Parenting A Teenager with Addiction: The Hardest Challenge Of My Life

Ever since my child was little, I always strived to be the best parent I could be.

I wanted my child to have everything he could ever want.

When I was a teenager I was addicted to alcohol, so it was difficult for me to ever think about my child having an addiction.

Then, it happened.

One day he came home and something was different.

I could see it in his eyes.

 He was on drugs.

 How did I not find out sooner?

 Why didn’t I recognize the signs?

 After I thought back for a bit, I realized I just didn’t want to see it.

He had started hanging out with new friends during the summer after his junior year.

He was hanging out with them in the evenings and on weekends.

His grades had been falling during his senior year as well.

I should have known, but as a parent I just didn’t see it until he had already become addicted.

I went through his room that night and found his stash of marijuana and heroin.

When I confronted him that night, he was so angry with me.

He got defensive and slammed his door.

He even said that he never wanted to talk to me again and that he hated me.

I cried for hours.

My son was 18 at the time and he had his whole life in front of him.

What was I going to do?

I would do anything to save him from the addictive lifestyle that I had gone through.

However, as a recovering alcoholic myself, I knew he was the one who had to put the work in.

He would have to overcome the addiction, not me.

I could be there to support and help him, but I couldn’t do it for him.

Getting through to him…

A few days later, I sat my son down and told him I just wanted to talk.

The first thing I did was tell him I understood.

I told him about my own addiction, the struggles I went through, and let him know that nobody was there for me.

I didn’t have family members who understood. 

They all thought I was just having fun when drinking and didn’t really believe in addictions.

They also didn’t believe in getting help to quit drinking.

I told him about everything I had gone through and how much I was grateful for my recovery.

During this talk, I told him how proud I was that he would be graduating this year and asked him to tell me about his hopes and dreams for the future.

He explained that he wanted to be an engineer and all about his hopes of going to college.

I told him how great that was and explained how an addiction could derail that.

I didn’t judge him or tell him what he was doing was wrong.

I just listened, gave him support, and told him I would be there for him if he was ready to go to rehab.

I explained to him what happens in rehab and how supportive they would be with helping him overcome the addiction.

I told him he didn’t have to answer me that night and he could think about it.

Five days later, he came to me after school and told me he was ready to go to rehab. 

I knew he would need inpatient rehab and I talked to his school.

They said as long as he was willing to take summer school to make up the class time and work he would miss, he could still graduate that year.

I was amazed by their support and understanding during this tough time.

The next day my son was enrolled into an inpatient rehab center.

The program would last for 60 days.

Rehab and full support…

In the rehab center my son attended, they had family night every Sunday, and I was there every time.

He went through detox first which lasted 7 days.

I wanted my son to know I was supporting him through all of this.

He had to know there were people on his side and that I loved him no matter what.

The first few weeks were tough and really difficult to see him in the rehab center.

However, I knew I had to hold it together.

I won’t lie.

I cried when I got home, every single time.

After a bit, it got easier.

I could tell he was doing better and wanting to improve his life.

He would tell me about what he learned in therapy and the group sessions.

The final two weeks, I wanted to make sure I had everything ready for him when he came home.

I made sure to clean the house and create a schedule, where we would check in with one another.

Coming home and working the program…

The rehab center my son attended sent him home with an aftercare plan.

It included attending individual therapy once a week and group therapy once a week.

They wanted him to attend NA meetings three times a week as well.

We talked about all of this before he left the rehab center.

When he got home, we went over the schedule and he gave input on things he wanted to change.

We agreed on times we would check-in with each other.

He knew that I was there if he needed to talk, but I wasn’t going to hound him about his recovery.

He had to hold himself accountable and I think that helped him knowing that he had to do it.

The first year was the most difficult because I had a very difficult time trusting that he wasn’t using.

Any time he was away from me or  if he didn’t answer his cell phone on the first ring, I was concerned.

I had to let him be and let him work his program.

He never relapsed.

He attended all of his therapy sessions and NA meetings.

He even attended the summer program and graduated that year.

Now, he is two years clean, and I couldn’t be more proud.

He is my son and I love him with all my heart.

He knows his recovery is a lifelong process and he is still working his program.

 We still check in with each other, as we did since he came home from rehab.

 Written By Charles Watson of Sunshine Behavioral Health

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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Just because we saw it coming, doesn’t mean we could stop it.

We’ve seen our son relapse before. That time, his recovery was short and shaky at best, but he went through the motions. He tried to go too fast in returning to work and he thought he could use marijuana and alcohol recreationally. The relapse was quick and deep rendering him homeless again; however, within a few months it led him to a new treatment program and a period of nearly three-and-a-half years free from opioid use.

This time, the period of sobriety and recovery was steady. He participated in a 12-week, high-intensity out-patient program; began MAT, went in daily at first and graduated to weekly; saw his counselor regularly – the same one for three years; saw a mental-health professional for the first year; got and held a job; got his own insurance; earned tuition; returned to college, got straight A’s, earned his associates degree in mathematics and was accepted for a B.A. program. Moreover, he rebuilt trust with the family. Still, he struggled with social anxiety, depression and developing friendships.

Things started to shift and in spite of our efforts to be supportive, to address things directly but compassionately, a relapse begin. We saw it coming. We wished we could stop it. We did try to the extent that anyone can. Almost 11 months later, he’s lucky to be alive and to once again pursue recovery. What a rocky year, but what a hopeful outcome in the making.

Although I’ve updated the OYA Community from time to time this year, it hasn’t been as real-time or detailed as years past, so today I compiled a list of what we’ve experienced thus far in 2017.

The list that follows reflects just some of the things we observed. On the surface, some of these seem like not big deal or something that you could explain or rationalize. In reality, each represents a change in his sober behavior and that’s what concerned us most.

Right around the first of the year … January 2017

  • Going to bed early – even before 7 p.m.
  • Getting up early – leaving the house by 4:30 a.m. “to go to the gym and study before his 8 a.m. class.”
  • Taking frequent, deep-sleep naps.
  • Retreating to the basement to re-watch episodes of TV series he’d already watched several times.
  • Playing video games at home.
  • Taking extraordinarily long showers.
  • Saying he’s no longer able to study at home.
  • Becoming less and less conversational.
  • Not interacting or participating in family life.
  • Spending less time at home.
  • Air fresheners in the car and leaving the windows cracked open.
  • Finding lighters.
  • Finding wine-bottle openers.
  • Not wanting to travel out of town for spring break.
  • Keeping secret a romantic interest.
  • Falling asleep at the girlfriend’s house and not letting us know he wouldn’t be home.
  • Skipping a day of classes and science labs to hang out with the girl.
  • Not responding to text messages and phone calls from Mom and Dad.
  • Not wanting to talk about “it” let alone “anything.”
  • Spending more and more time with one of his former using buddies.
  • Going shopping and buying expensive clothes and shoes.
  • Arguing about the positive attributes of cannabis.
  • Self-medicating with cannabis including marijuana and cdb oil to combat anxiety and depression.
  • Going out drinking with coworkers.
  • Not communicating his whereabouts or schedule.
  • Not coming home night after night.
  • Finding pipes, a large quantity of marijuana, cbd crystals, wine and vodka bottles in the car.
  • Family meeting with his counselor.
  • Says he’s relieved he no longer has to keep his cannabis use a secret.
  • Blatantly not following the family rules.
  • Going cold turkey off Suboxone without tapering or utilizing the support of his treatment team.
  • Experiencing withdrawal.
  • Admitting he’s spending all day, every day staying high on marijuana.
  • Waking and baking, every day.
  • Not wanting to celebrate his 25th
  • Not opening his cards or presents.
  • Not eating any home-made cake.
  • Ignoring the dog.
  • Continuing to experience PAWS.
  • Getting a prescription for anxiety meds, but quitting these three days later.
  • Dropping out of his college classes and not making arrangements to apply his hard-earned tuition to a future semester.
  • Going on a bender that landed him a two-day stay in detox due to public intoxication with a BAC of .26.
  • Missing work.
  • Losing his job.
  • Not coming home or responding to calls and texts for a whole week.
  • Coming home, handing us his car keys and wallet, asking us to hold onto these for a while.
  • Visiting his cousin at rehab and noting, “he’s in denial and not ready for recovery.”
  • Five days later, going on another bender.
  • Smashing his car into a guard rail.
  • Getting arrested for DWI.
  • Refusing to take a breathalyzer.
  • Staying in jail for 48 hours.
  • Meeting with a DWI attorney.
  • Getting a voluntary chemical health assessment, but not acting on recommendations to go to treatment.
  • Enrolling in the state’s ignition-interlock program.
  • Interviewing and getting offered a new job.
  • Taking an Uber, instead of driving, to hang out with friends.
  • Not coming home that night.
  • Not showing up on the first day of his new job.
  • Drunk dialing and texting people.
  • Walking home 7 miles in the rain because his phone was dead.
  • Ringing the doorbell early on Sunday morning because he lost his keys.
  • Scrapes and scratches on his face.
  • Less than 48 hours later, heading out on another bender.
  • Sitting by the mudroom door the next morning.
  • Losing the spare set of car keys, the extra house key and his phone.
  • No memory whatsoever of where he had been – said he woke up on a park bench not far from home.
  • Agreeing to another chemical health assessment.
  • Not liking but agreeing to inpatient, dual-diagnosis treatment.
  • Waiting, waiting, waiting for a bed to open.
  • Hanging in the basement watching TV and playing video games.
  • Sleeping a lot.
  • Unable to start his car due to it detecting alcohol in his system.

Finally, riding with his dad to treatment two hours from home … October 27, 2017.

Welcoming us on family night … November 1, 2017.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

The Road to Finding Higher Power and Myself

Today’s guest blogger tells the story of his road to sobriety– one of hardship and struggle, but ultimately of long-term success and determination. MWM.

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My first attempt at college didn’t go so well. It started off fun, then become fun with some consequences, then by my 7th year of school it was just all consequence. I had been to detoxes, I was failing courses, going to classes I wasn’t even registered for, and drinking myself into oblivion. Life was getting bad and drinking was my only solution. I don’t mean to gloss over my first few treatment experiences but I want the focus of this to be on the importance of staying plugged in to my program.

Life was getting bad and drinking was my only solution.”

I went to a state school in southern Minnesota along the Mississippi river. I don’t know what other people’s experience was like with their freshmen year, but I thoroughly enjoyed mine with minimum consequences. I partied a lot, didn’t study much, and explored and discovered aspects of life that I had been missing. I became pretty popular, and seemed to be the life of the party. Wherever I went, we had a good time and we played and partied hard. The experience seemed normal, and the people I had surrounded myself with were doing the same things I was, so nothing seemed wrong or out of place yet. The real confusion came towards the end of four years, a typical length of time to be in college. All of my friends were starting to get internships, study for tests, and look ahead to graduation all the while still partying.

Due to a mini intervention from my parents and some concerned friends I found myself at 25 entering treatment for drugs and alcohol. I spent 28 days thinking it would get people off my back and quickly returned to drinking after leaving. After a summer of misery and trouble I admitted to myself that I was an alcoholic and needed help. From the Twin Cities my parents drove me to a treatment center in St. Louis Missouri where I stayed for 7 months.  

After my 7 months in St. Louis I moved back to the Twin Cities and was living in a sober house in St. Paul pondering what to do next? By a chance meeting I found myself packing my bags and moving to Duluth Minnesota, to go back to school. The College of Saint Scholastica was starting a collegiate recovery program and I had the opportunity to help get it off the ground and enroll as student number 1. I love Duluth, I loved my time being a part of the recovery community in Duluth. For the two years I lived there I experienced, and was part of some amazing things that furthered my recovery. I helped start a young adults 12 step meeting, managed a sober house and attended school with some really great people. I had established myself in a program of recovery and the promises were coming true.

It had been over 6 months since I had been to a meeting and I was placing a priority on everything else in my life except my sobriety.”

After graduating, moving back to the Twin Cities, getting a job, and getting married my alcoholic mind started to think that I had this figured out. It had been over 6 months since I had been to a meeting and I was placing a priority on everything else in my life except my sobriety. Maybe I could drink normally? Maybe I really was fixed? I first got sober so I could get all these things, and now that I had them, drinking seemed like the next right thing to add back to my life. I remember in a job interview I was asked why I had been involved in collegiate recovery and why had I help start a sober house, both of these things I was proud of and were on my resume. This was a pivotal moment for me, I knew I could tell the truth or tell a lie leaving the possibility of one day drinking open in the future. This being a sales job, I knew drinking would be part of the culture of my work. I wish I was stronger, I wish I had stayed connected to my friends in the program, but I had been away from working any sort of 12 Step program for too long and my natural instinct was to lie. I told myself, “I will just drink normally.” Which of course meant hiding it from my wife and my family. Looking back it amazes me how quickly I went back to leading a double life. I was acting one way around co-workers and clients, while attempting to live a complete lie around my wife and family.

I was a mess, lying to everyone and trying to keep track of my lies.”

This “normal” drinking I was struggling with quickly led to, drinking alone, sneaking drinks, drinking before client dinners, drinking during client dinners, and drinking alone in my hotel after client dinners. I was a mess, lying to everyone and trying to keep track of my lies. It was mentally exhausting. This couldn’t go on forever and I was begging to be caught, to be found out, to not have to live a lie anymore. I was finally ready to surrender. The final push came one night when my wife came home found me I passed out on the couch with an empty bottle. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for her to come home and find the man she married, the man she thought was sober passed out in a puddle of his own piss. It didn’t take long to convince me I needed help. I needed to get plugged back into the program I thought I had accomplished and no longer needed. The next day I found myself walking into The Retreat, in Wayzata Minnesota ready and excited to find myself and to find my Higher Power again.

I am an alcoholic. I am a slow learner. During my 30 days at The Retreat I learned how to live in the solution, I learned how to engage and find support in the fellowship, and I learned that I never have to do this alone. I learned that this is something I get to do for the rest of my life, each and every day when I wake up, I have a program of recovery that I can follow. Today, 4 years later, I talk to another alcoholic every day, I pray, I meditate, and do my best to live in the 12 steps.

About the Author: 

Jake Lewis is active in the recovery community and currently serves as marketing coordinator for The Retreat.

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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.

12 Steps for a New and Improved You

It’s time to ask yourself how each of these 12-steps can be applied in your life. Time for self-reflection is important during the recovery process. This week’s guest blogger believes there are new ways to apply a 12-step program to your everyday life. MWM

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Everyone is searching for useful solutions to improve their daily lives. These solutions could include taking self-improvement steps to become a better daughter or leading a better life by eating healthier. Another source for lifestyle change advice are the 12 steps for everyone to help cope with alcohol and drug addiction.

 

12 step programs are programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These programs require people to participate in a series of steps to address their alcohol or drug abuse or certain behaviors, such as overeating or compulsive gambling. The powerful meaning behind the principles of AA can help bring positivity into your life.

 

The original mission behind Alcoholics Anonymous was to offer 12 steps for everyone struggling with alcohol abuse. In the past, people thought that alcoholism was a personal flaw. The originator of AA, Bill Wilson, wanted to attach morals and values to alcoholism recovery. Addiction recovery professionals find that the group therapy offered by such programs as Alcoholics Anonymous can help monitor, encourage, and stabilize the lives of their participants, creating better lifestyles without alcohol.

 

PsychCentral gives a great summary of the general purpose of the AA 12 steps for everyone looking to improve their lifestyle. Recognizing the problems you want to change is the first step in the road of self-improvement. This might be the easiest step for most people. However, acknowledging your problem might come with surrendering the idea that you can fix the issue you are facing. With addiction, sufferers cope with their problems by thinking substance abuse will control their feelings. These feelings are often feelings of hopelessness, anger, fear, anxiety, emptiness, or other emotions.

 

The surrendering phase can lead to a natural building of a person’s self-esteem. There is a level of self-awareness that takes place when people surrender themselves and take personal inventories of their lives.

 

Later steps are also crucial. Self-acceptance is the final key to making a valuable change. Therapists and lifestyle coaches agree that self-acceptance of personal limitations can give way to brainstorming achievable goals.

 

Below is a list of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. How do you think you can use the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps to improve your lifestyle?

 

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

 

 

About the Author: 
Zena Dunn writes about personal improvement, preventive health, and 12 steps for everyone. Her knowledge of health related information spans five years of individual research.  She is a wildlife protection advocate and enjoys reading biographies. Connect with Zena on Twitter twitter.com/writerzena

 

 

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.

I was a young addict.

Today’s guest blogger shares his personal story and struggle as a young addict. And, how he used his weaknesses to propel him forward. MWM.

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I was a young addict. Some would say I still am. Not using for nine and a half years isn’t what makes me an addict. Attending anonymous twelve-step meetings isn’t what makes me an addict. Arrests, institutionalizations, rehab stints are not what have made me an addict. I am an addict because I am hooked on any and all mood-altering substances. I’m hooked on a good deal more too. I just try, today, each and every day, to focus my addiction on healthy outlets: creativity, my work, my family.

Yes, I believe there is no curing my addiction. I also don’t believe in suppressing my dopamine receptors with medication. I choose to live with my addiction as best I can. And I’ve found my disease lends itself in surprisingly advantageous ways to living a wholesome, full, and happy life.

It didn’t seem possible back then.

Back then, I couldn’t see past my next fix. I woke with that insatiable craving in the pit of my stomach—if I woke at all. Often I was up all night. I was a self-prescriber. Mainly street drugs. Some prescriptions. But I believed in the right balance. The perfect mixture of substances in my blood stream that could achieve an elevated stasis—a heightened state of living. I rotated through pills, plants, and powders, believing I could manage them all. It all came crashing down nine and a half years ago.

As a young addict, I craved to stand apart from the crowd. I craved to be so unique that no one could relate to me. So I write this now with the understanding that, if you are a young addict reading this, it does not matter how you came to this resource. It does not matter who said what to get you reading up on the solution to your drug problem. All that matters is that, if you identify with writing like this one, you seek help. There is no fighting this thing alone. It takes fellowship. For me, it took sponsorship. And sponsorship took acceptance. Acceptance that I am an addict and that addicts need help. It does not matter how you got to this post. What matters is what you do from here.

Nine and a half years ago I was admitted into the intensive care unit of a San Diego hospital and diagnosed with a drug-induced psychosis. Rehab came next. And then a stay at a halfway house and an Oxford house.

Today, I am a writer, and a teacher. I am a husband to my wife and a father to two children. We own a home and I pay the bills on time. I show up for the people who expect me to show up.

It’s not a way of life that I have discovered. I’m not trying to pioneer this clean life stuff. It has been done before. People show me how to live today. All I need to do is accept their help, daily, just for today, and not pick up no matter what.

 

 

About the Author: 

unnamed-2Mark David Goodson writes a recovery blog: www.markgoodson.com that he calls “The Miracle of the Mundane.” It celebrates cleaning living, the simple life.  He throws his addictive behavior into his life’s endeavors. When he is not teaching or writing, he can usually be found throwing his children too high in the air or hugging them too hard once he catches them.

 

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

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Recipe For Recovery

Today’s guest blogger was a panelist at the Statistics to Solutions co-hosted by Our Young Addicts and Know the Truth in May 2017. She points out the reality of co-occurring disorders in young adults, such as eating disorders and substance use. MWM

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As a psychologist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders for the past 13 years, we are seeing more and more individuals in eating disorder treatment programs who suffer from both an eating disorder and a substance use disorder. In fact, we know that between 30-50% of individuals with an eating disorder also struggle with a substance use disorder and vice versa. This includes men and women of all ages and backgrounds-eating disorders and substance use disorders don’t discriminate! Often times the substance use disorder and eating disorder are intimately intertwined and if you try to treat one disorder, the other disorder is likely to get worse. This can certainly complicate treatment and it is important to consider this as you navigate your journey to recovery.  

I wrote this piece, “Recipe for Recovery,” a few years ago for eating disorder awareness week. I think it is perfect for not only those struggling with eating disorders but those who may be struggling with a substance use disorder or really any number of mental health disorders. When you see the word eating disorder below, feel free to substitute it with substance use disorder, depression, etc.

When I think about what it takes to recover from an eating disorder, it is really many things working together … it is not just getting treatment, being motivated, or having a good support system.

It actually reminds me more of a recipe. Recipes are something we usually think of when we think about cooking but I would throw out to all of you that we use “recipes” in many areas of our lives. Whether it is getting into college, developing your career, being in a relationship with someone, or parenting a child. These all require several steps or components to be successful.

Webster tells us that the word recipe means:

  1. A set of instructions for making or preparing something
  2. A medical prescription or
  3. A method to attain a desired end

I think this really fits for the journey of recovery, similar to cooking, recovering from an eating disorder takes a cup of this, a dash of that, and a pinch of something else. When you get all of the ingredients in the mix, there is an incredible life of opportunity and experiences waiting for you.

I asked several people that I have worked with over the years about some of their key ingredients to recovery so I could share some of their insights. I wasn’t too surprised to learn that people didn’t feel like it was an isolated thing that got them to recovery but rather several things coming together over time that led them to a life free of their eating disorder.

First, everyone felt like their formal treatment was an important piece. Without that as a foundation, recovery would not have happened.

Another element that people viewed as an important ingredient was willingness. Whether that means trying treatment, doing things that are scary, trying a different treatment approach if things aren’t going well or trying new things in life, willingness played a key role in their recovery. One individual shared: “Maybe you’re not completely 100% on board with getting rid of your eating disorder, and that’s OK, but you have to be willing to learn new things and consider new perspectives on your body, your thoughts, your emotions and the world you live in. I really thought the world was black and white; I either did things wrong or I did them right, and there was only one right way to live your life. Learning about gray areas and the complexities of living life were really beneficial to me.”

Trust was another important item, and it took many different paths. For some it was trusting their treatment providers, for others it was trust in themselves that they could do what they needed to do and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  Others mentioned learning to trust their body-the idea that if we take care of our bodies, our body will take care of itself.

Another significant item that everyone mentioned was trying new things in order to develop a new identity outside of the eating disorder. One individual shared with me “I was a passionless person and didn’t really care about anything except losing weight and doing everything right. When I was physically healthier, it helped me tremendously to care about something outside of myself.”

Related to this, people found that when they developed new interests outside of their eating disorder, it also helped connect them to people, which played a big role in their ability to move beyond the eating disorder.

Patience and priority were two other items. Patience in that getting to recovery often takes people longer than they ever anticipate with twists and turns along the way.  Priority in that we all live in a very busy world with a lot going on but figuring out how to prioritize recovery so that it gets the time and attention it needs rather than trying to fit it in around other things.

So today I would encourage all of you to think about what are your key ingredients to recovery? What do you already have and what might you need to add to the mix? No matter where you are along your journey, everyone has some of the ingredients they need to start to build their recipe for recovery.       

 

About the Author: Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 11.37.21 AM

Heather Gallivan, PsyD, LP, is the Clinical Director at Melrose Center. She joined Melrose in 2004 and has helped eating disorder patients recover and realize their full potential in all levels of care from outpatient to residential treatment. She is a passionate leader and teacher concerning the prevention and treatment of eating disorders, and how societal messages impact our beliefs and attitudes about food, weight, and body image.  You may have seen her passion for education and expertise on display in the local media or as a speaker at a state or national conference for healthcare providers. Prior to joining Melrose Center, Dr. Gallivan served 5 years in the Unites States Navy as an active duty psychologist. In addition, she teaches a course on eating disorders at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies.

Melrose Center heals eating disorders, with locations in St. Louis Park, Maple Grove and St. Paul. Melrose treats all eating disorders in all genders and ages, through outpatient and residential programs. Specialty programming is available for those struggling with an eating disorder and substance abuse. The program includes individual and group programming focused on treating the eating disorder and substance use disorder together by professionals specially trained to work with both conditions. Visit melroseheals.com.

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.

Sober Houses: Finding the Right Balance between Freedom and Supervision

Sober houses are important to many during the process of recovery. But, sober home owners have a difficult task of maintaining a balance between freedom, supervision, and patients within the home. MWM

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It has been my experience in the 20-plus years I have worked in mental health and chemical dependency, that it is a rare individual indeed who starts out in early recovery saying that they want more supervision than what they have at any given time. When I come across people who say that, they are usually the ones who also ask the question of the professional “what do I do?”, as opposed to “I got this,” or “I know that I have things to learn about myself”, instead of “Of course I know who I am and what makes me tick!” It is typically those individuals, the ones who recognize how little they know, who I would put my money on, even if I could gamble…a-hem… to have a more long-term sustained recovery.

It has also been my experience that pretty much nobody who has any amount of sober time ever looks back in retrospect and complains that they had too much supervision. People typically don’t like that supervision when it’s happening and then love that they had it as they reap the benefits by way of their recovery.

It has also been my experience that pretty much nobody who has any amount of sober time ever looks back in retrospect and companies that they had too much supervision”

It is in that spirit that I believe that a sober house should have restrictions so that a person knows that there are external boundaries placed on them, with an intention of helping them to eventually internalize their own sober boundaries. I believe in a zero tolerance policy inasmuch as it is not only critical that the individual knows that they will be held accountable for using, but also that there is a responsibility that all house members have to those who might still be struggling by not bringing substance, or using behaviors, into their sanctuary, which is how I see a sober house.

Likewise they cannot have guests come over inebriated. In my house I have a rule that states that if a tenant is using in the home I have the right to UA, or breathalyze, and if found to be using they need to leave the house, as in; pack up and have their stuff out as soon as the law allows. If guests are using they are not allowed back to the home. The idea here is that drugs and alcohol, in this home, are the enemy, and I will guard that portal with every ounce of right and might that I have to protect my tenants from that evil. Okay, I get that might come off a bit melodramatic, but it is conceptually accurate. I don’t see drugs and alcohol inherently evil in and of themselves, but to those of us in recovery, oh, buddy, you better believe that they are!

People in recovery should have easy access to bus routes and available jobs within walking distance of bus routes. Exercise is very important to recovery and sometimes people won’t be able to afford a gym membership, so I have an elliptical and weights indoors. I have home entertainment in the form of billiards, Foosball, board games and a deluxe entertainment system. They should have access to meetings and even treatment if things go poorly. I should point out that I would allow a tenant to stay in the home of they came to me and if they said that they used and that they didn’t come home out of respect for the rules, that they are interested in staying and working on their recovery I would not ask them to leave, but now do something different than what they were doing before vis-à-vis their recovery.

It is important to acknowledge that extra people in any environment cause a change in dynamics, which might be detrimental to those who live there”

I think that restrictions around overnight guests are valuable inasmuch as early recovery is not the time to be developing new relationships. Even if the tenant isn’t in early recovery, or is already in a long-term relationship, it is important to acknowledge that extra people in any environment cause a change in dynamics, which might be detrimental to those who live there. Keeping in mind that people, regardless of sobriety status, do have interpersonal relationships which they will develop and cultivate I think that allowances should be made over time when a person has shown stability in their recovery.

Finally I will bring this back around to the beginning inasmuch as I think that it is the responsibility of the home owner, or program owner, to develop and cultivate harmony in the home to the degree that they are able. This is tricky business while keeping in mind that one cannot and should not discriminate. While I have the last word, I always get the input of existing tenants. But what does the owner do if they suspect a new client is still using drugs or drinking alcohol? What if that person seems like they are going to clash with another house member? There are a lot of things to consider and a balance that needs to be, if not attained, then certainly sought after. Even if one does attain balance, given the transitory nature of sober living, one thing is sure, it will change.

 

 

About the Author:Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.18.42 PM

Dakota Baker is a professional in the mental health and chemical dependency world. He started Dakota Therapy in 2009, and has over 20 years of experience. Recently, he opened a sober house outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

 

 

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.

5 Morning Routines to Improve Recovery

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This week’s guest blogger enlightens us with helpful tips on how to set the right tone for the day. Mornings are difficult, but developing a routine can make them easier. MWM. 

For most people, their morning mood sets up the rest of their day. The same applies for people in drug addiction recovery. If you want to have a healthy, happy, clean day, the best thing to do is start it right. When you are in recovery, and are trying out new things to replace the bad habits for good habits, it can be difficult to find things that satisfy you.

Motivating a young person to change and embrace positive things can be challenging, however today I would like to share with you 5 specific things I learned in recovery to make sure that my morning routine was the first thing to do for a successful day.

  1. Morning affirmations

Addicts generally don’t have a very high opinion of themselves. In fact, low self-esteem is a big reason that people turn to spice or other substances so that they can somehow feel better. Add in the teenage/young person factor, the self-esteem problems and the constant struggle between addiction and how to look for their loved ones, and you could even end up with a depressed person.

It can be difficult to feel confident and self-assured when going through recovery, especially during the beginning stages, but good self-esteem is a key contributor to successful recovery”

The problem is that the negative consequences of a life of addiction only worsens the already fragile image that young addicts have of themselves, making the problem bigger than it already was. We tend to look to others for compliments and praises, but the most important person whose approval and encouragement we need is ourselves.

It can be difficult to feel confident and self-assured when going through recovery, especially during the beginning stages, but good self-esteem is a key contributor to successful recovery. 

A great way to start injecting your life with positivity, a bigger sense of self-worth, and value is to look in the mirror and say self-affirmations every morning. You can help a young person by saying these affirmations next to them every day. It may seem silly, or like a waste of time, but when you start to think of yourself in a better light and vocalize your hopes and goals in an assuring way, it will slowly help reshape your whole perspective.

  1. Inner peace

Stress and anxiety are two major factors that contribute towards addiction or, at the very least, temptation. A great way to combat these and many other pressures of life is to meditate. Do not let any stigma you move over the word to rob you of the positive effects it can bring to your life. Meditation comes in many shapes and sizes, just like the individuals that practice it. 

You don’t have to sit in the lotus position with your hands holding strange mudras while attempting to clear your mind and focus on your breathing, this is specially boring and unappealing for young people. Instead, teach them meditation through dancing, singing, relaxing music, painting, even taking a walk in a park.

Taking a moment every day to just slow down and focus on your own peace of mind will make a huge impact on your ability to deal with stressful situations or things that could possibly trigger your addiction”

With meditation, you just have to focus on peaceful, beautiful things that make you feel good inside. Taking a moment every day to just slow down and focus on your own peace of mind will make a huge impact on your ability to deal with stressful situations or things that could possibly trigger your addiction.

  1. Get moving

Living with an addiction has a large variety of unhealthy consequences, but the lack of exercise also affects your mental state, your energy levels, and your self-esteem. Take advantage of that inherent energy young people have, especially when they are going through addiction recovery!

When you do physical activity that increases your heart rate up, strengthens your muscles and gets some energy flowing through your body, chemicals released like serotonin and dopamine that improve the way you feel both physically and emotionally. Getting your day started with this kind of boost will help improve the rest of your day.

  1. Planning 

Set some time aside to set some sort of schedule for the rest of your day. In recovery, it is important to build new routines and healthy habits, as far from the things that led you down the path of addiction in the first place. 

You can do this the moment you wake up or while you’re sitting down for breakfast. Your plan doesn’t have to be too detailed or include specific time slots. It could be as simple as a to-do list. 

A set plan and an idea of what’s to come in your day will also help develop a sense of control and purpose to keep your mind from wandering to unwanted things, it is also a life skill that a young person can develop to apply for the rest of their lives.

  1. Bigger than you 

For many people, the sense that they are not alone is the most powerful tool in recovery. 

You don’t have to call it spirituality or religion. This is just the belief in something outside of you that is bigger, more powerful and has your best interest at heart.  For a lot of people, the ability to place their faith in a higher power and believe that everything will be alright takes the pressure of recovery off.

Something like a prayer or a conversation with whatever higher power you believe in when you wake up and at any other point during the day can make your weight feel much lighter. 

Your morning routine has the ability to set your day on the right path, and infuse an extra boost of positive drive into yourself”

Your morning routine has the ability to set your day on the right path, and infuse an extra boost of positive drive into yourself. With the right routine, your addiction recovery will be much easier. 

About Our Guest Blogger:

I’m Carl Towns, a 28-year-old wanna-be writer; I am also a recovering addict in the path of self-discovery. My goal is to learn as many things as possible and to seize every single moment I live, pretty much trying to make up for all that I missed on the years I was lost in drugs and alcohol (among other things). I’m in love with tech, cars and pretty much anything that can be found online.

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

©2017 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved

What a Difference Recovery Makes!

Life with #SoberSon is going pretty well these days.

Three years ago, not so much. Then finally recovery came. For real this time.

Because things were so bleak, it was hard to be hopeful but our family maintained a hopeful outlook even on the darkest days.

In our son’s early recovery, our hopes slowly turned into beliefs as he began to rebuild his life.

  • Moving back home.
  • Attending and graduating from a high-intensity out-patient treatment program focused on addiction to opioids.
  • Passing random UAs.
  • Working through his journey with an amazing LADC.
  • Rebuilding relationships with family and friends.
  • Getting a job and saving money.
  • Returning to college to get an associate’s degree in mathematics – and paying for it himself!
  • Getting straight A’s.
  • Making plans to complete his bachelor’s degree.
  • Thinking about law school in the future.
  • And more!

This partial list is a living, breathing reminder that #SoberSon is making progress. But what makes it all the more rewarding is that he shares his successes with us – and his challenges. That’s not the way it always was when he was using.

Now he’s more of an open book, which in turn means we trust him more and give him even greater privacy and independence. It’s amazing how that works.

In spite of all the positive things going on, life still has its ups and downs but #SoberSon is better equipped to deal with these and it warms my heart when he shares the good and the not so good. He knows we are on his team – just as we always have been. But now he believes it.

Setbacks no longer derail him, and for that I am proud and happy. Yes, recovery works!

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

5 Ways You Can Support Your Kid in Their Recovery

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

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

 

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

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

Learn to recognize the signs of relapse

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

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

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

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

Learn to have fun

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

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

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

Learn to set and complete goals

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

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

Learn to be proud of milestones

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

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

Learn to be patient

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

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

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

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

About Our Guest Blogger:

I’m Carl Towns, a 28-year-old wanna-be writer; I am also a recovering addict in the path of self-discovery. My goal is to learn as many things as possible and to seize every single moment I live, pretty much trying to make up for all that I missed on the years I was lost in drugs and alcohol (among other things). I’m in love with tech, cars and pretty much anything that can be found online.

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

©2017 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved

Writing Through Life’s Problems

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

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

Writing Through Recovery

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

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

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

Just Do It!

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

 About Today’s Guest Blogger

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

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

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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The first time I ever got drunk was when I was 9 years old from an anise-flavoured drink we call Aguardiente. I come from a Colombian-born family who immigrated to Southern California and naturally, Colombian’s like to party. I was a curious kid and I loved how it made me feel but things escalated. At age 14 I smoked marijuana, at the age of 19 I tried meth and at the age of 23, I ended up arrested in Idaho on drug charges and was given a two-year sentence. I came from a loving family, my parents worked hard to provide for my siblings and I. So when I entered rehab and came out, these are 4 important lifestyle changes that turned my life around to help me stay sober:

I changed my sleeping pattern

Having a healthy sleep pattern helped a big deal to have a much better life. Our bodies require an average of 8 hours of sleep a day and depriving it of this amount can lead to severe consequences in the future. Heart problems and focus problems are some of the many effects that sleeping less than what’s recommended can bring to us.

By having a good sleeping pattern I was able to better concentrate on my daily tasks and my work. I was more focused on my priorities and this allowed me to improve my performance at my job and my own personal life. It also made me feel healthier, awake, motivated and eager to take up on new challenges.

I changed my diet/exercised regularly

Adopting a healthy new lifestyle is what changes your attitude towards life. Eating better and exercising were 2 of the main things that improved everything about me making a huge difference on my everyday. By starting a healthier diet I felt energized and was able to have a much more balanced life-rhythm. Healthier food meant better moods and overall better acceptance of the person I was turning into. Exercise helped me to feel fit, work on my self-esteem and gain more respect towards my mind and my body. Working out has a unique effect on how we perceive life itself. We become more positive and happier, this is due to the fact that by embracing a daily routine, our brains release the same chemicals as when we’re happy or in love, making us feel a lot better about ourselves.

I learned what gratitude was

When I was using, I was self-centered and blamed everyone around me for my problems. Reliving and dwelling on my past was counterproductive but focusing on a new healthier life was what helped me become sober. Becoming grateful for my friends, family, job, lifestyle and all around what is “good” in my life helped me stay on track with my sobriety!

I found new hobbies

By discovering new interests that were both healthy and productive, I got to work on my life as a big project built on milestones that I myself have set. Finding new hobbies meant using my free time in much better and more productive ways.It also allowed me to get passionate about new things and in the same way, learn new things that I’ve found very useful at some points in my life. Growing a passionate interest in an activity allowed me to see that I am capable of things I didn’t think I was, it also taught me that with motivation and dedication I can produce amazing results that made me be proud of what I did and also made me feel happy and useful.

When recovering from addictions, finding out how to properly invest your free time is perhaps one of the most relevant aspects to progress into a new healthy-sober-and-happy life. When combined with a healthy lifestyle that includes a good sleeping pattern and a workout routine, you start immediately feeling a lot better about yourself. Adopting new hobbies allows you to see progress in small projects that you consider important and entertaining. When you invest your time wisely, your priorities fall into place and relapse opportunities and temptations become scarce within time.

If you have any questions or would like to suggest any other lifestyle changes that you consider important to a better life please let us know in the comments below.

About Our Guest Blogger:

andy Hi, I am Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I have been clean for 9 years now! I spend my time helping others with their recovery and growing my online business.

 

 

 

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.

The Trek to Treatment

Imagine a blizzard. Icy-cold temps. Blustery wind gusts. Slow-go traffic. Slippery roads.

Now add in the emotional toll of white-knuckle driving with your a 21-year-old kid on the way to an in-patient treatment program. He needed to check in by 9 a.m., so we had to leave extra early to make it through rush-hour traffic complicated with winter weather.

What normally would have been about a 45 to 60 minute drive was double that. Let me say, it was a long drive for many reasons.

There was plenty to say yet very little conversation. My son slept – thank goodness. I concentrated on the road and listened to the radio, and I’ll always remember hearing an upbeat song that morning that has had great impact on my attitude:

Best day of my life,” by a group called American Authors.

Indeed, it was a good day and one our family had been hoping, praying and waiting for as we loved our son through addiction. Now, whenever that song comes on the radio, I remember the trek to treatment – not just that December morning, but the years that led up to it and the relapse that followed. In spite of that, however, it was our son’s first successful completion of a program and it laid the foundation for his future recovery.

For all the parents and treatment pros out there, it strikes me as important to recognize that each day is an opportunity forward, an opportunity to have the best day of my life even though the path may be long and difficult.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

My Story of Recovery 1000 – Meet Randy Anderson

Through my work with the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, I’ve had the opportunity to get acquainted with board member Randy Anderson. Here,  he shares his story of recovery with gems for parents, treatment pros and young people. Way to go, Randy, for being such a wonderful voice and inspiration! MWM

My name is Randy Anderson and I’m a person in long term recovery. What that means to me is I haven’t had to use drugs or alcohol or any mind or mood altering substance since January 9th 2005. Because of my recovery I’m able to be a husband, a son, an uncle, a brother. I’m able to own a home, vote, have a job that I love, go to school, and even pay taxes. Today I’m able to live life on life’s terms and to be present every day in my own life.

My “rock bottom” occurred in 2004 when my home was raided by a DEA drug task force and I was arrested for selling drugs to support a drug habit that had become so enormous and all-consuming, selling drugs was the only option I felt I had left. After spending a short time in jail I was offered a lifesaving procedure for my disease and that procedure was affordable, effective treatment for my substance use disorder.

After taking nearly 10 months to complete a 60-day treatment program and finding a life of recovery, I had to face the consequences for my criminal activity. Nothing could prepare me for what would happen next. On July 6, 2005, I would be sentenced to 87 months in federal prison. As a first-time non-violent drug offender who was now on the path of recovery, I never imagined such a lengthy prison term would be given to me, even though my very expensive private attorney continually warned me that I was looking at a multiple year sentence. Even if I had not yet found recovery, more time in treatment is what I would have needed, not prison. I can’t believe our country incarcerates someone for so long with no consideration for the positive changes made in one’s life. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why me? I didn’t burglarize anyone, I didn’t assault or kill anyone, I didn’t steal from any person or businesses to support my habit and I was even paying my taxes.” On August 17, 2005, the worst day of my life, two of my dear friends drove me to Waseca Minnesota so I could self-surrendered to federal prison and begin serving my prison term.

felon-shirt

I did serve out my time and was eventually released in 2009. I maintained my recovery throughout my incarceration because I truly believed my life would be better without the use of any mind or mood altering substances. Upon release, like many that get out of prison, I was required to be supervised, for me that was to be a period of 48 months. Because I decided long ago to do whatever it takes to get my life back, I did absolutely everything that was required of me and because of that I was released after only 20 months of supervision.

By this time, I was working full time as a home improvement sales person. I did that for a few years and then, after becoming unemployed, I decided maybe it was time for a career change. With great trepidation and the GED I earned in federal prison, I enrolled in college at 43 years old, with the encouragement and support of my brilliant wife. I often refer to my first day of college as the second scariest day of my life, with the first being self-surrendering to federal prison. I enrolled in college to become an addiction counselor; something that was a dream of mine since receiving the gift of recovery.

Through the journey of college and becoming an addiction counselor, I found so many causes that I felt compelled to become involved with. One that I’m most proud of is becoming a Steering Committee member for the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition. As a member of that coalition, I had several opportunities to testify in front of a variety of Minnesota legislators and legislative committees to change the drug sentencing guidelines in the state of Minnesota. I truly believe that what had happened to me should never happen to someone else and partly because of my testimony Minnesota did in fact change the drug sentencing guidelines and approximately 700 individuals in Minnesota will not go to prison each year.  There are many more details to the drug sentencing reform that I could probably write two more pages, those changes took effect August 1st 2016. Another major achievement that I’m extremely proud of was being ask to sit on the board of directors for the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation(SRHF). Working with SRHF has provided me countless opportunities to tell my story of recovery. I’m also responsible for training and educated individuals, including law enforcement and non-ems first responders, about the life saving opioid reversal medication Naloxone. I’m also a volunteer for serval organizations including Minnesota Recovery Connection(MRC), Fed Up Coalition, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH). I did complete college and receive my Associates of Science degree in Addiction counseling and now work as a full time alcohol and drug counselor at the very same facility where I found recovery nearly 12 years ago.

I never imagined the life I live today would ever be possible. I often ask myself when will I wake up from this dream? Well, the fact is this is no dream – it’s the life that I live and it’s only possible because of my recovery.

I saw the movie “The Equalizer” with Denzel Washington, not too shabby I might add, at the beginning of that movie it displayed a quote which I connected with and will forever hold close to my heart. “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain. Now I know why…

About this week’s guest blogger: Randy Anderson, ADC-T

Randy Anderson.jpgMy name is Randy Anderson and I’m a person in long term recovery from the disease of addiction. After receiving the life-saving gifts of treatment and recovery, I completed my A.S. degree in addiction counseling at Minneapolis Community & Technical College in 2015. I now work as a full-time alcohol and drug counselor at RS EDEN/Eden House – the very same treatment facility where I was once a client. A passionate advocate for recovery and reform, I serve as a member of the MN Second Chance Coalition Steering Committee and I am actively involved in the MN Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH). I’m on the Board of Directors for the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, the organization responsible for passing Steve’s Law in 2014. One of my main duties with the foundation is overdose prevention, my responsibilities include training law enforcement, non-EMS, the public and anyone who wants to carry and know how to administer Naloxone, the medication to reverse an opioid overdose. People can and do recover from addiction. I’m living proof. I am currently pursuing my B.A. degree in human services at Bethel University and live with my wife, dog, and cat in Golden Valley, MN. #WeDoRecover #RecoveryWorks

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.

Navigating Addiction during the Holidays

With Thanksgiving 2016 one week away, the holiday season kicks off. This can be a particularly challenging time for families whose loved ones are using drugs and alcohol. Today’s guest blogger is Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.  She share first-hand experience as well as professional guidance to help families, and was one of our panel speakers at our conference this past year. Thank you, Sherry, for your blog post!

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Oh, the holidays!  When we think of them, so many thoughts and images pop into our heads!  Snow!  Family!  Food!  Togetherness!  Traditions, old and new!  Excitement is in the air, and we start planning how and when our ideal holiday will come together.  Unfortunately, for those who have a loved one struggling with alcoholism or addiction, an additional level of stress typically accompanies the holidays: worry that our imagined holiday will turn into our worst-case scenario.

When Our Young Addicts asked me to write a blog post on how to navigate the holidays when addiction is present, my first thought was “Yes!  What a great topic!  This will be so helpful!”  As I thought about it more, the task became a little more overwhelming.

As someone who works with family members in the addiction recovery field, as well as being a family member myself, I know there is no right or wrong way to navigate the holidays when addiction is present.  But, there may be a way that’s right for you, which is what I hope to address.

My husband and I live in a different states than our families, and we make it a point to be with them over the holidays.  For a number of years, we would get caught off guard by the ups and downs of addiction.  Each year we would start out with our vision of the holiday and prepare for it.  We’d ask for Christmas lists, and go shopping for the perfect presents.  We’d be in contact with everyone in advance to make sure we could all get together.  We would plan festive menus, and listen to holiday music on our drive across the Midwest.  We wanted to experience what so many of us want to experience: family.  We wanted to be in the midst of the love and connection, and thought if we could just plan far enough in advance that we’d get exactly that.

Unfortunately, the addiction in our family wasn’t playing along.  Although there are a few in our family who have struggled with alcoholism and addiction, when I think about the holidays, I often think of my step-son, who is a meth addict.

We would embark into our greeting-card-worthy vision of the holiday, but addiction would stand in our way.  There would be times when we’d reach out to him, and not hear back.  There would be times when he would come, and show up despondent.  There were other times when he would show up and would be angry at the world.  There were times when he left on an evening saying that he’d be back tomorrow, and we didn’t see him again for the rest of the time that we were there (we once found out later that he ended up in jail for a while).  There were visits that ended in loud arguments.  And, then there were the times that he showed up as his incredibly witty, big-hearted, intelligent self – and the family would try to figure out how we had magically set the stage for this to happen so we could be sure to recreate it again, and again.  Of course, we were always confused when we tried to reenact the situation at another time, only to have a completely different, and often heart-breaking, outcome.

One of the things we needed to do as a family was to know what we were up against.  Sometimes the fact that someone is struggling with addiction becomes apparent during the holidays, especially since we usually see each other more at this time than other times throughout the year.

At times families fall into the trap of thinking that someone who is struggling with addiction is just behaving badly.  It’s helpful to know the signs of addiction and alcoholism.

Both the National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov) and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (www.ncadd.org) have helpful information.   Educating yourself allows you the opportunity to know what you’re dealing with, and will be helpful in understanding what to do next.

As a family member, I have found that getting support for myself has been imperative.

There is no way that you can watch someone become entangled with alcoholism and addiction without being affected.  Family members often feel that if they love someone enough, and say and do the right things, they’ll be able to fix their loved one so they no longer have the struggles that they have.  To be around others who have had a similar experience in their reactions, and who have found a way to cope with it, helps to break the shame and stigma we often carry where addiction is concerned.  The easiest and most accessible way to find support from others who have been there, too, is through Al-Anon (www.al-anon.org) or Nar-Anon (www.nar-anon.org).  So many family members keep the addiction in their family a secret.  Al-Anon and Nar-Anon provide safe places to talk about it.

Talking about the holidays was important for our family, as well.  We needed to decide what we wanted our holiday to look like, and be focused on what was realistic.  If your loved one is actively using, what is realistic may be different than at other times.

Some families decide that they need to set some clear boundaries: that their loved one is only invited if the can be clean and sober during the gathering.  They also need to have a plan in place on how they’ll honor that boundary if it’s not met.

Some find that they want their loved one included in everything regardless, so that they know that they are in a safe place.

Some families decide to change how they will celebrate so that they can all meet at a place where anyone can easily leave from if they feel uncomfortable.

As I stated before, there is no right or wrong in deciding this.  There is only what is best for you and for your family.  These decisions are more easily made with an understanding of addiction, and remembering that the person you love is still the person you love, even though their disease may bring unwanted attitudes or behavior.  These decisions are also more easily made when you have support.

Families have choices, and they get to make them – including during the holiday season.

Our family feels blessed that we have received the gift that so many of us hope and pray for, the gift of my step-son’s recovery.  He’s been clean with the help of Narcotics Anonymous for more than three years, and we love watching his life unfold.  That witty, big-hearted, intelligent guy shows up most of the time, and even when he shows up occasionally as someone who’s going through a difficult time for whatever situation is happening in his life, we trust that he will navigate in whatever way that he needs to with the support of his people in his recovery circle.  And, yet, we may have gotten a little too excited when our first holiday came around and we thought “Finally!  We get to have our ideal holiday!  There will be SO much togetherness!  We’ll be a Norman Rockwell painting!”

We found that going through the holiday in early recovery was going to take some navigation, as well.

My step-son did a great job of talking to us about what he needed, which wasn’t non-stop family time.  For many folks, the holidays can trigger or exacerbate addiction.  My step-son needed to find his own balance.  His primary focus was to continue to build the foundation of recovery, and we needed to honor that.  We listened, and we trusted that he would show up for what was important for him, and that he would do what he needed to support himself when he needed to do so.  And, we stayed focused on taking care of ourselves, and being grateful for the time we got to have with this wonderful, clean, clear-eyed young man.

Even if the gift of recovery hasn’t happened in your family, my hope for each of you is that you’ll find moments of peace and joy.  I believe that they are there and accessible to all of us, even if our loved one is actively struggling.  Remember to learn what you are up against, find support for yourself, talk about it – and listen.  Be gentle with yourself and your loved one.  I believe that we are all doing the best that we can with the tools that we have, and I’m hopeful that these new tools will be helpful to you as you embark on this holiday season.

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.

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.

The Person Who Listened – Thank You!

Throughout our experience with our son’s addiction, there were many people (licensed professionals) who listened – initially – but stopped hearing what we were saying shortly thereafter. They were somewhat helpful, but not ultimately helpful. They offered us what they could, but not necessarily what we needed. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

In no way do I think this was intentional, but unfortunately, it seems like it’s the norm more often than not. That’s because addiction and mental health are complex, and most professionals are either generalists or specialists. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

Yet, we kept seeking, kept learning, kept trying. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

We got better at sharing our situation, at asking for help, at discerning the options. We kept trying to find that person.

Still, it was frustrating. Every parent who is witnessing their kid’s addiction knows what I’m talking about. Throughout the process, we learn that our role is to become educated, to provide unconditional love, to provide emotional support, to set healthy boundaries, to insist on answers and to press for information, to hope and pray, to keep on keeping on. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

At first, this was our exercise. We were the ones who knew there was a problem and wanted to get help for our son. He was in denial. He was not interested. He didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to listen. So, we did all the leg work.

Years later, it became his exercise. He was somewhat ready to get help, to stop using, to start addressing mental health needs. But everyone wanted to push him into traditional programs – programs that he wasn’t interested in. You might argue that these are good programs – and they are – but without his buy in, these simply wouldn’t work for him.

Aha! We were beginning to realize that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, sobriety and recovery.

But, the majority of professionals weren’t on board with this. Again, the frustration mounted. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

You’re starting to see the pattern here: “Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.” Thank goodness, we kept trying to find this person and our son was, too.

Who was this person? The first person was a mental-health assessment professional who listened AND provided concrete feedback and steps our son could take. Interestingly, the pro said, “Get 30 to 60 days of sobriety through treatment and then come back; but, in the meantime, here’s how you go about getting the treatment program that you want.”

He offered up another assessment option called Rule 25 (a Minnesota program through the Department of Human Services). I will forever be grateful for this person who listened and put things in motion with clear, actionable steps that my son could embrace – because he’d been heard.

After some procrastination, my son made an appointment for a Rule 25 assessment, and without hesitation, the assessor identified three options that met my son’s preferences.

She was not trying to stick him in a program he didn’t want or an approach he couldn’t embrace. She was also able to put a name to what he was looking for – an approach called Health Realization. All these years and no one had ever given the approach he wanted a name; yet, here it was, an actual approach. I will forever be grateful for this person who listened and put things in motion with clear, actionable steps that my son could embrace – because he’d been heard.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

A Generation Found in Recovery High Schools

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An interview with Greg Williams by our ever-popular guest blogger, Rose Lockinger. Learn more about Greg’s newest documentary, Generation Found. MWM

Greg Williams’ new documentary Generation Found opened on Tuesday, with special showings taking place throughout the country. Following the success of his 2013 documentary The Anonymous People Williams once again shines a line on the recovery community, only this time his focus has shifted from away from breaking the stigma of anonymity, to advocating for better treatment solutions for adolescent addicts in the country.  This film does an excellent job of raising awareness to the need for change in the way we approach treatment.  As a documentary, it does an excellent job at bringing to light not only addiction but effective treatment methods.  So often in Hollywood, we see the accurate depictions of addiction but few that shed light on the hope of recovery. It shows a way of living that encourage individuals to live in an unapologetic manner regarding to their recovery.

The film Generation Found focuses particularly on Recovery High Schools in the United States and how their methodology of creating community among teens who want to be sober is offering a new and successful approach to treating adolescent addiction.

For many years it has been known that 9 out of 10 people who suffer from addiction get their start on this path in their teenage years. Yet the treatment options available to these at-risk teens have been limited to traditional adult treatment methods that offer little to no success in helping kids.

Many teens that get in trouble or decide they need to get sober are relegated to residential treatment facilities that offer no real support once they are discharged and then they are returned back to their high schools where their dealers may be and they are surrounded by the people they used with.

If these teens are lucky enough to stay sober for any period of time once they get out of treatment their options for continued support usually consists of 12 Step Meetings where adults are the majority of the population and their ability to relate is almost nonexistent.

This is where Recovery High Schools come into play and they offer a sense of community and continued support that other adolescent treatment options do not currently offer. The film shows that Recovery High Schools are part of a greater pipeline of support for these kids that follows them from their initial treatment all the way through their college years.

The way that this pipeline works is that first, the adolescent addict enters into a residential treatment facility. These treatment facilities are much like that of their adult counterparts with the other difference being that they are specifically for addicts under the age of 18.

Once the teens finish their residential treatment they then have the option of enrolling in a Recovery High School, although there are currently only 36 in the United States. The Recovery High School is almost like a regular high school except that everyone in the school is in recovery. There are random and regular drug tests and there are even classes centered on recovery based ideas.

These schools allow their students to create a vibrant and thriving recovery community, which would have been almost impossible if they had gone back to their regular high schools. Also, since the emphasis is on recovery the students receive extra support that their normal high schools would not have been to give.

This added support includes teachers and administrators who are in recovery themselves and Alternative Peer Groups, or APGs, which act as sort of 12 Step Meetings specifically for kids under the age of 18. These APGs are an important part of the recovery process in these schools because it gives the teens an ability to relate to other teen addicts and see that recovery is, in fact, possible.

Once the students graduate from their Recovery High School many then choose to go on to college, as the film showed that the graduating class from Archway Academy, one of the schools highlighted in the film, had a college acceptance rate of 96% among their graduating seniors.

Transitioning from the recovery community in their high school to that of a normal college campus can be difficult for young people in recovery, as college campuses are known bastions for drugs and alcohol. But with the help of organizations like Association of Recovery in High Education and other support networks, these students are given every opportunity to have support in whatever they need.

The idea of following teens from initial intake to graduation from college is an incredible shift in the way that we think about recovery for teenagers. In the past, the overwhelming thought process, whether admitted or not, was that many of these teens were not yet ready to get sober and so the best that anyone could do was try to mitigate the damage done until they were adults and hit bottom.

By addressing their addiction in their teenage years and then offering the support that is needed for them to actually overcome their addiction, means that programs like Recovery High Schools are giving entire generations of addicts a fighting chance at getting clean and sober a lot earlier.

However, the film does expose one of the flaws in this system and it speaks to a greater schism in our society, that of the haves and have-nots. It was apparent from the film that the children attending the Recovery High School were from families of means and that these opportunities were not available to all children.

At one point in the film, the filmmakers travel a lower income neighborhood in Houston and it is relayed that there are no APGs available for the teens of that community and many are left with only traditional methods of support for recovery. Getting the teens in their community the same treatment options as their wealthier counterparts was the goal of a number of activists in these communities and hopefully, with the exposure offered by Generation Found, they will receive this.

Overall Generation Found was a thought provoking film that made me reevaluate my own stance on teenager recovery. It showed me that there really may be a solution for breaking the cycle of addiction at an earlier age and that with the correct support and enough faith anything truly is possible. The students in the film were a testament to how transformative recovery can be for someone’s life and that anyone, regardless of age, sex, creed, or color can recover.

About This Week’s Guest Blogger – Rose Lockinger

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

Find Rose Lockinger on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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Recovery is a lot more than just not using drugs or alcohol. This week’s guest blogger offers a professional’s perspective on the key physical and psychological aspects that help people find success in recovery. MWM

My name is Jesse Sandler, and I am an addiction therapist. In working with people in recovery, I have seen that the ones who do better are those that actively tend to both their physical and mental (psychological) wellbeing.

 

The Physical

Taking care of your body is so important to maintaining your recovery. When you do, you feel better not only physically but emotionally as well. I advise my clients to pay particular attention to four aspects of their physical wellbeing: intake, action, upkeep, and rest.

 

Your intake includes everything you do and don’t put into your body: food, drink, and medicine. If you fuel yourself regularly and nutritiously, you will feel more energized. Staying hydrated makes you feel better too. Further, taking your medications as prescribed can help keep you stabilized and keep you on track.

 

Similarly, regular exercise not only helps you establish healthy routines, but also relieves stress and releases endorphins to keep you feeling your best. If you’re not used to working out, it can be tough to get into the swing of it, but it’s worth it. Try out a variety of workouts until you find something that doesn’t feel so much like work—maybe you’re not a gym person but hiking outside puts a smile on your face. Whatever you do, make sure you move everyday. Both your body and your mind will thank you.

 

In addition to fueling and moving your body well, you also need to rest your body well. Getting on a regular sleep schedule and making sure you get 6-8 hours of sleep per night will give you more energy. Good sleep hygiene also makes it easier to deal with tough times, since getting enough sleep can help you focus more on the positive and fixate less on the negative. Since you’re more likely to relapse when you’re feeling negative, this is especially important for people in recovery. So try to go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning, only use your bed for sleep and sex, and get off that computer or phone screen at least an hour before bedtime.

 

The final aspect of physical wellbeing that I think is particularly important is upkeep. By this, I mean showering regularly, brushing your teeth, and wearing clean clothes each day. This may sound obvious or silly, but I have seen time and time again that my clients tend to feel better when they are clean and wearing fresh clothes. Developing this good habit, like the others discussed above, can make you feel better physically and mentally, and give you the right mindset to face the day.

 

The Psychological

I cannot stress enough how important it is to pay attention not only to what you can see, but also what you can’t. As you probably know, emotional and mental wellbeing are huge components of the recovery process. They work in tandem with the physical to keep you on your path. While there are many components to psychological wellbeing, I advise my clients to focus on a few in particular: staying social and avoiding isolation. While these may sound like the same thing, they are in fact distinct, and each is important in its own right.

 

Stay Social

Human beings are social creatures. We thrive when we feel accepted by and connected to other people. But not just any people. Make sure you surround yourself with people who lift you up, understand you, and support your recovery. Build a strong support network of people committed to a clean lifestyle. Avoid your old toxic “friends,” and your old toxic hangouts. Go to meetings. Find fun activities that don’t involve alcohol, drugs, or whatever your triggers are. Whatever feels good, positive, and helpful for you.

 

Don’t Isolate

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, I literally just read about this point above.” But you’d be wrong. Avoiding isolation does not necessarily mean being social. While having a strong, supportive social network is important, you don’t always need to surround yourself with other people. Alone time can be important for thought and restoration. Just make sure you know the difference between being alone and isolating, and only do the former. Being alone is restorative, calming, and recharging. It doesn’t make you feel lonely. Isolating, on the other hand, is draining and depleting. You likely do it to avoid dealing with upsetting feelings or situations, and when you isolate, you may find yourself ruminating on negative thoughts and feeling lonely. This creates the perfect conditions for relapse: you, your negative thoughts, and no one around to pull you out of them or give you perspective. So make sure that if you are opting to spend time alone, you are doing for the right reasons, and that if you find yourself alone for the wrong ones, you reach out to someone in your support network who can remind you of all the reasons you got clean and want to stay clean.

 

Conclusion

Recovery isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Staying mindful of taking care of yourself, both physically and psychologically, can make the journey a little bit easier.

 

 

Bio:

jesseJesse Sandler is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for people in addiction recovery. He works at a dual-diagnosis intensive outpatient program and has a small private practice in Los Angeles. Most recently, Jesse is working to address another aspect of recovery: people’s living environments. After watching his clients and loved ones struggle and grow frustrated trying to find sober roommates, Jesse and co-founder Emily Churg created www.MySoberRoommate.com, an online community for people committed to living a clean lifestyle to search, match, and message with potential roommates. Jesse believes that through hard work, commitment, and hope, people can and do get better, and he hopes that MySoberRoommate will provide people in recovery with another tool to help them to do just that.

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.

 

It’s been awhile

Without meaning to, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted any personal updates. My intention is always to provide at least one Midwestern Mama post each week – usually on Mondays – but somehow summer distracted me … in a good way.

This summer marks two years of sobriety and recovery for my son. It continues to go well. He spent the summer working and earned enough to pay his college tuition and textbooks for fall semester. He also enjoyed down time that included taking the family dog on adventures (aka long walks), playing frisbee golf, working out at the gym, binge watching a number of popular TV series, and reading favorite books.

I am most grateful for the return of his personality – conversational, curious, a sense of humor, caring, respectful. We so missed these core characteristics during addiction.

Instead of keeping to himself, being irritable, angry or skeptical as he was when he was using drugs, he now initiates conversations and shares his life with us. And, he even makes a point to ask about our lives – what’s going on at work? how was your day? what are your plans? It’s so nice to share.

The return of trust and honesty is another of the wonderful gifts of his recovery.

He lives at home and is a contributing member of the household, takes personal responsibility, participates in family activities whenever he’s free, hangs out with his younger brother and older sister, volunteers to help out his sister and brother in-law with their dogs (letting them out while they are at work), shares the family car, and more.

Throughout the day, he keeps us posted on his coming and going – his plans for the day, if he’s working late, what he needs to do, what’s on his mind. Long gone are the days when we had no idea where he was or what he was up to. Long gone are the days when lies were the main communication.

Things are going so smoothly, that it’s hard to remember the turbulent chaotic times. It truly feels like that was a long-ago chapter. For mothers, it’s almost like childbirth – you experienced it, you know it happened, but once you hold that sweet infant it’s a distant memory and as that little one grows up, the memory fades even more though it never fully disappears.

I look forward to the many chapters ahead with #SoberSon … and sharing these with you.

Midwestern Mama

©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.

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