offered guidance on how to help my son and many of which focused on how to help myself, I started on a path to find and practice serenity.

One of things I did was find an Al-Anon group. Mine happened to be called Steps to Serenity. Each meeting, along with readings and a member-led discussion, we also said the Serenity Prayer. Although I was familiar with the verses, I had never really applied it to my life or thought about its meaning.

The Serenity Prayer in and of itself became a calming mantra, and I repeated it with heart and soul many times throughout the days and nights ahead. In many ways, it prompted me to embrace spirituality in new ways.

Additionally, I began studying the basics of meditation and the writings of Buddha. Both brought me a sense of peace amid chaos.

During summer 2011, I was searching for meaning and purpose in order to make sense of our son’s addiction and of my life at that point, which until then I considered just fine. It was difficult to think straight and I was beginning to stress with what my goal really was –I had always led a goal-centered life.

Then it hit me! My goal was to have no goal – at least for the summer. It took all the pressure off me to put things into perspective.

Here’s what I did: I blocked off each Friday afternoon for the entire summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day. From 1 p.m. until whenever, I sat outside. With a journal and a stack of books. These were everything from philosophy and poetry to religion. I would read a bit, write a bit, and just sit.

In quieting my mind, a sense of calmness returned. It was entirely different from the calm, cool-headedness that I had before when trying to manage our son’s addiction. Instead, this was serenity.

From there, all manner of new ideas surfaced. I seemed to have a better sense of what to do, what to say, what not to do, what not to say, when to act and when to wait. It was amazing and transformative.

Through this renewal, I felt inspired – even compelled – to begin writing about our experience of parenting a young addict. And, I felt like reaching out to other parents to share experiences, resources and hopes.

The outreach spawned a community of parents and professionals manifesting as Our Young Addicts. Today, I am awed by the power of quieting one’s mind in order to find a better way forward. I am grateful for that summer of serenity.

©2016 Our Young Addicts           All Rights Reserved

#TBT – Denial – No Way!

Back in 2011, our son hit another bottom but still wasn’t ready or willing to go to treatment. The drugs had a grip on him. We sought guidance from an intervention specialist but our gut told us this was not the right person, not the right time, not the right approach. The meetings we had were such a disappointment and ended when the intervention specialist told me I was in denial about our son’s problem. Yep, me. Right. Not so. What follows is a quick vent that I typed up that afternoon … but never sent. Sometimes it’s just good to pound it out on the keyboard. Today, I thought other parents and professionals might benefit from this perspective.

Contrary to what (the intervention specialist we met with in 2011) believes, it is based on limited knowledge of me compounded by poor listening skills. Perhaps it was a “test” of my emotional stamina, open mindedness and ability to accept feedback or how explosive I might be during an intervention if I felt attacked, but back in May I was not at 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 for my own recovery; today I am not at a 9.  My therapist, Al-Anon and the online parenting forum that I participate in — all groups who know me far more authentically — would say otherwise.

I will let go of (my son), but I will not abandon nor alienate him — he already feels these to a certain degree. I will not enable him, but I will continue to let him know the family life continues and that our home is a place of comfort and joy, which he may visit but not live as an active addict. I am modeling real love.

I am not in denial nor am I marginalizing his problem.

Midwestern Mama

 

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Are the rules the same for young addicts as adults?

Here’s a draft that I started in 2012. At that time, my son’s addiction was in full swing and getting worse. Now (in 2016), we are nearly two years into his recovery. Yet the question still seems as relevant now as it did then.

So much of the 12-step wisdom for loved ones and co-dependents feels like it’s from the perspective of a long-term, adult addict whose life has become upside down.  With an older teen to young 20-something, it seems to me the rules don’t fit so neatly.

It feels like sink or swim.  It feels like tough love.  It feels like an impasse.  It feels like abandonment by the parents at a young addict’s most vulnerable of times.  I understand love the child and hate the disease … but in letting go, detaching, etc. are we sending the wrong message — one that may be appropriate for an adult but is inappropriate for a young adult?

Brain research says that maturity and chemistry are still malleable until age 25, so it makes me wonder if we don’t need a significantly different approach in approaching treatment and recovery for young addicts than what “works” for adults.

This is something that my husband and I struggled with during our son’s addiction. In many ways Al-anon saved my life because it came along when I desperately needed serenity and through the steps I did learn and recover. However, I still needed guidance on how to parent a young addict and so much of the protocol was AA-based.

Ultimately, when we realized how close we were to a deadly overdose, we rethought our approach and embraced a more nurturing one. Mostly, with hindsight, I do not feel our earlier approach was wrong but it was very hard on all of us and I always wondered if we were doing all the right things. For our family, the nurture seemed to come at exactly the right time because it was around this time that our son finally admitted his problem, sought help and embraced recovery.

What are your thoughts?

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Parenting in Recovery

Print

Thank you to our guest blogger, Rose Lockinger, for another timely and insightful post. Addicted as a young person, she is now a parent in recovery offering an invaluable insider’s perspective. (Don’t you love her name?!)

I’m not sure if I was born an addict or not, but I can certainly look back on my childhood and see that I struggled with impulse control, self-discipline and acting out. I had a knack for spitting out whatever I thought not really thinking through if it was appropriate to say.  As I moved into adolescence, I discovered substances like food and drugs and alcohol.  Eventually I found help in treatment. and found out that life in recovery was possible.

Parenting In Recovery

Most parents worry about their children, and fears around drug and alcohol use are often near the top of the list. We all know that drug and alcohol use can cause a number of very serious issues for teens. For the recovering addict who is also a parent, this is something we are acutely aware of.

Knowing that addiction is often passed down from generation to generation thanks to a combination of genetics and environment doesn’t do much to help the fear.

I think that most recovering addicts understand how important it is to address substance abuse and addiction as early as possible. Many kids begin experimenting as early as elementary school. Not only that, but many of the signs of potential trouble can begin even earlier. What does this mean? Well, kids who abuse drugs are often kids who struggle with low self-esteem, who feel as though they don’t “fit in” and who have experienced trauma or turmoil in their lives. While any kid can develop a drug or alcohol problem, these kids are particularly vulnerable, especially if they have an addicted family member.  Early intervention and treatment is key this usually starts with a drug or alcohol detox program.

Talking To My Kids About Substances And Addiction

Many parents in recovery find that their worst fears are realized when their children go down the same path that they did. My own children are still young and this is not an imminent concern at the moment but I have taken steps to mitigate the potential for problems.

I’ve done my best to educate my children, to model good behavior for them, and to talk to them about substances and addiction when it is age appropriate.   My children are still young so I am careful to make it age appropriate. I talk to them regularly about strategies they can use when they are struggling with powerful emotions and situations. For me, the most important thing is to be sure to have honest, open dialog with my kids. They need to trust me, and I need to be willing to listen. Here are some of the ways that I address this issue in my home.

If you are a parent who struggles with bringing up drugs and alcohol, don’t feel bad! It can be an uncomfortable topic, and kids sometimes get irritated or “weird” when you bring stuff like this up. Even as a recovering addict I sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about it. Practice makes perfect though — this isn’t a talk you are only going to have once! It needs to be brought up and then brought up again. Your kids are likely at their most vulnerable from 10 to 21 years of age, so it warrants more than one or two conversations.

Real Education

Education is also important. “Just say no” isn’t good enough. Kids need to have a working knowledge of drugs, what they do to the body and brain, and how substance abuse can affect them. However, scare tactics are NOT the same as education. Kids know when you are just trying to shock them into steering clear of something. Respect their intelligence. Talk to them when age appropriate about drugs and alcohol, what they are and what they can do. Don’t blow things out of proportion for shock value. Don’t make blanket statements on things like “drugs are bad” and leave it at that. Why are drugs bad? It’s important to be specific.

I’m Honest With Them, And We Talk About The Hard Stuff

They know I am a recovering addict. I am honest and open with them. I also do my best to keep open lines of communication with them, so they can talk to me about anything without fear of judgment. I let them know that I went through some hard things. And no, I don’t tell them every little detail…it’s not necessary, but I also don’t sugar coat the truth. I omit information that I feel either isn’t necessary or would be harmful to them.

Fun is important for kids and grown-ups alike

I live a clean and sober lifestyle, and I have fun! This is part of setting an example. When I was growing up, l quickly learned to associate drinking with having fun. It’s how grown ups would unwind from a day at work, how birthdays and holidays were celebrated, it’s what you did when you went to sporting events and went camping. In other words, alcohol and getting drunk were how you had fun. When I got into recovery, I had no idea how I would ever have a good time without it. I truly believe that showing kids how adults have fun sober is an important way to lead by example.

What If They Become Addicted?

Finally, it’s important to realize that despite your best efforts, your children may still struggle with substance abuse and addiction. With that in mind, it’s helpful to have a plan of action so that you can be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Many parents don’t have a good understanding of addiction. Addiction isn’t a stage, a behavior problem, a moral or character problem or something that will just go away. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so educate yourself.  If anything as parents who have addiction in their past we can be grateful that we have a an awareness of a solution and have lived that example to our children.  They can see firsthand that recovery is possible and life changing by the example we set. Early intervention is key and treatment centers that specialize in youth are available. In the end as parents you cannot control the path your child may or may not take, what you can do is support and love them to the best of your ability through whatever pain they face.

About This Week’s Guest Blogger

Rose Lockinger is 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 Rose Lockinger on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

unnamed

 

 

 

 

 

Three Simple Rules

What boundaries do you set with your young addict? Midwestern Mama reflects on her family’s “Three Simple Rules,” which proved to be anything but easy yet absolutely necessary for peace and well-being during the addiction journey.

After our young addict turned 18, and we had been through significant chaos and a few scares, we needed some boundaries. Our days and nights had turned upside down. He was coming and going as he pleased, and we knew he was up to no good.

When he would come home, I could smell the trouble. Yes, he reeked of marijuana – and the cologne he sprayed to try and mask it. I could see the trouble. His eyes were bloodshot. If I opened his backpack or checked his coat pockets, well, it was easy to know what had been going on and it was a lot more than pot.

Enough was enough.

Our college-age daughter was working full time and going to school full time – she needed to stay focused. Our elementary-age son needed a full night of sleep – and to witness fewer stressful arguments between his brother and mom and dad.

My husband and I had jobs to go to each morning. Our colleagues counted on us to be fresh.

Yep, our son’s lifestyle was dictating ours and it was not healthy for any of us.

We had had enough, but our son hadn’t. He didn’t believe he had a problem – in fact, he felt WE were the problem. (Yeah, I know, you’ve heard that, too!) He didn’t want help. He didn’t want to live at home yet he didn’t have anywhere else to live.

It was time for some clarity on the privilege of living at home and to have some healthy expectations.

We had three simple rules:

1) No drugs or paraphernalia in the house;

2) Keep family hours Sunday night through Friday morning – no coming and going, as pleased, at all hours of the night;

3) Let us know by 8 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends if he wouldn’t be coming home that evening.

More often than not, this meant he chose not to live at home during his addiction – that broke our heart to know that using trumped being at home, that sofa surfing and homeless were his decision, but these were boundaries that protected our family – including his siblings and allowed us to go on about our lives and responsibilities.

To that end, our son was ALWAYS welcome and encouraged to be part of family activities. We wanted him to know his home was there ready when he was, that the family was there for him, that our lives would continue forward and that when he was ready that his would, too.

In time, our son addressed his drug addiction, and in time, he embraced recovery. Today, he is living at home, nearly two years sober. Today our three simple rules are no longer necessary. Instead, common courtesy is the rule and it never needs enforcing because it’s simple they way we live.

No matter where you are on the addiction journey with your young adult, I encourage you to set some simple rules that support peace and well-being in your home. When recovery comes around, I predict that common courtesy will return and there will no longer be need for rules.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

A Dad’s Perspective on the Impact of Addiction

A number of years back, Midwestern Mama called a business colleague to reschedule a meeting – her son was headed to treatment and things were a bit hectic. Without hesitation, the colleague identified himself as the dad of a young addict. Since then, they’ve connected on many things related to addiction and recovery. Read this dad’s guest blog post on myriad things he has learned though his son’s addiction journey.

(Note – this was our first guest blog post in June 2015, but it’s worth reposting!)

The pain came spontaneously and naturally. Once confronted with the fact my teenage child was an addict, I moved fluently, and often without warning, among a myriad of emotions…anger, fear, confusion, sadness, hopelessness and grieving.

Healing, on the other hand, did not come naturally for me. It took time, hard work and caring people. (Nope, I couldn’t “Google” my way through this problem.)

At the advice of a trusted friend, I decided to seek out an Al-Anon meeting. The second group I visited was specifically for parents of children who were caught in the grip of this terrible disease.* This room of strangers quickly became very close to me and played a critical role in my recovery to happiness and wholeness.

One of the first things I learned in my journey was that I did not have the power to change others, but could instead, focus on what I could change…me. I’d like to share a few of the ways I have changed with the hope they may give hope to readers of this blog who, today, find themselves in a pit of despair.

You’ll notice the sentences below state, “I have become more ______” because I am a work in progress. I have not mastered any of these things, but have practiced them enough to reap real benefits and live a much happier life.

1) I have become more patient. Recovery for my child was going to happen in his time, not mine. Instead of praying for his sobriety, I began praying for patience, and that made all the difference.

2) I have become more compassionate to others. To steal a lyric from R.E.M., everybody hurts. Pain is not limited to the parents of addicted children or the addicts themselves. I began to interact with my family, clients, co-workers, neighbors, friends, and the woman at the checkout counter with the assumption they are doing the best they can, and that made all the difference.

3) I have become more truthful. Let’s face it, life has tons of grey areas and I for one, have used this countless times for my own benefit. But instead of covering my butt when I made a mistake or when my actions were a little south of honest, I began admitting my shortcomings and asking for forgiveness, and that made all the difference.

4) I strive to be more humble. I’ve had an amazing career and have enjoyed a fair amount of success. Acknowledging that these gifts are from God, and turning my energies away from my selfish desires to focus more on the needs of others has made all the difference.

5) I have become more grateful. There was a time when it seemed “everyone” else had what I wanted… a better job, a bigger house… and most importantly, healthy and happy children. Then I stopped comparing, and that made all the difference.

The lessons I have learned have helped me through many issues in the past few years, from dealing with my addicted child**, to losing my business*** to receiving a diagnosis of cancer.**** Someone once told me that God never wastes pain. I hope this blog serves as evidence to this truth and you discover how hard work, patience and trusted friends can make all the difference.

* I was the only male at the first support group I visited. That group was comprised of about 15 women who spent the entire hour ripping apart their husbands and boyfriends. I was tempted to sneak back and swap out the “Welcome to Al-Anon” sign posted outside room 102 in the church basement to read, “Welcome to the What’s Wrong With Men meeting”.

** Today my son is happily married and runs his own business. And as far as I know, sober.

*** The day I closed the doors to my business was tremendously sad. But since then, all of my employees have landed great jobs and I have successfully re-invented my professional self.

**** I am so fortunate that, because of modern medicine (not symptoms) my cancer was discovered. And because of my amazing doctors I have been cancer-free for over a year and feeling great!

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Spring Break, Part Two: New York State of Mind

A couple of times a year, my business takes me to New York City – a complete departure from my Midwestern roots or my vacation travels with family to the mountains or beach.

 

It’s exciting in the city. Sometimes it’s a new deal, a new connection, a new idea. I always return home and to work with a fresh perspective and commitment. This kind of excitement is energizing.

 

However, sometimes the city stirs up drama-filled excitement. Let me revise that, sometimes when I’ve been in the city, drama ensues on the home front. That, I can do without. That kind of excitement is exasperating.

 

This trip to New York City, my husband and youngest son are accompanying me just as they did five years ago. They have plans to attend a sporting championship while I have business commitments. It works out nicely because it’s our youngest son’s spring break this week, so he gets a little vacation and I get to have loved ones with me in the hotel each evening.

 

When we took this trip five years ago in January, we had no idea the turn of events that was about to take place. Sober Son had just started college the week before. We hadn’t heard from him and he wasn’t responding to calls or texts. My mom radar was pinging. Loudly. Frequently. Something was up.

 

This was the weekend that he passed out from partying, mind you his very first weekend at college. He didn’t just pass out, he passed out in the snow in subzero temperatures and ended up in the ER and detox.From there everything unraveled, and it was hardly held together as it was.

Deep in our hearts we knew his drug use was a problem, but this was one of the most telling incidents and the one that truly changed to an addiction trajectory we never imagined.

 

This was scary for each and every one of us: Dad, mom, big sister, little brother. And for Sober Son who could never have predicted what would happen next. I won’t rehash what led up to this or the unfolding story that became our lives for the next few years, but I will say that I will always, always, always remember this turn of events and the state of mind that accompanied the addiction days.

 

Before the drama revealed itself, we had enjoyed a weekend of shows, meals, shopping and sightseeing. It made a big impression on our youngest, who has always wanted to return to New York City for another go of it. I’m so glad he’s getting that opportunity.

 

Gratefully, life has changed a great deal for our family since that trip to New York City five years ago. Sober Son completed a treatment program (not his first, second or third – it does take time and readiness). He is back in college, working part time and living at home. He’s nearly two-years sober and is successfully embracing recovery. The two of us just enjoyed a wonderful trip to Las Vegas over his spring break last week.

 

Who would have thought that we’d have so much confidence again in his future and so much trust in him? The addiction days were horrific. The trust was nonexistent. The outlook was grim.

 

My prediction for this trip is nothing short of exciting, and by that I mean fun for all. I’m excited to share the New York experience once again with my husband and youngest son, and I’m worry free when it comes to Sober Son who will enjoy the independence and responsibility of taking care of the house and dog while going on about his class and work schedule.

 

My hope for readers of this blog post is that it keeps alive a belief:

  • That sobriety and recovery are possible even when it seems improbable;
  • That sobriety and recovery can find their way to your family even when it has proven elusive to date; and,
  • That sobriety and recovery will re-establish a foundation for the future when the foundation at present may have crumbled beyond recognition.

Admittedly, it’s so hard when you’re stuck in the muck of addiction to realize that better times may well be ahead. Just like the Big Apple itself, it takes a (New York) state of mind to know that anything is possible.

Wishing you the best for a wonderful spring break,

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Dear Mom and Dad, (rerun)

Dear-Mom-and-Dad

Last night, our local school district hosted the second of a three-part series on substance use among teens. Parents and guardians asked many questions and our panel of experts, which included professionals working with students as well as former students now in recovery and parents. Our responses were heartfelt and honest – there was not much sugarcoating, but I do think there was spirit of hope and helpfulness. For all the adults out there concerned about a love one’s use, I am re-posting one of our guest blogs from the summer; it is written as a letter from a young man in recovery to his parents. Click on the link below. I believe you will find wisdom and hope to guide you forward.

https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/alcohol/

Wishing you and your family the best,

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

The News No One Wants

friendship-1081843_1920

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

How Can Meditation Help Parents To Cope With Their Child’s Addiction?

Print

Today’s guest blogger is Marco Sterling, who has provided a comprehensive guide to meditation. When we are caught up in the turmoil of a loved one’s addiction, it’s often hard to embrace the simplicity and empowerment that meditation can bring; yet, meditation is the cornerstone of our own self care, serenity and recovery. Thank you, Marco, for sharing this invaluable information including a variety of links.

A seemingly endless cycle of internal ranting, worrying, and despair often accompanies the parents of addicts in their daily lives, compounding their difficulties, and jeopardizing both health and peace of mind. Restoring balance and peace of mind can be achieved by stepping back from the daily internal struggle of “what if…,” “how come she won’t…,” “why didn’t I…”. The cycle seems uncontrollable, the troubles seem to have no answers, and the questions seem to never cease.

However, the endless cycle of uncontrollable worrying, anxiety, and stress is, in fact, the only thing we have some control over. We can choose to stop the cycle, with the understanding that it is unhealthy – we may have no control over the troubles we are worrying about, but we can take control of our worrying. If hitting the ‘off’ button seems too tough, you can learn to hit the ‘mute’ button for 20 minutes of healthy silence.

In this article, several top scientific studies confirming meditation as a successful strategy for restoring peace of mind are explored. Mindfulness and visualization in meditation are also explored, inspirational tips are provided, and some great video resources are offered to give you a loving and relaxing break from worry, stress, and anxiety.

Article Overview:

  • Part 1: What is Meditation?
    • What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?
    • What are the Different Types of Meditation?
      • Breath Meditation
      • Concentrative/Visualization Meditation
      • Receptive/Mindful Meditation
      • Reflective Meditation
      • Generative Meditation
    • Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?
      • Beginner’s Breath Meditation
      • Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation
      • Easy Walking Meditation

 

Part 1: What is Meditation?

Both an ancient and popular modern practice, meditation is a means of increasing mental concentration and physical relaxation. Although often associated with Eastern and New Age religions, in fact, almost all religions share a strong respect and appreciation for meditating on holy Scriptures as a means of increasing peace and enlightenment. While religion is not a necessary component of meditation, your personal system of beliefs may easily be incorporated into your meditations.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?

Practicing meditation brings relief from worry and stress, promoting a calmer outlook on life. Stanford University neuroscientists report that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation reduces brain activity related to fear and anxiety. Harvard’s Sara Lazar further confirms that mindfulness meditation physically reduces the number of neurons in this same worry-triggering area of the brain.

According to the University of New Hampshire’s Office of Health Education, the benefits of meditation are many, including:

  • Decreased stress
  • Decreased depression
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer cravings for alcohol and tobacco
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased spontaneity
  • Higher levels of energy
  • Increased exercise tolerance
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Better concentration
  • Better relationships with others

What are The Different Types of Meditation?

The following meditations were written and produced by the University of New Hampshire for the Health Services project “Reflections: Meditative Practice for College Students“:

Breath Meditation — Focusing your mind on the rhythm of your breathing becomes a simple and natural meditation. Notice your breathing becoming deeper and slower as you settle into the peacefulness, your mind becoming calm and self-aware.

Concentrative/Visualization Meditation — Many people find it helpful to focus the mind by visualizing images or ideas. Focus on breathing to relax and then engage your imagination, for example, to promote healing energy flowing through your body. A specific image or sound (mantra) may be the focus during this meditation, further helping to quiet your mind. Mantras can be spiritual or other comforting sounds, words, or phrases, which you repeat softly and rhythmically, while you meditate.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDLuip5Bb3o

Receptive/Mindful Meditation — During this form of meditation, your mind becomes attentive, or receptive, to sensations, smells, feelings, thoughts, images, and experiences without judging, reacting, or processing the experience. This helps train the mind to become calm and clear while learning to achieve a non-reactive state of mind.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaEeXsDEwEo

Reflective Meditation — This method of meditation is used for gaining deeper enlightenment by reflecting deeply upon an interesting question, compelling idea, fascinating characteristic, sacred scripture, classic quote, or another inspiring concept.

Generative Meditation — Focusing on a specific quality, such as love, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, patience, etc., this form of meditation is used to consciously cultivate, or generate, that quality within you. Continuing into your daily walk of life, generative meditation encourages you to further nurture this quality while thinking, speaking, and acting, as though this quality is already fully alive in you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM

Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?

In the beginning, meditation may be more easily learned while lying down or sitting somewhere peaceful, quiet, and comfortable. There are no right or wrong ways to meditate, so be compassionate and patient with yourself while you discover your own way. Give yourself time to practice clearing your mind, learning how to relax, and discovering how to just “be”.

Beginner’s Breath Meditation

Learning to focus on your breathing will teach you the oldest and easiest form of meditation.

  1. Sit down somewhere peaceful and comfortable.
  2. Gently close your eyes, close your mouth, and breathe in through your nose.
  3. Breathe in deeply, filling your abdomen with air.
  4. Open your mouth slightly and breathe out peacefully, exhaling until you’ve emptied your lungs.
  5. Continue inhaling and exhaling this way, focusing on your breath. If counting your breaths helps you focus on them, this is fine. The idea is to use this focus to clear the clutter from your head, becoming mindful of only your breathing. Continue for two or three minutes in the beginning and work up to longer periods.

Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation

A common mindful breathing meditation technique involves reciting a relaxing “script,” for example, “Breathing in, I relax. Breathing out, I smile.” Using visualization, or focusing on an object, can also be helpful during mindful breathing meditation. For example, look at the blue sky after sitting down comfortably, and breathe in, saying, “Breathing in, I see the blue sky.” Then, while breathing out, recite, “Breathing out, I smile at the blue sky.” Now your breathing becomes one with the blue sky, the source of your air as well as your mindfulness.

Continue mindful breathing meditation, visualizing yourself relaxing into the experience. Become mindful of your physical state of peace and inner calm.

Easy Walking Meditation

Walking meditation takes the concept of mindfulness with you while you walk. While being aware of every breath you are taking, add to that an awareness of every step. Now you are becoming one with the air you are breathing as well as the contact between you and the earth. Focus on the sensation of each foot as it connects with the ground. Keep your gaze forward and try not to let your attention wander, but return your focus always to your inhaling, exhaling, left foot, right foot, as you experience this peaceful, calming relationship with earth and sky.
(“Meditation” by Moyan Brenn, Flickr)

Learning to Appreciate Your Center

One of the greater benefits of meditation is learning to detach yourself from external forces over which you never had any control. Learning to focus your mind on what actually “is” will allow you to release your mind’s focus on what “is not.” The negative habit of focusing on, or worrying about, troubles you have no control over will become replaced with a new, positive habit of clearing the worries from your mind.

Your new and ever-deepening awareness of yourself and your surroundings can promote a sense of balance, a centeredness which becomes a new foundation from which you will develop new relationships. With regular practice, meditation will help you maintain your center when life’s situations try to throw you off-balance.

And, in those times when you find yourself pulled off-balance by overpowering events and situations, meditation will help return you home, to your quiet, calming peace of mind.

Author Bio Marco Sterling - guest blogger - meditation 2-17-16

I am a former mid-level advertising executive who had the unfortunate experience with drug and alcohol abuse. My experience is similar to others and in going through it I realized how precious life really is. My aim is to help as many people as possible who are going through the same struggle. I currently serve as the Chief Editor for www.PaloRecovery.com and I hope that you will visit and find value in the topics I write about.

 

 

 

Puppy Love at First Sight

Midwestern Mama celebrates a wedding anniversary, her son’s continued sobriety, and the puppy that has brought incredible healing to the family.

Welcome Home Puppy

Three years ago on our 25th wedding anniversary, a neighbor was taking care of a Golden Retriever puppy and asked if we’d like to meet it. This adorable little fluff ball needed a home. Without hesitation, my husband and I offered to adopt the puppy. Our neighbor was thrilled and said she’d make arrangements with the owner the next day.

We were getting a puppy! Until recently, our family life with school, sports and work schedules did not lend itself to having a puppy. Now, however, we had a bit more flexibility and believed this was an ideal time to add a puppy to the mix.

The next morning, my husband purchased puppy chow and a soft bed. We texted the neighbor and didn’t hear back. We waited. Then we got the call that the owner had already promised the puppy to someone else; our neighbor was sorry to share this message.

We had geared up for this exciting new adventure only to have it end before it even started.

Without hesitation, my husband looked online at puppy adoption through our local animal humane society. There among the puppies was an adorable, 14-week-old with white fur and black markings. So cute, so loving, we knew he would be adopted in a heartbeat.

We arrived at the animal humane society the moment it opened. Upon meeting the puppy, we knew this was the one. There was something extra special about him and we brought him home.

Our 12-year-old son had just gotten back home from a sleepover when we pulled in the driveway with the puppy. Love at first sight.

Later that day, we texted our 20-year-old son hoping to reach him from wherever he might be in whatever state of high he might be in. We didn’t tell him why he should return home, but said we really wanted to see him. A few hours later, he showed up and met the puppy. Love at first sight.

These were the days when our son was working an overnight shift at a local Perkins. He had been living with us again for a few months and was participating in an out-patient treatment program – although his attendance and commitment was anything but engaged. He was using, lying, stealing, and living in a fog. It was one of the many chapters of his devastating drug addiction.

But upon meeting the puppy, we observed a softening. Our son’s caring, compassionate, loving self was visible. Although the turmoil of addiction – including homelessness – continued for another year and a half, having the puppy at home was always a welcome reason for him to stop and see the family. The puppy became a connection point for our family, and our young addict and the puppy developed a strong and special bond. (The puppy even ‘wrote’ a letter to our son and attended an intervention with family and friends.)

When our son moved back home and committed to treatment, sobriety and recovery, the puppy was the best therapist ever. Best friends.

As my husband and I celebrate our 28th anniversary this weekend, and our son’s 18 months of sobriety, we are forever in awe of the role that our puppy has played in healing our family. Love at first sight, indeed.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

What are you going to do?

Early in our son’s addiction journey, I was having a conversation with the parents of another kid who was using drugs with our kid. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “What are you going to do?” In essence, she resigned herself to believing there was NOTHING she could do to stop her son’s use and its devastating effects.

I was flabbergasted the first time she said this. A few years later, she said it again. Oh my.

On the flip side, my husband and I were proactive and vigilant from day one – from the day we noticed he was struggling (and not yet using). To the day we discovered he was using. To the day we got him to treatment (the first time). To the day he ran away and relapsed. To the day … To the day … To the day …

We were committed to understanding and helping him from the first day and every day after that until he ultimately chose sobriety and committed to recovery. It was not an easy path for him or for us – addiction never is, and it impacts each and every family member and friend.

Some days, I wished I could stop thinking about the situation, and I’m sure there were lots of days that family and friends wished I would stop talking about our son’s addiction. Come on, get over it, right? Nope.

Instead, we interpreted and lived by the ever-famous Serenity Prayer, with our own family-friendly practice of it.

Why? Because I was resolute in believing that NOTHING was not an option. That SOMETHING would work. That there was PLENTY that we could do.

Years later, that mom is still convinced there is nothing she can do. Her son is still struggling with addiction and mental health, and she and the rest of her family are suffering from co-dependency.

So what can a parent do? Here are some thoughts on how you might answer the question: “What are you going to do?”

Talk about it. Addiction is a heavy subject, so keeping a loved one’s addiction to yourself will take its toll. As soon as you share with someone what you’re dealing with, you’re likely to find out that you are not alone and that they have experienced something similar. That’s just how widespread and rampant addiction is – just about everyone knows someone who has struggled with it. So open up and see where the conversation goes. Chances are you’ll feel better, and as soon as you start feeling better then everyone connected to you – including your young addict – will reap the benefits.

Learn about it. As you talk about addiction, you’ll start learning more. The conversation will probably lead you to resources – places to call, websites to check out, programs to visit, books to read. There is no shortage of information out there about addiction. Most of it’s good, solid information. Take in as much as you can and you’ll begin to figure out what’s true and helpful for you and your situation. All this knowledge will empower you to make better decisions as you continue to experience your loved one’s addiction. It will never hurt to be a bit smarter about something as complex as addiction.

Collect resources. Through all this talking and learning, you will find many resources. Explore each one. Sometimes it may seem that a resource has little to offer you, but in the months and years ahead, the situation may change and an initial resource may become just the thing you need. I kept a notebook with me at all times to write down names, numbers, organizations, URLs and more. It was helpful to have these resources available during our journey, and often in future conversations I would be able to pass along details to others who needed the information. I also plugged a lot of information into the notes application on my phone so that I always had the info I needed at my fingertips. Let me tell you, this saved us many times when chaos and crisis ensued.

Pay attention. Addiction is progressive. That means that things continue to change. Sometimes the changes are subtle, barely noticeable, but keep your five senses alert. What do you see? Smell? Hear? Feel? Taste? And do not forget about the sixth sense, what I refer to as Mom Radar – what do you feel in your gut? These are the clues that keep us tuned into what is happening with our young addict, and are the ones that keep us ready for whatever happens next. (See a blog post about The Five Senses: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/2015/04/07/the-nose-knows-a-common-sense-guide-to-recognizing-drug-and-alcohol-use-among-young-adults/)

Take notes. Because so much happens so quickly, write it down or you will forget it. Also, our young addicts are often manipulative, lying and stealing. Sorry, yes, this is what addiction does to them. To keep my own sanity, I would write things down. Dates. Details. Conversations. Etc. It’s amazing how addiction days and nights all start to run together, so having notes helped me when we were talking with counselors and treatment professionals – this way I had context and facts instead of fuzzy, emotionally-laden recollections.

Set boundaries. All of the tips above may have you thinking that you have to be immersed in your kid’s addiction 24/7/365. In a way, yes; in many ways, no. You’ve no doubt heard about setting boundaries, and let me say, this is 100 PERCENT NECESSARY. Determine what is best for you, your marriage, your family, your kid, your situation and set clear boundaries. These may change from time to time, and that’s OK, but always be clear about what you’re willing to accept and do or not do.

For our family, it was three simple things: 1) No drugs or paraphernalia allowed in our home, which also meant not being high at home 2) Keep family hours and sleep at home on weeknights – home by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. 3) Let us know by 10 p.m. on weekends if you’re not coming home. Your boundaries may be different, but given a younger child in the household plus two parents with job commitments, this is what we needed. Other boundaries had to do with what we would and wouldn’t pay for, no longer allowing our son to have a key to the house, and revoking his driving privileges. See, things changed along the addiction path.

Practice self-care. Likely, you’ve also heard about self care. Because addiction is 24/7/365, it is absolutely critical that you take care of yourself. Live your life. Find an outlet – something like Al-anon, a support group or therapist. And, by all means, pursue your interests – reading, exercise, a hobby, etc. These are refreshing and energizing. (See two blog posts about self care: https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/self-care/)

Stay in touch, keep reaching out. Sometimes it’s hard to stay in touch with a loved one who is using. Perhaps they have moved out. Perhaps they don’t come home all that often. It’s incredibly hard to know if and when you’re going to see or talk to them. No matter what, staying in touch to the extent that you can is important. It lets your loved one know you are there and ready … when they are. Whether a post-it note on their bedroom door, a text message, a voicemail or stopping by some place that they hang out, always make an effort to connect with your young addict.

During one of the more intense periods in our son’s addiction, when he was exceptionally angry with us and in utter denial about his addiction, I decided the best thing I could do was text him his horoscope from the newspaper each morning! It was a benign message from mom. Sometimes he’d respond – and I’d know he was alive. Sometimes he’d tell me to knock it off – and I’d know I’d reached him even if he wasn’t receptive. Sometimes, and this was hard, he wouldn’t respond and I know I needed to prepare for the worst. Usually, however, he’d surface within a few days and I’d have a sigh of relief.

More importantly, we continued to reach out and include our son in family activities even if he chose not to participate. It let him know we cared and considered him a vital part of our family. (This seemed to be a key strength when he finally chose sobriety and committed to recovery – today, his family ties are as strong if not stronger than ever!)

Connect with others. Parenting a young addict is overwhelming, lonely, scary, intense … you name it. But you are not alone. Way too many of us have been on this path. Together, we can help each other forward. Find us in your neighborhood, your school, your church. Find us online with Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We are out there and if you ask, we will IMMEDIATELY embrace you because we know what it’s like.

Share your experience. Each day in, which seems like an eon, you’re a day wiser and a day stronger. Through your experience, you now have something to offer the next parent going through their kid’s addiction, so please, please, please, share your experience. Together, we can and will make a difference.

What are you going to do? PLENTY, that’s what!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

Thanksgiving Blessing for Young Addicts, their Families & Friends

Four years ago on Thanksgiving, Midwestern Mama began writing a column on addiction and parenting for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It included  this Thanksgiving blessing:

Great Spirit,

In this season of Thanksgiving, my blessings are plenty and my hope is eternal. Bless the addicts, their families and friends, who pray they will know brighter days ahead.Days when passion, goodness, potential and wisdom will again guide their lives. Days when there is triumph over addiction. Days when the people we once knew return. Days when they believe we’re on their side and would help in any way we could.

Days when they will know they always have been and always will be loved.

Peace,

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Making Sense of Signals

How do we know that another person is parenting a young addict? What signals do we give? Midwestern Mama explores the subtle ways we communicate and the important connections we make when we share that we know addiction.

Confession: As a high school student in the early ‘80s, I tried marijuana. It’s entirely possible but I may be the only person on earth to say I did not like it in the least. I actually tried to like it, but after a couple months of trying I gave it up declaring it just wasn’t for me.

That’s not say I didn’t continue to hang around high school friends who used marijuana regularly. It’s also not so say that I didn’t engage in some teenage and college drinking; for whatever reason, my “experimentation” was just that and it didn’t manifest as addiction in any sense.

Decades later, with a high school kid of my own, experimentation with drugs and alcohol went in a vastly different direction. My teenager became an addict almost immediately, and I gained a whole new understanding of substance use … addiction … mental health … treatment … relapse … recovery, and a whole lot more in between.

As much as I have learned, there remains so much I do not know – in general as well as specific to my son’s experience. Most of the unknowns I have accepted. The past is the past. I do, however, have curiosity and I have to remind myself whether that knowledge has any great purpose. I also realize, that the missing pieces may reveal themselves at some point in the future, if my son chooses to share and if it’s meant to be.

Even still, I have questions. For example, even for the extent to which I experienced drugs, personally and vicariously through my son, one thing I never figured out is the communication style that drug users use. How do they determine if someone else is a user? How do they find out if someone has something to share or sell? What is the language and what are the signals that that they use?

I may never know these things and I’m OK with that. It’s interesting, but not particularly useful. Save for sharing knowledge with other parents and as my son continues in recovery, I hope I never need to know the language or signals.

It occurs to me, however, that parents of young addicts also develop a language and set of signals.

Just the other day, I met a former colleague for coffee. As we caught up on careers, she mentioned that her 17-year-old son had given them some “challenges” the past few years. That’s an ambiguous statement. It doesn’t specify anything yet neither does it invite nor discourage any follow-up questions – unless you are a completely nosy person or a parent who has experienced your own ambiguous “challenges.” Instead, the ambiguity either goes without notice or it hangs there waiting to see if the other parent will pick up on something.

Acknowledging that we’d had challenges with our son in recent years, I gently asked if she cared to share what kind of challenges.

Quietly but without hesitation, she said, “Addiction.”

And, without hesitation, I said, “Oh my goodness, my son, too,” adding – to give her hope, “he’s now one year sober.”

You can imagine the rest of the conversation as we shared our experiences. It was refreshing to connect with another parent who understood what it’s like to have a young addict in the family. We listened to each others stories, empathized and validated feelings, and we exchanged ideas on what had worked and what hadn’t. All of a sudden, we had a new appreciation for each other and a renewed sense of our parenting roles not to mention additional hope and belief in the possibility of recovery for our sons.

What’s interesting about this scenario is that it is increasingly common. It seems I’m having this conversation more and more often. A part of me is glad that we are talking about our kids’ addiction and connecting rather than going it alone. At the same time, a part of me is sad that there is a seemingly rising number of families dealing with young adults substance use – too many kids are using and becoming addicted.

It got me wondering about what is the language and what are the signals that someone is parenting a young addict? I always used the phrase, “our son is taking a detour right now.” This was a nice way of saying, he was not doing what other kids his age were doing ,i.e., he’s not in college, he’s homeless, he’s addicted to drugs including heroin, he lies and steals, he sells his plasma to get money for food and drugs.

Yuck, who wants to say those things even if they are true? Instead, we test the waters with a catch phrase. Some people don’t pick up on the ambiguity and the conversation proceeds without addressing it. Other people do pick up on it, and it’s an opportunity for them to choose whether to engage.

The language and signals may be invisible to most people, but to parents who have been there or are still there with their kids, these are an opportunity to connect.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Gratitude – Then and Now

With November arriving soon, Midwestern Mama is pleased to bring back the ever-successful “30 Days of Gratitude” initiative. Look for daily Twitter posts starting Nov. 1. #Gratitude2015 #OYACommunity

When your kid is in active addiction and recovery seems like a slim, distant possibility, it’s hard to embrace gratitude. Yet, the “attitude of gratitude” is a life saver as many parents will tell you.

Addiction can be all consuming for parents, family members and friends. We get wrapped up in the horrors and fear that addiction brings to our lives. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that we can’t see ANY of the good things – the things for which we are thankful.

At night, when I was wondering where my son was, what he was up to, how he was feeling, what would happen next … and more. Exhausted from worry, not to mention all the responsibilities that I shouldered during the daytime, my mind would race instead of being able to settle into much-needed rest.

During those times, I would shift my focus to think about all the good things that had happened that day. I would start with remembering the day from alarm clock to work, family time, and climbing into bed.

In reality, most of the things that I worried about with our young addict were beyond my control. In fact, some days I hadn’t even had contact with him. I could imagine what was going on (and, yes was mostly right), but I did not know for certain.

I had to learn to let go as best I could and be the best mom to our other children, the best wife and friend to my husband, the best co-worker at the office, the best teacher to my college students ,etc. By best, I don’t mean some unrealistic heroine, rather simply do the best that I could because these roles and facets of my life were important to me, and these were the very places where I could have a positive impact.

Each evening as I went to sleep during those long years of addiction, I would make the effort to think through the good things in life … and yes, say a prayer that these good things would soon apply to my young addict.

In November 2014, my son was nearly four months sober. These were some of the best days we’d experienced in a long time. In such a short time of sobriety, our family had come a long way toward recovery – his and ours. I decided that I would dedicate the month of November – Thanksgiving – to 30 Days of Gratitude on Twitter, Facebook and this blog.

The 30 Days of Gratitude (#Gratitude2014) was sensationally popular within the Our Young Addicts community, so I’m bringing it back for #Gratitude2015 and hope you will join us no matter where you may be on the spectrum of addiction and recovery. After all, there is always something for which we can be grateful.

I am eternally grateful for this community and look forward to sharing this year’s 30 Days of Gratitude with you!

Midwestern Mama

#TBT – Tips for a Strong Marriage When Pareting a Young Addict

Recently, Midwestern Mama penned an article for In Recovery magazine about the impact of a child’s addiction and recovery on the parents’ marriage, so it’s only fitting that for #TBT that we rerun a 2012 column on a similar topic. It seems the principles stand the test of time regardless of the scenario.

A Real Mom 1-23-12_ Tips for a strong marriage while dealing with addiction – Minnmoms

Lost & Found – Reconnecting with Those Who have Helped our Family through Addiction

montana-69144_1280

Along our journey through addiction, many professionals have helped our son and our family. From time to time, I reach out to let them know what has happened next – often each professional was just a brief participant.

Last night I texted a private investigator whom we hired in summer 2011 when our son had run away from a wilderness treatment center just nine days into the program, to give him a positive update.

That summer, without a phone or wallet, our son left on foot to escape treatment. He was in denial of his addiction and was not at all ready to stop using drugs. We were devastated to receive the call from his counselor and very concerned about our son’s well-being and whereabouts.

After checking in with area shelters and filing a missing person’s report with the local sheriff’s department, we had fleeting hope of finding our son and getting him back to Minnesota. A day or so later, having heard no word, we hired a private investigator.

Fortunately, this caring, young man tracked our down our son within a day. He told our son how worried we were and how much we wanted to help him. They had dinner together that night and he let him sleep at his home before getting him on board a plane for Minnesota.

While there is more to this story as you may have read in many of the old posts on this site, it was a turning point in more than one way – many of which were even more devastating. I felt compelled to reach back out to the private investigator to let him know that #SoberSon is 14 months sober, living at home, taking college classes, working part time, attending counseling, and more.

Shortly after texting him with the update, I received the nicest note back. I imagine that often people never know what happened next and must wonder if things eventually turned out all right.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts                            All Rights Reserved.

Guest Blog: The Process of Recovery

When Midwestern Mama’s son first went to treatment in 2011, she found online news articles about a young man who had attended the same program and had recently published a memoir about his experience. She emailed him and was pleasantly surprised to get a response. In the long years ahead, Midwestern Mama and Chad Hepler stayed in contact – ever grateful for his insights, support and encouragement all from a young man’s perspective. Today, Chad Hepler is a certified addiction counselor serving adolescents and their parents. Read what he has to say about the process of recovery.

Addiction and recovery is a process. A person does not become a rock bottom drug user overnight. It takes time. Just like the process of recovery.

This “process” is best explained by Prochaska & DiClemente’s five stages of change. In this article, I will examine the first two stages, precontemplation and contemplation, and how they relate to the teenage drug user. I will also discuss how parents survive this “process” of recovery.

The precontemplation stage is essentially denial. During this stage, the user does not believe there is a problem.

They are not considering change and generally do not care what you have to say in regards to their substance use.

A large percentage of users fall into this stage even when their life seems to be crumbling around them. This is the reason, insanity, is paired with addiction.

From an outsider’s perspective, it is painfully obvious the drug use is the problem, but the user just keeps on pushing.

There is no logical answer as to why a person continues to use, it’s simply insane. It’s doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Or as one of my patients said, “It’s doing the same thing over and over, knowing damn well, nothing will change.”

As an adolescent addiction counselor, I am faced everyday with the teenage drug user in the precontemplation stage. My goal is to move them from precontemplation to contemplation.

If I can help the teen reconsider their drug use, then I have succeeded. Nothing will mess up a good buzz more than a mindset of ambivalence.

Like they say in the rooms of AA, there’s nothing worse than a stomach full of booze and a mind full of AA. Sure, I would love to say my goal is long term recovery without a relapse, but quite frankly, that would be insane.

So how do the non-users maintain their sanity, while the drug user goes through this “process?” They work on themselves. They attend a self-help group, such as Alanon, Alateen, Naranon, and Families Anonymous. They get a sponsor, they work the steps, and they love and support their user’s recovery, not their addiction.

Chad Hepler is a Certified Addiction Counselor, working with adolescents for the last five years in a psychiatric hospital setting. He is also the author of two memoirs of his own addiction and recovery, Intervention: Anything But My Own Skin and Beyond Intervention: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery.