It’s been a year

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It’s been a year since we got the text.  “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I can’t stop using and I need to go to treatment.”
For 3 years we’d been struggling with the knowledge that J was using.  We had seen the “evidence.”  An empty bed in the middle of the night.  Missing plastic bottles (where did our hair products go?).  Broken pens.  Knives.  Bowls.  Parts of sockets sets that smelled like weed.  And finally the day before, missing jewelry set aside to sell.  The elephant was in the middle of the room and it finally couldn’t be ignored.  Should I be surprised?  After all we had plenty of addiction in our family.  But could this monster really be in my house?   Surprised but not surprised.
And so we began…this cycle of hope and disappointment.  More hope and more disappointment.  And so it goes.
It’s been a year of judgement.  Most harshly from ourselves.  What did we do wrong?  Maybe we should have disciplined more.  Maybe we disciplined too much.  Maybe we shouldn’t have homeschooled.  Maybe we should have homeschooled longer.  Maybe if we would have taken that trip together….Maybe we shouldn’t have let him playing video games so much when he was younger.  Maybe we should have kept him on that ADHD medication.   Maybe we should have tried more therapy sooner.   Judgement from others (real or perceived).   They didn’t teach him to say “no” to himself when he was young.  They were too permissive.  They weren’t consistent enough.  They were too strict.  They should have kept him from “those” friends.  They should have insisted that he hang out more with the “good” kids.  They should have never let him get those earrings.  They should have let him express himself more.  They should put him in this treatment, not that one.  Oh, addiction is a sin matter and should be treated that way.  He was genetically predestined from birth and he really didn’t have a prayer against the monster.
It’s been a year of waiting, wondering and praying.  Waiting for help.  Waiting for insurance.  Waiting for a bed in rehab.  Waiting for J to “decide” if he really wants to recover.  Waiting for him to come home at night.  Wondering if he is going to come home.  Praying that we don’t get a call from the police yet in a weird way praying that we will.  Praying that he’ll have some sort of wake up call.  And mostly waiting on God.  Waiting on him to pierce J’s heart.  Waiting for Him to open doors.  Waiting for Him to show us the next right decision.  Waiting for change.  In J’s life.  In my life.  Waiting.
It’s been a year of learning.  Learning that “you didn’t cause it, you chan’t change it and you can’t control it.”  Learning all the “treatment jargon.”  Detachment with love.  Letting go.  Learning way to much about THC levels, benzo’s, mollies, tar, salts and all the names of the various drugs and pills, what the police can and can’t do, juvenile courts, drug courts, public defenders, county attorney’s and judges.  Learning the in’s and out’s of insurance.   Learning about recovery, enabling and co-dependance. Learning that there are still so many misconceptions about addiction and trying to figure out what is truth and what isn’t.  Learning that’s it’s o.k. some days to sit on the couch and cry and not be able to get off of it.    Learning how to hold my tongue.  Learning that I don’t need to be right all the time.  Learning that I am right sometimes.  Learning how to set boundaries.   Learning that I have my own “stuff” I have to deal with.
Mostly it’s been a year of healing and growing.  Understanding that I can’t support anyone else unless I take care of myself.  Believing that I need to “recover”  and work my own “program.”  Sitting at the Lords feet every day, crying out to Him, sometimes in joy, mostly in desperation.   Listening as he whispers to me words of comfort and truth and power.  Soaking in the presence of my savior and accepting, truly accepting for the first time how much HE loves me.  Seeing others through the eyes of our Savior with love and compassion.  Loving the unloveable.  Forgiving the unforgivable.  And hoping when there is not hope.  Understanding that I am not God and completely and utterly giving up any notion of control to him.   Surrender.  Truly surrendering.  Laying it all at the cross.  My life.  My son’s life.  Because it is all I have to give and I have given it all.
We are here now.  A year down the road.  J is no more recovered then he was 365 days and 6 rehabs ago.   But I have changed.  Transformed really.   Today I have love.  Today I have joy.  And today I have hope.  Not in J’s recovery.  That may or may not come.  But I have hope in the great knowledge that we can grow and we can change and God’s not finished with me yet.
Pam wrote this blog 5 years ago.  Just for today, gratefully, her son is sober and working a program.

 

Pam Lanhart 

Director

Thrive! Family Support

612.554.1644

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.
©2018 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved
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A New Approach to Drug Education

Conversations about drugs and alcohol are nerve-wracking and tricky. These conversations must take place as they can impact further or future usage. Today’s guest blogger takes a fresh approach and give tips on how to approach the tough conversations. MWM

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Some people may agree that traditional drug abuse prevention efforts have missed several opportunities to do what they should do best: educate and provide facts. Why is alcohol dangerous? No idea. Can marijuana cause permanent brain changes? Who knows. Why shouldn’t we steal our parent’s painkillers? What’s the worst that could happen? That’s why ProjectKnow.com, a website dedicated to educating adolescents and their families about substance abuse powered by Recovery Brands, created its first-ever podcast focused entirely on accurate, research-based drug education: Let’s Talk Drugs.

We’ve found that misinformation surrounding drugs is often soaked in myth, without any factual evidence to support it. While many teens and young adults understand that injecting heroin can kill a person, the unfortunate reality is that relatively few recognize the dire health risks of something as common as regular weekend bar nights. Many people don’t understand that alcohol is one of the most prevalent, dangerous, and addictive substances, yet it’s rarely talked about in health classes. This is just one example of countless drug misunderstandings that can have serious consequences.

We wanted to do something about these misconceptions and help create more open conversations around substance use, from taking a critical eye to the many ways that our modern culture glamorizes it, to debunking common myths and explaining in a digestible language how drugs actually affect the brain. Rather than using traditional scare tactics, we wanted to show that it’s okay — and important — to acknowledge the facts about drugs.

The education that surrounds drugs must address both sides of the issue: acknowledging the allure while simultaneously highlighting the risks.”

For the most part, the people who are going to try drugs will do it regardless of efforts and attempts of scaring them away from it. Instead of approaching drug education with “just say no,” we want to see a culture shift that explains why saying “no” is in a person’s best interest.

So instead of saying, “Don’t smoke weed because it’s bad for you” (with the implied “just trust me because I’m an adult” thrown in), let’s say, “There’s never been a recorded case of lethal marijuana overdose and it can help with certain medical conditions, but research has shown that using it regularly can cause long-term functional brain changes that can affect learning, memory, and the ability to control your impulses.”

One of our major goals is to encourage everyone to ask questions about drugs. We want parents, teachers, and even peers to take advantage of the opportunity to talk openly about substance abuse, and we hope to help guide and encourage these conversations with the podcast.

  • Listen with your kids. Listening together as a family can be a bonding experience that shows your kids it’s okay to ask questions about drugs. Creating a safe space to communicate is a vital part of drug education and prevention.
  • Play episodes in school. Educators play a major role in helping to prevent substance abuse. Listening to this form of drug education as a class is a fun break from the normal day-to-day lessons, and it opens the floor to questions and critical discussion afterward.
  • Research together. Sometimes young adults prefer to absorb new information on their own. Listening separately isn’t a bad thing- it gives everyone time to privately absorb the information and organize their thoughts and feelings about the topic. Bring these reactions, along with any other questions that may come up, to a family drug talk where everyone investigates substance facts together.
  • Assign fun homework. Schools — and parents — can assign the podcast for a fun, out-of-the-ordinary homework assignment. Ask students to listen and bring critical questions to a group discussion.
  • Simply listen. Even if you’re unsure about a group or family discussion, encouraging your children, family members, local organizations, and schools to explore new ways to absorb and communicate vital drug information will help provide the substance education kids need.

One of the most important parts of drug education is critical engagement, which is why we cannot shy away from these discussions. I was fortunate enough to have a very open household when it came to substance use discussions. My parents’ message was always, “If you’re going to experiment, make sure you are safe.” They always encouraged me to investigate the available research on drugs that I was curious about so I could identify any potential dangers as well as any long-term effects the drugs may have. We had very open conversations about addiction as well.

 Both sides of my family have a history of alcoholism, so it was always important for my parents to speak frankly with me about the very real risk of developing an alcohol dependence.”

Because of these conversations, I was always extremely cautious with my own substance use, keeping a close eye on my usage patterns and behaviors. When I noticed an unhealthy pattern of drinking in college, I was able to quickly identify it and work to change it. I was extremely fortunate to have a family that was so open and honest about drug talk, but starting that conversation can be intimidating for a lot of parents and educators. Sometimes the fear of indirectly encouraging drug experimentation overpowers the desire to educate, which is where we hope to step in.

Communication is certainly not the only key to dismantling the widespread issue of substance abuse and addiction, but it is a major part of early education and prevention. Teens and young adults are still developing the brain network necessary for action planning and impulse control, and the earlier we can reach them with important drug facts, the better prepared they will be when faced with drug use decisions. There are many parts to this puzzle, and we aim to contribute in our own way.

Let’s Talk Drugs takes a non-judgmental approach to drug talk so we can show that being honest about drug education doesn’t mean encouraging use. We really want teens and young adults to feel safe asking questions about drugs- they’re fascinating substances that inspire a whole lot of curiosity, and that’s awesome!

If we can motivate teens and young adults to take a close look at drug use and the potential consequences that come with it, then they will be equipped with the tools they need to make informed decisions.”

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About the author:

unnamed-1After completing her undergraduate work in perceptual processing, Lauren Brande was awarded a scholarship from the Western Psychological Association. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University in 2014 and found she had a particular interest in the effects that drugs and trauma have on the functioning brain. She’s currently a senior content writer for Recovery Brands, which is a provider of digital addiction treatment resources operating a portfolio of websites such as ProjectKnow.com, Rehabs.com and Recovery.org. Lauren believes all research should be digestible and accessible to everyone. Her passion fuels her desire to share important scientific findings to improve rehabilitation.

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.

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.

 

Resisting the Urge – Parenting a Young Person in Recovery

Helicopter parenting. That’s a term frequently attributed to parents of the millennial generation. It implies that we hovered over our kids as they were growing up, and experts analyze that it didn’t set up our kids for independence.

I’m not sure that I buy into that, and I’m darn sure that it’s not an accurate description of how we parented #SoberSon. After all, he was the toddler that climbed to the top of the jungle gym and swung from the monkey bars to the astonishment of his big sister’s Montessori teacher while we chose not to intervene and simply let him learn by experience. I might add, #SoberSon never fell and never had any broken bones!

That’s not to say we didn’t supervise. That’s not to say we didn’t step in to help him. And, it certainly isn’t to say we didn’t make parenting mistakes. We did, and to a certain extent, I know we still do.

What has changed is we’re not the parents of a toddler or a tween or a teen anymore.

Jungle Gym

From the moment he started using (before we knew it and after we discovered it), our parenting faced unexpected challenges and our perspective was forever changed. Instead of helping him transition from high school to college, we were just hoping he’d graduate. From there, we just hoped he’d go to treatment – and stay the full time to complete a program. After that proved otherwise, we hoped and prayed he wouldn’t overdose and die. When he finally returned and completed a treatment program then relapsed and then entered another program, well, we just hoped this would be the time that he’d truly embrace recovery.

Our hopes met reality. Our hopes became belief.

Each day, the gift of recovery renews itself.

In the early days, weeks and months, I had to resist the urge to hover over #SoberSon and his recovery. I yearned for he success, happiness and health. I wanted to be helpful, but inherently I knew he had to do this on his own

He had to take responsibility. He had to learn how to ask for help and find resources. He had to navigate sobriety. He had to think through triggers. He had to rebuild his life, remove himself from former peers, pay off debts, enroll in college, and so much more. He had to define and design his own recovery, and to make tweaks along the way.

In his own style and at his own pace, he had to climb to the top of the jungle gym and swing on the monkey bars without parental intervention, but absolutely not without loving cheers and support from Mom, Dad, big sister, little brother and other family members and friends.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

10 Tips for Raising a Successful Child

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This week’s guest blogger is Joronda Montaño from notMYkid. She shares some good reminders for parents, especially when it comes to communication, honestly and consistency, which lay the foundation for healthy decisions about substance use.

From the day our children are born, as parents, we ask ourselves a million questions. How do I make sure my kid lives a healthy life? How do I make sure he or she is making the right decisions? It becomes a never-ending self-interrogation.

It’s every parent’s goal to raise a successful child. As difficult as it may seem at times, this is not impossible. There are numerous books and studies that give us tips on how to raise successful kids, but I’ve included a few of my own below:

  1. Define what you want – What is your vision for your child? As they get older, be sure to include their own vision in regular discussions about where they are going and how they will get there. Before you know it, they will be implementing everything they have practiced with you as their coach.

 

  1. Know your values – What values are important to you? Share them with your kids and let them share their own values with you. These values may change as your child gets older. Keep talking about them along the journey to adulthood so they are constantly reminded about what’s important.

 

  1. Communication – Teach your child to speak up for what they want and need. Like the old adage, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” support their ability to use their voice. You should also regularly speak up for what you want from your kids. Have the conversations, even the difficult ones.

 

  1. Allow Honesty – Give your child the space to share their ideas, wants, needs and fears. Most parents are unaware that the average age for first-time drug experimentation is 13 for example, and when a child starts using drugs, it is typically two years before parents realize there is a problem. Knowing that honest communication is acceptable can preempt difficult situations they sometimes find themselves in.

 

  1. Be Consistent – Kids will play the game the way you want IF they know the rules. Changing the rules in the middle of the game creates uncertainty so make sure you are consistent with rewards, consequences and ways that you let them know about both.

 

  1. High (achievable) Expectations – Expect them to do what they set out to do. Expect that they will follow your instructions. Expect that they can achieve their goals AND encourage them to believe in their own abilities.

 

  1. Encourage Positivity – Being positive is about making sure kids are tapped into the part of themselves that encourages and supports their thoughts, ideas and actions. This includes positive self-talk, and positive talk to others.

 

  1. Take Responsibility – We always have a choice so teaching kids to take responsibility for every action can help prepare them for thinking before they act or react.

 

  1. Build Skills – Whatever they want to be successful at will require some skill building. This is the ultimate preparation for the goal.

 

  1. Forgiveness – Being successful requires a tremendous amount of learning. Teaching kids to allow for learning and possible mistakes on the way is a healthy way to be prepared for bumps and more importantly to keep pressing on despite the bumps.

 I do not mean to make these tips sound easy, as so many adults know, being a parent can be the toughest job on earth. We do the best we can to prepare our kids for the real world and all of its harsh realities, but it is up to them to implement what we teach them.

About Joronda Montaño:

Montaño works as a program director at notMYkid, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating individuals and communities about the consequences of destructive youth behaviors such as substance abuse. First Check Diagnostics, the leader in high-quality home diagnostic test kits, supports notMYkid by providing drug tests kits to thousands of families in an effort to discourage kids from experimenting with drugs.

Montaño is a master level Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trainer (ASIST). She is also an Arizona Credentialed Prevention Professional Level 4 (ACPP IV) and is a two-time graduate of Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcasting and a Master’s of Public Administration. Montaño is a mom of four beautiful children.

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.

Parents: Doing the Best They Can with What They Have

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

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

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

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

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

#SoberSummer kicks off for 2016

Certain tunes and lyrics get stuck in my head. One of these is the theme-song from the Disney series Phineas and Ferb, a delightful cartoon about making the most of summer vacation by having fun every day:

 There’s 104 days of summer vacation

And school comes along just to end it

So the annual problem for my generation

Is finding a good way to spend it.

It reminds me of my youngest son’s  innocence amid the chaos of his older brother’s addiction.

As we near Memorial Day – the unofficial kick off to summer – it’s time to bring back the Our Young Addicts #SoberSummer campaign. Each day from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Our Young Addicts will post substance-use prevention tips for parents, professionals and other adults of influence.

Please follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Linked in, by liking, sharing, retweeting and quoting these tips. Use the #SoberSummer hashtag. And, by all means, share your tips with us and we’ll incorporate these into our postings – after all, we have 104 days of summer to fill!

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts    All Rights Reserved

Student Blog Post – Be the First Voice

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

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

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

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

 About the guest blogger:

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

Parenting in Recovery

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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

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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

 

 

 

I Thought I Was Different, I was Unique

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Guest blogger, Rose Landes, joins us again with another inspiring and insightful blog post. This week, she explores the self perception of feeling different, lonely – especially as a young person struggling with addiction and how that changed to a feeling of belonging through the recovery community. Now a parent, this mom has a unique vantage point on addiction and recovery and the importance of feeling like you belong.

Tree in Water - Rose L - Unique

For so long I felt so alone. I honestly believed no one understood me, even with my family I felt like the black sheep. Initially I attributed this to the fact that I had grown up overseas. It would have been true if my brothers had experienced the same struggles I did. But when I looked at that them, it seemed, they received an instruction manual for life that I did not get.

I always felt different like, I didn’t belong. It wasn’t until I made it to a 12-step meeting that I realized that was feeling was shared by many. I finally felt a sense of belonging.

During my time in active addiction I was consumed by feelings of loneliness, anger, fear, shame, guilt, and helplessness. I always felt like no one understood what I was going through. No one felt the same way I did. And I used this to isolate myself and justify continuing to use. What I was unable to see at that time is, my loved ones knew exactly what I was feeling as they shared similar emotions themselves. Although the circumstances were different the feelings were the same.

Inside I felt consumed by anger at myself and the world in general. I wanted to make intelligent choices and not hurt myself and those I loved, but as my addiction grew, my choices grew poorer and poorer.

I felt like my parents could not possibly know the level of anger, frustration and guilt that I felt. They tried to talk to me, but it always ended up a yelling match. We had nothing in common, and communicating with them was impossible.

Usually when they caught me and I would defend myself by denying it, then scream at them saying they just didn’t understand. My parents felt anger too at a disease that was slowly killing their child and there was nothing they could do about it.

My parents were concerned about me. They told me that they were worried that my current choices were dangerous and would lead to me getting hurt or worse. I responded with anger. I reacted to the fear that deep inside, I knew, I was headed for something terrible.

Looking back I used the anger I felt to hide the fear that consumed me on a regular basis. Anger was so much easier to access and feel. I didn’t know what to do with fear. I see know that my parents were just as fearful as I was. Though the fears themselves were different the emotions were the same.

I continued down my path of self-destruction while those around me watched, helpless to stop me. As helpless as I felt in the face of my addiction, My parents experienced that exact same way. They were powerless to stop me, no matter how many therapists they took me too or drug detox centers they took me too.

All they could do was hope for the best, that one day I would have enough and stop. That I wouldn’t end up dead or in jail. Although I’m sure that they wished for that sometimes. I was so self absorbed that I could not even see that others actually felt the same emotions I did. That my parents shared a lot of similar responses to what this disease was doing to the whole family.

For years I was consumed by shame and guilt from trauma and my addiction. I thought I was alone in that, that no one could relate to me.. Reflecting in recovery from a different perspective I see that my parents and loved one’s felt the same way. They knew what it was to feel guilty I’m sure they asked themselves what they had done wrong.

As a parent, now, I can understand what it must have been like. I know that they felt shame because let’s be honest it’s not something that you will share with others the negative stigma is still so strong. On Facebook I saw a Meme that said it perfectly; There was a picture of an empty dining room table and underneath it said “All the casseroles friends brought when they found out my son was an addict.”

What I couldn’t see in the past is all that shame and guilt I went through in addiction. My parents carried the same stigma and shame initially, no one want’s to talk about it. Thanks to raising of awareness and the rampant spread of the opiate epidemic few families are left untouched.

You want to blame yourself when it’s not really anyone’s fault. I have learned that we all do the best we can with what we have. In the rooms of the 12-step programs I have heard too many stories of children from happy healthy homes who ended up the same place I did. It wasn’t only the trauma that brought me to this place in my life. I had a large genetic component that contributed as well, both of my grandfathers were alcoholics and I have cousins who struggle as well.

As I learned to communicate with my family and loved ones better. With continued sobriety and a clearer head I saw that the reality was I pushed the people I love away.   They tried to reach me in so many different ways I did not want to hear them. The denial was so strong that I shut them out.

I had convinced myself I not like them, I was different. In the end though, I finally came to the conclusion that all of us struggle with painful feelings. We all carry some guilt and shame, as well as anger and frustration. I realized that I was not as unique as I thought.

About Rose Landes

Rose Landes 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 her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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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.

Guest Blogger: What to do if learn your kid is using drugs.

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Today’s guest blogger shares personal experience as a young drug user and how he has used this to help parents talk to their kids. In particular, he addresses marijuana use, which is one of the most popular first drugs for young adults. See what he has to say! MWM

Confronting a child who you believe to be taking drugs can be very difficult to do.

Getting caught by your parents smoking weed is the scariest thing in the world, what’s even worse, is finding out that your children smoke weed.

As a former family/drug counselor and a child of a parent who caught me smoking weed, I would like to inform you on the things I wished my parents would have done differently and what I taught other parents who caught their children smoking weed.

A little self disclosure:

I remember when my mother found my weed stash, she immodestly came out the room crying and screaming. Asking me “what did she do wrong?!” and telling me how I failed.

This was the worst thing she could have done and from my experience as a drug/family counselor, I can promise you there are MUCH better ways to address the issue of smoking weed.

The techniques I used to teach my clients to address their children’s marijuana use and how I personally address clients directly are based on the psychology of Sales and the use of Neural Associative Conditioning.

Let’s start off with applying the psychology of sales to discussing marijuana use with your children.

The most important principle in sales is identifying your prospects objections to the product and answering them before giving your presentation.

What are children’s objections to their parents?

“They just don’t understand”

“They don’t know what they’re talking about”

“They’re crazy! I’m not going to listen to them if they’re always angry and yelling at me!”

“They’re always trying to change them and never let me do what I want”

Don’t view this as your children complaining, rather, use this as useful information that you can use to overcome these objections. Once they are overcome, they will become more perceptive to your suggestions.

Find out what your children’s objections are and find out ways to overcome them. In the following paragraphs, you’ll read some common solutions that usually address most, if not, all of your children’s objections.

 If you find out that your child is smoking weed, the worst thing you can do is immediately judge them and lose control of your emotions.

If you immediately react to the situation, you will lose credibility in your child’s eye and most likely won’t listen to you.

You can’t force them to quit. It may sound counter intuitive, but the truth is that you must allow them to come to the conclusion that smoking weed is bad for THEM. If they feel like you’re trying to force them to decide that weed is bad for them, they may stop for the moment, but they’ll eventually return to smoking weed.

Why is this important? As someone who constantly studies online marketing and psychology, you must allow your prospect think that it was their idea to purchase the item (similar to the movie inception).You’ll lose credibility and in the world of sales nothing loses a customer faster than losing credibility. Having credibility enables your child to listen to you more. Studies have proven that credibility and authority causes people to do things outside of their own morale.

This is done through having them associate pain with smoking weed and pleasure with being sober. This is not something you intellectually convince them of, rather, it’s done through finding ways to allow them to experience and associate pain with smoking. I’ll teach you that towards the end of the article.

Demonstrate to them that you have an open mind to weed and that you are not biased. They must feel and understand that you see both the good and the bad sides of weed. This will give you some form of authority and trust in their eyes and your opinion will have more weight.

Listen. Most parents are so distraught at finding out that their children smoke weed that they don’t’ care about what the child has to say; instead they want the child to listen to them exclusively.

Nothing angers a child more than feeling as though their opinion is not valued. Allow them to speak and explain to you why they smoke without interrupting them. Not that you condone their marijuana use, but that you understand as to why they are smoking weed. For example, if they smoke because they are bored, accept the fact that they use that as their own solution. Don’t condescend them and tell them they are wrong. Simple listen and accept.

Rather than lecturing them and telling them what to do, use the power of stories – particularly stories they can relate to.

For example, rather than telling them, “you can’t smoke weed, it’s not good for you!!” relate to them through telling them a story based on your own personal experience (past drug abuse, or any form of dependence) or through someone else’s account. Why? In sales and even in spiritual scriptures, stories have been used to explain concepts and ideas because the brain finds it more engaging. It’s better than telling them what to do because stories have an emotional element to them.

Make sure that their experience of speaking with you is accompanied with positive emotions, why? Because if they associate pain to opening up with you, their brain will naturally avoid it. So whenever they open up to you, reinforce that behavior through some form of reward. Give them ANY form of reward, but make sure it’s something they truly value it. Like cooking their favorite meal, or genuinely thanking them for opening up.

Most parents indirectly punish the act of opening up because they emotionally react.

Remember what I said earlier, you must remain grounded and centered within yourself. Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you because it can lead to being a painful experience for your child. Make the experience as comfortable as possible.

How is this achieved? Simple, just ask yourself, “how can I make the experience for my child of opening up about their marijuana use the most pleasurable experience for me and him/her?”

Be proactive about your actions rather than being reactive. If you don’t ask yourself those questions, you’ll never come up with the solution.

OK, now let’s discuss what you must do when discussing with your child their drug use.

The techniques we’ll be using will be based on the pain-pleasure principle, which is what drives human behavior is a desire to avoid pain and gain pleasure.

This is why you must understand their perspective because if they feel like you’re not considering and respecting their reasons for smoking weed, they won’t respect what you say.

Why your children smoke weed:

At the basic level, the reason people get addicted to drugs is because they associate pain to being sober and pleasure to being high.

The brain will begin making the connection that if any pain is felt; weed becomes the easiest and fastest solution.

Remember, the brain is always attempting to conserve energy. Moving forward, the brain will request for weed through cravings at any signs of stress because it learned that smoking weed is the fastest way to avoid pain.

So how are we going to use this to help your child stop smoking weed?

Easy, through linking pleasure to the new behavior and pain to smoking weed.

Okay let’s get to what you must do when speaking to your child about their marijuana use.

What to do before having the discussion:

The best outcome my clients experienced was when they remained centered and the discussion was brought up during a moment when everyone was in a good mood.

Don’t bring up the subject while arguing or when you’re mad because it’s going to create resistance.

The next thing you must do is sit down, get a sheet of paper and say something along the lines of, “before I say this, please understand that I’m not mad, I just want to understand where you’re coming from. I found out that you smoke weed and I just want to talk about it I don’t want to lecture you or tell you what to do, I’m just curious as to what are the reasons for smoking”. Simple as that. You are communicating that you are not trying to change them; instead you are trying to understand them.

Once they agree, sit down with them and explain how you found out and that you were concerned for their well-being. Explain that you did your own research and found out that weed isn’t as bad as you thought, but that it also has its cons and that’s why you want to explore with them their reasons.

Once they feel understood rather than being judged, they’ll be more open to your suggestions.

The questions to ask

Notice how the sequence of the questions are tailored, they begin with asking about the pleasures they receive from smoking weed for a two reasons; they are going to feel understood and heart, and you are going to use their answers and attempt to find alternative activities to fulfill the benefits they think they’re getting.

Step 1: What pleasures and benefits do you get from smoking weed? Remember, even though the behavior is bad, it’s important to find out the benefits so that you can find alternative behaviors that give the same kind of pleasures. In addition, this question throws them off the loop because they expected to begin discussing the negatives.

Step 2: What negative consequences do you experience from smoking weed?

Step 3: What will it cost you if you don’t quit smoking weed right now? Have them write them what it will cost them within the next 5 years if they don’t stop smoking weed. Make sure they cover the emotional, social, financial, romantic, and physical consequences of not smoking.

Step 4: What pleasures will you receive if you stop smoking weed right now?

Don’t just include direct pleasures (i.e. more money, happier family), make sure they write down bilateral pleasures such as being able to travel as a result of having more money, being able to use the time they spend on smoking weed on a skill or a sport.

These questions will accomplish the following:

  1. It will shake the legs of the belief they have that “weed is not that bad”. Belief is what drives our decision making. If you believe that smoking weed is good, you’ll be more prone to smoke. And what’s even worse is that your brain will block out any apposing belief. So it’s important to have them experience the pain of not quitting right now so that they can begin linking pain to smoking weed and thus changing their belief system and eventually their decision to smoke.
  2. You are linking pain to not smoking through focusing on the pleasures of quitting. This is something that your brain naturally blocks out because it has adopted the belief that smoking is pleasurable. The brain needs to conserve energy and conflicting belief system causes inner conflict and thus an expenditure of more energy. This is why it blocks out the pleasures of quitting because it wants to have a congruent belief system.

This is how I taught my clients how to approach their children if they were abusing drugs. When my clients followed these instructions, it rarely ended up in fights or arguments and the children either stopped using their drug of choice and/or improved their communication with their parents which is better than using and not communicating.

A few things to remember:

  • Don’t ignore mental health issues. Approximately two-thirds of teenagers abusing marijuana suffer from some form of mental health related problems (i.e. anxiety, depression, bipolar, AD and etc.). Ensure that your child undergoes a mental health evaluation.
  • Open up about your own drug use in the past. Being dishonest about your past relationship with weed only creates more resistance. Parents attempt to display a perfect and ideal image so that their children’s could emulate them at one point in time. But this results in parents at times contradicting themselves, and thus, losing the trust of their children. Nothing opens up a child then a parent opening up about their own past demons. Demonstrate that you understand them without judging them through disclosing your own battles in the past. This will give them permission to open up to you as well.
  • Last, don’t blame yourself. When you ask them “what did I do wrong?” you are making it about you and you are extenuating that something is wrong with them. They have fragile egos and they’ll attempt to defend themselves through disagreeing with everything that you say to them. In addition, being the victim is never productive, no matter how justify it may be. Blaming yourself will only cause you to lose focus from the most important subject at hand, your child.
  • Fifth, being judgmental. The worst thing you can do is judge your child. It’s one thing to be firm then it’s another thing to be judgmental to the point that your child refuses to listen to you.

About the Guest Blogger:

Alex is a life coach and founder of Your Mindful Blog and Quit Smoking Weed. He uses Mindfulness, Neural Linguistic Programming and Neural Associative Conditioning to develop true self esteem and help people quit smoking weed in under an hour. Prior to blogging , Alex worked as a family/drug counselor in Brooklyn, NY.

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

Gateway? You bet.

Many times, as they shrug their shoulders in dismissive way, I hear adults of influence say the following: “At least it’s only marijuana – not hard drugs.” They go on to say they smoked weed in their teens and 20s and turned out OK, or that cannabis is no different from alcohol.

Perhaps this is an attempt to put their past use in perspective. More likely, however, it is a disbelief that there is any real concern – that casual use of marijuana is a problem, that it can be a gateway to other substances, or that regular use can lead to addiction.

Recently, this article ran in the the Boston Globe asking: Can We Please Stop Pretending Marijuana Is Harmless? https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2015/10/08/can-please-stop-pretending-marijuana-harmless/MneQebFPWg79ifTAXc1PkM/story.html

Believe me, my husband and I have heard all the arguments and been presented with mountains of evidence. Our son was exceptionally passionate in his beliefs. We used to tell him – even though we disagreed – that he should go work for one of the pro-marijuana groups because at least then he’d be putting action toward his beliefs rather than just arguing for his own use. Of course, he never did.

Research tells us that marijuana and alcohol remain the starting point for additional substance use in later years. For most kids (under 18), it stays at an experimentation phase or it may progress to more frequent use but not necessarily to addiction.

For many, it never becomes more than “just “ marijuana or alcohol, and with maturity and adult responsibilities, their use moderates.

But, for one in nine people, marijuana use is problematic. It may show up as missing school or work and not completing assignments. It may show up in apathetic attitudes and the inability to follow through with goals. It may put your kids in situations where other drugs are being sold or used.

Think about this. If your kid is smoking marijuana and driving a car, they are impaired and any passengers are at risk. As the parent, you are liable for this, too. States like Colorado are feeling the effect of impaired driving as more and more motorists are using cannabis products.

From a neuro-science perspective, marijuana is particularly dangerous for developing brains, and it has lasting impact on IQ not to mention mental and emotional health as well as decision making.

Without a doubt, marijuana use clouds their judgement.

Today, kids have far greater access to substances, which means they may not start with the usual suspects of marijuana or alcohol. They may try prescription pills – think pain pills or things like ADHD medication. They may try synthetic drugs like K2/Spice (bath salts) or Molly (MDMA/Ecstasy) or others.

If a kid is susceptible to addiction, particularly if there is a family predisposition or if they are struggling with any mental health symptoms, we need to be particularly vigilant and cognizant of what they are thinking, doing and feeling.

Often teenage emotions can lead to “wanting to escape” or “wanting to fit in.” At first, alcohol or marijuana may ease anxiety or depression; in other words, they self medicate. In time, this stops working and they may progress to other substances.

Sometimes, kids are curious or even bored, and marijuana seems like a safe experiment – until it gets out of control and leads to progressively more dangerous things.

One of the statistics that really sticks with me is that 90 percent of adults with a substance-use disorder (aka addiction) experienced their first substance use under the age of 18 – regardless of whether that was alcohol, marijuana, pills or other drugs. The time to do something about addiction is when they are still kids – our kids. When we still can. When we are still obligated to parent them.

If your kid is using drugs, they are not bad kids and it is not the result of bad parenting.

It’s simply a scary reality that requires unconditional love and a commitment to discovering, understanding and solving the use as well as the underlying situation.

That’s a bold, big undertaking, but as parents we are not alone in this challenge. The most important things we can do is to connect with other parents, to tap professional resources, to learn as much as we can, to take care of ourselves, and to take on this challenge. This is the essence of the Our Young Addicts community, and it is what drives us to participate. Join us and we will help each other.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Grateful – Today and Everyday

Lately, we’ve had very little drama, very little chaos in our family. For this, I am grateful. Very, very grateful. As the mom of a 20-something kid in recovery, I have every reason to be happy and appreciative for normal, everyday things – things that many might take for granted.

Part of accepting and moving forward in the darkest and most difficult of times required that I pause to recognize whatever positive I could – at times when it seemed somewhat impossible. I embraced the “attitude of gratitude” with all the energy and commitment that I could during the addiction days.

If you’re a parent dealing with a young person’s addiction, please know you are not alone. Reach out. There are plenty of us moms and dads who know what you’re going through. We are a community ready to share experiences, resources and hopes.

I am grateful for the Our Young Addicts community. Together, we are finding and sharing gratitude no matter the circumstances.

Check out our 30 Days of Gratitude on Twitter to see what I’m thankful for this year, and add your own days of gratitude. You’ll find these posts if you search for #Gratitude2015, and see what was there last year #Gratitude2014

On Thanksgiving Day, please check out the special blessing that I wrote at a time when things seems hopeless, at a time when being hopeful was the most important thing that I could do.

#OYACommunity

 

Guest Blog: The Real Me by Brook McKenzie

Ever wonder if your kid will overcome addiction and live a life in recovery? Never stop believing that it is possible. Treatment works. Recovery is possible. Today’s guest blogger is a young man who did just that. Meet Brook McKenzie and find hope in his story… MWM

With no tattoos, barely any muscles, and a quiet, sensitive nature, I had very few credentials to suggest I would survive in prison. Yet there I was, orange jumpsuit and a shaved head. At 19 years old, 155 lbs., I was not much to behold.  If anything I was the poster-child for “easy prey.”

How often I wished that I had never taken that first hit of crack-cocaine. How many times I wondered at how different things might have been.

Like many, I grew up in a great family with plenty of opportunity. It would have been much more likely for me to go on to graduate college, embark on a career and start a family than to wind up in prison.  But that was not at all what happened.  For years my parents had been wringing their hands in dismay. They would say things like, “how did this happen?” “why can’t you stop?” “can you quit for us, if not for yourself?” These were questions I sometimes had answers for, but none of them really made sense when set against the backdrop of my family’s life in shambles.

I was fifteen years old when my addiction to crack-cocaine began, a child really – with little idea as to what was in store.

This nightmare of enslavement would continue for me and my family for the next 20 years. There would be late night phone calls, desperate pleas, thefts, bail bonds, disappearances, missing purses, missed holidays, and an assortment of promises always ending in disappointment. As a child I had wanted to go to college and become a dentist. I loved my parents and they loved me. My younger brother was my sidekick.  Together, we would spend our youth exploring the woods, fishing, going on family vacations and making forts and tree-houses. I played baseball every year and enjoyed a host of childhood friends.  From a very young age our parents taught us how to be responsible, courteous, and conscientious young men.

As hard working, middle class young adults, our parents sought to provide for us the best that they could, and all they could.  They did a wonderful job! Still, in my heart, I sense that they felt to blame for what happened to me. But in reality, what happened to me, happened to each of us. Addiction is a family disease and it touches all lives that come into contact with it.

Between the years 1999-2009, I served about 8 years in prison as a result of my drug addiction, and my family served it with me. I remember the look on my mother’s face when she would come to visit. There would be times that I would bring a black eye to the visitation room with me. She would squeeze my hand while recounting all that had happened since I’d been away.  My brother had graduated high school, gone on to college, and earned his bachelor’s degree. He even met the love of his life while traveling abroad.

Sometimes during these visits – when I could muster the courage – I’d look my Mom in the eye and promise her – with all of my heart – that things would be different next time – I had changed. Unbeknownst to me, and certainly to her – none of us had come to a full realization as to the severity of my condition.

Once released from prison, and with every good intention to live my life reformed for the sake of all my family had been through – I would relapse!  Whether it took a few days or a few weeks, I always went back to it, as if asleep and unable to awake.  Similar to a nightmare, I would “come to” in complete shock  – “how did I get here again?” “What happened?”

The horror I felt would consume me. How could I do this to my family? And the thoughts would come:  wouldn’t it be better to kill myself now and let my family begin to heal than to go on causing harm indefinitely? Ashamed, I dared not show my face to anyone. The only way I knew to cover up what I felt was to go on to the bitter end, which for me, always resulted in another arrest.

As my addiction progressed, I found that I would steal for drugs, lie; even prostitute myself…I would walk miles and miles to get my next fix, roaming the streets like a zombie.

Whatever I had to do, I would do, my conscience under siege. The pain I felt inside, the loneliness and sense of isolation was unbearable. During these times I would fall to my knees and pray, “God please help me, please show me another way.”

Then, in 2010, as though an answer to my prayers, I was presented with an opportunity to go to treatment for my addiction. With a small duffel bag of clothes in tow I embarked on a life changing experience that would prove to be the launching pad for a brand new life in recovery. I haven’t been back to prison since. The truths I learned in treatment are the truths I carry with me today and they are the same truths that I share with others, with families and with those similarly afflicted.

…Not too long ago I accepted the position of Outreach Coordinator for a well-known drug and alcohol treatment center in Southern Orange County, California. This role allows me the privilege to interact with other people’s parents and family members on a daily basis. Together, the families and I walk hand in hand towards getting their loved ones the help that they need and deserve. Ironically, and despite it being a big part of what fuels my passion to serve others, my own story rarely comes up any more. As time moves on, there are newer stories to share, with brand new faces and brand new names; stories of hope, and stories of redemption.

Today, when my Mother calls me I answer the phone and we talk. We don’t talk about the things we used to discuss, we talk about our gratitude; we talk about life. My father, same thing. And as for my younger brother, well, we are best of friends again. He now has two young children of his own, two girls, and I get to be an uncle to both of them.  By the Grace of God, my nieces will never know me as a drug addict, a convict or a thief.

They will only know the real me; the one that God intended me to be…

Brook McKenzie serves as Outreach Coordinator and Family Liaison for New Method Wellness treatment center. His passion is working with families to help interrupt the cycle of addiction.

Guest Blog: A Foundation for the Future by Bill Rummler

This week’s guest blogger is Bill Rummler from the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation. In this poignant blog post, he share’s his son’s story of pain, addiction and death, and the efforts of the Foundation to prevent future opioid-overdose deaths.

Lexi Reed Holtum, vice president of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, with high school sweetheart and fiance Steve Rummer, September 2010
Lexi Reed Holtum, vice president of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, with high school sweetheart and fiance Steve Rummer, September 2010

Our son Steve Rummler was one of the more than 16,000 people who died from prescription drug overdoses in 2011. He died on July 1 of that year at the age of 43 and we miss him more than you can ever know.

Steve was a very intelligent and highly talented person. He was a deans list college student. He was a competitive athlete, an all-conference soccer player and division-one college prospect. He was a gifted piano, guitar and drum player who wrote many beautiful songs. He was an astute businessman and a top financial advisor in the Twin Cities.

All who knew Steve respected and loved him. He was very caring, loved being with people and was engaged to be married to Lexi, his high school sweetheart. He was in many ways the all around success story that every parent hopes their child will become. He was living the American dream and we were very proud of him.

In 1996, at the age of 28, Steve suffered a severe injury to his spine, which began his tragic story. He sought medical advice from the top doctors in Minnesota and they were never able to find what caused the shock like symptoms that surged up and down his spine every single day. The pain was especially severe at night and he suffered from lack of sleep for the rest of his life. Steve continued to work hard and play music and sports. He even ran a marathon in under four hours. He was able to be quite active during the day, but the nights were intolerable.

The pain and lack of a medical diagnosis caused Steve to become depressed. So, he was prescribed anti-depressants, which were supposed to help his depression and his pain.

He soon began to like the idea of getting help from a pill. This was a major fork in the road of his life. He had chosen pills, rather than other healthier alternatives.

The pain continued and he was then prescribed anti-anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines.

Finally, in 2005, when Steve was 37 years old, he was prescribed opioids by our family doctor. This doctor was well intentioned, but unaware of the potential side effects of these highly addictive pills.

The FDA was calling them safe and effective for treatment of long-term pain. And the pill manufacturers were making huge profits as a result.

This was the beginning of Steve’s end of life struggle. He soon began to show many of the signs of addiction, which included taking more pills than were prescribed to him in order to maintain his high and seemingly “treat” his pain. He had become totally convinced that these heroin-like pills were the only way to solve his pain problem. After he died we found a note in his handwriting: “at first it was a lifeline, now it is a noose around my neck”.

Addiction is a disease of the brain, the most valuable asset we have for dealing with life’s challenges. But, when something adversely affects our brain, it can severely limit our ability to make good choices. Taking a narcotic did not eliminate the cause of Steve’s pain; it simply made him less aware of it. His brain became numb to the pain just as it became numb to most things that matter in life.

We sadly saw this begin to unfold with Steve. Not long after he began taking opioids, we began to notice serious side effects. He lost his enthusiasm for most things in life. He often seemed out of it and would sometimes slur his words. He became less sharp in business and began losing clients. He became more irritable and blamed others for his problems. He stopped paying his taxes on time and was less punctual. He spent most his waking hours sedentary on the couch, stayed up late, slept in late and rarely exercised. He was often sick and would go for days without returning our phone calls. Always honest, he began to lie.  And the pain was still there and likely even worse. So he wanted more opioids. Steve was very sick with an addiction to the very pills that were supposed to help him.

We could see this tragic scenario unfolding, but were powerless to help. Steve had to help himself.

But the drugs numbed his brain and made him unable to do so. We begged and pleaded with him to try any alternative for help with his pain. It was heart wrenching for us.

We thought we had been good parents and now all was unraveling before our very eyes.

It is difficult for anyone to take a single opioid pill without it having some effect on that person’s mind. These drugs are basically a form of heroin that can produce a high that is very difficult to resist. Steve used prescription opioids for over five years, in ever increasing amounts.  In reality, he likely became addicted to them within the first few months.

While opioids are very risky and can lead to death when used to treat chronic pain, they do have a benefit for acute and end of life pain.

In 1995 my sister Peggy was dying from pancreatic cancer and in great pain. Her morphine pump worked wonders for her. She was in a constant state of euphoria from the drugs, but her pain was tolerable until the end. Sadly, Steve became addicted to those very drugs that were so helpful to his Aunt Peggy. For him, with chronic pain, it was a death sentence.

The tragedy of Steve’s untimely death and our resulting grief, have motivated us to work very hard to prevent others from suffering as he did.

The Steve Rummler Hope Foundation (SRHF) was born out of Steve’s death. Its mission is “to heighten awareness of the dilemma of chronic pain and the disease of addiction and to improve the associated care process”. Through its Overdose Prevention and Prescriber Education programs, and through its Advocacy efforts, SRHF saves lives, educates healthcare professionals, and engages the public as well as public-policy-makers in addressing the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. (Opioids include narcotic painkillers and heroin). This public health crisis has been labeled an “epidemic” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is much that needs to be done to help pain patients avoid the risks of addiction and bring this epidemic under control. Our emphasis has been to focus first on the areas in which we can have the greatest immediate impact: stopping overdose deaths and educating physicians about the responsible prescribing of opioids.

At its inception in 2011, SRHF founders explored the nonprofit environment for organizations focused on providing hope for those with chronic pain and addiction. They found that there was a need for this focus and were encouraged to fill the gap. To date, this uniqueness has led to many opportunities for success and many demands from the community for us to do more.

We encourage you to get to know more about the SRHF. Please visit our website at:

http://www.steverummlerhopefoundation.org/

Here you can learn about Steve’s Law, a Minnesota good-Samaritan and Naloxone law, named for our son Steve. The implementation of this law (similar laws are in effect in many other states) has already saved, and will continue to save, many lives. Our website has a wealth of other information, too.

Please consider making a donation to help us continue our life saving work. Anything you can give will be very much appreciated.

Finally, we encourage you to tell others about us and join us in our effort to change and save lives.

Thank you for your interest.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your story with the #OYACommunity. We are grateful for your efforts and accomplishment on behalf of families and friends who are concerned about substance use and addiction.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

#TBT – In Hard Times, Siblings Will Ask … And Deserve to Know – Truth about Addiction

There’s no hiding the fact that a sibling is struggling with addiction, so it’s important to include and involve the other siblings. In this 2012 column, Midwestern Mama embraces a #NoMoreStigma approach.

Real Mom_ In hard times, siblings will ask — and deserve to know – Minnmoms